Will Craig’s Christian fans admit he’s made some godawful arguments?

I’m almost done putting together my chapter for The Book on William Lane Craig, but as I was writing it, something occurred to me: have any of Craig’s Christian fans ever admitted that yes, Craig has made some godawful arguments? Something like, “Craig is a good philosopher, and his Kalam cosmological argument is an important contribution to philosophy, so I have a hard time understanding why he would commit the obvious fallacies he does in his moral argument.

I guess something like that attitude is common among atheists with some respect for Craig. They think Kalam is interesting and worthy of respect (though not actually right), even though his other arguments suck. But I’m wondering about believers, especially the the ones who’ve done things like accuse Dawkins of being cowardly and dishonest for refusing to debate Craig like Ed Feser and Randal Rauser.

One line I’ve seen used to defend Craig here is, “oh, you can’t judge Craig’s work based on his popular writings.” This strikes me as a terrible defense for several reasons. Do the people who make it really see nothing wrong with Craig trying to sell naive audiences on arguments he has no hope of defending in an academic setting? And besides, Craig routinely makes the same arguments–verbatim or near-verbatim–in his “popular” and “academic” works. Here for example is a paper on morality listed on Craig’s website as a “scholarly article,” which makes many of the same bad arguments Craig makes in his “popular” works.

But I’m sure I’ve ever seen people like Rauser or Feser go that far. I think says a lot about how far they are into apologetic lala land.

  • Achrachno

    “Do the people who make it really see nothing wrong with Craig trying to sell naive audiences on arguments he has no hope of defending in an academic setting?”

    That would be fairly dishonest, wouldn’t it? Has he really done that? I’ve not read as much of his stuff as I probably should have, so I’ve not personally noticed this trick. But since a lot of his technique seems to be to try to confuse the issue rather than win a debate squarely, I guess I’d not be surprised.

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

      Yeah, he’s really done that. Though he’d insist all his arguments are totally defensible and boast about how atheist philosophers have failed to refute him (when they’ve done so, repeatedly). The sentence you quote was aimed at people who recognize some of Craig’s arguments suck but make excuses for him on that count.

  • Vic

    “Will Craig’s Christian fans admit he’s made some godawful arguments?”

    No.

    • mnb0

      You beat me to it. My first thought was: will the Pope admit he is an atheist?

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b/ cl

      Funny thing is, you’re both wrong. I’d qualify as a Craig fan, but I’ve already posted criticisms of his moral argument and the pop-level version of the Kalam. I explained this to Hallquist before, thinking that might give him incentive to take my criticisms of his libel to heart—but he ignored them and hid behind his commenters instead.

      I’d link you to the posts but I don’t want to get accused of “blog whoring” by the commentariat. You can find them if you look.

  • RJ

    Hey Chris, I’m curious as to which of his aguments have been refuted already.

    • Kevin

      I don’t find any of his arguments interesting or all that hard to undermine so I would go with all of them.

    • G.Shelley
    • Patrick

      Craig has argued in public and in print that it is irrational not to believe the conclusion of a valid seductive argument if you individually believe that each premise is more likely true than not. We should not mince words about this: anyone who believes that is a fool. It is an objectively false claim that is obviously wrong to anyone educated enough to understand the terminology involved.

      • Patrick

        Curse you, auto correct!

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

    Well, no worse than those of the Singularity Institute.

    • jamessweet

      BURN!

      I’ve been avoiding Chris’ singularity posts for the most part, as I probably feel similarly. I thought that stuff was interesting when I was younger, then I grew out of it. Meh. There are worse irrational things for a person to believe…

  • khms

    I guess something like that attitude is common among atheists with some respect for Craig. They think Kalam is interesting and worthy of respect (though not actually right), even though his other arguments suck.

    I wonder why they’d think Kalam was “interesting and worthy of respect”. It certainly managed neither impression for me. In fact, it would probably be closer to the truth to claim the opposite.

    • http://Skepticali.blogspot.com Skepticali

      Agreed – as I understand Kalam, it just argues for a first cause. That cause could be Louie the Bookmaker from the Branes of Incontinence, as far as that argument takes us.

  • jamessweet

    I believe it was Jerry Coyne who recently opined that the answer to every blog post whose title is a rhetorical question is “No”. :p

  • vel

    Craig is pretty much like Lewis, depending on ignorance to sell his religion, hiding anything that’s wrong with it.

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

      Craig is way *worse* than Lewis. (Lewis, for one thing, wasn’t actually a fundagelical, in spite of his popularity among fundagelicals.)

  • Andrew Ryan

    I looked on WLC’s website to see his comments on the argument from morality. On the “Craig answers your questions” section, someone asked if Craig would become a Muslim if it turned out Allah was really God. While WLC starts off saying that in theory he would become a Muslim in such a hypothetical situation – he would accept new evidence, as anyone should – he then argues this:

    “[we can take] certain qualities like compassion, fairness, generosity, and so forth, and ask, “Are these qualities good because they are found in God’s nature or are they good quite independently of God?” The answer is that these qualities are good because they are found in God’s nature. …

    Then he says:

    “… God possesses His moral qualities so there is no possible world in which God is not kind, impartial, gracious, loving, and so on. So I don’t think it is possible that Allah is God, since Allah is not all-loving and impartial.”

    Do you see the problem here?
    1. He’s starting with the premise that those qualities are good ONLY because God has them – it’s not that God has them because they are good.
    2. Then he says that ‘all-loving and impartial’ are good because they are attributes of the God he believes in.
    3. Then he says that Allah cannot be God because he doesn’t have those attributes.

    This is begging the question, and I’m astonished that a philosopher venerated by Christians as one of their greatest makes such an elementary mistake. He specifically said that God’s attributes are good because He has them, not the other way round, and then contradicts himself by saying that any God must necessarily have specific attributes, because they are good ones.

    If Allah was the true God, by Craig’s first argument, whatever attributes he had WOULD be the perfect attributes. They’d be perfect because they were his attributes. A Muslim could use Craig’s second argument to argue:
    “Allah possesses His moral qualities so there is no possible world in which God IS all-loving and impartial, and so on. So I don’t think it is possible that the Christian God is real, since it IS all-loving and impartial”

    Or am I missing something?

    • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

      WLC’s god isn’t “impartial” so he’s arguing from a false position to start with. And you’re right, a Muslim could define their version of god in a similar way…

    • eric

      Don’t think you are. Divine command theory may not be the exact logical negation of the claim that god’s moral attributes are necessary, but the two ideas don’t fit well together. The first says God can make any conceivable action moral via command; the second says he is philosophically incapable of issuing certain commands.

    • anteprepro

      WLC’s argument is transparently ridiculous. He is either blinded by Christian privilege or relies on the fact that his audience would be. Koran God is not objectively worse than Bible God. People only think Bible God is better because they are biased. They cherry pick. Bible God is only good because Christian doctrine dictates that Bible God is good. It is certainly not a conclusion derived from observing God’s commands and actions. And yet that’s how they go about deciding Koran God’s goodness: observing its commands and actions and judging those. They certainly won’t accept Muslims’ assurances that Koran God is good despite apparently evil deeds, while accepting WLC’s genocide apologia on behalf of Bible God. The double standard is glaringly obvious. To everyone but WLC’s target audience, I suppose.

  • http://randalrauser.com Randal Rauser

    Hi Chris,

    For the record, I’ve often criticized William Lane Craig. Consider, for example, some of my comments on the Craig/Law debate:

    http://randalrauser.com/2011/10/stephen-law-vs-william-lane-craig-round-2-laws-first-rebuttal/

    Or consider where I critique Craig’s evangelical focus on abortion and homosexuality as paradigm moral issues:

    http://randalrauser.com/2011/10/does-god-only-care-about-abortion-and-homosexuality/

    Or consider my critique of Craig’s apparent endorsement of ultima facie justification for Christian belief:

    http://randalrauser.com/2011/08/dealing-with-doubt-on-william-lane-craigs-rather-bad-advice/

    http://randalrauser.com/2011/08/beliefs-that-are-forever-justified/

    Or consider the fact that I have continually critiqued evangelical apologetic defenses of biblical genocide as indefensible while Craig has been one of their foremost defenders.

    I critique Christian apologists just as much as atheistic ones.

    (By the way, sorry for all those links. I just wanted to set the record straight.)

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

      Well, a bit of criticism is nice, but I’d really like to hear some frankness about how awful many of Craig’s arguments are.

      • http://randalrauser.com Randal Rauser

        If you’d read the articles I supplied links to, I don’t think you’d dismiss them as “a bit of criticism”.

  • jhendrix

    khms@5

    I think the reason people are impressed with the Kalam is that it (mis)uses a good amount of science in an effort to try and back up its claims.

    It also (mis)uses the notion of infinity to show that when we apply normal mathematical expectations to it, the results are very counter-intuitive.

    To the people looking to buy Craig’s arguments, or to the uninformed, it doesn’t matter that the science doesn’t really support the Kalam the way Craig tries to sell it. It also doesn’t matter that Cantorian Set Theory shows that math with infinities is perfectly consistent (and crucial to our justification of normal math), if counter-intuitive to the untrained.

    Part of the problem is that when you try to take apart Craig’s use science behind the Kalam, it requires a good understanding of the material, and even then Craig can dance his way around the problems inherent in his view long enough to get through a debate.

    The problem largely is that one can’t really “refute” the Kalam, you can merely show that it doesn’t establish the necessity of a deity to explain the universe. That’s like many of Craig’s other arguments.

  • Pingback: A challenge for William Lane Craig’s defenders


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