Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stephen Law's Debate with William Lane Craig

This debate really did take place. Thrasymachus has mapped the debate at the title's link.

28 comments:

BenYachov said...

I predicted Law would do well since he was a philosopher(unlike Craig's other opponents who where philosophically incompetent chuckleheads) & I hear Law did do well.

Bradley C. said...

Victor, what did you think of the debate? Personally I thought Law won, which is rare for a debate against Craig, but there has been a lot of differing opinions on how it went.

BenYachov said...

I heard rhetorically it was a draw(which makes it a win considering Law was the presumed underdog) but Craig failed to prove his affirmative.

But that is what I heard.

Bradley can confirm or deny it.

Crude said...

I think one of the best points made about the debate was this: The debate topic was on the existence of God. Law put almost exclusive emphasis on defending the idea that, given the evil in the world, an evil God may exist - and claiming that (in essence) based on that evidence, we'd be as justified concluding the existence of an evil God as a good God. Craig spent the debate advancing and defending reasons God exists.

The problem is, if the debate is over whether or not God exists, it doesn't do Law any good to argue that it's possible God is evil. It's a lot like there being a debate on whether intelligent design is true, and the opponent spends his time arguing that the designer is a cruel bastard. Alright, great - but that's a point entirely compatible with the claim that ID is true.

BenYachov said...

Edward Feser on Law's "evil" God nonsense. In short it has nothing to do with a Classic Theist God and is only a serious objection to a Theistic personalist deity.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/laws-evil-god-challenge.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/harlan-ellisons-evil-god.html

GOD I LUV BASHING THE THEISTIC PERSONALIST "deity"!!!!!!

Stupid false "deity"!!!

Priase the Lord!

BenYachov said...

Another kindred spirit.

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/god-is-morally-good-because-of-his-divinity/

Bradley C. said...

Crude,
While it is the case that Law didn't refute the arguments for there being a creator, Craig said flat out that if a being isn't Omnibenevolent even if it has all the other properties he argues for it wouldn't be "God". Goodness is wrapped up in the concept of God according to Craig.

So given the definition that both of the contestants agreed upon, Law did argue against the existence of "God" as properly defined. Note that Craig didn't try to defend the idea that even if Law was right, God still exists.

Crude said...

Well, I don't think it works even against the "Theistic Personalist". Give them some credit, Ben. ;)

Crude said...

Bradley,

While it is the case that Law didn't refute the arguments for there being a creator, Craig said flat out that if a being isn't Omnibenevolent even if it has all the other properties he argues for it wouldn't be "God".

Even if that's the case, there are problems. First, even if Craig did say that - Law calls his challenge the 'evil God challenge'. Clearly Law thinks the being he's talking about qualifies as a God.

Second, Craig entered the debate giving numerous arguments for God's existence. Law didn't interact with those much at all, nor did he give any argument for God's non-existence. I think if we're going to squint our eyes and say "Well, arguing that God is evil would mean the God isn't God if you define God as being good" is simply too much of a stretch.

BenYachov said...

>Well, I don't think it works even against the "Theistic Personalist". Give them some credit, Ben. ;)

I do remember some of them fought back.

kbrowne said...

Law has said that his intention was to argue against Craig's God, rather than against every possible God. If he successfully argued that the idea of a perfectly good God is absurd then he showed that Craig's God does not exist, although other Gods may.

His argument, though, is not that God might in fact be evil. He says that idea is absurd because of the amount of good in the world. He then goes on to say that, if evil God cannot exist because of the good in the world, it must be equally true that good God cannot exist because of the evil in the world.

I don't find his argument convincing at all if it is an argument against the existence of any God rather than simply the God that Craig believes in. Firstly, I don't think the existence of good in the world does make the existence of evil God absurd. Secondly, I think if there is a God it is overwhelmingly likely that he does not care either way about the happiness or misery of humans or any other organisms.

I do think Craig's good God is absurd but then I thought that already.

Crude said...

Law has said that his intention was to argue against Craig's God, rather than against every possible God. If he successfully argued that the idea of a perfectly good God is absurd then he showed that Craig's God does not exist, although other Gods may.

Actually, my understanding isn't that Law even sought to show that a good God's existence is "absurd". What he was trying to show is that, given certain conceptions of Good and Evil, the mix of good and evil in the world makes it such that he can mount a theodicy for an Evil God - and that this will cause problems for the good theodicy.

The funny thing is, the one who stands the most to lose from a move like this is an atheist - it cashes out to a defeater of the problem of evil. Think of it this way: "The argument from the problem of evil could succeed spectacularly, and atheism is still false." That's another way of putting Law's argument.

His argument, though, is not that God might in fact be evil. He says that idea is absurd because of the amount of good in the world. He then goes on to say that, if evil God cannot exist because of the good in the world, it must be equally true that good God cannot exist because of the evil in the world.

But who is making the argument that "an evil God cannot exist because of the amount of good in the world" OR "a good God cannot exist because of the amount of evil in the world"? I've never heard Craig mount this argument, or anyone else. The closest I've heard is the move that, if someone believes that the presence of evil is problematic for God's existence, then the presence of good is supportive of God's existence.

BenYachov said...

Was stephen Law guilty of the bait and Switch?

http://randalrauser.com/2011/10/was-stephen-law-guilty-of-a-bait-and-switch/

I love this quote.

QUOTE"The fact is that that person could walk away holding a doctrine of God like that of leading Christian theologian and ethicist James Gustafson which affirms God’s perfect goodness but denies omnibenevolence."END QUOTE

I wonder how close that is to the view that God is Goodness Itself but God is not a moral agent?

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Notice how if an atheist loses the debate, atheists will go on about how debates don't matter anyway, or the other guy just had a bad day, etc.

But if the atheist is see as winning, or pulling a draw, suddenly it is a great victory.

BenYachov said...

Stephen Law is a philosopher & it is clear he approached Craig with philosophical argument. So that is why he did well. Thus he can join the elite ranks of the small handful of persons who actually argued Craig to a draw or won if we believe Luke over at Commonsense Atheism & of course we do.

Your average brain dead fundie member of the Cult of the Gnu hates philosophy and can't get past his outdated neo-Scientism and Positivism.

As Atheist Philosopher and contra Dawkins Gadfly Mary Migley said people who reject philosophy often find themselves being enslaved to an outmoted form of it.

OTOH because Stephen actually provided some challenge to Theism (i.e. How do you know God isn't evil?) he has provided food for thought to many of us Theists to sharpen our views or provide better ones. He has moved the discussion forward.

It's a heck of a lot better then the "Who created God" & similar brain dead bullshit the amateurs Atheists who debated Craig in the past have inflicted on us.

Amen!

kbrowne said...

Crude,

You say '"The argument from the problem of evil could succeed spectacularly, and atheism is still false." That's another way of putting Law's argument.'

No, that is not Law's argument at all. Law's argument depends on the existence of an evil God being, as he puts it, 'downright absurd.' According to Law it follows from that that the existence of a good God is also downright absurd.

It is true, of course, that there is no problem of evil if the God whose existence you are defending is not good, but that is another matter.

Doug Benscoter said...

I don't know what was said during the debate, but I recall from his book debate with Walter Sinnott-Armonstrong that Craig specifically denied he had to defend perfect being theology in order to maintain belief in God. It's hard to believe that Craig would reverse his apologetic in this most recent debate, but I suppose it's possible.

BenYachov said...

>No, that is not Law's argument at all. Law's argument depends on the existence of an evil God being, as he puts it, 'downright absurd.' According to Law it follows from that that the existence of a good God is also downright absurd.

I think Crude knows that since he like myself is a reader & Fan of Edward Feser(who I cite at October 25, 2011 2:02 PM) and Feser explicitly spells this out as the motivation for Law Evil God argument.

He however is clearly doing a Reductio ad absurdum with the argument by taking it seriously.

Nick said...

I thought the debate was incredibly frustrating.

Craig said that his first (cosmological/Kalam) argument established God without reference to God's morality; his next argument was from the existence of objective morals, and was meant to establish God as the only possible source of moral authority.

Law flat refused to respond to the first argument, because Craig's God is supposedly good, and the first argument could apply to an evil god. He says that given that we all know deep down that an evil god doesn't exist, because there's good in the world (!), and all proofs for a good god can apply to an evil god, we can know that the good god doesn't exist either, so there's no need to address the cosmological argument.

What did I miss? Surely we don't know that an evil god doesn't exist. Craig was absolutely right to point this out, but Law claimed Craig was playing ignorant. It’s true that most of us don't BELIEVE in an evil god, but that doesn't amount to any kind of knowledge at all. And the existence of goodness in the world doesn't rule out an evil god for precisely the reasons Law gave: an evil god would create goodness to make death more tragic and suffering more vivid.

As for not allowing Craig's first argument because it could be used to establish an evil god - how on earth can this be a legitimate move? All the 'evil god' argument shows is that an argument for God that makes no reference to morals can't establish a moral God... without further arguments. Such as Craig's second argument, from objective morality.

So why refuse to engage with Craig's first argument? If I demonstrated the existence of my mother to Stephen Law by showing him her driver's licence, then showed him a photo of her, would he reject the first piece of evidence because it doesn't establish her as having dark hair? After all, the driver's licence could belong to someone with fair hair...

I was hoping for something meaty, but the 'evil god' argument just seemed like a philosophical box to hide in.

BenYachov said...

>Law's argument depends on the existence of an evil God being, as he puts it, 'downright absurd.

Absurd by what standards and in what sense I wonder?

Absurd in the sense of revolting & horrible? That is if we found out Azathoth or EM from the Harlen Elision story was "god"?

Because why then would a good god be either of those things?

Crude said...

No, that is not Law's argument at all. Law's argument depends on the existence of an evil God being, as he puts it, 'downright absurd.' According to Law it follows from that that the existence of a good God is also downright absurd.

But who says, based on the evidence of good and evil in the world, that an evil God is 'downright absurd'? Again, I don't know of any theists who ever make this claim.

The best that Law could hope for is something along these lines: Given certain starting assumptions about what both God and good are (assumptions that various theists are likely to reject), it's in principle possible for me to - taking similar assumptions - construct a theodicy for an evil God. But if you reject the theodicy for an evil God, you have to explain why your good God theodicy is better. Will you be basing it on the evidence of good/evil in the world? If so, then apparently an evidential argument from evil/good can succeed. But if you base it on something else...

As I said, Law's playing a game which is suicidal for an atheist. He's highlighting a notion few people discuss - that the presence of evil is not an argument against God or gods in and of itself, and that the best explanation for evil may be a God or gods. That's an argument for some form of theism, not atheism.

(Another possible upshot of Law's argument: Belief in a good God or an evil God are both rationally preferable to atheism.)

BenYachov said...

I never thought I'd ever say this but I found something even more obnoxious than you average Cult of the Gnu blog.

http://maltheism.blogspot.com/

Someone who believes there really is a God and that God in fact is Evil.

Nature abhors a vacuum one wonders if this is what the Gnu's will evolve into?

Crude said...

Ben,

Nature abhors a vacuum one wonders if this is what the Gnu's will evolve into?

Actually, I think there are fewer atheists around than you'd suspect. A surprising number seem to be closet deists on closer pressing, or even polytheists with a modern spin. (See the transhumanists, the singularitarians, etc.)

BenYachov said...

>(See the transhumanists, the singularitarians, etc.)

Ah yes I am fond of some Hard Sci-fi.

http://www.orionsarm.com/

http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45c53f5eca9d9

http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/492d76d2f173e

Of course I am fond of Lovecraft and Greek Mythology too.

Interesting stuff accept I am way way way skeptical that any type of true AI could ever be produced.

I also doubt the existence of Aliens and prefer Mundane Hard Sci-fi that excludes Aliens.

But this is off topic.

Cheers.

TruthOverfaith said...

And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, "Here ye, here ye, what"s this ridiculous bullshit I'm hearing about me being some kind of fucking blood sacrifice for your pathetic sins!! Who in the hell came up with that Neanderthal bullshit!!?
Blood sacrifice!!! Are you fucking kidding me!!!!!?"

And his disciples responded, "Umm, what 'choo talking 'bout Willis?"

Anonymous said...

'Nature abhors a vacuum one wonders if this is what the Gnu's will evolve into?'

Perhaps not, given that the most recent post on that blog is from 2004. In any case it's a silly idea that Gnu's will all migrate to this position. There's all manner of silly theist blogs that you yourself would heap scorn on - will theists soon evolve to the silliest of these positions?

BenYachov said...

@Anon

Those are good reasons why reasonable atheists wouldn't (de)evolve into that position.

But I wasn't talking about reasonable Atheists or Atheists in general. I was talking about Gnu's who are by definition irrational fundies without god-belief.

Not all Atheists are Gnus just as not all Christians are fundies.

But with Gnu's as with their religious fundie counterparts it's always best to bet on stupidity.

Just saying.

Crude said...

In any case it's a silly idea that Gnu's will all migrate to this position.

I'll repeat that the Cult of Gnu has a decent amount of members who are already there. Guys who are actually deists anyway, even if they don't talk about it much. Singularitarians and transhumanists entertaining the simulation hypothesis a la Bostrom.

Hell, go to Common Sense Atheism and watch Luke get frantic about the coming AI-overlords who shall rule us all, which is why (if I recall right) devoting ourselves to finding a way to make moral AIs should be an international priority beyond anything else including fighting global warming.

I don't think atheists are necessarily going to become maltheists en masse. I do think the Cult of Gnu and the irreligious in general are largely, at the end of the day, surprisingly thin on actual atheists. With the cult you mostly have people who hate Christian theism, a surprising number of whom (speaking anecdotally here) embrace beliefs that seem quite a lot like modern versions of deism, paganism, polytheism, etc.