Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dr. Pigliucci's Closing Statement

The final closing statement for the 1995 Dr. William Lane Craig - Dr. Massimo Pigliucci debate on "Does God Exist?" comes from Dr. Massimo Pigliucci:

Second Question

First of all, Dr. Craig said that I'm asking for the burden of proof on his side but that at the same time I'm suggesting I can falsify God. Let's be more precise here. I did say two different things: I said that the burden of proof for entities, energies, or kinds of events that we have no idea and no visible proof they exist is on the side of the person that suggests that these things are actually real. At the same time, I was referring to falsifiability and the possibility to deny some specific arguments. I referred to specific descriptions of God's interference with the universe. If you tell me God did this, like Noah's flood, which Dr. Craig conceded must have been either non-existent or a local event, well, then, I can falsify that. So the two things are very distinct.

I get what he's saying, but he could have been clearer. Maybe something like:

Dr. Craig claims I said "x". What I said was "y".
Dr. P appears to mix falsifiability into the burden of proof question. A clearer definition is required. I'm guilty of this as well ... I can read the concept, and it makes sense, but conveying it to someone else extemporaneously is not something I do well.
First Question

First Argument

Dr. Craig said that it follows from his premises that the ultimate cause of the universe must be timeless and personal, and he claims that this is a logical statement that follows with irrefutability. Why? Have you ever stopped and thought why is it that the cause of the universe should be timeless and personal? Just because a philosopher tells you that that is the case? What do we know about the ultimate cause of the universe? Well, I can conceive of causes of the universe that are not timeless or are not personal. I have no problem whatsoever with that! So you have to be careful in distinguishing what is actually, really, totally logically consistent and what in fact is an assumption.

Makes sense ... I have no quibble with this last paragraph.

And speaking of internal consistency, Dr. Craig said that his positions are internally consistent. They probably are. You can come up with a lot of internally consistent logical systems that nevertheless have nothing to do with reality. You do it all the time when you play a computer game. You create an entire universe that is logically consistent, that has rules, and has behaviors that are predictable, and you can play with it­but it doesn't exist in the physical world. So the fact that something is logically consistent does not mean that it is real. The two are completely different things. "That something that is logical must, therefore, exist" is a fallacious argument.

I think this is very well said. We amateur counter-apologists should make note of the phrases: "the fact that something is logically consistent does not mean that it is real. The two are completely different things. That something that is logical must, therefore, exist is a fallacious argument."

Third Argument

We keep going on this thing of morality; is it objective or is it not objective? Dr. Craig says that I'm waffling and I'm going back and forth on my positions. I'm not going back and forth on anything. All I'm saying is that morality can change, and, in fact, I'm arguing that morality better change because human beings, the needs of human beings, and what we must decide, do change. So why would you want a system that is completely fixed and is impossible to change? Why would you follow the morality or the rules that were laid down by people that lived 2,000 years or 3,000 years ago? Let me give you a simple example that doesn't have anything to do with Christianity. As you know, most strict Muslim people don't eat pork meat. The reason not to eat pork meat is very good; indeed, before the invention of refrigeration it was a really bad idea to eat meat in the desert, which is where Mohammed was preaching. Today that's no longer true because of things called refrigerators, freezers, and things of that sort. Of course, occasionally you still have E. coli which is going to get you, but most of the time that doesn't happen. That rule doesn't make any sense anymore. So people that are following that rule do it out of tradition, which is a perfectly respectable reason to do it, of course; you can follow all the traditions you like. But it is not an objective value, an invariant way of constructing a morality.

Again, I agree. I think Dr. P's example is good, but for me, the argument that "without God there can be no objective moral values" as an argument in the cumulative case for God is circular on it's face. It assumes that which your attempting to prove. Since I've been reading this transcript, I realize that it can be rejected because of its circularity, and it can be neutralized with the observation that objective moral values do not exist - only the "feeling" that they exist is an actor in the world.

Fifth Argument

We touched briefly on the personal experience thing. Well, of course, personal experiences are very important. We do a lot of things by personal experience. All of the daily decisions in our lives are personal experiences. We fall in love; that's a personal experience. There's no logic behind it most of the times. The problem is, we are talking here about admissible evidence. Well, I'm sorry, but admissible evidence doesn't include personal experiences because personal experience can be good for you, but it's hardly communicable to everybody else. People that are on drugs have all sorts of personal experiences which I'm sure you wouldn't confuse for reality.

Although I agree that this is true, and should be points for Dr. P from a technical standpoint, if the goal is to persuade audience members, I can see where this might put some people off.

Let me close by saying that I hope that tonight we have all really learned something. I certainly have learned a lot from Dr. Craig, and I want to thank you and thank him for this. I hope that there is going to be some more understanding and some more thinking among all of us on this very important question we have addressed tonight.

Conclusion for this speech:
I knew in advance that the First Cause and Fine Tuning /Design arguments for the existence of God were full of holes. Several years ago, I picked up the Philosophy of Religion CD from The Teaching Company. Prof. James Hall laid out there how each is said to fail. This debate did not change my understanding of the fundamental arguments, but aided me in identifying the sophistry and smoke-blowing that someone like WLC can slather on top to make it look like a cake.

The argument to Objective Moral Values is one that I was less familiar with. It suffers from the two main defects already mentioned - It is "circular on it's face", and that objective moral values don't exist. Makes it hard to take seriously.

Craig's last two arguments are the weakest, but maybe the two that most believers identify with. Jesus' resurrection is still just hearsay at best, utter fabrication at worst. I tend to think that it's a legend that was constructed to give Jesus - a great local teacher - the same status as other recent - and competing - deities. Personal experience is, as mentioned, extraordinarily weak as support for the cumulative case for God.

Pigliucci's arguments for naturalism are in the right ballpark - let me see if I can summarize. He makes a case for naturalism - fair enough. He cites problems of evil, in theism (believing that something beyond matter and energy exist); of morality and of Christianity in general; as well as rebuts Design and Fine Tuning.

Comparing the two styles, by reviewing the written transcripts only, it seems like Craig's five arguments are neatly arranged and well rehearsed. Pigliucci's positive arguments for a naturalistic world view were not neatly organized or ordered, making the first couple of segments indirect and less effective. I thought his second rebuttal and his closing remarks were both good. This may have been due to necessity, but it was more effective.

I still don't think this was a blowout for Dr. Craig. If I were scoring it like a boxing match, then the first two rounds go to Craig, and the last two go to Pigliucci. Now, the first two rounds contain the vast majority of the content, and they were first, so there are extra points for overall quality and first impression. Make this a 38-36 win for Craig.

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