Tuesday, May 23, 2006

William Lane Craig's CV

This is a link to William Lane Craig's CV. Gosh. Maybe he is engaged in a desperate pursuit of credibility.


Celal Birader said...

or maybe he's just a scholar

Jason Pratt said...

I've got it. Seriously, I know what's happening. It ought to have been obvious from the first letter we read, definitely by the second. I spent my whole drive to Jackson, yesterday afternoon, (mentally {g}) pounding my forehead at not having seen it yet.

I've had problems even after BE's first letter, at accepting that he's going through some kind of freakish psychological denial phase _based on debating WLC_. Which is why, from my first comment on that letter, I came up with (what I hoped was) a more plausible (and rather more mundane) explanation. The second letter, however, kind of foofed that theory. It didn't match up. So I had to admit that Victor's hypothesis was looking better. But it still didn't sit well with me... and y'wanna know why?

'cause _he_ says so! {pointing at Victor}{g}

If BE _really_ was going through some kind of one-shot break-snapping denial phase based on having been overwhelmed at how awesomely WLC argued his side of the debate, it would fly altogether in the face of something Victor occasionally (and with good reason) emphasizes: people rarely see an argument, slap their heads and go DUH, and make some kind of vast shift in belief. Which, at this point, has to be what the hypothesis of avoidance is about. We're not just talking being embarassed about a debate in some mild way. We're talking denial reaching pathological levels. Which, by the way, (and I want to stress this) isn't very plausible.

Now, when I was thinking about that yesterday, the first thing that came to mind as an addendum was: "and, after all, it isn't like Ehrman can't be familiar with this kind of thing. He's been in the field now for years."

About parallel with that, however, was a counter-addendum: "Well, actually, I _can_ think of some times when people snapped like that. It isn't even altogether uncommon." What times were those? "When a brittle Christian fundy snaps." "Yeah," I answered my musing, "but Ehrman is hardly _that_... ... ..."


Yes, that's exactly true. Not only is he hardly a Christian fundy (who might, in my experience, be expected to snap, with maybe even a pathological denial looking like what we're seeing), he's already been there and done that.

In fact, he's represents pretty much the last category of person in the world whom I would expect to be snapping back in the direction of anything remotely approaching conservative belief (or even much remotely in the direction of belief at all).

All the probabilities, therefore, point _away_ from Ehrman really thinking he was trounced in the debate and going through some kind of pathological denial mode. It isn't strictly _impossible_, I suppose, but it would totally run against my expectations.

That's what the intuitive side of my head has been saying now since the first letter came in. The picky son-of-an-accountant side of my head has rightly been busy in pointing out that BE's explanation isn't adding up; but the intuitive side has been telling me that hypothesizing some kind of snap is flat wrong.

So, what fits the data, in a _plausible_ manner, which takes into account his known history?

I think it's pretty easy and mundane. It isn't exactly flattering to BE, but it _does_ match things I've frequently found in experience.

He's just being a crusading anti-fundy. {shrug}

We've all seen it happen. Someone is raised in a high-pressure believe-it-or-else environment; they escape from it--and it _IS_ an _escape_, that's important to remember; they bring along the whiffy methodologies with them when they go (especially the rhetorical dismissal tactics); and ever afterward they behave like someone who has escaped from a cult. Which, in their perception (and not without some real and pertinent truth to it), is exactly what happened.

BE isn't behaving like someone who is now seeing the work of his life crashing down in ruin. Or, rather, he is, but that would be implausible _precisely because_ of who he is and where he's come from. The very last people on the planet whom BE is likely to give any remote level of credence to, _especially_ for changing his beliefs, are people who in some way defend the oppression he's managed to escape from.

_That_ is what WLC represents. BE isn't actually threatened by WLC at all. He's simply dismissing WLC altogether, from the word go. It isn't even a question of rising to the level of _being_ some kind of 'threat'--what BE is doing is precisely avoiding allowing any credence to something he believes to be a real threat, not just to him but to people he loves.

_That's_ where all this language about WLC's arguments being so far removed from anything rational, etc., is coming from. It's where the flagrantly erroneous dismissal of WLC's academic track record is coming from. It's where the 'by far the upper hand' language against WLC is coming from. It's where the refusal of doing a book but _NOT_ refusing doing a debate is coming from. A debate is personal, and BE can challenge him personally; but a _book_ would involve giving WLC wider exposure. It doesn't matter that WLC is already widely exposed, so to speak {g}; that isn't the point. (Though true to form BE is going to downplay that, to ridiculous extents if necessary.) The point is that if BE agreed to a book, he would be personally responsible for doing something that gave WLC a chance to promote his beliefs. It doesn't matter that BE thinks he himself totally won. As far as BE is concerned, he knows _from experience_ that people will buy into WLC precisely _because_ WLC's approach doesn't require being anything other than "so far removed from anything rational". (Compare with how well The Da Vinci Code is doing at giving shape to belief, despite the fact that even the Sci-Fi Channel is dumping on it! {g}) _This_ is why giving a venue to WLC would be "conceding way too much". BE doesn't want other people to be exposed to WLC at all.

The 'surprise' at WLC going to BE's own publisher could simply be surprise that WLC would do something that on any normal evaluation would count as being a peace-offering concession--that isn't how BE _needs_ to understand WLC. It would be like a Nazi coming to the publisher of a conservative Jewish survivor of the holocaust, to ask about doing a book from the debate the two men just did. The Nazi wouldn't do _that_ (he'd be trying to get his own publisher involved); but if he _did_, then it wouldn't be seen as a peace-offering. It would be the worst sort of affront--how dare the Nazi have the gall to even try to suggest that the holocaust survivor would give permission to share equal time and actually contribute to the further dissemination of his views!

I submit, that _this_ is really what we're looking at here. It has nothing at all to do with BE being secretly impressed and worried about how well WLC did in the debate. Feh. As if. {s} He's actually quite serious about saying that, and completely means it. It isn't a dodge--not the kind Victor was wondering about at the outset. BE isn't embarassed about the debate. He really _does_, in his heart of hearts, believe he kicked butt. But there's a huge risk (from his perspective, and--_from_ his perspective--not unreasonably so) that if he agrees to a book, then impressionable people will be hurt by something he himself will have shared responsibility in. When he's trying his hardest to _save them_ from that hurting.

The picky son-of-an-accountant side of my head thinks this tallies up reasonably well with the data. And the intuitive side of my head is giving the big thumbs-up which it was refusing to give for the 'pathological embarassment' hypothesis. It even renders charity to BE (looked at from his perspective); while not requiring WLC to have become some kind of retard when we weren't looking. {g}

Also, to say the least, it doesn't require WLC to really be doing the kind of sneaky desperateness BE is essentially attributing to him. On the other hand, the theory allows room for WLC to easily misread BE's refusal as embarassment and denial of an otherwise known loss. WLC doesn't see himself as a Nazi oppressing the helpless, after all, going to a holocaust survivor's publisher to ask if the survivor can be talked into giving WLC equal exposure in a book _of the survivor's_. There's a seriously big difference between that, and the survivor going into a National Socialist Party meeting ground to stand up to a key rep of the Nazis in a live debate. (Okay, potentially a fairly liberal meeting ground, but still... {g})

So: what say y'all? Story-accounting settled? Have I left any bits of data floating in opposition to the theory?


Victor Reppert said...

Let me go back to where we started. This is, in my mind, a snooty, "not even false" dismissal of what he would call "fundamentalism." The most powerful weapon that the skeptical side had when I was in grad school was not arguments, but dismissiveness. We all know, we now know, nobody believes that anymore, we've grown up, etc. etc. etc. I heard it a million times. Why argue when you can horse laugh?

Jason Pratt said...

And, that may be what's going on here--certainly, much of what he has said would fit that explanation, too. But I think the type of affront that BE is exhibiting would be different.

I can imagine him simply blowing off WLC's attempts to have a book out of this, on that ground. But BE seems not only to have been personally affronted by the attempt (even before WLC went on to talk about it {s}), but to be treating the attempt as though WLC was doing something selfishly hurtful to BE in making the attempt to publish.

It's the first direct evidence we've had from BE himself, that would fit the 'embarassed about the debate' notion, too. Which is _also_ how all this started. {s} He wasn't only being dismissive, he was being dismissive _in a weird way_. (Though up until the recent longer letter we really had only WLC's impression of the weirdness.) If his longer letter (to Ed) is indicative of the _reaction_ he gave when he found out WLC had been talking to BE's own publisher, then I can easily see WLC drawing the sort of conclusion he initially reported. Mere dismissal would just seem... _less_ than all this. {shrug}

Certainly, there's plenty of that dismissiveness going on as well. Being defensive against a claimed ethical fault, though, looks (to me anyway) to be involving something more. Otherwise, wouldn't he only be waving off WLC with a casual "as if"? (I find it a little hard to square with him having a debate against WLC in the first place, too; though maybe that was his own publisher's idea and BE kinda felt roped into it. I'm curious to know who initiated the idea of a debate in the first place, btw.)

I try to take people as seriously as I can, when they ground what they're doing in ethical claims--at least that _they_ believe something is wrong somewhere. Granted, there are pragmatists running around who will merely play whatever language game they think will get the reaction they want; and I suppose I have no way to prove (so far) that BE _isn't_ only doing that. But giving him the benefit of the doubt on that matter (which I think I'm obliged to do on the front end, charity to the opposition and all {s}), I arrive at the theory given above. It takes the weirdness and the flagrantly erroneous dismissiveness into account as well.

(I guess it comes down to this: if I make a mistake, I'd rather err on the side of not simply being dismissive of him in turn. {shrug}{s} As intensely tempting as I find that option to be... {g})


Edwardtbabinski said...

Vic and Jason,

I think your limbic systems are doing all the talking at this point. Settle down and wait for the transcript. I hope both scholars get to add their own footnotes to it as well, to flesh it out thoroughly.

Bart simply has more questions than answers when it comes to the Bible and the resurrection, while Craig claims to have an array of "facts" [sic].

Also, to repeat something I already posted in the section on Craig's email I forwarded Vic:

Craig apparently doesn’t seek permission for publication from the people he’s debated. In the case of Bart, Craig apparently went directly to Bart’s own publisher without even a cordial or perfunctory email to Bart about his plans to do so. (I don’t know what the case was between Craig and Gerd L., but Gerd thought it strange enough to mention briefly as someone told me recently.)

Also, a published debate with Bart who has a book currently on bestseller lists would indeed by a coup for WLC. Plug in Bart Ehrman and WLC’s names at amazon.com and compare the current rankings of the first five books listed under their names. When I compared them just now, Bart’s were 65 [his bestseller]; 1,400; 1,000; 964; 19,000; While WLC’s were 74,000; 10,000; 116,000; 223,000; 38,000.

Needless to say, for me, Craig’s arguments come off as contrived. He claims lists of “facts” as if no faith is needed at all in order to become a Christian believer, or as if there were no questions that he did not have definitive answers for. His god has made the world extremely transparent to the illustrious Mr. Craig. But personally, when I read the Bible’s “testaments” they don’t hang together particularly well, certainly not as they do for Craig, not nearly as transparently and without question, not in terms of internal consistency, nor external consistency in terms of history, science, philosophically, etc. As for the “prophecies” employed by the unnamed four canonical evangelists to prove Jesus’s messiahship, the less said the better.

Jason Pratt said...

{{Settle down and wait for the transcript.}}

I really have very little care about the transcript. And I would be extremely surprised to learn that Victor was primarily concerned with trying to pre-guess how well WLC did during the debate, either. (I suppose it isn't impossible, but I can testify that _that_ was not _my_ intention.)

For all _I_ know, BE really did trounce WLC in the debate. If he did, great; not a problem for me: he'll have won by rightly making good points on his side, and rightly pinging against mistakes (if any) on WLC's side. (Actually, I'll be looking for good points in his favor even if on the balance I think WLC comes out ahead--or even far ahead. A good point is a good point, whether there's only one or dozens. {shrug}) Where he manages to score (and I'm assuming he has _some_ competency), it'll either be against positions I wouldn't take myself, or else against positions I do take myself. If the former, not a problem (I might even learn a new way to argue against them myself.) If the latter, then I'll make adjustments. At most it'll be a little annoying, but I wouldn't be annoyed at _him_.

As I've said before elsewhere, debates about the Res are not exactly rare. (And if WLC is using a variation of Bayesian probability theory, I personally don't look for much success out of him on this debate. Though who knows, maybe this time I'll find someone making a properly limited use of it. Not expecting it, but I'd like to be pleasantly surprised.)

What _is_ more unique, is how BE has treated the debate afterwards. _That's_ what we've been discussing. The actual debate results are almost irrelevant.

