A bizarre response from Randal Rauser

Randal Rauser has a response to my response to his response to this post. Well, sort of, because my post was about the question of whether Craig misrepresented Harris, and Randal ignores that issue in favor of criticizing Harris’ moral views and accusing me of having misrepresented Craig. I think commeter RobMcCune gets this issue exactly right:

Whether or not Sam Harris is a repugnant hypocrite has nothing to do with whether or not Craig misrepresented his statement. Since William Lane Craig has up to this point been the topic, I don’t see why Chris should have gone out his way to criticize Harris. No one is under obligation to list a persons faults every time said person is mentioned.

What Craig did is use Harris’ psychopathic comment as a red herring ignoring the claim that Craig’s only possible criticism of blowing up a school bus under as a religious act is that the religion is wrong. Instead Craig becomes indignant at a supposed insult despite the fact Harris clarified that he did not mean to call all believers psychopaths.

That is similar to what most of this post is, namely not answering Hallquist’s criticism of Craig’s statement but rather comparing the ethical views of Craig and Harris on certain issues. I don’t know if Hallquist agrees with Harris’ views on nuclear war or torture, but it was never the point of his criticisms of Craig.

Randal’s reply:

I already explained in the previous article that Craig never misrepresented Harris. However, Hallquist has misrepresented Craig and demonstrated a selective moral indignation when it comes to Harris’ views and conduct.

Seriously, what the fuck?

The way a series of replies and counter-replies works is that Alice argues p, Bob argues not-p, Alice continues arguing by responding to Bob’s arguments, Bob continues arguing not-p by responding to Alice’s arguments, and so on. What Bob isn’t supposed to do is say, “okay, I already explained that not-p, so I’m going to launch an attack on Alice that totally ignores what subject we were talking about.”

(Not that Bob has to reply at all. It’s just that if he does reply, one expects his replies to be on-topic.)

So the reason for not mentioning Harris on nuclear war is that it wasn’t relevant to the point of my post. The same goes for Randal’s claim that I “misrepresented” Craig. Here’s the claim he’s upset about:

Now, on to what I said about the Craig-Harris debate: we need to emphasize that the view Harris referred to as “psychopathic” is the view that intentionally blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren is OK if it’s what God told you to do–that in fact, it’s not just OK, but a moral obligation. That’s actually Craig’s view.

When I talk about Craig misrepresenting his opponents views, I’m mostly talking about him saying things that are false. The case I’ve been arguing with Randal about is unusual in that it’s merely a case where Craig’s comments make no sense without an implied falsehood about his opponent (or so I argued in my previous post).

But when Randal accuses me of misrepresenting Craig, he doesn’t appear to be talking about either of those things. What I said about Craig is as far as I can tell true, Randal doesn’t deny it’s true, and I think it’s pretty damning without any further false assumptions about Craig. Instead, Randal is unhappy that I didn’t mention that Craig thinks God wouldn’t order blowing up a schoolbus.

One reason for not mentioning this in my previous post is that I was just clarifying what Harris was calling psychopathic. It also happens that I don’t think the picture for Craig’s view is as rosy as Randal makes it out to be. Randal says that on Craig’s view, the circumstances of the slaughter of the Canaanites was “unique,” but while Craig has claimed the circumstances were “unusual,” “unique” strikes me as a bit strong here, especially given Craig’s belief in Biblical inerrancy.

Consider that in the Bible, the business of exterminating all the tribes God wanted exterminated apparently took from the time of Moses to the time of Saul and maybe beyond. Consider that in general, the God of the Old Testament seems very big on killing and ordering people to kill. When you take things like that into account, it looks less like “that was a unique circumstance” and more like “lucky us, not being born in that entire period of many centuries we know of as ‘Old Testament times.'”

Now, I expect Randal has some response to that, but the fact that he has some response doesn’t mean I was misrepresenting Craig. For the sake of the original point of my post, there was no reason to get in to any of this. All I needed to do was clarify which view Harris was calling psychopathic. For Randal to try to spin that as me misrepresenting Craig is bizarre.

I’m going to finish by quoting another of Randal’s commenters, Mark (addressing Randal):

I personally find your writing to be a lot more combative and filled with psychologizations than Hallquist’s, as well as failures to fill in certain gaps in obviously charitable ways, so my tentative conclusion is that you’re laboring under more motivated cognition than he.