Help me make sence of William Lane Craigs nonsense

by bohm 104 Replies latest jw friends

  • bohm

    Today i tried to read a transcript of a debate William Lane Craig had a few years back. This particular argument which i have heard him give many times stumbled me for all the wrong reasons. The argument is as this: (

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    2. Objective values and duties do exist.

    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Ill easily give him (1), but notice how he seem to undermine himself with item (2):

    ...on the atheistic view, human beings are just animals. Their morality is just the result of socio-biological evolution. Just as members of a troupe of baboons will exhibit altruistic behavior because it is advantageous to the species in the struggle for survival, so human beings have evolved certain behavior patterns which enable us to cohabit in society and so are beneficial for the species. But there’s nothing objective about this herd morality.

    It feel a bit like beating a retard with a bat to point out that traits are selected for because they are advantageous to the individual not the species, but since noone would confuse dr. Craig with someone with real scientific insight i will let it go: Craig seem to agree that social, altruistic behavior as found in humans could evolve without the need for a creator. So whats the problem?:

    Now if you find such a view morally abhorrent, then I agree with you. It’s evident, I think, that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it. Quentin and I, in fact, agree on this. Actions like rape, cruelty, and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior; they're moral abominations. Some things are objectively wrong. Similarly love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good. Accordingly, we can affirm:

    2. Objective values and duties do exist.

    What is the argument? To sum up his position it seem to be this:

    1. Evolution can explain human behavior and observed morality (at least in principle).
    2. But he think there is another "type" of morality noone has observed and which he cannot formulate. He provide no objective evidence it exist and it explain nothing in humans that is not explained by evolution.
    3. ...nevertheless he feel it must be there. it is evident to me. deep down you know it to
    4. God can only explain the non-observed, non-formulated absolute morals.
    5. Therefore God exist!

    if i get WLC correct, he dont actually use his "objective morals" to explain any behavior, only to explain a gut feeling -- obviously i believe that it is impossible for morals to evolve without giving us the same, undeniable, gut feeling; how else does a gene tell a cave-man to behave in a certain way if not by an undeniable gut-feeling?

    So this is my question to those who know him better:

    • Does he believe the morals we observe could have evolved (at least in principle, they would just not be "objectively grounded", whatever that is)?
    • Is it correctly understood that WLC believe "objective morals" are only something that is required because he need it to be so (and feel that I must need it to be so to!) on an purely emotional basis?
  • jgnat

    I don't know this speaker better, and I am responding to your summation only, so please take my comments with a grain of salt.

    It's a common fundamentalist, dogmatist move to over-simplify opponent arguments, and then attack that straw man. Such is the argument that an evolutionist is necessarily athiest, and athiests believe that people behave no better than "animals" and therefore are driven only by selfish, self-serving motivation.

    You are growling around one of the flaws in this argument; the assumption that evolution favors the individual brute.

    I've done some reading this summer on the marvels of our brain (The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwarz, The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, and iconoclast by the neuroeconomist, Gregory Berns). From an evolutionary standpoint the brain is an expensive organ. It expends a great deal of energy for our mass. To justify this great cost, it must be efficient at processing information. The brain does this itself by going with the majority vote. Clusters of neurons that agree are nurtured. Minority neurons wither and die. This also seems to happen with people in crowds. The herd is much more successful than the individual. We are such social beings, sensitive to our networks of nurturing, obligations and kindnesses, that it feels completely natural. Because it is.

  • cofty

    I find WLC to be intensely frustrating to listen to, especially the way he enumerates everything, even the most banal and irrelevant points get a number in his debates. Then he builds further points on top of things he has asserted without evidence.

    This is one of his favourite refrains. He insists that ethical standards are based on an external moral foundation - which of course is his god. In his world if god doesn't exist then nobody has a basis to say that child abuse is wrong; its simply a matter of preference or personal taste. There is always plenty sensationalism and grandstanding in his lectures.

    In short his argument breaks down at point 2.

  • bohm

    JGnat: I thought WLC was making that kind of argument, "No God no good" (which is horribly broken, but thats nothing new). But thats what bothers me: When i read the transcript it seem like he is willing to accept that evolution can produce what we call "morals", he just argue on an entirely emotionally basis that there must be something else than the morals we actually have, and therefore God must exist.

  • bohm

    cofty: "This is one of his favourite refrains. He insists that ethical standards are based on an external moral foundation"

    Thats what i thought he would do, and its an emperical claim: Can evolution explain our morals, yes or no.

    but try to read the part i quoted, it does not actually seem to be his argument...

  • Giordano

    I checked him out as well. A true beliver. A very smart true believer but I'm not buying it.

    • Step 1: if morality is dependent upon God, then slaughtering children would be moral if God commanded it. Dr. Craig accepts this premise; he says so in an article on the Old Testament slaughter of the Canaanites on his website.
    • Step 2: No one could make slaughtering children moral just by commanding it. This is just as obvious as the things Craig has said about rape and torture being wrong.
    • Therefore, morality is not dependent upon God.”
  • bohm

    Giordano -- perhaps im not making myself clear, or perhaps i misread craig or he didnt make himself clear, but from what i can tell, Craig says that our morality, ie. altruism etc., could have evolved. he just dont like the option that there is no objective morality, even though it would have no observable effect.

    so its not:

    there can be no morality without objective morality.


    morality can evolve without objective morality, i just dont like the feeling it give me.

    i think its perhaps very smart, he might undermine his argument completely (but hey..), but he does so in a very subtle manner and he no longer have to argue from any evidence.

  • leavingwt

    IIRC, he was one of Loftus' professors.

  • Ding

    Suppose you tell someone, "Rape is morally wrong," and he says, "I don't like your moral hang-ups. I am going to do whatever I want to do; who are you to judge me?" None of your arguments convince him. He just says, "Those are your moral standards, not mine. I do whatever I can get away with."

    Is there in fact some objective basis on which he is wrong -- something that transcends the collective moral views of the majority of society?

    Giordano, on what objective basis would you say that commanding genocide is evil or unworthy of God?

  • bohm

    Ding: no ofcourse not. I mean, i can demonstrate that "raping people" is not a valid strategy in the sence i believe it both reduce both the overall fitness of society an his chance of reproducing (on average) -- but i mean what standard should there be? how should that work?

    but then i do understand him correctly, he dont object to a claim like "evolution can explain how we behave", he object to something else?

    I feel its a complete non-question... i have never thought about it like this. do you believe there is a kind of book (or "gods mind" if you prefer) titled "gods moral code" -- and because i can find "rape" in the "bad" section of the book of morals, raping somehow become "objectively wrong"?

    i dont see how that add anything to the matter at all

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