My remaining notes from the Craig debate
Here are my remaining notes prepared for the debate on God’s existence with William Lane Craig. These anticipated Craig’s likely responses to my attacks on hos moral and resurrection arguments. I didn’t really use this stuff on the night, except a little in Q&A session at the end. Notice I was also ready for the ontological argument.
2. CRAIG’S POSSIBLE DEFENCES OF MORAL ARGUMENT
IF NO GOD, THEN WE’RE NOT SPECIAL. WE’RE JUST ANIMALS, LIKE OTHER ANIMALS. THEY HAVE NO MORAL DUTIES TO EACH OTHER. SO NEITHER DO WE.
It doesn’t follow from the fact that we are animals that we are not special. We can still be, and are, special in all sorts of ways.
Unlike other animals we can write poetry, contemplate the great questions of philosophy, derive a profound sense of meaning and enjoyment from great works of art. We are rational agents capable of reflecting on the moral consequences of our actions.
In fact, it’s this last difference between us and other animals that explains why they’re not morally responsible but we are – why lions can’t murder, but we can.
I’m not insisting this fact is also sufficient to make us objectively morally significant. But Professor Craig has not explained why it isn’t.
IF NO GOD THEN NO OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES BECAUSE – IF THERE’S NO GOD, THEN WE ALL END UP AS DUST, AND THE UNIVERSE ENDS IN HEAT DEATH, SO WHAT DOES IT ULTIMATELY MATTER HOW WE BEHAVE?
This is an obviously fallacious argument. Just because two roads end at the same destination doesn’t entail that it doesn’t matter which one we take. It doesn’t follow from the fact that we inevitably and permanently die that it doesn’t matter how we live. It does not follow from the fact that it doesn’t matter to how the universe ends how I treat you to, that it doesn’t matter how I treat you.
CRAIG SAYS THAT I REJECT BELIEF IN GOD ON THE BASIS OF APPEARANCE, YET WON’T ACCEPT THE EXISTENCE OF OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES ON THE BASIS OF APPEARANCE. I AM IN EFFECT, GUILTY OF A DOUBLE STANDARD.
This is to overlook the fact that the appearance of immense gratuitous suffering, plus the assumption the appearance is reliable, immediately delivers the conclusion there’s no God, while the appearance of objective moral values, plus the assumption that the appearance is reliable, does not immediately deliver the conclusion there is a God. You need the further premise that if there’s no god there are no objective moral values. And that premise is (i) not obviously true, (ii) very widely rejected by moral philosophers, including even Christian philosophers. So, if we’re going to start trusting appearances, appearance is far more of a direct threat to theism than it is to atheism.
In addition, there’s a pretty good evolutionary explanation for why the appearance of objective moral value can’t be trusted.
IF THERE’S NO GOD THEN WE ARE JUST COLLECTIONS OF MOLECULES. WE CAN HAVE NO MORAL OBLIGATIONS TO COLLECTIONS OF MOLECULES.
Craig us here assuming that if we are collections of molecules then that’s all we are. But of course we are much more than that, even on a non-theistic view. We are collections of molecules that can write poetry, contemplate the great questions of philosophy, derive a profound sense of meaning and enjoyment from great works of art. We are also rational agents capable of reflecting on the moral consequences of our actions.
This, many philosophers would say, explains why we are special, why we matter, even if a mere glass of water does not. I cannot see how Professor Craig yet succeeded in showing this view to be wrong.
3. CRAIG’S POSSIBLE DEFENCES OF RESURRECTION ARGUMENT.
I USED A UFO CASE TO ILLUSTRATE THE POINT THAT WE SHOULD EXPECT A FEW BAFFLING, HARD TO EXPLAIN REPORTS TO CROP UP ANYWAY, WHETHER OR NOT THERE’S ANY TRUTH TO SUCH REPORTS. THE SAME GOES FOR MIRACLE CLAIMS. PROF CRAIG HAS ATTACKED MY SUGGESTION BY INSISTING HIS MIRACLE STORY IS NOT VERY LIKE MY UFO STORY.
Well, yes, obviously it isn’t. My UFO reports come directly from first-hand eye witnesses. Craig’s Biblical reports do not. My UFO story involved hard supporting data – a blip on a radar scope. Craig’s story lacks any such hard data. The reports I referred to came from police officers – trained eyewitnesses with no ideological axe to grind. Craig’s reports come via wide-eyed true believers about whom we know almost nothing.
Yes, of course there are differences between the cases. Pointing that out does nothing to undermine the moral I drew.
YOU MAY SAY I HAVE FAILED TO OFFER ANY DECENT ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION OF WHAT WAS REPORTED.
True. But that’s entirely to overlook the fact that I explained why our inability to come up with an intuitively plausible-sounding mundane explanation of such reports doesn’t give us much reason to suppose a miracle happened.
THE DISCIPLES DIED FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVED. THE POLICEMEN DIDN’T.
Sure it may be hard to explain why early Christian would die for their beliefs if those beliefs weren’t true. But followers of even ludicrous new cults often go to their deaths – consider the followers of Heaven’s Gate and Jim Jones.
SECOND REBUTTAL – PART FOUR
4. ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
It’s possible a maximally great being exists.
…Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
This argument has no force at all against the evidential problem of evil. In fact, ironically, it actually serves to reinforce my conclusion. For if I can use the evidential problem of evil to show there’s actually no god – that the conclusion of Craig’s ontological argument is false – then the validity of the argument entitles me to draw the further conclusion that’s it’s not even possible that god exists!
So my thanks to Professor Craig for furnishing me with an argument that serves actually to amplify my conclusion – allowing me to move from: there’s no god to: necessarily, there’s no god.
FOLLOW UP: I suppose Prof Craig might say: but there’s intuitive support for the first premise that it’s possible that a maximally great being exists. Such a being is conceivable. There’s no logical contradiction involved in supposing such a being exists. And that’s good reason to suppose such a being is metaphysically possible.
But as anyone familiar with developments in philosophical logic over the last half century can tell you, conceivability or imaginability provides no guarantee of metaphysical possibility. For example, though they are actually identical, it seems conceivable that the evening star is not the morning star. Yet, if they are identical at the actual world – and they are – then they’re identical at every possible world in which they exist. So, despite the fact that I can imagine or conceive of them not being identical, it’s not metaphysically possible for them to fail to be identical.