Stupid Theistic Apologetics

The Mythical SkyDaddy creates our cosmos (actually Kepler's supernova)I'm not merely tired of being polite about religion, I am tired of being polite about stupid theistic apologetics. Yes, there are some bright theists and deists – Kenneth Miller springs to mind. Bright deists keep their emotional relationship to their religion private and don't let it force them to think illogically.

Most theists whom I have encountered on the Internet could not reason their way out of a wet paper bag.

Here’s a link to a rather nauseating pod-cast of a Christian interviewer asking leading questions on the topic of “The New Atheism” for Dr William Lane Craig. I have transcribed Craig incompletely but literally, poor grammar included.

Craig calls atheism, “the defensive backlash of a wounded animal.” He says:
“Atheism is on the retreat today and it’s fighting back now, it’s lashing out, and [Christians] need to remain confident and calm and communicate the love of Christ, but at the same be very firm and intelligent as we handle the arguments and rebut them.”
Atheism is not a wounded animal, Bill, atheists are frustrated and angry at illogic, anti-science, and bigotry in the Name of the Man Who Never Was. If atheism really were in retreat, Christians would be looking for a different enemy to target.

Intelligent debate from Christians would make a nice change, yes.

Craig moves on to evoke his favourite apologetic area, saying:
“The Leibnizian argument from contingency – the explanation for why something exists rather than nothing. [Dawkins] has nothing about the Kalām cosmological argument, the argument that there was a beginning of the universe and therefore the universe needs to have a transcendent cause.”
Craig says "explanation" when he ought to say "argument". He is using a car salesman trick – playing upon the listener's tendency to view explanations as linked to facts. Arguments are understood as attempts to demonstrate a conclusion based upon propositions.

In The God Delusion, which was intended for a lay audience, and not for philosophers, Dawkins makes it clear at the outset that philosophers have soundly refuted theological apologetics, and that he has no intention of reiterating the refutations. True enough, and fair enough, particularly when one considers that Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist. Perhaps Craig closed his eyes as he read that passage because he goes on to pull out the typical theistic complaint that Dawkins did not demonstrate his knowledge of philosophy.

“[Dawkins] talks about the design argument but he doesn’t deal with the fine-tuning, he only deals with the biological aspects of it but has nothing to offer in terms of how you can explain the fine-tuning of the universe of the Big Bang for intelligent life.”
Get your cosmology straight, Craig. Even though the universe clearly happens to support somewhat intelligent life, this does not mean that there was necessarily any fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, and it certainly does not demonstrate that any supernatural agent tweaked the fundamental constants for this purpose.

Craig probably felt confident that none of his devoted, Christian listeners would catch him out in his following misrepresentations of what Dawkins actually said:

“The moral argument, here he’s just completely inconsistent. On the one hand he grants the premise that if God does not exist, there are no objective moral values and duties, he’s very clear that he thinks that morality is just basically a human illusion. But on the other hand, over and over again in the book, he makes moral judgements, and affirms moral truths and therefore affirms the second premise in the moral argument that objective moral values exist.”

Um, Bill, you are creating a false dichotomy, which leads me to believe either that you have problems with reading comprehension or that you are deliberately misrepresenting Dawkins’ arguments. Theists do so love their straw men.

There is considerable difference between acknowledging the existence of moral behavior, some of which appears to be biologically inherited, together with acknowledging societal moral contracts, as compared to theistic claims for biblical absolute morality.

My moral rules include honesty as an important value. I get the impression that theologist William Lane Craig does not. Of course, if you insist that something exists that does not actually exist, then intellectual honesty must be eschewed.

This next, facetious outpouring of Craig’s was worth replicating in its grammatically and logically flawed entirety:

“So, [Dawkins] doesn’t refute that argument, and then finally the ontological argument, oddly enough he spends the most time on that one. He spends several pages on the ontological argument, but if you look at it, all it is is ridicule. He doesn’t know anything about Alvin Plantinga’s defence of the ontological argument, he just mocks it and makes fun of it, and it’s very clear that he doesn’t know the literature, that he’s not familiar with the argument. So I was very unimpressed, I mean quite honestly looking at his handling of the arguments for God’s existence.”

As a listener, I should have liked to hear Craig, who claims expertise in this area, expound on Plantinga’s defence, but he preferred to confine his own remarks to the ridicule he decries. I imagine that most of his Christian listeners could have cared less about Plantinga's defence – they'd be more than content with the ridicule.

Next, Craig bemoans the fact that Dawkins has never heard of Craig and was unwilling to debate a theologian of lower rank than a bishop. Then comes some self-congratulation on helping Christians who hear his debates to hold their heads up high as thinkers.

Cough, splutter!

Craig goes on to describe a debate with Dan Dennett. It is impossible to convey the level of smug ridicule with which he boastfully makes the following illogical argument concerning Dan Dennett’s views:
“I was shocked, this is an eminent philosopher from Tuft’s University, this is not some popularizer. And yet if you looked at his responses to the typical arguments for the existence of God, George Smith does a better job as a popularizer than what Dennett did. For example, his response to the Kalām cosmological argument, which says that whatever begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause. He agrees with the first premise that anything that begins to exist must have a cause that brings it into being. He agrees with the second premise, he thinks the universe began to exist, and that the Big Bang gives good evidence of that. So, he agrees with the conclusion, the universe has a cause, but here’s his answer to the argument, “Yeah, the universe has a cause, the universe caused itself, the universe brought itself into being.” He says it’s the ultimate bootstrapping trick, the universe, you know, pulled itself up by its own bootstraps, it brought itself into existence. And I pointed out to him, “You know, in order for the universe to bring itself into existence it would have to exist before it existed, otherwise it’s not self-caused, it would come out of nothing, so his view would be that they universe had to exist before it existed, which is a self-contradiction! It’s logically incoherent, and yet this was his response to the cosmological argument.”
YECers actually deny the Big Bang, but Craig appears to be a deist. Craig is resorting – confusingly – to a fallacious argument from regress. Dennett is a philosopher and not a cosmologist, but a cosmologist would say something along the lines that whatever caused it, our universe began with the rapid expansion of space-time that has been dubbed the "Big Bang". The Big Bang does not actually provide any evidence, because it is a phenomenological explanation that is based upon the evidence. Explanations are not evidence. This is a subtle, but important distinction.

Whatever matter/energy form might have existed before our universe began to expand and evolve 14.7 billion years ago is, at present and perhaps forever, unknowable. The “Bang” erased all trace of the previous history of the energy/matter that comprises our cosmos.

It is not logically inconsistent that there was something prior – something in all likelihood that was incredibly densely compressed, by whatever mechanism that compression might have come about. This prior-something was not our universe as we know it. There was not necessarily something prior, and nor was there necessarily nothing prior, and it certainly was not necessary that God that was prior. The chief point is that Craig’s implied argument requires the pre-existence of God, who supposedly brought the entire universe into being and fine-tuned the universe for the evolution of pseudo-intelligent us. So, where did Craig's God come from? He sees no need to explain that; he is only interested in implying that his God was there prior to our cosmos.

Craig moves on to ridiculing memes, which he misrepresents and which he is employing even as he claims to demolish them.

The interviewer next claims that he thinks that the origin of religion, especially when it comes to the existence of God, is not a psychological issue. Craig then labels, as a genetic fallacy, the argument that points out that the human invention of mythologies invalidates the content of religions:

“You try to invalidate a position by showing how a person came to believe that. An example of the genetic fallacy would be, “well, you believe in democracy just because you were raised in America, that’s the only reason you think democracy is the best. Even if it were true that I came to believe in God because of the influence of my parents, or my culture, or society, that is completely irrelevant to the truth or the falsity of that belief. You can’t invalidate a belief by showing how it came to be held. That’s the genetic fallacy. Even if my belief is the product of psychological and social factors, it could still be true.”

The argument about belief in democracy-because-American, or SkyDaddy because birth Daddy said so, is true enough insofar as sources do not verify content, but Craig is deliberately creating another straw man. These examples describe the history of personal belief regarding an already-conceived belief system.

Explanations have human origins. Whenever a scientist puts forward a hypothetical explanation, she is expected to explain the genesis of the hypothesis – to describe the evidence and logic upon which the hypothesis has been constructed.

Claims for the existence of a supposed supernatural creator must exist for a reason – the claims, that is, not the supposed supernatural creator. This is true of any existential-concept for which there is no incontrovertible evidence – Russell’s teapot, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, homunculi, or little green Martian men. Refutation of theological claims for the supernatural do not rest only upon the origin of the God-myth alongside other, now abandoned myths, but the psychological origin of mythologies does explain how humans came to be deluded by this particular myth. As Dawkins listed, there are numerous valid refutations of theological apologetics. No apologetic Christian argument has withstood refutation. Craig will not admit this, but it is true nonetheless.

I’m much, much, much less impressed by William Lane Craig’s intelligence than he is. I thought that the following statement was deliciously ironic in that he is not even smart enough to know that he is describing himself:
“If a person has a strong enough commitment, to naturalism say, or any worldview, then one will do what Dennett did in the face of my arguments, he’ll say, “Well, I guess that one of those very plausible premises has to be false after all.” If you believe strong enough in a presupposition, then anything counter to that, you’re just going to deny.”
Atheism isn't a worldview, Bill. As a philosopher, you should know this.

Theists love to attack “naturalism” as though it is merely another –ism, like theism for example. In fact, there is a cosmos full of evidence that the natural world exists, while there is not one shred of evidence for existence of the supernatural. However, supernaturalists, like Craig want to interpret the undeniably existent natural world by resorting outside natural explanations.

I cannot even begin to describe just how stupid someone needs to be to insist that the only good explanation for the natural world is something that clearly does not exist. If God existed, we’d all have direct access to this worship-worthy something that supposedly provides undeniable evidence of omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient existence. In the meantime, the natural world does undeniably exist, and physical mechanisms do demonstrably impact events in the natural world. I’ll just happily continue to worship nature, thank you very much.

Needless to say, Dr Craig thinks that Christians should be politically involved when it comes to moral issues, and that Churches should take a stand on moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Why was I not surprised when Bill said this?

atheism, apologetics, cosmology, cosmological argument , deism, kalām cosmological argument , moral philosophy, religion, supernatural, theism, Richard Dawkins, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, William Lane Craig,

No comments: