Sunday, August 12, 2012

Repeating the arguments, again.

As I continue this rocket sled to oblivion, today's offering in the review of the 1995 debate on "Does God Exist" between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Pigliucci, held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is Dr. Craig's Second Rebuttal.

Dr. Craig:

Second Question

The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. For example, we have no positive evidence of an early inflationary era in the history of the universe, and yet if you look at many cosmologists, they believe that such an inflationary era actually existed. The absence of evidence is not a proof that it did not exist. And over and over again in the arguments Dr. Pigliucci offered to falsify the God hypothesis, he came back to me by saying that I haven't carried the burden of proof. But his objections, he claims, falsify God. Now if that's true, he's got to carry his share of the burden of proof. All I have to do is show that these objections are inconclusive.

The phrase "The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence" in this context is just silly. To those paying attention, Dr. Pigliucci doesn't say there's no evidence - he says that naturalism explains what used to be explained by God; that evil, morality and Christianity all have inherent problems when backed up with the God concept most of us assume is being claimed - creator of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omni benevolent, infinitely just, eternal, etc. Although Craig's target demographic will nod and think "right on!", Dr. Craig is just highlighting that there is an absence of evidence that should leave people with no reason to think anything supernatural is going on, ergo no God.

Regarding Dr. C's jab at the inflationary epoch, it's hard to tell whether it's worth rebutting. If it is valuable and if he has time, Dr. Pigliucci should point out that "inflationary epoch" is a proposition by some scientists to explain how the universe came to look like it does now. It is not a claim to fact in the same sense that Craig claims for God. The two claims differ in their ability to describe the world.

Looked at a different way, "inflationary epoch" is part of a model constructed to fit the observational evidence, and is indicated by other observational evidence and mathematical calculation. "God" is a model that is built on a lack of understanding, and fits no observational evidence. It can be used by the unscrupulous, however, to make money and exercise power - so it's got that going for it.

More Dr. Craig:

Argument from Imperfections

So, for example, take his argument from imperfection. I responded with three points: (1) He assumes a static theory of creation, but creationists accept microevolution. He didn't respond to that point. (2) I said that it assumes to know what God would do, which is presumptuous. And he says that's true, but we must have an answer. No, not at all; it's he who thinks you have to be able to presume what God would create if He existed to carry the objection. I'm the one here to say, "I don't know, and you don't know; therefore the objection is inconclusive." (3) I said perfection is a relative term. A watch which doesn't function perfectly is still designed. He didn't respond to that.

I then gave the argument from evolution and pointed out that apart from God it's just too improbable to think that natural selection and genetic mutations could have resulted in the sort of biological complexity that we see. He didn't deny the point; he just said that I didn't quote biologists. But notice, he didn't deny the calculations or the point. In fact, Barrow Tipler in that same book reported that there's a consensus among evolutionary biologists today that the life of comparable information-processing ability to homo sapiens is so improbable that it's unlikely to evolve anywhere else in the visible universe.{1} That's what they report as a consensus among biologists today.

The previous two paragraphs might appeal to someone steeped in the minutiae of debate technique, but aren't immediately enlightening to the average man on the street. Maybe that's why he does it. The net effect is to make it sound as if Pigliucci drools, Craig rules. A case in point: Craig attacks Pigliucci for not responding to Craig's rebuttal point #1 to Pigliucci's "argument from imperfection". Joe six-pack won't care. Joe six-pack probably won't even hear the words as much as he hears the tone of voice and gets a general impression that Pigliucci has no answer to Craig on some point that sounds important.

We have - by virtue of having the written transcripts of the debate and an extensive amount of time in which to consider the debaters arguments, rhetoric and debate tactics - the luxury of slowly and carefully considering what was said, so that we can absorb, assimilate and analyze the validity, truth, soundness and the persuasiveness of the overall presentation.

The big arguments have been laid out. The big objections have been offered. Now we're being subjected to second-order arguments, objections, and debate technicalities that do not clarify our understanding of the proposition being debated. If the big arguments and objections are not persuasive because of their clarity, truth content, and rational support, these more indirect nits are unlikely to be of value.

Still more Dr. Craig:

Other Objections

He dropped his regression argument, dropped his "Naturalism works" argument, dropped his Problem of Evil argument, dropped his Noah's Ark argument. So I hope that you've not seen any persuasive reasons tonight to think that the God hypothesis is false. Dr. Pigliucci has simply failed to falsify that hypothesis.

