Krauss on Craig: “disingenuous distortions, simplifications, and outright lies”

A couple of days ago, Lawrence Krauss released a statement on his recent debate with William Lane Craig over whether there is evidence for God. (If you haven’t watched it, ctrl-click here to view it on YouTube.)

His statement was posted on Pharyngula, the blog of infamous self-styled “godless liberal” PZ Myers, and was also circulated on Richard Dawkins’ forum (the self-styled “clear-thinking oasis”).

Let me make a couple o’ comments on it:

Firstly

It’s clear that the thing I found most embarrassing about Krauss’ part of the debate—his complete lack of understanding of the contingency argument—has in no sense changed.

This argument is about why is there something instead of nothing; it isn’t an argument about causes, as he characterizes it (apparently confusing it with the Kalam Cosmological Argument), but an argument about explanations or reasons. It invokes the Principle of Sufficient Reason: that everything that exists must have a sufficient reason for its existence. Obviously, most of the things we know exist could just as easily not exist; in which case, why do they exist? But we can also see that some things, like the laws of logic, must exist—they exist necessarily. God in the latter category; the universe is in the former. There is nothing about its nature that says it must exist, or that it must exist exactly as it does. This is really not disputed, to my knowledge, among either scientists or philosophers. In fact, the science seems to indicate that the universe could have existed in so many other different ways that we literally cannot conceive of the number. But in that case, we are back to asking why does it exist, and why does it exist as it does? Krauss has no answer.

Secondly

Krauss’ failure to interact with the issue of absolute morality in the debate seems to be indicative of a systemic miscomprehension (or just lack of comprehension) about this issue. He tried, and continues to try, to deflect the issue by saying that if absolute morals exist, then either God is also beholden to them (in which case they transcend him), or he makes them up (in which case they are arbitrary). He calls Craig’s position simple-minded, but the irony is palpable, since his objection is merely a restatement of the Euthyphro “Dilemma”, which goes back to Plato, and has been repeatedly—and very adequately—answered by Christians throughout our entire history.

Krauss shows no understanding of Craig’s position, a Divine Command Theory that completely obliterates the Euthyphro Dilemma and makes it look like a school-child’s objection. You would think that if you were going to debate someone, you would take the time (as Craig did) to at least understand the basics of their position, and the implications for your own arguments.

Thirdly

Krauss takes his crass dismissal of the argument from the resurrection even further in his post. He mocks the argument as pitiable—which is, I’m afraid, pitiable in itself. He makes reference to Christianity basically “copying” other religions’ resurrection myths, naming specifically Dionysus and Osiris. And he claims that there are serious historians who doubt even the existence of Jesus himself. I wonder where he gets either of these facts. It seems as if he’s taking his “knowledge” of Christianity’s origins out of The Da Vanci Code…which of course is a work of fiction, and borrowed from the thoroughly debunked worked of Akira S for its claim that “nothing in Christianity is original.” Unfortunately for Kruass, there are no actual historians who doubt that Jesus existed, nor who believe that Christianity was merely copied from other religions. Only anti-Christian popular-level fiction writers.

In a brilliant display of his true colors, Krauss also likens early Christians to Muslim Jihadists in their willingness to die for their cause—apparently not taking into account the obvious fact that the early Christians would have known that their cause was false while Muslim Jihadists manifestly believe that their cause is true. Why would people die for something they knew was false? But in fact, the evidence is outstandingly good that the claims of early Christianity must have been true, because if they had not been, they were so outrageous and offensive that the religion would simply have died; J P Holding has written an excellent paper (and now a book) on this called ‘The Impossible Faith’.

Fourthly

Krauss characterizes Craig as self-congratulatory, simplistic, disingenuous, and an outright liar. Are any of these charges true? If you inspect Craig’s post mortem of the debate (linked above) you won’t find any obvious self-congratulation. Not at all. Is he simplistic? Well, only if the rest of the world’s philosophers, among whom Craig is ranked a leader, are simplistic. Is he disingenuous? Let Krauss show us where. And the charge of Craig being a liar just seems baffling. Krauss isn’t doing himself any favors by sinking to the sandpit level. He looks like a patent sore loser.

Finally

I’d like to comment on the delicious irony of Krauss’ statement:

It sometimes surprises me, although it shouldn’t, how religious devotees feel the need to regularly reinforce their own convictions in groups of like-minded individuals. I suppose this is the purpose of regular Sunday church services, for example, to reinforce the community of belief in between the rest of the week when the real world may show no evidence of God, goodness, fairness, or purpose.

To which I can only wonder, is he unaware of his own activities? What does he think atheists like himself do on forums like Richard Dawkins’ and on blogs like PZ Myers’? Should we take this as an implicit admission that New Atheism is a religion?

8 replies
  1. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I don't know about attributing motives to Dr. Krauss. I just think he has shown himself to be profoundly out of his depth when it comes to philosophical issues. Perhaps that his research ethic on these topics at the intermediate level of copy and paste.

  2. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    I don't think I attributed any motives, per se. I was just pointing out that his understanding of Craig's arguments is non-existent, and his attitude is woeful.

  3. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Heh, my title quotes him directly. Those are his words. So if it looks like I'm attributing some kind of invidious motive, then that appearance comes straight from Krauss himself.

  4. Rhology
    Rhology says:

    One of the most pathetic things about Krauss' performance was that he expressed the low opinion in which he held philosophy in his opening statement, only to engage later in the debate in very poor philosophising.

  5. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Hey UpAndAtom, I don’t think anyone is disregarding empiricism. But Craig and other very capable thinkers do understand that empiricism has its place, and they don’t try to elevate it above that position. For example, empiricism relies on philosophical principles like induction—yet many scientists take a low view of philosophy, as if empiricism was above it; as if it’s the only reliable way to discover things about the universe. But if empiricism relies on philosophy for its basic tenets, then that view is fundamentally backwards, right?

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  1. […] it is unassailable by the classic objection to theistic ethics, the Euthyphro Dilemma, which Krauss tried to sic on Craig in their debate a few days ago, and which Harris also ineptly aimed at Craig in this debate, demonstrating that New Atheists […]

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