Thursday, October 11, 2012

WLC: Eastwooding Richard Dawkins

Here.

71 comments:

Syllabus said...

I like much of Craig's stuff. Really. But I think that he's coming dangerously close to jumping the shark.

Crude said...

He's having a bit of timely fun and getting a lot of mileage out of the Dawkins Duck. I'm not sure I'd call it Jumping the Shark, but I think by now he's really made his point about Dawkins and doesn't need to keep doing so.

Generally whenever any serious intellectual (cue people insisting Craig isn't one) tries to work humor into their presentation while maintaining the thoroughness of their presentation, the result is kind of bland. At least this isn't cringe-inducing like some attempts.

unkleE said...

651 pamoneI'm a Craig fan, and I think his Reasonable Faith book is the best popular christian apologetics book I have read, but I didn't like this. Maybe if someone else made the joke on YouTube or something, but not him, not there.

Victor Reppert said...

It didn't reall work for Eastwood. Though I found it entertaining.

ozero91 said...

Ohhhhh boy. I forsee a ****storm.

B. Prokop said...

The big difference between Eastwood's cringe-worthy performance and Craig's much better one is that apparently every word put into the absent Dawkins' mouth was actually his, either from his writings or from his speeches. Maybe not an actual debate, but pretty close to the real thing.

I thought it was well done and effective. (And strangely Talmudic, where scholars frequently debate others long dead.)

im-skeptical said...

"Ohhhhh boy. I forsee a ****storm."

I doubt it. Craig and other Christians have made a lot of hay about Dawkins not debating with Craig. Nobody else seems to think it's a big deal.

Dawkins has said that participating in a debate with Craig would enhance Craig's career but not his own.

B. Prokop said...

I don't think Craig's "career" is in need of any enhancing. He's well known and widely respected. And unlike Dawkins, when Craig strays outside his own field of expertise, he makes sure he knows what he's talking about.

In contrast, whatever one thinks of Dawkins as a scientist, his forays into philosophy show an utter failure to do one's homework.

Classic case: the "who designed the designer" nonsense, which anyone who's taken Philosophy 101 could shoot holes a mile wide into without breaking a sweat.

Syllabus said...

"Nobody else seems to think it's a big deal."

That's not entirely true. I recall that a number of atheists and humanists - like Peter Millican, unless I miss my guess - chided Dawkins for what they interpreted as cowardice on his part. In the Times, no less.

And as for the whole "it would look good on your resume but not on mine" shtick, Dawkins has been plenty happy to debate folks like Lennox and McGrath, who, insofar as they are Christian academics, are more or less on the respectability level of Craig. Heck, he even debated RAY COMFORT. The Banana Man. Is Ray Comfort a more formidable or prestigious opponent than W. Lane Craig? I think not. And Craig has debated the man who was, for all intents and purposes, Dawkins' predecessor as the most influential atheist in the world, Antony Flew.

Now, if Dawkins had said something along the lines of "well, Craig's a philosopher and I'm not, so I would be arguing outside my field of expertise", then one might be more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. As it stands, though, his refusal seems highly questionable.

Daniel Anderson said...

Hitchen's take on Craig. Here

It's quite different than Dawkins' view. I loved the Hitch, even though I didn't agree with much of his conclusions he was passionate, compelling, and would debate pretty much anyone. He had confidence in his atheism. Dawkins is dogmatic and parasitic on religious fundamentalism.



Daniel Anderson said...

On a separate note, Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig are starting to go at it - here - http://www.reasonablefaith.org/sean-carrolls-reply-to-the-rf-podcast

Crude said...

Dawkins has said that participating in a debate with Craig would enhance Craig's career but not his own.

This is true - a brutal onstage asskicking would not enhance Dawkins' reputation at all. ;)

A lot of Dawkins' true believers tried their damndest to defend him for chickening out, but ultimately all but the crazies know why Dawkins ducked - because he'd lose. Badly, in all likelihood. And you simply cannot have a man who is pretty much the figurehead for modern atheism get smacked around in a debate with a Christian if you can avoid it. So, Dawkins avoided it.

im-skeptical said...

"And unlike Dawkins, when Craig strays outside his own field of expertise, he makes sure he knows what he's talking about."

Like when he says that animals don't suffer? Or when he talks about the mathematics of infinity? Craig tries to sound like he knows everything, but he doesn't. He deserves the same kind of criticism that Dawkins gets.

Crude said...

Like when he says that animals don't suffer?

Craig doesn't simply say 'animals don't suffer'. He lays out reasons for being skeptical of the claim, complete with references to scientific research, and noting that the view isn't necessarily 100% right.

That's another thing Dawkins tends to do wrong, and Craig does right - properly qualifying when they're out of their element.

Or when he talks about the mathematics of infinity?

Disagreeing with Craig is not the same as showing Craig is wrong.

Craig tries to sound like he knows everything, but he doesn't. He deserves the same kind of criticism that Dawkins gets.

Ahahahahaha no.

No, Dawkins completely utterly bungles and mangles a lot of what he talks about - he was thrown over the bus by just about everyone after his contribution to Krauss' last book. Craig will, even when he has an outlier opinion, warn people that the areas he's getting into is controversial.

Now, Craig absolutely does forcefully argue for given positions, and maintains that he's right. But that's not the problem here.

Dan Gillson said...

There should be a website, "The Dispatches of Popular Apologetics,"* that summarizes what's going on and who's saying what in the world of apologetics. That way, I can get all the information I want without ever having to read anything by Dawkins or Craig.

*If any of you takes this idea, I demand to be mentioned in a footnote somewhere!

Daniel Anderson said...

Dan, I am actually a web designer and have thought of something very similar. Haven't had time to work on my own personal projects. I may mention you in a weird banner ad titled, "Who is Dan Gillson." We will see.

Daniel Anderson said...

BTW Dan, you have very impressive back muscles in your picture. I mean that as a fitness enthusiast. So, it should not be interpreted as a man crush, as my wife might accuse me of.

im-skeptical said...

"He lays out reasons for being skeptical of the claim, complete with references to scientific research"

The so called 'scientific research' is a philosophy book. Here's the real scoop:

Animals Aren't Aware

"Disagreeing with Craig is not the same as showing Craig is wrong."

The Kalam Argument

Infinite Dreams

Crude said...

The so called 'scientific research' is a philosophy book.

Uh. :)

You should try getting your information from more sources than sites which specialize in atheist apologetics.

As I said: to disagree with Craig is not to show Craig is wrong, much less obviously wrong. The fact that two of your links are just 'atheist counter-arguments to Craig', one of them being by Cowboy Hat of all people, indicates a problem on your end.

Second, "a philosophy book" isn't the extent of Craig's discussion on this front. He does make reference to scientific research, and he's appropriately forceful - if tentative - in what he says. As I pointed out in another thread, another person who denies animal consciousness of this sort is Dan Dennett. I await to see Stephen Law lighting Dennett up over this.

Sorry man. I know you'd like it to be true, but whatever failings Craig has, they pale compared to Dawkins'. Which is why Dawkins ran away from him rather than debate him - he knows he'd be destroyed.

Everyone knows that, even the people who can't admit it.

Syllabus said...

im-skeptical:

Seriously, man. If you want good engagements with kalam, look at Quentin Smith's stuff. He and Craig are each other's nemeses in this area, as they're been engaging over this and other topics related to philosophy of time for decades. Heck, head over to Craig's website and you can find a transcript of a debate between them that has a good, concise lay-out of their respective opinions on the kalam. It gets kind of technical, but it's quite substantive.

im-skeptical said...

"You should try getting your information from more sources than sites which specialize in atheist apologetics."

Doesn't anybody ever check out the links that I provide? Really, Craig's argument is completely unsupported by science. I looked into his citations on this topic some time ago, and there were no scientific journals among them. Only a philosophy book that, in turn referenced other philosophy papers, but NO SCIENCE to back up the ridiculous claim that animals don't suffer. If you know of some actual scientific research on this, please provide a citation. I have been unable to find any.

"If you want good engagements with kalam, look at Quentin Smith's stuff."

I wasn't trying to refute the argument - only pointing out that his use of mathematics is faulty. Here's another one.

Craig's Calamitous Cock-Up

This guy makes mistakes in his arguments that are pretty serious, and to my knowledge, has never admitted or retracted them. These things are not subject to debate. They are 'brute fact'. At least Dawkins doesn't pretend to be a philosopher.

Syllabus said...

"This guy makes mistakes in his arguments that are pretty serious, and to my knowledge, has never admitted or retracted them."

I would venture to disagree slightly. The point Craig makes about infinite mathematics is only one line of support for premiss 2 of the kalam. There are, as far as I am aware, others that he uses to justify this. So, while the disputation of one line of argumentation used to support a premiss in an argument does weaken the premiss a bit, I don't think it does a whole lot to weaken the argument itself.

