In Defense of William Lane Craig

After my last post on William Lane Craig and debating, I decided to do several web searches related to William Lane Craig and debating. While I obviously disagree with his arguments, I have no problem with him as a person. I suspect the majority of atheists (who know who he is) also do not. But a few of his critics have engaged in personal attacks which I think are unfair and inaccurate. As a freethinker, I think it’s important to follow the evidence wherever it leads and avoid sloppy thinking. This includes sloppy thinking about our critics.

Objection: Craig is not a good philosopher.

Reply: I’m going to be blunt. This is a stupid objection. Not only does he have a Ph.D. in philosophy, but he is widely regarded as a leading expert on the philosophy of time. Before someone makes an objection like this, I would encourage them to look in the mirror. Do they have a Ph.D. in philosophy? If not, then why do think they are even competent to attack the philosophical competence of someone who does? In my experience, when I have talked to nontheistic professional philosophers of religion about Craig, they have always had respect for his philosophical abilities.

Objection: Craig is dishonest.

Reply: Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I take the charge of dishonesty extremely seriously. Anyone who levels the accusation of dishonesty has the burden of proof, and they had better make sure they attempt to get the other person’s side of the story before publicly concluding that dishonesty is the best explanation.

If Craig has been dishonest, I have yet to see any evidence of that. For example, one person suggested Craig was dishonest in a debate because he used a probability calculation in a debate. According to this critic, the ‘problem’ was not that Craig was being dishonest in his calculations, but that he used a calculation in a debate, which was supposedly unfair to his opponent. Huh? I don’t call that “dishonest.” I call that making an argument.

A second allegation is that Craig is dishonest in his public debates because he uses arguments which he “knows” are false. Really? I do wonder how these people “know” what Craig thinks.

In summary, I don’t agree with his arguments, but there is no need for unwarranted personal attacks. Let’s focus on the arguments, please.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    I'll weigh in on the opposite view: I think it's totally clear that Craig is incompetent or dishonest or both. Probably more dishonest than incompetent, though that's less clear.

    The big things that stick out:

    (1) He habitually misrepresents the views of his opponents. You can see good examples of this in his debates with Richard Carrier and Sam Harris–both call him out on it during the debate.

    This is probably the biggest reason why, in an alternate universe where I'm famous and Craig desperately wants to debate me, I'd turn him down.

    (2) He makes incredibly selective use of expert opinions. I don't think you need a Ph.D. in philosophy to see this and be rightly appalled by it, but FWIW he's also been called out on it repeatedly by professional philosophers, but never corrects his behavior. An especially good example is his book with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: WSA explains that on many points Craig is guilty of picking the experts who agree with him and ignoring the many experts who don't. Craig ignores WSA's point and instead gives the pseudo-reply that some appeals to expertise are legitimate. Either Craig was too incompetent to understand WSA's point, or he made a conscious decision to ignore it and hope readers wouldn't notice.

    This overlaps with (1) – he'll sometimes falsely claim someone agrees with him when they don't (this happened in the Sam Harris debate) or go into all kinds of contortions to talk about all the ways experts agree with him while tiptoeing around areas of disagreement, and even indirectly attacking experts who disagree without actually explaining their views.

    (3) After watching enough of his debates, it's clear that often he saying things just because it's what he was trained to say in his debate team days, not because it's what he honestly thinks. If he gives a flimsy rationales for claiming his opponent's arguments are irrelevant in one debate, you can say, "oh, I guess that's a matter of opinion," but when he makes baseless accusations of irrelevance in debate after debate, it becomes clear that he's just because that's what you're trained to do on debate team.

    Not that I think debate team is a dishonest activity. If people want to go around making arguments they don't really believe in as part of a silly school competition, and everyone knows that's how the game works, they aren't deceiving anyone. But Craig isn't presenting himself as playing a silly game, he presents himself as a serious scholar, which gives people a right to expect more sincerity than he delivers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    There's one other example I want your opinion on, just because it's so egregious: Craig's talking point that "on the atheist view, there's nothing really wrong with rape." I simply can't conceive of how anyone with an ounce of philosophical competence could believe this. Even if Craig thinks he has a good argument to show that atheism entails that there's nothing really wrong with rape, there's an enormous difference between saying, "this is controversial, but I think X entails Y" and "it's the Xist view that Y." Craig is lying about atheists, plain and simple.

    (I'm trying to think of a parallel, to illustrate this point, but actually I have a very hard time imaging saying something like this about any belief other than atheism. In addition to being a liar, Craig is pandering to ignorance and bigotry regarding atheists.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12171593545895078337 Bret L

    I don't have much to say regarding his philosophical competence. He is obviously very intelligent, and dives into complex issues with a confidence that is impressive.

    He is certainly dishonest. Maybe dishonest is the wrong word to use. He has no integrity. Bob Price's opening speech in his debate with Dr. Craig is priceless. Craig is an apologist. He is not seeking the truth. He has an apriori certainty of what the truth is. And what follows from that is saving souls. His tactics are unquestionably intellectually Machiavellian. He even admits this in his book.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00565212411446092552 smijer

    What an interesting post, and interesting comments. I think this just goes to show how difficult it can be to talk about something as mind-blowingly complex as a human being.

    So, is Craig a skilled philosopher? I have no reason to discount the points made by Lowder here.

    Is Craig a generally honest individual? Lowder is right – the burden of proof should be set high on a general accusation about a person's character.

    But does Craig bring his skills in philosophy to bear on public debates in a clear, straightforward, and honest way?

    Well, as Hallq points out, the answer to that is a pretty clear negative.

    I think what we are seeing here is that Craig has accepted a largely adversarial view of the nature of debate, and accepted a view of the legitimacy of debate as a tool for persuasion. In other words, he sees himself as a lawyer defending a client he believes is innocent (or prosecuting one he believes is guilty)… He sees the job as a debater to provide the most persuasive argument for his side possible – not to provide the best overall quality of scholarship.

    Perhaps he believes as some lawyers and debaters do, that if both sides of a debate produce the best case for their own side, then the audience has the best possible ability to synthesize the experience into high quality conclusions.

    If so, he is likely wrong. I have seen no evidence that the adversarial approach to investigation is particularly good at helping bring juries or audiences nearer to a correct conclusion.

    But, if you view his approach as though he was doing what you think he should be doing: providing the best overall scholarship – then yes, many of his efforts could appear like dishonesty or poor philosophical skill, even though neither is his intention.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15227129983621069565 Paul

    Let's bear in mind that Chris Hallquist also claimes van Inwagen and Plantinga are pretty shoddy, perhaps not even very "rational."

    http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/2011/07/22/is-styudying-philosophy-beneficia/

    So I'd take his musings with a grain of salt.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12030785676230758243 Dan

    Hallq–

    This is a response only to your second comment. I didn't read your first one closely enough, so if there is something I missed, I'm very sorry.

    I don't think that Craig is "lying about atheists" in saying that "on the atheist view, there's nothing wrong with rape." He would be lying if he said, "I'm an atheist, and I think rape is okay! In fact, all atheists do!" I think that his claim is an instance–a test case, if you will–of something he really believes about atheism, namely, that if there is no final moral authority to judge over human affairs, how can we make moral complaints about things like rape? I think that Craig, as a Christian, reads Nietzsche's atheistic immoralism as a threat to moral order (in fact, this is a popular but misguided way of reading Nietzsche. Nietzsche's immoralism merely says that you can't philosophically justify moral injunctions, but that doesn't make immoral action justifiable). It seems to me that the purpose Craig's claim isn't to smear atheists, but to defend Christianity's claim to moral order and moral objectivity. I think that that is his argument (though, I'll admit that I've never read Craig or heard him debate) and I think it deserves from us much more than an ad hominem reply, e.g. calling him a liar.

    Anyways, those are my thoughts. Cheers!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    @Dan – I simply don't think that's what the construction "on the [such and such view]" means. Compare: Aquinas argues, on the basis of Christian doctrine, that heritics should be executed. I think his arguments are stronger than Christians give him credit for. But that wouldn't justify me going around saying, "On the Christian view, heretics should be executed" – that's just not something a reasonable, honest person can say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    @Paul – The phrase "ad hominem" is over-used, but your comment is a textbook case of that. I made arguments that can be examined on their merits, I didn't say to people "believe me on this because I'm such a great guy," so your attacks on me are irrelevant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    While I obviously disagree with his arguments, I have no problem with him as a person.

    He thinks you're going to hell for all of eternity – yet he smiles, laughs, spends time with family and friends, and seems generally to enjoy life.

    And you have no problem with him as a person? Seriously?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Uncredible Hallq — I need to think about your first comment before saying anything. Regarding your second comment (1:57AM), I think it's valuable to distinguish "X entails Y" from "everyone who believes X also believes Y." You seem to think that the former entails the latter. It doesn't. In fact, I am quite sure that, if asked, Craig would agree that many atheists believe that rape is immoral (to put it mildly), but that this moral belief is either subjective, or objective and inconsistent with their atheism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12030785676230758243 Dan

    @Hallq–

    There is a key difference in the structures of thought between Aquinas and Craig; namely, that Aquinas is speaking for Christians as a Christian, while Craig is speaking for atheists not as an atheist. Craig is instructing atheists on how they should make moral inferences when he has no authority to do so. He should be corrected for it, but that doesn't make him a liar, in my opinion.

    Anyways, thanks for the response. I leave you with the last word.

    –Dan

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    Let me try again on the issue of Craig's "atheism and rape" claim, I realize I didn't explain that one very clearly.

    When someone says, "on the Xist view, Y" it normally means, "Y is part of the Xist view, or at least an uncontroversial consequence of the Xist view." It's not the normal way of presenting a controversial opinion about what Xism entails.

    Because of this, it would be wrong for me as an atheist critic of Christianity to say "on the Christian view, heretics must be executed." That would be wrong to say, independent of what I think of the arguments given by people like Aquinas.

    Likewise when Craig claims that "On the atheistic view, there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone." That's not some slip of the tongue he produced once, it's a talking point he's repeated verbatim, or in a slight variation, in a half-dozen of the debates Craig has posted on his website. (The variation he sometimes uses is "On the atheistic view, apart from the social consequences, there is nothing really wrong with your raping someone." For reasons given in the second paragraph of this comment, I don't think that's something a reasonable, honest person can say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11148637465997053971 drcraigvideos

    I find it interesting that someone like The Uncredible Hallq would accuse Craig of being dishonest and incompetent. Last I saw, Chrissy, you gave a shallow critique of Craig's Reasonable Faith in your blog, particularly chapte 1. You clearly had no understanding of Reformed Epistemology. And the funniest part was when you were caught having no clear comprehension of it, you went off and revised and corrected your mistakes on Reasonable Faith Chapter 1. Dude, who are you fooling? It's bad enough you name-drop Craig everywhere you go (like a crazed stalker) but I would suggest what Lowder just suggested: Look at yourelf in the mirror. Quite frankly, you suck as a thinker. The fact that you have a self-published book speaks wonders about you.

    Anyway, thank you, Lowder for this honest blog article.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09708981993708509662 Robert Oerter

    I agree with Chris.

    As a science/math person, I focus on Craig's claims about those topics. His sophomoric "Infinity minus infinity – what's that?" argument is complete mathematical nonsense, as has been pointed out to him by Wes Morriston and many others. Yet he continues to use it in debate after debate.

    He also makes the bizarre claim that "All mathematicians agree" that real infinities cannot exist. In fact, what all mathematicians agree on is that there are no logical problems with infinity as far as we know. Craig seems to base this claim on a single paper by Hilbert (the one that introduces Hilbert's Hotel). I would wager that most mathematicians haven't even heard of the distinction between real and potential infinities, and that the few who have heard of it would disagree with Craig. (It was new to me when I started listening to Craig debates, but then I'm a physicist, not a mathematician).

    At any rate, it is not a distinction that mathematicians are generally concerned with, and for Craig to claim that they ALL support him on the subject is disingenuous, to say the least.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09033533069813329577 Magicthighs

    "on the atheist view, there's nothing really wrong with rape"

    Yes, Craig is being dishonest when he says that, apart from the fact that it's simply an inane statement. Atheism means not having the belief that one or more deities exist, nothing more. In and of itself, atheism does not address morality, in the same way that "not being bald" or "not believing you'll win the lottery next week" don't.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    @drcraigvideos:

    Hey Frank Walton, long time no see.

    For the record, most of the revisions made to my review of Reasonable Faith were because Keith Augustine wanted me to soften for sake of publication on the Secular Web, so as to not scare off Christian readers. I've never stopped thinking the views Craig expressed in chapter 1 of Reasonable Faith are batshit insane.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Having debated Craig twice face to face and once in print (in the Dallas Morning News,of all places, June 13, 1998)let me weigh in on Jeff's side. In these debates only once did I feel that Craig said anything that even sounded like a cheap shot. This was at the debate at Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas with 4500 people in attendance, about 4450 of whom were on Craig's side. Craig asked whether anything would convince me that he was right. I responded, as Norwood Russell Hanson did in "What I do not Believe" that some huge display that everyone would see would convince me. Earlier, I had rejected Craig's appeal to the "500" witnesses mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians XV and noted that mass hallucinations do sometimes occur. Craig then asked whether I would not also dismiss ANY display as a hallucination, prompting much braying laughter from the highly partisan audience.

