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Noted philosopher William Lane Craig responds to the American Humanist Association “Kids without God” web site

As I have just noted, the AHA has put up a blog promoting its brand of evolutionary materialist naturalism to children:

. . . the AHA has a web site that promotes its brand of naturalism — in effect, atheism rooted in evolutionary materialism, but with the attempt to promote human values and being “good without God” — to children (here) with a section for teens (here).

The sneering, condescendingly sophomoric tone and dismissivenes of the site is clear right from its declared (and very familiar-sounding) theme:

Welcome to Kids Without God, a site for the millions of young people around the world who have embraced science, rejected superstition, and are dedicated to being Good Without A God!

Noted Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig has therefore responded (in some very familiar terms) in a December 10th 2012 Washington Post blog column, “Humanism for children.”

We can excerpt the core of his summary argument:

[Now, the] renaissance of Christian philosophy [in academia since the 1950's]  has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone, apart from the resources of divine revelation like the Bible. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.

But what about the so-called “New Atheism” exemplified by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens? Doesn’t it signal a reversal of this trend? Not really. The New Atheism is, in fact, a pop cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in academic philosophy. In my debates with naturalistic philosophers and scientists I have been frankly stunned by their inability both to refute the various arguments for God and to provide any persuasive arguments for naturalism.

Moreover, naturalism faces severe problems of its own. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued persuasively that naturalism cannot even be rationally affirmed.

For if naturalism was true, the probability that our cognitive faculties would be reliable is pretty low. For those faculties have been shaped by a process of natural selection which does not select for truth but merely for survival. There are many ways in which an organism could survive without its beliefs’ being true. Hence, if naturalism were true, we could not have any confidence that our beliefs are true, including the belief in naturalism itself! Thus, naturalism seems to have a built-in defeater that renders it incapable of being rationally affirmed.

The problem for the humanist is even worse, however. For humanism is just one form of naturalism. It is a version of naturalism that affirms the objective value of human beings. But why think that if naturalism were true, human beings would have objective moral value? There are three options before us:

• The theist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in God.
• The humanist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in human beings.
• The nihilist maintains that moral values are ungrounded and therefore ultimately subjective and illusory.

 The humanist is thus engaged in a struggle on two fronts: on the one side against the theists and on the other side against the nihilists. This is important because it underlines the fact that humanism is not a default position. That is to say, even if the theist were wrong, that would not mean that the humanist is right. For if God does not exist, maybe it is the nihilist who is right . . .

He then stingingly concludes:

The new humanist Web site never encourages kids to think critically about the tough questions concerning the justification of humanism itself. Humanists tend to be condescendingly dismissive of theism and oblivious to nihilism. Meanwhile, they blithely extol the virtues of critical thinking, curiosity, and science, apparently unaware of the incoherence at the heart of their own worldview.

So, this is some of what is at stake, in a world where for instance, a few days ago, I noted how the UK’s Telegraph has observed the demographic trends in the UK over the past decade:

Since the last census in 2001, the number of Britons identifying themselves, however loosely, as Christians is down 13 percentage points to 59 per cent.

The number of respondents who say they have no religious faith is up 10 points to 25 per cent. Meanwhile, staggeringly, the Muslim population has grown from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15 million from 2001 to 2011.

The surge in Islamic belief is entirely a consequence of immigration. The spread of agnosticism and atheism is (though I haven’t yet seen the breakdown by age) largely generational.

It cannot be said too often: the default position of people born since 1980 is agnosticism or atheism. [emphasis original] Meanwhile, as a commenter points out below, net migration from the UK consists largely of people who would probably have ticked the Christian or C of E box. That hadn’t occurred to me, but it’s an important factor.

In the responses to this article by , I found a comment that seems to capture much of what the authors of the AHA site probably had in mind in using the themes “science” vs. “superstition”:

Another big factor in the spread of atheism and agnosticism is the internet and the easy exchange of information -  religions and other superstitions rely on ‘faith’, i.e. not questioning too deeply, and it is no coincidence that in developed countries the higher the level of education a person attains, the less likely they are to be religious. The more science shows us about the universe, the more fascinating it becomes, and the ramblings of 2000 year old middle eastern farmers seem less and less satisfying.

I set as an overnight assignment to jot down notes on what one thinks in response to this, promising to get back on the subject. When I did so, I commented in the following “bullets” (going on to remark on issues of culture foundations and renewal in light of the pioneering work by a noted philosopher-theologian of the last generation, Francis Schaeffer):

1 –> Observe the sting in the tail,  dismissive remarks about presumably ignorant, semi-literate at best and credulous peasants from 2000 years ago. In quick answer to the ignorance aspect, let us just say that the author of Romans was no ignoramus, and that though he was regarded circa AD 30 as less than a sophisticated man of letters by the Sanhedrin, the apostle John by the time he was finished was capable of penning the opening remarks in the gospel of John. Where also, of course Luke was a physician whose Luke-Acts two-volume history of the founding of the church has been demonstrated to be astonishingly good as history, which is exactly what it set out to be, cf Lk 1:1 – 4. To wit:

 Lk 1:1 Since [[a]as is well known] many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [[b]thorough] narrative of the surely established deeds which have been accomplished and fulfilled [c] in and among us,
Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the [[d]official] beginning [of Jesus’ ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of [e]the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God],
It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined] also after [f]having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

[My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been [g]orally instructed. [AMP]

2 –> The real point however, is that the well-poisoning dismissal of the apostles and other founding Christian figures, is meant to be a sneer at their willingness to believe in the miraculous. In short, there is a pretence here — it finds an infamous formulation in Hume’s sneers — that the only reason that one can believe in miracles, is to be ignorant and gullible.

3 –> But in fact this is little more than an excuse for selective hyperskepticism. (For simple instance, apart from a miracle of guidance that led my mom to the right doctor when she was in despair of my life, I would not be here to type this, and if it were not for a healing in response to — of all things, a TV preacher — I would not have the back to sit up to write this. [Where, as one who has served as an educator at secondary and tertiary levels and as a holder of two graduate level degrees, I cannot be dismissed as an ignoramus. And there are thousands and thousands of others who have been healed by God in answer to prayer. Not to mention the millions who have met and been transformed by the living God, in the face of the risen Christ including highly pivotal figures for the course of our civilisation, from Paul to Pascal to Kelvin, Planck and more.] )

4 –> Where (as can be seen here) the pivotal miracle — the resurrection of Jesus — stands up to serious scrutiny quite well indeed, especially by comparison with typical alternatives offered to explain it away.

5 –> And just what has science — as opposed to a priori materialism dressed up in the holy lab coat and declaring itself to be science — taught us about the cosmos and the world of life? That, we live in an observed cosmos that had a definite beginning, which cries out for a begin-ner. That the physics of that cosmos is astonishingly fine-tuned in many ways that set up a basis for Carbon-Chemistry, watery medium, cell based life. That such life has in its core, DNA which has in it digital code used to assemble proteins and provide regulation for many things that happen in the cell. That the cell is chock full of clever nanotech machines that carry out its work. That to make a new body plan for an organism, we need a large further increment of such information and functionally organised machines to carry it off. Where all of this points to design as the best explanation. [Cf. here.]

6 –> It is easy to set up a strawman caricature of faith as blind and irrational belief and dismiss it. What is not so easy is to address why it is that we have no alternative but to start from a set of first plausibles taken on faith in the foundation of our worldviews:

7 –> Where it can be shown that evolutionary materialism (never mind the lab coat disguise, this is a longstanding philosophy . . . ) is self referential — it has to account for all observed phenomena including our own selves — and runs into serious hot water when it tries to account for the credibility of the consciously aware, perceiving, knowing, reasoning mind. Not to mention, that it has in it no foundational IS that can safely bear the weight of OUGHT and (as Plato long ago warned us c. 360 BC in his The Laws, Bk X) ends up inviting the destructive nihilist notion that might and manipulation make ‘right.’

8 –> The equation of religion with superstition is of course little more than sneering. Here is what the apostle Peter, an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus who was then facing death at the hands of the mad tyrant Nero c. 65 AD, had to say by way of parting words, words we should soberly heed:

2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . .

19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain [--> he alludes here to especially the c. 700 BC prophecy in Isaiah 52 - 3, cf. here on in context . . . ], and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [NIV '84]

9 –> I do agree with the commenter that the easy and rapid spread of “information” by the web and other means is a major way that atheism and its fellow travellers are propagated today. But, he needs to understand that “information” is not the same thing as truth or sound reason. Indeed, where people are not adequately equipped to think straight and to straighten out spin-driven manipulative rhetoric, they easily fall prey to rumours, fallacious arguments and other manipulative devices online, on TV, in textbooks, announced as news and in museums dressed up in the holy lab coat.

10 –> That is why we need to do some serious re-thinking about what is going on with today’s aggressive but sophomoric atheism that imagines that Christianity is a delusion, and do something serious about it.

So, now, we see the wider worldview, grounds of mind and morality, as well as cultural trend and focus issues openly on the table for discussion.

What do you think? END

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57 Responses to Noted philosopher William Lane Craig responds to the American Humanist Association “Kids without God” web site

  1. F/N: It is also worth pointing out that, 2350 years ago, Plato — on the example of what had happened to Athens — was moved to remark as follows in his The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [ --> i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [ --> Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ --> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ --> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality and nihilism], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ --> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [ --> such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    In short, the issue of the amorality and relativism of evolutionary materialist views, and the open invitation to nihilism, have been on the table for a very long time.

    This, too, is well worth some thought.

    KF

  2. Craig is more a noted debater than noted philosopher, as I understand it. Big difference.

    While I imagine Craig’s own book series for kids encourages children to think critically about the tough questions concerning the justification of theistic views, I hope he doesn’t object to parents drawing on resources to help teach their own children about critical thinking, curiosity, and science.

    America is fairly God-soaked, in my opinion, so I value a resource that helps me talk with my three children about how some people can fully understand a particular religion and its underlying philosophy and conclude that it probably isn’t factually true or all that necessary.

    I was disappointed in Craig’s article. he had a chance to champion the cause of religious and non-religious freedom, a chance to encourage all parents to visit the AHA site with their kids. He chose instead the more predictable path.

    If interested, I put down my thoughts at my site.

  3. Mr Tanner:

    Pardon, but Mr Craig’s work on time linked to the Kalam cosmological argument and related themes has been noteworthy.

    I therefore find the attempt to dismiss him as a “debater” is little more than an attempt to belittle. (And even in debates, he has plainly racked up a solid track record against significant spokesmen of naturalism. That, too, is noteworthy.)

    Second, The issue of SOUND training in critical awareness and logical thinking is a major gap all over our civilisation, and it seems that children are not where it needs to start, but their teachers, the profs in too many colleges and the major media voices. You may want to look at my own suggestions here, here and here on as a start.

    That is, the matter is by no means so one-sided as your words in the natural wider context suggest, for we are fully aware that too many adherents, advocates and major spokesmen for atheism conflate rationalism with rationality and confuse science with scientism. And more.

    (Yes, training in sound critical awareness is great for those of years to be thinking for themselves [I think here on the Piaget point on access to formal operations thinking]. But I am also pointing to the matter of the manipulative targetting of kids here as a clear usurpation and undermining of parental priority and rights by abuse of media and institutional access to indoctrinate in a cluster of linked highly questionable ideologies. That is the other little point here, especially in the context where religious views are being denigrated by using the code words “science” vs. “superstition.” I am sure you are aware that religion and theism, properly understood, are not equal to “superstition.” In short, this is not training in genuine critical thinking we are addressing, but manipulation through deceitful and denigratory anti-christian rhetoric. The subtext is obvious. [The stuff on the site attacking Christmas etc is a further giveaway.])

    Mr Craig, contrary to your “disappoint[ment]” has done a valuable service by highlighting the fact of attempted indoctrination of children in a context that is manipulative.

    He further highlights the key failings of naturalism as a worldview, and he points out just how easily it opens the way to nihilism. As in, the exact same radical relativisation of values so that might and manipulation make ‘right’ that Plato warned against 2350 years ago.

    Those are serious issues that need to be addressed soberly, and in that context the suggestion that Christianity is against freedom, is inappropriate as well. (Cf here on on relevant but to often forgotten or even suppressed history.)

    Please, do better next time.

    KF

  4. Craig is more a noted debater than noted philosopher, as I understand it.

    And just how did you come to that understanding?

    America is God-soaked? And just how did you come to that understanding? My wife says the opposite- that Ameicans don’t care enough about God. It even upsets her that we don’t have a National religion.

  5. Not trying to dismiss him as “merely” a debater. Just pointing out that his notoriety is, as far as I know, based more on his debating than on his contributions to philosophy. Being a skillful debater is a very honorable thing, in any case.

    You suggest that the AHA site is “attempted indoctrination” and “manipulative.” Here’s what the AHA site says in its note to parents:

    Kids Without God was created and maintained by the American Humanist Association (AHA) in order to provide a digital resource for children, teenagers and parents who are interested in learning more about humanism and non-theism.

    The goal of this website is to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture and history.

    We hope that you and your kids will enjoy reading about Darwin the Dog, who is committed to an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion; and who is able to enjoy mythology while still differentiating between the real and the imaginary.

    Where’s the indoctrination? Where’s the manipulation? Perhaps one objects that the words “religion” and “mythology” are so close together? Seems like the attempt here is to be neutral with respect to any one religious belief system.

    In contrast, here’s what Craig says on the site selling his book series:

    PARENTS: We all know that small children can ask very profound questions, questions that sometimes leave us searching for answers! “What Is God Like?” is a series of ten illustrated booklets designed to help you teach Christian truth to your children and answer some of their deepest questions about God. These easy-to-understand booklets cover the principal attributes of God, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, self- existence, and so on.

    Excuse me, but “Christian truth”? These booklets–each available at the low, low price of $7.96 plus shipping–seem to attempt indoctrination and manipulation themselves.

    The “failings” of naturalism: already covered. There is not one settled philosophical worldview. Every single one is contested. Every single one has proponents and opponents. From my point of view, the failings of theistic worldviews and their documented, real-world implementation are far more serious than the failings of naturalism.

  6. It even upsets her that we don’t have a National religion.

    Oy! Hard to imagine anything scarier in this country than a national religion.

  7. It seems someone else tried to say that Dr. Craig was not really a philosopher not so long ago (he called him a ‘academic midget’ actually). That tactic at slurring Dr. Craig’s credentials backfired terribly for the person who did it:

    Thunderf00t vs William Lane Craig H-Index Backfires
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ysfy70Z0Wrc

    Perhaps you would care to admit you were wrong LarTanner? And save face?

  8. BA77,

    I never called WLC an academic midget. I never slurred his credentials as a philosopher.

    All I said was that his notoriety is based more on his skill as a debater than on his contributions to philosophy. If I am wrong, and philosophers think he’s the greatest thing since William of Ockham, then I’ll be filled with delight.

    But can we at least agree that he has notoriety as a debater?

    My goodness. It’s like trying to pull one’s boots out of mud around here.

  9. Though Dr. Craig’s credentials are certainly enviable for most ordinary people (I know I’m impressed), perhaps Anthony Flew, the leading atheistic philosopher for most of his adult life in the last half of the 20th century, is more of the caliber of philosopher you were thinking of when you said that Dr. Craig is not really that much of a philosopher but mostly just a debater?

    “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that the universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”
    Anthony Flew – world’s leading intellectual atheist for most of his adult life until his conversion a few years shortly before his death
    The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel (Nov. 25, 2012) – video
    http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/ee32d/

  10. Mr. Tanner,

    I don’t mind you saying that WLC has “notoriety” as a debater. What I do mind is your naive evaluation of the material on the “Kids Without God” website. You quote it

    Kids Without God was created and maintained by the American Humanist Association (AHA) in order to provide a digital resource for children, teenagers and parents who are interested in learning more about humanism and non-theism.
    The goal of this website is to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture and history.

