REVISED: What my own "Opening Statement" would be if I debated Dr. William Lane Craig today

If Alvin Plantinga is correct about possible worlds, there's got to be a strange one out there in the almost-Multiverse where I'm due to debate my friend William Lane Craig on the existence of God tomorrow morning or whenever. Since my area of scholarship is unrelated to religion in the actual world, however, my chances of debating Bill are about the same as my chances of dating Anne Hathaway, so in lieu of winning the cosmic lottery, I will post my opening statement here.


I've known Bill Craig personally since November, and have been extremely fortunate to meet with him twice - once in a basement packed with other solid theologians like Dr. Paul Copan and Dr. Gary Habermas, all of whom challenged John and I in person very effectively, and once over breakfast for a one-on-one on his Kalam Cosmological Argument. I regard Bill as both a rigorous and challenging opponent and as a warm, friendly person independent of any compulsion to "convert me for a notch on the belt."

The topic "Does God Exist?" is pretty constant in its presentation through the years; thus, I will (somewhat randomly) take the "pretend" opening statement to be the one he gave to Pigliucci here. I will also answer his points on agnosticism given here.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to my friend John as I go as deep as the limits of my mind allows during my critical but open exploration of Christianity.

OPENING SPEECH.

Good evening! I would like to thank the host of this debate and all of you in attendance for your participation. Bill and I have personally met and spoken at length about diverse topics, and it is an honor - albeit a frightening one - to be able to subject my own worldview to his critical and scholarly eye. I look forward to a debate that continues Bill's kindness and dedication to truth.

First, we need to define at the outset what we mean by "God." I should use my opponent's case to pin an exact definition on the otherwise fuzzy question "Does God exist?" Specifically, the term "God" that my opponent defines in his opening statement points toward the God granted by Christianity, leaving us with a debate over the veracity of Christian Theism. Other Gods, including the ones underlying Islam, Hinduism, Baha'i, general Deism, and even Orthodox Judaism are not included in Bill's case, by process of elimination. Bill's case specifies the exact nature of God, and my job as an agnostic this evening is to examine the evidence Bill presents for this definition and to posit possible arguments against such a God.

In [the linked video on Agnosticism], Bill begins by addressing several types of agnosticism and examining their veracity. He may be surprised that I join him in such considerations - but, unfortunately, Bill has left my own view of agnosticism out of his analysis.

Man's knowledge - everything his mind has digested and conceptualized - depends upon the context of what he or she is presented. In my case, I have declared myself an agnostic because I realize that I have not reflected adequately on the arguments both for or against the veracity of Christian theism. Many classic atheist arguments have been addressed well by Bill and by other intelligent theologians, and equally intelligent nonbelievers have addressed the Christian apologist in turn. In many cases, such as the case of the Kalam Cosmological Argument between Dr. Wes Morriston and Bill himself, have moved into the deep end of the philosophical pool, thus entailing a very careful and detailed analysis on my part which I have currently found inconclusive. Another example is the wealth of scholarship both for and against the Resurrection of Jesus, requiring much study and analysis of challenging issues like the plausibility of miracles and the context of the New Testament culture.

My agnosticism isn't an assertion that such facts cannot be proven, nor is it a belief that one side is more probable than the other side. To study the crucially important question of God's existence and the truth of Christian theism, one ought to spend a sufficient amount of time analyzing all arguments from both sides of the fence to the best of his or her own intellectual ability. Since I have not done so as of today, I must declare that I am agnostic to the question of Christian theism. So we see that Bill's arguments against my position. while sound, do not address my current intellectual position properly.

Bill states that without God, there is no absolute right and wrong that imposes itself on our conscience. Indeed, his first premise restated implies that objective moral values necessitate the existence of a Divine grounder of these values. Nietzsche's meandering notwithstanding, this statement is fallacious – it either begs the question in favor of Theism in its notion of “objective,” or it remains an invalid inference, as there is nothing about “objective moral values” that logically lead to a Creator. Bill and I agree that morality is objective, but how can the notion of objective moral values be rationally resolved for the agnostic?

Morality is a guide to man's actions within the realm of society. If we only allow a basis in God (or allow no basis, as subjectivists posit), we forget the meaning of morality - namely, that it explains what men ought to do within the context of other men, which presupposes a careful analysis of what man is in a social context.

I will illustrate this method with Bill's question on the objective morality of raping a young child without its basis in God. How does the nonbeliever ascertain that one ought not to rape a young child objectively? Looking at the nature of a young child, we realize he or she is incapable of choosing a proper course of action in the context of the mature and delicate subject of sex. This implies that one ought not to choose to rape a child – as objectively as the nature of a tornado implies the destructive effect of a human choosing to stand in his yard and let it roll over him, when he ought to be seeking shelter.

This neither affirms nor denies the possibility of a God who created men with this identity. But if we agree with Bill's first premise, we drop any reference to the individual within our moral question, leaving the idea of horrors such as rape to essentially stating, “it ultimately doesn't matter at all what a young child is, only that God said it was wrong.”This is dangerous, dangerous thinking! Men in society must act in accordance with the nature of his fellow-men, and his reason for doing so is his recognition that he is himself possessing human nature, as well.

Recalling the words of Christ, "Do unto others - as you would have them do unto you." Whether we do this because we are made in the image of God or because this is simply the most succinct statement describing both how men are and how men ought to act in a social context is a separate question. Bill's question about why we should not live solely in self-indulgence and irrational selfishness thus fails to recognize that those who choose to live in society must act according to how other men are!

Therefore, the fact of the objectivity of moral values is rooted in man, and the precedent question of whether or not man was created by God does not take away from the fact that man has a nature, and that we all may know how we ought to act from the way that man is.

Bill then continues to argue that my position leaves important questions about the meaning of life unaddressed. But his conclusion - that agnosticism is therefore untenable - doesn't follow from his points. As we have seen, there is a grounding of objectivity for moral values that is independent of whether or not God exists. Furthermore, if atheism is true, Bill's depressing existential remarks drop important essentials from the debate.

For instance, he defines man as "a briefly existent species of primate lost on an infinitesimal speck of solar dust, and destined only for inevitable destruction in the heat death of the universe." So much for Aristotle's definition that man is a rational social animal. Why completely drop the context of how men live their lives? Why focus on our relation to the Universe? He asserts that there is no "ultimate meaning" to the Universe in general and to mankind in specific. Remember, folks, meaning presupposes someone who can assess value, and if God does not exist, the question becomes "ultimately meaningless" to whom? If atheism is true, none of us are going to awaken billions of years from now and say, "Woah! How terrible it is that everything is in heat death!" It would be similar to my saying, "to Bill, man is nothing more than a creation of God who compared with His eternality is nothing but a grain of sand, and who compared with His Omnipotence, is as powerful and useful as a mere rat in a cage." Bill and I would probably agree that this is not the essential Christian view of mankind, even though the statements I made are true. His existential charge thus not only has no referent, but also defines men in an improper way, and therefore fails to establish his upsetting presentation of a nonbelieving worldview.

Bill argues that God is perhaps a basic belief, and illustrates some other examples of basic beliefs that we all hold. Curiously, I can establish such things as the existence of an external world through establishing axioms, or statements that must be used in any attempt to refute them. The classical Greek laws of logic and their application to reality are other examples of axioms in knowledge. So the question of whether God is a basic belief or not reduces to the question of either the existence of a rational proof for God or the question of whether or not God's existence is an axiom.

Therefore, I have seen no reason to believe that my agnostic self-evaluation is untenable to hold, nor can I see how the Moral Argument that Dr. Craig presents establishes the existence of God. With this discussion out of the way, we will move to Dr. Craig's other arguments.

Another argument Bill has proposed this evening is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. While logically sound, both of Bill's premises face troubles.

His first premise, "everything that begins to exist has a cause," is stated by Bill in his book "Reasonable Faith" to be "rooted in metaphysical intuition." Bill often uses the example of the silliness of tigers springing into existence uncaused out of nothing in our living rooms to illustrate this intuition.

But is this intuition really an intuition? Unfortunately, it is not. When we witness empirically something beginning to exist, what we witness is the result of two or more things interacting and producing what begins to exist. This is what we mean by an "action," or a "cause." The cause is interaction of things in reality (the mating of an adult male and adult female and the resulting pregnancy, for instance) and the effect is what begins to exist by virtue of the natures of what participated (the sperm from the male and the egg in the female leading to a baby tiger beginning to exist). We see, then, that Bill's intuition is perhaps based on our empirical evidence for what a cause is in reality.

Bill may appeal to intuition to avoid this very point - if something begins to exist, its cause is the rearrangement of previous things in a way entailed by their respective natures, and that brings into question the unique case of how God could have caused the Universe to begin to exist.

If we bank on how causes work within the universe that we witness, then the question of where God obtained the material for His creation is immediately raised. If it was external to Himself, something existed apart from God and thus the Universe did not begin to exist. If it was part of Himself, then this entails pantheism, a type of theism incompatible with how Craig defined God in this debate. And if Bill wishes to argue that this cause is different in nature than the one I illustrated, then, as Dr. Wes Morriston correctly points out, examining the cause for the Universe is a unique question fundamentally different than examining the causes for things beginning to exist within the Universe. This leaves Bill with a charge of the fallacy of Special Pleading, unless a rational explanation of this unique cause of creation out of nothing can be established. Even in this case, it is Bill - and not the nonbeliever - that ought to worry about things popping to existence out of nothing, since in his worldview a God always exists around the corner who can do just that!

In defense of his second premise, Bill offers the absurdity of an actual infinite as his philosophical justification and the evidence of cosmology for an absolute beginning as scientific justification. But regarding an actual infinite, Bill's own theory of time destroys his example. Bill is an A-time theorist, which, in his own words, asserts that “the future does not yet exist and the past no longer exists; only things which are present are real.” Therefore, even if we presuppose an actual infinite history of events in the universe, that history cannot be actually infinite in metaphysics, since his theory of time states that historical events are not real. Thus, we do not have any infinite set of customers to give us the troubles Bill raises with Hilbert's Hotel - there is only the finite set of action that exists presently. And if Bill asserts that it is true that an actual infinite set of events has happened, under his theory of time it is no different than the actual infinite set of events that will happen. All we have is the present, and, metaphysically speaking, the past no longer exists anywhere but in our memories.

What about the notion that the present is formed by the series of past events? Bill may very well argue tonight (as he does similarly in Reasonable Faith) that even though the past no longer is real, the present still depends upon it. How can we form this infinitely sized history that led up to this point? The question is simply mistaken - to "form" is to begin with an empty set and add elements one by one, the same way as one forms a bucket of apples by bringing an empty container and picking them one by one from an orchard. However, this presupposes that we start with nothing at all and add events one by one - which assumes a beginning point in time and begs the question in favor of his premise. Starting with the "event just before now" and attempting to back-build an infinite past is wrong-headed, since it goes against the stream of order of how those events precede. Thus, the present is simply preceded by the past as it is proceeded by the future, and the present is a brute fact; nothing in Bill's counterexamples either tonight or in his literature invalidate this hypothesis.

What about the scientific evidence for a beginning? If we reverse the arrow of time and consider the very early states of the Universe, we will see a system that is much smaller, denser, and hotter than our current state of affairs, as the Second Law implies. These quantities sharpen indefinitely the further we march backward. Even before the formation of matter as we know it, energy transfers between separate areas of the universe were occurring at a much higher rate than today. This means that events were occurring at a much quicker rate in the distant past than the rate at which they occur now. It is possible, then, that even under the assumption of an infinite event history, we may reach the illusion that the universe began to exist if we apply a constant rate of time to it. After all, in the early state, a second in our universe describes a monumental amount of important events that fundamentally changed the universe, whereas a second today would mark relatively little change in the nature of the universe. Under this assumption, we can even concretely demonstrate - using everyone's favorite nightmare, Calculus - that summing up these infinite events in relation to their vastly different rates throughout history can lead to a finite number that we know as the "age" of the universe. But since our units of time do not adequately describe the different state of affairs back then, such an analysis may be wrongheaded.

Bill then illustrates the fine-tuning of the Universe as a product of a designer. But even though Bill's statements demonstrate an apparently miniature value for these constants, he has not demonstrated the range that these constants could have been. Perhaps the rate of expansion could have only differed by a range of values in which life could have arisen in each possible case - the numbers may be small, but without justification for what the values could have been. Bill has not demonstrated these ranges tonight, and his analysis may end up being nothing more than a misapplication of the physical units involved in the constants. As the philosopher Neil Manson says (as quoted by Dr. Stenger in God: The Failed Hypothesis), "if he had been one part in 10^16 of a light year shorter, Michael Jordan wouldn't have been the world's greatest basketball player."

We have granted that God can do this tweaking of constants in the first place - but if, as Bill says, the constants are independent of the physical content of the universe, then in any possible universe they are the same - making them as immutable as 1+1=2! Changing the constants would be as logically impossible as drawing a square circle in this consideration. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, even if God exists and Created, he may have not had much choice in how His creation turned out.

Having answered his Moral Argument in my case for agnosticism above, let's turn to his arguments for the Resurrection.

Now, I admit that I have not yet properly analyzed the vast scholarship surrounding the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, so my words on the Resurrection will not do the argument justice. But the most powerful stance against the Resurrection at this point is based on both my counterarguments for Bill's previous arguments and for my own case for agnosticism. If atheism is true, then without God, there can be no Resurrection!

But suppose Bill was correct and an empty tomb was discovered by women followers. Certainly, Christ would have been buried due to Jewish beliefs about the unburied victims otherwise defiling the land, but since the Sanhedrin feverishly regarded Jesus as heretical, they would have preferred a burial more dishonorable than that provided by Joseph's own fresh, unused tomb. Perhaps the Sanhedrin moved the body to a common grave after Joseph took Christ to his tomb, and when they finally caught wind that his followers assumed Jesus resurrected from the dead, it was far too late to point them toward a corpse that could be discerned in the common grave.

After this removal, the disciples, being bereaved of the loss of their leader, had dreams of Him and perhaps even saw His likeness in others they encountered and only recognized it later, as Luke 24:16 implies (and as many bereaved people do). Saul, a deeply religious and broadly educated Jew from Tarsus - the Beverly Hills, 90210 of the ancient New Testament world - would have likely known about this belief in the Resurrection among the small Christian cult he was instructed to persecute. Perhaps due to his psychological troubles arising from brutal treatment of this small sect, Saul had a vision of Christ on the way to Damascus and, as Paul, greatly aided the spread of Early Christianity due to his prominence as an educated man from Tarsus.

To address Bill's next fact, would His disciples have every predisposition to believe against a Resurrection according to their Jewish beliefs? Perhaps the average Jew at the time would, but these men follow Him – one who was judged a heretic by the leading Jews at the time - so perhaps their beliefs weren't as airtight as the rest of the Jewish community after all.

Many other naturalistic explanations could explain what Bill has given us, and even keep the integrity of the early believers and the grain of history in the New Testament stories respectfully intact. Christ may or may not be Risen, but Bill and I can agree on the need for at least honoring the historical basis of a great figure that ultimately received the shortest - and worst - end of the stick.

Bill's final argument is, as he stated, not necessarily an argument in and of itself. Since this relates to Bill's own personal testimony in his faith, and not to the debate at hand, I won't dedicate too long of a speech against it out of respect for the spirit (no pun intended!) of the statements he's made here. Bill is stating that if one opens up to the question of God's existence, then one will feel the drawing of God. But if one assumes one has what they call such an experience, then without other independent evidence, one would commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent in concluding that God thus necessarily exists.

In conclusion, I have justified the tenability of my agnosticism, presented refutations to Bill's five-point case for Christian theism, and have recognized places in Bill's case that entail further deep study. Wherever I fall from my current perch on the fence, I will always remain thankful to Bill for sticking to the arguments and I wish him well in his own intellectual growth as he defends his faith.

20 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

One thing I'd have to say Darrin, is that when debating you do so in front of a live audience. As such you must keep it as simple as you can without sacificing substance. I fear that most members in the audience wouldn't be able to follow that much of it. You make some good points though.

Tyro said...

Darrin,

My first pass was quite detailed but before posting I checked for new comments and saw John's short and direct comment and I blushed. I pulled my zingy comments poking fun at your ridiculously convoluted sentences and baroque phrasing. I should emphasize what an absolute killer it is, though. Even if you had the lung-power to read some of your 300 word sentences, no one will follow you and no one will care to try. You must make it more approachable!

For instance, instead of "Things that exist in reality have an identity, and when one such identity interacts with another, a result consistently following from these two identities brings into being the entailed rearrangement" can you say "When two things interact, they create a new arrangement"? That's 30 dense, convoluted words down to 9 simple, straight-forward ones without altering the content.

You need to do this to the entire piece or it won't matter how good your points are, no one will care.



But on the arguments...

"Certainly, everything that begins to exist has a cause, but we are left scratching our heads wondering how Bill's presentation backs up this notion".

I don't get this. First, I vehemently disagree with what you say but I also don't understand why you said it. Who cares if Craig didn't present a good argument if you acknowledge his conclusions are valid? It strikes me as petty nitpicking and ends up supporting his conclusions. If this isn't your intent, I'd like to see this made much clearer. I also would like that "Certainly" gone - there's absolutely nothing certain about it. In our world, there are extremely few things which truly "begin to exist" and all evidence points to the being uncaused. You can try to rally a counter-argument but understand you aren't going against a philosophy position but lots of hard evidence and some well-established physical theories.


"For instance, bringing a glass of water into sufficiently cold air eventually causes ice to come into being".

When people talk about things "coming into being", they aren't talking about phase transitions or re-arrangements of existing matter, they're asking why there's something instead of nothing. When ice forms, nothing is coming into being. Maybe some academic cares but I guarantee that no one in the audience has ever thought that freezing water required a God and I doubt many would even think that the "beginning" of ice and water would be different. I don't know what you're talking about or why you're wasting your time with this since it doesn't seem to have any bearing on the origin of matter nor the existence of God.

If Craig is really talking about phase transitions, I think it would be far better to spend a couple sentences on it and dismiss it with a joke. "Bill says that everything which begins to exist must have a cause but he only deals with transitions like ice 'beginning'. That would get you a gold star one thousand years ago but we all know now that ice is just crystalized water. If that's all he's got, I suggest we go over to Baskin-Robbins and observe the miracle of creation in a cone of Rocky Road. Moving on..."

which implies that near the Big Bang, events were occurring at a much higher rate than they occur today.

Thermodynamics says nothing about the rate of events and further you're mistaken in assuming that the amount of matter we observe today is a constant. It isn't. Matter arose after the BB during the inflationary period which means that the nearby matter available for interaction was very low leading to the so-called "Flatness" Problem.


Moreover, the effect of this timeless, spaceless state must logically bring time and space into being, for this singularity has no space nor no timeframe with which to define an effect otherwise.

If there's one thing that QM has taught us, it's that logic doesn't bring anything into existence and that what we think of as "logic" when applied to the real world is actually just "intuition" and is a terrible guide. No physicist or cosmologist will ever talk about what should "logically" happen since they know logic doesn't mean diddly squat. "Logically" none of QM should exist. Worse there are absolutely no theories which describe the behaviour of "nothing".


"Bill then illustrates the fine-tuning of the Universe as a product of a designer. This is not logically conclusive, however, since it shows that a designer at most probably exists."

So God just probably exists? Hand Craig the plaque, he won, let's all go home. If that's not what you meant, can you rephrase it?



I did notice one final, general thing. One of the greatest things about going into debates as an atheist or agnostic (or better still, as a scientist) is that you have facts on your side. We have reams of history, we have psychology, we have physics and cosmology. And yet you don't seem to make any use of this instead try to make this some sort of philosophical grudge match which strikes me as counterproductive. I think theology is weak because it's distanced from reality, concerned with finding nice-sounding reasons to confirm a pre-determined conclusion. I feel that trying to rebut this with another bag of nice-sounding philosophical ideas makes it sound very postmodern, leaving the audience to conclude that both sides are essentially identical and it makes no difference which one you pick. I don't think you've done anything to show any substantial difference between your position and Craig's. Neither of you seem to care about evidence or in actually looking at the real world to see what's really going on. It feels like a debate about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin rather than about whether angels exist.

dvd said...

Darrin,

There is a video fo Craig critiques Agnosticism, I do believe it is from a debate.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqnq_DnuW6w&feature=channel_page

And there is audio of the Debate between Draper and Craig, where Draper said the arguments Craig puts forward are really good (I'm paraphrasing), but that the other side can put forth really good arguments as well.

I believe Draper was an Agnostic.

Now, it is also interesting to see an unbiased philosopher as noted, as Draper admitting that Craig had good arguments while on the net all the Keyboard Warriors who attack Craig say he has no arguments!

At any rate, anything could be possible and maybe one day you might debate Craig! But it might only occur in a nightmare:) jk.

PeterB said...

You can argue against the need for a creator of the universe, but even if there is one, who is to say that it is the god of the bible? Seems to me that's the biggest fallacy of that theist argument: "There must be a creator (because of arguable circumstances), and therefore, IT'S THE GOD OF THE BIBLE!"
No matter whether anybody can "prove" or not the existence of some super-human being, there's absolutely no connection to any religion except that people want it to be so.

exapologist said...

Hi DVD,

Did you really find Craig's remarks on agnosticism persuasive? So, for example, is it really true that agnosticism requires thinking the evidence is perfectly counterbalanced? Agnosticism of the relevant sort here is the state of neither believing nor disbelieving. But to believe that P, it's not sufficient to have just a smidge more evidence for P than ~P. I think Plantinga makes this point well in his Warranted Christian Belief, in his critique of Swinburne's case for theism. There, he points out that even if you believe that P is somewhat more probable than ~P, that's not sufficient to believe that P. Here are his remarks on p. 274 of WCB:

"But if my only ground for Christian teaching is its probability with respect to K [i.e., its probability on some set of evidence. EA], and all I know about that probability is that it is greater than .5, then I can't rationally believe that teaching. Suppose I know that the coin you are about to toss is loaded. I don't know just how heavily it is loaded, so I don't know what the probability is that it will come up heads, but I do know that this probability is greater than .5. Under those conditions I do not believe that the next toss of the coin will come up heads. (Of course, I also don't believe that it will come up tails; and I suspect that it will come up heads.) All I know is that it is more likely than not to come up heads; and that's not sufficient for my sensibly believing that it will. The same goes in this case: if what I know is only that the probability of Christian belief (with respect to K) is greater than .5, I can't sensibly believe it."

This seems right to me. If the weatherman says there's a 51% chance of rain, I don't have sufficient reason to believe it'll rain. Or so it seems to me, anyway. So it seems to me that Plantinga is right and Craig is wrong on this point.

Darrin said...

True guys, thanks for the suggestions! I will edit this post accordingly for a bit more clarity and scientific correctness.

D.

Kevin H said...

This empirical justification for our intuition and proper definition for causation stands in opposition to, as Dr. Wes Morriston puts it, the unique case of the Universe. For, if we assume the case that a Creator God exists sans the Universe, then to remain consistent with our “intuitive” notion of causation, the Creator must have used external metaphysical existents to create, countering the fact that the Universe began to exist, or He must have Created from Himself, entailing Pantheism and thus a God not entailed by Bill's definition for this debate, or the cause must fundamentally differ in nature from every single proceeding cause within the Universe, making Bill's argument fail on the fallacy of Special Pleading.

This portion brings up the three options available on theism: Creatio ex Deo, Creatio ex Materia, and Creatio ex Nihilo.

The first two are too problematic (no existing matter with which to create existing matter, and that God does not have "parts with which he can part").

Therefore, we default to Creatio ex Nihilo despite the difficulty of comprehending it.

I don't think this is Special Pleading. I think Bill would argue that, by conceptual analysis, there are only two things we know of that are timeless, spaceless, and immaterial: Abstract Objects and Minds. But abstract objects don't stand in causal relations with anything. Therefore, something of the order of Mind is entailed.

Premise #1 is a metaphysical (not just a physical) principle. So our intuitions extend to the first cause as well as observable or empirical cause and effect.

I enjoy the way you write. As pointed out, it would be hard to follow before a live audience. I think you should engage in a written debate.

Darrin said...

Thanks for the comments, Kevin!

I have revised my statement to include an answer to the link to Bill's case against agnosticism, and I have trimmed some of the gross fat in my rough draft as Tyro and John suggested. I've also adjusted my reasoning for the Special Pleading charge, so I hope this addresses Kevin's concerns, as well.

dvd said...

exapologist

You made a good point, I would have to think about it more. I know there are a few items I disagree with Craig on.

thanks for your thoughts though.

Chuck said...

Kevin,

We don't know that Mind is timeless because we don't know if Minds even exist. Ask a neuroscientist and she will tell you that what you think of as Mind is all in your head.

Kevin H said...

We don't know that Mind is timeless because we don't know if Minds even exist. Ask a neuroscientist and she will tell you that what you think of as Mind is all in your head.

Like Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles? He would disagree with you. As would many others in the field who hold to various dualisms.

Tyro said...

Like Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles? He would disagree with you. As would many others in the field who hold to various dualisms.

Hmm... Right. You'll pardon me but I'm only willing to accept him as an expert if he bases his decision on evidence rather than some religious principle. Considering his background, I highly doubt that. He holds to the idea of a spirit as a matter of faith, a conclusion he decided well in advance of any consideration of the evidence. He was even criticized by his collegues for ignoring evidence in order to prop up his faith-based positions. It seems that even successful scientists can hold some whacky ideas.

If you wish to make this kind of argument, make sure the conclusions are evidence-based and make sure that it represents some sort of consensus and isn't one or two lone voices, no matter how prestigious in other spheres.

Scott said...

Kevin wrote:Like Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles? He would disagree with you. As would many others in the field who hold to various dualisms.

I think Tyro's comment regarding quantum mechanics applies here as well.

We've only scratched the surface of the vast amount of observable activity in the brain. This essentially leaves us with intuition, which has an extremely poor track record in the past.

Obviously, we interpret our thoughts as being immaterial. But we also interpret objects as being solid, despite being over 99% empty space, and perceive pain as occurring specific locations of our body, which is actually an illusion created by our brain.

Should we perceive of our thoughts as being material, like a book or an atom, they could be observed or viewed by anyone with the equipment. This would undermine our perception of having identity. But if we are going to perceive ourselves as having identity, then we must perceive our thoughts as being non-material.

Just as our perception of pain is an illusion, so could the non-material aspect of our thoughts.

Until a more comprehensive study can be made of what we can observe, suggesting some unobservable force seems premature.

Kevin H said...

Hmm... Right. You'll pardon me but I'm only willing to accept him as an expert if he bases his decision on evidence rather than some religious principle. Considering his background, I highly doubt that.

But he just asked for someone in the neurosciences. I gave him a Noble Prize winning one.

Mind/Body Dualism is a huge field expanding rapidly. I, for one, am convinced that Substance Dualism is correct. There are just too many things that Physicalism and various reductionisms cannot account for.

Tyro said...

I gave him a Noble Prize winning one.

True enough and no doubt the dualists are happy to have this feather in their cap (and nicely dead so no chance of him changing views with new evidence). Still, the point wasn't to find one dualist but to look at the field as a whole.

There are just too many things that Physicalism and various reductionisms cannot account for.

Well, since you aren't even going to try to make it appear as anything other than an argument from personal incredulity or ignorance, I don't suppose there's much to be said. No doubt the new wave of Creationist rhetoric will appeal to you - dualism is the new intelligent design.

Kevin H said...

Well, since you aren't even going to try to make it appear as anything other than an argument from personal incredulity or ignorance, I don't suppose there's much to be said. No doubt the new wave of Creationist rhetoric will appeal to you - dualism is the new intelligent design.

Let's be clear. Are you saying that Dualism has waned as a study since DesCartes? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is still a rigorous philosophical study.

However, I do think you may have a point about it being "the new intelligent design". I know some Christian philosophers who think that Dualism will be the most studied evidence for God, at least in the near future.

Tyro said...

Kevin,

Let's be clear. Are you saying that Dualism has waned as a study since DesCartes? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is still a rigorous philosophical study.

I don't think it has ever been a field of study, not now not ever. You call it a "philosophical study" which sounds like a code-word for "unsubstantiated", "unsupported", and even "faith-based". Give me some evidence in support of dualism - heck give me a proper theory of dualism - and I'll listen. As far as I know, dualism has never been more than an argument from ignorance and personal incredulity, mixed with some theology. How can this be called "rigorous" is beyond me, even in such a weak field as philosophy.

However, I do think you may have a point about it being "the new intelligent design". I know some Christian philosophers who think that Dualism will be the most studied evidence for God, at least in the near future.

Right, well again calling it "evidence" is gallows humour since the distinguishing feature of theology in general and dualism in particular is the total absence of evidence. I think it will be the new Creationism not because of some renaissance or new evidence but because all other attempts to force Creationism into schools and popular culture have failed and the mind is still a subject of ignorance (and unlikely to be clarified any time soon). In the past ID and Creationism have failed because they attacked a well-developed scientific discipline head-on, imagining that faith and lies could sufficiently undermine it. Now they're tackling the mind and while the mind arising entirely from the brain is consistent with all evidence, we don't yet know how it happens and they're determined to shove God into this crack.

That's why the Discovery Institute's bonny boy isn't the discredited Dembski or Behe but the quack neurosurgeon Michael Egnor.

Matthew said...

"Many other naturalistic explanations could explain what Bill has given us, and even keep the integrity of the early believers and the grain of history in the New Testament stories respectfully intact."

Too bad that you need a different one for each of Craig's facts and all of them are wacky.

Darrin said...

>>Matthew

Yep. I have to say the Resurrection is the one I'm least equipped to handle, as the scholarship probably outweighs all the other four points of his combined. I've read some not-so-silly refutations, but they're few and far between. As Craig himself expressed in his response to me a few months ago on RF, the best job an atheist could do in dismissing the Resurrection is undercutting the parent case for the existence of God.

Tyro said...

As Craig himself expressed in his response to me a few months ago on RF, the best job an atheist could do in dismissing the Resurrection is undercutting the parent case for the existence of God.

You can't seriously buy that, can you? The entire story of the resurrection is redolent with fiction, from the setup of releasing a criminal (which never happened), to burying Jesus in a private tomb (where criminals were buried in a common grave), to the women finding him (echoing the rhetorical device used throughout, that the disciples or followers wouldn't understand Jesus's teachings), not to mention the wild inconsistencies. As if that wasn't enough, you've got to be steeped in the special pleading of theology to not see that a story of a man rising from the dead can be dismissed with a laugh just as Christian apologists dismiss the countless other miracle stories from other religions.

Just because Craig says that his case cannot be refuted doesn't mean you should believe him!

I really don't understand what could make you say something like this.