Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dr. Pigliucci concludes his Opening Statement

I've finally made it through Dr. Massimo Pigliucci's opening statement from the 1995 Dr. William Lane Craig - Dr. Massimo Pigliucci debate on "Does God Exist?" - I have a look at Dr. P's cases against Theism and for Naturalism. These are brief, and are coherent. So far, Dr. P's content has been good. I'll summarize positives and negatives for both participants' efforts after Dr. P finishes up.

Previous reviews can be found starting here through Dr. Pigliucci's Positive case for Naturalism.

Dr. Pigliucci begins his final arguments:

Problem of Evil

There also are some serious philosophical problems with the theistic position that I really have a hard time thinking how Dr. Craig can solve them. The main problem that I see is the problem of evil. The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it very nicely, and I can hardly do better than he did , so I'm going to read pretty much verbatim his quote. "If I had ten billion years and this is all I could come up with, the universe as it is, I should be ashamed of myself." Everybody in this room can think of a much better universe with no earthquakes for one thing and no snow storms, no murders, no rapists, and so on and so forth. It's very easy to come up with one. So if this God is supposed to be all powerful and all good, why do we have this mess down here? And please don't answer that question with "The devil did it!" because the devil also was a creation of God, and so it's still his fault anyway. And I really don't see a way out of that one, unless you want to argue that creation has unintended consequences, there are things that happen in the world that God really didn't want; but then we're pulling back into the category of the personal, failing God that nobody here probably believes in.

Dr. Evil

Generally, the Problem of Evil provides current and on-the-fence non-believers sufficient warrant to conclude a "good" God does not exist ... Dr. Pigliucci is smart to include it. His discussion of this is conversational, whereas other formulations are presented as syllogisms. I find these to be more direct and effective. Dr. P did not give this kind of detail, maybe with good reason. We'll have to see how Dr. Craig counters.

Dr. Pigliucci on Problems with Christianity:

Problems with Christianity

There's also some specific problems about Christianity. What I've said up to this point really applies to any positive definition of God. As I said, I'm not here to deny the existence of every single possible God. There are some Gods that are simply beyond any kind of speculative or scientific argument. But, for one thing, can you give me a good reason to believe in the Christian God in particular, as opposed to many other ones of the Gods that have been proposed so far? You've got ample choice there: you can believe in Zeus, you can believe in Baal, you can believe in Zoroaster--there's plenty of them! Well, why one over the other? I really can't see any particular reason for it.

Also Christianity makes some specific statements about the world and about humans. If you believe, for example, literally in the Bible (which I'm guessing Dr. Craig does not), if you really believe in the Bible, of course, you get in a bunch of problems. Science can answer that there wasn't such a thing as Noah's flood and certainly not as a world-wide event. Other things are: well, the sun never stopped anywhere in the sky because the sun doesn't move at all. It's the Earth that rotates around the sun, and so on and so forth. So there's a lot of specific statements in the Bible that simply cannot be taken literally. But even if you don't take it literally and you get some kind of general meaning, well, generally speaking, man is supposed to have fallen from somewhere, from grace supposedly. Well, evolutionary biology tells us that in fact man evolved in a positive way and is one of the most complex creatures in the world today. It's the end product of a very long process of evolution, I really see those two things in direct contradiction.

Finally, as far as Christianity in particular is concerned, there's plenty of archaeological, anthropological, and sociological evidence that Christianity is just one of several mythologies that evolved and changed throughout human history. It is a part of human culture; it can clearly be traced back to Hebrew traditions, to Babylonian traditions in Mesopotamia. A lot of the myths of Christianity are borrowed all over the place, as are other myths that we see today as to religions. Religions rise, they fall, they change, depending on their culture and social background of the populations that adopt them, and eventually they die, and then something will come up and replace them. That is the historical sequence that has happened over and over again, and I can really hardly see how anybody would look at that sequence and say, "Well, this particular sequence over here is an exception. This is not just not like another religion. It's different." Well, why, on what grounds?

Up through now, this appears to be Dr. Pigliucci's best, most concise argument. There is no reason to believe that the technical arguments for the existence of God (First Cause, Design, and others that Dr. Craig did not mention) will conclude with the Christian God. As Chris Hallquist points out, these arguments don't even guarantee a single god, or gods at all.

Dr. Pigliucci concludes:
God Loves You!

The Problem of Morality

Finally, the problem of morality, which I'm sure we'll have more to say about--oh yeah, I agree with Dr. Craig when he cited Dr. Ruse, a philosopher of science. There is no such a thing as objective morality. We got that straightened out. Morality in human cultures has evolved and is still evolving, and what is moral for you might not be moral for the guy next door and certainly is not moral for the guy across the ocean, the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, and so on. And what makes you think that your personal morality is the one and everybody else is wrong? Now a better way of putting this is that it is not the same as to say that anything goes; it is not at all the same. What goes is anything that works; there are things that work. Morality has to work. For example, one of the very good reasons we don't go around killing each other is because otherwise the entire society as we know it would collapse and we'd become a bunch of simple isolated animals. There are animals like those.

Thank you!

Here Dr. Pigliucci has the same reaction that I did to Dr. Craig's claim that (paraphrasing) "if objective moral values don't exist, then God doesn't exist". We agree.

I think that Dr. Pigliucci closes strongly - his "Problems with Christianity" and "Problem of Morality" being two of his clearer, more concise arguments. Do I think he makes the stronger overall positive case than Dr. Craig? I really can't say - particularly when I can't see an actual video of the contest. Just for fun, let me re-sequence the arguments that Dr. P used - without adding or removing a section, except to add a brief recap of the positive case at the end:

Dr. Pigliucci made his opening statement in this order:

  1. (his intro)
  2. Clarification of the Term "God"
  3. Argument from Design
  4. God and Nature
  5. Argument from Fine-Tuning
  6. Problems with Theism
  7. The Case for Naturalism
  8. Problem of Evil
  9. Problems with Christianity
  10. The Problem of Morality
Given the same material, I can see re-organizing this to fit my proposed intro-positive case-initial rebuttal-recap format thus:
  1. (his intro)
  2. Clarification of the Term "God"
  3. The Case for Naturalism
  4. God and Nature
  5. Problem of Evil
  6. Problems with Christianity
  7. The Problem of Morality
  8. Argument from Design
  9. Argument from Fine-Tuning
  10. Problems with Theism
  11. (a recap of the positive case)
This is a pretty minor reshuffling ... with the exception of his section "God and Nature" - it appears that all Dr. Pigliucci did was offer initial rebuttals to Dr. Craig's Arguments first, then finish with the "positive construction for non-belief". It's kind of a toss-up.

Next time we start on initial rebuttals.

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