Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Trust William Lane Craig

Recently there has been a discussion between Chris Hallquist and Jeffrey Jay Lowder over whether the Christian apologist William Lane Craig is dishonest (Hallquist's most recent blog post provides the relevant links and backround info to this discussion). Although I agree with Lowder's sentiment that we ought to be very cautious about indicting another person's character, I think that there does come a point in which it is unreasonable to continue to give another person the benefit of the doubt, and on that note, I'd like to share a few things that are relevant to William Lane Craig's honesty.

Example #1 Inconsistency About How One Discredits an Argument

On Craig's reasonable faith website, he makes the following claim:

"In order to show that an argument is no good, it is not enough for the sceptic to show that it’s possible that a premiss is false. Possibilities come cheap. I’m puzzled that so many laymen seem to think that merely stating another possibility is sufficient to defeat a premiss."

In Craig's 1991 article “Theism and Big Bang Cosmology” Australasian Journal of Philosophy69: 498, Craig gives the following response to one of Quentin Smith's arguments for the nonexistence of God:

“If such a metaphysical interpretation of the initial singularity is even possible, then [Premise 5] is unsubstantiated, and Smith’s anti-theistic argument is undercut.” [empahasis added. Note: I believe I've heard Craig making statements like this elsewhere, but I don't recall where. Please comment if you know.]

Conclusion: Craig believes that showing a premise is possibly false destroys an argument against god, but that showing a premise is possibaly false does not destroy an argument for god. This is biased, self-contradictory special pleading.


Example #2 Self-Contradiction Concerning Richard Dawkins' Argument

Richard Dawkins has previously objected to using God to explain the fine-tuning problem on the grounds that God would be even more improbable, even more in need of an explanation, than the fine-tuning itself. Craig responds to this: "in order to recognize an explanation is the best, you don't have to have an explanation for the explanation" (see this video, about 1:00-1:30).

However, when debating atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, look at how Craig responds to Sinnott-Armstrong after he brings up the objection to the fine-tuning argument that some of the anthropic coincidences might be explained by "tracker fields":

"[Robin] Collins points out that 'even if such fields were discovered, it would have to have just the right ("fine-tuned" or "well-designed") mathematical form to overcome the severe problems facing such proposals. This would reintroduce the problem of fine-tuning and design at a different level, though in a mitigated way.' This has been the pattern with attempts to explain fine-tuning by physical law: Like a stubborn bump in the carpet, fine-tuning is suppressed at one point only to pop up at another." (pp.63-64, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist)

Conclusion: Why doesn't Craig see that positing a God to explain the fine-tuning is just as much like supressing a stubborn bump in the carpet as positing a tracker field? This is special pleading of the worst kind.


Example #3 Misleading Use of Statistics

In his debate with Paul Draper, Draper cited evolution as evidence against the existence of God (see Jeff Lowder's summary of the argument here). Craig objected to this by saying that evolution is so ulikely that had happened it would be a miracle, hence demonstrating the existence of God. To prove his point, Craig cited a statistic from John Barrow and Frank Tipler. I think Richard Carrier's summary of this quotation and its use is sufficient to show how far off base Craig's criticism is:

"In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, 1986), John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler exhaust over 600 pages trying to prove their point, yet a single sentence is sufficient to destroy their whole project: 'The odds against assembling the human genome spontaneously,' argue the authors, 'is even more enormous: the probability of assembling it is between (4^180)^110,000...and (4^360)^110,000....These numbers give some feel for the unlikelihood of the species Homo sapiens' (p. 565). They fail to realize that this is a non sequitur, as already noted by Sagan, for it only establishes such an unlikelihood if we assume, borrowing from their own words "spontaneous assembly." But no one has ever claimed this of the human genome, and the facts establishing evolution demonstrate that this absolutely did not happen. Thus, like Foster and Hoyle, Barrow and Tipler completely ignore the fact of evolution and the role of natural selection in their calculation, and consequently their statistic (which has already been cited by Craig in a debate with Draper) has absolutely no relevance to the real question of whether man evolving is improbable."