    Now whether Craig was intentionally playing to the audience or not, I don't know, but this was a legitimate question and I obviously had left myself open to the rejoinder. When the laughter died I explained what I take to be the obvious epistemological differences between a contemporary event witnessed independently by billions worldwide, and presumably recorded electronically, and a 2000 year old second (or third) hand story of dubious provenance and no context about some nebulous, nameless 500 who allegedly had an even more nebulous epiphany. Craig had no response, so I think I took the point.

    Now if you are looking for nasty, there are people like Steve Hays, Holding/Turkel, and Ed Feser. Ad hominem, character assassination, straw man, and vituperation are their stock-in-trade. I would not at all put Craig in their sleazy category.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    Now if you are looking for nasty, there are people like Steve Hays, Holding/Turkel, and Ed Feser. Ad hominem, character assassination, straw man, and vituperation are their stock-in-trade. I would not at all put Craig in their sleazy category.

    Yes, well, the bar isn't set very high, is it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Hallq,

    I guess the question is how we're supposed to interpret Craig when he claims "on the atheist view, there's nothing really wrong with rape." Is he trying to convey to the audience that this is the standard view held by atheists? Or is this merely a particular instance of the more general claim he's trying to support (namely, that if there is no God then there is no objective morality)?

    It's difficult for me to evaluate what Craig's intention is. But think about the context of the utterance. It comes when Craig is in the middle of trying to convince his audience that "if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist." He wants to connect the absurd claim up with the view he thinks atheism is committed to. So it might be more charitable to read him as suggesting that this is the "atheist view" in the sense that it's the view you're committed to if you believe that God does not exist.

    To connect this up with your example from Aquinas, suppose you're in a debate with a Christian and one of your arguments is that Christianity is false because it leads to morally absurd results. You claim (and try to support the view) that if one is a Christian one is committed to the view that heretics should be executed. You then take that as a datum (being under the impression that you've convinced the audience that the Christian really is committed to this). You then claim, setting up the reason to reject Christianity: "On the Christian view, heretics should be put to death." (It's a short move from there to explicitly point out how absurd that conclusion is, and therefore, that we should reject Christianity.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Robert Oerter,

    You wrote: "He also makes the bizarre claim that "All mathematicians agree" that real infinities cannot exist."

    I'm curious to know where Craig says this. Do you have a reference?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09708981993708509662 Robert Oerter

    Landon,

    In his debate with Krauss, here
    http://mckimmon.online.ncsu.edu/online/SilverlightPlayer/Default.aspx?peid=c71f72ecead9438faf30bb39b4b1c3051d

    around 26 min, he says "But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to contradictions…" and follows with the "infinity minus infinity" line.

    He does not, here, say "all," as I claimed. But I think you'll agree that "mathematicians recognize" implies a pretty broad sweep.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12030785676230758243 Dan

    @Magicthighs–

    I don't think that the comparisons between baldness and beliefs hold. To me it seems that beliefs are rules for conduct and/or action. Atheism, like theism, is a belief–it's something that people trust in, hedge their bets on, or accept as true. Neither Nietzsche nor Dostoevsky shied away from the ethical implications of atheism, and I don't think that we should either. To me, charging Craig with dishonesty registers as a shallow complaint; we should be meeting his argument head on and defending and arguing for the ethical implications of atheism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13196126096999779200 BeingItself

    Craig says that his Christian beliefs are immune to arguments. A ghost tells him that Christianity is true, and the private testimony of that ghost trumps any argument.

    Yet, Craig thinks that non-Christians should be persuaded by his arguments for the truth of Christianity.

    Craig is a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is a species of dishonesty.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09033533069813329577 Magicthighs

    @Dan "we should be meeting his argument head on"

    He didn't present an argument. He presented a claim.

    "and defending and arguing for the ethical implications of atheism"

    Atheism has no ethical implications. Anyone who says it does (and offers an example) simply presents the inverse of theistic claims. If gods exist then X. Gods don't exist, therefore not X/you don't have a justification of X.

    It's inane.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    To Keith Parsons,

    Two things:

    First, I've listened to one of your debates with Craig, and I don't recall anything from it that struck me as especially unfair to you specifically. But that doesn't erase Craig's behavior in other venues.

    Second, while Craig's demeanor is a lot more pleasant than Feser's, it's possible to be superficially pleasant and sleazy at the same time.

    Carriers' debate with Craig is a really good example of this. Afterwards, Carrier reported that Craig had been very pleasant to him before and after the debate. But Craig's behavior in the debate itself was atrocious. He ignored the arguments Carrier made in the actual debate, in favor of using things Carrier had said elsewhere to smear him as a crackpot, and Carrier has said that Craig repeatedly misrepresented his views. Craig was calm and confident has he did this, which gave it an air of respectability, but it was still sleazy.

    It's important not to let Craig get away with sleazy behavior just because he does it with a smile.

    Finally, off-topic, but given your comments about the case for theism being a fraud, I'm curious to know what you think of this.

    To Landon,

    You've definitely made me think about this, but I don't think your defense quite works. Craig doesn't drop his line after arguing that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. He uses that line as a part of his argument for that claim. Here's a slightly longer quote from Craig, one where he also hints that atheists must think morality it merely something that developed because it's socially advantageous:

    On the atheistic view, some action, say rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really morally wrong. On the atheistic view, there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone. And thus without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.

    I'm also inclined to see this in the context of other things Craig does: avoiding mention of any atheists who think morality is objective, quoting Ruse about what "the modern evolutionist" believes (an incredibly stupid thing for Ruse to say, BTW), and attacking atheism by way of attacking philosophical naturalism or determinism. Craig is clearly hoping he can get his audience to conflate atheism, the theory of evolution, naturalism, determinism, and moral nihilism into one big boogeyman that will be easy for him to attack. But that's not a legitimate strategy, and Craig is smart enough to realize that if he's thought about the issue at all.

    (I intend "if he's thought about the issue at all" to be an important qualification here. With some people, I suspect it simply doesn't occur to them that they have any obligation to be truthful in public debates.)

    To Dan,

    So tell me, why do you think atheism has certain ethical implications? You don't say, which makes me suspect it's merely because you've been propagandized into believing for much of your life. But don't worry. If you're hanging out on atheist blogs, you're on the way to recovery. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Hallq,

    I guess I see Craig's controversial claim as arising in that context to fill out what he's trying to argue for. I don't see him claiming that this is what atheists believe, but what they are committed to believing.

