QualiaSoup Discusses Moral Objectivity

There are few people who can explain philosophy and atheism better than QualiaSoup. This time, he responds to Christian apologist William Lane Craig‘s oft-used argument that God must exist because objective morality exists (in other words, we know what’s right and wrong… and we know that because God must exist to deem it so).



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Mattincinci

    qualiasoup always puts out a great video and this one was really good in response to WLC’s lame arguments

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    err… goes too fast explaining complex concepts. I got very lost very early… I now feel stupid.

    • Drew M.

      Stupid? Nope. Other stuff? Definitely.
      ;)

    • Denis Robert

      Take the time to watch the video many times, and go on wikipedia and look up some of the technical terms and jargon. You’ll get it in time. It’s not that complex, but since WLC uses technical terminology a lot to confuse the audience and his opponents, QualiaSoup has to couch his argument using the same language so as to remove the “WLC = specialist, Opponent = non-specialist” stigma. WLC will pull terms like “Anselm’s Ontological Argument”, or “the Kalaam Cosmological Argument”, not because these arguments are especially valid, but rather because their names are obscure enough to stifle dissent. Both are medieval arguments for God that have been utterly debunked many times and in many ways, but by using their technical terms, WLC manages to be able to still trot them out at nearly every debate mostly unchallenged, because his opponents don’t know the technical names (even when they know very well the essence of the argument).

    • Rich Wilson

      It’s not just you.  A combination of the pacing of delivery (not just fast but relentless) and the vocabulary make a bit like, well, Ben Goldacre’s twitter follower put it best.

      I keep having to pause, digest, replay.

    • Anonymous

      Not stupid at all. QualiaSoup puts out pretty densly packed videos. Though I can follow most of the arguments on the first try, since he packs a whole bunch of them at a time I don’t have time to “settle” each one in my mind before the start of the next one. If I were asked to repeat the arguments at the end of the video, I’d probably get it horribly muddled.

      My solution is “pause” and “replay”. These videos are worth watching several times, and going to Google when questions arise. Any subject can seem too hard if you up the pace enough. If I watched a video on car mechanics at the same pace as this video, I’d probably cry uncle by the second minute and have to spend the next hour on Google.

  • Garren openID

    It’s nice to see other atheists denying moral realism rather than trying to affirm it for mainly PR reasons.

  • Anonymous

    Very good response to Craig. It really baffles me that Craig has such a fearsome reputation among atheists as a debater. He is certainly glib and polished but his arguments are often embarrassingly weak. I don’t know of any non-theologian philosopher in the last few centuries who has taken Anselm’s argument seriously after the most cursory examination of it. Even a contemporary of Anselm’s, Gaunilo of Marmoutiers,  showed the fallacy of the cosmological argument by using it to prove the existence of Atlantis. Define Atlantis as the most wonderful island that can be imagined, then Anselm’s reasoning shows that it must exist.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

      He’s got a rep as a good debater ’cause he’s got a ton of shit to shovel in a short amount of time. Set his claims down and take them apart at your leisure, i.e. outside of a debate format, and every single one of his magical five points crumbles under scrutiny. Turns out they’re just great soundbites for those already believing what he has to say, and nothing more, but when you’re full of rhetorical soundbites that take longer to refute than to Gish Gallup them out, you win.

      • Denis Robert

        He also tends to debate people who are not trained in philosophy, and as such are often not familiar with his arguments. Once you know what his arguments are (and they are very few), it’s easy to rebut him, even in debate form. Every time he’s gone against someone who had properly prepared for the debate, he’s lost.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, his strategy is essentially to not give his opponents time to dissect all his arguments. There simply isn’t time in a debate to reply to it all in detail. So he declares victory at the end.