    We hope that you and your kids will enjoy reading about Darwin the Dog, who is committed to an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion; and who is able to enjoy mythology while still differentiating between the real and the imaginary.

    And then ask what I assume are supposed to be rhetorical questions, “Where’s the indoctrination? Where’s the manipulation?”

    The fact that you can’t see it implies to me you are not very intellectually honest.

    In fact WLC’s site is much more honest. He believes Christianity is true and states it out front. This is advocacy, plain and simple and clear.

    The AHA site bias is more hidden and subtle ( read manipulative ). It uses nice sounding but ultimately meaningless phrases like, “encourage curiosity”, “critical thinking”, and “tolerance”, to create an us vs. them mentality.

    We at the AHA are the ones – in contrast to the Christians – who are curious, thinking and tolerate. The use of these terms creates a division between two groups. “Hey kids, if you are with us, on the AHA side, you are ‘curious, thinking and toleratant’. You certainly don’t want to be like the others who are so ‘uncurious, unthinking, and intolerant’ that they are not able to ‘[differentiate] between the real and the imaginary’.

    The fact that you held up this extremely manipulative message and then asked “Where’s the indoctrination? Where’s the manipulation?” does not prove that WLC is true and AHA is not. It does demonstrate though that you are not very sharp at analyzing text.

  11. LT: Pardon but by making the sort of dismissive and belittling credentials criticism you did, you invited the exchange you now face. You have also committed a black-white thinking fallacy, as there is much room between being a zero and being the greatest since Aquinas or the like. For instance, Craig is obviously not as eminent as Plantinga or the like, but that would not make him not noteworthy as I pointed out. In addition, all of this is on a polarising tangent off the issue on the table, as set up in the OP. There are several issues on the merits that need to be addressed, and you have the background to address them. Try, the issue of the self referential incoherence of evolutionary materialism, the issue of such lacking a worldview foundational IS capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT which leads to the challenge on the table since Plato concerning nihilism. And you can try the issue of respecting parents enough to refrain from indoctrinating children in rationalism, materialism and radical relativism in the name of “science” vs “superstition” and being “good without a God.” (I would say that teaching children from say 8 or 9 up about how to warrant a claim and how science works so that they are aware of appeals to emotion, authority and fact-logic are enough. Going beyond and indoctrinating them in questionable ideologies in ways that disrespect and subvert parents is improper. And when it comes to things like literature, I draw a very sharp line at teen books that teach people rebellion and to suspect and disrespect parents unduly. I here have in mind a particular book, Harriet’s Daughter. There are some features of the Harry Potter series that leave me less than impressed too. As for Golden Compass . . . ) So, could we refocus the thread on substantial issues? KF

  12. Short addendum Mr. Tanner just to be clear. Believing something to be true and stating it does not make you manipulative. Pretending to have an open mind, when you have such contempt for the other position that you subtly label it “imaginary” is the essence of manipulation.

  13. The substantial issues are that I am happy to have an online resource that reinforces messages I want communicated to my three children:

    (a) Your behavior towards others, your surroundings, and yourself determines whether you are a good person. You don’t need to believe in God or have a religion to be as good a person as anyone else.
    (b) You can appreciate the diversity of human religions, just like you can appreciate human cultures, histories, stories, superstitions, and struggles.

    But I can’t leave the Craig thing alone just yet. Here are some posts, all from the religious philosophy site Prosblogion, referencing Craig:

    (1) I’ve now watched this debate between William Lane Craig and Shelly Kagan twice: once alone and once with interested ethics students (for extra credit!). It’s very good, and Kagan pushed buttons on Craig’s arguments in many of the ways I thought that his arguments should be pushed.

    (2) Also, William Lane Craig recently debated Fransisco Ayala on the subject of intelligent design.

    (3) It would not be the first time for Christians to make empirical claims about skeptics (or atheists about believers). William Lane Craig has (in)famously defended the view that many of those who don’t ever hear the gospel are transworld damned (are such that the relevant counterfactuals of freedom which are true of them are such that they wouldn’t accept the gospel if it had been offered).

    (4) I just got back a few hours ago from a debate between William Lane Craig and Wesley Morriston on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It was held at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. I thought it was quite an enjoyable debate.

    (5) William Lane Craig tells his story of the process by which he earned his PH.D.s.

    (6) William Lane Craig wrote the cover story for this month’s edition of Christianity Today. It can be found here. He speaks of a renaissance of Christian/theistic philosophy in secular academia, he reviews some of the main arguments for God’s existence, and he talks about the relevance of arguments in today’s “postmodern culture”.

    (7) Here’s a link to a recent debate between William Lane Craig and Louise Antony on whether or not God is necessary for morality. It was interesting for me since reading Craig’s debates and apologetics works helped get me into philosophy, and Antony was one of my professors when I was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University. Both are moral realists and affirm that there are objective moral truths. I didn’t find Craig’s arguments that God is necessary for morality to be convincing.

    (8) I recently attended a debate here in Liverpool featuring William Lane Craig, and when someone posed the question to him of the validity of other religions, he acknowledged that the three Abrahamic faiths were coherent because they had a transcendent God as a central doctrine, whereas other religions such as Shinto, Taoism, and Advaita Vedanta Hinduism do not.

    (9) On March 28th William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman engaged in a debate on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t usually post about apologetically matters, but there is a bit of philosophically interesting material in the debate.

    (10) I happen to think the B-theory [of time] is correct, and I think it’s the best way to avoid the contradiction, but I don’t want to rule out a third way of avoiding the argument without examining it more closely. Several philosophers have tried to argue that you can maintain an A-theory of time while retaining God’s omniscience and atemporality without leading to the contradiction. The two I know the most about are from William Lane Craig and Brian Lefow.

    Craig’s debating shows up in 6 of 10 items. Entries 3, 7, and 10 seem closer to discussing Craig’s philosophy.

  14. JDH@10,

    It seems to me like you are projecting. For example, where do you get “versus”? Show me the words/phrases that say this.

    How would you revise the wording so that the advocacy was more up-front, like Craig’s?

    One thing I find remakable about Craig’s honest advocacy: He promises that his books help parents teach “Christian truth.”

    I wonder what Christian truth is. Are there other kinds or truth? Or are there other pathways to truth? It’s a vague statement yet there the promise is, to help treat “Christian truth.”

  15. Mr Tanner:

    There are some serious worldview and culture trend issues connected to naturalism.

    As a start, kindly define and ground what good means and why it has any morally binding force on naturalistic worldview premises. As well, kindly show us why we should take the c4redibility of mind, reasoning and knowing seriously on naturalistic premises in light of the issues and concerns regarding evolutionary materialism.

    JDH has given enough food for thought for the moment on the manipulation issue. There is mo0re, but let this stand for the moment with my remarks on the use of code words such as “science” vs “superstition,” and “good without a God.” There is serious reason to be concerned that such are very loaded and subtly polarising in a way that is unfair and denigratory. Frankly your remarks on freedom give me further concern.

    You will note, finally, that you pounced on a simple word, that I said Craig is notable, to make a wedge to polarise the thread and to belittle him, which comes across strongly as a way to poison the atmosphere and avoid substantial discussion.

    Since you insist, I must stand up as rthe person who used the term noteworthy.

    I have more than given enough reason to see that Mr Craig has done noteworthy philosophy, indeed he is a part of a movement that has brought back the phil arguments concerning God from a dismissive backwater — that is where they were when I was a college student — to major focus, and he made a significant contribution to this with his Kalam cosmological argument.

    That is well worth taking note of, as are his remarks on time.

    You and I know full well that when one in a context that deals with substance you say someone is known more as a debater than a philosopher, you are belittling him.