Crude said...

Doesn't anybody ever check out the links that I provide?

Sure we did. That's how I knew you're citing Cowboy Hat.

Really, Craig's argument is completely unsupported by science.

Craig's argument is that what we know of neurology makes it an open question that most/many animals experience pain, or have an experience in the relevant way - and that there are reasons to doubt that most have had these experiences in natural history. He is not arguing that they absolutely do not have experience. It's an evaluation of current evidence that could, in the future, be revised.

You're really going to say there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim?

Either way, let's up the ante here:

No past or current dualists can prove that animals necessarily lack the fundamental mental properties or substance. Furthermore, given that none of these theories specify empirical means for detecting the right stuff for consciousness, and indeed most dualist theories cannot do so, they seem forced to rely upon behavioral criteria for deciding the Distribution Question. In adopting such criteria, they have some non-dualist allies. For example, Dennett (1969, 1995, 1997), while rejecting Cartesian dualism, nevertheless denies that animals are conscious in anything like the same sense that humans are, due to what he sees as the thoroughly intertwined aspect of language and human experience (see also Carruthers 1996).

Here's the source.

I have Dan Dennett, Priest of the Cult of Gnu, denying animal consciousness in the relevant sense. Will you argue that Dennett has no idea what he's talking about? That he has absolutely no scientific evidence to stand on?

I wasn't trying to refute the argument - only pointing out that his use of mathematics is faulty.

What you're doing is googling "Craig infinity wrong atheist", looking for links to anyone disputing Craig, and throwing thos links at me. It's not encouraging.

And that's in an effort to argue that Dawkins and Craig are somehow equivalent in terms of how they discuss and debate things. Dawkins' list of cock-ups is long and fundamental - really, you only need to go as far as his Five Ways treatment and he's demonstrably screwed. Arguing that some people think that Craig's understanding of mathematical infinity with regards to Kalam is incorrect doesn't really compare.

Dan Gillson said...

I hope you get some time soon, then. I have a hunch that you could easily make a few bucks by running such a website.

And. . . thanks? I'm not sure how I feel about you pointing out my back muscles--flattered, sure, but also more than a little awkward. Perhaps you should post a picture of your meaty, meaty thighs or something.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I wasn't trying to refute the argument - only pointing out that his use of mathematics is faulty."

I have a phd in mathematics, I know set theory; I have read the parts of "Reasonable Faith" dealing with the Kalam. W. L. Craig makes no mathematical mistakes. So it seems I missed something. What did I missed?

im-skeptical said...

"I have Dan Dennett, Priest of the Cult of Gnu, denying animal consciousness in the relevant sense."

Dan Dennett is a philosopher, who writes philosophy books, and not exactly Priest of the Cult of GNU, as you say. I asked you to show me the SCIENCE. You can't because there isn't any.

"What you're doing is googling "Craig infinity wrong atheist", looking for links to anyone disputing Craig, and throwing thos links at me. It's not encouraging."

I didn't Google anything (but I tried the search that you suggested, and It didn't come up with those links). It's not encouraging that you refuse to read or listen to any of the links that I provide. As soon as you see where it came from, you dismiss it. Did you watch the videos (it takes a little while)? Can you dispute what they are saying? (Hint: you have to listen to it first.)

Crude said...

im-skeptical,

Dan Dennett is a philosopher, who writes philosophy books, and not exactly Priest of the Cult of GNU, as you say. I asked you to show me the SCIENCE. You can't because there isn't any.

I know who Dan Dennett is, and he's certainly a Priest of the Cult of Gnu - even if one who's mostly ignored by the cultists nowadays.

I'm asking you to be consistent: Dennett makes a claim pretty similar to what Craig is saying. Are you saying that Dennett is completely off-base, has no science to support him, etc? That's all I'm asking for. Why, Dennett's a mere philosopher, so this should be easy for you to concede!

Will you concede that, im-skeptical?

As for the SCIENCE, I suggest you read my link, to the SEP overview on animal consciousness. They discuss scientist views, why they have them, where their differences lay, and the role of philosophy in their views. It's pretty important, and helps illustrate your failing on this point.

Hint: just because a scientist says something does not make their declaration science. And if it DOES, well, then there's demonstrably scientific evidence against the proposition of animals being conscious in the relevant way.

It's not encouraging that you refuse to read or listen to any of the links that I provide. As soon as you see where it came from, you dismiss it.

