Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Audio, summary and review of William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law debate

You can also download the audio at Apologetics 315.

Scorecard:

Craig’s case:

  • The origin of the universe: Law had no response.
  • The moral argument: Law denied that there are objective moral values.
  • The resurrection argument: Law told a story about a UFO sighting.

Law’s case:

  • The evidential argument from evil: Law later denied that evil existed, thus undermining his entire argument. Christian theists DON’T consider it evil when people suffer, if that suffering is necessary in order to get people to know God. We don’t agree with Law’s definition of evil that “people suffering” is automatically evil – because there can be a morally sufficient reason why that suffering is allowed by God to happen, since his goal is not our happiness but for us to know him. Law was not able to show how we know that God doesn’t have a morally sufficient reason to permit the evils we do see. And he has to prove that in order to assert (in his premise 1) that gratuitous evil exists. How does he know that? How does he know that some specific instance of evil is pointless for the purpose of improve the knowledge of God overall? The one good thing that Law did was to press Craig to defend his premise that if God doesn’t exist, then objective moral values also don’t exist. Craig did talk about how if there is no God, then morality is just a herd morality that evolves by accident, though.

Final score: 3 to 0 for Craig. Law was better than Craig’s average opponent though, for all the snarky things I might say about him, below.

Below is the snarky summary of the debate. I sometimes paraphrase entire sentences and insert commentary in order to explain what’s going on without the spin.

William Lane Craig opening speech:

Two contentions:

C1) There are good reasons to think that God exists.
C2) There are no good reasons to think that God does not exist.

Arguments for the existence of God.

A1) The origin of the universe

1. Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe requires a cause.

The beginning of the universe is confirmed by philosophy and science.

An actual infinite number of past events is impossible. The concept of an actual infinite is mathematically unintelligible for the operations of subtraction and division.

Cosmologists have now proven that any universe that is now in a state of expansion must have begun to exist, independent of any physical description of the model. Even speculative alternatives to the current Big Bang model require a beginning at some point.

The cause of the universe must be transcendent and supernatural. It must be uncaused, because there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be eternal, because it created time. It must be non-physical, because it created space. There are only two possibilities for such a cause. It could be an abstract object or an agent. Abstract objects cannot cause effects. Therefore, the cause is an agent.

A2) The moral argument.

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective morality does exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Michael Ruse, an atheist philosopher agrees that if God does not exist, then there is only a “herd morality” that is determined by biological evolution and social evolution. There no objective moral standard, just different customs and conventions that vary by time and place. Anyone who acts against the herd morality is merely being unfashionable and unconventional.

Dr. Law affirms objective morality in his written work (but can he ground it on atheism?).

In order to be able to make a distinction between good and evil that is objective, there has to be a God to determine a standard of good and evil that is binding regardless of the varying customs and conventions of different people groups. Even when a person argues against God’s existence by pointing to the “evil” in the world, they must assume objective moral values, and a God who grounds those objective moral values, in order to make the charge. Therefore, it is impossible to complain about the evil in the world without assuming the existence of God.

A3) The resurrection of Jesus.

1. There are certain minimal facts that are admitted by the majority of historians, across the ideological spectrum; the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances of Jesus, the early belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
2. Naturalistic attempts to explain these minimal facts fail.
3. The best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Craig’s opponent thinks that Jesus never existed, a position that virtually no historian holds.

Stephen Law’s opening statement:

A1) The evidential argument from evil

1. Gratuitous evil exists.
2. God would be able to remove evil, would know about the evil, and would want to remove gratuitous evil.
3. It is implausible that God exists.

There are moral evil actions committed by agents
There are natural evils like earthquake.

Animals suffer. e.g. – from being eaten by other animals.
Humans suffer, e.g. – from disease.

Craig’s cosmological argument does prove that a Creator exists, but the evidential argument from evil proves that this Creator is not good.

If the Creator really were good, then we would all be spared from all suffering, both physical and mental, because God has no morally sufficient reason for allowing anyone to suffer. God, if he existed, would prevent humans from committing moral evil by removing our free will. God would also prevent us from having any unhappy feelings caused by natural evil.

A2) Theodicies offered by Christians fail

Freedom Will Theodicy: An evil God might like to allow humans to have free will.

Laws of Nature: An evil God might like to have laws of nature to allow predictable consequences.

Afterlife compensation: An evil God might like an evil afterlife to make us suffer more.

Craig’s first rebuttal:

RA1) Law’s evidential argument from evil fails

The mere presence of evil is not a problem if God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting instances of evil. Since Dr. Law is making the claim that God would not allow the evil, then he has to bear the burden of proof for showing that there is no morally sufficient reason for God to permit evil and sufering.

