• Oh dear. William Lane Craig and his bizarre triality…

    William Lane Craig, in a recent video, has declared, as a get out of jail free card for free will and neuroscience, a soul-brainstate-consciousness model for decision making.

    Watch the video, it’s a quick one. Forward until after the Libet stuff.

    This is problematic for so many reasons. It is interesting because it looks like WLC at least accepts that consciousness is derived from brain states, so at least he is looking at the evidence. But since this then looks like epiphenomenalism such that consiousness is like the steam boiling off the brain state kettle rather than driving the boiling, then there is no space for free will. As a result, he needs to take evasive action. These are the key quotes:

    “It’s no surprise at all that there would be a time delay between the decision of the soul, or mind, to do something and the consciousness in mental awareness of that state because the consciousness of that state arises through brain states and these take a finite velocity for the nerve signals to transmit. So  in fact these experiments are exactly what a dualist interactionist would expect to happen; namely, the soul would make a free decision and then a split second later the brain state which brings this decision to consciousness would occur. And then after that the muscular contractions would take place and the hand would move. So this doesn’t do anything to eliminate the freedom of the will.”

    So he conflates the soul with the mind but sees this as different to consciousness. There are two ways of seeing this, and both are problematic:

    Soul/mind = A

    Brain states = B

    Consciousness = C

    A causes B which causes C. This looks like a triality of things and that first thing, the soul or mind is different to consciousness. Well that needs a hell of a lot of explaining. So the mind lives forever in heaven or hell, but it is not consciousness? Well, what the hell is it? What are the properties of a mind or soul which are not the properties of consciousness? What is the evidence for the soul? What are the causal factors which influence decisions of the soul? Because without influence or causality, the decisions of the soul will be synonymous with random? But as soon as you let causality in, you let determinism in! This is just pure nonsense: as I have said many times before, this si the soul of the gaps argument with no justification whatsoever.

    The other option for what WLC could be espousing is simply that he uses mind, soul and consciousness interchangeably. This means that:

    Soul/mind = A

    Brain states = B

    Consciousness = A

    So A causes B which causes A. This would be your classic interactionism. The problem is that there is an infinite regress issue here, or special pleading. Let’s say that:

    A1 causes B which causes A2

    Why is A1 itself not caused by a previous brain state (eg B-1)? How can A2 and A1 be categorised differently here?

    Both models are incoherent. William Lane Craig’s account of libertarian free will is I cannot believe that debaters have not taken him to task over his model. After all, without it, the notion of a judgemental god falls completely to pieces.

    EDIT: Josh below has added this great point, too, adding more misery to WLC’s position:

    If there is a time delay between the decisions of the soul and the conscious awareness of them due to the distance nerve signals must travel, then where is the soul physically located such that this distance exists?

    Category: ApologeticsConsciousnessFeaturedFree Will and DeterminismSoul


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Kevin Lowe

      Just to add a little, even if he were right (and he clearly isn’t, as you’ve shown), he still wouldn’t be able to account for ultimate authorship of the state of his soul. When agents make decisions, they do so based on their preferences, traits and beliefs, some of which *must* be intrinsic. We cannot take conscious credit for intrinsic preferences and traits by definition, so it’s really meaningless to say that our ‘souls’ freely choose our behavior because those souls weren’t chosen or dictated by us. If another agent (God) created our souls from scratch and therefore dictated our intrinsic traits and preferences, we aren’t free agents; we’re merely extensions of that agent’s will.

    • im-skeptical

      I have a feeling Craig will be backing down on this, as soon as he has a chance to think about what it implies.

      • I am suyre he has thought long and hard about free will and how it would work. I can;t see that the libertarian free willer has many options.

    • josh

      If there is a time delay between the decisions of the soul and the conscious awareness of them due to the distance nerve signals must travel, then where is the soul physically located such that this distance exists?

    • When I first saw that video a year ago I couldn’t believe the sophistry he produced. At least the guy doesn’t deny the evidence like some theists do, but it seems that as more and more theists eventually accept the evidence this kind of nonsense is going to be their “interpretation.”

      If all of our decisions are made unconsciously by the “soul” then you cannot tell this apart from determinism, and neither can you tell this apart from being controlled by another agent. Craig also has to explain how the soul causes the atoms in the brain to do what they do that is compatible with the laws of physics. How does he do that?

    • John Grove

      WLC is a master rationalizer. And unfortunately so many Christians “cling” to his words not realizing the mental gymnastics this man does to defend his position. His position is always one of unfalsifiable. Excellent Johnny how you show his arguments have no merit.

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