    And BTW, it is several times now that You have tried stunts like this with me, e.g. when you pretended that Alinsky was not a neo-Marxist, which was abundantly easily shown to be so. The same with how you tried to twist an inference on signs and the like into a debate on the ins and outs of Peirce’s semiotics etc.

    It is time for such rhetorical games to stop, the matters on the table are far too serious for such stunts.

    KF

  16. Mr Tanner:

    I have one final word for you for now in response to 13:

    SUBTEXT

    Please think on it.

    KF

  17. I do note that Craig’s website speaks to the parents, not to the kids. The whole website is geared to adults, not kids.

  18. lars you state: “(a) Your behavior towards others, your surroundings, and yourself determines whether you are a good person. You don’t need to believe in God or have a religion to be as good a person as anyone else.”

    True, Dr. Craig never claimed otherwise, but you cannot rationally account for your objective morality apart from God. that is exactly what Dr. Craig, and others, have consistently maintained. You can lie to yourself if you want, but those are just the plain facts!:

    This following short video clearly shows, in a rather graphic fashion, the ‘moral dilemma’ that atheists face when trying to ground objective morality;

    Cruel Logic – video
    Description; A brilliant serial killer videotapes his debates with college faculty victims. The topic of his debate with his victim: His moral right to kill them.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qd1LPRJLnI

    The Knock-Down Argument Against Atheist Sam Harris’ moral landscape argument – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL_vAH2NIPc

    Richard Dawkins and the Moral Argument for God by William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f3I2QGpucs

    Objective Morality (1 of 5) – William Lane Craig – video playlist
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....BB622A22F7

    Is God Good? (Free will and the problem of evil) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

    Here is a complete reading of C. S. Lewis’s classic book ‘Mere Christianity’ on youtube. Chapter 3 deals with the reality of the moral law within man.

    Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis – Easy to follow playlist:
    http://www.truthaccordingtoscr.....ty-toc.php

    Top Ten Reasons We Know the New Testament is True – Frank Turek – video – November 2011
    (41:00 minute mark – Despite what is commonly believed, of someone being ‘good enough’ to go to heaven, in reality both Mother Teresa and Hitler fall short of the moral perfection required to meet the perfection of God’s objective moral code)
    http://saddleback.com/mc/m/5e22f/

    Objective Morality – The Objections – Frank Turek – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5MWBsPf5pg

    The Moral Impact Of Darwinism On Society – Dr. Phil Fernandes – video
    http://www.nwcreation.net/vide.....ciety.html

  19. KF@15,

    Your whole comment is over-the-top.

    a –> I am aware of what you call the “serious worldview and culture trend issues” that are connected to naturalism.

    b –> Theism, to refer to a broad and diverse body of thinking, has no less “serious worldview and culture trend issues.”

    c –> This is not to deny the issues, minimize them, or play tu quoque.

    d –> But let’s not pretend that naturalism is defeated or doesn’t have legitimate philosophical defenses.

    e –> Let’s also not pretend that theism has overcome its own serious philosophical challenges.

    f –> I will not travel down the rabbit hole of defining good in a naturalistic context. Haven’t we had this discussion far too many times? You obviously know naturalism, so you know the answer to the question you ask.

    g –> Have you ever thought of trying to defend naturalism? It might make a good exercise.

    h –> Let’s focus on one “code word,” as you say. I honestly think that “Good without God” is a perfectly acceptable and inoffensive phrase. In American political discourse, candidates and pundits routinely assert that people without religion, or with the wrong religion, are morally suspect or even inferior. If “Good without God” is unacceptable to you, what would you suggest as an improvement for the same idea?

    i –> The title of the post and the first mention of Craig use the phrase “noted philosopher.” I saw it and felt it was worth clarifying. It matters, however, because Craig missed a good chance to be decent. Why should he care what the AHA site says? Does he criticize sites for Jewish kids? Does he go after Catholics, or Muslims, or Mormons?

    j –> I’ve shown amply that Craig is in fact a debater, and that people know him from debates. Maybe his philosophical works are known, cited, and admired widely. I don’t know, and I don’t think it makes calling Craig a “noted debater” and insult at all.

    k –> I don’t recall the Alinsky thing. I’m sure you’ll be happy to link to it. The Peirce thing is more serious. What makes you think you can co-opt the theories of other people, plug them into a worldview, and then not be called to account for how exactly you got warrant to do it?

    l –> The matters on the table are serious. I want to educate my children to be kind, curious, reality-based individuals who are free to pursue their intellectual passions and social dreams.

    m –> I am not playing “rhetorical games,” as you say. Indeed, you might consider monitoring your own language more closely. But I have said all I want to on the topic, and I have not intentionally left any loose ends. And so I will respectfully depart from the conversation.

    n –> I’ve left some questions up above for you. Answer them or don’t. Your choice.

  20. LarTanner:

    Hard to imagine anything scarier in this country than a national religion.

    This country with no religion at all, ie one run on Darwinian principles, would be even scarier. I wouldn’t want either of those scenarios.

  21. “Hard to imagine anything scarier in this country than a national religion”

    Actually this country has the free exercise of religion, not a state religion. There is a little thing called the first amendment you may want to read up on!

    but let me show you something way scarier than a state sponsored religion (although it can be argued forcefully that atheism is a religion):

    The unmitigated horror visited upon man, by state sponsored atheism, would be hard to exaggerate,,, Here’s what happens when Atheists/evolutionists/non-Christians take control of Government:

    “169,202,000 Murdered: Summary and Conclusions [20th Century Democide]
    I BACKGROUND
    2. The New Concept of Democide [Definition of Democide]
    3. Over 133,147,000 Murdered: Pre-Twentieth Century Democide
    II 128,168,000 VICTIMS: THE DEKA-MEGAMURDERERS
    4. 61,911,000 Murdered: The Soviet Gulag State
    5. 35,236,000 Murdered: The Communist Chinese Ant Hill
    6. 20,946,000 Murdered: The Nazi Genocide State
    7. 10,214,000 Murdered: The Depraved Nationalist Regime
    III 19,178,000 VICTIMS: THE LESSER MEGA-MURDERERS
    8. 5,964,000 Murdered: Japan’s Savage Military
    9. 2,035,000 Murdered: The Khmer Rouge Hell State
    10. 1,883,000 Murdered: Turkey’s Genocidal Purges
    11. 1,670,000 Murdered: The Vietnamese War State
    12. 1,585,000 Murdered: Poland’s Ethnic Cleansing
    13. 1,503,000 Murdered: The Pakistani Cutthroat State
    14. 1,072,000 Murdered: Tito’s Slaughterhouse
    IV 4,145,000 VICTIMS: SUSPECTED MEGAMURDERERS
    15. 1,663,000 Murdered? Orwellian North Korea
    16. 1,417,000 Murdered? Barbarous Mexico
    17. 1,066,000 Murdered? Feudal Russia”

    This is, in reality, probably just a drop in the bucket. Who knows how many undocumented murders there were. It also doesn’t count all the millions of abortions from around the world.
    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM

  22. Mr. Tanner,

    Perhaps you have previously discussed this with KF or others and are tired of it, but I’d like to see your response to the serious challenges to naturalism presented by Mr. Craig.

    I am going to teach my kids that naturalism is a superstition.

  23. Collin:

    Consistently this is the issue that is ducked, dodged or diverted from by the rhetoric of polarisation.

    I would like to see a sober response and I know that Mr Tanner is qualified to put forward the case, that is why I have called on him to do so.

    He can start with defining good and grounding it on a naturalist view, in a way that gives an IS that grounds OUGHTs (including that one ought not to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a little child).

    Ya see, this is a case where every tub must stand on its own bottom, and he knows that I have already laid out the first 101 level case regarding theism here on in context — including addressing the main objections and difficulties that ethical theism has and in particular Judaeo-Christian theism as well.

    It’s his turn now.

    And, actually that is exactly what Dr Craig was saying.

    KF

  24. F/N: Don’t bring me to the point where I feel that I need to put up a second 6,000 word, lay out your positive case in light of serious issues essay challenge.

  25. F/N 2: Forgive me, but while I do understand the issue that an established church can be a source of problems (per the issue of the Middle ages), it seems to me not a little over the top to hear people pretending that, after the contribution of Christians to the rise of modern liberty and democracy, such is a serious, live issue. Frankly, the case of places like the UK [which STILL has an established church] or Barbados or my native Jamaica, which had established or de facto established churches up to c 1970, gives me a very different perspective. One that leads me to suspect that we are seeing here a case of projection to justify de facto establishment of the evolutionary materialist secular humanist anti-church. That church declares, nature is all that exists and science — duly dressed in the holy lab coat {which I have worn in my time, as well as the even better boiler suit . . . ) — is its true prophet, yea and amen. With — as BA reminds us — the ghosts of over 100 million victims of such states over the past 100 years moaning out warnings that we should not go there. Let’s be objective, the real issue is not establishment of a church, it is unchecked, unaccountable power in the hands of finite, fallible, morally struggling/fallen, too often ill-willed men. And that can be found under any ideology, once the people cease from that eternal vigilance that is the price of freedom. With the various flavours of political messiahs with quack nostrums as chief exhibits in point. KF

  26. Your employment of the term, ‘notorious’ as regards William Craig’s total dominance in his philosophical debates with materialists, ignores the palpable fact that it helps enormously to have truth on your side, and to have an impressive mastery of the subject debated.

    What you have done, instead, is to use disparaging language in the same way that an invading superpower and occupier of other very much less powerful countries, routinely use such language, when alluding to the indigenous freedom-fighters of such invaded nations as, ‘terrorists’.

    Well, you are currently on the side of the corporate, scientific Establishment, but it is an Establishment that is such a ‘superpower’, intellectually, in name only. It is an Establishment of hirelings, bought and paid for. Not that they would not do their work gratis, simply because they feel that mainstream religion threatens their life-style and/or feeling of self-worth.

    Its/their position is wholly predicated on nonsense. So, there is not even any need for a parallel, ‘asymmetric’ warfare on the part of the best philosophers – inevitably those (irrespective of their own level of expertise among their peers), not viscerally motivated by an animus towards theism and, in particular, Christianity.

    On the contrary, such Christian polemicists as William Craig and John(?) Lennox are able to debate and master their materialist opponents with ease; so that to debate with materialists ‘head-on’ is the best case scenario for them.

    Hence the extra-legal use of the term, ‘notorious’ by materialists, such as ‘our friend’, in order to divert attention away from their own inadequacy and professional incompetence. They are rather like an adulterous wife, who, for want of ammunition against her husband’s disparagement of her behaviour, is reduced to taunting him that her lover is a ‘better’ lover!

    Science is already unambiguously on the side of theism; only those unfortunate souls who wish to see ambiguity, or nothing of merit in theism could do so – but, only irrationally. Deeply, profoundly, fathomlessly irrationally. (OK, Roget. That’s enough!)

  27. KF at 25,

    And we know how to deal with those state churches: force them to water down their doctrine to appeal to “modern sensibilities.”

  28. LT:

    With all respect, there you go again, and you plainly refuse to acknowledge that Craig is exactly what I noted. (And your remarks on Alinsky, were an outrage. Your tactics on Peirce were a twisting of my words and an injection of issues that did not belong there. Which is exactly what you are doing with my use of the word “Noted” with Craig.)

    I get the distinct impression that you and ilk resent Craig’s repeated success in public debates, and wish to continue your stranglehold on the academy undisturbed. Frankly, you seem to think that by belittling him as a debater it is enough to discredit him as raising significant issues and doing noteworthy work as a philosopher.

    A general note is in order.

    For, you have a clear habit of seeking to pounce on imagined flaws or points you can spin out into distractive polarising debates on side-issues.

    Enough of that.

    I have taken oit up today only to show that we see through it, drop it and deal with serious matters seriously.

    Where, BTW, Jewish or Islamic or Buddhist or Hindu sites by and large do not manipulate, they announce themselves, just as Craig does. The pretence to have cornered the market on “science” vs “superstition,” and that by putting up clever slogans on being “good without God,” as well as tendentious redefinitions of atheism intended to duck needing to warrant the explicit or just sub-surface claims to know that there is no God, all speak of a profoundly manipulative attitude and approach. Just as JDH pointed out.

    I can and will address substantial issues later, but for now it is pretty clear that you need to start from the implication of the Hume guillotine type argument, that the only place that OUGHT can be grounded in a worldview is just there, its foundations.

    So now, produce the IS in naturalism that gives us a stable understanding of good in the face of nihilism, and which then goes on to show why we OUGHT to be good.

    Do so, without borrowing, unacknowledged, from the lingering heritage of the Judaeo-Christian frame in our civilisation.

    You have all the qualifications you need to address the matter solidly on the merits if you will.

    Trying to fob it off on me as though it is my fault that matter, energy, space and time do not seem to provide a good basis for the credibility of the mind or the grounding of morals, is yet another distraction.

    Enough of such.

    It is time to put up.

    KF

  29. ‘I wonder what Christian truth is. Are there other kinds or truth? Or are there other pathways to truth? It’s a vague statement yet there the promise is, to help treat “Christian truth.”’

    Well, Mr Tanner, is it really so difficult to identify it as a contraction of ‘the truth about Christianity’.

    In any case, since all truth devolves from the Christian God, the fact of even the most profoundly abstruse truths of physics at micro and macro level being Christian truths would seldom be germane to its study most of the time – except, as the background assumption, paving the way for an acceptance of paradoxes. There is no way that a necessarily mechanistic atheist could have been a pioneer of quantum physics.

    It was sad to read in the book on the friendship of Einstein and Godel, the author’s palpably erroneous claim, that Einstein was a pantheist/materialist. In fact, there are extraordinarily well-known quotes of Einstein, which clearly show that he was very much a panENtheist; one who believed in a great Spirit, vivifying and governing everything. Intelligent Design was a ‘given’ for all those great pioneers of the new physics.

  30. LarTanner@14

    I do not with to yell at you, talk past you, or denigrate you. Now that I have challenged you and gotten your attention, I will attempt to reply in a polite and concise as manner as possible.

    It seems to me like you are projecting. For example, where do you get “versus”? Show me the words/phrases that say this.

    Make no mistake, this is a versus debate. And both sides have their arguments. The manipulative part is the assumption made by the writer that those that are curious, capable of critical thinking, and tolerant all will favor humanism. He (or she to be PC) can’t see this because this is part of his furniture. He has grown up with this assumption that humanism is rational, and Christianity is irrational. It’s not his fault, it’s just an assumption he does not even see he is making.

    But if the AHA was really interested in curiosity – it would want humanists to be curious about Christianity. If it was really interested in critical thinking it would post wonderful essays that challenge the non-theist position by the likes of Aquinas and Gödel. If it was really interested in “tolerance” it would tolerate different viewpoints. And it would not say anything close to the “real and the imaginary.” The term “real” is a loaded term. It implies in a particularly manipulative way that humanism is true and that religion is false.

    How would you revise the wording so that the advocacy was more up-front, like Craig’s?

    Don’t state the goal is to “…encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance..” when that is not even close to being the goal. The actual goal of the site is that young people would be, “…committed to an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion…” So clearly state what the goal of the site is.

    “The goal of this website is to support the position that it is possible to have an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion.”

    That is clear. It does not misstate a vague goal about curiosity, thinking, tolerance and then allow Darwin the Dog to sneak in the actual goal as a side comment.

    The writer is confusing his goal with his wish. Because of his position, he wishes that being “C, CT, and T” leads to Humanism. But if Humanism is wrong, and his opponents are actually right – being “C, CT, and T” would actually lead to theism or even Christianity.

    One thing I find remakable about Craig’s honest advocacy: He promises that his books help parents teach “Christian truth.”

    I wonder what Christian truth is. Are there other kinds or truth? Or are there other pathways to truth? It’s a vague statement yet there the promise is, to help treat “Christian truth.”

    Here you are pettifogging. Craig is just saying Christian worldview. Or what we believe. He is advocating his position. Please don’t fall into the trap of grabbing at little phrases and taking off on a non-issue.

    Hope that helps.

  31. BTW – LarTanner one more point. My son and daughter both attended/attend religious private high schools. Both schools are very tolerant of various opinions, but had stated beliefs. In their theology and sociology classes they discussed intelligently many different viewpoints. They have been forced by excellent teachers to learn to put forward their own opinion and then support it. They have not been taught to dogmatically state their positions and expect others to believe it. If you want your children to get a good education, I highly suggest you check out any of the religious alternatives available to you. I can guarantee you will not find as high a quality of education at the politically correct public schools.

  32. ‘The manipulative part is the assumption made by the writer that those that are curious, capable of critical thinking, and tolerant all will favor humanism.’

    JDH, atheistic humanism is an oxymoron. ‘Once God is lost sight of, man is lost sight of,’ as the figures for the mass murders by atheist regimes and serial killers of the last century cited by BA, and the on-going mass abortions of this new century, all too cogently attest.

    Laughable, isn’t it, JDH. In the UK, the educational record of religious schools, generally, is far better than that of the others, so the infuriated atheists want them secularized!

    As for Darwin, what a confused man he was. He really didn’t have a head for science. Stamp-collecting, yes. He loved to collect specimens of plants, etc. Indeed, he dropped out of medical school. Though he went on to obtain his degree in theology.

    In fact, there is good reason to believe Lady Hope’s account of her visit to him, before he died was the truth. He was reading the Bible and talked to her about it. Moreover, quite recently, entries were discovered in a journal of the London Missionary Society recording regular, monthly, charitable donations to them for the missions right up until his death.

    He seemed hostile to the Tierra del Fuegan Indians, and thought Christian missionary work among them would be very beneficial. On the other hand, he had the highest opinion of the sub-Saharan African slaves he encountered in Brazil, both in terms of their physique and of their intelligence, in contrast to those of their Caucasian owners. He seems to have had at least an inkling of the horrors his mad theorizing about Evolution would lead to.

    I find it surreally incomprehensible that atheists should still be able to cling to his extraordinary, facile fantasizing about the putative ‘primordial soup’, which surely remains the only explanation, however risibly vacuous, that they can adduce as the seminal source of all their wild conjectures relating to evolution.

  33. Whether or not “Good without God” is perfectly acceptable and inoffensive will depend on who is defining good and how they choose to define it. Mother Theresa and Jeffrey Dahmer likely had different definitions. The problem arises in how to convincingly argue not only that Mother Theresa’s “good” is superior, but also that Dahmer should be in any way beholden to it.

  34. Phinehas, it is interesting that you would bring up Mother Theresa as an example of ‘good’. At the 41:00 minute mark of the following video, despite what is commonly believed, of someone being ‘good enough’ to go to heaven, in reality both Mother Teresa and Hitler fall short of the moral perfection required to meet the perfection of God’s objective moral code.

    Top Ten Reasons We Know the New Testament is True – Frank Turek – video – November 2011
    http://saddleback.com/mc/m/5e22f/

    Romans 3:23
    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Romans 6:23
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Which is why the Sacrifice of Christ is necessary on our behalf. Since God is the maximally great being it is impossible for our unredeemed sin to dwell in His presence. i.e. this the mystery of the infinite grace found in propitiation that has kept theologians busy for centuries:

    G.O.S.P.E.L. – poetry slam – video
    https://vimeo.com/20960385

    Why Did Jesus Have to Die? – Propitiation Revisited – Josh McDowell
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=KYWW6GNX

    Footnote:

    Although Darwinists have no way of ever explaining the existence of moral good and evil in the world, (in fact if they were consistent in their atheism they would deny the existence of good and evil altogether), they cannot escape the fact that they themselves are constantly evaluating the moral evil and goodness of the world around them:

    Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional, brain study shows – November 29, 2012
    Excerpt: People are able to detect, within a split second, if a hurtful action they are witnessing is intentional or accidental, new research on the brain at the University of Chicago shows.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....brain.html

    Although in the preceding study the authors try to credit such ‘instant’ discernment of the morality of the situation to a ‘evolved’ physiological response, I bet my bottom dollar, as with transcendent free will (Zeilinger, delayed choice experiment), it will be found to be imbedded at a much deeper level, on the ‘spiritual/consciousness’ level.

    Verse and Music:

    Jeremiah 31:33
    ,,,“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.

    Carrie Underwood – Temporary Home
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LraOiHUltak

  35. Perhaps a much more fitting song:

    Avalon – I don’t want to go – lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOEOX_Rxm8E

  36. Participants & onlookers:

    This morning I want to go elsewhere to comment on the tragic events of yesterday in China and the US, and then come back.

    In the meanwhile, I note that the OP and thread deal with a set of issues that are quite close to home, and so elicit responses that are often quite loaded. That is what, unfortunately, we saw yesterday.

    Looking back, I am astonished at how a determined advocate can turn an unremarkable comment into an occasion to drag red herring distractors across to strawman caricatures loaded with ad hominems and set alight to cloud, distract, polarise etc. And of course, it creates a strain that is off-putting, which frankly is often quite intentional, as the whole point is to go away from what is going where one would not go, to blunt what one does not wish to address. A sad case.

    I first express my appreciation for those who helped try to pull matters back into reasonable balance, and trust that next time around — this is a habitual pattern on this matter — we will be able to move the matter forward effectively. For next time, I will try harder to point out and return to on-track.

    I also plead with LT, that here are significant and more substantial matters to address than loaded parsing of “noted” and well-poisoning remarks like commenting on how a course reader/manual is retailed for was it US$ 7.95. (BTW, when I recently tried to sketch out some back of the envelope numbers for course manuals [with an intro to Java based pgg for all (sorry Mung, not Ruby!) intended to help shift my region to genuine digital productivity rather than digital consumption and moving from paper to electronic document production for clerical work, particularly in mind . . . ], in a day when College texts are running like US$ 80 – 200 easily, $ 7 – 10 came across as quite reasonable for a print resource; i.e. the belittling hint at “huckster” above, is patently unfair. Sadly, it is a clear instance of a habitual rhetorical pattern.)

    For the moment, I will leave two links that are worth pondering on naturalism, the underlying context for all of this:

    1: IEP’s article on Naturalism (I find this reference to quite often be a more informative read than the Stanford Enc Phil, which I find too often tends to get bogged down in academic minutiae and misses the sort of get the basics straight then deal with controversies as controversies focus that is appropriate for a good encyclopedic discussion.)

    2: Noted — yes, here we go again — Christian philosopher Dallas Willard on Naturalism’s Incapacity to Capture the Good Will

    As I move on for the moment, let me clip how DW begins, as a way to rebalance focus:

    One area that has been a problem for the Naturalistic outlook has been the ethical. Judgments about who is a good or bad person, what is the right or wrong act and what ought or ought not to be done have proven resistant, to say the least, to translation into or replacement by judgments about material or physical reality. Moral judgments frankly seem, on almost any reading, to be about something other than that reality. Conversely, one can say that Naturalism (in the modern sense of the term) has presented a problem for morality, and has seemed to many to undermine any prospect of a moral basis for individual or collective human life.

    But it is very difficult, I find, clearly to join the issue or issues involved here.

    My own thought is that the problem is real and deep, pointing to the worldviews significance of Hume’s infamous Guillotine “surpiz’d” argument on how “suddenly” one moves from IS to OUGHT in reasoning and how OUGHT then appears groundless. Namely, that there is one place where the moral can be successfully introduced into a worldview: its finitely remote foundation, in a context where one addresses as well the comparative difficulties issues across worldviews.

    So, what do you all think?

    How then can we move the issue forward?

    KF

    PS: I refuse to amend the headline to say Craig is a noted Christian philosopher, as he seems to have a higher general profile than DW.

  37. F/N: Back on topic.

    Let us clip again from DW:

    One area that has been a problem for the Naturalistic outlook has been the ethical. Judgments about who is a good or bad person, what is the right or wrong act and what ought or ought not to be done have proven resistant, to say the least, to translation into or replacement by judgments about material or physical reality. Moral judgments frankly seem, on almost any reading, to be about something other than that reality. Conversely, one can say that Naturalism (in the modern sense of the term) has presented a problem for morality, and has seemed to many to undermine any prospect of a moral basis for individual or collective human life.

    Defining “naturalism” and its underlying term, “nature” is of course yet another of those slippery issues in phil that need to be tackled before we can even begin to coherently address the sorts of issues that are on the table.

    We could spend days on that, but let’s cut to the chase-scene: arising from the successes of early modern science, there was an increasing tendency to close the acceptable elements of the world down to those amenable to physical investigation and that which builds on it. Thus, to reduce the world to matter and energy interacting blindly on chance and mechanical necessity. All other phenomena are thought to have somehow emerged from this, and it is commonly put forth now that “science” — understood materialistically — is the sole serious and credible source of knowledge.

    There may be debates and variations or oddities and idiosyncrasies, but they are dominated by that view. A view that should be very familiar from a well known, notorious remark by Lewontin in NYRB in 1997:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[--> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[--> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[--> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    (Of course, if one stops the already quite lengthy citation here, one will be inundated with the well-poisoning accusation of quote mining. In reply I note my further linked, and observe that to imagine that a view of the world that has an opening for occasional events beyond the usual course of nature that rely on the background of the general order of that nature to highlight that this is a sign, opens the door to chaos and justifies worldview question-begging and censorship, is patently sophomoric rubbish.)

    Now, all of this is not exactly new, it echoes Lucretius’ C1 BC The Nature of Things, Ch 4:

    . . . All nature, then, as self-sustained, consists
    Of twain of things: of bodies and of void
    In which they’re set, and where they’re moved around.
    For common instinct of our race declares
    That body of itself exists: unless
    This primal faith, deep-founded, fail us not,
    Naught will there be whereunto to appeal
    On things occult when seeking aught to prove
    By reasonings of mind . . . .
    Again, whate’er exists, as of itself,
    Must either act or suffer action on it,
    Or else be that wherein things move and be:
    Naught, saving body, acts, is acted on;
    Naught but the inane [[i.e. void] can furnish room.
    And thus,
    Beside the inane and bodies, is no third
    Nature amid the number of all things . . .

    The problem is, that this a priori evolutionary materialism then leads to serious grounding problems for mind and morality. Indeed, if one looks carefully at the poem, we see that there is a blatant contradiction there, reasonings and perceptions of the conscious mind appear without foundation. Similarly, as the comment no 1 above highlights, Plato in The Laws, Bk X showed how the materialism he objected to in his day led to radical relativism on knowledge and ethics, inviting nihilistic opportunists with their notion that might makes right; thence ruthless power grabs.

    So, the issues with naturalism have been longstanding, and they are why it has not been a particularly appealing worldview on average across the long haul of history.

    (Never mind, confident manner assertions about having answers and being undefeated above, that is the record of the long haul of history and the signs are that it is beginning to return to its normal status of being a fringe view.)

    What has patently happened in our time, is that evolutionary materialism has hijacked the scientific movement that grew up in Christian soil. Men became so enamored with the seemingly indubitable findings of Newtonian physics that a Laplace could say to Napoleon, asking about his Celestial Mechanics and the role of God, that he had no need of THAT hypothesis.

    Then came Darwin, and his programme that the progress of “enlightenment” would indirectly undermine the Christian consensus, and open the way for “freethought.” It did so by making it appear that descent with chance variations and differential reproductive success in the environment providing Malthusian pressure, would lead to unlimited variations accounting for the tree of life starting from whatever original forms may have been provided by a creator. In private he went on to speculate — in a letter he probably was confident would get into the record though biographies — about warm little electrified ponds full of salts spontaneously forming proteins and leading on to life capable of reproduction.

    The result was that Darwin seemed to have put God out of a job as Creator, so opening the door for a triumphant evolutionary materialism that dominated the century just past and much of the half-century before that in the elite circles. And, thus the problems with mind, morals and so forth were seen as what we have to live with and find workarounds, or failing that these are anomalies that we can put on the back burner and accept promissory notes and just so stories.

    meanwhile as education was captured and as many religious leaders were drawn into the trend of the times, the robust Christian frame began to fade amidst a rising tide of secularisation and scientism.

    POOF!

    The bubble has popped.

    1 –> Nihilism and associates scientific racism showed the ugly results of an amoral worldview, to the cost of dozens of millions of lives, including the horrific holocaust, and today just in the US there have been 53 millions slaughtered in abortion mills under a questionable court ruling since 1973. So, mass blood guilt is corrupting judgement of the leading country in the world.

    2 –> For seventy or so years, we have developed computing technologies and related communication technologies, which has allowed us to understand where information and associated things like codes, algorithms,and execution machines come from.

    3 –> Starting with the elucidation of DNA from 1953 on, we began to see that the living cell is a world of complex, specifically functionally organised clever nanotech, involving digital codes, algorithms and execution machinery.

    4 –> OOL thus now involved questions of the origin of languages and algorithm implementing machines, which we have but one known source for and some serious needle in haystack sampling results that indicate that that is the only plausible explanation.

    5 –> The origin of body plans requires even larger quantities of algorithmic info and complex organisation, embedded in both the genes and the wider cell that implements the development process.

    6 –> Then it turns out that the observed universe is fine-tuned in dozens of ways that sets it up as a context for C-chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life. Not to mention how it suspiciously invites exploration by intelligent cell based living forms.

    7 –> Thus, design of the cosmos and of the world of life is back sitting at the table as a scientifically supported alternative as of right not sufferance. (Hence the too often ugly tactics by those who would drive it out of the room.)

    8 –> That means that we cannot any longer postpone the challenges materialism and naturalism face.

    9 –> And as for the game of trying to dismiss the need for grounding of chains of warrant in worldview foundational first plausibles, that is addressed int eh OP. In short, we cannot have an infinite regress, and we need to avoid question-begging. That means we need to have a comparative difficulties based assessment of finite worldviews with foundations in first plausibles that may be in part error prone but are plausible in light of serious discussion.

    10 –> Which brings us back to the point that a design centred worldview is siting at the table as of right, and that the only place where adequate groundings for mind and morals is possible, is in the foundation. None of which is good news for naturalism or materialism.

    KF

  38. [with an intro to Java based pgg for all (sorry Mung, not Ruby!)

    ok, ok. I did Java before Ruby too. But Python!?

    ;)

  39. Defining “naturalism” and its underlying term, “nature” is of course yet another of those slippery issues in phil that need to be tackled before we can even begin to coherently address the sorts of issues that are on the table.

    I completely agree. It’s such a nebulous term. I congratulate KN on making the attempt.

    I think what we ought to do those is point out what they really mean is the mechanical philosophy. Which of course leads directly to Descartes and the 800lb gorilla.

    But the mechanical philosophy on its own suffers from conceptual problems. Machines are designed for a purpose.

    But if the mechanical philosophy is false (or incomplete), what are they left with?

  40. 40
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: Mung @ 39

    I think what we ought to do those is point out what they really mean is the mechanical philosophy. Which of course leads directly to Descartes and the 800lb gorilla.But the mechanical philosophy on its own suffers from conceptual problems. Machines are designed for a purpose. But if the mechanical philosophy is false (or incomplete), what are they left with?

