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Vexing Links (6/13/2015)

Some recent links of note:

Reasonable Faith’s Presentations of Arguments for God

Reasonable Faith is putting out some well produced, clear, and concise presentations of classic arguments for God’s existence (as William Lane Craig typically develops those arguments).  They are definitely worth a look:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument:

The Argument from Fine Tuning:

The Moral Argument:

It seems that Dr. Craig is putting together videos that defend each one of the arguments he favors for theism.  If so, we should expect a video on the ontological argument, reformed epistemology, the historicity of the resurrection, and perhaps the applicability of mathematics to the universe (a sub-argument from fine-tuning).  At least, I hope to see such videos in the future.  If they come out, I’ll be sure to update the list.

While I don’t consider these videos to be scholarly level presentations that deal with the best objections to the arguments one might find in the literature, they are a good starting point.  They are especially good if one is more of an auditory/visual learner.

I was particularly impressed by the analogy made in the Moral Argument video to explain the response to Euthyphro’s dilemma.  Just to recall, Euthyphro’s dilemma, as it is often put by contemporary philosophers of religion, presents two untoward possibilities: either God commands the good because it is good, or God’s commands are good simply because they are commanded by God.  If it is the former, the good exists independently from God, which not only means that God is not needed to explain objective moral values and duties, but also threatens God’s aseity.  If it is the latter, then the good is arbitrary, since God could have commanded anything and it would be good because of that reason.  In other words, God would have no standard or measure of moral goodness to consider when making His commands, they would simply issue forth and become good because of God’s authority.  Murder, theft, and adultery could have been good if God chose to command them.

The response is to propose a third possibility, since the dilemma does not present perfectly dichotomous options.  Classical theists want to argue that this third option is that God’s nature somehow is the Good.  That is, God’s nature is the standard or measure by which moral values are measured and the commands issued by God are commands issued by the standard of Goodness itself.

The analogy that impressed me was to suggest that God’s nature relates to moral values and duties in the world in a similar way in which a live performance relates to a hi-fidelity recording.  The closer the recording is to capturing the sound of the live performance, the better the recording is.  The live audio is as good as can be.  The recording cannot exceed that standard (without distorting it and not being faithful to the original).  So God’s nature is the living presence of Goodness and all else is measured insofar as it is analogous to God in being good.

In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

New Apologetics has recently posted A Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. They are mistaken in thinking that they’ve presented a decisive refutation and this post will show why this is the case.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Through a conceptual analysis of this cause, we can infer that it would be immaterial, transcending both space and time, enormously powerful, and personal. The last bit is perhaps the most controversial, but the idea is that an eternal impersonal cause could not bring about a temporally finite effect. But, personal causation could bring about an effect timelessly without temporally prior antecedent causes.

New Apologetics hopes to rebut this argument not by disputing the premises, but by arguing that one can offer a conceptual analysis of the cause of the universe that is compatible with atheism.

They argue as follows:

[We do not think the following alternative explanation of origins is true. It is offered only for the purpose of demonstrating that the KCA does not succeed as a proof.]
Consider, now, for the sake of argument, that independently of the beginning of the physical universe, there exists a vast multitude of non-spatiotemporal minds. Hypothetically, let us say there are at least as many of these minds as there are now quarks and leptons combined in our universe (any finite number equal to or higher than whatever actual number of smallest constituent particles the universe happens to contain will suffice), but among them there is not one superiorly powerful mind – as advocates of the KCA like to think.

Further, let us suppose that this multitude of non-spatiotemporal minds exists eternally in an uncreated, factually necessary way. If Christian theists can grant that God’s mind exists eternally, there is no known reason to suppose that these lesser minds are inherently excluded from existing in such a state. Plurality does not seem to be a clear defeater for aseity as such, and if the Holy Trinity is admitted within Christian metaphysics to exist without beginning in a timeless state, then there is no reason (at least no reason offered by those who defend the KCA) to maintain a presuppositional antipathy towards the possibility of there being a multiplicity of uncreated beings.

Let us also establish, as an important aspect of our speculation, that none of these minds is very smart. Individually, each of them is no more powerful and intelligent than any other. Moreover, they exist in an eternal and eventless gridlock of opposition one to another such that the intentions of any one individual or group are timelessly held in check by the balancing power of the opposing intentions of another individual or group.

To this proposed scenario we add that these minds are not motivated by any praiseworthy moral concerns or goals, but instead are oriented, as they are, by a simple desire to achieve dominance over other minds. We can take this lust for power and the concomitant deadlocked opposition to be a brute fact of metaphysics much like the love and cooperative harmony between the persons of the Holy Trinity is believed by Christians to be a brute fact of metaphysics.

Throughout this article, they refer to this theory of multiple minds, as the quantum minds theory, or QMT. My initial reaction to this argument was that it was not parsimonious and so theism would offer the better explanation. It seems that New Apologetics anticipated this response, saying:

At this point, while QMT seems to be a coherent account of origins, there is no clear reason to prefer it to theism. We grant that the mere possibility of there being multiple efficient causes responsible for ultimate origins is not quite enough to sink the KCA. Contra the generic “multiple efficient cause” objection to the KCA, William Lane Craig writes:

“…it seems to me that the proponent of the kalam argument will justifiably appeal to Ockham’s Razor: one should not multiply causes beyond necessity. One is justified in positing only such causes as are necessary to explain the effect. In the case of the universe’s origin, only one ultra-mundane Personal Creator is needed, so it would be gratuitous to postulate more.” (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam-and-multiple-cosmic-causes)

Craig’s response is quite appropriate against any critic of the KCA who happens to be arbitrarily positing multiple deities as the efficient cause of the universe. One ought to avoid baselessly multiplying causes when one cause suitably explains the data.
However, our critique is based on something more than the mere “multiple efficient causes” objection. Our contention is that QMT accounts for the origin of the physical universe and many other phenomena typically attributed to God, but it does so while cleanly circumnavigating the known problems that accompany traditional theism. If QMT, when looked at dispassionately, overshadows theism in terms of explanatory power, then questions of parsimony are no longer applicable. It is of little use, for example, to hypothesize that the damage caused in World War II was the work of a lone vandal if the hypothesis of multiple warring nations clashing for a period of years suits the data so much more elegantly.

The key to their response is that they have not merely multiplied causes, but provided causes that explain certain phenomena “more cleanly” than theism, viz. evil. Hence, they suppose that QMT has more explanatory power than “traditional theism.” Given that the thesis is supposed to have more explanatory power, they claim that Ockham’s razor does not apply.

Ockham’s razor states that one should not multiple entities beyond necessity. While New Apologetics has taken the time to show that QMT sufficiently explains the data, they have not shown that QMT is necessary to explain the data. As such, they do succumb to Ockham’s razor in my estimation. The Kalam Cosmological argument posits only what is necessary, namely a singular, personal, enormously powerful, transcendent being. There is no speculation within the argument as to the intelligence, or moral character of the cause. The Kalam cosmological argument has no need to show that it is a better explanation for evil, pain, disorder, and suffering (along with fine-tuning, love, and goodness) since those are not the features of the universe for which the argument seeks to give an account.

The mistake that New Apologetics has made is that it treats the Kalam Cosmological argument as though it concluded to a “thick” concept of traditional theism, when it only offers a thin slice of God. The argument is typically taken in tandem with other arguments to suggest that the cause of the universe is morally perfect, and super-intelligent. Those arguments, along with traditional theodicies, e.g. free-will, and soul-making, seek to show that the phenomena we observe in the world necessitates nothing more than a traditionally conceived monotheistic god.

So while QMT has a built in theodicy, that does not exempt it from Ockham’s razor simply because it can account for more data than what the Kalam Cosmological Argument seeks to explain. New Apologetics must show that it is necessary that the cause of the universe be an ensemble of minds in order to explain the physical and moral order we observe. They have not demonstrated that the physical and moral order requires the multiplication of causes, so their rebuttal offers us nothing more than a gratuitous atheistic (or rather, polytheistic) alternative.

I will leave the question as to whether the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a successful argument for some other day.

William Lane Craig lectures on naturalistic alternatives to the Big Bang

This is a must see…

WINTERY KNIGHT

Here’s the lecture, which was given in 2004 at the University of Colorado, Boulder. A very liberal university!

This lecture is suitable for intermediate and advanced Christian apologists.

The description of the video states:

This is quite simply one of the best lectures William Lane Craig (a philosopher of science) has given. Craig explores the origins of the universe. He argues for a beginning of the universe, while refuting scientific models like the Steady State Theory, the Oscillating Theory, Quantum Vacuum Fluctuation Model, Chaotic Inflationary Theory, Quantum Gravity Theory, String Theory, M-Theory and Cyclic Ekpyrotic Theory.

And here is the description of the lecture from Reasonable Faith:

A Templeton Foundation lecture at the University of Colorado, Boulder, laying out the case from contemporary cosmology for the beginning of the universe and its theological implications. Includes a lengthy Q & A period which features previous critics and debate opponents of Dr…

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The Ultimate Concession?

Sadly, another atheist has decided not to debate Dr. William Lane Craig on the question of God’s existence.  In preparation for her debate with Craig, Polly Toynbee began to study some of his previous debates.  Soon after, she decided that she did not want to go through with the engagement scheduled for this October.  Hopefully there will be more information  as to why Toynbee backed out.   One wonders what it was about Craig’s previous debates that led Toynbee to her decision to back out two months before the event.

From Ed Thornton, August 12, 2011. “Atheists Decline Oxford Debate on God”, Church Times (H/T UnbelievableJB):

ATHEIST philosophers are being accused of “running shy” of debating with a Christian philosopher from the United States who is to tour the UK in the autumn to argue that faith is rational.

Polly Toynbee, the Guardian columnist and president of the British Humanist Association, had agreed to debate the existence of God with the Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, California, Dr William Lane Craig, at Westminster Central Hall in October, during Professor Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” tour. Earlier this month, however, Ms Toynbee said that she would not be taking part in the event. “I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and, having now looked at his previous per­formances, this is not my kind of forum.” Professor Craig said: “These are academic forums, where one con­centrates on the arguments and counter-arguments, the truth of the premises in those arguments and objections to them, and not on personality or ad hominem attacks.” Professor Craig has previously debated with atheist philosophers such as Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, who described Professor Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”. The humanist philosopher Pro­fessor A. C. Grayling also refused to debate with Professor Craig, and denied ever having done so, despite the debate between the two on the problem of evil at the Oxford Union in 2005. Professor Grayling later said: “I was wrong about debating [with] Lane Craig — but Lane Craig is wrong about everything else in the universe; so I guess I don’t do too badly in the deal.” The director of Professor Craig’s tour, Peter May, said: “If Craig is ‘wrong about everything else in the universe’ and his arguments for the existence of God are so easy to refute, it is hard to see why the leading atheist voices in the country are running shy of having a debate with him. “Rather than hurling ad hom­inem attacks on Craig from their bunkers, it would be good to see these figures come forward to rationally defend the atheism they publicly espouse.” Professor Craig is scheduled to debate with the atheist former Pro­fessor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, Dr Peter Atkins, at the Uni­versity of Manchester; and with another atheist, the Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University, Peter Millican, at the University of Birmingham. Professor Richard Dawkins has been invited to debate with Professor Craig in Oxford, on 25 October. If Professor Dawkins refuses, the organisers say that Professor Craig “will lecture on the weakness of Dawkins’s argu­ments in his book The God Delusion”. The organisers of the tour say that they are attempting to find another atheist to debate with Professor Craig in London, instead of Ms Toynbee.

Many atheists and theists agree that William Lane Craig is among the greatest Christian apologists and debaters of our generation.  He has effectively won nearly every debate with just a few exceptions. Just listen to a few of his debates and you will soon discover that Craig is impeccably organized, methodical, and focused like a laser.  He rarely lets an argument go unchallenged, while his opponent often offer only superficial responses to Craig’s syllogisms.  So if the “New Atheists” no longer will engage with Craig, are they making some kind of concession? We will have to see if other “New Atheists” will follow in the footsteps of Dawkins and Toynbee.  In the meantime, I look forward to the Atkins and Millican debates when they become available.  I hope to write up a review of them, if they don’t back out too.

On a lighter note:

[Update 8/16/2011]  Stephen Law has stepped up to the plate and will debate William Lane Craig!  Hats off to Law for having the courage and conviction that Dawkins, Grayling, and Toynbee seem to lack.

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