    That said, I think the data is better explained by the mere fact that Craig's moral argument is mostly rhetoric, and contains subtle fallacies that many people don't ever pick up on. I think in the past you've accused him of this regarding his moral argument, and I've written about it myself before. (A paper that I'd like to revisit sometime, but before I do I have to see if Wes Morriston's recent paper "God and the Ontological Foundation of Morality" already makes my paper unnecessary.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12030785676230758243 Dan

    @Hallq–

    Consider me fully recovered. (I tried to clue people in on the fact that I am an atheist, but I apparently didn't do too good of a job.)

    Instead of saying why I think so, I'll just point to an implication I think that atheism has for ethics: If atheism is true, then the nomological basis for ethics cannot be derived from religious metaphysics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    Landon,

    Certainly Craig relies heavily on rhetoric, and I'm going to continue thinking about this, but right now I still think what I said about the "On the Xist view…" construction is right.

    On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't have said Craig was lying about atheists, but rather about atheism. And… well, there's a lot more I could say about this, but I need to go eat dinner.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Magicthighs: Atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie argues in his book _Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong_ for the position that realism about moral properties doesn't make sense without some kind of supernaturalism, that they are "queer" properties. He argues for a subjective/intersubjective metaethical picture. Many atheists seem to agree with Mackie in this regard. For my part, I usually argue that there is no metaethical framework available to the theist that isn't also available to the atheist with the exception of divine command theory. Even the ideal observer theory is available to the atheist, since there's no requirement that there actually be an ideal observer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Craig also definitevely claims, on the Christian worldview, that it is morally obligatory to kill any child that his deity orders should be killed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    More importantly, Craig claims such actions are wrong, but wrong actions are morally obligatory if his god commands them.

    'On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.'

    So if Craig thinks rape is wrong, there is nothing that will stop him raping somebody, if his god commands him to do it.

    Indeed, he will claim he is morally obliged to commit wrong doing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11148637465997053971 drcraigvideos

    The Uncredible Hallq,

    It's bad enough that you're lying about me being Frank Walton but now you're lying about softening up your critique. Why don't you post your previous critique of Reasonable Faith Chapter 1 back up? Anybody we'll see it's mighty different than your critique in Internet Infidels. Anyway, good luck with booksales. What are your royalties like, $20 annually?

    Hugs and kisses,

    John Leonard

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Craig claims lying is wrong, but he will regard lying as morally obligatory if he is under the impression that his god has commanded that people be deceived for their own good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16132139727953703401 norsefire1

    @Jim quote:
    "Atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie argues in his book _Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong_ for the position that realism about moral properties doesn't make sense without some kind of supernaturalism, that they are "queer" properties. He argues for a subjective/intersubjective metaethical picture. Many atheists seem to agree with Mackie in this regard"

    SOME atheists agree with Mackie and Craig that without God, objective moral values do not exist. Not all do, however. David O Brink, author of "Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics", has critiqued arguments such as the argument from moral disagreement and the argument from queerness, and makes the case for objective morality without appealing to God. Other atheistic moral realists worth mentioning are Michael Martin and Erik J Wielenberg.

    Craig has the burden of proof here. He claims that objective moral values do exist, but never gives any argument in support of that claim. Instead he just says it exists because "we all feel it in our hearts" and then goes on to say how horrible it would be if objective moral values did not exist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Uncredible Hallq — I haven't listened to the two debates you mentioned as specific examples of Craig's alleged dishonesty. Since one of them was Craig's debate with Richard Carrier, I've sent Carrier an email asking him to post a comment here. I'd like to get his side of the story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17577206926510030146 Richard Carrier

    I don't have time to dig up the precise evidence for every point I would want to make here. Although I know I could, had I the time. But you can look into the evidence if you care to. Instead, I'll say what I have time for…

    First, the whole thread here about what WLC said about atheists and rape is not an example of dishonesty or incompetence, IMO, it's just colloquialization in an oral context of an argument one could make formally. That argument may be false, but it's not self-evidently so, and he does have to make that argument (rather than just claim something without argument), so the issue then is whether he did. But he frequently makes claims without argument in debates, which IMO is either sleazy or incompetent (take your pick), but not for the reasons Uncredible Hallq argued here.

    That said, let me weigh in with my own examples (which dove with Hallq's original post, which IMO he should have let stand without distracting everyone with the subsequent bad example in moral theory debate, since that first post was more or less correct).

    I'll break this down into parts…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17577206926510030146 Richard Carrier

    In general, as to incompetence, Jeff, you need to read Aristotle: we don't have to be a plumber to evaluate whether a plumber is competent. Thus your notion that we need a philosophy Ph.D. to evaluate a philosopher's competence is simply false.

    The fact is, Craig openly and repeatedly defends plainly invalid or unsound arguments, e.g. his arguments against an actual infinity are comical and any mathematician or philosopher of mathematics would say so. And he routinely resorts to fallacies like false dichotomies, e.g. in his kalam cosmological argument when he tries to get from "the universe had a cause" to "that cause was god," look how he does that and how it commits the fallacy of false dichotomy (BTW, sometimes he doesn't even do it at all and just jumps to "God" without any clear explanation of how he got there). Likewise in his maneuver from "Big Bang theory" to "a beginning of all time and substance," he either uses blatantly fallacious logic, or science that is not only massively outdated but that has actually been refuted, e.g. the Hawking-Penrose theorem–and he keeps doing this even after he has been called on it (ask Victor Stenger for some concrete examples of this, as he has been particularly outraged over it). That looks incompetent to me. Either WLC can't see his mistakes even after they are pointed out to him (and thus is by definition incompetent) or he sees them and yet keeps using them to win debates (and thus is by definition dishonest).

    And semantics aside, what he does is certainly not good philosophy. Generating false conclusions and then claiming they are true by using fallacious reasoning or scientifically refuted premises is the very definition of being a bad philosopher. I don't see any way he can be identified as anything else. (And IMO I agree with Hallq that Plantinga and Swinburne are also bad philosophers, bordering on retarded even–they just write with great sophistication and thus appear to be brilliant; but any clearer breakdown of their arguments makes them look like ignorant lunatics–however, since this is a blog about WLC, I won't go into these other guys here).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17577206926510030146 Richard Carrier

    As to honesty, I have seen Craig many times act like he doesn't have a belief that in fact he does. He is a biblical literalist and inerrantist, and believes in a literal hell of eternal torment for unbelievers. Yet he pretends these things aren't true when he argues for positions in debates, e.g. he'll "admit" [wink wink] to some things being contradictory and therefore unbelievable in the gospels to win a debate, even though he really believes there is no contradiction and they are entirely without error and literally true. It's just that saying so would make him look so ridiculous he'd lose any debate he admitted these things in. He did something similar in denying hell in his debate with Eddie Tabash: Eddie had effectively won the debate on a passionate argument from hell; but Craig dodged it by claiming hell is not a necessary belief. But Eddie's argument entailed god belief was both false and unconscionable if there is a hell; Craig believes there is a hell; so how can he honestly say, "oh, that argument doesn't prove me wrong, because hell is not a necessary belief"? Craig was proved wrong; he did not admit it, but dodged the conclusion by pretending not to believe something he actually does. And that looks dishonest to me, at the very least disturbingly shady. And he does this sort of thing a lot, not just once and awhile.

    And you ask how we are supposed to know he has these beliefs. Well, I know it because he has signed sworn statements to this effect, as requirements to teach at Talbot and be a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. So either he's a liar when he signed his name to those statements, or he's a liar when he pretends not to believe those things in debates. Maybe not a flat out liar (of the "I did not have sex with that woman" variety), but a liar the way all politicians are liars when they use tricky language to deceive the audience without "literally" telling a lie.

    And there are other kinds of evidence to cite on this point…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17577206926510030146 Richard Carrier

    Craig has also said things in debates that are very questionable, that I don't know what to make of–for example, in my debate with him he claimed there was no evidence of magic practiced in ancient Palestine. In fact, there is tons of this evidence, and one can easily find it. Just Google "magic in ancient Palestine." One of the first hits is a famous book on the subject, seminal in the field, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria (volume 8 of Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East, published by Brill Academic). Then Google "magic in Roman Palestine." One of the first hits is a whole chapter on the evidence scholars have collected to date in Hezser's famous book Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine. Long before our debate I had given more evidence in my FAQ for my chapter on Theft in The Empty Tomb. So is he massively incompetent? Or is he being dishonest? I don't know, but it sure seems to me that it has to be one or the other.

    This is also an instance of what I consider "dishonesty via tactic": in my debate with him he uttered probably a hundred of these statements: e.g. that there is no evidence of magic there, therefore my argument that sorcerers could have stolen the body is false, a claim that not only challenges my defended assertion in that debate that there are other explanations for an empty tomb, but a claim that also poisons the well by covertly implying that I am incompetent as a historian. Yet for just this one point it would take me a full minute to say what I just said above, i.e. it takes a minute to rebut a claim that took him three seconds to state. And yet to do that for a hundred claims would take a hundred minutes. I only had ten or fifteen.

    This seems shady to me. He knows I can't address all his claims in time, so he is not really interested in exploring what the truth is, he just wants to win, and will use tactics that unfairly make it impossible for me to win even though I would win had I fair time to (i.e. if there was no clock to beat and I could just answer his every claim). And yet this is standard WLC debate procedure, not some occasional goof.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17577206926510030146 Richard Carrier

    WLC also plays semantic games that seem intended to deceive (or if not, then they illustrate his incompetence to grasp crucial distinctions). Oerter above gave an example, Craig's quote "But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to contradictions…" That's false. No mathematician in the last sixty years has ever said they lead to logical contradictions. Rather, they lead to counter-intuitive conclusions–which to date no one has ever formally proved are logically contradictory…in fact some of these have been formally proved true, the exact opposite of proved contradictory (a point famously made by Bertrand Russel, and still true to this day: see my discussion of the KCA in my debate with Wanchick). Is Craig confusing the two? Or is he lying by concealing this distinction from the audience? Because the distinction is fatal to his argument. (Just look at Wikipedia's first line on Hilbert's Hotel, and note the correct mathematical conclusion in the first line of its analysis section: this is what every mathematician would say; not most, not a lot, every–and it's simply dishonest, or incompetent, to say or imply otherwise.)

    (BTW, I heard WLC cornered on this once, and he faltered around trying to make a distinction between a "logical impossibility" and a "metaphysical impossibility," based on Kripke I think, but that's lame on multiple levels, and at any rate not how he poses the issue in debates–anything that is logically possible can be mapped onto a physical system, i.e. just reify every component of the logical system, so there is no actual distinction between logical and metaphysical impossibility that is relevant to the point he needs to make, and I suspect even Kripke would agree.)

    I will also add that in our debate, I made a mistake, and accused Craig of making something up that he did not (he quoted a really old online paper of mine I had forgotten about), and after the debate I apologized to him personally and corrected myself (and I publicly repeated this on my blog about the debate afterward: see Craig-Debate Wrap). And yet, notably, in quoting that paper he was ignoring and contradicting my subsequent print work (in The Empty Tomb, where I very specifically and explicitly disavowed the conclusion he was attributing to me: see the first two pages of my chapter on "The Spiritual Body" there). He never apologized for that nor to my knowledge has ever corrected his misrepresentation of me. It was already very strange of him to draw arguments from an antiquated online paper anyway (written before I even had a graduate degree), rather than my latest and most scholarly formal print work on the exact same subject. But what made it really shady was that he must know I don't agree with my old paper on that point any more, as I essentially say so in my ET chapter, which in the debate he showed evidence of having read. This I think is typical WLC behavior. And its being typical is what leads people to conclude he is dishonest. A mistake here and there, okay. But making a routine habit of it? This looks like a trick to "win" a debate, not an honest attempt to take your opponent seriously and not straw man him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09033533069813329577 Magicthighs

    Another example of how Craig is, in my opinion at least, being dishonest in debating, is how he tends to diverge from the postulate, and claims victory when his opponent doesn't follow his example. For instance, his debate with Sam Harris at Notre Dame.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    "In general, as to incompetence, Jeff, you need to read Aristotle: we don't have to be a plumber to evaluate whether a plumber is competent. Thus your notion that we need a philosophy Ph.D. to evaluate a philosopher's competence is simply false."

    Plato (Charmides 170d-e) would disagree (see Alvin Goldman's "Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust", online at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q;=cache:v5xIPiBfuScJ:fas-philosophy.rutgers.edu/goldman/SeminarFall2007/October%252031st/Goldman%2520-%2520Experts%2520Which%2520Ones%2520Should%2520You%2520Trust.pdf, or, more to the specific point, Scott Brewer's contribution to the volume _The Philosophy of Expertise_, edited by Evan Selinger and Robert Crease, titled "Scientific Expert Testimony and Intellectual Due Process"). I think there are cases where each is correct–spotting logical fallacies, mathematical errors, and falsified consequences doesn't require a philosopher's competence, but evaluating some arguments does. Empirical data from Harry Collins and Robert Evans (reported in their book _Rethinking Expertise_) shows that there are cases where it takes an expert to detect (in)competence in a field. It's especially clear that this is the case in the area of expert testimony in courts, which is the topic of Brewer's article.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Richard,

    You claim that Craig repeatedly defends invalid or unsound arguments. Could you give a small list of examples of arguments that Craig repeatedly defends that are specifically invalid? I'd be very interested in seeing which arguments of his you think are invalid.

    As for whether or not Craig commits the fallacy of false dichotomy to get from "the universe had a cause" to "God is the cause," I think it's important to point out that generally Craig doesn't move straight to "God." He argues on the basis of conceptual analysis that the cause must be timeless, non-spatial, immaterial, powerful, etc. Then he claims that there are only two things (to his knowledge) that could fit the bill–abstract objects or an immaterial mind. He then rules out the possibility that abstract objects are the cause, thereby leaving the immaterial mind as the other option. First, note that this is not necessarily "God." (God is a special sort of immaterial mind, and has certain essential properties that Craig's argument doesn't establish. So Craig doesn't claim that the argument establishes "God" all on its own.) Second, note that the dichotomy that Craig makes is only a false dichotomy if there's a third option. Is there a third option?

    Now, let me be clear, I think there are problems at almost every step of Craig's argument–including the conceptual analysis and dichotomy at the end of it. But if you think he's committed the fallacy of false dichotomy, it seems like you want to claim that there are other possible causes that are timeless, non-spatial, immaterial, etc. All Craig says is that there are only two options that he knows of, and he invites his critics to offer another possibility.

    I think some of your other comments make good points, though I think you're opening yourself up to a heap of trouble by declaring that Craig, Plantinga, and Swinburne are "bad philosophers." They are widely regarded by experts in the field as good philosophers, even though most philosophers think they're wrong about their conclusions. Do you think that your philosophical work in, say, "Sense and Goodness Without God" is better than the philosophical work that's been done by Craig, Plantinga, and Swinburne?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    This is also an instance of what I consider "dishonesty via tactic": in my debate with him he uttered probably a hundred of these statements: e.g. that there is no evidence of magic there, therefore my argument that sorcerers could have stolen the body is false, a claim that not only challenges my defended assertion in that debate that there are other explanations for an empty tomb, but a claim that also poisons the well by covertly implying that I am incompetent as a historian. Yet for just this one point it would take me a full minute to say what I just said above, i.e. it takes a minute to rebut a claim that took him three seconds to state. And yet to do that for a hundred claims would take a hundred minutes. I only had ten or fifteen.

    This seems shady to me. He knows I can't address all his claims in time, so he is not really interested in exploring what the truth is, he just wants to win, and will use tactics that unfairly make it impossible for me to win even though I would win had I fair time to (i.e. if there was no clock to beat and I could just answer his every claim). And yet this is standard WLC debate procedure, not some occasional goof.

    Yes, precisely. He Gish-gallops his way through, knowing his opponent hasn't time to address every point.

    As you say, Richard – his goal is to win. Everything else is subordinate. Winning allows him to validate both his belief system and his self-identification as the premiere evangelical debater.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write all of this. I'll use it the next time someone tells me, "Well, I may disagree with him, but he is a good philosopher… ."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11148637465997053971 drcraigvideos

    Richard Carrier,

    Sir, you're not one to talk about honesty and incompetency. In your debate with Craig you said that you did not make a reference about Casper the friendly ghost, when you actually did!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09033533069813329577 Magicthighs

    @drcraigvideos

    Please, if you listen to the debate you'll know that Craig has to be aware that Carrier does not hold that position anymore, because Craig has obviously read Carrier's post 1998 work. Who's being dishonest again?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    It is important to remember that even if Craig knows something is wrong, that will not prevent him doing it

    I quote Craig's exact words 'On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.'

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Steven,

    On Craig's view, that wouldn't be a case of doing something that you know is wrong. It would be a case of doing something that (i) would have been wrong if God hadn't commanded you to do it, but (ii) isn't in fact wrong, since God commanded you to do it.

    There's a difference between that and what you just wrote in your comment.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    'On Craig's view, that wouldn't be a case of doing something that you know is wrong.'

    You mean it isn't illegal if the President does it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    ' It would be a case of doing something that (i) would have been wrong if God hadn't commanded you to do it, but (ii) isn't in fact wrong, since God commanded you to do it.'

    Amazing.

    Your defense of Craig is that his real belief is that lying is not in fact wrong if God commmands you to lie, rather than what I mistakenly wrote about his beliefs?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Steven,

    My "defense" of Craig's view wasn't a defense at all. I was merely pointing out that you were misrepresenting his view in order to get a cheap shot in. Look, there are respectable ways of arguing against divine command theory, and misrepresenting what a proponent of the view believes in order to make him/her look bad isn't one of them.

    You claimed that if Craig knows something is wrong, that won't prevent him from doing it. Here's the example you used from earlier:

    "Craig also definitevely claims, on the Christian worldview, that it is morally obligatory to kill any child that his deity orders should be killed. More importantly, Craig claims such actions are wrong, but wrong actions are morally obligatory if his god commands them….So if Craig thinks rape is wrong, there is nothing that will stop him raping somebody, if his god commands him to do it. Indeed, he will claim he is morally obliged to commit wrong doing."

    This isn't true. On Craig's view, if God commands you to rape somebody, you're morally obligated to rape somebody. (But, of course, Craig would claim that God couldn't or wouldn't ever command such a thing, given his wholly perfect nature.) You might worry that on Craig's view, there's a sense in which it's possible for rape to be morally required. That same charge could be directed against many (if not most) consequentialists as well, since it's possible for there to be a situation in which raping somebody would be optimific (unbeknownst to us all!). But then it would be the right action in such a situation according to a consequentialist willing to bite the bullet, not a wrong action.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06043572594882614573 Maths Tutor Wirral

    LDH
    On Craig's view, if God commands you to rape somebody, you're morally obligated to rape somebody. (But, of course, Craig would claim that God couldn't or wouldn't ever command such a thing, given his wholly perfect nature.)

    CARR
    Are you actually defending Craig here or just sticking swords into him?

    You are morally obligated to rape somebody if your god commands it?

    And how does Craig know his god will never command rape?

    Craig claims his god ordered soldiers to snatch children from their mother's arms and butcher them.

    CARR
    So if Craig thinks rape is wrong, there is nothing that will stop him raping somebody, if his god commands him to do it. Indeed, he will claim he is morally obliged to commit wrong doing."

    LDH
    This isn't true. On Craig's view, if God commands you to rape somebody, you're morally obligated to rape somebody.

    CARR
    How can what I said be not true, when you simply repeat what I said,claiming that your repetition of my idea is the truth?