        It also works in online forum discussions as the thread will increasingly splinter into many very detail sub-arguments, while slowly losing focus of the bigger picture

    • Rich Wilson

      I would honestly have to say he beat Hitchens in a debate, purely on debate scoring standards.  That debate was before Hitchens’s diagnosis, but he may have been feeling the effects.  He looked very tired.  I think he was also ill-prepared.  He has stated that the “fine tuning” argument is the one he thinks is best.  Not saying it’s good, but it’s better than anything else.  And that’s one Craig hammer hard.  Hitchens didn’t even respond to a lot of things, which gave Craig default points.

      Hm, since Hemant coaches a debate team (no?) it might be interesting to get his critical review, focusing on debate technique rather than the validity of the arguments.   

      • Rich Wilson

        TheoreticalBullshit does a good job with WLK http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRn-mVPIl60

  • beijingrrl

    I really enjoyed this.  Don’t feel bad, Larry.  He did go very quickly and I’ll admit there was one point where I got a bit confused.  But at 17 minutes, I think he realized he was pushing the limit of people’s willingness to watch if he slowed down and took more time.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    My short version:

    Even if there is some kind of objective morality (big if), then we are nevertheless in the position to need to discover (or determine) that objective morality.  Therefore the answer to the question of whether there is an objective morality doesn’t help us in establishing what is good moral behavior. 

    Some religious people will claim that their particular holy book hands down the objective morality from God.  One problem with this claim is that the cited scriptures can not be shown to be anything other than the way people at the time liked to attribute the origin of their own morality.  Just because some ancient people attributed right and wrong to supernatural agents (and these attributions later became known as scriptures in the various religions) doesn’t make them true.  It is merely what these ancient people believed.

    We are all in the position (collectively as societies and as individuals) to discover proper moral behavior.  We are also greatly influenced by our biology.

    • Rich Wilson

      Thanks.  No time to watch right now, but my first though was the reply I got from my Rep (McClintock) when I wrote about the “re-affirm the motto” thing.  Seems rights come from creator, not government.  I’m just happy we have “government of the people, by the people, for the people” to interpret those rights, hence we don’t have the right to breed slaves (Exodus 21:7), take wives as spoils of war (Deuteronomy 21:11) and we do have the right to use reasonable force in self defense (Mathew 5:39)

  • Abram Larson

    WLC is a great debater in the sense that he knows all the debate tricks of the trade. He throws out many more arguments than his opponent can reasonably refute in their given time, and then declares victory when his points have not been refuted. He uses technical terms to sound like he knows more than his opponent. And he always sticks to his points and defends them to their logical conclusions. What he doesn’t do is make any damn sense to anyone who takes the time to thoroughly dissect his arguments.

    His biggest flaw is that instead of trying to explain his points comprehensibly, he completely focuses on winning the particular debate at hand. The best way to deal with him is to ignore him and make your own points. See Sam Harris’ performance in the following debate

    For full debate go here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqaHXKLRKzg&feature=related

    For 10 min’s of Sams best points, see this video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HthQ6a7FZeA&feature=related

    • Wendell Gee

      I loved Sam’s speeches in that debate, but it just doesn’t look good to let your opponents arguments go unrebutted, especially against a pro like Craig who will call you on it every time. Unless you address the arguments for theism, theists in the audience will assume that they’re sound and will have no reason to do further research on the subject or maybe even change their mind. 

      Shelly Kagan thoroughly dismantled Craig in a debate on morality, and didn’t have to go off-topic or drop arguments in order to do so. If you agree to a debate, you should come prepared to debate. And considering that Craig has used the same five arguments for the last ten years, there’s no excuse for not coming prepared.

      Besides Kagan, Arif Ahmed and Austin Dacey have both (in my opinion) defeated Craig at his own game. It can be done.

      All the debates I mentioned can be downloaded here (use ctrl+F to find what you need): http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Craig vs. Craig on “objective morality”
    by Deacon Duncan at Evangelical Realism

  • Charvakan

    I never understood this argument from WLC. By his definition of objective morality – are things like genocide – including the killing of infants, slavery, asking someone to kill his child etc objectively evil? If he argues these are not objectively evil – why should we buy his valuation of what is evil? If they are objectively evil, then his god has done all of this, and hence is evil and not a source of objective morality…