{{Craig apparently doesn’t seek permission for publication from the people he’s debated. In the case of Bart, Craig apparently went directly to Bart’s own publisher without even a cordial or perfunctory email to Bart about his plans to do so. [etc.]}}

I've said as much on this already as I intend to, unless I hear more data from BE (which this doesn't count as). Nothing written here counters the points I brought up, or the explanation I proffered above in this thread. (Though the 'zon ranking comparison is appreciated; wish I had thought of it myself. I haven't yet read whatever comment you've left in the earlier thread, btw. If I do, and if it contains new pertinent information, I'll leave a comment.)

{{Bart simply has more questions than answers when it comes to the Bible and the resurrection}}

Bull. Bart Ehrman has _plenty_ of answers when it comes to the Bible, some of which are not the same as WLC's (or as BE's mentor, Bruce Metzger for that matter), and makes positive claims about facts all the time. Maybe BE is only a sophist, bringing up questions with no intention of actually finding answers while ignoring the existence of his own factuality claims (or worse, implying answers in the questions while trying to shield his answers from criticism thereby); but if he is then I'll respect him less, not more. (Meanwhile, I refuse to attribute that cheating tactic to him before seeing the transcript; and I'll hope for better than that from him.)

{{[WLC] claims lists of “facts” as if no faith is needed at all in order to become a Christian believer}}

Bull, again. A couple of weeks ago the Secular Web had their quote-of-the-minute from WLC on precisely this topic; of course, it not only ran entirely against what you charge him with here, but I'm thinking they (of all people) didn't quote it as an illustration of how _proper_ such a procedure as he was advocating is. WLC seems to go rather further along that fideistic route of understanding faith than I do; but both of us would agree that an action of faith is required in order to actually _do_ anything with what one believes to be the facts.

(My construction crew and I just got finished going over a set of expectancy-figures regarding the relative thicknesses of a wall and door construction, because there seemed to be a problem with how the numbers were adding up. But whether we finally decided to go with how the plans originally called for it, or whether we decided an error had been made and a new set of expectancy-figures was needed, _either way_ absolutely nothing practical would have been accomplished unless and until we acted according to what we've done our best to figure out. Building a bridge is one thing; stepping out onto the bridge is something else entirely. (And this isn't even going on to the topics of personal trust, and being trustworthy oneself, which I consider to be even more important levels of faith.)

{{as if there were no questions that he did not have definitive answers for. His god has made the world extremely transparent to the illustrious Mr. Craig.}}

This is mere rhetorical foofaraw. Even if it _was_ the case that there were _no_ questions that he did not have definitive answers for (a position I strenuously doubt he himself holds any more than I do, though you've occasionally levelled the same charge at me--and Victor, and CS Lewis, etc.), that in itself would mean absolutely nothing. Either the answers are _good_ answers, with valid logic corresponding to ascertained facts, or else they are not. The total of claimed answers makes no difference at all.

Furthermore, the foofaraw includes cariacturizing WLC (as well as Vic and myself and Lewis...) as making some kind of claim to instant direct-access answers from the mind of God Himself, or something like that. As convenient as that would be, however, the boring answer is that some of us have bothered to actually _WORK_ to get what answers we have, however good or bad those answers are. I know perfectly well that this includes WLC. (He may lay what I consider to be a somewhat naive stress on mere experientiality, without being equally willing to acceed that it works just as well for Mormons, Muslims, and atheists like Keith Parsons, to whatever extent it's a legitimate line of arriving at a belief at all; _even so_, I would be dead wrong to straw man his whole approach along that line.)


Victor Reppert said...

Whatever Ehrman may have been thinking, I seriously doubt that WLC had any academic bean counting in mind in wanting to get a book published. I think he engaged the debate to show the relative strength of his position as opposed to BE's, he thought he did well in the debate and indeed showed up Ehrman's fallacies, and he thought publishing the debate would further his position. A coke says that Craig does not know the Amazon states for Ehrman compared to himself.

Jason Pratt said...

Whether he knows them or not, I agree it wouldn't be much like him to care about such things (in themselves) as a motivation to debate.

Still, I remain curious to know whose idea the debate originally was, and how it came about. WLC may not know or care much about academic bean counting; but he _would_ be in an excellent position to know that BE has been rather... let's say LOUD {g} recently, both in promotional press and in print, about some things. There are other reasons to make challenges than to score academic credential or book sales. (Which, to be fair, is what I also came down on in regard to BE and his behaviors, too.)