Yes, I think Cowboy Hat trying to school Craig on infinity is a laugh and not worth my time. ;)

I pointed out that you were trying to condemn Craig's behavior on this front as equivalent to Dawkins on the grounds that some people dispute Craig's arguments. That's just silly of you. I didn't even bother to get into the greater details of the arguments, because they're irrelevant - but I'll be watching your interaction with Grod pretty closely at this point.

Daniel Anderson said...

Dan Dennett is a philosopher, who writes philosophy books

Lol, he is also a cognitive scientist.

Crude said...

Daniel,

Lol, he is also a cognitive scientist.

To be fair, Dan's a philosopher, and his interaction as a "cognitive scientist" is as that. Some people try to play Dan off as a scientist just because he tends to pay so much lip service to science and tries to pass off his views as having some kind of scientific stamp of approval. I think that's silly. The man's a philosopher, for better or worse, and that's really all he is. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

I'd be more than happy to hear im-skeptical just say that Dennett's a philosopher and has no scientific evidence - even inconclusive supporting evidence - for his views on this subject.

im-skeptical said...

"Lol, he is also a cognitive scientist."

Who writes philosophy books. Where's the science? Craig says that his claim is based on scientific research. He doesn't provide any citations for that research that I can find. Has Dennett published any scientific research on this topic? Nobody has ever shown me the scientific research. I have shown you a real scientist who is prominent in the field who says that Craig is wrong. Who should I believe?

"Yes, I think Cowboy Hat trying to school Craig on infinity is a laugh and not worth my time"

That confirms what I have been saying. Loftus happens to be correct, and Craig is wrong. For Grodrigues, I know a little math myself. I know that you can't enumerate an infinite set, and Craig's attempt to do so is not logically valid. Are you disputing that point? What about his little blunder in the cock-up link? No mathematical mistakes?

ozero91 said...

The claim that only humans and higher primates have a prefrontal cortex is incorrect, so Craig and Murray are wrong about that. And I think Craig needs to reformulate his argument about animal suffering. The 3-level of pain awareness thing isn't going to cut it, as the video showed. BTW, the video was actually really nice, I would recommend it. They only discuss the science; it did not seem to have an "atheist agenda" at all. Anyways, isn't pain required for flourishing and survival? It allows beings to recoil from threatening stimuli. And isn't being aware of pain also required so that you can be conditioned into avoiding the harmful stimulus in the future? In this light, I think the argument that "animals suffer... so therefore God does not exist" loses a lot of steam. If they didn't feel pain and remember it, they would be "stupidly" dying all over the place. The objection must instead be along the lines of "evolution is a wasteful process... therefore God does not exist." Though even this begs the question; we can't know if our evolutionary history was "efficient" or not.

cautiouslycurious said...

"Anyways, isn't pain required for flourishing and survival? It allows beings to recoil from threatening stimuli."

I would say not. Reflexes/reactions would do just as much. I would suspect that a nervous system would be required to feel pain (after all, those who damage there nerves lose feeling). If so, this leaves a large portion of life that is not able to feel pain (just consider how much bacteria there is).

Crude said...

Craig was definitely wrong on the pre-frontal cortex claim, as near as I can tell.

Regarding talk of pain generally, however, any attempt to make the discussion entirely 'scientific' is going to run into a problem right away: experiences are subjective phenomena. You can make inferences based on philosophical assumptions about who is experiencing what, but those assumptions don't go away. Remove them, and you remove talk of pain along with it.

ozero91 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I know that you can't enumerate an infinite set, and Craig's attempt to do so is not logically valid."

Huh? You *can* enumerate infinite sets! What the heck are you talking about?

"What about his little blunder in the cock-up link? No mathematical mistakes?"

You will have to tell me what the blunder is as I have not followed the link.

ozero91 said...

curious,

How would reflexs/reactions alone protect an animal from eating out of, say, a thorny rasberry plant? How would reaction/reflex alone protect a child from severely burning their hand by touching a hot pan by accident? And I should have clarified, I was referring to pain in sentient multicellular organisms.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"Huh? You *can* enumerate infinite sets! What the heck are you talking about?"

I used imprecise terminology. Sorry. You can describe the enumeration of a set, but you can't actually enumerate all the elements. I should have said you can't count an infinite set. OK? Craig tries to count up from negative infinity to zero, and then gets confused about the point where zero is reached. Not valid logic.

"You will have to tell me what the blunder is as I have not followed the link."

In essence, Craig claims that the result of a division is 1 when the numerator and denominator are both 0. Not valid. If you want a better explanation, just click.

cautiouslycurious said...

ozero,

"How would reflexs/reactions alone protect an animal from eating out of, say, a thorny raspberry plant? How would reaction/reflex alone protect a child from severely burning their hand by touching a hot pan by accident? And I should have clarified, I was referring to pain in multicellular organsims."

Let's say that there is a chemical that when ingested makes it highly likely that you'll die and that consumption of that substance does not cause pain, in fact, it causes immense pleasure such that those who take it and live will try to repeat the experience. I'm sure that you can think of many such substances and many people are wise to avoid such substances. If you think drugs are a poor example due to the negative withdrawal effects, then use something like trans-fat. You can hardly tell its there, yet we (or at least I) avoid it because we know it will decrease our life expectancy even though eating it won't cause pain. If we know a thing to be harmful, we don't need pain to avoid it.

Also, pain won't prevent someone from burning themselves by accident. That's kind of what an accident is. Even then, pain is an after-effect of touching the hot surface so it does nothing to prevent exposure in the first place. It only makes the person wary of it a second time around, but we do this with things that don't have a painful stimuli so it seems unnecessary to say that the pain is necessary. Also, since non-sentient life doesn't require pain to survive and flourish, why does sentient life require it?

WilliamM said...

"You can describe the enumeration of a set, but you can't actually enumerate all the elements. I should have said you can't count an infinite set."

I'm a grad student in mathematics and I have no idea what to make of this.
Could you be a little more precise? We are talking about bad mathematics here, I think it can be expected that everyone who wants is sufficiently familiar with the technical terminology.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"You can describe the enumeration of a set, but you can't actually enumerate all the elements."

This makes no sense. To enumerate all the elements of a set is just to give an enumeration of the set, more precisely, a bijection with the first countable ordinal.

note: sometimes, enumeration is applied to every bijection with an ordinal, countable or not.

"Craig tries to count up from negative infinity to zero, and then gets confused about the point where zero is reached. Not valid logic."

Sorry, but Craig is not confused, you are.

"In essence, Craig claims that the result of a division is 1 when the numerator and denominator are both 0. Not valid."

I never read Craig saying anything even remotely close to what you are saying. Since by the above, you do not know what you are talking about, and since you cannot explain coherently what the blunder is, I suspect the problem is in your end.

Will see if I get the time to follow the link.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"Sorry, but Craig is not confused, you are."

I disagree with you. Craig's infinite set is described as ( ..., -2, -1, 0). He speaks of starting at negative infinity, counting forever, and then finally arriving at 0, which would be the last element of the set, at some definite time. Craig makes the common mistake of treating an infinite set as though it were finite (a set that you can count from end to end). That's what he's confused about, and that's why his logic is flawed.

"I never read Craig saying anything even remotely close to what you are saying. Since by the above, you do not know what you are talking about, and since you cannot explain coherently what the blunder is, I suspect the problem is in your end."

Craig is applying Bayes' theorem with regard to the resurrection of Jesus, during the Craig-Ehrman debate. He uses bad math. It's as simple as that. You can see for yourself, or you can just assume that I'm wrong, since that seems to be your default position. I provided all those links so that people wouldn't have to take my word for it, but could get it from someone who is able to articulate Craig's logical flaws better than than me, Doctor.

B. Prokop said...

"I disagree with you. Craig's infinite set is described as ( ..., -2, -1, 0). He speaks of starting at negative infinity, counting forever, and then finally arriving at 0, which would be the last element of the set, at some definite time. Craig makes the common mistake of treating an infinite set as though it were finite (a set that you can count from end to end). That's what he's confused about, and that's why his logic is flawed."

Im-skeptical, you are the one misunderstanding the argument. Craig is saying the very same thing you are - that it is impossible to count to zero (i.e., the present time) starting from negative infinity. THEREFORE: an infinite past is a logical impossibility. Glad to see that you and Craig agree on something.

ozero91 said...

Is it even possible to BEGIN counting from negative infinity?

B. Prokop said...

No, it's not. That's the whole point of the argument!!!

It has to be possible in order for the past to be infinite. Since it is not possible, the past is finite.

Selah.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Craig's infinite set is described as ( ..., -2, -1, 0). He speaks of starting at negative infinity, counting forever, and then finally arriving at 0, which would be the last element of the set, at some definite time. Craig makes the common mistake of treating an infinite set as though it were finite (a set that you can count from end to end). That's what he's confused about, and that's why his logic is flawed."

Facepalm.

Do you think through what you write? Craig goes to such lengths *precisely* because his opponents presume such a thing can be done. You have just conceded the whole game to Craig.

Wow.

im-skeptical said...

The point of what I've said is that Craig is treating it like it is possible. We all know that you can't count every member of an infinite set (even if grodriques thinks you can). But that doesn't mean it's not possible to have an infinite set. In making his argument, Craig pretends that it is possible to count all the way to the end. It's not surprising, then that he comes up with a contradiction. But his conclusion is invalid.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"The point of what I've said is that Craig is treating it like it is possible."

For the love of God, do you even read what people say? That is precisely the conclusion that Craig *wants*, that it is not possible, so he must grant it for the sake of argument and devise a reductio to show that it is not.

You do *not* understand the problem, period. So just stop, as you are just embarrassing yourself.

"We all know that you can't count every member of an infinite set (even if grodriques thinks you can)."

I do not know what you mean exactly by counting, but in the mathematical sense, it is me and the vast majority of mathematicians that thinks it can be done. So here is my suggestion: storm a mathematical department in any university and school those ignorant mathematicans who do not know what they are talking about.

By the way; you do realize that you are just granting Craig the whole game?

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"I do not know what you mean exactly by counting"

I mean counting, as in one-by-one, until you get to the end. I'm not sure what you mean by it, but you must be talking about something different. Craig uses the impossibility of it to 'prove' that it is not possible to have an infinite set, (and therefore there must be a beginning of time). He's wrong. His argument proves no such thing. Surely you're not agreeing with Craig on this, are you?

"You do *not* understand the problem, period."

Sorry, I'm not the one being obtuse here.

im-skeptical said...

Perhaps a different approach to what I'm saying would be helpful.

Craig wants to show that time is limited be proving that you can't have an infinite set. He supposes that we do have an infinite set, but then treats it as if it were a finite set by attempting to count (or iterate through) all the elements. He notes that this leads to a contradiction. He concludes that it is impossible to have an infinite set. He arrived at his faulty conclusion by treating an infinite set as if it were finite, and noting the difficulty in doing so.

WilliamM said...

"We all know that you can't count every member of an infinite set (even if grodriques thinks you can)."

While I share your view that Craig fallaciously treats an infinite past as having an infinitely distant beginning, this is a case of bad philosophy and not a case of bad mathematics. You are actually the one who is presenting bad mathematics. The set {-n|n is a natural number} is countable. Countable in mathematics just means there exists a bijection to a subset of the natural numbers, in this case the mapping f(n):=-n. And grodriguez is also right that ANY SET, even the uncountably infinite ones, is enumerable because you can have ordinal numbers of all sizes.

B. Prokop said...

"Craig wants to show that time is limited be proving that you can't have an infinite set. He supposes that we do have an infinite set"

No, no, no, no, NO!

You and Craig are saying exactly the same thing - you cannot iterate through an infinite set. But for the past to have been infinite, that is precisely what would have had to have happened (each and every point in an infinite time set would have had to been for an instant "the present"). Since that (as you BOTH are saying) is impossible, the past is therefore finite.

Do you not even see that you are in complete agreement with Craig on this?

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Sorry, I'm not the one being obtuse here."

Sure pal, whatever.

@WilliamM:

"While I share your view that Craig fallaciously treats an infinite past as having an infinitely distant beginning, this is a case of bad philosophy and not a case of bad mathematics."

Sigh.

From Craig's article in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pg. 119:

"It is surprising that a number of critics, such as Mackie and Sobel, have objected that the argument illicitly presupposes an infinitely distant starting point in the past and then pronounces it impossible to travel from that point to today. But if the past is infinite, they say, then there would be no starting point whatever, not even an infinitely distant one. Nevertheless, from any given point in the past, there is only a finite distance to the present, which is easily “traversed” (Mackie 1982, p. 93; Sobel 2004, p. 182). But, in fact, no proponent of the kalam argument of whom we are aware has assumed that there was an infinitely distant starting point in the past. The fact that there is no beginning at all, not even an infinitely distant one, seems only to make the problem worse, not better."

im-skeptical said...

"Do you not even see that you are in complete agreement with Craig on this?"

No. We are not in agreement. We agree that you can't count an infinite set. That does not imply that there cannot be an infinite set. It's just a set that you can't count. If it's a set of 'moments' of time, so be it. You don't have to count them all or move through them all. You seem to be saying the same thing Craig does: if you can't count it, it must not exist.

WilliamM,

I understand the concept of a countably infinite set. But you still can't count all the elements. That would imply that you start at one element, and then count until you get to the last element. But there is no last element. The mapping to the set of natural numbers does not include a 'final' element. That is Craig's mistake, not mine.

WilliamM said...

grodrigues,
I am aware of that passage and I don't think it gives a satisfactory answer. I never saw how Craig's line of reasoning could work without invoking the false assumption of an infinitely distant beginning. Perhaps you could present it the way you see it and explain it because I fear the devil is in the details.

im-skeptical said...

"But, in fact, no proponent of the kalam argument of whom we are aware has assumed that there was an infinitely distant starting point in the past."

That appears to be exactly what Craig does, before he decides that it can't be done.

B. Prokop said...

"You seem to be saying the same thing Craig does: if you can't count it, it must not exist."

I am trying very hard to not be insulting here, but I finally have to say that you are either incredibly obtuse, or are just playing dumb for the fun of it.

That is not what either Craig or I am saying. Not in the slightest. What I am saying is that for each moment of time in an infinite past, you do very much have to be (at least temporally) in each and every individual point for that point to have ever been "the present time". And the full set of points must be traversed in order to arrive at the present. There is no way to get around this.

And since both you and I (and Craig) agree that one cannot either traverse or enumerate an infinite set, then an infinite past is a logical as well as a physical impossibility.

And it does no good - none whatsoever - to say that for any given, enumerated point in the past (let's call it "T") there is only a finite temporal distance to the present. Because unless you posit a finite point prior to T as the Initial Point in Time, then T itself can never have been (for an instant) "the present". It too would have never been arrived at, being always and forever an infinite distance into the future.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I guess I'm not very good at saying what mean so that it's understandable. I see what you're saying about each point in time being a 'present', and if you live for some period of time, you will have traversed all those points in time from your birth to now. What doesn't make sense to me is that you say there is a need to traverse all points in time if time is infinite in the past. We agree that traversal of such a set can't be done, but we don't agree that it MUST be done.

"And the full set of points must be traversed in order to arrive at the present."

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if you can't traverse it, an infinite past can't exist. I think it may be possible for time to extend forever, but why must one traverse it? Why couldn't there be an infinity of time in the past? All we have to do is start out in the near past, and we can arrive at the present. But some finite thing that existed an infinite time in the past would never be able to arrive at our present.

Does that sound reasonable at all?

WilliamM said...

"an infinite distance into the future."

If we suppose the past to be without beginning, then a point in time can#T be an infinite distance into the future from anything, because it would require an infinitely distant beginning point and not just a collection of prior moments such that for any arbitrarily large finite distance we can find one further into the past. So it seems that Craig is wrong and at least one proponent of the KCA, namely Prokop, has fallaciously made the mistake I claimed is at the heart of the argument.

B. Prokop said...

Unless someone introduces something radically new to this discussion, I'm going to finish my end of it with this:

William appears to equate an infinite past with an infinite future, but in reality the only thing the two sets share is the word "infinite" in their names. They are fundamentally different things.

An infinite future is possible for the precise reason that an infinite past is not. Namely, it doesn't exist (yet). And it never will. The future hasn't happened yet, and until it does, it is always there as something that will someday exist, one point at a time. But at no point will it ever exist in totality.

Not so with the past. The fatal stumbling block to the possibility of its being infinite is that we are here, now, today. This means that we somehow got here. "Today" is not an eternity into the future, always to be anticipated but never arrived at. We're here. And to have gotten here means that each and every point prior to now must also have been experienced as "now" - and not as some hypothetical, mathematical member of an infinite set, but as stone-cold, hard reality. The full and infinite set must necessarily be in concrete existence.

Now this of course is nonsense. We all agree on that point. Therefore, the past is finite.

Now I will actually open up an escape hatch for anyone uncomfortable with the implications of this. I suggest you fall into the wide open arms of a welcoming Buddhism. There you may rest serene in the belief that consciousness is an illusion, and that all times exist simultaneously - past, present, future are all illusory properties of the Wheel of Samsara, from which one must gain escape through enlightenment.

It's an honorable faith - go for it. Meanwhile (hmm.. interesting word choice there) I'll stick with Christianity.

I'll let you guys have the last word. I'm just repeating myself here.

grodrigues said...

@WilliamM:

"Perhaps you could present it the way you see it and explain it because I fear the devil is in the details."

Craig simply argues against the possibility of traversing the infinite by pointing out several problems and paradoxes; in none, does he assume an infinitely distant point in the past. In my judgment, the two best ones are the reversed Tristram Shandy paradox and the Grim Reaper paradox. Craig discusses the first, borrowed from Russel. A good presentation is D. Oderberg's "Traversal of the Infinite, the “Big Bang” and the Kalam Cosmological Argument". You can find it online on his home page (http://www.davidsoderberg.co.uk/), together with replies to Oppy, Grunbaum, etc. Oderberg invokes the PSR, but Craig argues that we do not need even that much.

The Grim Reaper argument is due to A. Pruss. Sometime ago this same issue came up in this blog and I summarized it. You can find it in:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.pt/2012/08/why-catholic-secretly-roots-for.html

You have to scroll down a fair bit to find it; search for "grim reaper paradox".

"So it seems that Craig is wrong and at least one proponent of the KCA, namely Prokop, has fallaciously made the mistake I claimed is at the heart of the argument."

In the quote I provided, Craig says "But, in fact, no proponent of the kalam argument of whom we are aware has assumed that there was an infinitely distant starting point in the past." Maybe Craig is not aware of B. Prokop?

B. Prokop said...

"But, in fact, no proponent of the kalam argument of whom we are aware has assumed that there was an infinitely distant starting point in the past." Maybe Craig is not aware of B. Prokop?"

Et tu, Grodrigues?

That's the exact opposite of what I am saying. I repeat: An infinitely distant starting point in the past is a logical and physical impossibility. Therefore, the past is finite!

Could I possibly be clearer?

B. Prokop said...

And now I am off to Mass, and from there to Fallingwater, PA, to see the Frank Lloyd Wright house. I'll be away from my computer until Tuesday evening, or possibly Wednesday morning.

Have fun, all.

Syllabus said...

To make it clearer:

The argument that Craig uses regarding infinite mathematics is a reductio ad absurdum, designed to show that, if there had been an infinite past, absurdities would result. Ergo, so the argument goes, there was no infinite past. He is not arguing that there was an infinite past, he is arguing that there is no such thing, and that there indeed could not have been such a thing. If you want to criticize his reductio, please do. But please, for the love of Martha Stewart, criticize the actual argument.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

Sorry, my bad. My only intention was to simply defuse WilliamM's claim about Craig being wrong, *independently* of whether your claims are what WilliamM says they are.

ozero91 said...

A question for the cosmologists out there, regarding the BGV theorem:

Some proponents of the kalam claim that the BGV theorem shows that the universe had a beginning, but opponents of the kalam say "No, the BGV theorem only shows that it is past geodesically incomplete."

My question is, what does "past geodesically incomplete" mean?" In layman terms, please, and if there is a site which explains it clearly, then you may direct me to it.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

You don't believe that there could be an infinite past, perhaps because of Kant's or Craig's faulty argument.

"I repeat: An infinitely distant starting point in the past is a logical and physical impossibility. Therefore, the past is finite!"

While I happen to believe that time probably has a finite past (at least in our universe), infinite time is not a logical impossibility. I repeat: Craig has not proved that there could not be an infinite past. Please don't take my word for it if you are not inclined to believe what I say. Here's one post I found that addresses this specific argument from a non-mathematical perspective.

Philosophy, et cetera

Victor Reppert said...

Actually Bob "invented" the Kalam Cosmological Argument at least as far back as 1974 or 1975. I remember him explaining it to me in a classroom at ASU before either of us had so much as heard of Bill Craig.

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that. In this discussion, I was not attempting to defeat Kalam per se, but arguing against the logical proof that time must be finite, as presented by Craig, which I still think is flawed. I don't know if that was part of Bob's formulation. Nevertheless, he has my respect.

He says, "And the full set of points must be traversed in order to arrive at the present." This statement is key to the argument, but hasn't been shown to be true. One need not be "incredibly obtuse" to disagree with it. I offered three different links that take issue with that point, each from a different perspective, so I don't think I'm way out on a limb.

Crude said...

im-skeptical,

You should probably read the comments section of your latest link.

You have a habit of saying 'No, see, you're wrong - look at this link, someone disagrees!', but man, it is hard to shake the notion that you don't even understand what you're pointing to or quoting, and are just looking for someone disagreeing as evidence that a given argument is wrong.

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

"You should probably read the comments section of your latest link."

May I ask exactly what you are referring to?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

I was going to point out roughly the same thing, but then I suddenly stopped caring. Still, I was happy to have followed the link.