Wednesday, April 01, 2009

William Lane Craig on Richard Dawkins

William Lane Craig in his essay "Dawkins' Delusion" in Copan and Craig ed. Contending with Christianity's Critics forthcoming in Broadman and Holman (2009).

Several years ago my atheist colleague Quentin Smith unceremoniously crowned Stephen Hawking’s argument against God in A Brief History of Time as “the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.” With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’ accession to the throne.

My essay, "Confronting Naturalism: The Argument from Reason" is chapter 3 of the book.

18 comments:

exapologist said...

Does Craig have in mind the whole book, or some particular argument within it? If the latter, I'd be interested in hearing the all-time worst atheistic argument.

Ranger said...

exapologist,
Would he be talking about the Ultimate 747 Boeing Gambit? It's not really a strict argument against God in general per se, since it has admitted gaps (i.e. we will someday realize that there is a crane for physics, instead of skyhooks) and only argues against design arguments, but Dawkins claims it to be the ultimate argument of the book. Therefore, you've gotta think this is what Craig has in mind.

James Vandenberg said...

Dude, the worst atheist argument is the Drunken Teenager contention, that God is just a way of spoiling your fun.

There's also the Darwin Of The Gaps remonstration, that material science will eventually destroy ever theist evidential claim.

Victor Reppert said...

That is the argument he is referring to. The so-called "main argument."

Matthew said...

He's talking about the "Ultimate 747 Boeing Gambit".

I looked for the article on his page where this is from, but can#t find it right now.

Matthew said...

And by the way, if you think that's a bad argument, check out MikeWright:

http://theintelligentzone.blogspot.com/search?q=google+maps

exapologist said...

Thanks, all. I haven't read Dawkins' book (due to my antecedent pessimism about the ability of scientists to give good philosophical arguments), and so I had to resort to (GASP!) Wikipedia to find the argument you mentioned. I'll give it a look.

Ranger said...

Matthew,
That's by far the funniest website I've seen recently. That's gotta be a parody of bad atheism sites, right?

Blue Devil Knight said...

We need some kind of converse of Poe's Law for that web site. It is hilarious.

Wait, a freaking miracle just happened. The word verification word for me right now?

'qualia'

I'm taking a screen shot to prove it (though I guess that could be faked).

Matthew said...

Ranger,
on TheologyWeb, we once had a poll "Is MikeWright a parody". Some of the things he says are just "WOW!" but you never know.

You can find more of him in the late Screwballs:

http://www.tektoonics.com/etc/parody/screwball.html

T'sinadree said...

Victor, would you happen to have a table of contents that you can post for this forthcoming book?

Clayton said...

I believe Smart once voiced an objection that was akin to Dawkins' objection, "If we postulate God in addition to the created universe we increase the complexity of our hypothesis. We have all the complexity of the universe itself, and we have in addition the at least equal complexity of God. (The designer of an artifact must be at least as complex as the designed artifact)"

This is lifted from Robin Collins' paper on fine tuning.

I don't know what WLC says about Dawkins in the paper Victor mentions, but there's some stuff here that tells us what he thinks of Dawkins' argument:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5493

The argument that he attributes to Dawkins is this:
1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
5. We don't have an equivalent explanation for physics.
6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.
Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

I don't have a copy of The God Delusion, so I don't know if that captures every nuance of Dawkins' argument. It's hard to know what assumptions might make the above at all plausible, but I take it that he thinks that with greater complexity comes less likelihood and that God would have to be exceptionally complex. Something like that.

Anonymous said...

I think Dawkins' Ultimate 747 Gambit can be formulated like this:

(1) If God exists, then God has these two properties: (i) He provides an intelligent design explanation for all natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) He has no explanation external to Himself.

(2) Anything that provides an intelligent design explanation for the natural, complex phenomena in the universe is at least as complex as such phenomena.

(3) So: If God exists, then God has these two properties: (i) He is at least as complex as the natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) He has no explanation external to Himself. (from 1 and 2)

(4) It is very improbable that there exists something that (i) is at least as complex as the natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) has no explanation external to itself.

(5) Therefore, it is very improbable that God exists. (from 3 and 4)

Eric said...

Here is the exact summary Dawkins presents on page 157 of the God Delusion. I've bracketed the parts that Craig has left out (in the summary Clayton provided), and the parts in which Dawkins's terms differ from Craig's.

-----------------------------------

[This chapter has contained the central argument of my book, and so, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I shall summarize it as a series of six numbered points.]

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect [over the centuries] has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. [In the case of a man-made artefactsuch as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.]

3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. [The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a 'crane,' not a 'skyhook,' for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.]

4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. [Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that -- an illusion.]

5. We don't [yet] have an equivalent [crane] for physics. [Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.]

6. We should not give up the hope of a better [crane] arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. [But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-designing skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.]

[If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion -- the God Hypothesis -- is untenable.] God almost certainly does not exist.

-----------------------------------

This extended version of Dawkins's argument doesn't seem to add much -- if anything -- so it seems to me that Craig's summary is fair. In fact, on his website, Craig makes every effort to treat Dawkins fairly:

"Indeed, if we take these six statements as premises of an argument implying the conclusion "Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist," then the argument is patently invalid. No logical rules of inference would permit you to draw this conclusion from the six premises.

"A more charitable interpretation would be to take these six statements, not as premises, but as summary statements of six steps in Dawkins' cumulative argument for his conclusion that God does not exist. But even on this charitable construal, the conclusion "Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist" does not follow from these six steps, even if we concede that each of them is true and justified."

exapologist said...

These formulations all seem to be implausible incarnations of Hume's version of the criticism. However, Hume's criticism is most charitably and plausibly construed not in terms of an argument for atheism, but rather as an undercutting defeater for certain forms of the design argument. In that capacity, I think Hume's criticism is a success.

Steven Carr said...

The trouble with Dawkins is that he has not read as many theology books as Craig.

Dawkins is just an amateur, until he studies theology at a university.


It is like expecting a chess player from India to come over to Europe and beat the top players and a world champion, when he has never studied an opening book in his life.

It just ain't going to happen. Those professionals would at once expose the gaps in his knowledge.

Victor Reppert said...

I take it Anand didn't remain ignorant of openings while pursuing the World Championship. He had a lot to learn before he could start beating the likes of Kasparov and Kramnik.

Steven Carr said...

Have you not heard of Sultan Khan?

Well worth finding out about if you haven't.