How can Craig, trained as a philosopher, not have realized how bogus and misleading his use of this statistic was?

Verdict: Though I have found countless errors, fallacies, and dishonest tactics in Craig's writings and debate performances, I believe these three ought to be sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Craig is dishonest. Though I firmly believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to others and to be cautious about indicting the character of another person, it seems to me that we would be going too far towards leniency if we allowed Craig to get off the hook after seeing this. At some point it becomes unreasonable to continue giving the benefit of the doubt or entertain alternative hypotheses to dishonesty, especially when this sort of thing happens on more than one occasion. Is Craig dishonest? My answer is an unabashed and firm 'Yes.' You can't fool me anymore, Mr. Craig, and with the power of the internet you will slowly lose the ability to fool any one else, either.

7 comments:

cl said...

Hi, thanks for the link. I've responded to your case here.

Steven Carr said...

Craig recently wrote ' Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation. '

Anybody who can write that becoming a Nazi was the salvation of somebody, has a serious problem with his values.

Such a person may feel that any tactic at all , short of telling somebody to join the Nazi party , is fair, if it leads to the salvation.

Strike that.

Craig would include telling somebody to join the Nazi party as being fair!

David Evans said...

"How can Craig, trained as a philosopher, not have realized how bogus and misleading his use of this statistic was?"

Craig's PhD in Philosophy is from the University of Birmingham. Their philosophy options include several on religion and ethics, but none on the philosophy of science. He may not have learned much science. Perhaps he took it on faith that the eminent physical scientists he quotes would not make stupid mistakes.

AIGBusted said...

No David. This isn't a mistake on the part of Barrow and Tipler. This is solely on the shoulders of William Lane Craig. Barrow and Tipler said that there statistic was just something "to get a feel for how improbable H. Sapiens is." It does not reflect anything whatsoever about evolution or how probable it is, and Barrow and Tiple never say it does. Nor is this error one that any person with even a bachelor's degree philosophy ought to be making. This is so obvious that many laymen, including myself, realized instantly how bogus it was (I researched this shortly after hearing Craig make this statement, and later found Carrier's writing pointing out the same mistake).

benthehen2010 said...

Some people might find it amusing that Craig’s response to the tracker field point made by Walter, that the tracker field themselves would have to be ‘fine-tuned’ was answered in the Scientific American resource that Walter provided. Here is a relevant snippet.

“The initial energy density of the tracker field does not have to be tuned to a certain value, because the field rapidly adjusts itself to that value.”

Robin Collins who Craig quoted with the objection is not a scientist, but a theistic philosopher from Messiah College of all places. Why does Craig seem to always duck his research responsibilities? He should read or at-least review the resources an opponent provides himself, not get someone to do it for him, especially someone who isn’t relevantly qualified. Craig’s reply quite obviously applies to his genocide commanding god, the exact same point provides the thrust of Dawkins ‘Ultimate 747 gambit’ that Craig thinks is the worst atheistic argument ever. I’ve long stopped expecting Craig to be consistent.

It has also seemed to me that if the more you dig into a supposedly professional philosopher’s arguments the more you find such blatant mistakes, which are always made in their favour, the more you should distrust them. Craig is the exemplar of such a ‘philosopher’.

Here’s some research for you to actually read yourself.

The Craig Armstrong debate: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong-God-A-Debate-between-a-Christian-and-an-Atheist.pdf

Craig’s straw man ‘refutation’ of Dawkins’’Ultimate 747 Gambit’ can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/richard-dawkins-argument-for-atheism-in-the-god-delusion (note the inconsistency between Craig’s arguments here with the above debate)

Scientific American article about tracker fields: http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ast21/sciam/AcceleratingUniverse2.pdf

You can find Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ in The God Delusion, read the whole chapter not just the summary pages as Craig did.

For a rigorous defence of Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ from common misconceptions see: http://omnisaffirmatioestnegatio.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/dawkins-and-the-ultimate-747-gambit/

benthehen2010 said...

Some people might find it amusing that Craig’s response to the tracker field point made by Walter, that the tracker field themselves would have to be ‘fine-tuned’ was answered in the Scientific American resource that Walter provided. Here is a relevant snippet.

“The initial energy density of the tracker field does not have to be tuned to a certain value, because the field rapidly adjusts itself to that value.”

Robin Collins who Craig quoted with the objection is not a scientist, but a theistic philosopher from Messiah College of all places. Why does Craig seem to always duck his research responsibilities? He should read or at-least review the resources an opponent provides himself, not get someone to do it for him, especially someone who isn’t relevantly qualified. Craig’s reply quite obviously applies to his genocide commanding god, the exact same point provides the thrust of Dawkins ‘Ultimate 747 gambit’ that Craig thinks is the worst atheistic argument ever. I’ve long stopped expecting Craig to be consistent.

It has also seemed to me that if the more you dig into a supposedly professional philosopher’s arguments the more you find such blatant mistakes, which are always made in their favour, the more you should distrust them. Craig is the exemplar of such a ‘philosopher’.

Here’s some research for you to actually read yourself.

The Craig Armstrong debate: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong-God-A-Debate-between-a-Christian-and-an-Atheist.pdf

Craig’s straw man ‘refutation’ of Dawkins’’Ultimate 747 Gambit’ can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/richard-dawkins-argument-for-atheism-in-the-god-delusion (note the inconsistency between Craig’s arguments here with the above debate)

Scientific American article about tracker fields: http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ast21/sciam/AcceleratingUniverse2.pdf

You can find Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ in The God Delusion, read the whole chapter not just the summary pages as Craig did.

For a rigorous defence of Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ from common misconceptions see: http://omnisaffirmatioestnegatio.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/dawkins-and-the-ultimate-747-gambit/

benthehen2010 said...

Some people might find it amusing that Craig’s response to the tracker field point made by Walter, that the tracker field themselves would have to be ‘fine-tuned’ was answered in the Scientific American resource that Walter provided. Here is a relevant snippet.

“The initial energy density of the tracker field does not have to be tuned to a certain value, because the field rapidly adjusts itself to that value.”

Robin Collins who Craig quoted with the objection is not a scientist, but a theistic philosopher from Messiah College of all places. Why does Craig seem to always duck his research responsibilities? He should read or at-least review the resources an opponent provides himself, not get someone to do it for him, especially someone who isn’t relevantly qualified. Craig’s reply quite obviously applies to his genocide commanding god, the exact same point provides the thrust of Dawkins ‘Ultimate 747 gambit’ that Craig thinks is the worst atheistic argument ever. I’ve long stopped expecting Craig to be consistent.

It has also seemed to me that if the more you dig into a supposedly professional philosopher’s arguments the more you find such blatant mistakes, which are always made in their favour, the more you should distrust them. Craig is the exemplar of such a ‘philosopher’.

Here’s some research for you to actually read yourself.

The Craig Armstrong debate: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong-God-A-Debate-between-a-Christian-and-an-Atheist.pdf

Craig’s straw man ‘refutation’ of Dawkins’’Ultimate 747 Gambit’ can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/richard-dawkins-argument-for-atheism-in-the-god-delusion (note the inconsistency between Craig’s arguments here with the above debate)

Scientific American article about tracker fields: http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ast21/sciam/AcceleratingUniverse2.pdf

You can find Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ in The God Delusion, read the whole chapter not just the summary pages as Craig did.

For a rigorous defence of Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ from common misconceptions see: http://omnisaffirmatioestnegatio.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/dawkins-and-the-ultimate-747-gambit/