    LDH
    But then it would be the right action in such a situation according to a consequentialist willing to bite the bullet, not a wrong action.

    CARR
    So if rape is the right thing to do (perhaps in response to aliens threatening to wipe out the planet if they don't get to see a sex-show), how can you also claim that a god would never order a rape?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Steven,

    First of all, I'm not going to hijack this thread by defending Divine Command Theory from whatever attacks you might make against it. I'm not a proponent of that view, and such a discussion would be out of place here anyway.

    I was merely correcting a misrepresentation of Craig's views that I saw in your comment. You apparently still don't see it, since you wrote:

    "How can what I said be not true, when you simply repeat what I said,claiming that your repetition of my idea is the truth?"

    I'll try one last time to explain this to you. You claimed that, according to Craig, sometimes you might have to do something that's morally wrong if God commands you to do it. You wrote: "So if Craig thinks rape is wrong, there is nothing that will stop him raping somebody, if his god commands him to do it. Indeed, he will claim he is morally obliged to commit wrong doing." But Craig would deny that it's "wrong doing" if it's commanded by God. That's the point. You seem to think that, on Craig's view, an action can be morally wrong yet commanded by God.

    Lastly, I'll comment on this gem: "So if rape is the right thing to do (perhaps in response to aliens threatening to wipe out the planet if they don't get to see a sex-show), how can you also claim that a god would never order a rape?"

    I didn't claim that a god would never order a rape. But, in any case, your question is misconceived. A particular instance of rape might be morally right on some consequentialist views, but that doesn't mean that a Divine Command Theorist is going to concede that such an action is morally right. Divine Command Theory is not wedded to straightforward consequentialism. In fact, this is something that Craig would have tried to use to his advantage in his debate with Shelly Kagan if only Kagan had defended his own consequentialist view in his opening statement. I'm sure Craig was prepared to object to Kagan's moral view by pointing out that on such a view sometimes it's morally obligatory to rape, kill, torture, etc. He would have taken this as a reductio of Kagan's view–a problem he thinks his own view can avoid. Unfortunately for Craig, Kagan successfully avoided that tactic by sketching out another plausible view instead.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10838551947505534256 spanner

    The low measure in which one should hold Craig as a christian and philosopher is best illustrated by his conduct in his debate with Bart Ehrman where he disgracefully labelled his PowerPoint slides “Ehrman’s Egregious Error” and “Bart’s Blunder” and also made these comments in his presentation. I believe Craig did this to achieve his Diderot moment. This is not the only occasion on which he has used ridicule in his debates. He is intelligent but willing to sell out his reason and good manners for his god if required.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15227129983621069565 Paul

    Halq,

    Not all ad hominems are fallacious, see D. Walton on this. It's rather like if I was on record for saying Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Dawkins weren't good scientists, and then I claimed that some other atheistic scientist, maybe Coyne, wasn't a good scientist. I shouldn't think I was credible even if I offered so called "reasons" for my clearly biased view. Sometimes people say one too many outlandish things, and then their credibility is shot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    I know this is an old post but I need to weigh in.

    Bill Craig is a good philosopher, an honest man, and my friend, even though I think he is delusionally dead wrong. The mark of a delusionally dead wrong person is that he is sincere in being wrong against the overwhelming evidence. We cannot point to the fact that there is overwhelming evidence against what that person believes and conclude he is dishonest with the facts. I was a delusionally dead wrong sincere person at one time too. Those of you who have never been deluded by a religion may not know what this means. I do.

    Do flat earthers know they are wrong?

    Do 911 conspiracy theorists?

    Here’s a better perspective. I do not doubt the sincerely of the inquisitors since on their view the greatest crime of all was to send people to hell because of one’s own heresy, which could infect other people. They thought it best to kill them so their heresy would not send others to hell.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of the 911 suicide bombers.

    I have little regard for philosophers of religion even though I was trained as such. Only scientifically minded philosophers get any respect from me. But philosophers like Craig don’t share this same perspective. They are equally deluded into thinking philosophy can answer the questions that only science can. So, does it say much that Craig is a good philosopher given this criticism? Perhaps not. But when it comes to doing philosophy under these age old scholastic strictures, he is.

    I'd like for people to consider what I've come to accept. My claim is that the better educated a devout believer is then the MORE not LESS deluded they are. This seems to be the case. They see things differently and only with a Gestalt shift in the way they see things will allow them to take a second look at that which was directly right in front of them, Until that happens they just can't see it.

    More coming…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    I just want to argue in this post against the claim made by some atheists that Bill is culpably wrong and that he knows it. This is emphatically not the case as much as some atheists would like to think. He is delusionally dead wrong. But he sincerely believes. I know him personally and have talked with him on several occasions even after deconverting.

    As a friend he would not look me in the eye and say the things he does if he didn’t believe. That’s my informed testimony. You may not like it, but that’s my claim. If anyone thinks differently then tell me how you know him to say otherwise.

    I hear Christians say the same exact things about us as atheists. They claim we really believe, that we are culpably wrong, and that we’re just angry with God–their particular one mind you.

    Why all of this psychoanalyzing? I think it’s just ignorance of the facts on both sides. Yep, that’s right, ignorance. Just as it’s ignorant to say Christians like Craig know they are wrong so also it’s wrong of them to say we know we’re wrong.

    It just makes each side of this debate feel better about themselves, that’s all. We like to think the other side knows differently because we cannot see any other conclusion than the one we’ve come to accept. But I say get over it to both sides.

    Christians like Craig are deluded but they really believe just exactly as if they were brainwashed. We must face this fact honestly. Look at the phenomenon of brainwashing and you’ll see it quite clearly. No one in his right mind would embarrass himself to the public at large by saying genocide is acceptable unless he really believes the Bible, you see. Pat Robertson has said some really stupid things too. Why would they do this unless they really sincerely believed?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    I'm copying and pasting from a post post.

    There is a difference between being rational and being ignorant. A person can be rational and yet be ignorant. Bill Craig and Pat Robertson are rational people even though they are ignorant. Given all that they believe they are rational to defend the things they do. The problem is that they are ignorant about that which they should believe, really ignorant! They were raised to believe in our Christian culture. They cannot see things differently. Their delusion puts up an almost impenetrable wall that deflects all objections to the contrary.

    But Craig really believes.

    What makes someone rational? Is it having the truth? Is it that only people who have the truth can be rational; that the word “rational” is equivalent to the word “truth”?
    I think not, not by a long shot. Why? Because none of us are completely rational. I shouldn’t have to defend this notion at all. Psychology shows us this time and time again. Additionally there are people who have the truth who have no good reason apart from luck to have it. Let’s say they were taught the truth but apart from believing what they were taught cannot justify why it is the truth.

    So the best way to understand what it means to be rational is that a person can use logic to arrive at sound conclusions given a set of assumptions. That we all have assumptions is a basic bedrock of philosophy, all of us. Some assumptions are better justified of course, but we cannot place all of our assumptions on the table at the same time. We just have to assume some things and from those assumptions draw the proper implications using logic.

    I think Richard Dawkins argued (or was it Christopher Hitchens?) that Pat Robertson was right to draw the conclusion that hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment upon New Orleans for their sins given what he believes. That’s being rational. Drawing the proper conclusions based upon what one assumes or believes to be true. Dawkins argued that Roberton was rational and other believers were not rational because they did not draw the proper conclusions. I think Dawkins was correct.

    So is Bill Craig rational when he justifies the Canaanite genocide? Yes, by the same standard. It’s because Craig believes the Bible just as Roberston does. Of course, believing the Bible is bat shit crazy, but that’s besides the point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    From personal knowledge my testimony is that Bill sincerely believes and is not being dishonest with himself. Unless someone knows him better than I do then my testimony should be taken seriously. He does not think he is wrong even though he is.

    If Bill is considered dishonest with the facts then it has to do with the nature of a debate. In a debate the goal is to win much like we find in a courtroom contest between the defense attorney and prosecutor before the judge. While courts have general rules of ethics and etiquette, fudging the facts is what these opponents do. Slanting the evidence in their favor is what is required in hopes the truth (whatever it is) will be decided by the judge or jury. In a debate, just like in a courtroom, the task of each opponent is to keep the other one honest. If one opponent doesn’t do that, it is his fault. We may not like the fact that Craig wins most of his debates, but that’s how he learned to debate from his debate coaches in High School.

    The mark of good philosophers is whether or not they provoke thought by advancing the discussion, that is, whether the arguments pass peer review and whether other philosophers see the need to discuss them. Craig has done that. If, by contrast, good philosophers must additional be correct in order to be considered good, then it depends on whether other philosophers can show him he’s wrong on his own terms. The fact that his ideas are still talked about in philosophy journals means some philosophers do not think he is wrong.

    I think Bill is also rational since being rational means he can use logic to reach sound conclusions given a certain set of assumptions. It’s irrelevant whether his assumptions are utterly wrongheaded, and they are. There are plenty of people who cannot reason very well at all. These people are irrational, that is, not following the dictates of reason.

    Now I’ll grant that notions about what constitutes a rational person involve complex discussions and distinctions. But given my definition Bill is a rational person. No doubt someone will say he’s irrational because he doesn’t follow the dictates of reason consistently in that if he did, he would see the Bible as little more than myths written by pre-scientific barbaric superstitious ancient agency detectors, and it is. But he doesn’t think this is the case because he’s ignorant. In fact, he told me a long time ago that he only reads books and articles in specific areas when researching for a project. He is a specialist, unlike me. I am a generalist. I read on a wide assortment of topics following my professor James Strauss. But as a specialist Craig probably still only reads books and articles related to his expertise. He is not a scientist nor is he a biblical scholar, nor can we expect him to be. So when it comes to the things he has no expertise on he punts to trusted Christian scholars who do, and these scholars all reinforce the Christians delusion, for what one doesn’t know anything about the other one claims to. If being rational means being an expert in everything then no one is rational. We all trust other scholars in other fields of research. And we all hold to mutually inconsistent propositions and do not realize it.

    Cheers. No offense to anyone. As I said I'm cutting and pasting from a post of mine unrelated to what was said in the comments here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    John, when Craig Gish-gallops around an opponent, he may both know and not know simultaneously that what he's doing is obfuscation. Denial, cognitive dissonance – who knows what goes on in another's mind? So is it lying? I'd say no, but in my view, it's probably worse, because it makes him more dangerous. Is he a good philosopher? Not having read his academic work (and not intending to), I'll leave that to others to decide, but I'd wager he isn't.

    Bottom line – I don't care. He may be sincere, he may even be a good philosopher, but he is not a good man. No one who thinks billions of human beings will be made to suffer eternally – and is perfectly comfortable with the idea, to boot – is "good".

    End of story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    Cipher, if we make the widely accepted distinction between personal ethics and societal ethics then Bill Craig has done no evil.

    And if we can agree that the better educated a devout believer is then the MORE not LESS deluded they are, then the more educated believers are the LESS not MORE culpable they are for the crap they spit out which causes harm.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    And if we can agree that the better educated a devout believer is then the MORE not LESS deluded they are, then the more educated believers are the LESS not MORE culpable they are for the crap they spit out which causes harm.

    Well, that pretty much argues my point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I don't agree with the common objection that Craig "Gish-gallops" opponents. Depending on the definition of Gish-gallop, that is either false or not a legitimate objection.

    I was the captain of my high school's debate team. The term in interscholastic and intercollegiate debate is "spreading" your own opponent. Does Craig "spread" his opponents? I don't think that's accurate.

    I have never believed (and do not now believe) that Craig tries to deliver as many arguments as possible just so that his opponents can't respond to them all. It's not like he speaks at 300 words per minute, which I've heard high school and college debaters do (and was the norm at least in my day). Rather, my hypothesis is that Craig is just extremely organized and uses his speaking time very efficiently.

    In fact, I will put the point this way: anyone who believes that Craig is trying to secure an unfair advantage over his debate opponents by "Gish-galloping" probably has no experience in high school or college debate. They aren't qualified to speak about debate tactics and they are not qualified to be doing debates.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    Jeffrey, however you may wish to define the mechanics of what Craig does, this:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/loftus/2011/12/19/william-lane-craig-no-amount-of-evidence-could-ever-convince-me-im-wrong/

    trumps any pretense of credibility he might ever have had.

    He reminds me of George Costanza, "You know I always wanted to pretend to be an architect!"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13192408999559034967 thrik

    Cipher, do you really think that is a valid criticism. Perhaps you should look into properly basic belief.

    Just wanted to say thank you, Jay, for writing this post. As a Christian, I'm all about looking at the arguments. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11967707883565162538 cipher

    Cipher, do you really think that is a valid criticism.

    Eminently.

    Perhaps you should look into properly basic belief.

    This doesn't begin to address any of my points above.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05460780063452698997 John W. Loftus

    Okay, I have drawn a line in the sand with regard to the honesty of Bill Craig.

    You can read my challenge right here.

    I'd appreciate it if this challenge is linked to by someone at The Secular Outpost.

    Cheers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03279378756658563565 normdoering

    I have some evidence that Craig is either incompetent or dishonest here:

    Youtube video, "The Moral Horrors of Dr. Craig" on the zarkoff45 channel.

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