Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dr. Craig's First Rebuttal

Today, I'll start on Dr. william Lane Craig's first rebuttal in the 1995 Dr. William Lane Craig - Dr. Massimo Pigliucci debate on "Does God Exist?". The first thing I noticed is - as others have pointed out - Dr. Craig is frequently dishonest. That he continues this dishonesty, and is revered for it in the fundamentalist community, drives non-believers crazy. Incidentally, Luke Muehlhauser at the now-inactive website Common Sense Atheism ranked this debate as "ugly" - meaning that Dr. C's opponent got hammered. So I'll bet Dr. Pigliucci doesn't call him out on this.

Previous reviews of this same debate can be found starting here through Dr. P concludes his opening remarks

Dr. Craig begins his first rebuttal:

Second Question
Now Dr. Pigliucci presents in my count about five arguments that he thinks would falsify the hypothesis that God exists. Let's look at each of these and see if they're persuasive arguments.

I have to stop right here and point out that immediately Dr. Craig says something that is not true. He says "Dr. Pigliucci presents in my count about five arguments that he thinks would falsify the hypothesis that God exists". Dr. Pigliucci clearly stated that he would not and can not falsify the existence of God - so he's explicitly not refuting it.

It's worth reiterating here that in both organized debate and in science, the burden of proof falls to the claimant. Dr. Craig, in claimimg that atheists have not been able to falsify the existence of God, is ignoring conventions that are fundamental to intellectual and scientific progress. It is wholly unproductive to allow charlatans to make unsubstantiated claims and waste the time of the public, but this is one of Dr. Craig's favorite tactics.

In everyday life, You would call this "a lie".

Argument from Imperfections
(1) He says the universe is not perfect. For example, squids have better eyes than human beings. I don't think that this argument in any way disproves God's existence. Let me mention three reasons.

First, that objection assumes a static theory of creation--that God created each individual creature, which never changes. But even creationists typically hold to a dynamic theory of creation which allows micro-evolutionary change within certain types, so that God could create a certain primal type of being and then there would be micro-evolutionary change within that type, and you might look at these sorts of imperfections (as he calls them) as by-products of micro-evolutionary pressures which gradually emerge.

"Dynamic theory of creation"? Really? Google this, and you get a bunch of creationist references. Citing fringe theories that the claimants have never lifted a finger to test is hardly compelling.

At this stage of the debate, we can't know what Dr. P will say in response, or whether he even cares to address this. Regardless, Dr. Pigliucci is not creationist. He clearly asserted principles of evolution, which don't require "static" or "dynamic" theories of creation - it doesn't require "creation" (in Dr. Craig's sense) at all. Dr. Craig is thus putting words into Pigliucci's mouth - lying.

Secondly, the objection presumes to know what God would do if He were to design something, that we know that God would create the eye in a certain way if He existed or He would create the digestive system in this way if He existed. And I personally think that's simply presumptuous. We have no idea how to speculate about what God would create if He were to exist. Maybe it's not important to God that we be able to have eyes to see in exactly a certain way, maybe there are other off-setting reasons why God permits systems designed in this way to exist. In other words, the argument is enormously presumptuous in thinking that we know what God would create if He were to exist.

This argument is enormously vacuous, to turn a phrase. Dr. Craig is defending a so-far-imaginary being by attacking Dr. P's observation that the human eye is less capable than other eyes. If this debate is about whether God exists, then neither participant can really make claims based on what God might prefer, because the question of God isn't resolved. So Dr. P's criticism is warranted, and Dr. C's defense is not..

And thirdly, perfection is a relative term, after all. These supposedly imperfect organs like the human eye function extraordinarily well. I mean, think of what the human eye has done in terms of art, literature, architecture, and so forth! This is hardly persuasive evidence, I think, that it could not be the product of an intelligent designer.

...sigh... Dr. Craig is making a blatant argument for intelligent design. ...sigh... Teleological arguments rely on the claimant being unwilling or unable to 1) reason about other possible explanations; 2)reason about the plausibility of their preferred explanation. There are several logical errors here: 1) it's a false choice; 2) it privileges the hypothesis (after Chris Hallquist); 3) it's argumentum ad ignorantium

Do I need to mention that Dr. Craig attributes art, literature and architecture to the eye? Did he leave anything out? A brain, maybe. And hands, we need hands!

In fact, that leads me to his other argument, concerning biological evolution. And I'm going to suggest that the idea that evolution could have occurred without an intelligent Designer is so improbable as to be fantastic. This has been demonstrated by Barrowand Tipler in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. In this book, they list ten steps in the course of human evolution, each of which is so improbable that before it would have occurred the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth. They estimate the odds of the evolution of the human genome by chance to be on the order of 4-360 (110,000), a number which is so huge that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement. In other words, if evolution did occur, it would have been a miracle, so that evolution is actually evidence for the existence of God! And here the Christian can be much more open to where the evidence leads. He could say, "Well, God could have used evolution; He could have used special creation. I'm open to the evidence." But, you see, for the naturalist evolution is the only game in town! No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable the evidence, he's stuck with it because he hasn't got an intelligent Designer. So it seems to me that the Christian can be far more objective on this point. After all, if you were to find watch lying on the ground, and, say, it didn't function exactly perfectly, it lost one minute per hour, would you therefore conclude that the watch was not designed properly?

The Barrow and Tippler book has been around since the mid-eighties, and made a splash in the Intelligent Design community, but that appears to be it. A blanket rejection of general Anthropic Principle variations is "we must fit the universe, the universe doesn't care". There are many objections to the many anthropic principle variations - see the Anthropic Principle Wikipedia page for a survey of them. A concise one-line summary from that page is: "According to Jürgen Schmidhuber, the anthropic principle essentially just says that the conditional probability of finding yourself in a universe compatible with your existence is always 1."

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