William Lane Craig vs. cute teddy bear girl on morality

This is a video I made in November 2010. I think of it every time I hear someone talking about William Lane Craig. His arguments, but especially his moral argument, are so awful that mockery may be the best way to respond:

Here are my notes on the video from when I first posted it:

There’s something about Xtranormal videos that makes almost any situation funnier. It occurred to me that this makes them a great vehicle for mocking the rhetoric of religious apologists.

I want to emphasize that everything the Craig teddy bear says is based on things Craig actually has said. I relied especially on three books, each presenting a debate between Craig and one opponent: Antony Flew, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Paul Kurtz.

Note that while the Sinnott-Armstrong book is just Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, the other two books have transcripts of a live debate with comments from many different professional philosophers, with Craig’s final comments at the end. In both of those books, some of the comments on the transcripts are very good, and I stole liberally from them in making this video (always making sure to include the lame responses from Craig’s final comments.)

Oh, and “Craig”‘s final line comes from this article on his website.

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  • revaaron

    I’ve never understood why god buys you objective moral values and duties. God is a person, a mind- making it subjective. Perhaps a superior subjective standpoint, but not objective. If you think there is a truly objective morality, than it is part of the fabric of reality, something god and man are both subject to. If that is the case, no god is needed.

    I’m no philosopher- what am I missing? Why isn’t this brought up more?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      I’ve always thought the same thing. Appealing to god, whether for a source of morality or as part of the god of the gaps argument, is just trying to replace one unknown with another.

    • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

      Neither am I (a philosopher, that is), however I have seen plenty of theists making the statement that God is objectivity.

      And no, I don’t know what that means either. It seems to be playing somewhat loose with definitions along the lines of “God is Love” and so forth.

      Noticeable disadvantages with the whole God == Objectivity thing is 1) this makes any supposed objectivity arbitrary on God’s will and 2) if this is the case then in the Bible specifically so-called “objective morality” seems to change on a regular basis.

      I’m sure that a genuine philosopher will be able to pick 10 times the number of holes in a short time!

    • khms

      It’s just plain question begging.

      They want objective morals to come from God, so therefore they declare God to be someone who can offer objective morals, and then use that to prove their case.

      Given that God is already defined to be an inconsistent accumulation of omni-something, a first cause, and all that shit, being in possession of objective morals isn’t any harder to swallow.

      Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, either.

      Frankly, any theological argument of the form “… because God” has the same problem: it relies on a definition of God that isn’t justified and (obviously) isn’t accepted by atheists. Until someone can come up with a serious justification for assuming a god, there’s no reasonable basis to decide what properties such a god needs to have, and thus these arguments are not much more than mental masturbation.

      It’s a bit like M theory, except what that was developed from was actual science, whereas theology was developed from mythology; but in both cases, it’s a heap of theory with zero actual validation.

  • jonathangray

    Cute Teddy Bear Girl:

    That’s what GE Moore thought.

    Appeal to authority?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      No. The difference is “citing someone to show their vie”w is an option” vs.”citing someone and then claiming their view is the only option.”

      • jonathangray

        . The difference is “citing someone to show their vie”w is an option” vs.”citing someone and then claiming their view is the only option.”

        In the Craig debates I’ve seen, he says why he thinks a particular conclusion is logically compelling and then might cite another philosopher who thinks the same. That’s not arguing from authority.

        • http://analyticabstraction.blogspot.com/ rayndeon

          Actually, in Craig’s debates, he doesn’t actually offer a reason as why atheistic morality is incompatible with moral realism. He just quotes some atheists (i.e. Ruse) who hold to an evolutionary basis for morality or deny it exists. His argument is essentially thus: “Here are some atheistic philosophers who believe morality doesn’t exist. Therefore, on atheism, moral realism is false.” A list of assertions is not an “argument.” That would be like citing Calvinists’ take on “justice” and arguing that on that basis, God is evil.

        • http://analyticabstraction.blogspot.com/ rayndeon

          Here, for instance, is Craig’s argument from morality from the Craig-Law debate (I just chose one at random, perhaps you know of a better presentation of it). You know of course his basic argument:

          (1) If God did not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
          (2) Objective moral values exist.
          (3) God exists.

          What does Craig actually say in support of (1), by and large?

          By objective moral values, I mean values which are valid and binding whether people believe in them or not. Many theists and atheists agree that if God does not exist, then moral values and duties are not objective in this sense.

          For example, Michael Ruse, an agnostic philosopher of science states:

          morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. . . . Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction. . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.

          On a naturalistic view, moral values are just the by-product of biological evolution and social conditioning. Just as a troop of baboons exhibit co-operative and even self-sacrificial behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousins Homo sapiens have developed similar behavior for the same reason. As a result of socio-biological pressures there has emerged among Homo sapiens a sort of “herd morality” which functions well in the perpetuation of our species. But on the atheistic view there doesn’t seem to be anything about this morality that makes it objectively binding and true.

          Certain actions, such as rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development have become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to show that rape is wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. Given atheism, the rapist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, sort of the moral equivalent of Lady Gaga, out of the step with the herd.

          This is certainly very well rhetorically phrased, but let’s look at the actual substance of Craig’s argument here: Some atheistic philosophers hold to an evolutionary view of morality, such as Ruse. Therefore, atheism implies moral anti-realism.

          That is literally it. A notice that certain atheistic philosophers have a particular moral position is now taken to support that atheism proper entails that position? That’s arguing that “some persons who hold to A also hold to B. Hence, A implies B.” In what universe is this is a good argument? The argument is, on the face of it, vastly fallacious and this is not even considering the untenability of divine command and divine nature theories of morality.

          • dep

            By objective moral values, I mean values which are valid and binding whether people believe in them or not.

            Given atheism, the rapist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, sort of the moral equivalent of Lady Gaga, out of the step with the herd.

            If I understand correctly, there exists an objective moral value condemning rape and you think God provides the sole basis or justification for it. Except, isn’t some rape condoned in the Old Testament? (http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm) And isn’t the bible the literal word of God? No? Just inspired by God? OK. So God inspires men to write about some rapes in a way that implies He condones them. Well I’m having a hard time seeing how this God of yours can be the basis for any moral value, objective or not.

    • Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden


      Craig said it was impossible for atheists to believe in objective morality.

      Teddy bear said, No, GE Moore believes in objective morality.

      This is not an appal to authority.

      If craig had said, “It’s impossible to be an out atheist and a published author” teddy bear could just as easily have said, “GE Moore published a book in which he declares that he is an atheist.”

      This is just an example of Craig making an assertion of the form, “There are no swans who are black.”

      But since “are black” is here replaced with “believing x” and “swans” is here replaced with “atheists”, she has to cite a person who believes x and is an atheist.

      you just thought it was an appeal to authority when in fact she’s reporting on her observation that she has seen a black swan in its native habitat.

      • jonathangray

        Come, come, that’s just semantic smoke-pumping. Craig doesn’t mean that no atheist believes in objective morality. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be any debates with such atheists. Obviously Craig means that no atheist can have an objective morality, even if he believes he can. Whether Craig is right about that is another matter.

        • Darren

          Not really, and this is the ‘subtle’ part of his argument. Craig says that without God, there is no Objective Reality. Since there is Objective Morality, and Atheists claim this as well, they are actually affirming that God really does exist thus proving Craig’s point for him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      Phrased another way:

      Cute Teddy Bear Girl is simply citing GE Moore as an example of something that WLC claims doesn’t exist. She’s not claiming “X is true because GE Moore said so”.

  • Nathaniel Frein

    Are there transcripts of this available? I’m afraid I can’t stand to listen to TTS for very long…

    • ‘Tis Himself

      I’d like a transcript as well. I couldn’t hear many of the girl’s arguments and so I found her “voice” quite annoying.

  • anteprepro

    Just FYI, people: IIRC, jonathangray is Piltdown Man, uber-conservative Catholic, banned from Pharyngula. He’s a troll complete with suite of regeneration abilities.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Troll in what sense? Personally, I like that his comments gave rayndeon an opportunity to quote Craig on full, to show how empty his “argument” is.

      • jonathangray

        Troll in what sense?

        I just seemed to annoy Pharynguloids, who variously informed me that I was a “lying piece of stinking filth”, an “obsessional christofascist scumbag”, a “moral monster”, a “deranged authoritarian bigot”, a “stupid sack of shit”, a “fucking waste of meat”, a “putrid mass of corruption” and “quite probably a psychopathic sexual sadist”. One rather agitated chap expressed sincere regret that my mother had “put the coat hanger down”. Phew!

        On the other hand, another regular commentator called me “one of the most interesting and entertaining people I’ve ever disagreed with on the internet” and composed a song about me!

        Personally, I like that his comments gave rayndeon an opportunity to quote Craig on full, to show how empty his “argument” is.

        I’m not sure transcribing an opening move in a debate is “quoting Craig in full”. I hope to respond to rayndeon when I get a spare hour – if I’ve not been banned by then!

        • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

          Don’t worry, I don’t consider anything you’ve written so far to be anywhere near moderation-worthy.

      • anteprepro

        If I recall my brief encounters, glancing him before the banhammer came down: He is dishonest and bigoted. You can already catch a taste of his rank homophobia in the “Why are you still protestant” thread. He starts off being innocuous, just offering mild questions and criticisms. But if you try to actually enter into a sustained argument, he will conveniently forget information, reassert the same things that have already been countered without further counterargument, slightly side-step into a different subject. Standard evasion tactics. It is not particularly egregious in of itself, but his persistence, inability to learn, and only-slightly-hidden bigotry make him into a less than pleasant participant in these conversations. But, that might just be within the context of Pharyngula. He might be on better behavior here. I was by no means suggesting that he should be banned. Just that you should keep an eye open. Cheers.