• Why I Don’t Trust William Lane Craig

    There’s a man by the name of William Lane Craig who makes his living doing debates defending his Christian faith. Quite a few Christians, and even a couple of nonbelievers, think pretty highly of him. They adore him like an idol, and parrot his crummy arguments and assertions as the gospel truth. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been tricked. Craig is not a reliable authority for matters of fact or logic. This is not to say that because of this everything he says is automatically false. It just means that you can’t trust him; you’ve got to check all of his claims through more reliable sources before you can believe what he says. So, without further ado, here’s some evidence that you can’t trust him.
    Example #1 Inconsistency About How One Discredits an Argument

    On Craig’s reasonable faith website, he makes the following claim:

    “In order to show that an argument is no good, it is not enough for the sceptic to show that it’s possible that a premiss is false. Possibilities come cheap. I’m puzzled that so many laymen seem to think that merely stating another possibility is sufficient to defeat a premiss.”
    In Craig’s 1991 article “Theism and Big Bang Cosmology” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69: 498, Craig gives the following response to one of Quentin Smith’s arguments for the nonexistence of God:

    “If such a metaphysical interpretation of the initial singularity is even possible, then [Premise 5] is unsubstantiated, and Smith’s anti-theistic argument is undercut.” [empahasis added. Note: I believe I’ve heard Craig making statements like this elsewhere, but I don’t recall where. Please comment if you know.]

    Conclusion: Craig believes that showing a premise is possibly false destroys an argument against god, but that showing a premise is possibaly false does not destroy an argument for god. This is biased, self-contradictory special pleading. In response to this others have told me that we all make logical mistakes, and that doing so doesn’t prove dishonesty since it could just be an honest error. While it is true that we all make honest mistakes sometimes, in this case we can’t chalk this up to honest mental failure on Craig’s part. Craig is a philosopher (i.e. someone who has spent vast amounts of his time examining arguments and who has learned and taught how tell a good argument from a bad one). How could he have forgotten a very basic rule for analyzing arguments (one must show that a premise is more than just possibly false) which he himself has articulated and frequently trods out to defend himself against attack?

    Example #2 Self-Contradiction Concerning Richard Dawkins’ Argument

    Richard Dawkins has previously objected to using God to explain the fine-tuning problem on the grounds that God would be even more improbable, even more in need of an explanation, than the fine-tuning itself. Craig responds to this: “in order to recognize an explanation is the best, you don’t have to have an explanation for the explanation” (see this video, about 1:00-1:30).

    However, when debating atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, look at how Craig responds to Sinnott-Armstrong after he brings up the objection to the fine-tuning argument that some of the anthropic coincidences might be explained by “tracker fields”:

    “[Robin] Collins points out that ‘even if such fields were discovered, it would have to have just the right (“fine-tuned” or “well-designed”) mathematical form to overcome the severe problems facing such proposals. This would reintroduce the problem of fine-tuning and design at a different level, though in a mitigated way.’ This has been the pattern with attempts to explain fine-tuning by physical law: Like a stubborn bump in the carpet, fine-tuning is suppressed at one point only to pop up at another.” (pp.63-64, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist)

    Conclusion: Why doesn’t Craig see that positing a God to explain the fine-tuning is just as much like supressing a stubborn bump in the carpet as positing a tracker field? This is special pleading of the worst kind.

    Example #3 Misleading Use of Statistics

    In his debate with Paul Draper, Draper cited evolution as evidence against the existence of God (see Jeff Lowder’s summary of the argument here). Craig objected to this by saying that evolution is so ulikely that had happened it would be a miracle, hence demonstrating the existence of God. To prove his point, Craig cited a statistic from John Barrow and Frank Tipler. I think Richard Carrier’s summary of this quotation and its use is sufficient to show how far off base Craig’s criticism is:

    “In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, 1986), John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler exhaust over 600 pages trying to prove their point, yet a single sentence is sufficient to destroy their whole project: ‘The odds against assembling the human genome spontaneously,’ argue the authors, ‘is even more enormous: the probability of assembling it is between (4^180)^110,000…and (4^360)^110,000….These numbers give some feel for the unlikelihood of the species Homo sapiens’ (p. 565). They fail to realize that this is a non sequitur, as already noted by Sagan, for it only establishes such an unlikelihood if we assume, borrowing from their own words “spontaneous assembly.” But no one has ever claimed this of the human genome, and the facts establishing evolution demonstrate that this absolutely did not happen. Thus, like Foster and Hoyle, Barrow and Tipler completely ignore the fact of evolution and the role of natural selection in their calculation, and consequently their statistic (which has already been cited by Craig in a debate with Draper) has absolutely no relevance to the real question of whether man evolving is improbable.”