The purpose of life on the Christian view is not merely to have happy feelings. The purpose of life on the Christian view is coming to know God and having a relationship with him. Many evils that are not good for giving us happy feelings may be good for getting us to think seriously about whether God is there and what to do to have a relationship with him.

Theists don’t infer the goodness of God because they survey the universe and find lots of good things. They infer the goodness of God based on the mere fact that they are aware of an objective moral standard of good and evil, and inalienable human rights, and they identify God as the source of that standard of Good and evil. Those things cannot exist unless there is a God to ground an objective standard of right and wrong. Since the source of the standard is God’s own unchanging nature, he cannot act in a way that is evil.

Moral evil actually proves the existence of God. If Dr. Law claims that there is moral evil, then he has to have an objective moral standard that allows the distinction between good and evil. The only way to make an objective distinction between good and evil is if there is a Design for the universe that determines what is good and evil. And a design for the universe requires a Designer of the universe.

With respect to animal suffering, any ecosystem require predators in order to control population. For example, in Canada, Canadians have had to reintroduce wolves into the ecosystem in order to cull the populations of caribou, which was de-stabilizing the ecosystem. Since humans depend on the existence of these animals, God has to allow these predators in order to balance the ecosystem.

Animals do not suffer pain the same way as humans do, research shows that although they suffer pain, they are not aware of that suffering in the way that humans are. Once you understand the biology of animals, you understand that they do not experience pain the same way as humans.

Law’s first rebuttal:

Craig thinks that you need an objective standard in order to judge things as objectively good or evil. But that’s false. I can use my subjective opinions to claim that some things are objective evil. If God doesn’t do what I like (prevent moral and natural evil), then he isn’t objectively good. I don’t need to buy into the notion of objective good and evil in order to say that something is good or evil. I can say that something is good or evil while denying the existence of objective good and evil. (IMPORTANT NOTE: DR. LAW HAS AT THIS POINT RETRACTED HIS SUPPORT FOR OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES, WHICH MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO EMPLOY THE EVIDENTIAL ARGUMENT FROM EVIL)

Dr. Craig says that I think that people determine the goodness or evilness of God by counting good things and evil things. But that’s false. My argument is that people determine the goodness or evilness of God by counting good things and evil things. It’s completely different!The presence of good things undermines the existence of evil God, and the existence of evil things undermines the existence of good God.

Craig’s second rebuttal:

Dr. Law has not yet responded to any of the 3 arguments for God’s existence.

A1) No response to the argument from the origin of the universe. How can you admit to a Creator of the universe and still be an atheist? His argument from evil doesn’t refute a supernatural cause of the universe.

A2) Dr. Law is now denying that objective moral values exist, contrary to his written work. This means that he is not able to use the terms “good” and “evil” intelligibly. He is merely expressing his subjective opinions, and therefore he cannot press the evidential argument from evil, because there is no such thing as evil, objectively speaking, on his view. It’s just his personal preference.

A3) No response to the argument concerning the resurrection.

RA1) He has to show that God doesn’t have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evils we see. He admits that he can’t.

He says that the world is morally ambiguous and you can’t infer the goodness of God by counting the amount of evil and good in the world, just like you can’t infer the evilness of God by counting the amount of evil and good in the world. And that’s correct, and theists don’t infer God’s goodness by counting good and evil instances. The point is that if you can’t infer God’s goodness or evilness by counting instances of good or evil, then you can’t infer that God isn’t good, because you don’t know whether God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting the evils that we see. And it’s the atheist’s burden of proof to show that God DOESN’T have a morally sufficient reason, and Dr. Law is unable to do that.

Dr. Law says that you don’t need to have a standard of good and evil to press the problem of pain and suffering. But if you deny that there is any good or evil independent of pain and suffering, then you can’t impugn God’s goodness because you don’t have a standard in place to say that gratuitous pain and suffering is evil.

Any event that occurs in history can have effects far into the future or in another country. Physicists understand that small effects can trigger results that cannot be foreseen. And what this means is that humans are simply not in a position to know whether God has a moral sufficient reason for permitting specific instances of evil.

Finally, the purpose of life on the Christian view is not to have happy feelings and be free from suffering. God’s purpose for us is to know him and to be rightly related to him. Many instances of evil may be pointless for making people feel good, but may be effective for drawing people towards God.

Law’s second rebuttal:

RA2) The vast majority of philosophers reject the moral argument, for example Richard Swinburne. (No reasoning for the denial is explained, just the denial of the argument’s effectiveness by citing Richard Swinburne as an authority). This is a fallacy of arguing from an authority.

