William Lane Craig: young-earth creationism is an embarrassment

I’ve had difficulty finding any straightforward statements from William Lane Craig on evolution and creationism. Often, he hedges by throwing a few subtle encouragements to his anti-evolution fans while avoiding saying anything that would identify him. But in a recent podcast, he was very frank about young-earth creationism:

The entire video is worth watching for the stark contrast to how Craig usually speaks, about not just evolution but, well, anything. It’s the difference between Romney on the campaign trail and Romney speaking at a closed-doors fundraiser. Probably Craig only expected his really dedicated fans to listen to the podcast.

Note that saying different things to different audiences is something I’ve observed before with Craig. For example, I doubt he’d ever have tried to defend Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments in front of a mixed audience.

I’ve decided to go ahead and transcribe the highlights of the video:

(start) Co-host: Francis Collins is probably the most famous among people who are holding this view right now.

Craig: Perhaps. Michael Behe would also be a very, very well known theistic evolutionist… I think probably Behe would be even more well-known than Francis Collins in this area.

I’m pretty sure Collins would object to being lumped in to the same group as Behe. In The Language of GodCollins devotes a chapter to criticizing the Intelligent Design movement.

(1:21) Craig: Now when you think about that, Kevin, that is just hugely embarrassing.  That over half of our ministers really believe that the universe is really 10,000 years old. This is just scientifically, it’s nonsense, and yet this is the view that the majority of our pastors hold. It’s really quite shocking when you think about it.

Exactly right. This part of the podcast surprised me. I expected Craig to briefly admit being embarrassed, and then come out with a barrage of spin and damage control, but here he was refreshingly blunt. Then he goes on to say more about an article by Francis Collins:

(4:34) He seems to think that they were one of many–in fact it says here in the article that there were probably around 10,000 people that existed in order to give us the genetic imprint that we bear today. Quoting from him, he says, scientists have noted that the DNA of several neanderthals are 99% identical to the human genome, and moreover where there’s a region with sequence variation in the genome of neanderthals, many times geneticists will find the same variation in humans today. And this is convincing evidence that neanderthanls and humans have a relationship, and our founding population, he says, was thousands of individuals and not just one person, that there was interbreeding among neanderthals and homo sapiens. 

Now what I find odd about that argument, Kevin, is it seems to me that that would at most support that Adam and Eve were not special creations of God out of nothing, but that they had hominid ancestors, and therefore human beings bear the imprint of these hominid ancestors, say these neanderthals, or something like that. But how is that inconsistent with saying that eventually in the course of primate evolution, that a single pair did emerge called Adam and Eve, and that they are then the persons from whom present homo sapiens descended. If Adam and Eve themselves bore the imprint of prior lifeforms, it’s not clear to me why they couldn’t be the progenitors of the human race.

Ooh, ooh, I know this one! The problem is that if the founder population of all modern humans had been just two people, we wouldn’t have all the genetic diversity you see today. To get the genetic diversity we see today, you need a population of about 10,000 ancestral humans. In fact, if there had been just two humans the human race wouldn’t have had enough genetic diversity to survive–which is a fancy way of saying we’d have gone extinct due to inbreeding.

On top of that, evolution is a gradual process, so there never would have been a point in our evolutionary history that you could point to and say, okay, that guy was the first human. At no point would there have been anything to stop the children of a particular hominid pair from going and finding mates from other hominids. So for example, if we ignore the obviously mythological character of Genesis for a moment, the answer to the old chestnut, “where did Cain get a wife?” might be “he married a neanderthal.”

A couple other things to note here: listening to Craig, I got the impression that for once, he was admitting actual confusion rather than the feigned confusion he sometimes does when he’s in “say anything to squish the audience’s doubts” mode.

Also, if Craig were to accept that that humans share a common ancestry with other life, he’d be at odds with his own university’s doctrinal statement. Wonder if anyone will notice. I’d tend to think that Biola wouldn’t do anything to one of their star scholars over something so trivial, but then look at what happened to Mike Licona.

But just when you thought Craig might be getting ready to reconcile himself to whatever science discovers, he says:

(6:57) You need to not interpret the Bible in light of modern science, but to interpret it according to what it’s original author and original audience would’ve understood. That’s the first and foremost task is to interpret the Bible objectively and correctly. Then the second task will be trying to integrate what we learn from the Bible with the worldview of modern science…

In terms of evangelization, then, I would say that this is an in-house project, that goes on among Christians, and that we shouldn’t focus on these issues when evangelizing non-believers.

Uh-huh. Refuse your interpretation of the Bible one bit to accommodate science, but don’t let the targets of your evangelism know that’s what you’re doing.

(9:39) With regard to how human life and biological complexity came to be on this planet, I think we need to teach the children the controversy.

Now Craig has really slapped the “clueless” label on his forehead. There is no controversy among mainstream scientists.

 (10:22) You can hold maverick views or views that don’t fit into the paradigm, without being ignorant of the paradigm and unacquainted with the evidence for and against it. You don’t have to toe the line in order to be a good scientist.

Saying “we’re all reasonable people here” is always a great way to position yourself as the good guy in any conversation. Unfortunately, in this case it just isn’t true. Even Michael Behe, who has the dubious distinction of being the Intelligent Design movement’s least-embarrassing representative, has promoted some really ignorant howlers and his own university department has taken the extraordinary step of officially distancing themselves from his work.

Oh, and at the end, Craig very nearly lets slip that “Intelligent Design” is just a rebranding of creationism:

(12:08) The folks in the intelligent design movement, I think, have done a wonderful job in creating a big tent that includes young earthers, theistic evolutionists, and people of every stripe in between.

  • Steven Carr

    ‘Also, if Craig were to accept that that humans share a common ancestry with other life, he’d be at odds with his own university’s doctrinal statement. Wonder if anyone will notice.’

    Well, I emailed the President of Biola to tell him that members of his faculty are dissing the universities doctrinal statement.

    I suggest others do the same.

  • andyman409

    “Where did Cain get a wife?” the answer might be “he married a Neanderthal”

    priceless. just priceless

  • Rain

    People get more cynical as they get older, and he’s over 60 years old, so he can’t possibly believe half the crap he talks about. We know (apparently) that he has no compunction with taking oaths he only half-assed believes in, if he even believes any of it at all.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

    What’s really embarrassing is that Craig and so many minister don’t trust the witness of the Holy Spirit in theirs hearts enough to believe Genesis over a few secular scientists who are ideologically committed to naturalism.

    • indorri

      “[...] the majority of secular (who may be religious or non-religious) scientists who are committed to operational fallibilism which has resulted in many successful predictions” would be a more accurate statement.

    • Fred

      If you are not ideologically committed to methodological naturalism, then by definition you are not a scientist.

  • machintelligence

    But how is that inconsistent with saying that eventually in the course of primate evolution, that a single pair did emerge called Adam and Eve, and that they are then the persons from whom present homo sapiens descended.

    He obviously doesn’t understand the concept of gene pool.

  • Greg G

    I don’t know that what the preacher says from the pulpit is always an accurate reflection of his/her true beliefs. They may feel an obligation to feed the pew-fillers who like to hear that stuff on a weekly basis. They don’t want to hear that seminary learning about the New Testament being written in Greek. A side-effect is that this strategy optimizes the filling of the collection plate, though I may have the desired effect and the side-effect reversed.

  • MNb

    WLC’s views on the Big Bang are about as embarrassing as Young Earth Creationism. So he isn’t any better than the co-believers he criticizes.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Indeed. WLC says many questionable things about cosmology and mathematics (esp. infinity and probability). When Luke Muehlhauser was over at Common Sense Atheism, he started as quite the WLC fanbois. He seemed to think that WLC knew a lot about science and math. I told him fairly early on that WLC’s statements on those topics were not impressive, but that Luke lacked the knowledge of science & math to realize it. He may not remember that, but he eventually came around to a view fairly close to my own.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Also, if Craig were to accept that that humans share a common ancestry with other life, he’d be at odds with his own university’s doctrinal statement.

    You beat me to it.

    teach the controversy

    – standard Creationist/ID marketing.

    12:08) The folks in the intelligent design movement, I think, have done a wonderful job in creating a big tent that includes young earthers, theistic evolutionists, and people of every stripe in between.

    Except that IDers hate theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins and Ken Miller.

    Michael Behe is a theistic evolutionist (paraphrase)

    Uh, no. Behe accepts natural selection and common descent – except when he doesn’t. That’s pretty much his whole schtick is that he picks certain subcellular structures and pathways as not being evolved. Bacterial flagellum, blood clotting system, etc. So he doesn’t believe that God “worked through” evolution, but rather miraculously intervened repeatedly throughout the process.

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    In terms of evangelization, then, I would say that this is an in-house project, that goes on among Christians, and that we shouldn’t focus on these issues when evangelizing non-believers.

    Precisely which rock does he imagine we non-believers live under? We’re aware of these issues, and we know when some disingenuous apologist is trying to gloss over them and hope we don’t notice.

  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

    This was pretty recent, but then so was the debate with D’Souza and Ian Hutchinson with Krauss and Shermer where D’Souza came out and said that “only 3% of christians and 100% of atheists hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis”, and both D’Souza and Hutchinson affirmed evolution (theistic, obviously) and an old earth/universe.

    Part of me wants to get something together stringing all this together to drive a wedge between the YEC/Ken Ham types and the “serious theologians” who affirm things like the Big Bang and Evolution.

    • Chris Hallquist

      They really said that? Wow, talk about not knowing WTF you’re talking about.

      • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

        D’Souza did, yes: http://youtu.be/sJpHCyJm0ek?t=1h18m47s

        He admits that science refutes “fundamentalist interpretations” of the Bible. Hutchinson says nothing, and at earlier points in the debate he affirms he believes in the Big Bang and (theistic) Evolution.

        Where I want to take this is to say that science is going to refute very specific aspects of Christian Theology – Creation Ex-Nihilo, and Original Sin. I need to find another video from Craig where he admits how important a historical Adam is to the Moral Argument, but it’s out there.

  • Norm

    Personally I find it very amusing to think that anyone with half a brain would ever think evolution has even a hint of truth or credibility. You see flies and moths preserved in amber thats say 55million years old,and guess what…….they look like flies and moths.How embarrassing.I was on a tour in some “130 million yo”caves looking at the stalactites ect that take a thousand years to grow an inch.When I asked why the ones people had broken off since they were discovered 100 years ago had grown two inches,”oh well ,some grow faster”.Ha so the ones we can actually observe show the real rate of growth are ignored for wishful thinking. Talk about not knowing WTF their talking about eh!

    • Reginald Selkirk

      anyone with half a brain

      I presume you include yourself in that group, and I concur.

      • MNb

        Ah, now you’re the one who beats me to it. I was going to write something like “better half a brain than no brain like creacrappers”.

    • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

      Yeah, they’re flies and moths. Those are big families with successful base forms. You’re ignoring two big parts of evolution: Inheritance and polymorphism. Inheritance: Flies inherit the fly template and other features from their ancestors. Polymorphism: Fly offspring also get mutations, novel combinations of existing genes, and so forth to modify the features built on their inherited template. Their descendants can change according to selective pressures, but they’ll still be flies and carry a lot of genetic and morphological legacy. The reason the core template doesn’t change very readily is because of all the legacy that takes that fly template for granted. Changing the foundation underneath the more recent features tends to kill the offspring in development, which means they don’t grow up to pass it onto children.

      This information about the insects you present is entirely expected, explainable, and mundane to me. What did you think we expected? Horizontal transfer between distant branches producing bizarre chimera? Pfft. That’s the stuff of Harry Potter and the original Creationists.

      Mineral deposits: You don’t describe enough detail for us to get into specifics, but there’s one immediate thing that comes to mind: A lot of these structures are roughly conical. I would expect a very thin stalactite to grow faster than a wide one. In the latter case, each inch of growth increases the volume of minerals needed for that growth. I don’t see why it’d be a neat linear progression where any X length means Y years. Changing the length by one factor will not change the mineral content (volume) by the same factor like it would for a cylinder. Another possibility could be mineral content and solubility. Some minerals build up more readily than others, so if the mineral content of the water changes, so would the rate of new growth. I’m not even a geologist, but I paid attention in math class and in chemistry, which is why I was able to think about things like that to question your reckless conclusion-jumping. You just jumped right to assuming you had a zinger because you chose not to use your knowledge and imagination to entertain other answers.

  • augustine

    “Ooh, ooh, I know this one! The problem is that if the founder population of all modern humans had been just two people, we wouldn’t have all the genetic diversity you see today. To get the genetic diversity we see today, you need a population of about 10,000 ancestral humans. In fact, if there had been just two humans the human race wouldn’t have had enough genetic diversity to survive–which is a fancy way of saying we’d have gone extinct due to inbreeding.”

    I think what WLC likely had in mind here is that none of the 10,000 ancestors was “human” in the sense of having a soul and free will, until at some point two of them were “ensouled” (i.e., Adam and Eve), at which point all future offspring traced back to these two had a soul and free will (C.S. Lewis outlines a similar scenario, see http://biologos.org/blog/surprised-by-jack-part-4-mere-evolution).

    Also, as I recall WLC has always rejected young earth creationism (since he clearly accepts the age of the universe as approx. 15 billion years in his kalam argument), but has called himself “agnostic” as between theistic evolution and intelligent design theory.

    • Steven Carr

      ‘I think what WLC likely had in mind here is that none of the 10,000 ancestors was “human” in the sense of having a soul and free will…’

      I see.
      So the parents of Adam and Eve (although being Homo sapiens) didn’t have any free will about having sex…

      And they didn’t have any free will to try to do something about the pain they felt, even though they had a pre-frontal cortex (Craig’s litmus test of whether or not God created you….)

      Are you sure your dog doesn’t have any free will?

    • Laurence

      This is just ad hoc reasoning at it’s worst.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    augustine: but has called himself “agnostic” as between theistic evolution and intelligent design theory.

    Indeed, he seems unable to distinguish between the two; as he lists Behe as a theistic evolutionist.

    • augustine

      “Indeed, he seems unable to distinguish between the two; as he lists Behe as a theistic evolutionist.”

      That’s not good if he is confused on that, but since he doesn’t base his case for Christianity on theistic evolution or intelligent design, it is irrelevant to his apologetic efforts (debates, etc.). All eight arguments in his Rosenberg debate, e.g., stand or fall independent of the truth or falsity of those two schools of thought.

  • Dave

    When I was in High School in 1957 the earth was 900 million years old, In the early seventies my kids told me it was 2 billion years old two years ago my granddaughter informed me it is now 4 billion years old. I have seen a lot of changes in the last 3.1 billion years of my life. I also recall that National Geographic published an article after the 1980 Mt. St Helens eruption and the rapid carving of a 150 foot deep, quarter mile wide canyon dubbed, “the Little Grand Canyon” by a mud flow; the rapid formation of 600 feet of stratification similar to what we see at the Grand Canyon. This raised questions about the Grand Canyon being thousands rather than millions of years old. I am not a scientist, I enjoy truth but how come these anomalies are always hidden and scientist that question them are terminated?

    • Rain

      Good points Dave. Well that settles it. A magic man in the sky done all that, and there is a huge conspiracy to cover it all up. Since it would make no sense for scientists to have long standing conspiracies for no good reason, then I think we can presume it’s because the Devil did it. Why would the Devil want to do it? I don’t know. Just for kicks I guess. Maybe he gets paid per soul or something like that.

      • Steven Carr

        I’m sure Craig will soon start claiming there is a god because of the amazing ability of scientists to use mathematics to find out about things like evolution, the age of the Earth etc….

        I urge people to write to Biola to inform them that their faculty are dissing their doctrinal statements about Adam and Eve.

        I already have, and my email has been passed on to the President.

    • eric

      The age of the earth was dated to billions of years quickly after the discovery of radioactivity, in the late early 1900s. By the 1950s science had already settled on an age of the earth in the 4-5 billion year range.

      So, either you’re 140 years old and forget when you actually learned earth history in school. Or your teacher taught you wrong material. Or you learned it wrong. Or you’re now remembering things wrong. But one thing is sure – none of these explanations is equivalent to the age of the earth being a scientific controversy.

      • eric

        ack, remove “late.” It was dated to billions before the first world war.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      When I was in High School in 1957 the earth was 900 million years old…

      I’m sorry that you got an inferior education. But to make a broader point, specific scientific “facts” may come and go. Our knowledge of the world improves over time as we collect new data and learn to perform new analyses. This is not a weakness of science, it is a strength, and a beauty.

      Dave: I also recall that National Geographic published an article after the 1980 Mt. St Helens eruption and the rapid carving of a 150 foot deep, quarter mile wide canyon dubbed, “the Little Grand Canyon” by a mud flow; the rapid formation of 600 feet of stratification similar to what we see at the Grand Canyon.

      I think you’re making stuff up. Citation please? And even if you can find such an article in a popular magazine such as National Geographic (last year they ran an article on Christian saints, for crying out loud), I’m going to have a few more questions, like why you could consider highly erosionable volcanic ash to be comparable to the geology of northern Arizona, and how many interspersed layers of sea floor, complete with fossils, were interspered into that volcanic ash.

      I enjoy truth but how come these anomalies are always hidden and scientist that question them are terminated?

      If you enjoy truth, you should speak it more. Who are you claiming was terminated? Once again, you don’t seem able to back up your claims.

    • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

      You should really feel embarrassed right now. One additional explanation you should also consider for your anachronistic education is that school textbooks tend to lag behind the science going on outside the board of education’s politics. Even today, I doubt the people who approve school textbooks actually read them.

      Besides, every hypothesis changes with time. The difference is that scientists have converged on ~4.5 billion years with multiple lines of evidence. There is a strong consensus of big picture issues like this, based on evidence and logic. Dissent is allowed, but requires evidence to be taken seriously. If I say I accept the scientific consensus on the history of Earth, you know with great confidence that I’ll say I believe Earth is 4.5 billion years old, along with a lot of other general things.

      Creationism, on the other hand, is in a state of chaos, and from what I’ve seen, that chaos has only increased as the scientific evidence came in. Creationist beliefs about a lot of their big picture issues change according to rhetorical convenience and fashion. If someone tells me he’s a Creationist, that doesn’t tell me much at all. OEC? YEC? Heliocentrist? Geocentrist? Does he believe in the global flood? If so, where does he think all the water came from? Does he believe dinosaurs were real? How does he explain radioisotope dates? How does he explain light from distant stars? This radical divergence is what we expect from pseudosciences that ignore evidence from objective reality.

      • augustine

        “If I say I accept the scientific consensus on the history of Earth, you know with great confidence that I’ll say I believe Earth is 4.5 billion years old, along with a lot of other general things.”

        I agree that we should accept the expert consensus on the age of the Earth, just as we should accept the expert consensus among philosophy of religion specialists that Plantinga has solved the logical problem of evil objection to theism.

        • eric

          Ah, I see what you did there. Compare the consensus of a wide group of people of different disciplines about an issue that is argued on objective data and has significant practical consequences for activities such as oil exploration and mining, with the consensus of a small group of theologians about someone’s personal opininion on the nature of a being for which we have no data whatsoever.

          • augustine

            “the consensus of a small group of theologians about someone’s personal opininion on the nature of a being for which we have no data whatsoever.”

            Actually, it’s philosophy, not theology (the same discipline practiced by atheists like J.L. Mackie), based on reason and logic, not subjective opinion. Philosophy of religion is an established, secular academic discipline with recognized experts.

          • eric

            Wait, you answered Rain by saying he was “defending Christianity.” IOW, apologetics. Which is he doing – apologetics, or philosophy?

            And who is in this consensus? I have seen no reports or articles or anything else to the effect that philosophers of religion have decided en masse that Plantigna has solved the theodicy problem. One would think such a consensus decision about such a major philosophical subject would make headlines, even in our science-biased society.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            augustine: based on reason and logic…

            Sure. Plantinga’s philosophy is “based on reason and logic” in the same way that many Hollywood movies are “based on true events.”

        • Rain

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga's_free_will_defense

          Another issue with Plantinga’s defense is that it does not address the problem of natural evil, since natural evil is not brought about by the free choices of creatures. Plantinga’s reply is a suggestion that it is at least logically possible that perhaps free, nonhuman persons are responsible for natural evils (e.g. rebellious spirits or fallen angels).

          @augustine, I was ready to go along with you until I read that part. Why doesn’t Platinga just say that “nonhuman persons” have free will, but human persons do not have free will, therefore the nonhuman persons cause the human persons to do evil stuff? It wouldn’t be because of his religious beliefs would it?

          • augustine

            Well, since he is defending Christianity against the charge that it can be shown deductively to be false, it would make sense for him to defend it in terms of traditionally orthodox Christian belief.

          • Robert Firth

            FYI, Rain, it was precisely at this point that I decided not that Plantinga’s arguments were absurd (that had become clear much sooner) but that he didn’t even believe them himself. After spending pages and pages on “transworld depravity” – that it might be *logically impossible* for God to create beings with free will who would always choose good over evil, he then hypothesises that God did in fact create beings with free will who always choose evil over good.

            It would be hard to find a more blatant example of bad arguments being retrofitted to a conclusion previously decided.

        • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

          Funny, I always had the impression that the problem of evil was a theological problem, not a philosophical one, because it’s based on the premise of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god (a particularly narrow definition of a god that many people do not accept as given) and attempts to resolve the contradiction people perceive in the existence of evil in a universe supposedly created by this god. It sounds like theology to me, and Abrahamic theology in particular.

          My problem with this alleged consensus is that I don’t see why I should defer to the alleged expertise of Plantinga and his supporters, just like I don’t see why I should defer to the alleged expertise of homeopaths or bigfoot hunters. In my experience to date, the dissenters have been more logically convincing and evidence-based than the proclaimed experts and their defenders.

          There’s also one important point about experts and consensus: They’re a quick and dirty shortcut. Science works on an adversarial system, where dissenters are encouraged to tear at every logical or evidential flaw they can find. What remains standing after the dust clears is more likely to be true, and so long as the scientific community retains such a system, it’s reasonable to trust their consensus. I don’t see the equivalent with Plantinga, hence I don’t see the asserted consensus as equivalent to a scientific consensus.

  • MNb

    “how come … scientist that question them are terminated?”
    The Global Board of Evolution Propaganda has a secret department of Terminators with the special task of silencing scientists who ask difficult questions. Don’t tell anyone Dave, they might come after you. They are paid by that evil organization called UN.
    The official name of that secret department is Voortschrijdend Inzicht, which is Dutch for something like Progressive Understanding. Their means are frightening – especially their main weapon empirical data.

  • augustine

    “And who is in this consensus?”

    Here is an article in the Internet Encylopeidia of Philosophy describing the current state of play on this issue: http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/#H4

    • Steven Carr

      Ok, please repeat your total silence about how Plantinga ‘proving’ his hypothetical god could exist in one or two possible worlds (not actually this one, Plantinga never claims to have proved that), how does that prove the existence of Plantinga’s god, which he claims exists in ALL possible worlds?

      Feel free to be as silent as you like about that, once again.

    • hf

      I wondered why you didn’t link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which I normally think of as the authoritative online source. Sure enough, its entry on the matter has this bald statement of the truth:

      Plantinga’s view here, however, is very implausible. For not only can the argument from evil be formulated in terms of specific evils, but that is the natural way to do so, given that it is only certain types of evils that are generally viewed as raising a serious problem with respect to the rationality of belief in God. To concentrate exclusively on abstract versions of the argument from evil is therefore to ignore the most plausible and challenging versions of the argument.

      The site you linked instead has some very odd language about the “atheologian” point of view, and seems far too willing to treat Christian claims as coherent. It’s not at all clear to me that “libertarian free will” has a meaning. I certainly don’t agree that adding it to the Garden of Eden story saves the Redactor’s God from the charge of evil.

      Moreover, I didn’t see a mention of the argument (I want to say fact) that Plantinga conflates actions with their results. We might call this the ‘childproofing’ objection. Current laws of physics prohibit me from moving faster than the speed of light. (Let’s not get into the fine details!) How would it impinge on this mysterious free will if another law prevented any human from losing both legs? And that’s not even one of the difficult examples, which we can’t discuss in polite company. (This last may account for Plantinga’s popularity.)

      • augustine

        The article you linked to appears to emphasize that the evidential problem of evil is more “challenging and plausible”, since the logical problem of evil has been solved; that is true. Where does it state that Plantinga has not solved the logical version of the problem of evil?

        • Steven Carr

          Plantinga hasn’t.

          Please continue to ignore once more the fact that if Plantinga claims his god exists in ALL possible worlds that contain evil, showing that there is ONE possible world where his god and evil can both exist is just not good enough, especially as Plantinga carefully refrains from ever saying he is defending the claim that the possible world where his god and evil both exist really is this actual world.

          But you’ve already ignored this so many times, that people have noticed this big hole in Plantinga’s arguments.

    • eric

      I’m going to charitably assume that hf’s reference is a more accurate description of the real state of play of philosophy over this, because if your reference is, then you philosophers need to do some work. There’s all sorts of wrong, hidden assumptions in it that are obvious even to a layman.
      1. Libertarianism free will: its important for Plantinga’s argument, but doesn’t really exist. Biology certainly puts “prior causal forces” on us that can greatly skew our decision-making. If libertarianism free will is so important to God and so critical to love etc., then God has failed.
      2. W4 “highly improbable.” This is circular. W4 is highly improbable because of what we know about human nature. But whether that nature is necessary is part of the free will question. You can’t assume it is. W4 becomes highly probable if God had made us more like him – after all, He presumably has both libertarian free will AND never chooses to do evil.
      3. CS Lewis quote (and Plantinga’s endorsement of the argument). “Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having” Nonsense. I love my cat. I’m pretty sure my cat loves me in whatever way it feels love. Many people profess to love inanimate objects or ideas. If a loved one had a brain injury that largely removed their will to act, I’d still love them, despite their lack of free will. Plantinga wouldn’t??? How utterly callous. Whatever extra bonus free will that humans have over animals, its certainly not necessary to feel love, in either direction. Lewis (and Plantinga) make a classic mistake that many people made before the 20th century; they look at humans, and say “we have sentience AND use tools/feel love/communicate, ergo, sentience is necessary for using tools/feel love/communicate.” Now, most of us know better.
      4. Natural evil: the article is right, Plantinga’s answer is implausible. Its also insufficient, in that Plantinga is arguing that it is logically possible for his solution to work – not that it actually works or that he has any evidence that it works. There are many things which are logically possible, yet we have no good reason to believe are true. The mere logical possiblity of some solution to the problem of natural evil is not itself a solution. That’s like confusing the logical possibility that tomorrow I can flap my arms and fly with the ability to actually fly.
      5. What’s missing: even if we ignore all of the above, the article (and Plantinga) are missing a huge, whopping flaw in his argument, which is that God hiding from us makes no sense. Hiding contributes to evil; God’s appearance would almost certainly result in libertarian-free-will humans doing less evil. Yet, he doesn’t appear. Plantinga cannot use the defense that God’s active presence would create an unacceptable compromise of our will, because he’s Christian and God appears to humans througout the bible. The existence of Jesus is both critical to Christian theology and a direct refutation of the notion of a necessarily hidden God. Such a defense (God’s active participation compromises our free will) can be used by deists, but not bible-believing Christians, because the God of the bible is one that – for thousands of years – regularly showed up to teach and work miracles in front of people to change their minds.

      • augustine

        “in that Plantinga is arguing that it is logically possible for his solution to work – not that it actually works or that he has any evidence that it works. There are many things which are logically possible, yet we have no good reason to believe are true. The mere logical possiblity of some solution to the problem of natural evil is not itself a solution.”

        Yes, it is a solution to the LOGICAL version of the problem of evil, which claims to prove that the very concept of God is deductively incoherent. That is where the professional consensus is that Plantinga ‘s response prevails. The EVIDENTIAL version of the problem of evil is a different matter. Here there is not such a consensus.

        • eric

          Well then, it may please you to know that I will tentatively accept Plantinga’s conclusion, and treat it with all the deference I give the equally valid logical possibility that tomorrow I will flap my arms and fly around the room. And, I hope you do the same. Because it would be irrational in the extreme to treat Plantinga’s unsupported logical possibility as having more weight than that unsupported logical possibility, yes?

          • augustine

            As long as its acknowledged to have enough weight to defeat the logical problem of evil, I’m good. The burden is then on the atheist to show that there is a possible world with less evil but a greater amount of saving knowledge of God. Given chaos theory (the “butterfly effect”, etc.), it’s hard to see how anyone other than an omniscient being could be in the epistemic position to demonstrate that.

          • eric

            Logical possibility does not shift the burden of proof to the disbeliever. Consideration of things like yeti, fairys, anal-probing aliens, and my ability to fly tomorrow should make that obvious. Are you going to claim the burden of proof now rests with disbelievers of those things, too? Or does it only shift in the case of a belief your agree with? Quelle coincidence!

  • Jon Hanson

    I’m really dumbfounded how he can say YECs are an embarrassment and then go on to praise the ID movement for bringing together OECs and YECs together. I understand that a big tent means excepting some necessary evils for the greater good, but if he’s willing to accept how TRULY embarrassing the YEC view is I’d think he want them out of any big tent, or at least gently encouraged to rethink their position before trying to get in. I was an ID Christian who really understood how embarrassing the YEC position is and that’s why I’d always try to shoot down everyone who tried to tie ID with YEC, but seeing Craig trying to have his cake and eat it too is a pretty good reminder of how embarrassing he is on this topic.

  • Rain

    Given chaos theory (the “butterfly effect”, etc.), it’s hard to see how anyone other than an omniscient being could be in the epistemic position to demonstrate that.

    God of the gaps winds again. Yay God of the gaps. Always a winner.

    • augustine

      Actually this would be “atheism of the gaps,” i.e., we can’t prove God could have created a possible world with just as much saving knowledge but less evil (i.e., there is a “knowledge gap” in our objection to theism), therefore atheism.

      • eric

        ‘Atheism of the gaps’ is also known as Occam’s razor and parsimony. It is generally considered a good thing. You are slightly incorrect, however, in that we are not really waiting for ironclad proof. Any reasonable evidence will cause us to revise or at least rethink our tentative conclusion. But yes, lacking any such evidence, we do not multiply entities or universes needlessly.

        I’d point out that you are an atheist of the gaps when it comes to other entities. The Thors and Vishnus of the world. You just carve out an exception for your prior belief.

      • hf

        we can’t prove God could have created a possible world with just as much saving knowledge but less evil

        I just did that – insofar as the question seems meaningful – and you ignored me in favor of moving the goalposts.

        • augustine

          Please explain how you know, given chaos theory and the butterfly effect, that your alternative world produces the same or greater saving knowledge of God?

    • Reginald Selkirk

      God of the gaps wins again. Yay God of the gaps. Always a winner.

      But He always wins in a smaller and smaller playing field.
      Yay ever-shrinking God of the gaps.

  • augustine

    “Logical possibility does not shift the burden of proof to the disbeliever. ”

    The atheist is one making the assertion that God cannot exist given the amount of evil in the world (i.e., that God could not have had morally sufficient reasons for allowing the amount of evil that exists in the world); the one making the assertion bears the burden of proving it.

    • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

      I certainly can’t imagine any such justification for your god to allow evil to exist, but even if I grant the mere logical possibility of a justification out of humility and recognition of my limits as a mere mortal thinker, I don’t see how that proves there is one or how it makes belief in your god more reasonable than similar flights of fancy we could suppose. It strikes me as asking us to concede an argument because we could hypothetically be wrong instead of giving us an explanation of why we’re wrong. This lack of a justification, from what I can see, makes belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god based on the faintest wisp of a hope, by way of the unknown and possibly unknowable, rather than built on something that can be known. I’d say it’s not impossible, but as a matter of principle, I rarely say anything is impossible without implied or explicit caveats.

      I’m more interested in probable than possible. Possible comes cheap and easy.

      • augustine

        “even if I grant the mere logical possibility of a justification out of humility and recognition of my limits as a mere mortal thinker, I don’t see how that proves there is one or how it makes belief in your god more reasonable than similar flights of fancy we could suppose.”

        That’s true, it doesn’t prove the existence of God, it just removes a powerful argument against God’s existence (i.e., that God’s existence is incompatible with the evil in the world). The burden is still on the theist to supply arguments for the assertion “God exists.”

        • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

          Read for comprehension. I wasn’t making an argument of absolutes, but one of probability. To me, the existence of so much evil and such diverse evil with no discernible necessity means your god is unlikely to exist. I’m not making the argument that god is impossible, I’m making the argument that evil makes your god improbable. If you want to cry victory over your god merely being “not impossible,” go ahead. It’s a very hollow victory and a very low bar. I think it also shrinks your god.

          • augustine

            I understand, but you have to be aware that for centuries atheists were certain that theism couldn’t clear the what you call “low bar” of impossibility set by the logical problem of evil (that the existence of God is incompatible with the existence of ANY evil in the world), until Plantinga disposed of it (because it is possible for God to have morally acceptable reasons for allowing evil in the world, e.g., to preserve free will, etc). It is actually a significant concession that it is only the evidential problem of evil which is still viable (the one you are emphasizing).

            The problem with the evidential problem of evil is that, now that we are aware of the profound consequences of chaos theory, it is clear we are not in an epistemic position to make probability judgments about how the balance of good or evil could be tweaked to create a possible world with less evil but an equal or greater saving knowledge of God. So when you say the existence of “so much” and “such diverse” evil makes God unlikely “to me”, you’re expressing you personal feeling about it but I don’t see a demonstrative argument there. And how could there be one when you take the butterfly effect into account? (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect_in_popular_culture)

    • Nox

      The problem of evil doesn’t say god doesn’t exist. Only that if he does he’s apparently kind of a dick.

    • eric

      The atheist is one making the assertion that God cannot exist given the amount of evil in the world

      No, the atheist is saying that theists have not yet given a good solution to the problem of evil. Lacking one, their conception of God remains inconsistent with empirical fact. As Nox says, theodicy is really an argument about whether the claimed nature of (the Christian) God is consistent with the empirical evidence of this world. There are many other conceptions of God for which theodicy is not a theological problem. An evil God, for example.

      This nonbeliever is also pointing out that the mere logical possiblility for some (currently unknown) solution to exist is insufficient grounds for rational belief in such a solution. Just as the mere logical possibility of anal-probing aliens is insufficient grounds for believing in them. The “logical possibility” argument applies to both equally; you must accept that both beliefs are equally rational or be accused of special pleading.

      • augustine

        “This nonbeliever is also pointing out that the mere logical possiblility for some (currently unknown) solution to exist is insufficient grounds for rational belief in such a solution”

        It is sufficient grounds to rebut the charge that it is logically impossible for God to exist if any evil in the world exists, which is what Plantinga accomplished with his solution.

        ” Lacking one, their conception of God remains inconsistent with empirical fact”
        This is the evidential version of the problem of evil–i.e., the claim that God could not have had morally sufficient reasons for allowing the empirically experienced level of evil in this world. But the atheist needs to support this assertion–how do they know that? They would need to demonstrate that any tweaks they would make to the balance of good and evil in the world would result if a possible world with less evil but equal or greater saving knowledge of God. But how can you demonstrate that consistent with chaos theory?

        • eric

          This is the evidential version of the problem of evil–i.e., the claim that God could not have had morally sufficient reasons for allowing the empirically experienced level of evil in this world. But the atheist needs to support this assertion–how do they know that?

          No, you are conflating the logical and empirical arguments. Could he is the logical argument. The empiricals one is “does he, based on the claims of believers about his nature and the evidence we have available to us.” The nature of omnibenevolence does not appear consistent with the evidence humans currently have about the world. It could be, sure. Just like anal-probing aliens could be watching me from geosynchronous orbit over my bedroom or Elvis could be hiding just outside my window.

          • augustine

            “The nature of omnibenevolence does not appear consistent with the evidence humans currently have about the world.”

            That’s only the case if you can demonstrate that there is another possible world with less evil but an equal or greater saving knowledge of God–just saying it “does not appear consistent” is not a demonstration, but just an expression of your subjective feeling about it. What is the basis of your assertion that there is a possible world with less evil than this one but an equal or greater saving knowledge of God?

          • eric

            No one can demonstrate that, Augustine. However, many such “better” worlds seem perfectly consistent with the philosophical notions of contingency vs. necessity, because most acts of good/evil are things philosophers woul clearly call contingent acts.

            For example, when I was eight I stole a gas cap (bad friends, stupidity. Oh well, I gave it back and apologized). I can easily imagine a world almost like this one, with the only difference being I resisted the peer pressure and didn’t steal that gas cap (and the ripple effects following that). That is exactly the sort of event philosophers label contingent. And under the multiple universes model of contingency and necessity, contingent actions are exactly those things that could occur in other possible universes.

            Now, for Plantinga to argue that no such world could possibly exist, he has to argue that such events like my stealing a gas cap are necessary, not contingent. Which turns the whole concept up on its head.

  • Jon Hanson

    On the topic of the logical problem of evil:
    1. God is all powerful, meaning he can do anything logically possible.
    2. It is logically possible that God could decrease the evil in this world while maintaining the current level of saving knowledge.
    3. We don’t see this lower level of evil being actualized.
    4. Therefore, an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God does not exist.

    Now, it seems clear to me that the theist will argue that 2 is wrong, but to do so it seems to me that they would have to prove that it is logically impossible for God do bring about his goals with a lower level of evil than we currently witness.

    I find this to be compelling, but I could be wrong, anyone want to take a whack at this?

    • augustine

      Actually, the argument from the logical problem of evil asserts that the existence of ANY amount of evil is incompatible with God’s existence, so you appear to be arguing the evidential problem of evil. Premise 2 needs to be established by the atheist, i.e., the atheist needs to show that there is a possible world with less evil but the same or greater saving knowledge of God. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to see, given chaos theory and the butterfly effect, how the atheist, in his limited epistemic position in time and space, can show how tweaking the balance of good and evil events in a possible world with trillions of intricately interacting causal factors will affect the amount of saving knowledge. This makes the atheist’s premise 2 extremely difficult to prove.

      • Jon Hanson

        I think you’re correct, and this is about the evidential problem of evil, so I’m embarrassed there, thank you very much.

        I honestly just don’t see the warrant in shifting the burden, it seems clear that if a Christian wants to say that 2 is wrong they have to show that there’s no possible world with less evil but the same or greater saving knowledge of God. You may say that it seems impossible for an atheist, given our limits, to present a better world, but I do not say how this saves the theist from having to give an account for the logical impossibility of a world with less evil but the same or greater saving knowledge of God.

        • Jon Hanson

          To clarify, I think the theists has the burden of proof in this case the way the atheists has the burden of proof when it comes to proving that God couldn’t logically bring about his intended amount of saving knowledge and free will without allowing a certain amount of evil, even though the theist isn’t in a position to to judge the amount of evil in this world given his limited epistemic position in time and space, and his inability to show how tweaking the balance of good and evil events in a possible world with trillions of intricately interacting causal factors will affect the amount of saving knowledge.

  • Steven Carr

    AUGUSTINE
    Premise 2 needs to be established by the atheist, i.e., the atheist needs to show that there is a possible world with less evil but the same or greater saving knowledge of God.

    CARR
    Tell the Red Cross there is no possible world with less evil in it.

    Why do Christian charities put in so much time and effort into doing something that their apologists claim not even a their god can do – ie trying to make the world better?

    Augustine can say as much as he likes that there can be no better world than this one, but every single Christian charity on the planet is living proof that this position is absurd and only said because apologists have to say something, anything, in a debate.

  • Steven Carr

    FIRTH
    After spending pages and pages on “transworld depravity” – that it might be *logically impossible* for God to create beings with free will who would always choose good over evil,…

    CARR
    Ahem, how can it be logically impossible when Plantinga said to me in an email that his god really had created beings with free will who have always chosen good.

    Something can’t be both logically impossible and at the same time be a plank of Christian dogma that Heaven is populated with angels who did not rebel with Satan against God and so were not thrown out of Heaven as Satan was.

    Unless Plantinga is claiming it is ‘logically impossible’ for there still to be any angels left in Heaven?

  • http://FromNoahtoHercules.com/ Brian Forbes

    That actually angered me. On what planet is there no conflict between the Bible and the ToE? You have to ignore the details of one, the other, or both. There’s a reason why the majority of pastors don’t share that view.

  • augustine

    Eric: “No one can demonstrate that, Augustine.”

    Yes, that is exactly the point. We are simply not in an epistemic position to show that any tweaks we might imagine making to the balance of good and evil in this world would not result in an decrease in the overall saving knowledge of God (which the the purpose of God’s creating the universe according to orthodox Christian theology). And if we are epistemically incapable of showing that, then that premise of the evidential argument from evil is not carried.

    “And under the multiple universes model of contingency and necessity, contingent actions are exactly those things that could occur in other possible universes.”

    Of course any particular event (such as your not stealing the gas cap) could occur in an alternative universe–but how could you know whether the ripple effects (in the context of chaos theory) from that event would or would not result in an increase or decrease in the overall saving knowledge of God in that universe? No human being could; we’re simply not in an epistemic position to make those sort of judgments–its just wild speculation. And so that premise of the evidential argument can’t be established.

  • Steven Carr

    AUGUSTINE
    We are simply not in an epistemic position to show that any tweaks we might imagine making to the balance of good and evil in this world would not result in an decrease in the overall saving knowledge of God..

    CARR
    In other words, Plantinga is committed to the view that if the Holocaust had been ‘tweaked’, so that only 5.9 million Jews had been killed instead of 6 million Jews, then fewer people would believe in god.

    This is absurd.

    Every single Christian charity in the world is dedicated on the premise that what Plantinga is saying is a load of crock.

    But Augustine will ignore that. He is a theist. He is trained to ignore reality.

  • Steven Carr

    AUGUSTINE
    I understand, but you have to be aware that for centuries atheists were certain that theism couldn’t clear the what you call “low bar” of impossibility set by the logical problem of evil (that the existence of God is incompatible with the existence of ANY evil in the world)

    CARR
    Augustine ignores, for the SEVENTH time, the fact that Plantinga claims his hypothetical god exists in ALL worlds that contain evil.

    So if we can find just one possible world where evil and Plantinga’s hypothetical god cannot exist, then Plantinga’s god is as dead as a necessary dodo.

    Added to that, Plantinga is forced to deny that his god can create angels that are still in heaven, while maintaining that his god actually has created angels. Minus 1 for lack of consistency there.

    And added to that, Plantinga claims his allegedly omnipotent god can only create beings that sin, not telling the marks that his hypothetical god can supposedly easily create almost identical twins. If one twin sins on one occasion, then his almost identical twin might not sin.

    Unless Plantinga is now claiming that the idea of ‘almost identical’ twins is impossible.

    But not even the marks will buy that claim.

    And just to pile another brick on the rubble of Plantinga’s defense, Plantinga is very careful never to claim he can show that his ONE world containing his allegedly necessary (but hypothetical god) is THIS world…..

    All this and more can be ignored for an 8th time by Augustine.

    Some people don’t know when they have been licked, do they?

  • Steven Carr

    AUGUSTINE
    it is clear we are not in an epistemic position to make probability judgments about how the balance of good or evil could be tweaked to create a possible world with less evil but an equal or greater saving knowledge of God….

    CARR
    Augustine keeps repeating this obvious rubbish, as every Christian charity in the world is founded on the premise that what Augustine says is garbage.

    Tell the Red Cross they cannot reduce the amount of evil in the world….

    But Augustine cannot hear me….. He is trained to ignore everything that is not in his books of apologetics or videos by Craig.

  • Lars

    “Note that saying different things to different audiences is something I’ve observed before with Craig.” Seriously, though, who doesn’t? And so they should.

  • Sean Faulkner

    The origin of life certainly wasn’t a completely formed DNA source. The first self-replicating “life” were basic protein chains similar to modern day Prions. They contain no RNA, DNA or even genetic information yet can replicate via protein folding and even evolve to better adapt to their environment. Our oldest ancestor may very well have been a single self-replicating and extremely primitive molecular machine that assembled in the mud of ancient Earth. Amazing what scum can do given a few billion years of evolution.

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