    How can Craig, trained as a philosopher, not have realized how bogus and misleading his use of this statistic was?

    Verdict: Though I have found countless errors, fallacies, and dishonest tactics in Craig’s writings and debate performances, I believe these three ought to be sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Craig is dishonest. Though I firmly believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to others and to be cautious about indicting the character of another person, it seems to me that we would be going too far towards leniency if we allowed Craig to get off the hook after seeing this. At some point it becomes unreasonable to continue giving the benefit of the doubt or entertain alternative hypotheses to dishonesty, especially when this sort of thing happens on more than one occasion. Is Craig dishonest? My answer is an unabashed and firm ‘Yes.’ You can’t fool me anymore, Mr. Craig, and with the power of the internet you will slowly lose the ability to fool any one else, either.

     

    Bonus Example: Cosmological Natural Selection

    Though this example is not as airtight a case for dishonesty as the above, I felt it was worth sharing in order to show that Craig isn’t really someone you can depend on, as his analysis of certain issues is often very shallow. I caught Craig making a very ignorant criticism of Smolin’s theory of Cosmological Natural Selection. Here’s what Craig said (this needs to watched in order to understand the rest of this post). I emailed Dr. Lee Smolin about this and got the following reply:

    Dear Ryan,
    Thanks for writing to me. There are answers to both of these issues. The issue of primordial black holes was directly addressed in the first paper I published on the subject in 1992, which can be found here: http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/9/1/016/. It is discussed briefly also on p 310 of The Life of the Cosmos, which is the book I wrote on cosmological natural selection, published in 1997. Dr. Craig is apparently not doing his homework, had he read the original sources, as a scholar should, he would know about this. The point can be put this way: in a one parameter, single field inflation model, which so far accords well with observation, there is a parameter that would haveto be tuned up a lot to make a lot of primordial black holes. But this parameter also controls how long inflation goes on and so how large the universe is. It turns out that to get a large production rate of primordial black holes you need a very small universe so the overall number of primordial black holes is never higher than the number of stellar black holes. Thus CNS requires that if inflation is true, it is single field, single parameter inflation. This is one of the predictions I published in the 1992 paper above.The second issue is dealt with in detail in a recent paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/0901.3156, published in physical review. Unfortunately, Hawking is wrong, indeed,his paper related to this was not very convincing. There is no inconsistency between what we know about quantum gravity and the possibility that there are baby universes made in black holes. Baby universes are in fact a viable solution to the information loss problem. The reasons why are discussed in detail in that paper. I am happy if you pass this message on or post it on the web site raising the issue, but only if you post in full what I wrote. Thanks, Lee

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    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.

    5 comments

    1. I look forward to reading this through. I am writing a paper about the KCA and Craig’s use of it. I am mildly obsessed with the man. I have also just got his latest edited offering with one essay by him (Come Let us Reason) and his essay was shite. The worst piece of writing he has done. I know he is trying to pick on straw men, but he ends up creating a straw man himself.

      I have a work in progress critique of A Reasonable Faith, fyi:

      http://atipplingphilosopher.yolasite.com/craig-review.php

    2. When I read Craig’s quote–I lol’d……:)

      “In order to show that an argument is no good, it is not enough for the sceptic to show that it’s possible that a premiss is false. Possibilities come cheap. I’m puzzled that so many laymen seem to think that merely stating another possibility is sufficient to defeat a premiss.”

      In this one little statement Craig shows how utterly un-pragmatic he is. As a pragmatist, I go by the BEST explanation, and no matter how you slice it, a magic man in the sky creating everything out of nothing is NOT the best explanation! Krauss explains things much better, as there is a scientific theory for something being created out of nothing, as opposed to saying “Goddidit!!”

      The only thing in Craig’s favor is his debating skills–because his arguments have all been refuted long ago.

    3. I heard some arguments that Craig wasn’t a liar because he didn’t intend to lie and that just made him unreliable. I have to ask if he intended to tell the truth. If he did then why didn’t he check his facts before making false statements? If you intend to tell the truth you make sure your statements are factually correct. If not, then you simply don’t care if you speak the truth or not.

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