Dr. Craig has to prove that no atheistic account of morality can be given. He has disprove them all, even the ones that no one has thought of yet. It’s not my job, AS THE ATHEIST, to prove that I can give an account of objective truth of moral claims can be given ON ATHEISM. I don’t have to do anything except stand here and speculate about some possible account of morality on atheism and I win.

The existence of objective moral values is not obvious to me. I.e. – I don’t see anything objectively wrong with torturing babies for fun, it’s a matter of opinion. I also don’t see anything evil about those things that I said were evil in my first speech. I was just kidding, people, can’t you take a joke? It just seems to some people like Dr. Craig that there are objective moral values, but actually there aren’t. Dr. Craig merely wants to believe that evil is real, but actually it isn’t. Except when I want to argue that it is in in my evidential argument FROM EVIL.

RA3) Although the majority of ancient historians accept the historicity of the empty tomb because of the early sources, multiple attestation, enemy attestation etc., the tomb was not empty because of this story I’m going to tell about a UFO.

Although virtually all ancient historians accept the post-mortem appearances because of the early sources, multiple attestation, etc., the post-mortem appearances did not occur because of this story I’m going to tell about a UFO.

Although virtually all ancient historians accept the early belief that Jesus was bodily resurrected because of the early sources, multiple attestation, etc., the early belief that Jesus was bodily resurrected did not occur because of this story I’m going to tell about a UFO.

Craig’s final rebuttal:

A1) Dr. Law accepts that the universe was created by an eternal, non-material, uncaused being. What a strange sort of atheist, who admits that there exists a supernatural Creator of the universe.

A2) Dr. Law employed the fallacy of arguing from authority. But Dr. Craig can cite a much longer list of atheists who agree that if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist, e.g. – Nietzche, Russell, Sartre, Mackie, etc. Consistent atheists understand that if there is no God, there is no design for how the universe ought to be (natural evil), or how we ought to be (moral evil).

A3) We have to be careful when inferring a supernatural explanation and use objective criteria. All natural explanations fail to explain the full set of minimal facts that virtually all historians accept. In addition, the resurrection takes place within a religio-historical context where one might expect God to intervene if what Jesus was saying was true.

RA1) You can’t disprove God’s goodness by appealing to instances of evil, nor can you disprove God’s evilness by appealing to instances of good. This is because humans are not in a position to assess the ripple effects of permitting any instance of evil (good). It is therefore possible and inscrutable as to whether God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting any and all instances of apparent evil (good).

Dr. Law’s final rebuttal:

A2) There is a lot of pain and suffering in the history of the world. This is a challenge to God’s goodness because God’s purpose for us is to make us happy, and not at all for us to know him or for us to be related to him, as the Bible says.

Here’s my argument. Craig thinks that you can determine God’s goodness by counting instances of good and evil in the world, although he explicitly denies that. And I’ve actually done the counting and found that you can’t determine God’s goodness because there’s too much gratuitous evil. Never mind what Craig said about the ripple effect through time and space, or about chaos theory, or about morally sufficient reasons. These instances of gratuitous evil I’m telling you about have no morally sufficient reasons, in any time or in any place. Trust me, I looked everywhere and in the future, using my time machine.

Now, in my argument, when I said the word evil, I don’t really mean evil, because to use an objective standard of good and evil, I would have to have a moral lawgiver to ground that objective standard. So when I say moral and natural evil, I don’t mean moral and natural evil, I actually mean things that I don’t personally like. So I’m going to change my argument’s name to the Evidential Argument From Things That I Find Yucky.

Dr. Craig provided no justification for his premise that “if there is no God, there there are no objective moral values”. And it’s not my job to produce an atheistic theory about how objective moral values could exist, especially since my argument from evil relies on objective moral values.

A3) UFOs.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. Neil says:

    Nicely done! Thanks for taking the time to summarize these. I know that is a lot of work.

    Maybe Richard Dawkins will listen to the audio and realize how “easily” he could beat WLC in a debate. Then he won’t be such a big chicken.

  2. Jeff Lea says:

    Thanks for the recap, Wintery. Snarkiness is objectively good.

  3. I’ve written my own summary and assessment of the debate, available here.

  4. rhology says:

    The resurrection argument: Law told a story about a UFO sighting

    LOL. Exactly.
    Law disappointed me in this debate. That said, he is still a step above where most of WLC’s opponents are.

  5. [...] recently submitted the following feedback to WinteryKnight’s review of the Craig-Law debate.Wintery Knight — You must have listened to a different debate than [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 4,329,101 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,039 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,039 other followers

%d bloggers like this: