J.P. Moreland Defends the Argument from Consciousness

In this video, Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland responds to Graham Oppy’s criticisms of the argument for God’s existence from consciousness. Moreland discusses challenges to three forms of the argument and interacts with Oppy’s claims about theism, consciousness and emergent chemical properties. The talk was delivered at the recent 63rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

For reference, AC= Argument from Consciousness and IBE= Inference to the Best Explanation.

For more on Moreland’s argument, see The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009).

[Source: Brett Kunkle]

Audio: William Lane Craig and Peter Millican Debate the Existence of God

Premier Christian Radio have posted the audio from the debate between William Lane Craig and atheist Peter Millican:

[pk_icon_link icon=”download” icon_type=”dark”]Does God Exist? WL Craig v Peter Millican[/pk_icon_link]

The exchange took place at Birmingham University on October 21 and was organized by the Philosophy Society as a part of the Reasonable Faith UK tour.

William Lane Craig is the Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. Peter Millican is the Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University. The tour is co-sponsored by UCCF, Damaris, and Premier Christian Radio.

Is it Reasonable to Believe that God is Good?

In his debate with William Lane Craig, Stephen Law raised the challenge of an evil-god: if we dismiss the existence of an evil-god because of the amount of good in the world, why shouldn’t we dismiss the existence of an all-good god based on the amount of evil in the world?

Edward Feser has written a good discussion of the merits and demerits of this challenge here.

(HT: Timmy H)

How Stephen Law Failed in His Debate with William Lane Craig

Several others have already offered their reviews of the recent Craig/Law debate (see Wintery Knight’s post, J.W. Wartick’s analysis, Randal Rauser’s comments, or Stephen Law’s own thoughts here) and so I’ll restrict my comments to Law’s debating strategy. In my opinion, his line of argument was totally inadequate to the task. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) He only gave the briefest and most perfunctory of treatment to the cosmological argument and the historical case for the resurrection, focusing almost exclusively on the moral argument and his own evidential argument from evil for the probability of atheism.

2) He didn’t understand what a cumulative argument is or how it works. It’s simple to understand really. Argument 1 gives reason to think there is a being with properties A B and C. Argument 2 gives reason to think there is a being with properties C, D and E. Argument 3 gives reason to thing there is a being with properties C, F, and G. The fact that argument 2 doesn’t give any reason to think that the being in question has property B is not an indictment of that argument, nor a weakness of the whole case.

3) These two failures, combined with the way he proceeded, meant he was really not on the atheistic side of the debate. The totality of his arguments (even if successful) allowed room for a type of theism, such as Deism.

4) His strategy of comparing the problem of evil for a good God with the problem of good for a ‘malevolent God’ (a ‘square circle’ makes just about as much sense – let’s say he meant ‘malevolent creator’) relies on Manichaeism, which is false if Christianity is true. Thus the Christian has no reason to entertain Law’s counterargument.

On the Christian view, there is no such THING as evil. Evil is rather a privation – an absence of a good that should be there. Evil is ontologically posterior to goodness, thus for there to be evil, there must be a good. Christians not only believe that God does good, but that God’s very nature is goodness itself. He IS the standard. But when evil and goodness is understood this way (and not as a Manichean would conceive of good and evil: as two forces opposing one another), you can see that there cannot be a evil being comparable to a good God. Such a being would have no being.

5) He was totally inconsistent in his use of mystery, allowing it to feature particularly in his own answer to the problem of the origin of the universe (and also in his explanation of the existence of objective moral values and his dismissal of the resurrection as the best explanation for the historical facts about Jesus and the disciples), but not allowing Craig to ostensibly have it in his answer to the problem of evil.

6) More to the point, Craig was not using mystery to answer the problem of evil. He was saying that it is not unreasonable to expect, given the nature of our situation (a transcendent God and human beings with cognitive limitations in time and space), that we would be unable to perceive God’s sufficient reasons for allowing evil. The atheist therefore is in no position to assess the probability of a good God allowing the evil he sees in the world. Thus, it was Laws that failed to carry his argument.

7) Finally, it was noticeable how Law mentioned in his first speech that he would respond to Craig’s arguments in his next rebuttal, but deferred responding to Craig’s arguments until his third speech. This only allowed Craig the opportunity to rebut Law’s counter-arguments in his closing remarks. If Law wasn’t so soft spoken and didn’t have all the appearances of a genuinely nice guy, I’d suggest this deferral was an intentionally underhanded debating trick. Whether or not this was the case, it was evident that Law, although he had done careful research beforehand (unlike so many of Craig’s interlocutors), could not respond effectively to Craig’s cosmological and historical arguments, as well as Craig’s own response to the problem of evil.


Video: Panel Discussion on Ethics and God

Earlier this year, we were involved in hosting a panel discussion on the relationship between religion and morality. The video is now up on YouTube:

[pk_image image=”” w=”600″ image_style=”16/9″ icon=”play” action=”lightbox” link=”” lightbox_gallery_id=”6551″]

Moderated by Dr Matthew Flannagan, the panel included Prof John Hare from Yale Divinity School, Prof Mark Murphy from Georgetown University, and Dr Glenn Pettigrove from the University of Auckland. Each speaker addressed a different area of discussion, with John Hare addressing three moral arguments for God’s existence, Mark Murphy examining God and the nature of moral authority, and Glenn Pettigrove considering forgiveness with and without God.

Special thanks to Stuart for editing the video and both the Flannagans and the Auckland University Philosophy Department for their work in organizing the event.

Ethics: What Does God have to do with it?

This July, those of us in Auckland will have the opportunity to hear some of the worlds leading Christian thinkers discuss the relationship between religion and morality.

This issue is one that has long been the subject of debate in western culture. Some philosophers and social commentators argue that morality is entirely independent of religion and that faith is in fact responsible for much evil and immorality in the world. Other theologians contend the opposite: without God, we cannot explain the existence and nature of moral obligations or ground motivation to live a moral life. Other questions have been raised as to whether secularism can account for ideas such as atonement, forgiveness and grace, or whether we need religion to provide these concepts in morality.

The forum will be discussing these issues and others, including:

– Why do we have to do what is right?
– Can someone be a ‘good’ person without belief in God?
– What role do grace and forgiveness play in morality?

On the panel will be Prof John Hare from Yale Divinity School, Prof Mark Murphy from Georgetown University, and Dr Glenn Pettigrove from the University of Auckland. The panel will be moderated by Dr Matthew Flannagan.

Here are the full details:

Ethics: What Does God have to do with it?
A Conversation with Three Christian Philosophers
WHEN: 7pm Tuesday 26 July
WHERE: Room OGGB4/260-073 (Owen Glenn Building, University of Auckland)
A free event.

This event is brought to you by the University of Auckland Philosophy Department and Thinking Matters.

The Facebook page is here.

Audio and Video from the Craig v Krauss Debate

If you missed the debate yesterday between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss on the topic “Is there Evidence for God?”, the media from the event is now available.

Timothy and Michael live-blogged the event, and their post presents a good overview of what happened. For deeper commentary, Randy at Possible Worlds has posted an excellent discussion, highlighting some of the key issues that came up. David at the SAA blog also weighs in with his analysis. And Wintery Knight has also posted his own sardonic take on the respective cases put forward by Craig and Krauss.

UPDATE: The votes from the audience have been announced: 286 for Craig, 130 for Krauss, and 100 called it a draw.


Dawkins, Determinism, and Truth

Philosopher Paul Copan describes his recent experience at a lecture given by Richard Dawkins at Nova Southeastern University:

There I was—the first one in line during the Q&A. I asked Dawkins how he could claim that the naturalist [is] rationally superior to the theist since, according to his book River Out of Eden, all of us are dancing to the music of our DNA. Our beliefs are the product of non-rational, deterministic physical forces beyond our control—whether we’re theists or naturalists. In fact, if the naturalist is right, it’s only by accident—not because he’s more intellectually virtuous than the theist. That is, the naturalist has accidental true belief (which is not knowledge) rather than warranted true belief (which is knowledge).

Dawkins gave the odd reply that it’s kind of like Republicans and Democrats—with each group thinking they’re right and the other group wrong. But on what grounds could either side think they are more rational than the other? Dawkins then added that he supposed that whatever view “works” the correct one to hold. But here’s the problem: what “works” is logically distinct from “true” or “matching up with reality”—since we may hold to a lot of false beliefs that help us survive and reproduce, even if they are false. Indeed, naturalistic evolution is interested in survival and reproduction—the “four F’s” (fighting, feeding, fleeing, and reproducing). Truth, the naturalist philosopher Patricia Churchland argues, is secondary to these pursuits According to another such naturalist, the late Richard Rorty, truth is “utterly unDarwinian.”

To top off his answer to me (without addressing how to ground rationality), Dawkins dismissively quipped that science flies rockets to the moon while religion flies planes into buildings.

Read the rest of the post and see what Professor Copan made of Dawkins’ response.

The Atheistic Argument from Evolution

It is a common taunt among combative non-theists (henceforth called atheists) that evolution, because it is a well-established scientific fact, somehow provides positive proof that God does not exist. God, as the title of the evolutionary zoologist Richard Dawkin’s book proclaims, is a delusion. If this is so it then follows that belief in God is the same as belief in Santa Clause, which directly opposes our best scientific knowledge. Read more

Video from the Bradley v Flannagan Debate

The video footage of the Bradley & Flannagan Debate entitled “Is God the Source of Morality? Is it rational to ground right and wrong in commands issued by God?” is now available for viewing on Youtube. Held at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, on 2 August, 2010, many people have been eagerly anticipating watching this entertaining and important debate between atheist philosopher, Raymond Bradley and Christian philosopher and blogger, Matt Flannagan. (over 100 people have viewed Part 01/12 before the Part 12/12 is loaded and anyone pointing out it was there.)

Apologies to those to whom the wait has been unbearable.

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 01/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 02/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 03/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 04/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 05/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 06/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 07/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 08/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 09/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 10/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 11/12

Flannagan vs Bradley Debate “Is God the Source of Morality” Part 12/12

This debate was brought to you by the Evangelical Union and the Reason and Science Society with the support of Thinking Matters. Written forms of the opening statements and first replies can be found at MandM.

God, Absence of Evidence, and the Atheist’s Teapot

Brian Garvey, a lecturer in the philosophy of mind and psychology at Lancaster University, has written an article exploring Russell’s famous celestial teapot. The article, Absence of Evidence, Evidence of Absence, and the Atheist’s Teapot, appears in in the latest volume of Ars Disputandi, a philosophy of religion journal hosted by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Here’s the abstract:

Atheists often admit that there is no positive evidence for atheism. Many argue that there is nonetheless a prima facie argument, which I will refer to as the ‘teapot argument’. They liken agnosticism to remaining neutral on the existence of a teapot in outer space. The present paper argues that this analogy fails, for the person who denies such a teapot can agree with the person who affirms it regarding every other feature of the world, which is not the case with the atheist vis-a-vis the theist. The atheist is committed to there being an alternative explanation of why the universe exists and is the way it is. Moreover, the analogy relies on assumptions about the prior plausibility of atheism. Hence, the teapot argument fails.

And a quote:

“There is, I want to argue, a significant di fference between denying the existence of a teapot orbiting the sun, and denying the existence of God. When two people disagree over whether or not there is a teapot orbiting the sun, they are disagreeing over whether the world includes that particular item or not. For all that that particular disagreement implies, the two people agree about every other feature of the world: the tea-ist believes in a world that is exactly the same as the one the a-tea-ist believes in, with the single difference that it contains one item that the a-tea-ist’s world doesn’t contain. Since, as I have argued in the previous section, the only thing that could count as evidence for the teapot orbiting the sun is that someone has seen it, it is in one way analogous to a situation where one person says: ‘there’s a postbox at the end of the high street’ and the other person says ‘no there isn’t, go and have a look’, and the first person goes and looks and doesn’t see one. If that person is reasonable, that will be the end of the argument. The two situations are not quite analogous, however, in that no-one has gone and looked to see whether there is a teapot in outer space. But the situations are disanalogous in a second way too, and a way which helps to illuminate why, in the absence of evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no such teapot. That is, that there is nothing manifestly far-fetched in the idea of there being a postbox at the end of the high street. In the absence of seeing one (leaving aside the possibility of more indirect evidence, such as seeing a map of where all the postboxes are at the GPO) one is hardly being unreasonable if one doesn’t come down on one side or the other. And this difference between the postbox and the teapot tells us something about why it is unreasonable to suspend judgement regarding the teapot, even though we have not only failed to see one, but failed to carry out anything remotely approaching an exhaustive search. Because of its manifest far-fetchedness, or what amounts to the same thing, because it’s reasonable in the absence of prior evidence on the specific hypothesis to estimate that it’s highly unlikely, we can say that, when it comes to teapots orbiting the sun, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The atheist’s argument attempts to gain persuasiveness by ignoring this issue of prior plausibility. It is true that we cannot (at present) conclusively prove that there’s no teapot in outer space in the way that we could conclusively prove that there’s no postbox on the end of the street by going there and looking. But part of the reason why, despite not being able to do this, it is still reasonable to conclude that there isn’t, is that prior to any investigation the hypothesis is manifestly far-fetched. In the postbox case it is not, and thus we can see that absence of evidence, as far as rendering it reasonable to deny something’s existence goes, has different force depending on the case in hand. Unless the existence of God is taken to be also manifestly far-fetched, the argument to the effect that if we don’t suspend judgement regarding the teapot then we shouldn’t suspend it regarding God, doesn’t get off the ground.”

Read the whole thing on the Ars Disputandi website.

(Source: Z)

Auckland Event: God in the Light of the Critics

On Saturday the 29th of May, TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa), in conjunction with the Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, will be holding a seminar on God and the new wave of  atheism. The event brings together speakers from a variety of theological and confessional commitments to interact with the new cultural movement of skepticism.

When: Saturday May 29, 9am – 3.30pm

Where: Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, 1043 Beach Road, Long Bay (ph 473 2600)

Cost: $20 / $15 students and unwaged


9.00  Registration

9.30  Welcome: Nicola Hoggard Creegan (Chair of TANSA, and lecturer at Laidlaw) and John Fairbrother (Director of Vaughan Park)

9.45 Tim Meadowcroft (Senior Lecturer at Laidlaw) Pascal’s Bus: A Conversation between Blaise Pascal and the British Humanist Association Buse.s

10.30 Morning Tea

11.00 Judith Brown (Adjunct lecturer, Laidlaw) Tracing the way Home: the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

11.45  John Bishop (Professor of philosophy, Uni of Auckland)  Some Thoughts on an Alternative to a ‘Personal omniGod’ Theism.

12.30 LUNCH

1.30  Peter Lineham (Professor of History, Massey) A History of Atheism: from Paine to Dawkins

2.15  Nicola Hoggard Creegan  Deeper than Darwin

2.35  John Fairbrother Thank God for Atheists

For more details phone Nicola @ 021 376 045 or check out the TANSA website.