Debate insiders will be impressed by this. Layman will probably have a vague feeling that Craig has shown that Pigliucci is retreating like a whipped dog. It is up to Pigliucci to reverse this. So Dr. Craig get's to say "Dr. Pigliucci has simply failed to falsify that hypothesis" - which may have a persuasive effect. In fact, Dr. Pigliucci does not owe anyone falsification of a hypothesis since he is not making the affirmative proposition. It is the proposition's claimant that must present the test(s) that proves the hypothesis. This has never been done anywhere, let alone by Dr. Craig. Remember - the universe was created by a Twinkie, you can't disprove that.

Even more Dr. Craig:

First Question

Now what about my reasons for believing in the existence of God?

Normally I wouldn't comment on a single sentence in-line, but it's worth pointing out here that he says he's giving reasons for why he believes in God, not reasons that make a "powerful cumulative case for the existence of God" as he claimed he would do at the start of the debate. Is he expecting this to appear in court and he's establishing plausible deniability? ;p

Return of Dr. Craig:

First Argument

(1) The origin of the universe. Here he admits the premises that Whatever begins to exist has a cause, and that The universe began to exist. "But why," he says, "think that the cause is God?" I gave the arguments in my first speech. I showed that it deductively follows from a cause of space and time that the cause must be timeless and spaceless. Therefore it cannot be anything physical and material that transcends time and space. It must be changeless. And I argued that it must be personal because otherwise you cannot explain how a temporal effect can originate from an impersonal, timeless cause. And he didn't refute any of those arguments. So I think in the formulation of the argument that I gave I answered all of his objections.

. . . . . . y a w n . . . . . . yeah, isn't the Argument from First Cause fabulous? I particularly like 1) that a spaceless timeless thingamabob exists; 2) it's personal. There's just such a mountain of evidence that such things exist. We non-professionals would do well to familiarize ourselves with this Iron Chariots page on First Cause.

Son of the dawn of Dr. Craig:

Second Argument

(2) What about the complex order in the universe? I explained the theory of probability. I did show why his example of the people in the room is a flawed analogy. "But," he says, "Look, there's no basis for these calculations. We don't know that these things are really improbable." What he's really suggesting to you here is that somehow a life-permitting universe is necessary, that if we knew of some Theory of Everything, we would see that life necessarily exists. And that is an enormously implausible hypothesis. Paul Davies, the astrophysicist, says,

There is absolutely no evidence in favor of it. . . . Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn't follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about 'laws of initial conditions' remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it.
. . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise.{2}

And, in fact, as I said, when you alter those constants, those conditions, those laws, you find out that we are balancing on a knife's edge. The origin of the universe is like the Empire State Building's popping into existence out of nothing. That's what the atheistic hypothesis is like, if they believe this really just happened by chance. And I find the design hypothesis far more plausible.

Dr. Craig really likes to throw jargon out there to see if it sticks. He claims to have "explained the theory of probability"., not in this debate he didn't. We can confirm that by reviewing his opening statement and his first rebuttal. So this statement is false, and does not add to his case. Now, it may be that the uncritical folks will nod their heads and say "yes Dr. Craig, we believe what you say", but that is not the same as making a factual claim. So he might have been persuasive, but he was not telling the truth.

Dr. Craig also says "What he's [Pigliucci] really suggesting to you here is somehow a life-permitting universe is necessary" - I presume so that he can put words in Dr. Pigliucci's mouth and offer a canned response. The term "necessary" is also identifiably philosopher-speak. He ignores the fact that we can exist only where conditions permit, which points out how backward this argument is constructed. Depending on how Dr. P mentally ranks this in importance, this is worth a brief rejoinder.

The most mystifying bit of jumbo-jumbo is the word salad from Paul Davies. I think it's an argument against the necessary existence of life. Same rebuttal applies - regardless what the a priori probability is, arrived at using whatever variables you choose, the answer is irrelevant once the a posteriori conclusion (life exists) is observed. If that's not what he's blowing hot air about, then maybe the people in the front row were cold. I can't tell. It comes off sounding like an elaborately-constructed straw man argument. Dr. Craig still gets to make a claim (however irrelevant it may be) that comes from someone who (he makes it sound like) should know what they're talking about. It can add to the persuasiveness, if not to the truth value of his cumulative case.

If it sounds like I'm separating the "persuasiveness" aspect of the debate from the aspect that counts truth, sound and valid as it's focus, I am. As our friend jimfoster from The Uncredible Hallq comments pointed out, the idea is to persuade, truth is optional.

Bride of Dr. Craig:

Third Argument

(3) What about objective morality? Here Dr. Pigliucci is clearly in a deep existential dilemma: he affirms that morality is not objective--it is the invention of human beings--, but he cannot bring himself to say that therefore anything goes. He wants to cling to moral values. But, you see, for an atheist these values are floating in the air: they have no objective basis. On atheism moral values are just social conventions. You could have chosen to go on the red and stop on the green. They're just human inventions, the byproducts of socio-biological evolution. But that means that a society like Nazi Germany or South Africa, where apartheid was practiced, or what happened in Cambodia in the killing fields, that those aren't morally wrong, that is, they are morally indifferent. And I, at least, cannot bring myself to believe that. It seems to me far more plausible that there is objective right and wrong; for example, torturing babies for fun is wrong. And if you agree with me tonight that that is objectively morally wrong, then you would agree with me that therefore God exists. For he admits that if we have no God, these things are not objectively wrong, but they're human conventions.

This paragraph is fascinating. We can do an entire blog post on this one alone.

The argument from the existence of Object Moral Values is circular to begin with ... it introduced a premise that is as contentious as the existence of God, and that relies on the existence of the proposition being (supposedly) supported to warrant its own promotion from mere conjecture to fact-that-is-worthy-of-supporting-an-argument-for-God.

Having said that this argument is circular several times already, let's continue. Craig claims that Pigliucci has a moral dilemma ... a claim that he, Craig, alone fabricates. The dilemma that he fabricated is that, by denying that objective moral values exist, that Pigliucci must ... MUST say "... therefore anything goes". Dr. P is not constrained by any such thing. Dr. Craig's whole sub-case (can't really call it an argument any more) boils down to "Christians are moral, atheists are not, don't believe a word of biology, sociology or evolution". The dog whistle is strong with this one! He has never made a sound argument that objective moral values exist; even if he could, he then has to make the case that those objective moral values come from some source; even if he could do THAT he needs to make the case that God exists; even if he could do THAT he has to tie the existence of objective moral values to God. He hasn't done a bit of that at all.

Son of the bride of the dawn of Dr. Craig:

Fourth Argument

(4) What about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Here he asks, "Why think that Jesus was special?" Very simply: because of the evidence for his resurrection! No other founder of any religion in history has had such a thing claimed of him. "But," he says, "Isn't it arbitrary to believe in a miracle in this case if you don't believe in miracles in many other cases?" Not at all! You should believe in a miracle, I think, when (1) No naturalistic explanation of the facts is available that plausibly explains the facts, and (2) There is a supernatural explanation suggested in the religio-historical context in which the event occurred. The resurrection of Jesus is significant not just because anyone or someone rose from the dead, but because Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the absolute revelation from God, rose from the dead. And what is significant is that Dr. Pigliucci hasn't been able to deny any of those three facts that the majority of New Testament critics hold to today: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the disciples' faith. Those are the historical facts. Now you can pursue agnosticism if you want. You can just say "Well, I don't know the explanation." But I certainly think a Christian is within his rights to say, "You know, it looks to me like those men were telling the truth," that the best explanation is that Jesus did rise from the dead. So you can remain agnostic if you want to, but it seems to me that as a historian I'm certainly within my rational rights to say the best explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead.

This paragraph uncovers an exhortation to ignorance that is worth commenting on.

First, we're back to "Dr. Craig claims the resurrection happened". We don't have any evidence whatsoever that this happened, contrary to Dr. Craig's claim. The Bible claims it happened, but we know that the first person to comment on the event, and whose written record exists that we can refer to - Paul - did not claim to have known Jesus, and did not make claims to the physical facts of his life and death (i.e. no reference to the empty tomb). There is no doubt that Paul believed that Jesus was resurrected, but it was up to later authors, the folks that wrote and edited Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to fill out the details. This does not bode well for the claim of resurrection, as it appears that the physical events are unknown to Paul at the time of his writing. Claims that historians wrote of Jesus ignore the fact that the historians apparently relied on the same sources, so knowing whether there was independent verification is impossible. All we can say with strong confidence is that the STORY was compelling and memorable.

The "exhortation to ignorance" is "You should believe in a miracle, I think, when (1) No naturalistic explanation of the facts is available that plausibly explains the facts, and (2) There is a supernatural explanation suggested in the religio-historical context in which the event occurred." If you don't know of an explanation, claim ghosts did it.

Finally, Dr. Craig concludes:

Fifth Reason

(5) Finally, the immediate experience of God has not even been discussed tonight in this debate. But I think one can know immediately that God exists as well.

I think Dr. P is being polite by not attacking Dr. CraIg's belief personally ... but "knowing" is not what we humans do. We feel certainty, we believe, we can be certain of events that leave a physical piece of evidence (a burn scar on a finger), but not much else. This is still the weakest argument for the existence of God, but the one that, I'm guessing, resonates most with the believer. I can understand not attacking it - it has almost infinitesimally low explanatory power, and it is probably not worth alienating people that believe in God primarily because of a similar personal experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment