The Case For "The Case Against The Case For Christ"

Bob Price's new book The Case Against The Case For Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel, incinerates Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ, along with the evangelical apologists he interviews, including Craig L. Blomberg, Gregory Boyd, Ben Witherington III, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, J.P. Moreland, and others. However, I doubt many of the people who read Strobel's book will read Price's book, not the least of which because understanding Price might demand a better understanding of the issues than the cream puff book Strobel wrote for the average person in the pew, but also because Price seems so disgusted with evangelical apologists at this point in his career he can't hide it.

But that doesn't bother Bob, since by now he knows they aren't listening anyway, like the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys, except that only the middle monkey is left who "hears no evil," which is the so-called "evil" coming from skeptics like him. It seems to me he's given up trying to reach across the divide, at least in this book anyway. He's made all of these arguments before ad nauseam and yet these apologists keep on down the road just like the Emperor who had no clothes on, willingly ignorant that they are naked. So why bother trying again? They haven't listened, really listened, to what he's repeatedly said before anyway.

Bob is preaching to the choir for the most part, or at least people willing to learn. But what a wonderful sermon it is! It'll make you laugh as well as think, which is what a good sermon ought to do. Too bad these apologists can only make us laugh--at themselves. Price makes the case against Strobel's case in such a convincing manner that these apologists must be willfully ignorant. Bob repeatedly makes the distinction between historians and apologists. A historian wants to know what happened. The apologist doesn't care what happened. He only wants to defend the Holy Book at all costs, even if it means he must sacrifice his intellect to do so.

That's exactly what readers of Strobel's book must do to accept it, for while Strobel acts like he's setting out to test the "claims of Christ," he does no such thing. Strobel is being disingenuous, Price tells us, because "his true intention becomes clear by the choice of people he interviewed: every one of them a conservative apologist!" So Strobel is not uncovering facts as a reporter would do. No, he's "soliciting opinions he already wants to promote. The irony is that, if anyone in Jesus' day had actually done what Strobel claims to be doing, seeking out informed authorities to interview, there would be no need for such exercises in apologetical futility." (p. 12)

While Bob devastates their arguments one by one, the humorous way he does so became of great interest to me as I read more and more of his book. Someone ought to come up with a collection of his wise and witty sayings.

I highly recommend this book for people on both sides who are interested in learning the truth. It's not for those who can only proof-text from the Bible as paid apologists for Campus Crusade for Christ. You cannot force a horse to drink even if you drag him to the water, so why bother dragging him there?

Just listen to these gems from Bob:

D.A. Carson attempted to exonerate Jesus for not speaking against slavery since he came instead to free people from sin, which would eventually overturn slavery. Of this apologist perspective Price wrote:
How can these Christians live with themselves? They love to take credit for Wilberforce doing what Jesus should have done but didn't do, as if one was the same as the other. Jesus left his church to put two and two together; soon enough they'd realize they had to do something about slavery--and they did! A mere eighteen centuries later, Hallelujah!" (.p. 192)
When disputing the apologetic claim that Psalms 16:8-11 is about the Messiah, Price argues as follows:
"The whole thing is a prayer not to be left to die. Go ahead; show me the Messiah in this text." (p, 202).
Concerning the resurrection of Jesus, Price argues that apologists like William Lane Craig have merely claimed that
"...their version of the resurrection was the most compatible with accepting all the details of the gospel Easter narratives as true and non-negotiable...[I]t is implicitly an argument among biblical inerrantists in which defenders of the resurrection assume that their opponents agree with them that all the details are true, that only the punch line is in question...This is why, if apologists like William Lane Craig can get an opponent as far as admitting that Joseph of Arimathea probably did have Jesus interred in his own tomb, and if the women did probably visit the tomb, and that the tomb was probably found to be empty, he can press on to the conclusion that Bingo! Jesus must have risen from the dead! What they somehow do not see is that to argue thus is like arguing that the Emerald City of Oz must actually exist since, otherwise, where would the Yellow Brick Road lead? (p. 209).
This is a fine book and I recommend it very highly. I could only wish Christian apologists didn't have their fingers in their ears, but they do.

186 comments:

Cole said...

Wow! Looks interesting. I think I'll get me a copy when I get my check.

Eric said...

"Bob repeatedly makes the distinction between historians and apologists. A historian wants to know what happened. The apologist doesn't care what happened."

What category does Price belong in?

John W. Loftus said...

Read the book Eric. It's clear to me that as a former apologist himself he wanted the gospel to be true. But as a historian with the proper tools of a historian he could no longer defend the indefensible.

ThatAtheistChick said...

I'll definitely be looking for this one the next time I go to Borders. ^__^

x said...

This guy wrote a similar thing awhile ago.

http://www.bidstrup.com/apologetics.htm

Eric said...

"Read the book Eric."

I plan to, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. It sounds very interesting, and I actually like Price. I may disagree with him, but I always learn something from him (the man is a walking encyclopedia!).

"It's clear to me that as a former apologist himself he wanted the gospel to be true. But as a historian with the proper tools of a historian he could no longer defend the indefensible."

That's probably true, but my point in asking the question is that atheists and skeptics too often ignore the fact that they too are influenced by factors that are not exactly consonant with "simply wanting to know what happened."

While we can all poke fun at the contrast between the title and the content of Strobel's book(s), it's true, as far as I know, that Strobel accurately represents the views of the scholars he interviews. And, in most cases, those scholars are far more distinguished for their purely scholarly output than Dr. Price is. I say that not to make an argument from authority, but to point out the, well, the general silliness of suggesting a "Bob Price: disinterested scholar who only wants to know what happened/Bruce Metzger: delusional pseudo-scholar who only wants to defend his holy book." I mean, just ask one of your admitted heroes, Bart Ehrman, whether Price is even one tenth of the scholar Metzger was. (In his interview with the Infidel Guy, Ehrman can hardly even remember who Price is, and clearly doesn't take him too seriously as a scholar.)

So again, my only point is that the dichotomy Price sets up leads to some frankly laughable conclusions.

otchbflkpo said...

Will this book be called a flea? I think some will.

Eric said...

Harry, paradoxes aren't my area of specialization, so the best way for me to show how we learn a heck of a lot from paradoxes would be to refer you to specific example.

Take Russell's paradox and the contributions exploration of its intricacies has made to set theory and to our studies of formal systems.

Or take Hempel's paradox, and all we've learned about induction by working out its implications.

Or look at the contributions of Fitch's paradox to epistemology.

Or look at the contributions Simpson's paradox has made to our understanding of probability.

The basic idea is this: a particular paradox presents us with a puzzle, and as we work our way through the puzzle rigorously, examining the logic and assumptions carefully, we gain insights into the areas touched by the paradox. That's what happened with set theory, induction, epistemology and probability in the examples I referred to above. But, as I said, this isn't my field, so I can't do much more than refer you to specific examples I've encountered.

Eric said...

John, never mind that last post about paradoxes -- it was meant for another blog! Sorry! (That's what I get for having too many pages up at once...)

Ken Pulliam said...

You gotta love Bob Price! His sense of humor, his sacrasm, and his straight-shooting makes his books and his speeches fun. BTW, he is debating the arrogant and diploma-mill educated "Dr." James Whitetomorrow night in Florida. It should be interesting.

Zachary Kroger said...

Looks good. Why is it not available on amazon though?

Chuck O'Connor said...

I've become a big Bob Price fan with the Christian Delusion and his work on Point of Inquiry.

x said...

@eric
"That's probably true, but my point in asking the question is that atheists and skeptics too often ignore the fact that they too are influenced by factors that are not exactly consonant with "simply wanting to know what happened."

Can you explain this Eric? What are these other factors?

Mark said...

Check out my Blog post: "Why are Atheists so angry?" http://bit.ly/a1kher Let me know what you think! Don't feel you need to be gentle!

Andrew Harrison said...

Upon my first visit to www.opposingviews.com and first exposure to Mr. John Loftus, I am happy, even after reading his review, to give the website (but perhaps not Mr. Loftus) the benefit of the doubt regarding the site’s average quality of content.

The above review contributes nothing more than uninhibited genuflection to Bob Price and a few slapdash potshots at, well, *all* Christians. Because of my unfamiliarity with Mr. Loftus, I jumped over to this blog "Debunking Christianity." It was a little amusing to find a recent post by Mr. Loftus entitled "How To Properly Review a Book: A Guide for Bloggers." He opens this putative primer:
"Let me offer some advice on how to properly review an
argumentative type book on your blogs and/or on Amazon.
It's annoying that so many people don't know how to do it
right."

Well. His highfalutin book reviews notwithstanding, a few thoughts:

My chief objection to Mr. Loftus' review is his persistent insistence that anyone who defends the Christian world view is either intellectually dishonest, or simply stupid and worthy of his opponent’s “laughter.” Typical Christians he refers to as “average peons in the pew.” Christian apologists, Loftus goes as far as to attack them as “willingly ignorant,” with “fingers in their ears,” and delivering “cream puff” arguments. Language loaded with such intellectual arrogance and haughty derision of another’s point-of-view is unfortunate. There is nothing at all wrong, of course, with disagreeing with the Christian world view, not even with believing your opinion is a slam dunk! But among the atheist and anti-Christian community, it has become increasingly common to abandon the arguments themselves in favor of ad hoc attacks on their opponents. Mr. Loftus serves as no exception to this trend. And in the presence of such vitriol, one might doubt Loftus’ report that Price’s book “devastates their [Christian apologists’] arguments one by one.”

I encourage Mr. Loftus to drop his emotional rhetoric, and to reengage with the arguments. He might find, as I do, that today’s Christian apologists are packing more intellectual punch than many might currently suppose.

Arizona Atheist said...

This looks like a very good book. I just ordered my copy and I can't wait to get it! I'd also recommend Earl Doherty's book titled Challenging the Verdict about the same book by Strobel.

To Harrison:

I'm curious which arguments you think have so much "intellectual punch" to them, because I've yet to come across any argument from any apologist that wasn't at least partially - if not entirely - inaccurate, or contradicted the known facts. I'd also like to defend Loftus and other atheists by saying that we have written much in explaining precisely why we feel as we do and these expressions of "emotional rhetoric" are backed up with facts if one wants to take the time to read our blogs and books on these subjects.

shane said...

Andrew Harrison.

Christian apologists today may be very intellectual people and may deserve some recognition, but that doesn't change the fact that they are using their intelligence (or abandoning it) to defend very old, poorly evidenced, and superstitious belief's.
The reason apologists defend such irrational concepts, is do to their own personnal convictions no matter how much they may miss the mark of reality!

Dont you realize that many highly intelligent scientists believe in and have gone in search of big foot, Lochness monster, and ghosts?
That doesn't mean those things exist!!!!

Eric said...

"I'm curious which arguments you think have so much "intellectual punch" to them, because I've yet to come across any argument from any apologist that wasn't at least partially - if not entirely - inaccurate, or contradicted the known facts."

Hi Arizona Atheist

I'm not speaking for Andrew Harrison, but I think think your request raises some interesting issues I'd like to address.

Whenever I hear an atheist or a skeptic talk about the general weakness of theistic arguments, I wonder what sort of standard for evaluating such arguments he has in mind. This brings up a few points:

(1) While there are general criteria we can use to evaluate any argument -- e.g. is it logical? are the premises true? are its terms clear? etc. -- it's also the case that certain kinds of arguments can be properly subjected to criteria that others cannot, e.g. while scientific arguments must be testable, arguments in pure mathematics do not have to be (and, given the nature of pure mathematics, cannot be; keep in mind I'm talking about pure mathematics here, and not to any application others, such as physicists or engineers, may make of purely mathematical arguments).

(2) Theistic arguments are almost always philosophical arguments. They may make use of scientific or historical data, but they're almost never scientific or historical arguments (two obvious exceptions would be, say, the pseudo-scientific arguments of ID advocates, or the quasi-historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus; but these are exceptions that prove the rule).

(3) Since most theistic arguments are philosophical, they should be evaluated as philosophical arguments. Too often atheists and skeptics commit the category error of applying, say, scientific criteria to philosophical arguments.

(4) Once we understand the type of argument we're dealing with (e.g. broadly philosophical, broadly scientific, broadly historical, broadly mathematical, etc.), we can evaluate its relative strength or weakness by comparing it with other arguments of the same type. Hence, since theistic arguments are generally philosophical arguments, they're best compared with other philosophical arguments.

So, after that ground-clearing work is done, I'm going to respond to your request with a question. In doing so, I must first say that while I'm not a big fan of the Kalam cosmological argument, I think it's a great argument to use for the point I'm trying to make here, so I'm going to present it as an example of a theistic argument with "intellectual punch." We all know the argument:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now the argument is uncontroversially logically valid:

(x)(Sx --> Px)
(x)(Yx --> Sx)
---------------
(x)(Yx --> Px)

so the only issue is whether we accept the premises.

So, here's my question: Can you name a logically valid philosophical argument *that reaches a substantial conclusion* that makes the Kalam cosmological argument look weak by comparison i.e. can you name a logically valid philosophical argument that reaches a substantial conclusion with premises that are more plausibly true than the premises of the Kalam cosmological argument?

I've presented this challenge to many atheists and skeptics who have made claims similar to yours about the weakness of theistic arguments and I've never received a straightforward response.

Steven Carr said...

HARRISON
But among the atheist and anti-Christian community, it has become increasingly common to abandon the arguments themselves in favor of ad hoc attacks on their opponents.

CARR
Translation.

Loftus has edited a whole book of arguments, so I am going to claim that atheists are abandoning argument.

Tristan D. Vick said...

Looks good, as always! Will definitely pick up a copy. I read all of Bob's stuff.

Andrew Harrison said...

(My apologies to Mr. Loftus for cluttering the comment area with this.)
Eric, care to e-mail me at harrisoandre@yahoo.com? I wanted to touch base with you. (Anyone else, please also feel free.)

Thanks.

John W. Loftus said...

Andrew said: "...today’s Christian apologists are packing more intellectual punch than many might currently suppose."

Ummm, okay, who do you have in mind? Any of the authors Strobel interviews? I've read them all and I'd have to agree with Bob Price's evaluation of them. Any others?

Cheers

shane said...

John says it well....I myself found that certian apologists books I read when I was a believer actually helped to deconvert me rather then build my faith!
Josh McDowell for instance with his evidence that demands a verdict was a joke!
Most of the logic he uses to show that Jesus was who He said He was could be used to show Joseph Smith, Mohammed, etc....are also who and what they claim!

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Eric,

I'm not a big time philosopher so I'll leave the heavy philosophizing to them, however, by your philosophical standards, yes that argument is valid, however, (and this is a point I've raised in my critique of theistic arguments) sitting in your easy chair and thinking up "logical" arguments for god doesn't really prove much if facts refute your premise. Just because all your premises line up doesn't always lead to a correct conclusion. Why? Because, even though the argument begins with a seemingly logical statement, "Everything that begins to exist has a cause," does not mean it represents reality. For example, it's known that things can seem to happen without a cause. Allow me to quote Victor J. Stenger from his book God: The Failed Hypothesis:

"When an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus." (124)

Even though you'd like to use philosophy against philosophy things are more complicated than that. The fact is that different disciplines can critique each others' claims and this is one example where scientific facts refute a so called logical argument.

Eric said...

"Just because all your premises line up doesn't always lead to a correct conclusion."

I agree. That's why I said that when we evaluate *any* argument, we look at its logical structure and at its premises (for their truth value, use of terms, etc.). But I added that arguments in specific disciplines may require additional criteria that are not always applicable to arguments in other disciplines.

"For example, it's known that things can seem to happen without a cause."

Well, this is accurate but misleading (though I'm not suggesting that it's intentionally misleading!).

First, Craig's first premise posits a metaphysical principle, not a physical principle. That is, Craig isn't saying that everything that begins to exist has a scientifically testable, mathematically formulatable efficient cause (i.e. the sort of causation physicists deal with), but that things don't come into being out of nothing. Take your examples: while we may not be able to assign an efficient cause in each case, we can assign each one a material cause. So, given the broader sense of causation Craig is appealing to, it's not the case that Stenger's examples are counterexamples to Craig's first premise.

Second, Craig would argue that such examples lack an efficient cause only given an indeterministic interpretation of QM, and not all interpretations are indeterministic (though, primarily for philosophical reasons, the indeterministic interpretations are most popular today among physicists). Also, it's important to keep in mind that deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics are empirically indistinguishable from their indeterministic alternatives.

Now I don't want to get into a long discussion of he Kalam cosmological argument. As I said, I'm not a big fan of the argument myself. I only use it as an example when making my point about arguments and standards because it's short, logically valid, has very plausible premises, is easy to understand (though, as we just saw, it can get complicated very fast!), and is stronger than most philosophical arguments atheists/agnostics/skeptics usually have no problem accepting (and here I'm thinking primarily about moral and political arguments).

"Even though you'd like to use philosophy against philosophy things are more complicated than that. The fact is that different disciplines can critique each others' claims and this is one example where scientific facts refute a so called logical argument."

I think you may have misunderstood me. I'm not saying that a scientifically justified premise in a philosophic argument cannot be criticized on scientific grounds; of course it can. What I'm saying is that if you want to determine the relative strength or weakness of an argument, the best way to do so is to compare it with other arguments in the same discipline, since as we move from discipline to disciplines we encounter standards and criteria that are not always applicable across disciplines.

For example, should we criticize scientific arguments because they can never provide us with the certainty that arguments in pure mathematics can? Well, no, of course not, because scientific conclusions are provisional by their very nature. But then it would be equally silly to subject philosophic arguments to the testability criterion of scientific arguments, given the nature of philosophic arguments. (Note again, I'm not saying that the scientifically supported premises some philosophic arguments use cannot be subjected to scientific criteria.)

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric you said, "First, Craig's first premise posits a metaphysical principle, not a physical principle."

But we live in the physical world and Stenger's discipline is more of an authority on these things than the make believe Narnia that you and Craig like to dream on.

Why don't you Christian apologists just show some humility and admit your language games fail in the face of honest scientific discovery.

If you have to dissemble to prop up your belief doesn't that call into question its "properly basic" qualities?

Eric said...

"But we live in the physical world and Stenger's discipline is more of an authority on these things than the make believe Narnia that you and Craig like to dream on."

Chuck, let me ask you a simple question:

If I ask, "what is a cause?" (not, "what is the cause of this specific event?" but "what is a cause as such?" or "what is causation?"), am I asking a scientific question or a philosophical question?


You're one of the worst kind of atheist apologists: you know nothing about philosophy, so you constantly get just about everything touching it wrong, but, even worse, while you pretend to be devoted to science, you manifestly understand it as poorly as you do philosophy.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I am not an atheist apologist. I am a US citizen who enjoys the secular protections of our Constitution and absolutely despises snake-oil salesman like yourself.

Religionists who use language games to prop up Iron Age ideas as if they have any merit in a modern age are simply disgusting.

Hmmm let's see Stenger vs. Craig in understanding the observable nature of the universe. A particle physicist vs. a religionist. I side with the physicist.

I never admitted to being an expert in either science or philosophy I simply observe your long-winded responses to be self-serving and lacking humility.

Eric said...

"Hmmm let's see Stenger vs. Craig in understanding the observable nature of the universe. A particle physicist vs. a religionist. I side with the physicist."

What about Stenger vs. Polkinghorne? Polkinghorne is a far more accomplished particle physicist than Stenger is, and he's an orthodox (for the most part; his open theism is unorthodox) believer. What about Stenger vs. Nobel prize winning physicst and Jewish believer Arno Penzias? Honestly, this is a silly game. I only engaged it for the moment to make a point: the "my expert trumps your expert" arguments almost never adds anything to the discussion. It's best to stick to the issues.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

But what issue are you sticking to? You are doing your philosophic razzle dazzle to mimic in typical fan boy fashion your hero Craig and his Kalaam BS. We aren't discussing those other scientists. We ARE discussing how you and Craig ignore scientific truths to maintain a lie that can support your religion.

Papalinton said...

Eric and Andrew Harrison,
Religion (particularly christianity in this case) has had two thousand years to get its act together to demonstrate without a shadow of doubt that if one is immersed in the moral, ethical and spiritual tenets of their particular god they will be a cut above the rest of humanity. This has proven to be a dismal failure. We, as a society, is STILL arguing over the merits of theism. When is enough, enough?

Two THOUSAND years and still the same old story, and the reason is - "....religions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. Once we discovered that the earth is round, we stopped thinking that it is flat. Science and reason are SUBSTITUTIVE and ELIMINATIVE: new ideas replace old ideas. Religion is ADDITIVE and/or SCHISMATIC: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism. With science, we get BETTER. With religion, we get MORE." (I'm indebted to David Eller here.)

Regardless of the methods that biblical scholars elect to tell their take on the events in the bible, such as Price or Erhman (yes, very different in approach) they nonetheless are singing from the 'same hymn sheet' (pardon me); that is, the literal translation and for the most part the apologetics of the bible, has been shown to be a house of cards; it is a total facade, no back and sides.

The more that apologists are challenged intellectually and at the street level, the more apparent the charade becomes.

We need to set aside our old myths, stories, superstitutions if we are to prepare ourselves for the great challenges ahead.

Eric said...

"You are doing your philosophic razzle dazzle to mimic in typical fan boy fashion your hero Craig and his Kalaam BS."

First, while I admire Craig, he's far from being my 'hero,' or my 'favorite' philosopher. Second, did I not say at least twice on this thread that I'm not a big fan of the Kalam cosmological argument, and that I'm only using it here because it's simple enough to present and understand, and just strong enough to help me make the point I'm driving at.

"We aren't discussing those other scientists."

You're the one who raised the "who am I going to believe -- a particle physicist or a [ ]" issue, aren't you?

"We ARE discussing how you and Craig ignore scientific truths to maintain a lie that can support your religion."

Name one "scientific truth" I've ignored.

Papalinton said...

Eric,
You obviously know of William Lane Craig's position for claiming the existence of god based on the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KMA).
It appears impressive but don't be fooled. It is a very old argument and it has been refuted many, many times particularly recently.

Craig's KMA posits:

1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence

2. The universe has a beginning of its existence
Therefore:

3. The universe has a cause of its existence

4. If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is god
Therefore:

5. God exists.


Well I have just as good and equally viable position on the existence of god:

1. They say that god is love

2. They also say love is blind

3. I have an uncle who is blind
Therefore:

4. My uncle is god
And:

5. My uncle exists.

Arizona Atheist said...

Eric,

"First, Craig's first premise posits a metaphysical principle, not a physical principle. That is, Craig isn't saying that everything that begins to exist has a scientifically testable, mathematically formulatable efficient cause (i.e. the sort of causation physicists deal with), but that things don't come into being out of nothing."

Well, that's my point. In this instance evidence shows that the universe could be eternal and there are theories of an eternal universe that are compatible with all the known laws. There is evidence that things can happen without cause. True, not every discipline is able to critique another on every point, but in this case the science seems to rule the first cause argument out without a doubt. And I don't understand why at the end you say,

"Note again, I'm not saying that the scientifically supported premises some philosophic arguments use cannot be subjected to scientific criteria."

Well, alright, but why say that when you're stating the complete opposite just prior? In this case science can critique this particular philosophical argument. And if you want to talk about logic, not science, then how do christians know - assuming the universe was indeed caused by some god - that it was their god to begin with? There have been other creator gods throughout history, such as Ehecati or Tlaloque, two Native American gods.Why not them?

I don't always like to debate on others' blogs; I feel that it's a bit rude. So if you'd like to email me or come to my blog I'd be happy to discuss this more with you.

derreckbennett said...

I call it the Kalam Cosmological Gap-Clogger, which can be stated thusly:

1) There was a Big Bang.

2) Science hasn't revealed what caused it.

3) Goddidit.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

You ignore Stenger's scientific observations to boorishly hammer away at first causes in fanboy emulation of Craig but I don't expect you to see that because you are a budding liar for Jesus (read: Christian apologist).

John W. Loftus said...

Chuck, when you were a believer who tried to evangelize others were YOU a conscious liar for Jesus? Brainwashed or indoctrinated, yes, but a liar? I don't think so with you, nor do I think so with Eric. Believers do consciously lie for Jesus, that I know. But this doesn't describe most of them.

Chuck O'Connor said...

John,

You know Eric better than I and I respect you so I will defer to your assessment of his character.

I find his arguments creepy and tortured.

He doesn't seem honest to me at all.

Maybe he is just caught in a cognitive bias loop. Not sure.

I think he is dangerous. It's his type of thinking that lends power to institutions like the Discovery Institute and the Templeton Prize.

Accomodationist bullshit.

Eric said...

"I feel that it's a bit rude."

Arizona Atheist, John welcomes these sorts of discussions, as long as they're conducted civilly and at a high enough level. I for one think your posts satisfy both criteria.

"evidence shows that the universe could be eternal and there are theories of an eternal universe that are compatible with all the known laws."

(Note, you're addressing the second premise of the KCA here, not the first.)I agree, but there are alternatives to nearly every scientific theory; that's the dynamic nature of science. The question we must ask is, what theory is best supported by the evidence? Rather than provide a number of quotes and references, here's a link to a very entertaining and informative show with a series of recently conducted interviews of top physicists and cosmologists (Rees, Davies, Vilenkin, Guth, etc.) on the question, "Did our universe have a beginning?" and the verdict is, according to the most current science, it most likely did. (Check out the other full episodes and interviews: Dennett, McGrath, van Inwagen, Mcginn, Plantinga, Swinburne, Rundle, etc. -- that website is a goldmine!)

"There is evidence that things can happen without cause."

I think you missed my point about (1) the distinction between the sorts of efficient causes scientists study, and the broader, more robust conception of causation Craig has in mind. I also pointed out that Stenger's examples presuppose an indeterministic interpretation of QM that, though widely accepted, is no better evidenced scientifically than its deterministic alternatives (which, as I said, are empirically indistinguishable from indeterministic models).

"science seems to rule the first cause argument out without a doubt."

As I said above, I don't think science falsifies either premise. It may weaken the force of each premise, but actually that makes my point for me: logically valid philosophic arguments are only as strong as their premises, and my challenge, in which I asked for a logically valid philosophic argument that reaches a substantial conclusion with premises that are more plausibly true than the premises of the KCA, was meant to bring out the fact that we do not, and indeed cannot demand that our premises be known to be true with certainty. This is where the issue of standards comes into play.

Eric said...

"why say that when you're stating the complete opposite just prior?"

What I said was that if we want to determine the relative strength or weakness of an argument, we must compare it with other arguments in the same field, since when we cross fields we encounter criteria that are not always applicable across disciplines. This is perfectly consistent with my saying that any scientific premise an argument in one field makes can be evaluated on scientific grounds (just as any philosophical premise in a scientific argument can be criticized on philosophical grounds). I was talking about something like this (a caricature, obviously, but it will get the point across): "Hey man, we can't test the conclusion of the KCA, so it's a horrible argument."

"how do christians know - assuming the universe was indeed caused by some god - that it was their god"

This is actually a much easier question to answer than most atheists/agnostics/skeptics tend to suspect. Most arguments for God's existence lead to a first cause with properties that we would have to attribute to any such cause. However, we know by Leibniz's 'identity of indiscernibles' that if we posit two entities with precisely the same properties, we don't have two entities, but one entity. The terms may differ, and they may have a different Fregean sense, but they have the same Fregean referent (just as, in the common example, the morning star and the evening star have different Fregean senses, but, in the planet Venus, the same Fregean referent).

derreckbennett said...

Eric-

I'm curious: you seem to wish to demonstrate that theistic arguments can pack "intellectual punch," yet you're appealing to an argument of which you are admittedly not a "big fan." Why aren't you?

Do you have any intellectually "punchy" theistic arguments of which you *are* a fan?

Also, I'm glad to see that, as a theist, you apparently accept Big Bang theory. Do you also accept the theory of evolution? In terms of astronomy, what about theories behind the formation of solar systems, including our own?

Also, have you read much of Dr. Price?

I look forward to your response.

Papalinton said...

Eric,
It seems your argument (correct me) for the existence of a god has everything to do with ascribing some form of intelligence as the best explanation for making sense of that which we are not yet able to explain. Just because the KCA has logic to drive it, it simply doesn't have much explanatory power. Such philosophical thinking can only lead us to a return to the "God did it" maxim. It does nothing to advance or increase our knowledge base. It is a factoid of little consequential utility. Positing an uncaused cause is an end-game; no more explanation needed.

'We simply don't know' is my best explanation and one I also consider an honest one. I have also tended to lean towards science as our primary means of discovering answers to questions of existence. Religion has tried for at least two millennia to provide that explanation and yet still we are arguing not only over the detail but the big picture issues. Doesn't that say something of the inadequacy of theism to explain anything of sufficient merit to settle the argument? Science, or rather the investigative tenets of science are our best way of exploring these issues. In the very short time that science has begun to blossom, it has matured exponentially in its capacity to provide explanatory power. We are only at the end of the beginning of the science journey. I don't believe we should be muddying the waters of what science can and cannot tell us about life seen through the lens of theism. Such a view is just a hindrance.

Equally, to bring the conversation to a reality check, how does this argument square with or legitimate the 'inerrant' nature of the only book in the religious bookshelf? How does positing the KCA explain or lend credence to the virgin birth, talking snake, the ascension, resurrection, to mention a few tidbits in need of a best explanation?

How do we come away with a conception of causal synergy between the god of the bible and its stories ('historical' record} and that posited by the KCA?

I want to be convinced.

Eric said...

"I'm curious: you seem to wish to demonstrate that theistic arguments can pack "intellectual punch," yet you're appealing to an argument of which you are admittedly not a "big fan." Why aren't you?"

As I said, I use the KCA whenever I present this challenge because it's well known, simple, logically valid, and has very plausible premises. That is, I don't want the argument to distract from my main point. Yet look at the responses I've received on the argument itself! Thus, imagine if I'd presented an argument that's more complicated and not as well known; I'd never get a response to my challenge (though I have to point out that no one on this thread has yet responded to my challenge).

Now if you're asking what my problems with the KCA are, i.e. why I'm not a big fan of it, then I'd say it has to do with the possibility of an infinitely long accidentally ordered causal chain. Craig argues (in his defense of the second premise if the KCA), on philosophical grounds, that such a chain cannot be infinite; I disagree. That's my problem in a nutshell, without getting into details.

"Do you have any intellectually "punchy" theistic arguments of which you *are* a fan?"

Of course. One of my favorite arguments is a proper development of Aquinas's first way. However, while the argument appears simple if you google it, it in fact uses everyday terms in a highly technical way, so it's almost always misunderstood (even by professional philosophers!). Explaining it requires an enormous amount of work; for example, one of the best *popular level* treatments of it I've read devotes just under one hundred pages to providing the sort of conceptual prerequisites I'm talking about. And keep in mind that's before you ever get to the argument!

"Also, I'm glad to see that, as a theist, you apparently accept Big Bang theory. Do you also accept the theory of evolution?"

I wholeheartedly accept the scientific theory of evolution. I have no problem at all with evolutionary science, but I do have a problem when fine evolutionary scientists go on to do poor philosophy in drawing philosophical conclusions from evolutionary theory.

"In terms of astronomy, what about theories behind the formation of solar systems, including our own?"

I have no problem here, or with any other properly scientific theory. As I often tell atheists/agnostics/skeptics, I get all the science you do (by which I mean not that I understand it as well as anyone -- I'm not a scientist, so my understanding is limited -- but that my religious beliefs in now way preclude me from accepting *any* properly scientific conclusion. I'm all for taking scientific research as far as we can in all areas -- evolution, consciousness, morality (assuming, of course, the normal ethical limitations on the means of research).

Eric said...

"It seems your argument (correct me) for the existence of a god has everything to do with ascribing some form of intelligence as the best explanation for making sense of that which we are not yet able to explain."

No, the KCA is not an 'explanation,' but a deductive argument. (The distinction between explanations and arguments is crucial, and leads to a host of misunderstandings, so it's important to get clear about it from the start.) And it isn't a 'god-of-the-gaps' argument in any sense whatsoever. What any logically valid deductive argument forces you to do is to think hard about its premises, since the cost you pay for rejecting the conclusion of such an argument is denying the truth of at least one of its premises. And the more plausibly true the premises are, the higher the cost!

"How does positing the KCA explain or lend credence to the virgin birth, talking snake, the ascension, resurrection, to mention a few tidbits in need of a best explanation?"

All the KCA leads to is a certain kind of cause of the universe. As such, in itself it has nothing at all to do with any of the things you mentioned. However, since those elements of (some) Christian belief are inextricably bound up with belief in a certain kind of cause of the universe, the argument (to the extent that it succeeds) lends support to a larger, cumulative case argument for the truth of the Christian worldview.

Papalinton said...

Eric, you say,

...."No, the KCA is not an 'explanation,' but a deductive argument. (The distinction between explanations and arguments is crucial, and leads to a host of misunderstandings, so it's important to get clear about it from the start.)"

Explanations and arguments are not 'non-overlapping magisteria". The very nature of deductive argumentation is itself an explanation, otherwise whence its power of meaning? Yes, explanations do have a wider brief, but the elements of a deductive argument are in every sense an explanation, pure and simple. The KCA is the best theistic explanation for the existence of a god, albeit by logical deduction. But it does not ground the philosophical argument for a god in reality. It is still just words, cogent? yes; substantive?, no.

While most scientists seem to agree that the universe as we know it started at the big bang, being a healthy skeptic, I tend to disagree that that is the end of the matter, not by a long chalk. We don't know whether this big bang is just one, or a series of big bangs along a continuum or even whether the universe is cyclic, regenerative, perhaps moving from one universe to another through a black hole, or whether the universe is an inverse of what we know now on the other side of the big bang. At least I'm prepared to declare that I don't know. No theistic argument yet has had sufficient explanatory power to have me reconsider my position. While I can see the logic of the KCA, to me it is the least viable of all the possible candidates consuming countless hours of intellectual inquiry.

Eric, you say:

...."However, since those elements of (some) Christian belief are inextricably bound up with belief in a certain kind of cause of the universe, the argument (to the extent that it succeeds) lends support to a larger, cumulative case argument for the truth of the Christian worldview."

This is an explanation. And it is not drawn from deductive reasoning. It is gobbledegook. It is simply a declarative statement with absolutely no basis in fact. A rather disappointing response to what I believe was a legitimate question. When all said and done, the 'truth' of the christian worldview is a given; no argument; a conversation stopper.
The word 'truth' in this context becomes, sadly, irreconcilably meretricious.

Eric said...

"Explanations and arguments are not 'non-overlapping magisteria". The very nature of deductive argumentation is itself an explanation, otherwise whence its power of meaning? Yes, explanations do have a wider brief, but the elements of a deductive argument are in every sense an explanation, pure and simple."

You have to be careful not to confuse the everyday acceptation of a term with it's technical meaning.

Take the term 'argument': If I refer to the KCA as an argument, and someone responds, "What are you talking about? Arguments require at least two parties who vehemently disagree," it's clear that he's using the term according to it's everyday usage, while I'm using it in a technical sense. It's the same with the term 'explanation.'

Rather than go into this in detail myself, I'll direct you to this link (from a course at CSUS). Here are some important extracts:

"There are two kinds of rationale: argument and explanation. **Rational reconstruction depends *critically* on the ability to *distinguish* one from the other**. The distinction is this:

"An argument is a rationale in which the reason functions as evidence in support of the conclusion. Its purpose is to provide a rational basis for believing the conclusion to be true.

"An explanation is a rationale in which the conclusion represents an accepted fact and the reason represents a cause of that fact. Its purpose is to help us understand how or why that fact occurs.

"In the beginning the best way to remember the difference between arguments and explanations is to think of them as answering two different questions.

"An argument answers the question: How do you know?
An explanation answers the question: Why is that so?"

This isn't a pet distinction of mine: it's a fundamental distinction in logic, science and philosophy, and everyone who wants to take part in discussions involving issues these disciplines raise should be familiar with it.

"It is simply a declarative statement with absolutely no basis in fact. A rather disappointing response to what I believe was a legitimate question."

I think you badly misunderstood me. I was asked what the KCA does to "explain or lend credence" to the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc. and I responded by saying that in itself it doesn't, but that to the extent that those claims presuppose the existence of a God with minimally all the properties of the cause of the universe the KCA concludes exists, the KCA does play a part in a larger cumulative case for Christianity. That is, I only intended to present a declarative sentence -- an explanation. (See how important the distinction is?) Think about it this way: we move from arguments for God's existence (such as the KCA) that not only conclude that God exists, but that also flesh out some of God's traditional properties, to arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, which require the existence of such a God, to arguments from Jesus' resurrection to arguments for Christianity as such (and, for those interested, on to arguments for specific versions of Christianity). Now that's not an argument, but is rather an explanatory sketch of the structure such a cumulative case argument might take. And my only purpose in presenting it is to clarify what I meant when I responded to the question about the relationship between the KCA and the claims of orthodox Christianity.

Eric said...

Wow, I need to proofread a bit better. Too many 'it's' where I should've written 'its' in that last post...

Eric said...

Here's another link to an atheist website on the distinction between arguments and explanations. From the first paragraph:

"An explanation is not an argument. Whereas an argument is a series of statements designed to support or establish the truth of an idea, an explanation is a series of statements designed to shed light on some event that is already accepted as a matter of fact."

And here's the relevant part of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on 'argument':

"There are other uses of language that may appear at first blush to be arguments, but are not. Such is the case with explanations."

As I said, the distinction is fundamental, widely known and not particular to 'apologetics' (I say that to preempt the charge, which I encounter all too often, that some crucial concept or distinction is exclusively used by 'Christian apologists'; as I've shown, the distinction between arguments and explanations is fundamental to critical thinking itself, full stop.

Paul said...

Eric,

1. Lauding apologists for their expertise in 'philosophy' really underscores the problem here. Philosophy as a formal discipline is about as useful as fingerpainting in this, or any other similar context. It is nothing more than glorified semantics, nothing less than the favorite tool of confirmation bias. It is the shiny chrome that hides the substance of theology: imagination run amuck.

And this is the complaint of Mr. Loftus, Mr. Price and others. Using grand semantics (and laughable equations a la W.L. Craig) and arguments designed to feign philosophical credibility annoys us to no end - especially those of us who look back in retrospect and self-loathing at a time when we ourselves swallowed such nonsense. Apologetics is nothing more than funny math.

2. Nonetheless, there is much to be said for the importance of sound reasoning and so I feel obliged to murder Kalam before your very eyes: Both premises are entirely unknowable, empty and useless; hence, they are invalid.

The very concept of a thing "beginning to exist" is entirely intangible and just that: purely conceptual. It is as conceptual and empty as a thing "ceasing to exist" or "becoming infinite" or "gettin' all magical and stuff."

I could just as well postulate that "Anything that begins to exist has no cause." Why would I be wrong? In fact, I'm sure skeptics could play just as well at the silly games apologists enjoy (making up cute syllogisms and meaningless question-begging arguments from 'lawgik'). I could probably come up with three or four off the top of my head, but that would be a waste of my intelligence wouldn't it? And I think that is Mr. Loftus' sentiment.

Furthermore, all of these silly, loopy arguments by apologists are often self-defeating or blatantly circular. Hence the comical attempts at excusing all the godz from being subject to them. It really is sad watching university-educated individuals playing make believe and explaining away holes in their cute stories like a first grader. ("Oh, but the godz ain't got no beginnin'! They's necessarily eternal, see? And they's infinitessimal and omnipotato and outside the space-time equilobotomy! It's all lawgical! I promise!")

derreckbennett said...

Eric-

Interesting responses--thanks for getting back to me. I must say, you are one of the most intellectually honest and informed theists I've come across. I hope you'll take that as a compliment. Frankly, the majority of theists that I engage in forums such as these are not terribly bright or well-informed. You are a breath of fresh air.

Surprisingly, I am not familiar with Aquinas's "first way." Granted it may be complicated, do you think that you could provide a "Reader's Digest" version? I'd be open to hearing it. Aguinas was no dummy.

I believe I have the same issue with the KCA that you do. What Craig really wants to suggest with the KCA is that the Universe came into being ex nihilo. But, as you're probably aware, this is not a conclusion supported by Big Bang theory. It states simply that there was a cataclysmic event, followed by a rapid expansion--not that "something came from nothing" per the popular misconception. The Universe may well have always existed, in some form or another, and thus it may be an autonomous reality, independent of any "creator." If this were the case, Craig's second premise would be false, since *technically* the Universe did not "begin to exist"--it only changed form.

This still leaves us with the question of *causation* regarding the Big Bang, and that's about the only thing I think the KCA has going for it. But the fact of the matter is, we have no earthly idea what caused it, and for Craig to merely insert his god into the equation does indeed strike me as a 'god-of-the-gaps' fallacy. The mechanics behind the Big Bang may well be completely naturalistic and impersonal, such as when a supernova explodes (albeit a quite different matter in terms of physics).

I'm glad to see that, unlike some theists, you are consistent with your views on science. Sad to say, there are those who'd gladly embrace the Big Bang since they see a cosmological argument of sorts therein, though they'd vehemently deny evolution, since the processes involved challenge the idea of man's creation by divine fiat. Seems to me there's some cherry picking involved. You're obviously not doing that, and I commend you for it.

I ask about your acceptance of the theories behind solar system formation, because Genesis 1:1-19 seems to fly in the face of such theories. Accordingly, there was a massive nebular accretion disc which first formed the sun, subsequently forming planets as a solar by-product in the surrounding portions of cumulating mass. Thus, the formation of the sun had to take place prior to the formation of the earth. Yet Genesis tells us that the earth was created before the sun. Seems like a telling anachronism. How do you reconcile this with your understanding of astronomy?

Also, you didn't answer my question about whether you've read much of Dr. Price's work. I ask because I think you severely underestimate him, and this is unfortunate given that you're as bright as you are. If you looked into it with an open mind, I think you'd gain much from it--even if you disagreed. Bart Ehrman, by the way, has apologized to Price for appearing to insult him. Suggesting that the man is only "one tenth of the scholar Metzger was" is a position that seems hardly justifiable, given Price's amazing erudition. I think you ought to give him a day in court before dismissing him in this manner.

Thanks again for responding. I hope to continue a stimulating discussion, should you be interested in doing so. Take care.

Papalinton said...

Eric, I appreciate the distinction between argument and explanation as you have recounted. However, the logic of the KCA argument simply does not bring us any closer to an understanding for a need of a god in the equation, or any uncaused cause for that matter.
My take on the readings I have undertaken is simply that theism is somewhat willing to posit elements of theology as philosophy from the point of presupposing that a god exists and then seeks to philosophise (in a good sense) about the veracity of the claim by underpinning it through the practice of logic. But proposition 1 and 2 of the KCA have been interpreted in such a manner as to be conducive to arriving at the existence of a god. Propositions 1 and 2 of the KCA has been refuted on innumerable occasions as it simply shoehorns matters theological into philosophical language. It is in a sense a lower order of argument with little substantive merit.

macroman said...

Why is it called the Kalam cosmological argument? Did Thomas Aquinas make this argument 100s of years ago? Who or what and when was Kalam?

Eric said...

"Philosophy as a formal discipline is about as useful as fingerpainting in this, or any other similar context. It is nothing more than glorified semantics, nothing less than the favorite tool of confirmation bias."

So you're denying that the question of God's existence -- a question nearly every great philosopher in the Western tradition has addressed (whether positively or negatively) philosophically -- is in fact a philosophical question? I'd *love* to see you attempt to justify that claim.

"I feel obliged to murder Kalam before your very eyes: Both premises are entirely unknowable, empty and useless; hence, they are invalid."

Premises cannot be invalid; they can only be true or false or somehow unclear. Only arguments can be valid or invalid. But let's get on to the murdering.

"The very concept of a thing "beginning to exist" is entirely intangible and just that: purely conceptual. It is as conceptual and empty as a thing "ceasing to exist" or "becoming infinite" or "gettin' all magical and stuff.""

Huh? Paul, do virtual particles begin to exist? Physicists certainly see to think they do. There's a time, t1, at which they don't exist, and a time, t2, at which they do. Paul, do you have children? If you do, did your child begin to exist, or did you claim him/her on your taxes years before he/she was born on the grounds that nothing ever begins to exist? Did the computer you're using to communicate with me begin to exist, or was it around in the Precambrian? What about you, Paul -- did you begin to exist? Where were you during the first Punic war? Where were you when Shakespeare was writing and rewriting and staging his first performances of Hamlet? Where were you when John Adams died?

"I could just as well postulate that "Anything that begins to exist has no cause." Why would I be wrong?"

Hmm, observation? Because the entire scientific enterprise, and the experience of our daily lives, presupposes that things that happen or begin to exist have causes? If you found that your wallet was no longer in your pocket but was instead in mine, would you really think that these two explanations are equally plausible: (1) There's a causal chain from my hand to your pocket to my pocket at work here, or (2) your wallet popped out of existence in your pocket for no reason, and an identical wallet -- complete with identical IDs, identical credit cards, identical personals, and identical cash -- popped into existence in my pocket for no reason?

Now something has been murdered here, but it hasn't been the KCA...

"Why is it called the Kalam cosmological argument?"

The word 'kalam' means something like 'word' or 'discussion' (or so I'm told). I don't know why Craig chose to name his argument the Kalam cosmological argument.

"Did Thomas Aquinas make this argument 100s of years ago?"

No. None of Aquinas's arguments require a finite universe. He didn't think the question of whether the universe had a beginning or had always existed could be answered philosophically. Hence, Aquinas's arguments work whether the universe is temporally finite or temporally infinite.

(I don't have time now, but I'll respond to the other comments later.)

Papalinton said...

Macroman,
Below is a distillation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument including a section on criticism and refutation.
It is a first good read.
Cheers

:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

It is called Kalam because Craig cribbed it from the Muslim school where it originated.

If you are going to adopt an intellectually elitist pose then you might want to know where your argument stemmed.

Also, your rhetorical questions above seeming to verify causation demand special pleading if they are going to verify god's causation of the universe. We can see in a simple Newtonian sense the chain of agency which operates as a cause for each illustration. Not so muche with your god. They are bad analogies and point to the Kalam premise as false. We need to restate the Kalam premise with humility and ascribe known agency to causation.

Andrew Harrison said...

Paul,

I am sympathetic to the fact that there are all types of forums that are helpful to all types of levels of education and intelligence. The trouble comes when someone such as yourself is so astonishingly out of touch with mainstream ideas...and is completely unaware of it. (Not one atheist or theist on the planet would agree with your statements!) While Eric has been gracious enough to engage your comments, I can say for myself that for a forum that has generally been respectful, high-minded, and well-informed (by atheist and theist contributors alike), the combination of arrogance and ignorance that you have introduced might well bring a swift conclusion to the whole discourse.

Eric said...

"It is called Kalam because Craig cribbed it from the Muslim school where it originated.
If you are going to adopt an intellectually elitist pose then you might want to know where your argument stemmed."

Chuck, Yeah, I'm well aware that the argument stems from Muslim thinkers like Al-Ghazali; my point was I don't know why the term 'Kalam' itself is used, say, as opposed to some other term.

"Also, your rhetorical questions above seeming to verify causation demand special pleading if they are going to verify god's causation of the universe."

You've got it precisely backwards. As I said, Craig's first premise concerns causation from a metaphysical, and not a merely physical, approach. As such, to say that everything but the universe is subject to the principle that everything that begins to exist has a cause requires special pleading on *your* part. Surely you can see at least this much, can't you?

"Surprisingly, I am not familiar with Aquinas's "first way." Granted it may be complicated, do you think that you could provide a "Reader's Digest" version?"

Sure. Just keep in mind that this is an extremely simplified version, and that I'll have to breeze through quite a bit with mere references, will have to skip over a bit, and will have to leave a lot unsaid. This is a sketch of a sketch, as it were.

Aquinas starts with an empirical premise: some things change. He then proceeds to analyze what all changes involve (i.e. to analyze the metaphysics of change), and to distinguish different kinds of causes and causal chains. Some causal chains can, in principle, be extended infinitely, e.g. causal chains involving events that extend backward into the past. Other causal chains, e.g. those that involve a series of instrumental causes occurring more or less simultaneously, cannot be extended infinitely (keep in mind that he's not talking about events back into the past here, but causes and effects 'downwards,' as it were, in the present moment). Such chains require a terminus. But, given Aquinas's metaphysics of change (which is *not* affected by scientific discoveries), the terminus must be the sort of being (or entity, or thing, or whatever term you prefer here) that possesses many of the traditional properties we would ascribe to God. That probably doesn't help much at all, so herea are some links that might help you get your feet wet.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric you said,

"You've got it precisely backwards. As I said, Craig's first premise concerns causation from a metaphysical, and not a merely physical, approach. As such, to say that everything but the universe is subject to the principle that everything that begins to exist has a cause requires special pleading on *your* part. Surely you can see at least this much, can't you?"

Why then do you argue from analogy using physical illustrations?

Can't have it both ways son. I'm sure you see that don't you?

Chuck O'Connor said...

For reference Eric here's you list of haughty questions regarding physical causation as illustration of the Kalam premise on metaphysical causation leading to existence.

It's too bad that you are wasting your intelligence on the study of magic (e.g. metaphysics). You might do some good in the real world with your mind. As it is, it seems that you are satisfied to defend superstition.

"Huh? Paul, do virtual particles begin to exist? Physicists certainly see to think they do. There's a time, t1, at which they don't exist, and a time, t2, at which they do. Paul, do you have children? If you do, did your child begin to exist, or did you claim him/her on your taxes years before he/she was born on the grounds that nothing ever begins to exist? Did the computer you're using to communicate with me begin to exist, or was it around in the Precambrian? What about you, Paul -- did you begin to exist? Where were you during the first Punic war? Where were you when Shakespeare was writing and rewriting and staging his first performances of Hamlet? Where were you when John Adams died?

Eric said...

"But, as you're probably aware, this is not a conclusion supported by Big Bang theory. It states simply that there was a cataclysmic event, followed by a rapid expansion--not that "something came from nothing" per the popular misconception."

When Craig says that the universe came into existence 'from nothing,' he means from a 'state' (it's hard to find words to use here) in which space, time, matter and energy did not exist. This is supported by modern cosmology: physicist Paul Davies has said, "...the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself." (I don't put any stock in his use of the term 'creation' here; it's obvious he's using it metaphorically.) And Vilenkin has written, in his paper "Creation of Universes from Nothing" that "In this paper, I would like to suggest a new cosmological scenario in which the universe is spontaneously created from *literally nothing*..." So, there are prominent physicists who talk about a beginning ex nihilo, as Craig is using the phrase.

"The Universe may well have always existed, in some form or another, and thus it may be an autonomous reality, independent of any "creator." If this were the case, Craig's second premise would be false, since *technically* the Universe did not "begin to exist"--it only changed form."

Well sure, but you can't make an argument by referring to bare logical possibilities. Craig argues -- correctly, I think -- that modern science points to a beginning of our universe. Keep in mind that the premises of a good argument don't have to be established with 100% certainty -- if that's the standard, then there's no such thing as a good argument. Rather, good arguments minimally require premises that are more plausibly true then their negations, and as I see it, the proposition, "the universe began to exist" is in fact more plausible, given the state of modern cosmology, than its negation, viz. "the universe did not begin to exist."

"But the fact of the matter is, we have no earthly idea what caused it, and for Craig to merely insert his god into the equation does indeed strike me as a 'god-of-the-gaps' fallacy."

But that's not at all what Craig does. Rather, he follows the KCA with a conceptual analysis if what properties a 'cause of the universe' must be ascribed, and it is from here that he concludes that it possesses properties consonant with the God of classical theism. He doesn't 'insert' God, but *argues* that such a cause must be God. (If you want to hear his argument, let me know.)

Eric said...

"I ask about your acceptance of the theories behind solar system formation, because Genesis 1:1-19 seems to fly in the face of such theories."

I'm a Catholic, and there's a long tradition in the Catholic church, going back to Augustine (actually, even prior to Augustine) concerning our taking care *not* to read Genesis literally, and to subject our reading of the text to scientific (though there was no science proper in Augustine's day) discoveries. Even Cardinal Bellarmine, of the infamous Galileo affair, said that if such and such is shown to be true scientifically, our reading of scripture must be altered accordingly (in accord with the Church's acceptance of Aquinas's doctrine of the Unity of Truth.) His problem with Galileo was that Galileo, while correct with respect to his conclusion, was *wrong* when he claimed that his *reasoning* supported his conclusion. (Galileo also went out of his way to insult the Pope, which wasn't a great idea in that day; I'm not saying that what the Church did to Galileo in threatening him and silencing him was right -- it was horribly wrong -- but am just making a point about the Church's commitment to reading scripture's references to natural phenomena in light of the best information science has to offer.)

"Also, you didn't answer my question about whether you've read much of Dr. Price's work."

I have not read any of Dr. Price's books, though I have read his articles on infidels.org, and have listened to all the debates/speeches/interviews with him I can get my hands on. Biblical scholarship isn't my area, so I have limited time to devote to reading on it. As such, I prefer to read the top scholars. I may be missing some gems -- I'm sure I am -- but I just don't have the time to devote to fringe scholars, however good they might be. (I think it's undeniable Price is a fringe scholar: he doesn't have an academic appointment at an accredited university, his books aren't published by top university publishers, and his articles are published by a mixed bag of journals, and, looking through the books by top biblical scholars I do have, I don't see a *single* citation of or reference to his work: note, this doesn't mean he isn't a great scholar, or anything like that -- I'm just saying that given the limited time I have, I'm better off spending my time in this area reading Crossan, Wright, Dunn, Ehrman, Meier, etc. than Price.)

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Your pretension is cute and you seem fairly well read but I'd suggest you listen to the podcast at this link:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8097

Dr. Endis takes apart Craig's Kalam. Basically it rests on a theory of time that respectable physicists and cosmologists find outdated.

Eric said...

Chuck, I listen to all of Luke's podcasts; they're all in my mp3 player. And I was well aware, before the Edis interview, of the A-theory/B-theory dispute, and of Craig's reliance on the A-theory of time, and of B-theorist objections to Craig's KCA. I don't think the B-theorists' responses are nearly as decisive as you do.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I think I will side with the physicist rather than the theologians on this issue.

I don't trust theology's track record.

Chuck O'Connor said...

But maybe you are like Craig and when advanced science renders your argument moot you lean on your "metaphysical disposition" as worthy evidence for your bad science.

Eric said...

"But maybe you are like Craig and when advanced science renders your argument moot you lean on your "metaphysical disposition" as worthy evidence for your bad science."

Chuck, I don't think you understand the issues here at all. A-theorists and B-theorists both accept the *same* science; the question is what the scientific data both accept (esp. from relativity and QM) implies about the nature of time as such. So please, don't try to set up a false "science/metaphysics" dichotomy here: in both cases, as you move from the *same data* that *both sides* accept to a general conclusion about the nature of time itself, *you're doing metaphysics, not science*.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Did you listen to the podcast at Common Sense Atheism? I doubt it because the good professor there debunking Craig's Kalam stated that he had little respect for the guy based on WLC's misunderstanding of physics (due to an outdated theory of time) and, he further held WLC in low esteem because when Dr. Craig's philosophical premise does not agree with good science Bill simply appeals to his "metaphysical disposition". I am wondering if you do the same? Now, I'd suggest you listen to the podcast and practice a little more humility. Remember, you are studying Catholicism, not physics so please don't expect me to consider your pedantry authoritative.

Papalinton said...

Eric and Andrew Harrison,

Eric you say, ..."I'm a Catholic, and there's a long tradition in the Catholic church, going back to Augustine (actually, even prior to Augustine) concerning our taking care *not* to read Genesis literally, and to subject our reading of the text to scientific (though there was no science proper in Augustine's day) discoveries. "

It is somewhat disconcerting when one quotes selectively in an effort to establish the high ground on which is the proper authoritative caucus to ground one's argument. My reading of Augustine is he was very much a literalist and only embraced science when congruent with scripture. This is a far cry from the very enlightened perspective you seem to be implying in quoting such a comment.

Equally, whatever spin that may be put on the Galileo Galilei trial, the bottom line is that his assertion of helio-centricity was incontrovertibly antithetical to the astronomy as depicted in scripture. The recent determination by the RCC is a testament to the incorrectness of the original charge.

I cannot reiterate enough that:

"....religions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. Once we discovered that the earth is round, we stopped thinking that it is flat. Science and reason are SUBSTITUTIVE and ELIMINATIVE: new ideas replace old ideas. Religion is ADDITIVE and/or SCHISMATIC: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism. With science, we get BETTER. With religion, we get MORE." (David Eller)

It is so difficult to put a clear argument to theists that perhaps it is worthwhile to critically examine and to test their beliefs rigorously in the light of modern thinking and discoveries in the fields of science, behavioural science, medical research, psychology, etc etc. Most the arguments end up becoming rather circular (a la the historical covered wagon defense position) simply because theism is willing to draw on both old and new arguments alike, indiscriminately, to assert its claims.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Oh and Eric I think I am going to stick with the authority of the physicist on this one. He thinks Craig's Kalam has less value than Creation science.

I know you think you know more because you have the Holy See on your side and you are doing advanced study in Ancient Roman Magic but, as you said, you are not a scientist.

derreckbennett said...

>>>When Craig says that the universe came into existence 'from nothing,' he means from a 'state' (it's hard to find words to use here) in which space, time, matter and energy did not exist.

Relational time may not have existed, and matter as we now know it may not have existed, but that is not necessarily tantamount to "nothing;" hence it would not, strictly speaking, be a matter of creation ex nihilo. The Big Bang is understood to have "created matter" in the sense that it resulted in the structural formation of subatomic particles followed by atoms such as hydrogen, but this doesn't preclude the possibility of pre-existing material from which these structures formed.

Wes Morriston assumes God's existence for the sake of argument while posing the following questions: "...why suppose that matter/energy is the only possible “stuff” out of which God might have made the universe? It’s true that we don’t seem to be acquainted with any timeless “stuffs” that could have played this role. But we don’t encounter any timeless persons either, and Craig has no trouble with that idea" (Philo Online: Creation Ex Nihilo and the Big Bang).

RE: The Universe may well have always existed, in some form or another, and thus it may be an autonomous reality, independent of any "creator." If this were the case, Craig's second premise would be false, since *technically* the Universe did not "begin to exist"--it only changed form.

>>>Well sure, but you can't make an argument by referring to bare logical possibilities.

I'm sorry, but I had to do a double-take when I read this. If you can't make an argument by referring to "bare logical possibilities," such as a pre-existing form of the Universe, then you cannot make an argument on the "bare logical possibility" that the Universe was preceded by nothing but an all-powerful creator God who ignited the process. We have no direct evidence of either scenario, so I cannot see how one is more logically probable than the other.

In fact, from the standpoint of logic, the latter scenario bares a critical weakness. If you accept the reality of evolutionary processes in both biology and cosmology, then you understand that complexity arises from simplicity. This bottom-up rather than top-down view of "creation" seems to negate the God Hypothesis. Thank you, Dr. Dawkins. Why do I feel a Plantinga quote coming on?

>>>good arguments minimally require premises that are more plausibly true then their negations, and as I see it, the proposition, "the universe began to exist" is in fact more plausible, given the state of modern cosmology, than its negation, viz. "the universe did not begin to exist."

And as I see it, the proposition, "the Universe began to exist [in its current form]," i.e. "something came from something," is more plausible than "something came from nothing," which frankly strikes me as absurd. In point of fact, neither of us think it came from "nothing." You indeed think that it came from a very significant "something"--God. I don't find it logically or philosophically viable to revert to greater complexity by anthropomorphizing an 'unknown'.

derreckbennett said...

RE: But the fact of the matter is, we have no earthly idea what caused it, and for Craig to merely insert his god into the equation does indeed strike me as a 'god-of-the-gaps' fallacy.

>>>But that's not at all what Craig does. Rather, he follows the KCA with a conceptual analysis if what properties a 'cause of the universe' must be ascribed, and it is from here that he concludes that it possesses properties consonant with the God of classical theism. He doesn't 'insert' God, but *argues* that such a cause must be God. (If you want to hear his argument, let me know.)

If we don't know what ignited the Big Bang, then we are not in a position to assess or ascribe "properties" to anything, unless we're just making it up as we go along. Craig is merely drawing upon the presuppositions of "the God of classical theism," something for which we have no direct evidence. He has arrived at the limits of his knowledge, since he cannot know how or why the Big Bang occurred; in fact, he's fully taken advantage of this 'gap' in knowledge with which all of us are faced, and he's struck it up to the divine activity of a miracle-wielding god, namely his own. Fiat lux! What more explanation do you need when an unseen god, purportedly capable of anything and everything, is ipso facto the only thing conceivably up to the challenge?

This is no different than the mathematician who points to the missing variable in the equation and says, "Right here, a miracle happens." It is no different than the primitive who ascribed storms to Baal or vegetation cycles to Dumuzi, because he could not possibly fathom anything less than a supernatural explanation for such phenomena. For all its sophistication, Craig's KCA remains a 'god-of-the-gaps' argument. "Mine the gap."

RE: I ask about your acceptance of the theories behind solar system formation, because Genesis 1:1-19 seems to fly in the face of such theories.

>>>I'm a Catholic, and there's a long tradition in the Catholic church, going back to Augustine (actually, even prior to Augustine) concerning our taking care *not* to read Genesis literally, and to subject our reading of the text to scientific (though there was no science proper in Augustine's day) discoveries. Even Cardinal Bellarmine, of the infamous Galileo affair, said that if such and such is shown to be true scientifically, our reading of scripture must be altered accordingly (in accord with the Church's acceptance of Aquinas's doctrine of the Unity of Truth.)

But, what reason have you for assuming that the authors did not intend for Genesis to be taken literally? Paul and Luke certainly regard Adam and Eve as historical figures, if that tells us anything. Are we reasoning that Genesis's creation account shouldn't be taken literally because it doesn't mesh with science? Resurrection from the dead doesn't either, but, Catholic or Protestant, the resurrection of Christ is practically the cornerstone of your faith. Why take Genesis non-literally and the resurrection literally?

Moreover, I would think that a book inspired by the All-Powerful CREATOR of the Universe would not be host to such conspicuous anachronisms when discussing CREATION. Why on earth would YHWH inspire a creation narrative in which the earth is created before the sun after he'd set the universal laws of nature in motion such that our scientific discoveries would bear no resemblance to this? To test our faith, perhaps? A cosmic prankster of sorts? I'm sorry, but your reconciliation of this matter is hardly convincing. I'm sure it is to anyone who must rationalize defenses and contrive excuses for unyielding belief in their cherished texts, rather than acknowledge the obvious flaws as an indication of purely manmade rather than divine material. But, not to those of us looking in.

derreckbennett said...

>>>I have not read any of Dr. Price's books ... I just don't have the time to devote to fringe scholars, however good they might be.

Suit yourself, but you are indeed missing some rich material. For instance, Price has set forth some of the most cogent arguments available among contemporary biblical scholars for Christianity's roots in the dying-and-rising-god salvation schemes of ancient Mystery Religion. No offense, but as a Catholic, especially if you partake of transubstantiation mysticism, it would be difficult for you to deny such insights.

>>>Aquinas starts with an empirical premise: some things change. He then proceeds to analyze what all changes involve (i.e. to analyze the metaphysics of change), and to distinguish different kinds of causes and causal chains. Some causal chains can, in principle, be extended infinitely, e.g. causal chains involving events that extend backward into the past. Other causal chains, e.g. those that involve a series of instrumental causes occurring more or less simultaneously, cannot be extended infinitely (keep in mind that he's not talking about events back into the past here, but causes and effects 'downwards,' as it were, in the present moment). Such chains require a terminus. But, given Aquinas's metaphysics of change (which is *not* affected by scientific discoveries), the terminus must be the sort of being (or entity, or thing, or whatever term you prefer here) that possesses many of the traditional properties we would ascribe to God. That probably doesn't help much at all, so here are some links that might help you get your feet wet.

Perhaps you could narrow that down to two or three of your favorite sources, sir. There's an awful lot of linkage in there; those of us of Pastafarian inclination are "naught but humble pirates."

Also, could you provide an example of "a series of instrumental causes occurring more or less simultaneously," which "cannot be extended infinitely?" And how would one extrapolate that as an argument for the existence of God?

In the meantime, I'm going to go dry my feet. They're soaked. Arrr, matey.

Andrew Harrison said...

derreckbennett,

First, thanks for your thoughts. I've enjoyed perusing some of your exchanges, and I hope you've found benefit in this interaction; I know I have. It can be tricky maintaining a sense of optimism in such discussions, but ofttimes I think that there is good that is done (maturing, learning, etc.) even when one side doesn't fall down and fully concede all points (Can you imagine!?). Anyway, to get on to the meat and potatoes, enjoy a couple of "quick hits" for the sake of clarification......

"Relational time may not have existed, and matter as we now know it may not have existed, but that is not necessarily tantamount to 'nothing;' hence it would not, strictly speaking, be a matter of creation ex nihilo. The Big Bang is understood to have "created matter" in the sense that it resulted in the structural formation of subatomic particles followed by atoms such as hydrogen, but this doesn't preclude the possibility of pre-existing material from which these structures formed."

If I'm understanding you correctly, it looks like you're trying to mitigate the "nothingness" that Craig and others are arguing for. You mention the Big Bang's work in kind of piecing together the subatomic particles. And I think you would be right that if we had even the precursor "elements" of the Big Bang, then the Kalam argument won't work. The argument from Kalam has its force only if the universe began to exist *period.* (It cannot be overemphasized that the beginning of the universe is an actual point in time.) The good news is that Kalam has, in fact, lost no weight, because one need simply to demand causal explanations for each previous event, and end up in an infinite regress. And that is why, for me, Kalam is insurmountable. Perhaps it is shocking to conclude that a god created the universe, but it is more reasonable to me than the mathematical impossibility of an infinite universe or the logical absurdity of something popping into existence out of complete nothingness.

"If we don't know what ignited the Big Bang, then we are not in a position to assess or ascribe "properties" to anything, unless we're just making it up as we go along."

And quickly here (since we're still on the same point): I think this is just not a good characterization of what's going on. If I deduce a being with certain characteristics as the result of trying to solve a logical problem (i.e. the existence of the universe), then we're not "making it up as we go along." To quote from Seinfeld's stand up about guys and superheros: "These aren't fantasies; these are options." And it turns out that in this particular case, there are really only the 3 (a god, infinite universe, or began to exist out of non-existence with not cause).

Chuck O'Connor said...

derek - well said thanks for keeping Eric honest.

Andrew, god is a superhero? Yeah, that seems about right. I'll stick with science when seeking to understand the real world and resign pulp fiction for entertaining diversions. What do you base your theory of abiogenesis? Radioactive spiders?

Andrew Harrison said...

"Andrew, god is a superhero? Yeah, that seems about right. I'll stick with science when seeking to understand the real world and resign pulp fiction for entertaining diversions. What do you base your theory of abiogenesis? Radioactive spiders?"

Chuck O'Connor,
I try and be the first to admit when I've been unclear or explained my point-of-view poorly, but I'm certain that's not what's going on here. I'm confident that your post didn't require (or deserve) a response, but for the integrity of the forum I figure it's worth calling you out. My previous post is clear enough; so you may see me with any specific questions you might have. Otherwise, let's try and grow up a little; these matters are tricky enough without intentionally distorting each others words.

Ryan Anderson said...

Andrew said "My previous post is clear enough..."

Yes, up until you used the term "a god" as one of your three alternatives. That really could mean anything and given the context would be more precisly, and simply defined as "a first cause".

Omnipotence, will, intelligence, etc... etc... are not required.

Andrew Harrison said...

"Yes, up until you used the term 'a god' as one of your three alternatives. That really could mean anything and given the context would be more precisly, and simply defined as 'a first cause.'"

Ryan,
Nice idea. Let's see if I can get you to meet me half way here. At the very least I am sympathetic to your point that it's dangerous in some contexts to throw around the word "god." Where I want to see if you'll meet me half way is this: Instead of "first cause" (which it definitely is, but I think needs more), I don't think we can go any more minimalist than "mind." Or at least some language that conveys that we are talking about an actual person here.

The reason it has to be this way, I believe, is that if the first cause of the universe were merely material (and therefore governed deterministically by physical laws), then you are still left with a cause for that pre-universe's existence. This is avoided only when you introduce a timeless mind. The being did not begin to exist, and as a person, it had a will to create stuff (like our universe). I agree that omnipotence/benevolence can come later.

I hope I read you right, Ryan!

Ryan Anderson said...

Andrew; I couldn't disagree more that it needs to be a mind. As has been previously stated, we see natural processes all the time that create more complicated things. Because of that I don't see why the first cause can't also be governed deterministically by physical laws, even if those physical laws are different from the physical laws we are currently now subject to. Also, I see no compelling reason why you can't have a past infinite chain. How about we just call it "unknown first cause"?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Andrew,

Lighten up. I consider your devotion to christianity probably much the same as you consider scientology to be truth.

You argued for the potential of god as a reasonable explanation to the universe using a Seinfeld quote regarding super-heroes. I agree with you. I think your explanation has as much real explanatory power as the work of Stan Lee or L. Ron Hubbard.

I don't need to respectfully disagree with superstitions I think inform false beliefs (which you have plenty of). False beliefs lead to bad ideas and encourage immoral behavior.

You don't have the right to not be offended.

Andrew Harrison said...

"Because of that I don't see why the first cause can't also be governed deterministically by physical laws, even if those physical laws are different from the physical laws we are currently now subject to. Also, I see no compelling reason why you can't have a past infinite chain. How about we just call it "unknown first cause"?

Ryan,
I think I follow you. And I'm afraid I've missed some previous exchanges with Eric and others, so I might be repeating old material.

The basic idea here is a problem with how we are using the word and idea of "infinity." Early in school we became familiar with an infinite set as being a series of numbers without an end. As a youngster, "infinity" in my mind was just a REALLY BIG NUMBER! But this was just a shortcoming of my understanding of the mathematical concept of an infinite set.

Now an infinite set as a concept is no special problem in the mathematical realm; problems only arise when we start asserting that an actual number of infinite things exist. A common illustration is the paradox of Hilbert's Grand Hotel. It's a pretty simple idea, and Wikipedia gives it a nice quick summary. This issue has direct bearing on our discussion, and on anyone who concludes that the universe is simply infinite, meaning it has always been, because you are left claiming that an infinite number of events has *actually occurred.* Intuitively, however, there cannot exist an actually infinite number of something. Because of this, one concludes that time (and the universe) must have begun at 0, and the question remains "Who started it up?!"

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Eric asked if someone thought that the question of God is not a philosophical question.

He is confident that it is. I don't see it, though.

It's a scientific question that, because science can't answer it YET, becomes a philosophical question for those who cannot accept the scientific answer of "we don't know yet."

It's not really a philosophical question at all. However, Eric and sundry other apologists want it to be. It's the only chance they've got.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Eric said:
"I'm a Catholic, and there's a long tradition in the Catholic church, going back to Augustine (actually, even prior to Augustine) concerning our taking care *not* to read Genesis literally, and to subject our reading of the text to scientific (though there was no science proper in Augustine's day) discoveries."
------------------
So why did the church go on to try Galileo then? Why did the church persecute so many people for their scientific discoveries? Or for just disagreeing with them?

The church you're describing here is a tolerant church that doesn't get hung up on biblical law. Such was not the case. Putting a new shine on history doesn't change it.

Eric said...

"the good professor there debunking Craig's Kalam stated that he had little respect for the guy based on WLC's misunderstanding of physics (due to an outdated theory of time)"

Chuck, I'm going to waste my time once more and ask you a question you'll fail to answer: Can you name *one* fact or **scientific** theory that A-theorists and B-theorists disagree about?

"Remember, you are studying Catholicism, not physics so please don't expect me to consider your pedantry authoritative."

No, I'm studying philosophy, not 'Catholicism.' And you've not studied philosophy or physics, so if the fact that I'm not studying physics has any bearing on what I've said, what does your lack of knowledge about nearly every issue we've discussed say about the confidence we can repose in your assertions?

"It is somewhat disconcerting when one quotes selectively in an effort to establish the high ground on which is the proper authoritative caucus to ground one's argument. My reading of Augustine is he was very much a literalist and only embraced science when congruent with scripture."

Augustine on Genesis:

"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. **It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so *idiotically* on these matters, *and as if in accord with Christian writings*, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are**. In view of this and in **keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis**, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, **taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation**...
"With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, **should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it *seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties*, ***let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures***. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but *it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation*" (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, 2:9).

What I said about Augustine's account of how Genesis is to be read is hardly out of context.

Eric said...

"Equally, whatever spin that may be put on the Galileo Galilei trial, the bottom line is that his assertion of helio-centricity was incontrovertibly antithetical to the astronomy as depicted in scripture."

You seem to be blithely unaware of the fact that the best science up until Galileo's day supported the *geocentric* model. So, to the extent that geocentrism is inferred from the Bible (and you have to infer it from various passages, since it's never explicitly mentioned, let alone taught: you have to go out of your way to stretch the language to reach that conclusion) is not a problem for me. The Bible isn't a scientific textbook, and to treat it as one is a major category error.

"It is so difficult to put a clear argument to theists that perhaps it is worthwhile to critically examine and to test their beliefs rigorously in the light of modern thinking and discoveries in the fields of science, behavioural science, medical research, psychology, etc etc."

I have no problem with such inquiry. But if it assumes at the outset that theistic belief is false, its resulting arguments will be question begging. And if it doesn't, then it must contend with theistic arguments. But, since nearly all theistic arguments are philosophical, they're best evaluated in terms of relative strength by comparing them with other philosophical arguments -- which gets me bask to the point I was making earlier, and which no one has addressed.


"Oh and Eric I think I am going to stick with the authority of the physicist on this one. He thinks Craig's Kalam has less value than Creation science."

Fine, you stick with physicists who don't like the argument, and ignore those who do like it. That seems to be your preferred method of thinking, anyway: let me decide what I think, then see what experts agree with me, ignore those who disagree, ignore the arguments themselves, and that's that.

Eric said...

"The Big Bang is understood to have "created matter" in the sense that it resulted in the structural formation of subatomic particles followed by atoms such as hydrogen, but this doesn't preclude the possibility of pre-existing material from which these structures formed."

Again, you *cannot* refute an argument on the grounds that some alternative premise is a bare logical possibility. If that's the case, then every argument can be refuted, and we're left with a self refuting radical skepticism.

"I'm sorry, but I had to do a double-take when I read this. If you can't make an argument by referring to "bare logical possibilities," such as a pre-existing form of the Universe, then you cannot make an argument on the "bare logical possibility" that the Universe was preceded by nothing but an all-powerful creator God who ignited the process."

Friend, this is thoroughly confused. Craig doesn't "make an argument on the "bare logical possibility" that the Universe was preceded by nothing but an all-powerful creator God who ignited the process"; rather, he presents a deductively valid argument that *concludes* that a being with many of the attributes we ascribe to God exists.

"If you accept the reality of evolutionary processes in both biology and cosmology, then you understand that complexity arises from simplicity. This bottom-up rather than top-down view of "creation" seems to negate the God Hypothesis. Thank you, Dr. Dawkins."

More confusion. First, God is not a "hypothesis" in Craig's argument, but is rather the conclusion of a deductive argument. And Second, Dawkins is simply wrong -- as countless philosophers, both atheists and theists, and countless theologians, have pointed out -- when he says that God is "complex."

"And as I see it, the proposition, "the Universe began to exist [in its current form]," i.e. "something came from something," is more plausible than "something came from nothing," which frankly strikes me as absurd."

No, what's more absurd is the notion of a contingent but eternal 'stuff' that's not matter or energy, and that's not in space or time, that serves as the material cause of the universe. (Actually, it's pretty close to the Aristotelian notion of 'prime matter,' which cannot exist, even in terms of broadly logical possibility!)

"In point of fact, neither of us think it came from "nothing." You indeed think that it came from a very significant "something"--God."

Right, but God is the efficient and final cause: not the material cause. You're conflating "from nothing" (material cause, which Craig's argument claims the universe lacks) and "by nothing" (the efficient cause, which Craig not only doesn't deny, but argues for with the KCA).

Eric said...

"Craig is merely drawing upon the presuppositions of "the God of classical theism," something for which we have no direct evidence."

No, he has an argument that uses two simple premises, neither of which 'presuppose' a thing about any kind of God.

"He has arrived at the limits of his knowledge, since he cannot know how or why the Big Bang occurred; in fact, he's fully taken advantage of this 'gap' in knowledge with which all of us are faced, and he's struck it up to the divine activity of a miracle-wielding god, namely his own"

No, he has not filled a gap, but drawn a conclusion from two highly plausible conclusions. God of the gaps arguments are not deductive arguments; they're inductive or abductive. Again, this is thoroughly confused.

"But, what reason have you for assuming that the authors did not intend for Genesis to be taken literally?"

My reasons are primarily linguistic and historical. Since we already have too much on our plate as it is, I'll leave it at that.

"Suit yourself, but you are indeed missing some rich material."

I'm sure I am, as are you and everyone else. We all only have a limited amount of time to read and study *period*, and obviously our reading outside our chosen fields is even more limited. It's not as if I'm avoiding scholars who challenge my views: Crossan and Borg are hardly conservative, but unlike Price, they are at the top of the field, so if I have to choose between them and Price -- and I do have to choose -- I'm going with them.

"Perhaps you could narrow that down to two or three of your favorite sources, sir."

I'll do better than that: Here's one source that will provide you with it all: the necessary background (which is an education in itself), and a wonderfully lucid presentation of the arguments (all the while demolishing Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

You said, "No, I'm studying philosophy, not 'Catholicism.' And you've not studied philosophy or physics, so if the fact that I'm not studying physics has any bearing on what I've said, what does your lack of knowledge about nearly every issue we've discussed say about the confidence we can repose in your assertions?"

They aren't my assertsion. They are Dr. Edis'. I am appealing to his authority. You are appealing to Craig's. I'll take the scientist over the theologian.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric you said,

"Fine, you stick with physicists who don't like the argument, and ignore those who do like it. That seems to be your preferred method of thinking, anyway: let me decide what I think, then see what experts agree with me, ignore those who disagree, ignore the arguments themselves, and that's that."

Which seems to be your strategy in your assertions for the Kalam and Craig's authority on Cosmology from it.

Again, your philosophical studies may matter to you but I don's see how any of the mental gymnastics you practice have any benefit to others. Your ego seems to get well-fed but, I don't see any helpful ideas coming from your defense of ancient superstition and magic which, inconveniently, is in support of the Holy Roman Catholic Church (an institution not really defined as one of the "good guys").

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

This snippet from the reviews of the book you suggested reminded me an awful lot of all your comments here, ". . . my view that the book is a bait-and-switch tome of pedantry."

Do you see yourself in that comment? I do.

Papalinton said...

Chuck,
In your post to Andrew you said, ..."You argued for the potential of god as a reasonable explanation to the universe...." (May 10, 2010 11:49 AM)

I suspect this is the very nub of the theist's rationale in positing such an argument. Without any form of general agreement in the community at large (particularly and especially the scientific and philosophical community) to this one premise, there can be no basis for grounding the declared uniqueness of the bible as much more than just a book of bronze age stories, myths and legends.

It is undoubtedly a wonderful piece of human creativity and inspiration, but it must be seen in the context of its genre of literature in which other books of the human experience are equally praiseworthy. It is in this context that it fits so well and in its rightful position.

Eric said...

"They aren't my assertsion. They are Dr. Edis'. I am appealing to his authority. You are appealing to Craig's. I'll take the scientist over the theologian."

No, Chuck -- unlike you, I have not appealed to Craig's *authority*, but have presented and defended parts of Craig's *arguments*.

And I'll just note that yet again you've failed to engage me substantively, so I'll ask once more: What specific facts or scientific theories do A-theorists and B-theorists disagree about? What science do B-theorists accept that A-theorists are forced to deny? (Answer: none. Both A-theorists and B-theorists reason from the *same* empirical grounds, and from the *same* scientific theories -- though with the occasional *empirically indistinguishable* difference with respect to how a theory is to be understood: differences not limited to differences between atheists and theists -- to the metaphysical implications of the nature of time itself.)

Eric said...

"This snippet from the reviews of the book you suggested reminded me an awful lot of all your comments here, ". . . my view that the book is a bait-and-switch tome of pedantry.""

Chuck, you continually provide evidence for my claims about you for me. It's entirely like you to skip over the overwhelmingly popular reviews to one of the few poor reviews (most of which show no familiarity with the book whatsoever, including the review to which you've referred).

Chuck O'Connor said...

I am familiar with Feser Eric. He holds to a pre-Vatican II Catholicism that I find opposes human rights. Eric you see what you don't get is that your academic noodling absent real world context leads to support for ideas that are evil. What you proudly stand for (your Thomist Catholicism) implies beliefs which inform attitudes and encourage behavior. All of which I find wrong. You and Feser are nostalgiac for Medieval Europe. How is that good?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Where in the podcast I suggested did Edis converse on A theorists and B theorists? He did speak to the ridiculousness of Craig's metaphysics. How is metaphysics real in any sense?

Eric said...

"How is metaphysics real in any sense?"

Chuck, start with this if you're honestly interested in learning something, and are not just determined to challenege everything I say because we disagree about the question of God's existence.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Eric; from the stanford link he provided:
'First, a philosopher who denied the existence of those things that had once been seen as constituting the subject-matter of metaphysics—first causes or unchanging things—would now be considered to be making thereby a metaphysical assertion.'

So to deny the validity of metaphysics is also metaphysics and therefore the validity of metaphysics is not deniable?

Hogwash, sir. The definition is based on circular reasoning. When I say that I deny metaphysics, I am making a statement based on my scientific mindset, and if a 'metaphysician' (VanHelsing?) somewhere decides that my denial is metaphysics, well he's just mentally playing games with himself as usual, no?

Paul said...

Eric,

"So you're denying that the question of God's existence -- a question nearly every great philosopher in the Western tradition has addressed (whether positively or negatively) philosophically -- is in fact a philosophical question?"

It is a question of fact, and playing word games in a metaphysical sandbox hardly gets us any closer to answering it. It is precisely as I stated: philosophy as a discipline is largely useless here, and is a mere time sink. 'Philosophy' as utilized herein (i.e. the Kalam argument) is linguistic art, and not science. It contributes little if anything at all to the discussion and can be used to paint any picture one wishes. The questions of whether gods or angels or ghosts or magic leprechauns exist are always questions of fact, and no mental gymnastics will help us answer them.

"Premises cannot be invalid; they can only be true or false or somehow unclear. Only arguments can be valid or invalid."

You prove my point by retreating to semantics. It is apologists and not skeptics who take such interest in arguing petty definitions and playing in the linguistic sandbox.

"Paul, do virtual particles begin to exist? Physicists certainly see to think they do."

I am not a physicist, and I am assuming that you are not a physicist. I do, however, know that modern science provides examples of apparent or theorized matter/energy constitution (i.e. virtual particles, bosenovas, etc.). But these instances (a) are so poorly understood - if we can even consider them to have been confirmed by observation - that they provide no helpful information to us, and (b) would seem to mitigate against the premises of Kalam if indeed they inform us at all.

"Did the computer you're using to communicate with me begin to exist... Where were you when John Adams died?"

As far as I know, the matter and energy making up all of the things you mention has always existed in one form or another. Do you understand now why this is my central point, and why the entire Kalam argument is a waste of words?

"Because the entire scientific enterprise, and the experience of our daily lives, presupposes that things that happen or begin to exist have causes..."

Things 'that happen' (i.e. people manufacturing a computer, a baby being conceived and born) are entirely different from things that 'begin to exist.' Our experience provides plenty of examples of the former, and no observed examples of the latter. This is why the whole argument makes no sense, and is locked in imagination land with most other apologetic 'arguments.'

Once again, I have no more reason to believe a thing that 'began to exist' would require a cause than I do to believe it would require no cause at all - or perhaps preclude any cause whatsoever. How could I know such a thing? How could you?

Can you give an example of a thing that has been observed and confirmed to 'begin to exist?' What of its cause or absence thereof? Again, don't you think the premises in the argument are entirely arbitrary? (This is characteristic of apologetic tack.)

Do you understand my point? And the general attitude towards apologists by many skeptics? Apologist 'philosophers' don't even follow their own rules. (How could they?) In this case, we have an argument sold largely through equivocation (i.e. implying that the interaction of matter/energy is the same as the emergence/materialization of matter/energy).

Andrew,

"I am sympathetic to the fact that there are all types of forums that are helpful to all types of levels of education and intelligence...the combination of arrogance and ignorance that you have introduced..."

It seems odd to mix ostentatious condescension and complaints about arrogance in the same post. Did you forget to remove one of the two?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

You misunderstand my opposition to your arguments. It is not that I don't wish to learn but I consider the source of who wishes to teach. You have proudly asserted your Thomist worldview in defense of The Holy Roman Catholic Church which, to me, invalidates any reasonable trust towards anything you argue. It would be the same as respecting a White Supremacists appeals to principle. I can't trust you simply because of how you've defined yourself. You are a defender of a worldview that is predicated on obedience to antiquated tradition and an institution that violates human rights in service to that tradition.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Chuck, Paul...

Your clarity of thought is appreciated here. I'd never fully realized before the uselessness of philosophy in answering the ultimate questions. This is a minor revelation to me. I see that it is true, but I guess I'd always given at least some validity to philosophy in this regard. Now it is clear to me that it has always been a scientific question, albeit one with little data to draw upon... as yet, I mean. The future may bring answers to these ultimate questions, but if it does, they can only come from science.

I've always realized that the catholic apologists were wrong at some basic level, and I've always realized that they are equivacators at best, but this is very illuminating for me... Why, they aren't even in the right ballpark, are they? It's like they're trying to use hamlet to solve a quantum physics problem.

(I borrowed this last analogy from Eric himself, in fact, to give credit where credit is due....)

Saint Brian the Godless said...

It would be the same as respecting a White Supremacists appeals to principle. I can't trust you simply because of how you've defined yourself. You are a defender of a worldview that is predicated on obedience to antiquated tradition and an institution that violates human rights in service to that tradition.
-------------
Amen. Or awomen, as the case may be of course.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

You cited a quotation from AUGUSTINE that moderate and liberal Christians often cite against their fundamentalist brethren. However, Augustine did hold some definite opinions concerning the correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11, because "the Bible told him so," and nobody during his lifetime was able to budge him away from those opinions, though today they are quite mockable:

AUGUSTINE ON WHAT MUST BE BELIEVED ACCORDING TO GENESIS 1

“. . . [in Genesis 1] the firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called ‘Heaven,’ in which firmament the stars were made on the fourth day.” [Augustine, City of God chapter 11.5-9] In that same chapter Augustine also cites Psalm 148:3-4 that states the "sun, moon, stars and heaven" praise the Lord along with "the waters above the heavens." And in The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine wrote: “The term ‘firmament’ does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven: we may understand this name as given to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the water above and the waters below. . . . Whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of man’s mind.”

Augustine’s interpretation was echoed by Martin Luther as late as the fifteenth century: “Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which . . . are the waters. . . . We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding” [Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan (St. Louis, MI: Concordia, 1958), pp. 30, 42, 43].

SAINT AUGUSTINE ON SEXUAL INTERCOURSE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD

In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife's breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife's virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings.

Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book14, Chapter 26

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Eric,

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE

AUGUSTINE AND OTHER EARLY CHURCH FATHERS ROUTINLEY DISMISSED AS FABULOUS THE RECORDS OF CIVILIZATION PREDATING ADAM

The recorded Egyptian dynasties extend back some thousand years or more before Noah, the flood, or the Tower of Babel. Roughly speaking the great pyramid at Giza was constructed ca. 2560 B.C.E. approximately the same time as the Genesis narrative places the flood, with continuous Egyptian civilization predating and postdating this time. David N. Livingstone in ADAM'S ANCESTORS notes that Augustine (354-430) opposed these ideas. Indeed, the continuing dispute over chronology was sufficiently strong that Augustine devoted a whole chapter of THE CITY OF GOD to "the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world's past" and another chapter to the "mendacious vanity" and "empty presumption" of the Egyptians in claiming "an antiquity of a hundred thousand years " for their accumulated wisdom. (Livingston, p. 9) While Augustine had no doubt that these reports were false, the seeds of inconsistency and discrepancy were present and were factors to be considered - if only to be refuted soundly. (See, David N. Livingstone, Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. The author is Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen's University, Belfast. His book looks at the history of the idea of pre-adamic or non-adamic humans in western Christian thinking from the early church (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine) through the middle ages, the explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, the debates on racial supremacy, and on to the present day. http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/03/the-challenge-of-adam-1-rjs.html

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

ON GALILEO, I have read about a different view of his case, namely that his inquisitors were concerned about Galileo's conjectures related to the nature of "light," conjectures that seemed to contradict the doctrine of transubstantiation. Geordano Bruno, someone who believed in life on other planets, was likewise tried by the inquisition primarily for his views that denied transubstantiation, found guilty, and executed on that very basis. If so, doesn't that make the church even more at fault than if "astronomy" was the matter most under dispute?

I also read that Galileo was shown the instruments with which they were ready to torture him if he did not recant. I photocopied the page from a recent history book that mentioned this titbit, but would have to check my files for the exact book's name and page number. Does that info ring a bell with you? Or hadn't you heard about it at all?

Bellarmine, who prosecuted the cases against both Bruno and Galileo, was made a doctor of the church in theology and also a SAINT, and his sermons on the torments of hell were gathered together into a book titled, HELL AND ITS TORMENTS, still sold at some Catholic bookstores. He also has colleges and parishes named after him, named after the man who prosecuted Galileo, and who wrote a work that detailed via Scripture and logic exactly why the state must enforce religion, why heretics must be persecuted and executed, and why non-believers will be tormented eternally. It's quite a thorough work, dealing with many obejctions from Scripture as well.

Lastly, a A meeting was held in September 1998 at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo (Rome) to discuss the results of the Catholic Church's Galileo Commission. Read about the results of that meeting in "The Church’s Most Recent Attempt to Dispel the Galileo Myth" by ex-Vatican astronomer, George V. Coyne, S.J.
http://www.astro.washington.edu/users/balick/rome1/coyne.pdf Makes one understand that the "myth" is not exactly as mythical as the Church WANTS people to believe.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

On Dr. Price, I knew him before he had his first master's degree. Now he has two PhDs in NT. Even before he obtained his first master's degree he shared with me a briefly annotated list of theology books 10 or so pages long. And I've gone book hunting with him as well as seen his personal home library that lined every wall and hallway. As we spoke and moved through his home he would cite a passage to answer a question I had raised and reach up and grab the book and show me the passage. It would appear to me that he's spent as much time, if not more time reading and studying theology, than most living theologians. He lives eats and breathes theology. And he is knowledgable concerning all interpretations from the large region of moderate to liberal views as well as fundamentalist and mythicist.

He's apparently known in Germany among theologians who read English and was honored over there not long ago. But his fundamentalist roots and his wish to write books (and book reviews of others' theological works), that an educated layperson might understand, are where some of his greatest gifts lay.

I would also suggest to anyone who wishes to read Price that they begin with Beyond Born Again, a book composed after the questions he'd learned in college while obtaining his master's degree began to sink in. I would not suggest jumping into Price by reading his recent book-length response to Strobel, which presumes a lot of knowledge of the NT on the part of the reader, more than Strobel presumed of his readers that's for sure.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Price is also a colleague of Crossan (someone Eric counts worthy of his vast philosophizing) with the Jesus Seminar. Eric is a pretentious, elitist putz.

derreckbennett said...

RE: The Big Bang is understood to have "created matter" in the sense that it resulted in the structural formation of subatomic particles followed by atoms such as hydrogen, but this doesn't preclude the possibility of pre-existing material from which these structures formed.

>>>Again, you *cannot* refute an argument on the grounds that some alternative premise is a bare logical possibility. If that's the case, then every argument can be refuted, and we're left with a self refuting radical skepticism.

You cannot adequately *defend* an argument or draw any decisive conslusions from it if the premise isn't even *known* to be true in the sense to which it appeals. We plumb don't *know* that the Universe "began to exist" in the manner that Craig asserts (ex nihilo). Perhaps it did. Perhaps it didn't. We don't know. These are both "bare logical possibilities." Going by our current state of knowledge, neither can be said to be more probable than the other.

The KCA would be far more effective and convincing if we actually knew the second premise of his syllogism to be completely factual. Rather, his premise is merely assumed, and he draws his conclusion therefrom. IF the Universe (or Metaverse) had already "existed" in some form or another, Craig's second premise would be absolutely false. Again, we don't know; thus, skepticism (nothing radical about it) is entirely appropriate in light of anyone who would dogmatize either way on the matter. Morriston was wise to quote David Hume here:

"We are got into fairy land, long ere we have reached the last steps of our theory; and there we have no reason to trust our common methods of argument, or to think that our usual analogies and probabilities have any authority. Our line is too short to fathom such immense abysses."

derreckbennett said...

RE: I'm sorry, but I had to do a double-take when I read this. If you can't make an argument by referring to "bare logical possibilities," such as a pre-existing form of the Universe, then you cannot make an argument on the "bare logical possibility" that the Universe was preceded by nothing but an all-powerful creator God who ignited the process.

>>>Friend, this is thoroughly confused. Craig doesn't "make an argument on the "bare logical possibility" that the Universe was preceded by nothing but an all-powerful creator God who ignited the process"; rather, he presents a deductively valid argument that *concludes* that a being with many of the attributes we ascribe to God exists.

Dude, Craig strings together an ad hoc argument which does nothing more than leave us with the question of causation behind the Big Bang, since this is the only aspect of his premise which science validates and upon which we can agree. I have the humility to find myself befuddled by such an extraordinary event and to embrace an attitude of agnosticism therein. Scientists do the same, all the while suspecting, as I do, a naturalistic cause per the pattern demonstrated by the history of science. For Craig, this won't do. All of his smooth-talking apologetic shuck-and-jive boils down to this:

"Gee whiz, science is answering a whole host of questions about the natural world these days, none of which require a supernatural entity. How can I continue to maintain the necessity of God's activity in the world in the face of such discoveries? Ah, here's a nice gap! A Big Bang? Why, what kind of naturalistic explanation could account for that? As it stands, there isn't one! Never fear, Christians of the world; we can make room for God RIGHT HERE. Never got around to this one, Dr. Sagan? Give up, Dr. Hawking? Nothing from you, Neil deGrasse Tyson? Well, here's the answer: the Big Bang was the voluntary act of a free agent of cosmic proportions, namely God--particularly the Hebrew god, YHWH, to which Moses was introduced among the Shasu tribe in Midian, who'd witnessed a striking volcanic phenomenon known as a 'dirty storm' and anthropomoprhized it into a fierce deity, which came in awfully handy during combat. Having performed such a "voluntary act" as the wildly exciting field of "free agency" permits, how did YHWH do it? I don't know! I just know that he did! What else could account for such a phenomenon? Gap sufficiently filled!"

Bottom line: Craig's ad hoc argument belies the *assumption* that a "being with many of the attributes we ascribe to God exists," seeks out a poorly understood phenomenon for which no conclusive explanation has been offered, and "concludes" therefore that the "God of classical theism" must have done the trick. Because that's what creator gods do. They spawn worlds. And according to WHAT, exactly? Primitive myths passed down from antiquity. Marduk was doing Yahweh's job in Mesopotamia--splitting firmaments, whipping up beings from dust, etc.--before the Hebrews had him fill the position. Ultimately, THIS is the mindset that Craig and theistic philosophers from time immemorial have inherited. The "God of classical theism" is quite likely an imaginary construct to begin with--an anthropomorphic self-projection of man's own image--a thing upon which eyes have never been laid for precisely the same reason that eyes have never been laid upon Fairies, Unicorns, Elves, Goblins, Pixies, Wizards, Dragons, Trolls, Zombies, Giants, Minotaurs, Vampires, Bigfoot, Nessie, Sphinx, Werewolves, Mermaids, Genies, the Boogeyman and Sarah Palin's residential view of Russia. Because they don't exist. It is a bare logical probability.

derreckbennett said...

RE: If you accept the reality of evolutionary processes in both biology and cosmology, then you understand that complexity arises from simplicity. This bottom-up rather than top-down view of "creation" seems to negate the God Hypothesis. Thank you, Dr. Dawkins.

>>>More confusion. First, God is not a "hypothesis" in Craig's argument, but is rather the conclusion of a deductive argument.

So, Craig never had such a "hypothesis" in mind before piecing together this argument. He just happened to be a professional evangelical apologist with a purely objective fascination with Big Bang cosmology. He deductively and dispassionately followed the evidence where it led and--surprise, surprise--God was the only "conclusion." No, sorry, we're not buying it. Craig had already mentally placed the cart before the horse, and he craftily found a way to make it look otherwise. At the end of the day, you cannot deduce a "conclusion" by anthropomorphizing an 'unknown'.

>>>And Second, Dawkins is simply wrong -- as countless philosophers, both atheists and theists, and countless theologians, have pointed out -- when he says that God is "complex."

Not if we consider the definition of 'complex' provided by Merriam Webster: "composed of two or more parts." Ehem, Trinity! Or its synonym--'complicated': "something that offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining." Sounds utterly like Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Or there's the shorthand: "God works in mysterious ways." Or, "Some things we're not meant to understand." Sounds to me like something not easily understood or explained. Consider also the definition of 'mind': "the element or *complex* of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons." Seems fitting of Craig's god. Unless you'd prefer to claim that he's mindless.

RE: And as I see it, the proposition, "the Universe began to exist [in its current form]," i.e. "something came from something," is more plausible than "something came from nothing," which frankly strikes me as absurd.

>>>No, what's more absurd is the notion of a contingent but eternal 'stuff' that's not matter or energy, and that's not in space or time, that serves as the material cause of the universe. (Actually, it's pretty close to the Aristotelian notion of 'prime matter,' which cannot exist, even in terms of broadly logical possibility!)

No, what's more absurd is the sheerly speculative shoehorning of an eternal 'person' by one with an evangelical axe to grind. As you surely know, there are theoretical physicists who aren't hellbent on theologizing the matter, working with such models as string theory, membranes, etc., all of which are more tenable than the God Hypothesis since they don't merely fall back on god-of-the-gaps supernaturalism.

derreckbennett said...

RE: In point of fact, neither of us think it came from "nothing." You indeed think that it came from a very significant "something"--God.

>>>Right, but God is the efficient and final cause: not the material cause. You're conflating "from nothing" (material cause, which Craig's argument claims the universe lacks) and "by nothing" (the efficient cause, which Craig not only doesn't deny, but argues for with the KCA).

"We are got into fairy land..." Craig's god is a spiritual, non-material being based on the presuppositions of theology, not on any kind of empirical evidence. Presupposing such a being from a source that is rife with contradiction, pagan mythology, gross scientific and historical anachronisms, etc. undercuts its validity. We know nothing of "efficient and final" non-temporal causes. Such a variable is every bit as speculative as anything offered by theoretical physicists, and, again, a telling bit of god-of-the-gaps supernaturalism, which makes it far more suspect.

RE: Craig is merely drawing upon the presuppositions of "the God of classical theism," something for which we have no direct evidence.

>>>No, he has an argument that uses two simple premises, neither of which 'presuppose' a thing about any kind of God.

No, he biasly presupposes his god to begin with, hijacks scientific theories about cosmology, sets forth premises that we don't know to be absolutely true in the sense that he intends, and rams forth an ad hoc conclusion that supports his worldview.

RE: He has arrived at the limits of his knowledge, since he cannot know how or why the Big Bang occurred; in fact, he's fully taken advantage of this 'gap' in knowledge with which all of us are faced, and he's struck it up to the divine activity of a miracle-wielding god, namely his own.

>>>No, he has not filled a gap, but drawn a conclusion from two highly plausible conclusions. God of the gaps arguments are not deductive arguments; they're inductive or abductive. Again, this is thoroughly confused.

No, it's not deductive, because he hasn't ruled out other possibilities presented by theoretical physicists. Neither is it inductive, since it's not adequately based on empirical antecedents of things "beginning to exist." He abduces/infers A) 'God' as an explanation for B) the 'Big Bang', leaving other possible explanations on the cutting room floor, because they don't mesh with his theology. Of course, he spins it the other way around, as the deceptive spin-doctor that he is, in order to give it the appearance of being non-abductive--deriving B) 'God' from A) the 'Big Bang'. But, his games are all too transparent. We know better.

derreckbennett said...

RE: But, what reason have you for assuming that the authors did not intend for Genesis to be taken literally?

>>>My reasons are primarily linguistic and historical. Since we already have too much on our plate as it is, I'll leave it at that.

That seems somewhat evasive. Moreover, as I stated earlier, I would think that a book inspired by the All-Powerful CREATOR of the Universe would not be host to conspicuous anachronisms when discussing CREATION. Why on earth would YHWH inspire a creation narrative in which the earth is created before the sun after he'd set the universal laws of nature in motion such that our scientific discoveries would bear no resemblance to this? Especially with our eternal well-being on the line? The Bible would be far more credible to those of us in the modern day if it portrayed these events accurately. Unless you mean to tell me that it wasn't intended to reach modern day audiences. I think there's a simple answer here, and I think it's one that you simply prefer to avoid.

RE: Suit yourself, but you are indeed missing some rich material (Price's work).

>>>I'm sure I am, as are you and everyone else. We all only have a limited amount of time to read and study *period*, and obviously our reading outside our chosen fields is even more limited. It's not as if I'm avoiding scholars who challenge my views: Crossan and Borg are hardly conservative, but unlike Price, they are at the top of the field, so if I have to choose between them and Price -- and I do have to choose -- I'm going with them.

Then you may never know the root of the "sacred mysteries" in which you engage.

RE: Perhaps you could narrow that down to two or three of your favorite sources, sir.

>>>I'll do better than that: Here's one source that will provide you with it all: the necessary background (which is an education in itself), and a wonderfully lucid presentation of the arguments (all the while demolishing Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett).

Since we already have too much on our plate as it is, I'll come back to that later. ;)

Chuck O'Connor said...

derek,

I enjoy your arguments. Thanks for continuing to expose Eric for the pretentious student that he is.

Eric, I suggest you stick to your studies and recognize that academic knowledge is vastly different than applied intelligence.

Eric said...

(Response to Paul)

Paul:"It is precisely as I stated: philosophy as a discipline is largely useless here, and is a mere time sink."

Then why are you repeatedly inserting yourself into philosophical discussions? Note, your remarkably inept criticisms of the KCA were *philosophical*.

Paul:"'Philosophy' as utilized herein (i.e. the Kalam argument) is linguistic art, and not science."

You exemplify the problem I pointed out earlier. What you should have written is, "Philosophy as utilized herein is philosophy, not science." Which is basically the point I've been making.

Paul:"It contributes little if anything at all to the discussion and can be used to paint any picture one wishes. The questions of whether gods or angels or ghosts or magic leprechauns exist are always questions of fact"

This should be good: I challenge you to produce a valid deductive argument with premises as plausible as the premises of the KCA that leads to the conclusion that leprechauns exist. I predict you will not even attempt to produce such an argument; yet, if what you claim above is true, it should be easy.

Paul:"It is apologists and not skeptics who take such interest in arguing petty definitions and playing in the linguistic sandbox."

You've obviously never taken logic 101. If I had called a premise invalid, my professor would have had my head, especially since the first few weeks of logic 101 involve clarifying concepts and distinctions that are a must for clear thinking. Let me quote Antony Flew (from a pre-conversion logic text, "How to Think Straight"): "What is true, or false, is propositions. What is valid, or invalid, is arguments. These notions and these distinctions are absolutely basic. To say that an argument is true or that a proposition is valid is as uncomprehending or as inept as to say that someone got to first base in basketball or that someone made a home run in tennis."

Paul:"As far as I know, the matter and energy making up all of the things you mention has always existed in one form or another. Do you understand now why this is my central point, and why the entire Kalam argument is a waste of words?"

Let me get this straight: are you saying that X and the stuff that composes X are the same thing? This can be refuted in so many ways. Take a pile of all the material it would take to build your dream home: is it the same as your dream home? Does your home possess properties the pile of stuff lacks? Is there a time at which we have a pile of stuff, and a future time at which we have your dream home (even if, due to problems of vagueness, we cannot say precisely at which point the home began to exist)?

Paul:"Things 'that happen' (i.e. people manufacturing a computer, a baby being conceived and born) are entirely different from things that 'begin to exist.'"

Then please answer the question: did your child (assuming you have one) begin to exist? Did you begin to exist? Did your computer exist 5 billion years ago, i.e. before the earth existed? Just answer the questions.

Eric said...

(Response to Paul continued)

Paul:"Once again, I have no more reason to believe a thing that 'began to exist' would require a cause than I do to believe it would require no cause at all - or perhaps preclude any cause whatsoever."

So if your wife became pregnant before you consummated your marriage, you wouldn't be looking for a cause?

Paul:"Can you give an example of a thing that has been observed and confirmed to 'begin to exist?'"

You. Did you begin to exist, Paul? Or are you claiming that *you* -- not the stuff out of which you're composed (if you went missing, and someone murdered you and cut you up in little pieces, but returned the pieces to collect the reward money, would your family be obligated to pay, on grounds that he was, after all, returning the stuff out of which you are composed, and was therefore returning you?) -- are eternal? Are you, not the stuff that composes you, eternal, Paul? Or did you begin to exist?

Eric said...

(Response to Edward)

Ed:"However, Augustine did hold some definite opinions concerning the correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11, because "the Bible told him so," and nobody during his lifetime was able to budge him away from those opinions, though today they are quite mockable:"

Ed, since I never claimed otherwise, your post targets a strawman.

And I never addressed Luther or Augustine on sex.

My only point was that Augustine recognized that we must be willing to interpret parts of scripture dealing with phenomena we can rationally study in light of the conclusions of such studies, and this is incontrovertible. (Note, this point is one thing; whether Augustine, or anyone else, has ever followed it with perfect consistency is another thing altogether.)

Ed:"ON GALILEO, I have read about a different view of his case, namely that his inquisitors were concerned about Galileo's conjectures related to the nature of "light," conjectures that seemed to contradict the doctrine of transubstantiation."

Ed, see "Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius" by Artigas and Shea (Oxford University Press).

Ed:"I also read that Galileo was shown the instruments with which they were ready to torture him if he did not recant. I photocopied the page from a recent history book that mentioned this titbit, but would have to check my files for the exact book's name and page number. Does that info ring a bell with you? Or hadn't you heard about it at all?"

In the post you're supposedly responding to, I wrote: "I'm not saying that what the Church did to Galileo in *threatening* him and *silencing* him was right -- it was horribly wrong." Does that ring a bell?

Ed:"Bellarmine, who prosecuted the cases against both Bruno and Galileo, was made a doctor of the church in theology and also a SAINT, and his sermons on the torments of hell were gathered together into a book titled, HELL AND ITS TORMENTS, still sold at some Catholic bookstores."

Why do you insist on raising irrelevant point after irrelevant point? Here's what Bellarmine said apropos of the point I was making: "While experience tells us plainly that the earth is standing still, if there were a real proof that the sun is in the center of the universe...and that the sun does not go round the earth but that the earth round the sun, *then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages in scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved true*. But this is not a thing to be done in haste, and for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs *until they are shown to me*."

Ed:"On Dr. Price, I knew him before he had his first master's degree. Now he has two PhDs in NT."

As I said, I'm not saying he's not a great scholar; rather, I'm only saying that he's not a top scholar, the field he writes in is not my field, and as such, I only have a limited time to read such works, and that therefore my time is best spent reading the top scholars (none of whom, judging from my home library, refer to or cite Price even once -- and that includes his Jesus Seminar colleagues). We all have limited time to read, and must choose how best to use it. Personally, I'll take Ehrman or Crossan or Wright over Price.

Eric said...

(Response to derreckbennett)

derreck:"You cannot adequately *defend* an argument or draw any decisive conslusions from it if the premise isn't even *known* to be true in the sense to which it appeals."

Of course we can -- we do it in science, history, philosophy, etc. all the time. As I said, *no one* demands that a premise be known to be true with absolute certainty. I presume you accept, as I do, the general truth of evolutionary theory. Do you honestly think that its premises are known with 100%, absolute certainty?

derreck:"We plumb don't *know* that the Universe "began to exist" in the manner that Craig asserts (ex nihilo). Perhaps it did. Perhaps it didn't. We don't know."

But we do have reasons to conclude that it's more plausibly true that it did begin to exist than that it did not begin to exist. And to construct a good argument, that's all we need.

derreck:"These are both "bare logical possibilities." Going by our current state of knowledge, neither can be said to be more probable than the other."

False: from the increasing entropy in the universe, to the predicted microwave background radiation, to the expansion of the universe, etc. we have reasons to conclude that a stronger case can be made for a finite universe than for an eternal universe (where the term 'universe' comprises all matter, energy, fields, space and time).

derreck:"The KCA would be far more effective and convincing if we actually knew the second premise of his syllogism to be completely factual."

One is tempted to respond with, "Well, duh" here. The same is true of *any* argument. But as I said, it's a standard we can almost never meet.

derreck:"Rather, his premise is merely assumed, and he draws his conclusion therefrom."

No, it's not "assumed"; it's argued for (1) on scientific grounds, and (2) on philosophical grounds. Either you don't understand the argument, or you don't understand what an assumption is.

derreck:"Again, we don't know; thus, skepticism (nothing radical about it) is entirely appropriate in light of anyone who would dogmatize either way on the matter."

And skepticism of that sort is fine. As I said, most of the work a valid deductive argument does concerns our evaluation of its premises: if you want to reject the conclusion of such an argument, the cost is rejecting at least one of its premises. If you don't think rejecting the second premise is at all costly, then reject it. But I doubt you could defend that position better than the defense Craig provides for his second premise (and yes, he defends it, he doesn't "assume" it's true).

Eric said...

(Response to derreckbennett)

derreck:"Dude, Craig strings together an ad hoc argument which does nothing more than leave us with the question of causation behind the Big Bang, since this is the only aspect of his premise which science validates and upon which we can agree."

In what sense is the argument "ad hoc"? And the "cause" of the universe isn't a "premise" of his argument -- it's his conclusion! As I said, he doesn't go from cause of the universe to God in a single step. Rather, he performs a conceptual analysis of what a cause of the universe must be, and concludes that its properties are the same as some of the properties traditionally ascribed to God.

derreck:"All of his smooth-talking apologetic shuck-and-jive boils down to this: "Gee whiz, science is answering a whole host of questions about the natural world these days, none of which require a supernatural entity. How can I continue to maintain the necessity of God's activity in the world in the face of such discoveries? Ah, here's a nice gap! A Big Bang?..."

Again, you're demonstrating that you don't understand what a god-of-the-gaps argument is. Craig's argument is *nothing* like one, and it's certainly bears no resemblance whatsoever to the blatantly silly mischaracterization you proceeded to develop in your post.

derreck:"Bottom line: Craig's ad hoc argument belies the *assumption* that a "being with many of the attributes we ascribe to God exists," seeks out a poorly understood phenomenon for which no conclusive explanation has been offered, and "concludes" therefore that the "God of classical theism" must have done the trick."

Craig's argument "belies" the assumption? You don't mean that, do you? And again, it's not "ad hoc" (except in the sense that all arguments are ad hoc, i.e. they are developed to defend a specific conclusion), and there's no such "assumption."

As I said, Craig's argument is logically valid, and consists of plausible premises. I'll repeat my initial challenge -- the one where I said I didn't want to get into the sort of defense of the KCA that I have been drawn into -- to you right here: provide me with an example of a logically valid philosophical argument that reaches a substantial conclusion that has premises more plausibly true than the premises of the KCA.

derreck:"The "God of classical theism" is quite likely an imaginary construct to begin with--an anthropomorphic self-projection of man's own image--a thing upon which eyes have never been laid for precisely the same reason that eyes have never been laid upon Fairies, Unicorns, Elves, Goblins, Pixies, Wizards, Dragons, Trolls, Zombies, Giants, Minotaurs, Vampires, Bigfoot, Nessie, Sphinx, Werewolves, Mermaids, Genies, the Boogeyman and Sarah Palin's residential view of Russia. Because they don't exist. It is a bare logical probability."

Then provide me with a logically valid argument with premises as plausibly true as the premises of the KCA that concludes that vampires or leprechauns or mermaids exist. Go for it, and we'll compare arguments.

Eric said...

(response to derreckbennett)

derreck"So, Craig never had such a "hypothesis" in mind before piecing together this argument."

Friend, you're confused about how so many of these basic terms are used. A god "hypothesis" would be used in a scientific context to test our explanation of certain natural phenomena via its predictive prowess. We could compare it with other hypotheses, subject it to criterion such as the principle of parsimony, etc. From these results, we would draw an inference that would itself provide us with futher tests, and so on. Deductive arguments don't work anything like this. Take the mathematical argument that concludes that there is no highest prime number that I referred to on another thread: it's a deductive argument, right? Now, how did we arrive at the conclusion? Did we form a hypothesis, test it, conmpare it with other hypotheses, etc.? When we reached our conclusion, did we continue to test it? That's not how deductive arguments, in any field, work.

derreck:"Craig had already mentally placed the cart before the horse, and he craftily found a way to make it look otherwise."

How is this relevant? It has no bearing on the strength of his argument or on the truth of his conclusion, and to suggest that it does is a textbook example of the genetic fallacy.

derreck:"Not if we consider the definition of 'complex' provided by Merriam Webster: "composed of two or more parts." Ehem, Trinity!"

I think you need to look up the terms "Trinity" and "substance." The Trinity is *one* substance in Christian theology (and note it was you who brought up theology here).

derreck:"Or its synonym--'complicated': "something that offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining.""

Yeah, that's called 'equivocation.' No (well, let's say almost no) theologian would say God is "complex" in the sense that he's composed of parts, but all (well, almost all) would say that he's "complex" in the sense of "difficult to understand." Again and again, your problems come down to misunderstanding and misusing basic terms.

derreck:"No, what's more absurd is the sheerly speculative shoehorning of an eternal 'person' by one with an evangelical axe to grind"

No, you can't identify providing and defending an argument with "speculative shorhorning."

Eric said...

(response to derreckbennett)

derreck:"Craig's god is a spiritual, non-material being based on the presuppositions of theology, not on any kind of empirical evidence. Presupposing such a being"

Derreck, read the argument. A conclusion is not a presupposition, *even if you construct the argument for the psychological reason that you want to defend the conclusion*.

derreck:"No, he biasly presupposes his god to begin with, hijacks scientific theories about cosmology, sets forth premises that we don't know to be absolutely true in the sense that he intends, and rams forth an ad hoc conclusion that supports his worldview."

This is becoming repetitive and tiresome. He doesn't presuppose God exists in his argument; we don't need to know that the premises of an argument are true with absolute certainty to claim an argument is a good one; the conclusion follows from a deductively valid argument, and so is not ad hoc in any pejorative sense; etc.

derreck:"No, it's not deductive, because he hasn't ruled out other possibilities presented by theoretical physicists."

It's not a deductive argument?! Friend, you must study some basic logic before you try to take part in these discussions seriously.

derreck:"That seems somewhat evasive."

Evasive? Um, look at how far we already are from my original point (which still has not been addressed). Since no one has responded to my challenge, and since I have gotten into a discussion I said at the outset I wanted to avoid, I'd say I've been more than generous in my responses here, and do not deserve the charge of being "evasive." Indeed, since after all these poses no one has yet responded to my challenge, I'd say it's everyone else who has been evasive.

Chuck:"Thanks for continuing to expose Eric for the pretentious student that he is."

Chuck, why are you so obsessed with me personally? Why do you refuse to address anything substantive?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

You have announced yourself as an apologist in the Thomist tradition for the Roman Catholic Church.

That makes you in my book a very evil man.

You are also intelligent and therefore your violent, elitist superstitions combined with your intelligence creates a combination where your evil aims gain respect by discussion.

I grant you the right to have your first amendment privilege to believe anything you wish but your defenses of your arguments prove too much of your character to honor your arguments with respect.

To engage you would be to endorse that your objectives are good and they aren't.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric:

1) My citation of quotations from Augustine demonstrate the exact opposite of what you were inferring by your quotation from Augustine on Genesis. Augustine held what one might consider "fundamentalistic" ideas and interpretations concerning the Bible's relation to natural science/cosmology/human history.

2) My quotation of Augustine on sex in Eden again demonstrates the exact opposite of what you were inferring by your quotation from Augustine on Genesis. Augustine claimed to have derived specific knowledge even of the sexual urge "in Eden," via his careful analysis of the Bible.

3) Thank you for your suggestion of a book to read about Galileo. There are many books on Galileo. Did you read the paper I suggested by a Vatican astronomer that also summarized the views of other knowledgable Catholics concerning the Church's attempt to sweep the "Galileo Myth" under the rug?

Eric said...

"You have announced yourself as an apologist in the Thomist tradition for the Roman Catholic Church.
That makes you in my book a very evil man."

Chuck, let me get this straight: are you saying that being a Thomist and a Roman Catholic is a sufficient condition for being an evil person (please, answer this question)?

Take any of the Roman Catholic saints who devoted their lives to providing for the poor -- were they all evil men and women? Are they more evil than, say, murderers who happen to be atheists? (I'm not saying that atheism leads people to murder others; rather, I'm trying to find out what role behavior and belief play in your moral evaluations.)

Or, take the example of the Roman Catholic saint who devotes his life to providing for the poor (much like the Franciscans at St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts -- to whom I confess -- who devote so much of their time to feeding and caring for Boston's large homeless population), and compare him with the atheist who works a normal job, takes care of his family, and simply lives a normal life. Who lives the more morally praiseworthy life in your view, and why?

Chuck O'Connor said...

I don't consider any thinking person professing devotion to the RCC in this current age to be morally consistent. I consider one who uses apologetic tactics and philosophical argumentation to promote the RCC in this age as evil. Your examples are red herrings. They don't represent your arguments and character.

Edward T. Babinski said...

ON GALILEO

Eric,

As Coyne pointed out in his paper http://www.astro.washington.edu/users/balick/rome1/coyne.pdf

Galileo and others of his time (Kepler, Castelli, Campanella, etc.) were ahead of their time in proposing freedom of research. (Galileo wrote of it in the Letter to Castelli and in the Letter to Christina [both of which the Church did not allow to be published--even at a later date in Galileo's "Complete Works."])

As a matter of fact, the works of Copernicus and Galileo remained on the Catholic Index [of condemned/forbidden books] until 1835.

Also, Eric, thanks for sharing that quotation from Bellarmine. However, have you read the complete text of Bellarmine's Letter to Foscarini?

Coyne points out:

In the passage immediately preceding the one just cited, Bellarmine had taken a very
restrictive position by stating that:

Nor can one answer that this [geocentrism] is not a matter of faith, since if it is not a
matter of faith “as regards the topic," it is a matter of faith “as regards the speaker;” and
so it would be heretical to say that Abraham did not have two children and Jacob twelve,
as well as to say that Christ was not born of a virgin, because both are said by the Holy
Spirit through the mouth of the prophets and the apostles.16

Clearly if geocentrism is a matter of faith “as regards the speaker,” then openness to scientific results and circumspection in interpreting Scripture are simply ploys. They
lead nowhere. Furthermore, Bellarmine cites Scripture itself in the person of Solomon to
show that proofs for Copernicanism are very unlikely. And still more, at the end of the Letter to Foscarini Bellarmine appears to exclude any possibility of a proof by stating that our senses clearly show us that the sun moves and that the earth stands still, just as
someone on a ship “sees clearly” that it is the ship that is moving and not the shoreline.

Also, when Bellarmine concludes his letter with, “But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration until it is shown me,” it is clear that Bellarmine was convinced that there could be no such demonstration. A further indication of this conviction on Bellarmine’s part is that he supported the Decree of the Congregation of the Index which was aimed at excluding any reconciliation of Copernicanism with Scripture.

If Bellarmine truly believed that there might be a demonstration of Copernicanism, would he not have recommended waiting and not taking a stand, a position embraced at that time, it appears, by Cardinals Barberini and Caetani?18 And why did he agree to deliver the 1616 injunction to Galileo? This
injunction prohibited Galileo from pursuing his RESEARCH as regards Copernicanism. Galileo was forbidden to seek precisely those scientific demonstrations which,
according to Bellarmine, would have driven theologians back to reinterpret Scripture.

Galileo and others of his time (Kepler, Castelli, Campanella, etc.) were ahead of their time in proposing freedom of research. (Galileo wrote of it in the Letter to Castelli and in the Letter to Christina [both of which the Church did not allow to be published--even at a later date in Galileo's "Complete Works."])

As a matter of fact, the works of Copernicus and Galileo remained on the Catholic Index [of condemned/forbidden books] until 1835.

Edward T. Babinski said...

ON GALILEO II

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE

Coyne adds:

It was the [seventeenth century] Pontifical Biblical Commission that made the hasty conclusion in the exegesis case, and it was the Congregation of the Index, the Congregation of the Holy Office and Pius V who enacted a hasty decree in 1616 and the Congregation of the Holy Office and Urban VIII who proclaimed a hasty condemnation of Galileo in 1633. This reluctance to place responsibility where it truly belongs is repeated in the Papal discourse of October 31, 1992 in regard to the condemnation of Galileo.

Myths are founded in concrete happenings. In the Galileo case the historical facts are that further research into the Copernican system was forbidden by the Decree of 1616 and then condemned in 1633 by official organs of the Church with the approbation of the reigning Pontiffs. This is what is at the source of the “myth” of Galileo and not a “tragic mutual incomprehension.” Galileo was a renowned world scientist. The publication of his Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Message) established his role as a pioneer of modern science. He had tilted the Copernican-Ptolemaic controversy decisively against the long-held Ptolemaic system. Observational evidence was increasingly challenging Aristotelian natural philosophy, which was the foundation of geocentrism. Even if Copernicanism in the end were proven wrong, the scientific evidence had to be pursued. A renowned scientist, such as Galileo, in those circumstances should have been allowed to continue his research. He was forbidden to do so by official declarations of the Church. There lies the tragedy. Until that tragedy is faced with the rigor of historical scholarship, the “myth” is almost certain to remain.

Eric said...

"1) My citation of quotations from Augustine demonstrate the exact opposite of what you were inferring by your quotation from Augustine on Genesis"

No, Ed, it at best shows an inconsistent application of the principle I suggested. But I don't think it even shows this, since I know of no well established 'scientific' theory of the day that was competing with Augustine's interpretation.

Why didn't you respond to my Bellarmine quote? It supported my claim explicitly.

And I don't think the Church is trying to "sweep the "Galileo Myth" under the rug": After all, John Paul the Great apologized for the Church's role in the affair. As I see it, the Church wants the affair to be dealt with accurately, and if we focus only on the mistakes of the Church to set up a false opposition between it and science, and ignore the Church's demand at the time for better evidence than Galileo provided, we're guilty of the same sort of error as that committed by those who only focus on the Church's apparent commitment to good science, and on its willingness to adjust its interpretation of scripture to fit the best physical theories of the day. I'm willing to say the Church erred horribly in its treatment of Galileo, but showed much more of a commitment to science than you suggest; that is, I'm willing to concede not only the points that support my position, but those that oppose it. Will you admit that your picture of the Church as completely opposed to science in favor of scripture is also not the 'whole truth'?

Eric said...

Ah, I see you did respond to my Bellarmine quote in a subsequent post that wasn't yet on the thread when I responded to you.

A few quick points: No one denies that Galileo and others were horribly mistreated and that their freedoms were wrongly curtailed, as I've already said. So everything in the text you pasted concerning these matters is not relevant.

The issue is, did the Church also show a commitment to good science, and a willingness, whether followed consistently by every member or not, to interpret scripture in light of what rational inquiry revealed about the natural world? The answer is obviously yes (though, as I said, it was not always consistently applied; yet we see the same principle at work from Justin Martyr to Origen to Augustine and so on to Bellarmine and to the current day, and to dismiss this inconvenient fact is simply dishonest...I admit the inconsistency, because the historical record demands it -- are you willing to subject your views to the historical record?).

Now onto the details of the letter: Yes, I have read the entire letter. In it, Bellarmine makes three points, the third of which was that if it could be shown that the accepted interpretation of scripture were false, "[we should] say rather that we do not understand [scripture] than what is demonstrated is false." Note that this is his third and final point, and therefore the point he wanted to leave the reader with.

Edward T. Babinski said...

YOU WON'T READ PRICE AND I FIND N.T. WRIGHT TO BE A PIOUS FRAUD CONCERNING MUCH OF HIS "SCHOLARLY QUESTIONING."

Eric,

If you don't wish to read Price, that's fine. Personally, I have read many theologians and find that I have little time for Wright based on reading his attempt in one chapter of his resurrection book to try and harmonize all NT stories regarding Jesus' resurrection; or his inability to question the virgin birth itself but to admit that perhaps some legends might exist around the "virgin birth" story. Or Wright's defense of the "raising of the many" story in Matthew by stating that "some stories are so odd that they may have just happened." Whew, where does one begin with Wright?

However, Wright did finally come down, after all these decades, on the side of interpreting Genesis, chapter one, in a less than literal fashion. Whew, but even that took Wright decades to admit. (See his statement on video over at the quotable statement over at the BIOLOGOS site.) But even then, he hedged and said that he believed "something like the original couple in Eden" was true concerning Genesis chapter 2.

Wright started out pretty conservative apparently, in his youth, like Price. I fact, Wright even admitted he's undergone "huge unheavals" due to all he's learned at university about the Bible, and perhaps also due to all the effort he's had to expend to maintain a somewhat conservative Christian faith.

WRIGHT: The Jesus I have discovered through historical research is . . . not the Jesus I expected or wanted to find when I began this work nearly twenty years ago. Studying Jesus has been the occasion for huge upheavals in my personal life, my spirituality, my theology, and my psyche. . . . Second, the Jesus I have discovered is clearly of enormous relevance to the contemporary world and Church. I know that others with very different Jesuses would say this as well, so you may find the point irrelevant. . . . Let me put it like this. After fifteen years of serious historical Jesus study, I still say the creed ex animo; but I now mean something very different by it, not least by the word “god” itself.

SOURCE: N. Thomas Wright, "Jesus and the Identity of God" (Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, 14, 42–56. Reproduced by permission of the author.)

N. T. WRIGHT ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

WRIGHT: As we read scripture, we struggle to understand what God is doing through the world and through us. The phrase “authority of scripture” can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for “the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.” When we examine what the authority of scripture means we’re talking about God’s authority which is invested in Jesus himself, who says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18, NRSV)

http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/heavy-theological-dude-mistakenly-talks-us

Wright speaks less about the "authority of scripture" and more about "the authority of God" which is "exercised somehow through scripture." "Somehow?" How clever of him not to say exactly how, but instead to acknowledge that "understanding" is a "struggle." But of course all understanding is a "struggle," which is a rather liberal concept to acknowledge. Perhaps Wright will one day even admit that maintaining belief in religious doctrines/dogmas is likewise a "struggle?"--E.T.B.)

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE, MORE OF N.T. WRIGHT'S AMBUGUOUS RELIGIOUS VIEWS EMBROIDERED WITH HIS PURPLE PROSE

WRIGHT: I do not think Jesus 'knew he was God' in the same sense that one knows one is hungry, or thirsty, tall or short. It was not a mathematical knowledge. It was more like the knowledge that I have that I am loved by my family and closest friends; like the knowledge that I have that sunrise over the sea is awesome and beautiful; like the knowledge of the musician not only of what the composer intended but of how precisely to perform the piece in exactly that way-a knowledge most securely possessed, of course, when the performer is also the composer. It was, in short, the knowledge that characterizes vocation. As I have put it elsewhere: 'As tested in confrontation, agonized over in further prayer and doubt, and implemented in action, he [Jesus] believed he had to do and be, for Israel and the world, that which according to Scripture only YHWH himself could do and be.'

N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999) p. 121-122

WRIGHT: 'Awareness of vocation' is by no means the same thing as Jesus having the sort of 'supernatural' awareness of himself, of Israel's God, and of the relation between the two of them such as is often envisaged by those who, concerned to maintain a 'high' christology, place it within an eighteenth-century context of implicit Deism where one can maintain Jesus' 'divinity' only by holding some form of docetism.

N.T. Wright, Challenge of Jesus, 122

Wright also compares today's theological conservatives to soldiers who long after the war has ended are "still hiding in the jungle, unaware that the world has moved on to other matters."

N.T. Wright, Challenge of Jesus, 99.

Edward T. Babinski said...

DALE ALLISON and N.T. WRIGHT

Also, Eric,

You didn't mention reading Dale Allison, a major NT scholar. He has another major work coming out later this year. But he's also commented rather forthrightly on Wright's "apologetics."

DALE ALLISON: The resurrection of the "many hoi hagioi (holy ones)" is [a story that's] unique to Matthew's gospel. The passage reads as follows:

"the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (Mt. 27:51b-53)

Allison in The End of the Ages Has Come points out the literary parallels the Matthean passage has with Zech. 14:4-5 (LXX version) which was read as a prophecy of the general resurrection of the dead (p. 44). Allison concludes concerning this passage:

"The pre-Matthean and indeed primitive character of Matt. 27:51b-53 is suggested by the following consideration: the account falls in with what we otherwise know of primitve Christian eschatology. As the church moved away from its beginnings, Jesus' resurrection came to be viewed as an isolated event in history...in the earliest period his resurrection was more closely joined to thought of the general resurrection." (ibid)

AND ALLISON HAS THIS TO SAY ABOUT N.T. Wright's defense of the "many risen saints story" in Matthew 27:51-53:

"These lame words [of Wright's] lack all historical sense. They are pure apologetics, a product of the will to believe, and a prize illustration of theological predispositions moving an intelligent man to render an unintelligent verdict." (p.21)

Finally to quote Dale on the subject of the historical Jesus, he agrees with BART EHRMAN:

"Jesus probably believed himself to be not just an eschatological prophet, but the personal locus of the end-time scenario, the central figure of the last judgment, someone akin to Melchizedek in 11QMelchizedek, or the Elect One in the Parables of 1 Enoch" (p. 66)

SOURCE: Dale C. Allison, Jr., The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009

Eric said...

"YOU WON'T READ PRICE AND I FIND N.T. WRIGHT TO BE A PIOUS FRAUD CONCERNING MUCH OF HIS "SCHOLARLY QUESTIONING.""

That's fine. As I said, we all have to make such choices. My criteria appear to be different from yours, however. As I said, I don't find top scholars in the field interacting much at all with Price's work, and they certainly don't make much use at all of his work. Wright, as you know, is a different story: many scholars at the top interact with him, and many scholars at the top cite him.


Let me repeat, this is not an attack on Price. I've listened to many of his debates and interviews, and have read a few of his articles, and I really like the guy personally. I think he comes across as the greatest guy in the world in interviews and debates, and he's obviously amazingly erudite. As I said, I have to choose carefully when I read outside my field, so I go for the top scholars. That's my criterion.

(I do find it interesting that I, an evil Roman Catholic, have no problem with what others choose to read or not to read, or even if they base their choices not on scholarship but on less serious considerations, while so many here seem personally offended that I don't read Price! But, as I said, I do at least plan on reading his book in response to Strobel.)

Eric said...

Ed, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I only read scholars I agree with, or scholars no other scholars critique. (Do such scholars exist?) That's the only way I can make sense of the wall of posts you've put up on Wright. (I'm aware of the criticisms, and I'm aware of the much more sober and numerous praises his works have received.) Let me ask you a question: If I'm reading both Wright and Crossan, both Borg and Bauckham, don't you think I'm encountering conflicting conclusions?

Chuck O'Connor said...

I don't think anyone is offended you don't read Price. We are probably offended by your haughty dismissal (1/10 the scholar of Metzger) of a man who has produced much more than you and has at least twice the doctoral credentials you arrogantly presume.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

As Coyne demonstrated the Church did NOT show "a commitment to good science," since free research into specific matters was prohibited.

As for your claim that "we see the same principle at work from Justin Martyr to Origen to Augustine and so on to Bellarmine," I do not.

As for your claim that I have "dismissed inconvenient facts," check the mirror.

Christianity focused thinking in the Hellenistic world to theological concerns. How to interpret Bible stories and verses, and how to write up creedal statements about what must lie behind the metaphysical curtain, and long treatises "against heretics" who dared to raise questions or rival interpretations. The books of heretics and infidels were prohibited and destroyed.

RAMSAY MACMULLEN: Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed. The [Christian] emperors’ attacks had centered on the chief of them, Athens and Alexandria, in the late fourth century and were turned against them again toward the end of the fifth and in 529. [“529 A.D.” was the year that the School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian, the same Justinian who also outlawed sodomy, because, “It is well known that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited.”--E.T.B.]. As to the initiators of the persecution, the [Christian] emperors themselves, a steady decline in their level of cultivation has been noticed. Thus books and philosophy were bound to fade from sight. After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Plato’s books, in Aristotle’s, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings. Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world. Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leaders’ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil. -Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

Edward T. Babinski said...

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE

Hi Eric,

ROBIN LANE FOX: Pagans had not been clear or unanimous in their belief in an afterlife, but those who credited it looked to mystery cults for insurance in their future. Christians were much more positive. . . . The Christians united ritual and philosophy and brought [their own] certaint[ies] of God and history to questions whose answers eluded the pagan schools. . . Whereas pagan cults won adherents, Christianity aimed, and contrived, to win converts. . . . Paganism was reclassified as a demonic system. . . . If Satan was the source of error and evil, false teaching and wrongdoing were not merely mistaken: they were diabolic. The division between a Christian “community of goodness” and an “outer world of evil” could easily become too pronounced. The idea of Satan magnified the difference between “true” and “false” Christians and between Christian sinners and saints. . . . Like Satan, the Last Judgment was a force that Christians exaggerated and then claimed to be able to defeat. . . . This teaching was reinforced by an equally powerful ally, the Christian idea of sin. Sin was not just the sin of an action, or even an intention, but also the sin of a thought, even a passing interest in an appealing man or woman. This combination of rarefied sin and eternal punishment was supported, as we shall see, by books of vision and revelation that were probably more widely read than modern contempt for “pseudepigraphic” forgeries allows: acquaintance with the Apocalypse of “Peter” would make anyone think twice before leaving the Church (we happen to know that “Peter’s vision of hell” was still read as a holy text in the churches in Palestine on Good Friday during the fifth century). If fears for Eternity brought converts to the faith, one suspects that they did even more to keep existing converts in it.

Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 987), p.326-327, 330-331, 412.

You should also read Richard Carrier's chapter on Christianity and Science in THE CHRISTIAN DELUSION, as well as keep an eye out in future for the book he is writing on the same topic.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

I was merely suggesting that if you "didn't have time for Price," that I likewise had just as "little time" for Wright, a scholar whom you mentioned alongside the names of some others that I am happy to see you're reading. Though I hope you do find time to include more Price and Dale Allison as well.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

I might also add that very few of Aristotle's works were preserved by Christian monks. I think only some of his Poetics. But the bulk of Aristotle was discovered in Islamic libraries after Christians captured them in Spain. Thank God for the infidels at that time and place in history. Because studying and arguing over Aristotle helped put the spark back in Christian civilization, leading to further challenges and changes down the line.

Lastly, I suspect that the invention of the telescope and microscope revolutionized science most of all.

The invention of the telescope certainly helped dispell all ancient and Medieval notions of reconciling astronomy with the Bible's view of "water above the firmament," as I point out in an endnote in my chapter on "The Cosmology of the Bible" in THE CHRISTIAN DELUSION.

Eric said...

"As for your claim that I have "dismissed inconvenient facts," check the mirror."

Ed, this is farcical: *I* have conceded horrible wrongdoing on the part of the Church, *I* have conceded an inconsistent application of a principle on the part of the Church as an institution we find from Origen to today, and *I* have conceded an inconsistent application of that same principle among the various individuals who endorsed it! *You*, on the other hand, cannot even concede that the principle was ever endorsed, when the plain words of countless churchmen proves you wrong!

"We are probably offended by your haughty dismissal (1/10 the scholar of Metzger) of a man who has produced much more than you and has at least twice the doctoral credentials you arrogantly presume."

Chuck, kinda reminds me of your haughty dismissal of Craig, who also has two doctorates and who has produced more then you, me and Price combined. I at least give Price his due; you won't do the same for Craig. (And yes, Metzger is widely regarded as the preeminent NT scholar of the 20th century, so I stand by the claim that Price, a man no one cites and interacts with, is almost certainly not 1/10th the scholar Metzger was.)

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

Pehaps you said already, but do you have any writings on the web that we might read?

Or have you disclosed any personal statements concerning how you arrived at your present religious/theological beliefs?

Or how you found this blog, and why you enjoy the give and take here rather than at some other blog?

I also hope I have not been overly offensive in my responses to your comments, but on the other hand you have not been overly cordial in your own attempts to deny any relevance to the information I've shared. So I thought I would stand my ground and point out such relevance. I assume you will continue to stand yours as well. Though I would like to know a bit more about the person to whom I am speaking.

You can read my own story online

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/leaving_the_fold/babinski_agnosticism.html

which reprints what I wrote in my chapter in LEAVING THE FOLD: TESTIMONIES OF FORMER FUNDAMENTALISTS

I am the only cradle Catholic in the book who converted to born again Evangelicalism, Charismaticism, and also studied Reformed Theology and moderate Anglican and moderate Evangelical theologies, and liberal theology, before leaving the fold. Neither would I classify myself an atheist. I dislike one word classifications. I have more questions than answers.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Eric,

If by "principle" you mean Augustine's cautionary statement about how to interpret Genesis, the church fathers employed many analogical, allegorical and metaphorical interpretations of Scripture, tossing "caution" to the winds.

And from a scholarly perspective, such a "principle" means little in terms of understanding ancient Hebrew works (or even first century works) in their original historical context, about which the church fathers, including Augustine, knew little.

Did the church fathers understand ancient Egyptian, or ancient Mesopotamian languages? Did they have access to tens of thousands of clay tablets with ancient languages on them dug up throughout Mesopotamia, or access to thousands of Egyptian hieroglyphics dug up from buried Egyptian tombs, including coffin texts? Even if they did, could the church fathers have read them?

Biblical studies were revolutionized in the mid 1800s by such discoveries including the discovery of how to translate languages of ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia that had been dead for thousands of years. The revolution continues. I point to some of its results as does Tobin as well as Dr. Hector Avalos in our respective chapters in THE CHRISTIAN DELUSION.

So, the quotation from Augustine, and whatever guiding "principle" you seek to obtain from it, means little. Why you even brought it up in the first place makes you and your views far more irrelevant than anything I have shared thus far in our discussion.

Dan DeMura said...

Eric
Reading the conversation here and it seems to me that you started with defining how a philosophical argument should properly be argued against in philosophical terms and a scientific argument should be argued in scientific terms... which in my everyday non philosopher language says that arguments are best viewed as their own genre... ie Romantic Comedy movies and Horror Movies don't mix well

"...it would be equally silly to subject philosophic arguments to the testability criterion of scientific arguments, given the nature of philosophic arguments."

"...Craig isn't saying that everything that begins to exist has a scientifically testable, mathematically formulatable efficient cause"

"I'm not saying that a scientifically justified premise in a philosophic argument cannot be criticized on scientific grounds; of course it can. What I'm saying is that if you want to determine the relative strength or weakness of an argument, the best way to do so is to compare it with other arguments in the same discipline, since as we move from discipline to disciplines we encounter standards and criteria that are not always applicable across disciplines."

But you yourself crossed the genre line in your own arguments when you were defending your "philosophical" claims against Paul.. using scientific arguments.

"Paul, do virtual particles begin to exist? Physicists certainly see to think they do. There's a time, t1, at which they don't exist, and a time, t2, at which they do. Paul, do you have children? If you do, did your child begin to exist, or did you claim him/her on your taxes years before he/she was born on the grounds that nothing ever begins to exist? Did the computer you're using to communicate with me begin to exist, or was it around in the Precambrian? What about you, Paul -- did you begin to exist?"

Round and round and round it goes... really though, if your as honest as some here have complimented you on being... you'll admit that it's all words, lot's of descriptive words have been shed on this board... and for what? The KCA does nothing but posit the philosophical possibility of a *cause* not necessarily even God... and even if you prefer to call this hypothetical *cause* God... its still a huge step from Deism to Theism and that's a completely different movie.
-Shalom

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I don't dismiss Craig's career but I dismiss his dishonest self-promotion as a scholar where, in truth, he is nothing more than a jazzed up version of Benny Hinn offering magical solutions as an altar call for Christendom. If his (and your) ideas win out then our civilization can enjoy the pleasures of the Medieval Dark Ages. I prefer Price's chosen institutional affiliations (The Center for Inquiry, The Jesus Seminar) where methodological truth is pursued in the face of presuppositions rather than Dr. Craig's (BIOLA, The Discovery Institute) where presuppositional superstitions hijack honest intellectual methods to enshrine theocracy.

Like I said, I consider you evil for the ideas you embrace - theocracy is one of those evil ideas Eric. You don't see it but your desire to hi-jack science as a proof to your religious hegemony leads to the end of secular values.

derreckbennett said...

RE: You cannot adequately *defend* an argument or draw any decisive conslusions from it if the premise isn't even *known* to be true in the sense to which it appeals.

>>>Of course we can -- we do it in science, history, philosophy, etc. all the time. As I said, *no one* demands that a premise be known to be true with absolute certainty. I presume you accept, as I do, the general truth of evolutionary theory. Do you honestly think that its premises are known with 100%, absolute certainty?

We CAN defend arguments and draw decisive conclusions from them even if the premises aren't KNOWN to be TRUE? Even if the premises take us into completely unchartered territory, e.g. Big Bang cosmology, and assume a state of complete non-existence prior to the event--something of which we could not possibly KNOW? Epistemologically, what about evolution is on par with pre-Big Bang singularities? There's a great deal we know about evolutionary biology. We know NOTHING about the state of things prior to the Big Bang--whether it was the absolute beginning of ALL THINGS, or whether, per such ideas as the Multiverse, M-theory, white holes, etc., the Big Bang was one "Genesis" among many. "We are got into fairy land." We can't even be 50% certain about this matter.

>>>we do have reasons to conclude that it's more plausibly true that it did begin to exist than that it did not begin to exist. And to construct a good argument, that's all we need.

We have reasons to conclude that there was a Big Bang, and that's it. That's all. We know it "began" in a manner of speaking, sure. We DON'T know what caused it, and we DON'T know that it was ex nihilo. To imagine that one has constructed a "good argument" by anthropomorphizing an unknown is ludicrous.

>>>False: from the increasing entropy in the universe, to the predicted microwave background radiation, to the expansion of the universe, etc. we have reasons to conclude that a stronger case can be made for a finite universe than for an eternal universe (where the term 'universe' comprises all matter, energy, fields, space and time).

False: from the increasing entropy in the universe, to the predicted microwave background radiation, to the expansion of the universe, etc. we have reasons to conclude that a cataclysmic event took place roughly 13.7 billion years ago, which spawned our rapidly expanding Universe, including all matter, energy, space and time as we know it. Prior to that, we know nothing. There are theoretical models in place which posit a BIGGER PICTURE. They are indeed speculative. So is Craig's Universe-manufacturing, sin-atoning, prayer-answering, tithe-taking Deity. Among the theories just mentioned, a few of them DON'T revert to hocus-pocus supernaturalism. There's probably something to be said for that.

derreckbennett said...

RE: Rather, his premise is merely assumed, and he draws his conclusion therefrom.

>>>No, it's not "assumed"; it's argued for (1) on scientific grounds, and (2) on philosophical grounds. Either you don't understand the argument, or you don't understand what an assumption is.

Yes, it is assumed: by hijacking 1) scientific grounds, providing 2) purely conjectural philosophical grounds, and inserting 3) presumptuous and imaginary theological grounds, i.e. Goddidit. Either you don't understand my argument, or you don't understand what an assumption is.

RE: Again, we don't know; thus, skepticism (nothing radical about it) is entirely appropriate in light of anyone who would dogmatize either way on the matter.

>>>And skepticism of that sort is fine. As I said, most of the work a valid deductive argument does concerns our evaluation of its premises: if you want to reject the conclusion of such an argument, the cost is rejecting at least one of its premises.

Allow me to clarify; I don't reject the premise that our Universe, as we know it, began with a Bang--a cataclysmic event followed by a rapid expansion. Nor do I reject that there must have been a cause therein. I reject that we can know, or even *pretend* to know, that there was NOTHING prior to it or that God was the only sufficient cause. It is pure conjecture.

>>>If you don't think rejecting the second premise is at all costly, then reject it. But I doubt you could defend that position better than the defense Craig provides for his second premise (and yes, he defends it, he doesn't "assume" it's true).

Craig's going to have to put a proverbial lid on all of the physicists working with theoretical models that, if somehow proven, would falsify the essence of his second premise. If this should happen within his lifetime, I'll let you be the one to console him.

>>>In what sense is the argument "ad hoc"? And the "cause" of the universe isn't a "premise" of his argument -- it's his conclusion!

A "cause" of the Big Bang ain't a conclusion I'd take issue with. Now watch, here's where the "ad hoc" comes in....

>>>As I said, he doesn't go from cause of the universe to God in a single step. Rather, he performs a conceptual analysis of what a cause of the universe must be, and concludes that its properties are the same as some of the properties traditionally ascribed to God.

WELL, I DON'T FIND THAT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL!

RE: All of his smooth-talking apologetic shuck-and-jive boils down to this: "Gee whiz, science is answering a whole host of questions about the natural world these days, none of which require a supernatural entity. How can I continue to maintain the necessity of God's activity in the world in the face of such discoveries? Ah, here's a nice gap! A Big Bang?...

>>>Again, you're demonstrating that you don't understand what a god-of-the-gaps argument is. Craig's argument is *nothing* like one, and it's certainly bears no resemblance whatsoever to the blatantly silly mischaracterization you proceeded to develop in your post.

One of us indeed does not know what a god-of-the-gaps argument ESSENTIALLY is. And despite some of my "silliness," that wasn't *entirely* a mischaracterization. There's some truth in there, if ya look real hard, Aristotle.

derreckbennett said...

RE: Bottom line: Craig's ad hoc argument belies the *assumption* that a "being with many of the attributes we ascribe to God exists," seeks out a poorly understood phenomenon for which no conclusive explanation has been offered, and "concludes" therefore that the "God of classical theism" must have done the trick.

>>>Craig's argument "belies" the assumption? You don't mean that, do you? And again, it's not "ad hoc" (except in the sense that all arguments are ad hoc, i.e. they are developed to defend a specific conclusion), and there's no such "assumption."

Oh, no, perish the thought. Craig never went into this with any assumptions about Universe-farting Deities. It's all happenstance.

>>>As I said, Craig's argument is logically valid, and consists of plausible premises.

To a degree. It is logically valid that our Universe's "beginning" had a cause. Problem is, we don't know whether it was *A* beginning or *THE* beginning. And we don't know that Universe-chucking Deities exist.

>>>I'll repeat my initial challenge -- the one where I said I didn't want to get into the sort of defense of the KCA that I have been drawn into -- to you right here: provide me with an example of a logically valid philosophical argument that reaches a substantial conclusion that has premises more plausibly true than the premises of the KCA.

1) Cataclysmic events, such as bigass explosions, have a cause.
2) Our Universe began with a cataclysmic event, akin to a bigass explosion.
3) Therefore, our Universe had a bigass explosive cause.

Oh, and it was a white hole. Black holes spew their broken-down matter and energy into a reverse singularity, through a cosmic wormhole, into another of the 10 or 11 dimensions in which we reside, creating a new Universe. No, no, it was a Membrane smacking into another Membrane, igniting the event. No, no, it was an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and enormously intelligent Deity, named El Shaddai. Or, perhaps Kukulkan. Or Bob. Which reminds me, I'm supposed to tell you, flesh and blood cannot inherit his kingdom. So, I'm not quite sure what Luke was talking about in 24:39. I think he might have gone reJudaization on us, there. I get that feeling.

>>>Friend, you're confused about how so many of these basic terms are used. A god "hypothesis" would be used in a scientific context to test our explanation of certain natural phenomena via its predictive prowess. We could compare it with other hypotheses, subject it to criterion such as the principle of parsimony, etc. From these results, we would draw an inference that would itself provide us with futher tests, and so on.

Pedantic semantics. By "hypothesis," I only mean an unproven, educated guess. That's all Craig's miracle-whippin' Deity is.

RE: Craig had already mentally placed the cart before the horse, and he craftily found a way to make it look otherwise.

>>>How is this relevant? It has no bearing on the strength of his argument or on the truth of his conclusion, and to suggest that it does is a textbook example of the genetic fallacy.

It would only be a genetic fallacy if the argument was SO solid that one could not confirm the *validity* of their suspicions in examining it. As it is, the argument legitimately calls into question Craig's methods, especially when his "conceptual analysis" just so happens to rule out anything that doesn't vaguely resemble Jesus' Dad. Every conceivable tool in my Baloney Detection Kit is screaming with klaxons.

derreckbennett said...

RE: Not if we consider the definition of 'complex' provided by Merriam Webster: "composed of two or more parts." Ehem, Trinity!

>>>I think you need to look up the terms "Trinity" and "substance." The Trinity is *one* substance in Christian theology (and note it was you who brought up theology here).

Yes, it's one substance, made up of THREE persons. Just as I am one person, made up of multiple organs. Such interrelating elements--whether in a person or Godhead of persons--*smack* of complexity.

RE: Or its synonym--'complicated': "something that offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining."

>>>Yeah, that's called 'equivocation.' No (well, let's say almost no) theologian would say God is "complex" in the sense that he's composed of parts, but all (well, almost all) would say that he's "complex" in the sense of "difficult to understand." Again and again, your problems come down to misunderstanding and misusing basic terms.

Ya know, I'll actually give you that one. Well played, sir. I stand corrected. Here's the part you didn't answer:

Consider also the definition of 'mind': "the element or *complex* of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons." Seems fitting of Craig's god. Unless you'd prefer to claim that he's mindless.

Craig's God bears intelligence, intentions and the incredible ability to design and create Universes. He does complex things intentionally and must therefore himself be a complex thing, since his thoughts have to be at least as complex as his designs. Now, "difficult to understand" is one thing. But THAT, my friend, is quite another.

RE: No, what's more absurd is the sheerly speculative shoehorning of an eternal 'person' by one with an evangelical axe to grind.

>>>No, you can't identify providing and defending an argument with "speculative shorhorning."

What is shorhorning? And, yes, Craig has shoEhorned his imaginary friend into the missing variable at the very end of the equation.

>>>Derreck, read the argument. A conclusion is not a presupposition, *even if you construct the argument for the psychological reason that you want to defend the conclusion*.

The conclusion that there was a "cause" of the Big Bang is not merely a presupposition, and follows logically from his premises. The "conclusion" that Goddidit is presuppositional, since we cannot possibly know that the Universe came into being ex nihilo or that a timeless "person" exists.

derreckbennett said...

RE: No, it's not deductive, because he hasn't ruled out other possibilities presented by theoretical physicists.

>>>It's not a deductive argument?! Friend, you must study some basic logic before you try to take part in these discussions seriously.

Neighbor, you must stop engaging in this kind of pedantry over semantics. The syllogism itself consists of a deductive argument, sure. I mean only to say that, in the end, Craig has not deduced (ruled out) other "causes" for the "beginning" of our Universe. He has not ruled out M-theory. He has not ruled out white holes. He has not ruled out them wacky aliens upon whom everyone knows the ancient Egyptians depended to build their resurrection temple/mothership runway terminals. Oh, you KNOW it's true!

RE: That seems somewhat evasive.

>>>Evasive? Um, look at how far we already are from my original point (which still has not been addressed). Since no one has responded to my challenge, and since I have gotten into a discussion I said at the outset I wanted to avoid, I'd say I've been more than generous in my responses here, and do not deserve the charge of being "evasive." Indeed, since after all these poses no one has yet responded to my challenge, I'd say it's everyone else who has been evasive.

Actually, one could chalk this entire thread up to a massive red herring on your part, given its actual subject: Robert M. Price's Case Against the Case for Christ. If you truly wish to be deemed "non-evasive," how about you deal with Dr. Price's claims about Christian origins? That Christianity was deeply influenced, very early on, by Hellenistic mystery cults? Thus your sacramental dying and rising with Christ in the rite of baptism. Thus your partaking of his essence and immortality in communion. Or perhaps you could deal with his refutations against apologetic arguments defending the historicity of the resurrection. I'd say *I've* been quite generous, given the fact that I've indulged you by playing in your court, rather than mine. Care to take a few swings at the topic in which I specialize? You know, one relating to the subject of this thread? Or is that something you'd prefer to evade?

Eric said...

"Pehaps you said already, but do you have any writings on the web that we might read?"

No.

"Though I would like to know a bit more about the person to whom I am speaking."

Ed, here's the short, dull story: I was raised in a nominally Catholic home (and I mean nominally Catholic -- we never discussed religion at home, I went to confession only two or three times as a child, and we were lucky if we went to mass twice a year). When I began to study philosophy on my own, I discarded my nominal faith and became an atheist. After I began to study philosophy formally at a secular university in the Northeast, I gradually became an agnostic. As my studies progressed, I slowly found my way back to Christianity, largely due to Aquinas (especially via the modern analytical Thomists) and, on the literary side of things, Chesterton. (Please note that this doesn't mean I agree with everything Aquinas and Chesterton ever said.)

"So, the quotation from Augustine, and whatever guiding "principle" you seek to obtain from it, means little. Why you even brought it up in the first place makes you and your views far more irrelevant than anything I have shared thus far in our discussion."

Ed, here's what I initially wrote:

"there's a long tradition in the Catholic church, going back to Augustine (actually, even prior to Augustine) concerning our taking care *not* to read Genesis literally, and to subject our reading of the text to scientific (though there was no science proper in Augustine's day) discoveries."

I conceded that this hasn't been consistently applied, and that horrible wrongs have been committed by the Church when violating it. You went on to write about Augustine's interpretation of Genesis in areas where there were at the time no competing 'scientific' theories, about Bellarmine's book on Hell, Augustine's prelapsarian views of sex, and Luther's views on Genesis. Yeah, I'd say that's patently irrelevant.

"But you yourself crossed the genre line in your own arguments when you were defending your "philosophical" claims against Paul.. using scientific arguments."

Dan, not at all. I said quite clearly that we can of course critique, say, a scientific premise on scientific grounds. Now Paul was referring to a metaphysical principle -- a principle that applies to everything -- so all I had to do was produce one counterexample to falsify his claim. My warning concerned critiquing, say, philosophical arguments with criteria that can only be properly applied to scientific arguments, and judging the relative strength or weakness of an argument by comparing it with arguments in other disciplines.

"I prefer Price's chosen institutional affiliations (The Center for Inquiry, The Jesus Seminar) where methodological truth is pursued in the face of presuppositions rather than Dr. Craig's (BIOLA, The Discovery Institute) where presuppositional superstitions hijack honest intellectual methods to enshrine theocracy."

Chuck, do you even know what the Center for Inquiry is? It's practically the mirror image of Biola, insofar as it's openly committed to humanism and secularism. And what in the world is "methodological truth"?

Eric said...

"We CAN defend arguments and draw decisive conclusions from them even if the premises aren't KNOWN to be TRUE?"

First, depending on your standards regarding 'knowledge,' little can be known to be true with certainty. Second, it depends on what you mean by 'decisive': I've never said that theistic arguments are rationally coercive; my only claim would be that they are minimally more rational than their alternatives.

"Epistemologically, what about evolution is on par with pre-Big Bang singularities? There's a great deal we know about evolutionary biology."

I was refuting your supposition that only arguments with premises that can be known with certainty are true. It's a ridiculous standard. No argument that reaches a substantial conclusion, including arguments as strong as those for evolutionary theory, can satisfy that criterion. That's the point.

I was going to continue but as I said, this is tiresome. For example, in response to my pointing out your misuse of the term 'assumption' you wrote:

"Yes, it is assumed: by hijacking 1) scientific grounds, providing 2) purely conjectural philosophical grounds, and inserting 3) presumptuous and imaginary theological grounds, i.e. Goddidit. Either you don't understand my argument, or you don't understand what an assumption is."

This is nonsense. You simply don't understand what basic terms like 'assumption' mean when discussing arguments, and when corrected you stamp your feet and insist that you've used the term correctly. I don't have time for such idiocy. Another example in response to my claim that you're confused about what a deductive argument is:

"Neighbor, you must stop engaging in this kind of pedantry over semantics. The syllogism itself consists of a deductive argument, sure. I mean only to say that, in the end, Craig has not deduced (ruled out) other "causes" for the "beginning" of our Universe."

This is gibberish. I could go on with your misuse of the pejorative 'god-of-the-gaps' label, your inability to distinguish a presupposition from a conclusion, your not knowing what the term 'substance' means, etc. *all of which I've already corrected you on*. If your strategy is to wear me down with foot stamping, Humpty Dumpty "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less" nonsense, you win.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

Methodological truth is fact derived by objective study with a clear hypothesis. Truth derived via methodology rather than truth derived by tradition, revelation or theology. I know empiricism defies your medieval longings but it is a valid way of knowing.

I am very aware of the Center for Inquiry and would love to see BIOLA put up a million dollar award to anyone who could falsify their supernatural stance like CFI's affiliate the JREF does with their naturalistic stance.

You defend an institution that raped children. And follows the enlightened dictates of a man wh colluded to keep that rape active to defend your holy church. You do realize that don't you?

Ryan Anderson said...

Eric said "If your strategy is to wear me down with foot stamping, Humpty Dumpty "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less" nonsense, you win."

Pot calling the kettle black.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

You seem very proud of your Roman Catholicism and continue to rest on it as some argumentative credential. Wouldn't we be appealing to authority in regards to logic or morality by agreeing with you seeing your institutional sanction colludede to rape children?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Here's the bottom line Eric. You use your philosophical training to apologize for an institution who has been as wrong as they have been right despite the fact they have the exclusive gift of God's Holy Spirit. And they rape children.

dguller said...

Eric:

I think the fundamental flaw in theistic reasoning is that it is always of the following form:

(1) Phenonema X is unable to be fully explained by current knowledge.
(2) X can be explained by a hidden supernatural reality, which explains why it cannot be explained by current knowledge, because it fundamentally excludes the supernatural.
(3) The fact that the supernatural explanation provides SOME explanation for X means that it MUST be better than natural explanations.
(4) Any explanation is better than no explanation.
(5) Therefore, the supernatural explanation is justified.

The problem is with (3) and (4). They are false.

derreckbennett said...

RE: We CAN defend arguments and draw decisive conclusions from them even if the premises aren't KNOWN to be TRUE?

>>>First, depending on your standards regarding 'knowledge,' little can be known to be true with certainty. Second, it depends on what you mean by 'decisive': I've never said that theistic arguments are rationally coercive; my only claim would be that they are minimally more rational than their alternatives.

Well, that's dandy, but I don't see how a supernatural, uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and enormously intelligent deity named El Shaddai is "minimally more rational" than the multitude of alternative, naturalistic theories currently engaged by theoretical physicists. But, have it your way, dude.

RE: Epistemologically, what about evolution is on par with pre-Big Bang singularities? There's a great deal we know about evolutionary biology.

>>>I was refuting your supposition that only arguments with premises that can be known with certainty are true. It's a ridiculous standard. No argument that reaches a substantial conclusion, including arguments as strong as those for evolutionary theory, can satisfy that criterion. That's the point.

Big Bang COSMOLOGY is on par with evolution insofar as "certainty" goes. There is compelling evidence in support of the premises in each case. We examine transitional fossils, DNA, etc., and we determine that life is evolving due to natural selection. We examine the redshifting of faraway galaxies, and we determine that the Universe is expanding due to a Big Bang.

But, NOTHING is truly known about COSMOGONY--about the state of things prior to the Planck epoch (or whether it is even coherent to speak of such a thing). This is a world apart from evolution, thus your comparison is dubious. The premise of creation ex nihilo is so FAR from certain, that you cannot *convincingly* argue for a Universe created by divine fiat out of *nothing*. I understand perfectly well that the strength of an argument lies in its being more *probable* than that which is merely *possible*. But, in this case, just about ANYTHING is possible. We can hardly speak of probability here. We are in unchartered territory. And Mighty Jehovah's fiat lux is no more *probable* than M-theory, white holes, or Stacey's Mom (yes, she *still* has it going on). THAT'S THE POINT. In fact, given the recurring pattern established by the history of science, I'd venture to say it's more probable that the cause is naturalistic rather than supernatural, anthropomorphic or divine.

RE: Yes, it is assumed: by hijacking 1) scientific grounds, providing 2) purely conjectural philosophical grounds, and inserting 3) presumptuous and imaginary theological grounds, i.e. Goddidit. Either you don't understand my argument, or you don't understand what an assumption is.

>>>This is nonsense. You simply don't understand what basic terms like 'assumption' mean when discussing arguments,

Craig ASSUMES (takes for granted as true) that the Universe was created ex nihilo, when there are prominent theoretical physicists working with models that say otherwise. Craig ASSUMES (takes for granted as true) that God is the Creator, and proceeds to perform a pretentious "conceptual analysis" which firmly rules out all other alternatives. Funny--no one told Stephen Hawking or Michio Kaku or Lee Smolin. I suppose they ought to catch up on the cutting edge work produced by THEOLOGIAN William Lane Craig!

LAUGH OUT LOUD.

derreckbennett said...

>>>and when corrected you stamp your feet and insist that you've used the term correctly. I don't have time for such idiocy.

Stamp my feet? I have a dictionary. And a good dose of common sense. I don't need stamps. In fact, I'm a non-stamp collector, BROSEPH. The only person I see belly-aching, kicking and screaming around here is the pretentious, pedantic, transubstantially god-eating, WLC man-crush bearing, imaginary friend-conjuring, philosopher wannabe windbag who can't answer anything directly related to the subject of this thread. Pathetic.

RE: Neighbor, you must stop engaging in this kind of pedantry over semantics. The syllogism itself consists of a deductive argument, sure. I mean only to say that, in the end, Craig has not deduced (ruled out) other "causes" for the "beginning" of our Universe.

>>>This is gibberish. I could go on with your misuse of the pejorative 'god-of-the-gaps' label

I could entertain your Craiginator putting forth the position that God is behind lightning, planetary courses, disease, condensation, aurora lights, what have you, but instead he opted for the gap: the cause of the Big Bang. No one truly knows what caused it. Craig "reasons" that only God could have done it. By divine fiat, no less. Slice it any way you want; for all its contrived philosophical trappings, if this isn't a god-of-the-gaps argument, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.

>>>your inability to distinguish a presupposition from a conclusion

Oh, that's NOTHING compared to your inability to detect a "conclusion" that *began* as a presupposition, forcefully arrived at via ad hoc argumentation. Such is Craig's specialty. Robert M. Price, the subject of this thread and the man whose arguments you'll never answer, said it best:

"Craig is rushing to embrace the very danger Kierkegaard warned awaited the interested partisan in any intellectual problem: if one has a vested interest in a certain conclusion being reached, one's hand rests too heavily upon the saw, and the needful fine consideration of factors becomes clumsly and violent. Craig should have heeded that warning. Failing that, he is a raging bull stampeding through the china shop of delicate evidence."
(Jesus is Dead, pp. 197-198)

As I said before, if theoretical models opposing creation ex nihilo become paramount within Craig's lifetime, I'll let you be the one to console the poor man.

derreckbennett said...

>>>your not knowing what the term 'substance' means

Oh, I get it. The one God exists in three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) but one substance, so that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same substance as God the Father. So, it's one God. With three distinct elements. Though they're not really distinct, see, because they're of the same substance. Yet, there are certain distinctions that can be made between the three. But, not really. But, sort of. Someone was saying something about gibberish?

>>>*all of which I've already corrected you on*.

What, by telling me that I can only apply words as defined by YOU? I don't frank so, skippy.

>>>If your strategy is to wear me down with foot stamping, Humpty Dumpty "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less" nonsense, you win.

Thanks, you can hand me a trophy for exposing the sheer inadequacy of your religion to endow one with a sense of peace, to inspire one to follow in the footsteps of their central figure of worship, and to display humility and grace and poise regardless of the circumstances. I overestimated you at the beginning of this discussion by a longshot. Anyway, here are a few quotes you ought to enjoy:

"He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or Church better than Christianity, and end loving himself better than all."
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed."
-Bertrand Russell

Eric said...

"I think the fundamental flaw in theistic reasoning is that it is always of the following form:"

Dguller, add the modifier 'some' and I agree completely. *That's* a textbook example of a god-of-the-gaps argument structure, and it's *nothing* like the structure of the KCA.

"Well, that's dandy, but I don't see how a supernatural, uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and enormously intelligent deity named El Shaddai is "minimally more rational" than the multitude of alternative, naturalistic theories currently engaged by theoretical physicists."

I'll try once more.

First, you must distinguish between 'agency' and 'mechanism.' In other words, it isn't necessarily 'either-or,' but could very well be 'both-and.' Some form of the 'both-and' alternative is obviously what Craig is arguing for.

Second, it's the very nature of a deductive argument that they either succeed or fail -- period. If the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true -- period. If the premises are false, the conclusion might be true, but the argument fails -- period -- since arguments by their nature provide support for conclusions.

So, Craig's argument either succeeds or or doesn't -- there's no sense whatsoever in talking about weighing alternative naturalistic theories *with respect to the conclusion the argument as a whole*; you can *of course* raise this point with respect to Craig's defense of his second premise, but you consistently confuse the argument itself, and the work it does, with the individual premises and the work they do. It's very frustrating.

"But, NOTHING is truly known about COSMOGONY--about the state of things prior to the Planck epoch (or whether it is even coherent to speak of such a thing). This is a world apart from evolution, thus your comparison is dubious."

Again, this is enormously frustrating. I never said that the support for X is as well established as the support for Y; I said that you *cannot* consistently demand *absolute certainty* for each bit supporting X, which you regard as dubious because of the lack of certainty of each bit, and not demand *the same absolute certainty* for it for each bit which supports Y, where Y is a conclusion you accept. I surmised you had no problem with evolution, and from there used it to show your double standard.

Eric said...

"The premise of creation ex nihilo is so FAR from certain, that you cannot *convincingly* argue for a Universe created by divine fiat out of *nothing*."

You refuse to understand what Craig means by "ex nihilo," and this is another point I've already corrected you on. Craig:

"This event that marked the beginning of the universe becomes all the more amazing when one reflects on the fact that a state of "infinite density" is synonymous to "nothing." There can he no object that possesses infinite density, for if it had any mass at all, it would not he infinitely dense."

Craig: "...the import of creatio ex nihilo is that there was not anything temporally or metaphysically prior to the universe out of which it was made."

Craig: "Now to my mind, at least, a good case can be made for the assertion that this singular point is ontologically equivalent to nothing...Analogous equivalencies elsewhere in science may help to drive home the point. For example, in discussions of the conventionality of simultaneity in relativity theory, one speaks of synchronization of spatially separated clocks by means of the slow transport of clocks from one place to another. It is claimed that by transporting clocks at progressively slower velocities, one can approach absolute synchronization, which would result from a clock transported from one place to another at infinitely slow velocity. But no one takes infinitely slow transport of clocks as describing an actual procedure, since infinitely slow velocity is ontologically equivalent to rest, that is, to no transport at all!"

Now Craig *doesn't* argue that this is established with certainty, or that no alternatives exist; rather, he simply argues that this is what the best contemporary science supports.

Eric said...

"Craig ASSUMES (takes for granted as true) that the Universe was created ex nihilo, when there are prominent theoretical physicists working with models that say otherwise."

You continue to make my point for me. Craig does not 'assume' that the universe began ex nihilo (properly understood): *he argues for it*! You seem to be under the false impression that the following represents the entire KCA:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

*It doesn't*! Craig goes on to develop a host of arguments to support (1) and (2). Did you honestly think he doesn't defend (1) and (2)? That's the *only* way to make sense of your use of the term assumption here. So, either you have no idea what the term 'assumption' means, or you aren't even slightly familiar with the argument you're criticizing! Either way, it's sad, and a source of enormous frustration for those of us who take arguments and logic seriously.

"Craig ASSUMES (takes for granted as true) that God is the Creator, and proceeds to perform a pretentious "conceptual analysis" which firmly rules out all other alternatives."

No, he argues that the universe has a cause, and argues that a cause of the universe must possess certain properties.

(Incidentally, I noticed that your profile is new, has very few views, and that your language is remarkably like that of Chuck's. I'm beginning to suspect that I've been talking to Chuck all along...)

"Oh, that's NOTHING compared to your inability to detect a "conclusion" that *began* as a presupposition, forcefully arrived at via ad hoc argumentation."

That's *not* what a presupposition is when we're discussing an argument, my friend. And what about John's arguments for atheism -- he admits that he became an atheist before he developed any of his own arguments for atheism. Would you say the same thing about him? Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens became atheists as children, long before they were capable of formulating any of the arguments they use today. Would you say the same about them? Do you see how utterly ridiculous your position is yet?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Your not arguing with Chuck Eric. I could care less about yours and Craig's forays into academics. Your defense of the RCC and his of the Discovery Institute invalidate your character to me. I am no logician and don't believe one need to entertain your level of philosophical musing to call bullshit on one's character.

dguller said...

Eric:

Thanks for agreeing with me about the god-in-the-gaps argument.

I’d like to add some personal comments about the KCA.

The main problem as I see it is that it is utter speculation. No-one knows anything at all about the process of by which there is nothing and then something, i.e. creation ex nihilo.

Has anyone ever observed there being nothing and then something?

All our understanding of reality is based upon the transformation of matter and energy in space-time -- i.e. something becoming something else -- and thus are totally useless when trying to understand creation from nothingness. It is fundamentally a misplaced argument from analogy, which is more of a rhetorical tool than a means of justifying a proposition.

If one was honest, then one would admit that they have no idea (a) whether the universe began to exist (versus existing eternally and undergoing a variety of transformations, i.e. Big Bangs and Big Crunches), and (b) what process occurs whereby something begins to exist from nothingness.

Sure, someone can take a variety of phenomena within existence and use analogies to poorly justify some key assumptions, and then construct a deductive argument from those premises, but the fundamental truth is that there is no possible way to truly know whether those assumptions are true, because they are about concepts that we lack the tools to comprehend.

Even if the current theories of physics imply certain concepts referring to the creation of something from nothing, they are just speculation until there is empirical validation of them. Same thing with Einstein's theory of relativity. No-one believed it, despite its aesthetic beauty and attractiveness, until it had experimental confirmation.

When one applies this to the theoretical physics that refers to the beginning of existence, it is all just speculation, no matter how attractive, until there is empirical verification. Thus far, as far as I know, there is none.

That is the flaw of the KCA. Much sound and fury, but ultimately, signifying nothing.

dguller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dguller said...

Eric:

And the other irony is that the KCA is ultimately built upon a logical fallacy; namely, the fallacy of composition. In other words, it argues from the fact that everything that we experience in the universe has an antecedent cause to the conclusion that the universe itself must also have a cause. This is fallacious reasoning, because one cannot argue from the properties of the parts of a whole to the properties of the whole, and vice versa. But that is exactly what the KCA attempts to do.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I am anxiously awaiting the Eric Pedantic Smackdown (EPS).

Eric said...

"The main problem as I see it is that it is utter speculation."

Dguller, it is certainly not speculation to say that what begins to exist has a cause. We couldn't make sense of the world without this principle. And, as I said to Derreck, Craig doesn't merely assert his premises, he argues for them. For example, if the first premise were false, then why do we never see baseball bats, bears, buildings and bats pop into existence uncaused? Why can we always ascribe causes (efficient, material, etc.) to such things?

The second premise is likewise much more than speculation. Craig defends it with both scientific arguments (which point to a beginning of the universe) and philosophical arguments (which attempt to show the impossibility of actual infinites).

Now you can of course disagree with his conclusions, and question his reasoning, but you cannot dismiss his premises as mere speculation. But if this is true of the premises, it's true of the conclusion, since this is a valid deductive argument.

"Has anyone ever observed there being nothing and then something?"

This is actually backwards: he question is, Has anyone ever observed there being something from nothing? It is the metaphysical principle this question implies -- from nothing, nothing comes -- that lies at the heart of Craig's first premise.

"And the other irony is that the KCA is ultimately built upon a logical fallacy; namely, the fallacy of composition."

This is a common misunderstanding premised on a confusion of formal and informal logic.

Formal logic deals with argument structures: if an argument has a fallacious structure, it's formally fallacious, i.e. any argument with such a structure is fallacious.

Informal logic deals with argument content: if the content of an argument is problematic in such a way, the argument commits an informal fallacy.

Now the fallacy of composition is an informal fallacy, so you can't simply point to an argument's structure to determine if the fallacy has been committed. Rather, you have to look to its content.

Certain entities possess properties that we can properly distribute from parts to wholes: if a wall is built with all red bricks, then the wall is red, since in this case 'redness' is a property of the parts that can be properly distributed and applied to the whole. However, each brick is also light, but notice that this is not a property we can distribute and apply to the whole. Each brick may be light, but the wall is very heavy.

So, whenever you charge an argument with committing the fallacy of composition (or any informal fallacy), you cannot merely point to the argument's structure, but rather have to show that the property that's being distributed from the part to the whole is more like the weight of the bricks than the color of the bricks.

In Craig's KCA, the property you're referring to is "beginning to exist." Now, what sort of property is this? Well, notice that it's a metaphysical principle, i.e. a principle that applies to everything. As such, it is already distributed. Now you can of course argue that Craig is wrong here and that his principle is false, but you cannot argue that the KCA commits the fallacy of composition, given the content of the argument, i.e. the nature of the principle. Does that help?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Everyone who is sick of Eric moving the goal posts with his pedantry should review the very nice post John did back in 2007 regarding Wes Morriston's analysis of Craig's god of the gaps altar call (e.g. Well reasoned Cosmology using outdated science).

Here: http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/05/wes-morriston-critique-of-kalam.html

Also I defer to Stenger when he says that, "Craig’s use of the singularity theorem for a beginning of time is invalid.”

Eric inflates the importance of his chosen field of study and superstitious control beliefs but for my money, I will take the word of a physicist over a theologian (with a particular religious agenda known to deny science) every time.

Eric, I also suggest you listen to the podcast I suggested so you can see how a practicing physicist debunks the Kalaam while negotiating the problem of time (which you say is not one).

Did you listen to it? Or do you just simply ignore it because it will demand that you practice some humility?

Eric said...

"Eric inflates the importance of his chosen field of study and superstitious control beliefs but for my money, I will take the word of a physicist over a theologian (with a particular religious agenda known to deny science) every time."

What physicist? Stenger or some of the much more distinguished physicists who disagree with him? Edis, or some of the much more distinguished physicists who disagree with him? You seem to be under the impression that Stenger and Edis *are* physics; they are not. See, the funny thing is that you're constantly confusing "what this particular physicist says about the philosophical implications of this physical theory or conclusion or discovery" with "physics." Amazing.

"Eric, I also suggest you listen to the podcast I suggested so you can see how a practicing physicist debunks the Kalaam while negotiating the problem of time (which you say is not one)."

Physicists, as in the plural of physicist? Funny, I heard one physicist (yes, I did listen to it, and apparently understood it better than you did), and not a very distinguished one at all at that. And again, Craig and "the physicists^tm" *agree* about the physics, but disagree about the philosophical implications the physics implies concerning the nature of time. So, I ask you again, What specific properly scientific claim of modern physics does Craig reject when he defends his conception of time, Chuck? You have avoided the question because you can't answer it. My goodness man, you show more deference to the words of one undistinguished physicist than the most devout Catholics show to the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Pope!

Chuck O'Connor said...

Well Eric how about Craig's theological interpretation of density as equivalent to ex nihilio?

And you are appealing to a theologian's ad hoc interpretation of cosmology while I am appealing to two noted physicists interpretation of those theories. I am not a physicist, neither are you. You are trusting the ad hoc ramblings of a Calvinist Preacher looking to win souls to Jesus. I am trusting scientists practicing science.

dguller said...

Eric:

>> it is certainly not speculation to say that what begins to exist has a cause.

It IS speculation, because NO-ONE has ANY experience involving NOTHINGNESS. All our experience involves different configurations of SOMETHING. So, it is fair to say that what exists must have a cause, but to discuss “what begins to exist” in the sense of “ex nihilo” is pure speculation.

>> We couldn't make sense of the world without this principle.

This is untrue. We can make great sense of the world without involving whether something or nothing can come from nothing. We probably cannot make sense of the ORIGIN of the universe, if it did come from nothingness, but that is not the sum total of knowledge about the universe.

If I adopt a child and am unaware of its origins, does it follow that therefore I know nothing about that child? Sure, the child’s origins is an important part, but if we cannot know anything because the records all destroyed and all witnesses are dead, then we should just admit that we don’t know anything about the child’s origins, and move on to areas that we have more knowledge about. Same thing about the universe. No need to speculate about something that we have no way of knowing.

>> And, as I said to Derreck, Craig doesn't merely assert his premises, he argues for them. For example, if the first premise were false, then why do we never see baseball bats, bears, buildings and bats pop into existence uncaused? Why can we always ascribe causes (efficient, material, etc.) to such things?

We only experience new configurations of previous existing substances. That is why we never see substances “pop into existence uncaused”. That is the totality of our frame of reference. We venture beyond it at the peril of increasing our uncertainty and decreasing our capacity for firm knowledge. Certainly, it is your right to speculate, but be aware that without the ability to tether your speculation to empirical observations, it remains nothing but an abstract hypothesis. Sure, it might be a true hypothesis, but how could you ever know it? Better to just admit one’s ignorance and move on to more productive lines of inquiry.

>> This is actually backwards: he question is, Has anyone ever observed there being something from nothing? It is the metaphysical principle this question implies -- from nothing, nothing comes -- that lies at the heart of Craig's first premise.

No, the correct perspective is that no-one has ever observed something OR nothing coming from nothing, because we have no direct experience of nothingness. It is a waste of time to speculate about this issue, because there is no way to ground our speculations in the real world, because the real world is full of something and not nothing.

dguller said...

>> So, whenever you charge an argument with committing the fallacy of composition (or any informal fallacy), you cannot merely point to the argument's structure, but rather have to show that the property that's being distributed from the part to the whole is more like the weight of the bricks than the color of the bricks.

Not necessarily. I can say that any argument of the form: “If the parts of X have property P, then X itself must have property P”, is not necessarily true. Now, that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily false, either. The point is that it requires something IN ADDITION to that argument to demonstrate itself.

My contention is that the core feature of the KCA is generalizing from the properties of existent beings within the universe to features of the universe as a whole. Does that mean that the universe as a whole cannot possibly have the features of its parts? Of course not. It just means that the fact that the parts have features does NOT automatically imply that the whole does, as well. What is required is an ADDITIONAL ARGUMENT in support of that contention.

The problem is that any such argument involving the universe will necessarily involve premises based upon the properties of the parts, and thus one is stuck in circular reasoning. THAT was the point of my objection, and the point of my firm belief that in such matters we should be humble enough to admit our utter ignorance rather than presumptively act as if we have firm knowledge of these matters. It is this same arrogance in which believers claim to be able to divine the properties and intimate details of God’s mind. In other words, finite beings claim to have detailed knowledge of an infinite being that is supposed to be utterly beyond our comprehension. Instead, they should just admit that they believe in “something utterly beyond our concepts” and accept the veil of ignorance that this belief entails.

Perhaps if you could explain Craig’s arguments for (1) that do not presuppose the necessary causal antecedents of existent beings within the universe as an underlying assumption or principle, then that would be more helpful.

dguller said...

Eric:

And just to be clear, these epistemological principles that I support are not just used as cudgels against theistic claims. They equally apply to scientific knowledge.

For example, some models of theoretical physics predict the existence of dark matter, and others postulate superstrings as underlying fundamental subatomic particles. However, there is ZERO empirical evidence for these constructs, and thus they are SPECULATIVE, and we should be agnostic about them until they can be experimentally verified.

Same thing with theistic metaphysical speculation. Just admit that we have no way of really knowing anything about the infinite beyond, including what occurs "outside" the space-time continuum, and I'll know that you're an honest person. Otherwise, you're just an apologist who is using philosophy and science to bolster your religious beliefs, and would just as quickly reject those philosophical and scientific principles if they contradicted your religious faith.

The true test of one's honesty and integrity in intellectual matters is being open to the possibility that one is wrong, and having some idea of what it would mean to be proven wrong. Otherwise, you insulate yourself from criticism and revision of incorrect beliefs, and that is certainly a maladaptive way of living in a world where it is often important to know what is true versus what is false.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said: (and I realize I'm coming into this late, but please bear with...)

"I'm going to present it as an example of a theistic argument with "intellectual punch." We all know the argument:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now the argument is uncontroversially logically valid:

(x)(Sx --> Px)
(x)(Yx --> Sx)
---------------
(x)(Yx --> Px)

so the only issue is whether we accept the premises.

So, here's my question: Can you name a logically valid philosophical argument *that reaches a substantial conclusion* that makes the Kalam cosmological argument look weak by comparison i.e. can you name a logically valid philosophical argument that reaches a substantial conclusion with premises that are more plausibly true than the premises of the Kalam cosmological argument?

I've presented this challenge to many atheists and skeptics who have made claims similar to yours about the weakness of theistic arguments and I've never received a straightforward response."

Liar.

I'll give it to you again, simply:

(2) above is unsupported. It's not that I'm asserting that the universe did NOT begin to exist- there are only two possibilities, it either began or is eternal.

You claim sure knowledge of a beginning. I claim that information of prior universe(s) cannot be transmitted beyond the Big Bang from "before", if there is meaning to that phrase in this context.

But the point is that you, Guth, Vilenkin, Hawking, WHOMEVER has NO WAY TO KNOW that there WASN'T something before the Big Bang, and to claim sure knowledge is as I said, unsupported.

Prove me wrong.

derreckbennett said...

THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL KABUKI DANCE: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

I find myself now free from having to address each and every one of Eric's points, since he certainly seems happy to gloss over many of mine. And mind you, there are some real whoppers he's dodging. As such, I will comment on the state of things as they now stand, at least as I see them, taking Eric's arguments into account and reiterating much of my case--that the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God falls short of any real cogency. I will do so by addressing each premise within the syllogism itself, taking into account the arguments and implications therein.

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

In a manner of speaking, yes. Take the example of a star. A massive nebular cloud collapses upon itself under the forces of its own gravity, forming an accretion disc in which nuclear reactions are ignited under intense pressures at the core. From this, a star is born. One could certainly say that it "began to exist," but not in the strictest sense. The matter from which it formed already existed, and it simply required the forces of nature to shape it into something new.

In all of this, there is something a bit misleading about appealing to the way in which most things "begin to exist" in order to draw the conclusion that something else "began to exist" in an entirely different manner (ex nihilo). Some have even chalked this up to equivocation on Craig's part.

2) The Universe began to exist.

In a manner of speaking, yes. Roughly 13.7 billion years ago, there was a cataclysmic event followed by a rapid expansion, in which matter, energy, space and time took on the form and structure of our early Universe. Unlike a star, however, we don't know how this came about. Was it a creation ex nihilo, in which everything popped into existence from absolutely nothing? Or was it analogous to the "creation" of a star, in which some pre-existing "thing" or "material" (whatever that might have been) came under the forces of nature in such a way as to ignite a Big Bang, thereby "creating" our Universe? Is it perhaps an example of the bifurcation fallacy to pose these two questions without wider consideration of something completely beyond our imagination? Who knows?

derreckbennett said...

William Lane Craig, an evangelical apologist, suggests that it was a creation ex nihilo. And perhaps he's right! But, do we as skeptics have good reason to be suspicious? YOU BET. Once again, here's Robert M. Price discussing Craig--particularly his case for the resurrection--though the implications apply equally to Kalam:

"Dr. Craig begins by stacking the deck, driving home to the reader the dismal alternative to faith in an afterlife and a creator God. We are left bereft of hope, he says, if we are but the chance products of evolution, doomed to be set adrift in the vacuum of eternity, our atoms commingling randomly with those of the forgotten pterodactyl and the unremembered community college administrator."
(Jesus is Dead, p. 196)

See also Craig's debate with Shelly Kagan, here (approximately 9:09 in):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7g3lsFZ47Y

Craig: "For me, the thought that everything perishes in the heat death of the Universe is SO DEPRESSING, SO AWFUL, that it just seems to put a question mark behind everything we do; all our accomplishments, all our deeds, just SEEM SO TRIVIAL in light of this COSMIC DOOM that awaits us all." [emphasis mine]

CRAIG HAS EMOTIONAL--NOT PURELY RATIONAL--MOTIVATIONS FOR REACHING THEISTIC CONCLUSIONS.

This doesn't prove he's wrong. But, it does justify skepticism on our part.

"It reduces to this: at the end of Bill Bright's Four Spiritual Laws booklet, there is a cartoon diagram showing a toy locomotive engine labeled "fact," pulling a freight car labeled "faith," followed in turn by a superfluous caboose tagged "feeling." The new convert is admonished to let faith rest on fact, not to allow faith to waver with feelings. But the outsider (not to mention the ex-insider) must suspect that it is the caboose that is pulling the train, and pulling it backwards. Faith is based "firmly" upon feeling, and certain notions are postulated as "fact" because of the security they afford to the sick soul who seeks a port in the existential storm."
(By This Time He Stinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus)

Indeed, we as skeptics have a right to be suspicious of a man whose position is driven by what is PALATABLE rather than what is TENABLE.

GearHedEd said...

Eric:

"...did I not say at least twice on this thread that I'm not a big fan of the Kalam cosmological argument, and that I'm only using it here because it's simple enough to present and understand, and just strong enough to help me make the point I'm driving at."

That you keep bringing up the Kalam argument says perhaps a couple of things:

First that you, despite protestations to the contrary, DO respect its validity and/or that there are no better arguments out there. And Aquinas is still irrelevant.

derreckbennett said...

Concerning Craig's arguments for creation ex nihilo, we get stuff like this:

Craig: "This event that marked the beginning of the universe becomes all the more amazing when one reflects on the fact that a state of "infinite density" is synonymous to "nothing." There can he no object that possesses infinite density, for if it had any mass at all, it would not be infinitely dense."

This is almost laughable, and it ought to confirm our suspicions--revealing the guiding hand of 'desire' in *contriving* methodology and conclusions. Morriston counters thusly:

The argument can be conveniently outlined as follows:

1. According to the Big Bang theory, the universe “began with a great explosion from a state of infinite density.”

2. “There can be no object” having “infinite density.”

3. So, “‘infinite density’ is synonymous with ‘nothing.’”

4. Therefore, the Big Bang theory “requires” that “the universe had a beginning and was created out of nothing.”

This argument of Craig’s need not detain us for long. There are at least three quite obvious—and decisive—objections to it.

(i) In the first place, “infinite density” is not synonymous with “nothing,” and the “initial singularity” that figures in Craig’s statement of the Big Bang theory is not simply nothing at all. A mere nothing could not begin expanding, as the infinitely dense “point universe” is supposed to have done. And even if it lacks spatial and temporal spread, the initial singularity would have other properties—for example, that of “being a point.” It would therefore be a quite remarkable something, and not a mere nothing. So, step 3 is obviously false.

(ii) In the second place, (3) does not follow from (2). No one would suppose that it follows from the fact that there can be no round squares, that “round square” is synonymous with “nothing.” But neither should anyone suppose it follows from the fact (assuming it is a fact) that there can be no infinitely dense objects, that “infinite density” is synonymous with “nothing.”

(iii) Something interesting does follow from (2), however. If no object can have infinite density, then the universe was never in a state of infinite density, and the interpretation of the Big Bang that figures in step 1 of the argument is false. It seems, then, that Craig must either scrap this way of describing what the Big Bang theory says, or else relax his strictures against infinite density. Either way, this particular argument for creation ex nihilo is unsound.

Nowadays, few Big Bang theorists would say that there ever was a “point universe” or a “state of infinite density.” It is true that on the standard Big Bang model, the “geometry” of the continuing expansion is such that, as we trace its history backwards in time, the diameter of the universe continually decreases—gradually approaching a limit of zero. But having a diameter of zero can be thought of as an ideal limit, rather than as the state of anything that once actually existed.

As we approach this limit, however, we have no theory that enables us to draw reliable inferences about the behavior of the universe. It is well known that general relativity breaks down prior to 10-43 seconds (or “Planck time,” as it is called), and that quantum effects then become significant. What is needed is a theory that somehow “incorporates the principles of both general relativity and quantum theory.” Until such a theory emerges, all claims about the earliest stage in the history of the universe remain in the category of sheer speculation.
(Philo Online: Creation Ex Nihilo and the Big Bang)

derreckbennett said...

3) Therefore the Universe has a cause.

Probably so, but in what sense? A genuine creation out of nothing by divine fiat? Membranes adrift in a cosmic bulk, colliding to produce one Big Bang after another? A black hole in reversal, spewing forth matter from a singularity? A Multiverse in which "Bubble" Universes spawn successive Universes? A quantum field behaving in ways that we have yet to articulate? I myself do not see how any of these scenarios is more probable than the other. There are theoretical physicists taking up different positions and working with multiple hypotheses. Significantly enough, however, there are no theoretical physicists to my knowledge--whether positing ex nihilo or otherwise--who argue for a supernatural or divine agent as the source of creation (except for perhaps Paul Davies). Per the pattern established by the history of science, they suspect, as I do, a naturalistic cause behind such phenomena. Like me, they refuse to play the role of the primitive who ascribes lightning to Baal, the savage who praises Dumuzi for good crops, or the ancient who puts disease down to evil spirits. For all our scientific knowledge and progress, the Big Bang is every bit as mysterious to us as these items were to those in antiquity. It is myopic to think otherwise.

Some of us care more about Truth than we do about Desire. Some of us are more interested in what is Tenable than what is Palatable. I myself am an atheist in the sense that I doubt the existence of a god or gods; though I'm technically also agnostic, since I do not purport to be absolutely certain either way. As it stands, I have my doubts not because I like it that way, but because a theistic worldview seems to defy any semblance of reality. If I came upon a compelling argument for the existence of God, or for the truth of Christianity, I'd gladly give it its due. So far, not so good. And I'm sorry, but I know contrived, emotionally-driven bullshit when I hear it. Frankly, there's something sad, pathetic and quite telling about reaching toward the ass end of space and time in order to suggest your god's activity in the world.

Furthermore, the KCA, if somehow substantiated by scientific discovery, would point to a Deist god at best. We could give it thanks for igniting the cosmic wick and setting the universal laws of nature in motion, but that'd be about the extent of it. The activity of such a "god" would be nowhere else evident. It certainly could not be gleaned from scriptures which bear the mark of mythic inheritance, which contradict each other repeatedly, which fly in the face of scientific discovery, which are flagrantly ripped out of context when dressing up the "New" with the "Old," and which make vastly extraordinary claims about a man, who, although probably historical, left not a shred of contemporaneous evidence behind. Given the nature of what Craig is really selling, the KCA is much ado about nothing.

GearHedEd said...

Eric:

"...and my challenge, in which I asked for a logically valid philosophic argument that reaches a substantial conclusion with premises that are more plausibly true than the premises of the KCA, was meant to bring out the fact that we do not, and indeed cannot demand that our premises be known to be true with certainty. This is where the issue of standards comes into play."

And here you have confirmed in your own words what I said: that you have no sure knowledge of premise (2), "the universe began to exist".

Yet you persist...

GearHedEd said...

Eric:

"...Of course. One of my favorite arguments is a proper development of Aquinas's first way. However, while the argument appears simple if you google it, it in fact uses everyday terms in a highly technical way, so it's almost always misunderstood (even by professional philosophers!). Explaining it requires an enormous amount of work; for example, one of the best *popular level* treatments of it I've read devotes just under one hundred pages to providing the sort of conceptual prerequisites I'm talking about. And keep in mind that's before you ever get to the argument!"

We're supposed to be awed and impressed by this?

I told you what I thought of that drivel in 2008.

GearHedEd said...

Ed's paraphrase of the KCA:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe may have begun to exist, but the verdict is still out on that.
(3) Therefore, no conclusion about whether the universe has a cause can be advanced at this time.

GearHedEd said...

Eric...

"...Well sure, but you can't make an argument by referring to bare logical possibilities. Craig argues -- correctly, I think -- that modern science points to a beginning of our universe. Keep in mind that the premises of a good argument don't have to be established with 100% certainty -- if that's the standard, then there's no such thing as a good argument. Rather, good arguments minimally require premises that are more plausibly true then their negations, and as I see it, the proposition, "the universe began to exist" is in fact more plausible, given the state of modern cosmology, than its negation, viz. "the universe did not begin to exist."

You're neglecting the other possibility(ies):

"the universe did not begin to exist at the beginning of the time continuum we all experience, but at some previous, unknowable epoch."

You still have proved exactly zip.

GearHedEd said...

"But the fact of the matter is, we have no earthly idea what caused it, and for Craig to merely insert his god into the equation does indeed strike me as a 'god-of-the-gaps' fallacy."


(Eric's reply:)
But that's not at all what Craig does. Rather, he follows the KCA with a conceptual analysis if what properties a 'cause of the universe' must be ascribed, and it is from here that he concludes that it possesses properties consonant with the God of classical theism. He doesn't 'insert' God, but *argues* that such a cause must be God. (If you want to hear his argument, let me know.)

No, what Craig does is ignore the untenability of premise (2), and forces his way to an unsupported conclusion.

Paul said...

Eric,

[Insert quotes about how Eric took Logic 101 how Eric thinks proper terminology is the difference between establishing the existence or non-existence of gods/gremlins/ghosts.]

I'm sorry you wasted your time. Twelve-year-olds already possess the ability to utilize all the logic necessary to test propositions. That is my point. Gods exist, or they don't. Silly question-begging syllogisms are as useless as a divining rod.

"Let me get this straight: are you saying that X and the stuff that composes X are the same thing?"

Eric, you are proving my point about 'philosophy' by your feeble obfuscatory semantics. Do you see how - to someone actually interested in facts and not word games - it might seem comical for an argument to veer so far off course as to find an individual pondering definitions as in your quote above?

"Then please answer the question: did your child (assuming you have one) begin to exist? Did you begin to exist? Did your computer exist 5 billion years ago, i.e. before the earth existed? Just answer the questions."

I have two children, one self, and (I think) six computers in the house. We've all been around for at least billions of years. Once again, all of these things are examples of matter/energy interacting, NOT 'beginning to exist.' You keep providing examples of natural processes and events, which we of course suppose causes for. But natural processes and events - regardless of what their effects - do not constitute the beginning of existence for a single thing. They merely constitute the rearranging of matter/energy. Again, the argument blatantly equivocates.

"This should be good: I challenge you to produce a valid deductive argument with premises as plausible as the premises of the KCA that leads to the conclusion that leprechauns exist."

Plausible? How is an argument with two premises that are 100% arbitrary plausible? I suppose I could use Kalam-styled lawgik, as you seem to think it's so sturdy:

a. Whatever 'begins to exist' has a cause.
b. Luck 'began to exist.'
c. Therefore, luck has a cause.

Now I recognize that this doesn't prove leprechauns exist, but I think that - given the conclusion - we can all put two and two together. I mean, where else would luck come from?!

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...Craig argues (in his defense of the second premise if the KCA), on philosophical grounds, that such a chain cannot be infinite; I disagree. That's my problem in a nutshell, without getting into details."

May 8, 2010 7:59 PM

Without getting into details, Eric basically concedes my point to me.

Game, Set, Match.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...One of my favorite arguments is a proper development of Aquinas's first way. However, while the argument appears simple if you google it, it in fact uses everyday terms in a highly technical way, so it's almost always misunderstood (even by professional philosophers!). Explaining it requires an enormous amount of work; for example, one of the best *popular level* treatments of it I've read devotes just under one hundred pages to providing the sort of conceptual prerequisites I'm talking about. And keep in mind that's before you ever get to the argument!"

And THAT, folks, is why Aquinas fails.