Dawkins doesn’t show, Craig shreds his book in front of a packed hall

As he said he would, Richard Dawkins refused William Lane Craig’s invitation to debate him at the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford. So Craig went ahead and ripped his book apart without the distraction of having to respond to petulant ad hominem (entertaining as that would have been). The video is up; watch it below.

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  1. Daniel Sherrell
    Daniel Sherrell says:

    I think he gave a very good answer for why the Caananites were driven out of the land. It was not genocide at all. I suggest Paul Copan’s book “Is God A Moral Monster” for further research. Bill is still unmatched in logical arguments to this day; though I have not heard a good counter-argument from him for the “Evil God” scenario. I actually think Edward Feser has a great response to that one. It’s over at his blog. 

  2. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Yeah, I wonder if Craig was simply unprepared for the Evil God scenario. I think he could have done a much better job of at least pointing out some basic problems with it, as I’m sure he’s at least passingly familiar with the material Feser goes into at length (and very well, as you observe).

    Paul Manata recently wrote a somewhat rambling but nonetheless very penetrating critique of the Evil God challenge from another angle—check it out if you’re interested.

  3. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    I think Dawkins was right not to debate him. Craig should debate other philosophers. Though I imagine that the main problem would be that most non-religious philosophers are not that interested in religion/theology – maybe I’m wrong, but then why don’t other philosophers seem to debate him?

  4. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peter, I think it makes sense for Craig to debate anyone who challenges the truth claims of Christianity in an influential way. However, if you refer to the Reasoanble Faith website’s debate listing, you’ll see that the majority of Craig’s debates have been with philosophers—at least the ones listed there. The list isn’t fully up to date; it looks like there might be some debates missing, and certainly the recent debate with Stephen Law hasn’t been added yet (note that Law is a philosopher). But A C Grayling, Quentin Smith, Ingmar Persson, Edwin Curley, Massimo Pigliucci, Douglas M. Jesseph—all philosophers!

  5. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    The continued refusal of Dawkins to debate Craig is now becoming so ridiculous it’s almost pathetic. As is his attempts to play down Craig’s credentials. It’s compelling that Harris and Hitchens dont have any problem recalling who Craig is, or what his credentials are. Maybe its the interviews with Harris and Hitchens describing Craig as the one apologist who “puts the fear of God in them” or  the one opponent that makes other atheists phone them up before a debate to plead with them “not to stuff this one up” that informs Dawkins position? 
    I can’t recall exactly which organisation it was who wrote an open letter in the UK press acuusing Dawkins of cowardice for not debating Craig; was it the UK Humanist Org?? but when even the atheist movement can see through this guy for what he really is it tells us everything.  I think more people are realising that he is nothing more than a very articulate writer with a psuedo-intellectual, anti-religious obsession. Its rapidly becoming an exercise in self-parody.

  6. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Marc, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Dawkins has given his reasons for not debating Craig, and trumped-up as they are, he still has to stick to them or he’ll lose face.

    Of course, he’s well within his rights to not debate him in a public forum. That isn’t something he has much skill at, I think, so it’s in his best interest to avoid it. If he did debate him like that, he’d lose face because he’d come off badly, and he’d lose face again for going back on his previous comments.

    Mind you, a lot of people would think more highly of him if he would interact with Craig in some way. I think he really does need interact with the arguments that have been put forward. He can’t continue to pretend that Christianity is irrational and easily defeated when Craig (and many others) have roundly panned his book and showed how inadequate it is. He either needs to advance his arguments, or retract them.

    That’s the intellectually honest thing to do. And I’m certain that a great many people would think very well of him if he said, “Look, my arguments were inadequate, I was wrong.”

    So the basic question is: Is Dawkins intellectually honest? And I think the clear answer to that question is: No, he is not.

  7. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    D Bnonn,

    Ah, thanks for that! I didn’t know he’d debated all of those philosophers.

    I can understand your point, that if Dawkins is going to start making claims about god and religion that it seems reasonable to expect him to be prepared to defend and debate his claims. But on the other hand I think it’s up to religious people to come up with evidence for their beliefs in the first place. And therein lies the heart of the debate, I think – it is about epistemology more than anything else. Dawkins is going to ignore the kinds of evidence that Craig is going to present and vice versa.

    Personally I lie towards Dawkins end of the scale. I think that the kind of epistemology that results from accepting a religion is quite innefectual – just about anything could be true – which is why what naturally falls out of this issue is the question, which god or religion should Dawkins debate?

    Perhaps you could also answer a question which I discovered while on holiday when having a discussion with a stranger, perhaps best described as an emergent christian. We weren’t discussing the origin of the universe, it was something else I can’t remember, and he pointed out that the creation stories of genesis use the word ‘bara’ for create, which doesn’t actually mean create, it means something akin to ‘fill’. Shortly thereafter I realized that this probably has ramification for the Kalam argument since the bible would not, then, refer to the universe being ‘created’.
    Your take?

  8. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    I think you are completely correct. It comes down to the fundamental question of intellectual and academic integrity, which I would humbly propose Dawkins is clearly lacking.  There is no question that Dawkins now enjoys a degree of fame, recognition and financial reward that would be unthinkable had he not launched the anti-religious tirade and pursued the militant rhetoric he now employs. To that end, it is basically repugnant that he is willing to reap the rewards of a ‘million copies+’ bestseller like The God Delusion but , as you mention, either advance the arguement or retract it as inadequate. 
    What astounds me is the scale of the flaws in some of the deductive logic and philosophical reasoning present in his writing. I have copies of several of his works as I like to engage with the secular criticisms of my own worldview, but it is frequently challenging to attribute any degree of credibility to his critique as it is often so illogical that it is pointless to consider his conclusion as his initial premise was so ridiculous.
    Again, I don’t have a copy in front of me, but in McGraths book “The Dawkins Delusion”, McGrath interviews an Oxford Prof’ – the name evades me without the book, but he is actually a close working colleague of Dawkins- who stresses that he is also a firm atheist who believes the notion of personal God to be ridiculous, however he pleads with McGrath to stress that Dawkins in no way represents the intelligent, rational atheistic worldview, quite the opposite in fact.  When both Christians and Atheists recognise just how much of a pantomine performer Dawkins actually is, it’s quite something to behold that the man manages to convince and fool so many people.

  9. Thomas Larsen
    Thomas Larsen says:

    If Dawkins does not wish to appear in a public debate with Craig, fine; but he should at least write a book responding to criticisms of his arguments raised by Craig and many others.

  10. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    But I don’t think we should under-value the voice of the marketplace. The fact that Dawkins has sold so many copies of his book shows that there is a significant number of people in society who share his views, quite aside from the evaluation of his arguments (which from my epistemology I think are very strong).

    The christian worldview might just claim that there is this interest in Dawkins’ books because people are, at base, wicked. But then that’s a double standard when they’d claim that a christian message is popular in the marketplace by its own virtue.

  11. Muhteo
    Muhteo says:

    If you know anything about WLC’s conflicting claims on evolution and ID, you wouldn;t have said that I don;t think.  William Lane Craig recently even lied about William Dembski, saying that he is an evolutionist (during one of his podcasts “The Triumph of Michal Behe” — see it on youtube).  I’m afraid Craig is just as guilty of being intellectually dishonest at Dawkins.  

  12. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Muhteo. William Lane Craig actually did not say that William Dembski is an evolutionist. See appoximately 4:15 of the video you cited as a source. There William Lane Craig says that William Dembski is a prominent Intelligent Design advocate who thinks that you can believe in evolution yet also have an argument for an intelligent designer of the universe. Before you sling around accusations of being intellectually dishonest, I would suggest you check the mirror first. Your facts are plain wrong.

  13. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman, 

    What epistemology is it that, once adopeted, makes Dawkin’s arguments ‘very strong’? Or what epistemological principle is there to do the same? 

    And I’m sure Dawkin’s The God Delusion is popular for many reasons. But whether they are popular or not has no bearing on the cogency of the arguments therein. So I don’t know why you think we should not under-value the marketplace’s voice.

  14. Matthew G
    Matthew G says:

    I found this video to be supremely boring. It was basically your average WLC debate without an opponent. I was hoping that he would interact with Dawkins’ book more than just saying “But Dawkins didn’t refute the following arguments: [insert Craig’s standard opening statement here]”.

  15. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    But there were respondants to his lecture, which Craig then responded to extemporaneously. And there was a q&a session afterwards. So I don’t think it warrants the ‘supremely’ of your opinion ‘superemely boring’, even if you were the type that finds the whole subject tedium. Besides, its definitly not the most dull lecture I’ve ever sat through. Not even the most boring lecture from WIlliam Lane Craig. 

    You say he didn’t interact with Dawkins’ book more, but what he did do was what he set out to do. That is, show that the refutations of the arguments for God’s existence that Dawkins has offered in The God Delusion are woefull indeed, and that the ‘central argument’ of Dawkins book for the belief that God does not exist is fatally flawed in many different respects. That seems to be engagement enough for 40 minutes or so. Afterall, if the central argument is defective, then its a fair bet that the rest of the book is similarly rotten. 

  16. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Stuart,

    All I mean about epistemology is certain demands about what constitutes evidence. Many of my reasons for disbelieving in god or religion are along very similar lines as Dawkins’ reasons, so as I read his book I think he’s right on the money. I don’t consider personal experience or ancient text or mere logical argument a very high standard of evidence. That is why there are such contradicting beliefs between people who use these evidences in my opinion.

    I disagree with you about popularity. You probably think that you are the arbiter of what is cogent. You aren’t, obviously. The marketplace is a far better guide.

  17. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Hi Peterpieman,

    You say you don’t consider personal experience a very high standard of evidence. Thats surprising. Would you seriously consider the belief that you are you is unwarranted if you didn’t have anything else other than your personal experience?
    You say you don’t consider ancient text a high standard of evidence. Well neither do I. But what if there were many ancient texts which supported the same conclusion? Multiplicity of sources is a standard criteria used to justify historical facts. What if such texts displayed other standard criteria, such as enemy attestation, early attestation, embarrassment, etc.?
    You say you don’t consider logical argument a very high standard of evidence. Thats very strange, since logical arguments are usually considered to be the ultimate in proofs. True premises + valid logic = sound conclusions. Ok, so many people who purport to use logical argumentation arrive at different conclusions. But would you prefer illogical arguments? (Well… obviously since you think along similar lines as Dawkins. Frankly, he’s a worthless logician.)
    You say don’t consider any of these a high standard of evidence, but what if you had all three of them?
    On popularity, its not just my opinion. Appeals to popularity have long been considered, as well as widely regarded as fallacious when arguing for the truth or falsehood of some belief. The technical name is argumentum ad populum. To find out more about this type of fallacy I suggest you go here http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/04/fallacy-friday-ad-populum-fallacy-appeals-to-popularity.html or listen to the podcast here http://www.brianauten.com/Apologetics/fallacy-friday/fallacy-friday-ep12.mp3

  18. Ajschuit
    Ajschuit says:

    I know this is a really simple way of looking at it, but I just thought I’d address the issue of whether or not the popularity of a book means that the ideas within it hold any truth value. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Twilight. Hugely popular books, though I’m sure most everyone would agree they’re far from reality. The reason these books are popular is because they are entertaining. Now I’m not saying that people read Dawkin’s book for entertainment, but my point is that just because people buy the book and read it doesn’t mean they agree with the ideas within it. There are actually many people who read books by people they disagree with so that they can actually intelligibly debate their ideas rather then just say they’re wrong because they disagree with them.

  19. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    I’m afraid that you don’t hold personal experience very high either, Stuart, except your own. Because you think that most of the planet is mostly wrong when it comes many things including religious beliefs. But to humour your example, the concept of “me” only has meaning if there is anything external to me. If, for example, I was the only human in the world, I might have a concept of myself as an “object” or “living being” separate from the world around me. This, one could argue, would constitute a self-concept, but it would be very limited. Our knowledge about ourselves – our concept of “me” – is afforded us exactly because there are other people around.
    It seems to me that you think that your concept of “you” would look largely the same whether or not you had ever met other people. This is wrong.

    Ancient texts: All I mean is that ancient texts are a pretty poor standard of evidence for universe-changing claims, like christianity being true.

    Don’t get me wrong, logic is very important but, like you can’t quite bring yourself to say, people who use logic come to different conclusions. I can see that you don’t want to admit that there are logical conclusions other than christianity, but evaluating propositions is not a logical thing. It is a very human thing and we are all different and come with different perspectives.
    You say Dawkins is a useless logician, but this is incorrect. His logic is not explicitly stated, for sure, but his arguments can easily be made into logical ones. And one of his most crucial axioms – if he is anything like me, and I suspect he is – would be that real phenomena are repeatable and objectively observable.

  20. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Perterpieman,

    I do hold personal experience as a high standard of evidence. Personal experience in the absence of defeaters warrants belief. Other peoples different conclusions of the basis of their personal experiences, I trust, have defeaters. So different conclusions from others personal experience doesn’t at all invalidate personal experience as a high standard of evidence (or my own conclusions, for that matter).
    To prove this I said, otherwise, you should never believe you were you unless a scientist could demonstrate that. And you replied “the concept of “me” only has meaning if there is anything external to me.” But this is false. If you were the only thing in existence: if there was nothing external to yourself: if all you have ever experience was your own inner dialogue, you would still know who you were referring if you said “me”. I think Descartes was, in part, right when said Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). This means at least that my personal experience of myself thinking provides really really good justification for the conclusion that I exist and that “me” therefore is not meaningless. The affirmation “I don’t exist” is, after all, self contradictory.
    Re ancient texts: Christianity being true maybe a universe altering claim, but it is based on claims that are not all that extraordinary which all the standard tools and rules of historiography can in principle establish (in practice too I think). For instance, to establish that the central claim of Christianity is true (something quite extraordinary, the resurrection of Jesus), all that is required is to show that (1) there was a man who was alive, (2) that died, and (3) then was seen alive again. Nothing extraordinary about any of those. I don’t know why you should think that responsible study of historical documents cannot achieve a high standard of evidence. Is it because Christianity would then be able to be highly evidenced?
    Re logic: I do think people with different conclusions try to be logical. I even think that sometimes they are being logical. Different conclusions are a result either bad logic, or the other factor needed for sound argumentation, namely TRUE PREMISES. What you accept as true or more probable than not will affect what conclusions you arrive at. So I do agree with you that many people are different and come with different perspectives. But that’s not a reason for despising logic by saying it does not give a high standard of evidence. That is reason for asking “What reasons do you have for believing your premises are true?”
    Re Dawkins being a worthless logician: An axiom is not an argument, so quoting one doesn’t prove your point that he’s not a worthless logician. To do that, you would need to explicate a cogent argument of his, then demonstrate somehow that this was the normal standard of his philosophical/theological writing. What would be better is if you could show his central argument was cogent. Good luck.
    Re Dawkin’s axiom “real phenomena are repeatable and objectively observable”: Isn’t an argument against God. If it’s meant to be its patently begging the question. But its not even relevant anyway because God isn’t a phenomena. Worse, the axiom doesn’t hold for historical studies, which deals mostly in one-time (non-repeatable) events of the past, which being immediately veiled by the passage of time become unobservable. So unless you’re willing to throw all historical conclusions to the dogs and adopt an anti-realism with respect to the past, I think on pain of rationality you have to believe the axiom false (or at the least in need of immediate modification).

  21. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    Yes I see that you are in a slightly delusional world with respect to your own personal experience. What you consider defeaters is largely at the whim of your personal experience and biases. Good luck to you n convincing others to adhere to them!

    “But this is false. If you were the only thing in existence…”
    No, I disagree. If there was nothing outside of a person, if they were brought up from infanthood with absolutely no sensory input whatsoever, what could they think of? What inner dialogue would there be? It only makes sense to talk of “I” if “I” is in relation to something else.

    Christianity and texts. I think that someone coming back to life from the dead is an extraordinary claim! If, in my life, I saw people coming back to life occasionally, or limbs growing back in front of me or people parting seas, all in the context of christianity then of course! I would be a christian. Christians have their contorted story as to why christianity is special and therefore true, so do Muslims, so do Sikhs. None have any extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claims.

    “Different conclusions are a result either bad logic, or the other factor needed for sound argumentation, namely TRUE PREMISES”
    I never seem to tire of how amazingly short-sighted people who say things like this are. Stand back and get some perspective. Your reasoning is not special, and other people are just as smart as you.

    “What would be better is if you could show his central argument was cogent. Good luck. ‘Cos it isn’t.”
    Dawkins arguments are entirely logical. They merely come from the perspective that if something is real, then it will be repeatable and observable. God fails this. It’s really not that difficult. Now of course, people will disagree with the premise that god or his effects are repeatable or observable, but this is kind of epistemology opens one up to being able to argue for any kind of crazy belief.
    Throwing out all historical accounts is not needed, just sensible and consistent beliefs about how the past and present look.

  22. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman, 

    Taking out the insults of your last comment, there is very little to respond to. 

    Re you believing it is unwarranted to believeing that you are you, because “me” has no meaning without personal relations external to youself: I argued that the latter is false. Imagine youself in a sensory deprivation chamber. You still have your own inner “I”. Perhaps we have to agree to disagree on that. Ok. So aside from this, you have admitted above that you would, even if you had never met any other person, have a very limited self-concept. Well – you would have this self-concept on the basis of your aquantance with yourself – i.e. personal experience. I would say that on the basis of that personal experience you achieve a high standard of evidence for that minimal self-concept of yourself. 

    Re “What you consider defeaters is largely at the whim of your personal experience and biases. Good luck to you n convincing others to adhere to them!” This is just a misunderstanding. Others don’t need to be convinced of something on the basis of my personal experience. The point is I am warranted in believing in that something on the basis of my personal experience. Since the role of evidence is to warrant belief, by virtue of attaining warrant, I have attained a high standard of evidence.

    Re Christianity and texts: I agree that these the resurrection is an extrodinary claim. I said as much, but added the ressurection is based on non-extrodinary claims that are verifiable historically. You havn’t responded to that. Instead you recourse to the axiom “extraodinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” It sounds so sensible, but the fact is its demonstrably false. Extrodinary things happen everyday which we have no trouble believing. The rationale for this is found in bayesian probability formulae. Simply put, when if comes to the probability of X you have to consider not only the evidence that you do have if X, but also the probabilty of you having the evidence you do have if not-X. The latter can easily balance the equation and make the extraordinary entirely believable.

    Re logic: You use ad hominem to attack my reasoning. Thats bad reasoning and poor form. Also irrelevant since I was defending logical argumentation as a method for achieving a high standard of evidence.

    Re Dawkin’s central argument being entirely logical: I await your demonstration. The video above adequately demonstrates that it is not logical at all. 

    Re Dawkin’s perspective that “if something is real, then it will be repeatable and observable.”: I take it thats how you express Dawkin’s scientistic epistemology. The trouble is that the epistomology is self-refuting. Ask yourself, can you repeat and observe the persepective? The other trouble is if you hold to the above principle, then throwing out all historical conclusions IS required. Also, you must adopt anti-realism with respect to the past. 

  23. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    Hehe, that’s quite a response for “not much to respond to”.
    If I went into a deprivation chamber it is too late. I have already formed a picture of “me” in my head in relation to that which is not me.

    “The point is I am warranted in believing in that something on the basis of my personal experience.”
    Great. So am I. See how far this gets us?

    ” Extrodinary things happen everyday which we have no trouble believing”
    Like what?

    “Re logic: You use ad hominem to attack my reasoning.”
    I attack your reasoning because it is stunningly backwards: “Different conclusions are a result either bad logic, or the other factor needed for sound argumentation, namely TRUE PREMISES”
    In this one sentence you have aptly displayed the core problem: You are committed to the conclusion, and the conclusion decides the premises. I could not have illustrated the problem better.

    I do not hold to an anti-realism with respect to the past any more than you do Stuart. I merely interpret historical texts more consistently.

    I think that the idea that if something is real then it is repeatable and objectively observable is entirely sensible. Time and time again superstition has led us and still leads some down the garden path, to conclusion which are demonstrably stupid with respect to the real world. What has led us to this point is the idiocy of ignoring the repeatable and observable. So, yes, evidence to support empiricism is very repeatable and observable. You are a case in point, Stuart.

  24. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    “The point is I am warranted in believing in that something on the basis of my personal experience.”
    Great. So am I. See how far this gets us?

    Are you saying that you don’t think we’re warranted in believing things on the basis of personal experience? For example, do you think that you are NOT warranted in believing that you’re having an online debate with real people right now, since you have only your personal experience to warrant this belief?

    I attack your reasoning because it is stunningly backwards: “Different
    conclusions are a result either bad logic, or the other factor needed
    for sound argumentation, namely TRUE PREMISES”

    What is backwards about this? What is the alternative that you suggest? There are only three options:

    1. A premise is unsound, leading to a false conclusion.
    2. An inference is invalid, leading to a false conclusion.
    3. The laws of logic themselves are faulty, leading to a false conclusion.

    You seem to believe that [1] and [2] are not legitimate options. Are you saying [3] is your preferred choice?

    I do not hold to an anti-realism with respect to the past any more than you do Stuart … I think that the idea that if something is real then it is repeatable and objectively observable is entirely sensible.

    These two statements are mutually exclusive.

    If something must be repeatable and objectively observable to qualify as “real”, then any event that cannot be repeated or objectively observed is not real.

    Thus, the Battle of Trafalgar is not real. The Black Death is not real. Etc.

    You can’t eat your cake, and still have it too.

  25. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi guys,

    I think Bnonn misunderstands my point about Stuarts comment being backward.

    “”Different conclusions are a result either bad logic, or the other factor needed
    for sound argumentation, namely TRUE PREMISES””

    This sounds to me as though Stuart has already decided that different conclusion are wrong to begin with, which is backwards.

    If something is real then I think it should be repeatable and objectively observable. If something was real then, of course, it’s not repeatable.

    I have no doubt that many christians such as yourselves have contrived your epistemologies so that christianity wins. But do you not think that muslims and jews and hindus do this? You are no different from them. I think if us three were born in Saudi Arabia, you two would be Muslims and I would still be an atheist! No, I think there is a far more sensible explanation to why the evidence for christianity is always in old books or in arguments with which you have to be already biased to agree with: it is no different to any other religion.

  26. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    This sounds to me as though Stuart has already decided that different conclusion are wrong to begin with, which is backwards.

    Even if Stuart’s conclusion on some given issue is wrong, it stands to reason that since truth is exclusive, only one conclusion is right. Therefore, the various other different conclusions people come to are because of unsound premises or invalid inference.

    If something is real then I think it should be repeatable and objectively observable. If something was real then, of course, it’s not repeatable.

    Firstly, I think we need to figure out exactly what you’re saying here. The only things that seem to fit into the category of being repeatable and observable are experiments. But it’s hard to believe you’re claiming that only experiments are real. You also need to explain what you mean by “real”; I assume you mean something like X is real if X exists. And you need to explain what you think “objectively” means. What is the distinction between something which is objectively observable, and something which is merely observable?

    Secondly, your sentences here counteract each other. If something can be real without being repeatable, then repeatability is not actually a requirement of something being real at all. So apparently the only requirement is that it is “objectively observable”—whatever the qualifier means.

    Thirdly, what reason do you have to believe this statement? Why should we accept it? The burden of proof is squarely on you to show that it is a reasonable way of deciding what is real and what is not. After all, as Stuart has pointed out, personal experience informs us of all manner of things that are not objectively observable or repeatable—yet we have extremely strong warrant for believing these. You need to present a stronger warrant for believing your claim above than we already have for believing things that contradict it. That seems like an insurmountable task to be honest.

    I have no doubt that many christians such as yourselves have contrived your epistemologies so that christianity wins.

    Quite frankly, I don’t think you even know what an epistemology really is. You seem quite unaware of some basic concepts in the field of epistemology, like warrant and the literature around that. Maybe you could describe to us what the basics of your epistemology are. How do you know things, and how do you know that you know? After all, if you’re adopting something like the scientific method as a requirement for knowledge, then you have a real problem, because the scientific method is a process of proving falsehoods, not proving truths. It’s not clear that you can know anything via the scientific method.

    But do you not think that muslims and jews and hindus do this? You are no different from them

    You’re trying to preempt arguments that no one is making. And you’re begging the question against the truth of Christianity.

    I think if us three were born in Saudi Arabia, you two would be Muslims and I would still be an atheist!

    That’s an outlandishly speculative claim. What possible evidence could you have for it?

    Of course, even if it’s true, that would seem to undercut your position, rather than supporting it. Because in that case, the only obvious explanation is that Stuart and I are genetically predisposed to be religious, and you’re genetically predisposed to be non-religious. But if we only believe things on the basis of genetic predispositions, then we certainly don’t believe them on the basis of reasoning about the evidence. In which case your atheism is just as likely to be false as our religionism.

    No, I think there is a far more sensible explanation to why the evidence
    for christianity is always in old books or in arguments with which you
    have to be already biased to agree with: it is no different to any other
    religion.

    You don’t seem to notice that this cuts both ways. You have to be just as biased to agree with the arguments for atheism. Whether someone finds an argument convincing depends entirely on how he views the plausibility of the premises. And that in turn is based entirely on his existing presuppositions. There is no such thing as an “objective” or unbiased position. It just makes you look silly to pretend there is—and especially to pretend that it is found in atheism.

  27. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I don’t know about you Bnonn, but the evidence for Christianity on my bookself is mostly in new books. The oldest books I have are pretty much all published after 1960. I wonder what book/s Peterpieman was referring to? I also wonder what the age of the book has to do with the strength of the evidence? I also wonder when he’s going to get around to demonstrating that the logic of Dawkins central argument is good?

  28. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Bnonn, from what I have observed your main tactic is to just throw treacle on everything, to slow everything down. Rather than take the points people are making you just insist that people expand everything in tiny detail. And I could do the same to you. I could demand that you explain situations where people have come to the same truth via different paths, throw in other jargon which is not needed, just as Dawkins doesn’t need to use explicit logic in order to make complete sense, and then throw the ‘burdon’ back at you. But I don’t need to do all this to come to sane conclusions. I simply ask myself, is it reasonable to claim that one religion in the history of man is correct, that only it’s claims to the divine are true and, oh by the way, there is no repeatable evidence at all, it is all in ancient books. The only sane answer is no. And I don’t have to understand much about epistemology to know that you pick and choose when and how to apply logic, when and how to take ancient texts as reliable, and when and how to apply modern standards of evidence.
    On second thoughts though, perhaps I am being a little harsh in claiming that you’re just trying to slow things down. Maybe you are just picking apart that which is obvious because that is what you have had to do to yourself in order to make what you want to be true, ‘true’.

    Stuart,

    “I don’t know about you Bnonn, but the evidence for Christianity on my
    bookself is mostly in new books. The oldest books I have are pretty much
    all published after 1960. I wonder what book/s Peterpieman was
    referring to?”

    I’m sorry but this really is quite pathetic. In fact it’s just plain dishonest. A few comments ago the central doctrine of the resurrection was ‘proven’ by the gospels, and now you act as though they are unimportant. Have you fooled yourself, too?

    —–

    I think Dawkins is right to not debate Craig. They would just talk about different things. Dawkins would present actual evidence and implicitly assume that the past looked much like the present – the most natural assumption ever. Craig would tout his logical arguments, which are logical I’ve no doubt, but come from non-sensical or un-knowable premises, and provide absolutely no definitive evidence for god whatsoever.

  29. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Bnonn, from what I have observed your main tactic is to just throw treacle on everything, to slow everything down.

    Actually what I’m doing is trying to get you to explain yourself, since I don’t understand exactly what you’re saying (and I suspect you don’t either).

    You just want to push ahead, cementing one sloppy inference on top of another tendentious assumption on top of another invalid conclusion. Sorry, but that’s not my game. If you want to discuss this with me, you need to be prepared to think carefully and precisely. If you’re not up to it, you’re welcome to leave.

    I simply ask myself, is it reasonable to claim that one religion in the
    history of man is correct, that only it’s claims to the divine are true
    and, oh by the way, there is no repeatable evidence at all, it is all in
    ancient books.

    If, arguendo, God exists and has revealed himself in a written revelation, then it is completely reasonable to believe that one religion in the history of man is correct (namely, the religion God revealed) and that only its claims to the divine are true (because all other contenders were not revealed by God himself), and that there is no repeatable evidence (at least in the sense of continuing revelation) because God has finished revealing it.

    So your “only sane conclusion” is really just an exercise in confirmation bias. You already think it’s the only sane thing to disbelieve in God, and so you come to the conclusion that it is the only sane thing to disbelieve in God. In logic, that’s the logical fallacy called begging the question.

    And I don’t have to understand much about epistemology to know that you
    pick and choose when and how to apply logic, when and how to take
    ancient texts as reliable, and when and how to apply modern standards of
    evidence.

    This is just pure ad hominem. Unless you’re going to substantiate your claim, you’re just replacing an argument with an insult. Is that the best rational, sane atheists can do?

    Maybe you are just picking apart that which is obvious because that is
    what you have had to do to yourself in order to make what you want to be
    true, ‘true’.

    It’s always fascinating to see someone who knows nothing about me impute all sorts of insidious motives and self-deception to me. But of course, if that’s how you want to play it, then obviously the only reason you’re complaining about me “slowing things down” is because you want to gloss over your errors, because that’s what you have had to do to yourself in order to make what you want to be true, true.

    Dawkins would present actual evidence and implicitly assume that the
    past looked much like the present – the most natural assumption ever.

    Actual evidence for what? God’s non-existence? What does that look like exactly? Evidence for the non-resurrection? Where would he find that?

    As for the past being like the present, well, unless you have warrant to believe that, your entire worldview falls apart. You can gloss over it by calling it “the most natural assumption ever”, but of course, that’s just a platitude. You have utterly no reason to think the past was like the present. I bet you can’t even present one reason that doesn’t beg the question.

    Craig would tout his logical arguments, which are logical I’ve no
    doubt, but come from non-sensical or un-knowable premises, and provide
    absolutely no definitive evidence for god whatsoever.

    If you’d read Dawkins’s book, you’d know that Dawkins himself uses logical argumentation to try to defeat Craig’s arguments. So, you’re already nil for one.

    I can’t help noticing that you’re incredibly good at vague hand-waving and big, bold claims. But when you’re asked to actually bank the cheques that your mouth has been writing, you become strangely evasive.

    You’re like a con-man. All air and bluster. No substance to back it up.

    Why don’t you prove me wrong? Why don’t you show us what premises of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, for example, are unknowable or nonsensical? You can pick another of Craig’s arguments if that’s too hard. But unless you’re actually going to show us what is so absurd about these arguments that they simply don’t qualify as evidence, even though many of the greatest minds in the world today believe they do, all you’re doing is trolling.

  30. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman, 

    I think Craig has really good reasons for believing the premises of his arguments are true. What premises are you refereing to exactly? Pick the most non-sensical and un-knowable in your estimation. Just curious. 

    Did I say the resurrection was proven by the gospels? Please provide a quote of mine to that effect. I don’t think I did.

    I think what I said (or should have said at least) is that the gospels comprise part of the evidence for the resurrection. On a side note, I’m inclined to think at the moment that the best evidence for the resurrection is not found in the gospels, but comes from Paul.

    Anyway, now I understand what you were refering to when you wrote “the evidence for christianity is always in old books…” Well I think that’s false. The Kalam Cosmological Argument didn’t come from an old book. It came from a book written and published in 1979. That’s just one example of the project of Natural theology which is almost entirely extra-biblical – sure the seeds for it are in the bible and other ancient books (like for example the church fathers), and sure, Aquinas’ (and the likes) writings are all old now, but its not like these arguments haven’t been refurbished and updated in the contemporary intellectual scene. And its not like the historical information attained in ancient texts isn’t also conjoined with modern scholarly disciplines (such as, for instance; archeology, papirography, lower criticism, historical criticism, medical verification of descriptions therein, et al.). And its not like new arguments for the historicity of Christianity don’t occasionally appear.

    You say “…or in arguments with which you have to be already biased to agree with.” Bnonn will say he’s not predisposed to believing the evidence for Christianity. For myself, I think its possible you’re right, but what else can I do? Are you sensoring me for being as critical and fair-minded as I can be, or for offering positive arguments for my position in the first place? Neither seems very fair. Especially when its apparent that you are not. You havn’t answered any of my questions, and I’m still awaiting that demonstration that Dawkins central argument in The God Delusion is cogent. I won’t beg you to explicate it for me, because I know you won’t. What you’ll probably do is just go on believing your most the sensible person here and continue insulting us in lieu of making an effort to reason well. For my part, you’re most welcome. You’ll just make yourself look bad and confirm my prediction (which I’d rather not be confirmed, btw). But Bnonn has less of a tolerance for that so don’t be surprised if one of these days your comments get deleted or aren’t published.

  31. Matthew G
    Matthew G says:

    You may be right. I guess it was just that the mindset I had looking into this was just compltely wrong.

  32. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    “So your “only sane conclusion” is really just an exercise in
    confirmation bias. You already think it’s the only sane thing to
    disbelieve in God, and so you come to the conclusion that it is the only
    sane thing to disbelieve in God.”

    It’s not the confirmation bias at all Bnonn. It’s entirely sensible to think that the past looked the same as the present. And more silly to pick out one religions version of the past. Unless a person is already indoctrinated by one religion or another, it is the default assumption.

    “This is just pure ad hominem. Unless you’re going to substantiate your
    claim, you’re just replacing an argument with an insult. Is that the
    best rational, sane atheists can do?”

    No, no, this is based on what I have heard you say. Again, I don’t have to understand much about epistemology to know that you
    pick and choose when and how to apply logic, when and how to take
    ancient texts as reliable, and when and how to apply modern standards of
    evidence.

    “Actual evidence for what? God’s non-existence? What does that look like
    exactly? Evidence for the non-resurrection? Where would he find that?”

    You see. This is a perfect example of you picking and choosing. How would you respond to a Mormon, say, who demanded “where would you find evidence that Joseph Smith Wasn’t given golden plates by god? What would that look like?” You use evidence for the non-existence of things all the time but when it is inconvenient you just act dumb and pretend that it’s impossible.

    “You have utterly no reason to think the past was like the present. I bet you can’t even present one reason that doesn’t beg the question.”

    Hehehe. Nice try. It is very well evidenced. I have observed it empirically in my lifetime, I have ‘observed’ it in modern history. The only reason that might cause me to think that the past was different, in the manner that we are talking about, is by the record of religious texts. And they all contradict each other.

    Why don’t you prove me wrong? Why don’t you show us what premises of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, for example, are unknowable or nonsensical?”The universe began to exist. This is just unknowable.

  33. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Hi there, 

    I know this comment wasn’t directed towards me but this is answering one of my requests of you as well. In reference to the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, you cite premise 2. 

    The universe began to exist. This is just unknowable.

    With 2 philosophical proofs and 2 confirmations from science that the universe began to exist, this the standard position today. Its found in any basic science or astronomy textbook. Stephen Hawkings says (in A Brief History of Time, I believe) that almost everybody today believes that the universe began to exist. Moreover, the Bord, Guth, Vilenkin theorum (2003) is looking to be a watershed in cosmogonical speculation, with Vilenkin commenting that (from memory) “It takes an argument to convince a reasonable man. A proof to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof is now in, cosmologists can no longer hide behind a eternal universe. They have to face the problem of cosmic beginning.” Thats enough, I think, to believe that the universe began to exist. If it isn’t enough, then I’d suggest your standard of evidence are too high. But even if you don’t agree with me, and still cling to the belief that premise 2 is unknowable, I think its at least enough to consider the premise at least more probable that its contradictory, which is all it need to be for the argument to be a good one and for you to be rationally obliged to accept the conclusion.

  34. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    ” For instance, to establish that the central claim of Christianity is
    true (something quite extraordinary, the resurrection of Jesus), all
    that is required is to show that (1) there was a man who was alive, (2)
    that died, and (3) then was seen alive again. Nothing extraordinary about any of those. I don’t know why you should
    think that responsible study of historical documents cannot achieve a
    high standard of evidence.”

    “I don’t know about you Bnonn, but the evidence for Christianity on my
    bookself is mostly in new books. The oldest books I have are pretty much
    all published after 1960. I wonder what book/s Peterpieman was
    referring to?”

    So, do the gospels prove the central claim of Christianity or not? If they do, why do you then say that they are a minor part of the evidence. If they don’t, then what are your modern books based upon? I don’t have much respect for your ducking and weaving.

    I consider that the gospels are not good evidence at all. Like other religious texts, they contain claims which are outrageously at odds with the world which we can observe for ourselves. Even if I granted that christianity is the best evidenced religion – and I’m not sure it is – it would still be silly to claim that just because it is the best evidenced that it is true and all others false. After all, one of the religions has to be the best evidenced.

    I agree with you that Christianity is entirely dependent on Paul. One man. He started it, and the gospels added to it, which is why he was so ignorant of many of Jesus’ attributes in the gospels.

    “Anyway, now I understand what you were refering to when you wrote “the
    evidence for christianity is always in old books…” Well I think that’s
    false. The Kalam Cosmological Argument didn’t come from an old book. It
    came from a book written and published in 1979. ”

    The Kalam cosmological argument is not about christianity.

    “You say “…or in arguments with which you have to be already biased to
    agree with.” Bnonn will say he’s not predisposed to believing the
    evidence for Christianity. For myself, I think its possible you’re
    right, but what else can I do? Are you sensoring me for being as
    critical and fair-minded as I can be, or for offering positive arguments
    for my position in the first place?”

    I think that people generally leave religion for rational reasons, and go to it for emotional ones. I am criticizing you and Bnonn for pretending that christianity is the only rational option out there. It is most certainly not. I think that the need for religion to be true is so strong that people can spend their lives building systems to ‘prove’ it true, when in fact ultimately they are simply trying to prove it to themselves.

    ———

    I’d say that the central argument in the God Delusion is simply “where the *^#) is the evidence for god? The claim that god exists is extraordinary, but the evidence is anything but.” I’ve put this in the form of stating that it is the most reasonable to believe that the past looked like the present: no evidence of god acting in the world, where ‘evidence’ is not a christian’s reading into things something that isn’t there, but hard evidence. Resurrections, miracles, parting seas etc.

    It would not surprise me if I were blocked or my comments not allowed really. This is what sheltered thinking does. It cuts itself off from the real world and convinces itself that that was the real world’s fault.

  35. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    It’s not the confirmation bias at all Bnonn. It’s entirely sensible to think that the past looked the same as the present.

    You seem to think that simply repeating a previous assertion is all that’s needed to defend it. Is that because you can’t provide any actual reasons (or, dare I say it, evidence) to support it?

    I don’t have to understand much about epistemology to know that you pick and choose when and how to apply logic, when and how to take ancient texts as reliable, and when and how to apply modern standards of evidence.

    So rather than give a single concrete example to validate your ad hominem, you just repeat it. I’m going to call this Pieman Principle. When you’re in a corner, don’t try to prove your case. Just repeat the assertion until your opponent goes away.

    How would you respond to a Mormon, say, who demanded “where would you find evidence that Joseph Smith Wasn’t given golden plates by god?

    How I’d respond is irrelevant. You’re the one who claimed Dawkins would use evidence against Christianity. I’m holding you to your own claim.

    You use evidence for the non-existence of things all the time but when it is inconvenient you just act dumb and pretend that it’s impossible.

    I’m not pretending anything. I’m asking you to tell us what evidence of the non-existence of God looks like. After all this time you have yet to furnish us with a single concrete example that you think counts as evidence for or against your position. Making vague assertions and generalizations is not a substitute for having real reasons to believe or disbelieve something.

    Hehehe. Nice try. It is very well evidenced. I have observed it empirically in my lifetime, I have ‘observed’ it in modern history.

    What does that have to do with ancient history? How do you get from the inference, “The past has been like the present in my lifetime” to the conclusion “Therefore, the past has always been like the present”?

    The universe began to exist. This is just unknowable.

    Strangely, nearly every cosmologist and philosopher alive disagrees with you. That’s a fairly outrageous position to be in, considering you’re supposed to be a champion of evidence and reason.

    Moreover, if we cannot know whether the universe began to exist or not, then presumably cosmologists are engaged in a pointless enterprise. They are trying to discover things which are, in principle, undiscoverable. Better write and tell them that you’ve canceled their credentials as scientists.

    I consider that the gospels are not good evidence at all. Like other religious texts, they contain claims which are outrageously at odds with the world which we can observe for ourselves.

    What you mean is, they contain miracles. And since you don’t believe in miracles, obviously the gospels are not good evidence. Historiography be damned!

    Is your entire worldview based on wishful thinking, confirmation bias, and question-begging?

    I agree with you that Christianity is entirely dependent on Paul. One man. He started it, and the gospels added to it, which is why he was so ignorant of many of Jesus’ attributes in the gospels.

    Amusing, considering Paul came along some time after the apostles had already “started” Christianity!

    I think that people generally leave religion for rational reasons, and go to it for emotional ones.

    Another red herring—and a rubbish one at that. All the deconversion stories I’ve read have boiled down one of two things: either the deconvert felt taken advantage of by religious people and left religion in disgust, or he wanted to do something religion didn’t approve of (often sex-related), and so decided religion was wrong. Often these go together. In both cases, the reasons for leaving were emotional, but the deconvert presents them as rational after the fact. It’s only convincing to very credulous people who can’t read between the lines.

    On the other hand, conversions to religion tend to be for reasons involving evidence. High profile examples include C S Lewis and Anthony Flew. My own conversion followed the same lines. I found the arguments for atheism incredibly weak. And the arguments for Christianity were extremely strong.

    I am criticizing you and Bnonn for pretending that christianity is the only rational option out there. It is most certainly not.

    I think you can be rational and not be a Christian. You can rationally believe atheism. But in the final analysis, I don’t think there is any warrant for not being a Christian. You can’t have a warranted belief in the non-existence of the Christian God, or the falsehood of the Christian scriptures. Unsurprisingly, you don’t know what rationality is.

    I think that the need for religion to be true is so strong that people can spend their lives building systems to ‘prove’ it true, when in fact ultimately they are simply trying to prove it to themselves.

    Since non-Christians are in rebellion against God, and know it’s only a matter of time until they are judged, the need to escape God is so strong that they spend their lives building systems to “prove” either that he doesn’t exist, or that if he does he is not a threat to them.

    I’d say that the central argument in the God Delusion is simply “where the *^#) is the evidence for god?

    So you didn’t read it then. Or watch the video above. Dawkins uses several arguments in the God Delusion, and they all fail miserably, as Craig demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt.

    The claim that god exists is extraordinary, but the evidence is anything but.

    More begging the question. There’s nothing extraordinary about the claim that God exists unless you have presupposed that he doesn’t. And if God exists, then the claim that he doesn’t is the most extraordinary claim you could come up with.

    It would not surprise me if I were blocked or my comments not allowed really.

    Your comments will be blocked if you continue to present assertions and insults instead of arguments and evidence.

    This is what sheltered thinking does. It cuts itself off from the real world and convinces itself that that was the real world’s fault.

    Considering your obvious ignorance of just about every topic we’ve discussed here; considering that Stuart and I have clearly spent a lot more time than you have investigating the evidence for and against God; and considering (if your performance is anything to go by) that we have also spent a great deal more time debating hostile interlocutors than you have, this sort of rhetoric is not only unbecoming of an adult, but positively laughable. I dunno, maybe you’re still in high school. That would explain and excuse a lot. But in the real world, this sort of psychoanalysis is just passive-aggressive bullshit. I can also say that it would not surprise me if you stopped posting here because sheltered thinking like yours cuts itself off from the real world and convinces itself that when people don’t agree with it, that’s because they’re stupid, not because it is wrong.

    But if you want to just make snarky comments like a child instead of engaging in real argumentation like a man, kindly sod off and do it somewhere else.

  36. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    May I offer an observation; given in absolute kindness.  While I completely understand and appreciate the frustration at processing and responding to some aspects of the reasoning underpinning the “new” athiest argumentation; particularly those aspects seemingly devoid of any logic and horribly/clumsily delivered. I am more than slightly surprised at the level of aggression and, at times, personal insults and abuse given in reply from a Christian forum.
    Let me be quite succint, I share the bewilderment at some of the criticisms posted against our faith, but is the primary objective of apologetics and debate merely to win the argument at all costs? This is not my interpretation, and certainly not how we were instructed to ‘give a reason for our hope’. 
    I am certain that many critics who visit this site have no interest in sophisticated, open-minded discussion, and are indeed only here to insult or abuse; does it follow that we should reply in turn?
    What of the non-believer who is sceptical and laiden with doubt but reads sites such as this because he/she hasnt been completely lost, and may possibly be convinced by the arguments in favour of God given in these forums, delivered with compassion and kindness?
    Is the central role of apologetics not to respectfuly reason with someone and present God as the most rational worldview possible, answering their doubts and opening their heart to allow Christ in?
    I am not inferring that any individuals should tolerate abuse or prolonged debates when its becomes evident that the opponent is only interested in nonsense. But its very straight forward to acknowledge that we dont seem to be moving our debate forward, thank someone for their contribution and wish them well. You never know, the same person may come back to another discussion and start the journey towards being saved, or they may not.
    I just dont see anyone being encouraged to join a forum, or return,  when they see people (however they have conducted their argument themselves) being accused of “bulls**t” and told to “sod off”. That sort of anger and resentment is not from God, and I would argue doing just as much work against him as some of the atheists posting in the forums.
    I know from this site and the live events thats you guys have such an important ministry, but it is genuinely saddening to see the tone of some of the posts in these discussions. In keeping with the video being discussed by this forum; William Lane Craig made the salient point – the greatest apologetic tool we have is the life each of us chooses to lead.

  37. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Bnonn,

    “It’s not the confirmation bias at all Bnonn. It’s entirely sensible to think that the past looked the same as the present.”
    “You seem to think that simply repeating a previous assertion is all
    that’s needed to defend it. Is that because you can’t provide any actual
    reasons (or, dare I say it, evidence) to support it?”

    I have already stated several reasons. But I don’t need to. It is up to you to show that the past was different, and up to you to show that your favourite version of history is true. You have quite a task considering the competition, all of whom have similarly ancient texts and claim equally astounding things. You keep trying to put it on me to show things but it is you that is claiming the past was different. Prove it! Good luck!

    “I don’t have to understand much about epistemology to know that you pick
    and choose when and how to apply logic, when and how to take ancient
    texts as reliable, and when and how to apply modern standards of
    evidence.”
    “So rather than give a single concrete example to validate your ad
    hominem, you just repeat it. I’m going to call this Pieman Principle.
    When you’re in a corner, don’t try to prove your case. Just repeat the
    assertion until your opponent goes away.”
    “If, arguendo, God exists and has revealed himself in a written
    revelation, then it is completely reasonable to believe that one
    religion in the history of man is correct (namely, the religion God
    revealed) and that only its claims to the divine are true”
    Winding backwards a bit, your statement here is all backwards. You can’t start with the premise “if god exists and has…” You have to look at the evidence first. If you’re looking at ancient text, then christianity is not special. If you’ve had some revelation then christianity is not special.

    “”Actual evidence for what? God’s non-existence? What does that look like
    exactly? Evidence for the non-resurrection? Where would he find that?””
    “How would you respond to a Mormon, say, who demanded “where would you
    find evidence that Joseph Smith Wasn’t given golden plates by god?”
    “How I’d respond is irrelevant. You’re the one who claimed Dawkins would
    use evidence against Christianity. I’m holding you to your own claim.”
    No it is exactly analogous. Your nonsense tactics here are completely dishonest, and on display. You’re happy to throw stupid questions at people which you know are a waste of time, but when you get asked equivalent questions it’s all ‘irrelevant’.
    I engage with the fact that christians have their evidences for christianity, and I try to point out another point of view. You appear to have read Dawkins’ entire God Delusion and are now saying “what evidence?” Either this is the childish tactic of acting dumb, or you refuse to engage with what Dawkins is actually saying and engage with his evidences. Either way, methinks you are afraid of something….

    “What does that have to do with ancient history? How do you get from the
    inference, “The past has been like the present in my lifetime” to the
    conclusion “Therefore, the past has always been like the present”?”
    Via people in the recent past, and a long way back, through all sorts of obviously false superstitious beliefs and obviously false religious beliefs, and the fact that in realms where people believe religious things there is never one religion, the advent of modern standards of evidence, and the emotional component that is a factor in all religions. And particularly the observation that it seems absurd that only one religion can be true given that they all have such similarities and, very importantly, that religious views are so much a context of where one is born and brought up. Granted this last point is getting further removed but it is an important part of the very un-objectivity of religion which ties in with it’s pluralism and therefore incredulity that one is the correct one.

    “I consider that the gospels are not good evidence at all. Like other
    religious texts, they contain claims which are outrageously at odds with
    the world which we can observe for ourselves.”
    “What you mean is, they contain miracles. And since you don’t believe in miracles, obviously the gospels are not good evidence. Historiography be damned!
    Is your entire worldview based on wishful thinking, confirmation bias, and question-begging?”
    Yes miracles, but also other things like that there is a god, spirits and demons etc. I don’t believe in miracles Because of religious texts like the gospels! Because all religions texts can’t be right. Look, if there were no other religion in the world besides christianity, I would almost certainly be a christian.
    But no, historiography not be damned! It is distorted historiography that would lead one to think that historiography shows the gospels to be ‘true’.

    “Amusing, considering Paul came along some time after the apostles had already “started” Christianity!”

    To my knowledge, Paul’s writings were before the gospels, where the apostles are ‘evidenced’.

    “I think that people generally leave religion for rational reasons, and go to it for emotional ones.”
    “Another red herring—and a rubbish one at that…. ”

    I have to confess I am quite staggered by your comments here. Maybe you are just trying to gainsay anything I say. Or maybe its the whole no true scotsman thing that anyone who leaves must not have understood christianity, because otherwise this undermines my absolutist beliefs about it. Either way you are far, far from reality. There are just so many people I know who left christianity for reasons of lack of evidence. People usually brought up to believe, and when they grow up they wake up to the lack of perspective and evidence.

    “I think you can be rational and not be a Christian. You can rationally
    believe atheism. But in the final analysis, I don’t think there is any warrant
    for not being a Christian. You can’t have a warranted belief in the
    non-existence of the Christian God, or the falsehood of the Christian
    scriptures. Unsurprisingly, you don’t know what rationality is.”

    I know what rationality means. You can most certainly have warranted belief in there being no god, or in scriptures. I do, I have given many reasons.

    “I think that the need for religion to be true is so strong that people
    can spend their lives building systems to ‘prove’ it true, when in fact
    ultimately they are simply trying to prove it to themselves.”
    “Since non-Christians are in rebellion against God, and know it’s only a
    matter of time until they are judged, the need to escape God is so
    strong that they spend their lives building systems to “prove” either
    that he doesn’t exist, or that if he does he is not a threat to them.”

    I notice that every term in my statement is virtually undeniable, the thing that is debatable is what the statement means as a whole. Compare this to yours. Yours contains several two words which are very questionable: ‘god’ and ‘judged’. As a result my statement is objectively far more likely to be true. It is not based upon such dubious notions.

    “I’d say that the central argument in the God Delusion is simply “where the *^#) is the evidence for god?”
    So you didn’t read it then. Or watch the video above. Dawkins uses
    several arguments in the God Delusion, and they all fail miserably, as
    Craig demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt.
    Yes, and yes, some of the video. Dawkins may well have addressed some ‘logical’ arguments but I don’t think that is the main force of his book, a long time ago though it was since I read it. As I have said all along it’s about epistemology. You can use logical arguments to ‘prove’ anything, it’s all about how credulous you want to be with the assumptions. You ‘prove’ to yourself that christianity is true, a muslim ‘proves to himself that islam is true. So what? That doesn’t help. I’ve no doubt that if cosmologists were saying that the universe didn’t have a beginning, Craig would be claiming that that is what Genesis says oweing to the word ‘bara’. That is the point of religion, it’s impossible to disprove because it steers well clear (now that it has learned) away from observable, objective evidence

    “The claim that god exists is extraordinary, but the evidence is anything but.”
    “More begging the question. There’s nothing extraordinary about the claim
    that God exists unless you have presupposed that he doesn’t. And if God
    exists, then the claim that he doesn’t is the most extraordinary claim
    you could come up with.”

    This is begging the question in turn. If you want god to exist then of course you are going to rely on claiming that people are begging the question, because it can just be bleated out to anything that any worldview says. I’d like to see you come up with a position of evidence that it can’t be used on. This keeps things nicely in the realm of nobody-can-prove-anything-so-my-beliefs-can-remain-unexposed…..now I’m beginning to think that maybe you aren’t aware of this and you are at the mercy of your worldview.

    ‘Your comments will be blocked if you continue to present assertions and insults instead of arguments and evidence.”
    Hehe. Yes, using your definitions of those terms!

    “Considering your obvious ignorance of just about every topic we’ve
    discussed here; considering that Stuart and I have clearly spent a lot
    more time than you have investigating the evidence for and against God;
    and considering (if your performance is anything to go by) that we have
    also spent a great deal more time debating hostile interlocutors than
    you have”
    Clearly it hasn’t occurred to you that people in touch with the actual world don’t bother learning all sorts of arcane logical terms or biased christian epistemological terms, don’t confuse ‘investigating’ with trying to justify, or spend huge portions of their lives arguing about such topics. Why?

    They don’t need to.

    They don’t need to because truth is obvious. One only needs to do these things if what one wants to believe is not well evidenced by actual objective evidence, as opposed to ‘logical’ argument which is only logical if you are already biased toward accepting the propositions, choosey historiography, and begging-the-question excuses as to why evidence is not in the form that anyone would demand of most everything else in modern enlightened living.

  38. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    “With 2 philosophical proofs and 2 confirmations from science….”

    It has always seemed obvious to me that it wouldn’t make sense for the universe – as in, absolutely everything – to begin to exist because, well, what would cause it to begin to exist?

    Craig also seems to claim that the cause must be timeless, but I’m not sure where he pulls that from. I know of nothing timeless. Heck, we don’t even understand time completely let alone postulate something timeless. I presume it is tempting to jump at this if one is a theist but it is all in a very, very grey area. For instance, I don’t think physicists even think that the big bang was the ‘beginning’ of the universe. They point to the possibility of a multiverse or something unknown, and I’ve heard several say that we don’t have mathematics or models to explain singularities which is what our current model says the universe started out as!?! So as ‘proof’ goes I rather think the Kalam argument is pretty far from concrete. And I am, as always, suspicious as to why this ‘proof’, like any other for a god, is not in a clear, well understood area of our knowledge about the world. Predictably, it is at or over the limits of our knowledge. It wouldn’t be that hard for god to put blatant and undeniable proof in an obviously accessible way. Why put it at or over the limits of our knowledge?

    And I’m thinking also, “if there was good scientific evidence that the universe was eternal, would I consider this good evidence that there is no god?” I don’t think I would. The whole of this Kalam argument seems to depend upon the words “in the beginning”, a book written by iron age superstitious people! In fact, as I just responded to Bnonn, Genesis only says that god filled it, not made it.

    I hadn’t heard of the Bord, Guth, Vilenkin theorum. Looked it up and found this. Seems interesting.
    http://debunkingwlc.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/borde-guth-vilenkin/

  39. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman,

    Why would the notion that something began to exist become nonsensical if you did not know what caused that something to exist?And “obviously [nonsensical]”, in your words?

    The cause of the universe must be timeless because the universe includes time. The cause of time can’t (without creation) be in time.

    The big bang is the beginning of the universe on the standard model. Other cosmologist have proposed theories that extend the life of the universe past the big bang, but after the long series of these different models that have failed to commend themselves for any great length to the scientific community, that if true do not avert a beginning anyway, and the Bord-Guth-Vilenkin theorem (2003) I mentioned before, which holds for any universe that has in its history been in a state of cosmic expansion, it is no longer reasonable, in the current state of the discipline, to believe the universe is eternal (i.e. beginningless).

    Now, this is not a proof. Scientific reasoning will always be provisional. However, the predictions of the standard model (of a cosmic beginning) have not been averted. This is therefore an adequate confirmation of the beginning of the universe.

    You say you’re suspicious about these proofs being at the limits or even beyond of our knowledge when it wouldn’t have been hard for God to place evidence in an obvious, accessible, blatant, and undeniable reach of us. A few things. 1. Well, as I said, the scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe from Big Bang cosmology is not a proof. Its a confirmation of the proofs which are philosophical and which everyone has always had. 2. More importantly, you presume to know too much by considering it suspicious that the evidence for God should be more obvious, etc. For all you know God may have really good reasons for giving the (scant in your opinion) evidence he has. In fact, that seem plausible to me given Christian theism for various reasons. 3. I don’t think the knowledge of God is chiefly by the evidence (see Plantinga’s religious epistemology).

    You quote “if there was good evidence that the universe was eternal, would i consider this good evidence that there is no god?”. Not sure where you got this quoted question from. But I agree with you here – I don’t think I would either. I would say if that were the case that the KCA fails as a good argument for God’s existence. There are however other cosmological arguments (and design, and moral arguments, etc.) that are independent of any cosmological theory. Aquinas’ and Leibnitz’s cosmological arguments for instance don’t rely on the idea that universe began to exist.

    You are right – the Kalaam does rely on the universe having a beginning. Thats the second premise after all. This idea is found in scripture even if you don’t accept that the Genesis account of creation is talking about a creatio ex nihilo (I wrote something on this a while back). But the idea of the universe beginning to exist is not unique to scripture. It is found in 2 philosophical proofs and 2 confirmations from science as well. You should know that the project of Natural Theology does not rely on or reference revealed tradition, so lifting your nose to the arguments because the ideas they are based on are also found in the scripture is quite silly.

    Its evident to me that the author of the website you cite has not sufficiently engaged with Craig’s work in this area. If they had done their homework properly they would, for instance, know that Stephen Hawking’s no-boundary proposal is not eternal in the past, but has a beginning. Hawking’s model also has other problems with it, which Craig goes through elsewhere.

  40. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peter, there really seems nothing more to say to you. You’ve added nothing to the discussion with your latest comment. Your entire argumentative strategy revolves around assuming the non-existence of God, the falsehood of miracles, etc, and then pretending this proves the non-existence of God, the falsehood of miracles etc. If you have actual reasons for your atheism I expect you’d have presented them by now. As it is, you rely purely on your conviction that atheism is the most rational option and that belief in God is nonsensical. You don’t evaluate arguments and evidence that others put forward, or discuss it reasonably. So I don’t think there’s any point in you continuing to post here.

  41. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Marc, thanks for your comment. But why are you surprised that I am aggressive in defending my faith? Why
    are you surprised that I am insulting about unbelievers who come here,
    not seeking truth, but with the clear intention of mocking Christianity
    and of turning others away from it?

    After all, Peter is not a “seeker”. He is a
    scoffer. Someone stepping in to try to lead people away from Christ. So I am following (or trying to follow) biblical examples of dealing with such people. Elijah openly mocked the
    prophets of Baal, suggesting they call louder to their god in case he
    was off taking a leak. Paul aggressively calls
    the Jewish sorcerer a child of the devil to his face, describing him as an enemy of everything that is
    right, full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Jesus calls
    pagans filthy animals—pigs and dogs. Paul wishes the circumcision party would
    cut their penises off!

    is the primary objective of apologetics and debate merely to win the argument at all costs?

    No, I don’t think so. The primary objective of apologetics is to vindicate the Christian
    faith—to show that it is true beyond reasonable doubt. Both to unbelievers and Christians. That doesn’t just involve argumentation. It involves behavior too. There is sometimes a place for letting an argument go, even when you’re right. Indeed, I think that is something that is critical in face-to-face apologetics (and sometimes online). It’s often better to back off and show some sympathy or some patience, rather than push through and win the argument. The latter can close people off in anger or hurt; the former can keep the conversation open and display the grace of Christ.

    But there is also definitely a place for pushing hard for the win. Against hostile, patronizing opponents it is often very important. Not for them, necessarily, but for onlookers. Especially Christian onlookers. There’s nothing more demoralizing than seeing your team capitulate when you know it shouldn’t.

    This is not my interpretation, and certainly not how
    we were instructed to ‘give a reason for our hope’.

    Okay, well let’s talk about your interpretation. To whom does Peter say we must gently give a reason for the hope? And when? To persecutors, when we are behaving well
    when persecuted. So we should not respond with
    similar violence or cruelty or oppression. That doesn’t seem directly pertinent to a blog though.

    And of course, Peter’s statement is not
    the only place where we are told how to interact with unbelievers. We have to weigh it against some very different examples and advice re apologetic situations. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul reminds us we are at war, and that we should destroy the intellectual strongholds and
    pretensions of unbelievers. And I’ve already mentioned a few instances of leaders responding to hostile unbelievers.

    Indeed, these sorts of responses are useful precisely to show what
    complete garbage unbelievers bring to bear against Christianity. Pretending
    as if these sorts of “arguments”, especially the schoolyard psychoanalysis, are anything other than vacuous
    nonsense, as if they are in any sense worthy of respect or serious
    consideration and response, is extremely unhelpful.

    I am certain that many critics who visit this site
    have no interest in sophisticated, open-minded discussion, and are
    indeed only here to insult or abuse; does it follow that we should reply
    in turn?

    We should respond biblically. The question is, what does that response look like?

    Is the central role of apologetics not to respectfuly
    reason with someone and present God as the most rational worldview
    possible, answering their doubts and opening their heart to allow Christ
    in?

    No, it is to vindicate Christian truth-claims. Of course, what you describe is an ideal way of doing it. But that presupposes a respectful opponent. On the other
    hand, Proverbs gives us the option of answering a fool according to his
    folly. And of scoffers it advises us to kick them out (22:10).

    I just dont see anyone being encouraged to join a
    forum, or return,  when they see people (however they have conducted
    their argument themselves) being accused of “bulls**t” and told to “sod
    off”.

    Maybe you don’t. But speaking for myself, I would be much more encouraged to join a
    forum where trolls were dealt with decisively, and where reasonable debate
    was required. I would feel much more confident about having a
    productive discussion and learning something.

    Btw, you’ll notice I’ve had very amicable discussions with other atheists on
    this site. Commenters who are willing to listen and respond and keep
    the discussion moving forward are always welcome. That is exactly the
    point of this forum, and that is why I protect it from people like Peter
    who are incapable of doing this.

    That sort of anger and resentment is not from God

    I’m not sure why you interpret my responses as angry and resentful—let alone
    saying they’re not from God. I think you’d need to interact with the examples I
    cited before to get those allegations through. To my mind, this kind of response is biblical. It’s not an impulsive, emotional flare-up. I don’t feel a
    personal grievance against Peter. I am jealous for the truth, but that
    is quite a different thing to just being angry. I think one of the huge problems we have
    with discourse today is that people are not taught to separate arguments
    and emotions. Just because I call a spade a spade doesn’t mean the veins on my neck are popping out when I do it.

    I know from this site and the live events thats you guys have such an important ministry

    I appreciate your support. I think apologetics is
    critical to the church. But of course, God can tear down Thinking Matters and raise
    up a dozen similar organizations out of the earth if he wants to. Still, as
    long as we’re here, I’ll do my best; and I think part of that
    involves aggressively defending ourselves and our ministry from the
    aggressive attacks of Satan’s unwitting fanboys.

    William Lane Craig made the salient point – the greatest apologetic tool we have is the life each of us chooses to lead.

    God knows I am not as good a man as William Lane Craig. But I am also
    quite a different man. I’d be surprised if Craig had an aggressive bone
    in his body :) The church needs people like him. But as I’ve pointed out,
    there’s nothing unbiblical about aggression. The church needs that too.
    So I use the personality God gave me as best I can. I’d appreciate your
    prayers, and of course your response if you still disagree.

  42. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    hi.
    in response, how a Muslim would respond to a non-believer is not my primary concern Peter. My point is this: the role of Christian Apologetics is to rationaly explain the doubts and difficult questions that we should not try to pretend aren’t there. For some people this may well lead to them embracing the Christian faith, for others the evidence will still not point towards the validity of Christianity and will reject it, as is their right. My comment was simply that a Christian Apologetics website should not be abusing people who visit it’s forums, to me that seems pretty self-evident.
    thanks again
    marc

  43. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    bnonn im still surprised that you have launched into such a tirade against a quite reasonable observation. there seems to more than a hint of Pride present if I may say so.
    however you wish to pursue your apologetic strategy is entirely your decision. If you are convinced that abusing someone, who admittedly is less than gracious in his own posts, using terms like “bullshit” and telling him to “sod off” is appropriate and in keeping with the Christian paradigm, and you have nothing to be corrected for, then that is entirely your choice. You seem to miss my point that for every person you abuse there could be many more reading the discussion and taking your approach as what the Christian viewpoint entails.
    Im sorry if you feel offended that someone has criticised you; this was not my intention. I merely thought that this website cared about bringing people to salvation in Christ, not about demonstrating superior debating skills and keeping a scorecard of arguments won.

  44. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Hi Marc, I’m not sure how my reply is a tirade? A long angry or violent speech, usually of a censorious or denunciatory nature? I was just offering my own view on some issues you raised. Can you point me to why you think I was being angry? Seems like you’re seeing a lot of emotion in my comments that isn’t there when I write them :)

    If you are convinced that abusing someone, who admittedly is less than gracious in his own posts, using terms like “bullshit” and telling him to “sod off” is appropriate and in keeping with the Christian paradigm, and you have nothing to be corrected for, then that is entirely your choice.

    Well, again, this comes down to what the Bible shows us is appropriate. If it turns out I’ve misinterpreted or misapplied Scripture, then I’m quite open to your correction. You haven’t really interacted with that, though. It seems more like you just think I should be nicer. But I’m not sure what standard you’re using to draw that conclusion. I guess it seems obvious to you, but I’m afraid it’s not as clear to me.

    Regarding the specific language I used, I don’t think it’s exactly a paradigm case for abuse. Language has its context. For example, “bullshit” might not be a word you’d hear on the evening news, but in pretty much any conversational setting in New Zealand it wouldn’t prompt a second thought.

    You seem to miss my point that for every person you abuse there could be many more reading the discussion and taking your approach as what the Christian viewpoint entails.

    Well, I’ve defended my view that the Christian viewpoint does entail dealing harshly with scoffers. That it does involve standing up for your beliefs and roundly condeming false ones. Why should I be ashamed of that?

    You haven’t engaged with my defense. It seems like you want Christian discourse to always be “nice” and polite. But that seems like a reflection of your preferences, rather than what the Bible actually says.

    Im sorry if you feel offended that someone has criticised you

    But I don’t feel offended. How could I operate as a human being if I was offended any time someone criticized me, considering I started this website? Could you perhaps quote the relevant section of my earlier reply where you think I seem offended? I’m trying to understand why you keep imputing these emotions to me that simply aren’t there.

    Mind you, that does raise an interesting question: you seem to think I have wronged Peter in my previous comments. But if Peter himself doesn’t feel wronged, then it’s hard to see that you have a case.

    I merely thought that this website cared about bringing people to salvation in Christ, not about demonstrating superior debating skills and keeping a scorecard of arguments won.

    Well, you’ve accused me of pride, so now I’m going to accuse you of being passive-aggressive and not listening or engaging charitably with my remarks. I was quite clear on this in my previous reply to you. Please go back and read it again.

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