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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Busting Answers in Genesis

Once upon a time this blog primarily focused on debunking the nonsense of Ken Ham and company. It's true! To prove it, I've collected some links to some of my best posts which debunk AiG:

Flipping AiG the Bird

Lucy, You Got Some 'Splaining to Do

Evolution of the Whale Ear

Hopeful Monsters, Stephen Jay Gould, and AiG

The Ultimate Answer to the 'Information Argument'

An Amphibian Was Moving Around During the Flood! (Ok, this one isn't specifically about AiG, but it is a nice short read that debunks the flood myth).

The 'Common Design' Argument

Debunking Creationist Myths About Woolly Mammoths

And my tour-de-force: Ten Lies Peddled by AiG.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Refutations of the Resurrection Argument: A Bibliography

So far as I know, Michael Goulder was the first modern writer to offer a refutation of the "five facts" case for the resurrection of Jesus, summed up in his essay "The Baseless Fabric of a Vision" (published in the volume Resurrection Reconsidered) which brought up guilt and grief hallucinations, and compared group sightings of the risen Jesus to sightings of Big Foot.

Two years later, Richard Carrier wrote a long online article called "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story" making a basic (and at times strained) case against the resurrection, and he subsequently expanded and strengthened his case in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave and in a chapter of The Christian Delusion.

Several years later, Gerd Ludemann authored a book called The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, making similar comparisons and dismissing the empty tomb as a legend. The works of Goulder and Ludemann are pioneer works and are praiseworthy for that reason alone, but I never felt that they were overly convincing or that they had marshalled a mountain of supporting evidence for their case.

In 2005, The groundbreaking book The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, became available, and while some of the material is redundant and a little bit of it seems worth skipping, overall it was a very good volume because it was a strongly argued (if mostly defensive) case against the resurrection of Jesus.

Most recently, Chris Hallquist's UFOs, Ghosts and a Rising God and Kris Komarnitsky's Doubting Jesus' Resurrection came out. Though the former is by far more fun and interesting (being written in a conversational tone with a ton of fun facts about paranormal and alien debunking) the latter, in my judgement, was the one and only book you'd ever really need to hear the skeptic's point of view about resurrection arguments. It was concise, well-researched, and firmly made the point that the origin of Christianity could plausibly be explained in natural terms (my only gripe against this is that I wish Komarnitsky would have gone further and said that its origin was more plausibly explained by natural means than supernatural ones).

Last but not least, there are two chapters in The End of Christianity which make a case against the resurrection. In chapter 9, Robert M. Price does the job of explaining how the claim of Jesus being raised from the dead could have plausibly come about without a genuine resurrection. In chapter 8, Matt McCormick lays out a nutshell version of his forthcoming work Atheism and the Case Against Christ in which he argues that the amount of evidence we have for the resurrection is not nearly the amount we should have in order to believe it, and argues that we have better evidence, in both quantity and quality, for actual witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts than we do for the resurrection of Jesus.

I have now added yet another volume to the list. Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus by Nicholas Covington is now available. I've collected not only the responses to the positive arguments for the resurrection, but I have also created some arguments against the resurrection, some of which, as far as I know, have never been pointed out by anyone else. The book is intended to be a strong, robust, unique take on the whole issue. The opening chapter also makes the case that miracle claims must meet a high burden of proof (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) and shreds the standard objections to it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence...

New mini-book!!

It is Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. It's available in paperback for $9.99 or for the kindle for $2.99

In the 1800's, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, David Hume, argued that miracles could not be believed on the basis of someone's word (at least under normal circumstances). Since then, there has been a general consensus amongst skeptics that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" as Carl Sagan put it. Surprisingly, this pretty common sense demand and the arguments about why this must be have been attacked. Sagan's dictum has been called vague, people have said that Hume's reasoning leads to absurd conclusions, and so on. This book contains an essay that abolishes all of those criticisms once and for all. It also discusses and demolishes the arguments in favor of the resurrection of Jesus (which atheist-turned-deist philosopher Antony Flew thought was the most compelling case for an historical miracle even though he did not think the case for it was good enought to warrant belief).

If you've ever heard the pretentious carrying-on that comes from the likes of William Lane Craig and his fanboys about how they can prove the resurrection of Jesus, this book is great material to recommend to them or to read so that you can hammer them on the spot whenever they bring it up. It also contains a number of very interesting legends from ancient and modern times which are worth reading about in and of themselves (the story of Emperor Constantine's Vision of the Cross is one that I talk about in particular, and the post-mortem sightings of David Koresh).

I've collected not only the responses to the positive arguments for the resurrection, but I have also created some arguments against the resurrection, some of which, as far as I know, have never been pointed out by anyone else. The book is intended to be a very strong, robust, and unique take on the whole issue.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Few Things...

I recently stumbled upon a blog called Looking for Answers in Genesis. Check it out, he's picking up where I left off and providing further evidence that intelligent, fair-minded people won't buy the lies of that organization.

I added Jeff Lowder's 20+ Questions for Theists to my post Arguments for Atheism: A List.

Still continuing progress on my upcoming book An Index to Theistic Claims. Also, I am wondering if anyone would like to see me publish a few short kindle ebooks, similar in nature to Sam Harris' Lying. I'd like to make them inexpensive and super-interesting (a summary of the arguments for evolution might be one idea). Please leave a comment telling me what you think and pitch me an idea on what I could write.