Chris Hallquist vs. William Lane Craig on Dishonesty: Part 1

Christopher Hallquist recently finished a series of blog posts about William Lane Craig. In addition to providing objections to Craig’s various arguments, Hallquist also accuses Craig of dishonesty in his work. In this post, I want to review Hallquist’s evidence for that accusation and figure out if the accusation is justified.

Here is an outline of my basic plan.

  1. Review the definitions of honest, honesty, dishonesty, misrepresent, lie.
  2. Summarize Hallquist’s allegations of dishonesty.
  3. Assess Hallquist’s evidence for those allegations.


The Definitions of Honest, Honesty, Dishonesty, Misrepresent

Let’s start with honest. According to Dictionary.com, honest means:

hon·est

adjective

1.honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair: an honest person.
2.showing uprightness and fairness: honest dealings.
3.gained or obtained fairly: honest wealth.
4.sincere; frank: an honest face.
5.
genuine or unadulterated: honest commodities.

Here is honesty.

hon·es·ty

noun, plural hon·es·ties.
1. the quality or fact of being honest;  uprightness and fairness.
2. truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness.
3. freedom from deceit or fraud.
4. Botany . a plant, Lunaria annua,  of the mustard family, having clusters of purple flowers and semitransparent, satiny pods.
5.Obsolete . chastity.
Here is dishonesty.

dis·hon·es·ty

[dis-on-uh-stee] Show IPA

noun, plural dis·hon·es·ties.
1.lack of honesty; a disposition to lie, cheat, or steal.
2.
a dishonest act; fraud.
Here is misrepresent.

mis·rep·re·sent

verb (used with object)
1.to represent  incorrectly, improperly, or falsely.

2.to represent  in an unsatisfactory manner.

Finally, here is lie.

lie

noun
1.a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
2.something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture: His flashy car was a lie that deceived no one.
3.an inaccurate or false statement.

4.the charge or accusation of lying: He flung the lie back at his accusers.

Hallquist’s Allegations

As I read him, Hallquist makes the following allegations about Craig.

1. Allegation: Craig is in the habit of telling lies about people who disagree with him.

1.1. Example: Daniel Dennett

Hallquist claims that Craig misrepresents Daniel Dennett regarding the kalam cosmological argument. Craig claims that Dennett misstated and caricatured the first premise of the kalam cosmological argument. According to Hallquist, however, this is not so. “Dennett never says he was talking about Kalam–I suspect the argument was, rather, a version Dennett frequently encounters from his undergraduates.”

1.2. Example: Sam Harris

Let us next turn to another ‘new atheist,’ Sam Harris. Hallquist quotes the following exchange between Craig and Harris during the Q&A; period:

Harris: This is the kind of morality that you get out of divine command theory that, again, offers no retort to the Jihadist other than, “Sorry buster, you happen to have the wrong god.”
Craig: But that’s exactly your retort, Sam, that God has not issued such a command, and therefore, you’re not morally obligated to do it.

According to Hallquist, Craig told a “falsehood” about Harris’ retort. Hallquist explains.

I can’t see anything Harris said to suggest that, and Harris’ actual response (“if God is issuing that command, he’s an evil bastard”) is fairly predictable given Harris’ other views. So it’s not clear Craig was lying, but I think at minimum he was guilty of making stuff up about Harris.

Let’s return to the Harris-Craig exchange during the Q&A; period.

Harris: No, if God did, he would be evil. So I can get behind that God, if God is issuing that command, he’s an evil bastard.
Craig: The problem is that you see, on atheism, you don’t have any basis for making that kind of moral judgment.
Harris: I’ve tried to give you a basis, sorry.

Commenting on this, Hallquist explains:

Craig’s second response (“The problem is that…”) may have been Craig’s honest opinion, though I think stating your opinion as if it constituted some kind of rebuttal and as if your opponent had not previously tried to argue against that claim should be frowned upon. But it isn’t as bad as flat-out making stuff up about your opponent.

2. Allegation: Craig cannot be trusted to accurately describe the views of the experts on various subjects.

2.1. Example: Dale Allison

Hallquist discusses the case of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to Paul. As Hallquist points out, “we know that hallucinations, false memories, and so on seem to be an important source of religious and paranormal beliefs.” According to Hallquist, Dale Allison makes a similar point in his book, Resurrecting Jesus. In his review of Allison, Craig wrote, “Allison’s discussion reminded me of literature I’ve read on UFO sightings, in which the serious is mixed with the ridiculous, leaving one in great uncertainty about what to make of such experiences.” Hallquist interprets Craig to be (falsely) “insinuating that Allison is just like UFOologists,” when in fact Allison was merely noting parallels between UFO sightings and other reports. On the basis of this insinuation, Hallquist concludes that Craig has “lied” about Allison’s views.

3. Allegation: Craig cannot be trusted to accurately describe what is a fact

3.1. Example: Craig’s “Four Facts” and the Resurrection

Craig says there are four established historical facts: Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith. According to Hallquist, however, none of these four things can be proven. In his words, “I’m confident that there’s no proof of any of Craig’s four facts.” But, according to fellow Evangelical scholar Gary Habermas, only 75% of New Testament scholars accept the first two of those facts. The same percentage of professional philosophers are atheists, but Craig would hardly agree that atheism is a fact. So why should we believe that Craig’s first two alleged facts are real facts? According to Hallquist, Craig’s claim these four facts are facts is a “big lie.”

4. Allegation: Craig cannot be trusted to accurately describe the views of his opponents.

4.1. Example: Opponents of the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

Regarding the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, Craig inaccurately claims that atheists agree with its second premise, that “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.”

4.2. Example: Richard Carrier

In his debate with Richard Carrier on the resurrection of Jesus, Carrier brought up the historical reliability of the New Testament. In response, Craig denied that the historical reliability of the NT is relevant to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Hallquist concludes that Craig was dishonest for doing so.

    4.3. Example: Bart Ehrman

    Craig claims that Bart Ehrman is an example of a skeptical scholar who accepts all four of Craig’s facts. Craig bases this on something Ehrman said in 2003. Ehrman changed his mind on the empty tomb, however, in 2006, which Ehrman told Craig about in their 2006 debate. According to Hallquist, this is an example of Craig lying “about what another scholar believes to support his [Craig's] claims.”

    4.4. Example: Stephen Law

    In his debate with William Lane Craig, Stephen Law presented the evidential argument from goodness, arguing that it’s arbitrary to believe an all-good God exists rather than a perfectly evil supernatural being (“evil God”). In the debate, Craig announced that Law had “conceded” the kalam cosmological argument. When Law denied that he had conceded the argument, Craig argued that since Law had failed to refute the argument, he had conceded it. Hallquist claims that Craig is using the word “concede” in a misleading way and says that Craig is being “dishonest” in so doing.

    Hallquist’s Conclusion


    In reply to an earlier version of this post, Hallquist clarifies, 

    I don’t think all the things I cite above are equally bad. Craig claiming Ehrman’s support would be hard to excuse even in isolation, but other things are only really bad in context. For example, Craig’s claiming that the historical reliability of the New Testament doesn’t matter could just be a bad argument sincerely made, but in context of Craig’s other behavior, it looks like part of a strategy of being hyper-selective about what facts he lets his audience be exposed to.


    In a post entitled, “Why is Craig so Dishonest?”, Hallquist states that he has “thoroughly documented Craig’s dishonesty.” Thus, it seems clear that Hallquist believes he has shown that Craig is, in fact, guilty of dishonesty.

    Next Steps

    Now that I have summarized all of Hallquist’s accusations and supporting examples, I am going to stop here so that Hallquist can have a chance to review this post and let me know if I’ve accurately and fairly summarized his position. My next step will be to assess Hallquist’s arguments.

    Related Posts

    In Defense of William Lane Craig“:  A rebuttal to claims that Craig is not a good philosopher and that he is dishonest.

    More Defense of William Lane Craig“: A rebuttal to HW’s criticisms of Craig’s education

    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://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I somehow missed this reply earlier.

      That shows how screwed up your idea of what “debates” between serious academics should be about. Reality check: they’re not supposed to be at the same level as
      high-school debates, where “winning” doesn’t pertain to the quality of
      the arguments but to how good of a rhetorical gunslinger one is.

      I have a reality check of my own: nowhere do I claim that the format and tactics of high school and collegiate debate constitutes my “idea of what ‘debates’ between serious academics should be about.” That is a straw man of your own creation. First, I nowhere even suggest that. Second, there are some key differences between high school and college debate (specifically, “cross-examination debate”) and the kind of debates which WLC does. For example, the former always has the debate topic worded in the form of a resolution, such as, “Resolved: That the United States Government should significantly reduce prison and jail overcrowding.” Accordingly, the former requires that the “affirmative” team have the burden of proof while the “negative” team merely has to tear down the affirmative’s case. In contrast, WLC’s debates never or virtually never use a resolution as a topic, precisely because WLC does not want to be sole debater saddled with a burden of proof. Another key difference between the two formats is that the former has formal judges who declare the winner whereas the latter usually (thought not always) do not.

      But forget about high school and college debate formats, tactics, and rules. Imagine a debate between WLC and an atheist on God’s existence. WLC goes first. I am in complete agreement with you that the atheist should not have to refute WLC’s arguments in the atheist’s opening statement. The refutations can wait until the atheist’s first rebuttal. Instead, the atheist can present an opening statement which doesn’t even address WLC’s opening case. If someone “drops” arguments in the rebuttals, I think it’s totally fair for the other debater to point that out in the following speech. But, assuming that the topic is worded as a question and not a resolution, I see absolutely no reason why the second opening statement must respond to the first opening statement’s arguments.

      I’m beginning to think that it’s actually being an ‘experienced high
      school debater’ is what effectively disqualifies a person from
      participating in a serious “debate” which focuses on substantive
      exchange of ideas, not on how cleverly one can employ all sorts of
      debating tricks in order to score points.
      Why is it that I think that includes you, Jeff?

      Other than “you are quick to jump to conclusions” and “you could benefit from an introductory course in logic,” I really have no idea why you would think that.


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