    Yes, exactly. In a previous discussion, Nullasalus brought to my attention Hempel’s Dilemma, which I hadn’t heard of before, but I encountered the same difficulty on my own when trying to solve what I’d called “the content problem of naturalism”. The beating heart of the problem is this: we do not know what ‘nature’ is. I don’t really know besides that, and I really should refrain from calling myself a “naturalist” until I’ve figured it out (at least to my own satisfaction). All I can say at present is that I do have a strategy for approaching this problem.

    A few minor points about the history of the mechanical philosophy:

    (a) From the beginning of the revival of Epicureanism, there were people who tried to reconcile Christianity and Epicureanism. Pierre Gassendi is not a well-known name today, but he was a giant of the 16th century.

    (b) Descartes plays a really interesting role here, because he called for a ‘truce’ between the mechanical philosophy and the teachings of the Church. He pointed out that the mechanical philosophy does not go against the teachings of the Church, but against Aristotle, but he thought that the Church could be disentangled from Thomism. (Hence Descartes’ rehabilitation of Augustine.)

    (c) the Cartesian ‘truce’ was received quite differently in different place — it inspired the total mechanization of reality of La Mettrie and Holbach, but it also inspired the idealism of Berkeley and Leibniz. The debate between idealism, materialism, and dualism continued throughout the entire modern period. If I had to hazard a guess as to when materialism triumphed, to the extent that that it did, I would say the early 20th century.

    (d) In my view, which should be taken with many grains of salt, since I’m not an expert in such matters, the real problem with the mechanical philosophy is that it lacks a notion of life. Life as such, living beings in their pulsating, vibrating aliveness, can make no appearance once everything has been stripped down to atoms and the void. (I’ll say this much for you folks at Uncommon Descent: you’ve convinced me that the problem of abiogenesis is conceptually insoluble if one accepts an Epicurean conception of “matter”.)

    (e) and, without a conception of life, the concepts of intentionality, consciousness, and normativity can’t get off the ground, either. The result of the mechanical philosophy is a philosophy in which we, as epistemic and ethical agents, make no appearance. In the entire history of mechanistic philosophy, only one philosopher had the brilliance and the courage to say, “so much for us, then!”: Spinoza.

    (f) Darwin’s role here is murky — it is true that the popular reception today of neo-Darwinism is strongly Epicurean, but it’s completely unclear to me how Epicurean Darwin was. (Nor does that question interest me very much).

    (g) I think that the whole period of organic chemistry, from 1828 (with the synthesis of urea from inorganic compounds) to 1953 (discovery the structure of DNA) saw the decline of vitalism and the acceptance of materialism by default. In fact, I think that the rise of molecular biology did far more than Darwinism did to hasten the rise of modern materialism, within intellectual culture. (The rise of materialism, hedonism, etc. outside of intellectual culture is quite a different story and must be told in entirely different terms.)

  41. 41
    Kantian Naturalist

    I just finished reading Willard’s “Reflections on Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker” and thought it was quite excellent — highly recommended!

  42. Mung:

    I see you had your spoon in the Java pie. (Or, should that be, cup?)

    Python has got a nice simple interface that allows it to play at being pseudo-code like. Executable Pseudocode got my attention. Python Hello World:

    Programming tutorials since the beginning of time have started with a little program called “Hello, World!”[1] So here it is:

    print(“Hello, World!”)

    If you are using the command line to run programs then type it in with a text editor, save it as hello.py and run it with python3.0 hello.py

    Otherwise go into IDLE, create a new window, and create the program as in section Creating and Running Programs.

    When this program is run here’s what it prints:

    Hello, World!

    Yep, it’s that “simple.” (Cf the two hello worlds I put up today for HTML and Java in the same first pgg course proposal page.)

    But what got my attention bigtime (after noticing that it lies behind a lot of Blender 3-D animation and vid edit s/ware . . . ) was the sci and math packages NumPy and SciPy.

    So, looks to me like something useful to get into.

    Of course, work in progress so thoughts very welcome.

    KF

  43. KN,

    If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest checking out Ed Feser’s “The Last Superstition” sometime. It’s a bit rhetorically loaded at a few parts, but by and large I think you’d enjoy the book.

  44. KN: Interesting thoughts, though I think molecular bio brought information to the fore, and info is radically different from matter, though of course it is often expressed by impressing protocol-laden values of physical values. It is the info revo that is pivotal, and of course it speaks straight into the heart of cell based life. Multiply by what blew my mind when I first saw it. The physics of our cosmos — vvv fine tuned — sets up four elements as the most abundant: H, He C, O, with N coming close. Where of course H gives us stars, He the rest of the periodic table as a gateway, C gets us to organic chem, O gets us to water and to a lot of rocks, and N to proteins. Where water is itself a multidimensional wonder that reminds me of a real hot electronics designer I met just once. I saw him make the simple fixed bias BJT ckt sit up and do tricks in a signal processing IR remote control that had to be seen to be believed, and managed to do it with discard bin parts, as in the mfr would pay you to take it off their hands. H2O is like that. We live in a world that is astonishing from the ground up. KF

  45. Null: Care to give us a few of the points you had in mind? KF

  46. 46
    Kantian Naturalist

    Nullasalus, thanks for the recommendation of Feser’s book. I looked at the reviews on Amazon and it looks good. (Not the customer reviews, but the professional ones.) I’m not a Thomist — my appreciation of Aristotle is heavily refracted through pragmatism and phenomenology — but I appreciate what Aristotle and Aquinas did!

    Kairosfocus, that’s a good point. Maybe another way of telling the story here is that design theory argues that the reduction of molecular biology to ‘mere’ physics can’t work?

  47. KN: Tempted to say yes, but not quite; as info is/can be studied under the rubric, physics. (Physics can get very “nebulous.” E.g.: what is entropy? It turns out to be a metric of the avg missing info to specify microstate, given macrostate! And that is a pivotal variable in a lot of things influenced by thermodynamics stuff.] KF

  48. Null: Care to give us a few of the points you had in mind? KF

    Actually, it’s just a book recommendation based on KN’s knowledge, trajectory and attitude. His summary is largely reflected in the book, though with a different perspective – that’s part of the reason I recommend it. It’s more about KN’s thoughts than the OP.

    As for the OP, all I can say is – ‘apparently, indoctrinating children into a belief system isn’t such a bad thing at all.’ I think the worst part of the AHA page is that it’s ridiculously naive and sappy in presentation.

  49. F/N: I see VJT has taken up the “notable”/”taken seriously” point with WLC here. LT should take note.

  50. Null: Okay, I see, do you want to make a few points? KF

  51. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking to see how unreflective some atheists are. So many are incensed that religious parents would dare to ‘indoctrinate’ their children by instilling in them their worldview, but apparently there’s no problem if someone wants to teach his or her kid humanism or some other weak stand-in for a grounded ethical system. Even though I don’t regard all belief systems as sensible or compatible (since many make competing claims), I think it’s foolish to teach children that anyone who has different worldview is inherently intellectually inferior. First, instead of promoting tolerance, it produces prejudice (a la Richard Dawkins). Second, that child will very likely be blown out of the water when he or she grows up and starts having serious intellectual interchanges with people from different backgrounds. It would be just like the Christian kid who goes to a very secular college without ever having confronted serious atheist thinking – such a person is woefully underprepared to have a substantive dialog with the opposing view.

  52. Hi Optimus:

    Interesting thoughts. I think we should teach basic reasoning skills and principles in school, but should respect the right of parents to raise their children. That is what is being undermined above.

    Unfortunately, because the radical atheist scheme dresses up in the lab coat, it can imagine that objection is based on error and dismiss it.

    We have abundant examples.

    KF

  53. @BA77 way back at 34

    I was speaking from a “Good without God,” perspective, wherein a Judgement is required, but no Judge is present.* Again, if Good were only about personal preferences, this wouldn’t be that big of an issue. However, in practice, Good is often about what we believe (and even require) that others ought to do or not do, and it is here that warrant seems necessary. How is “Good without God” distinguishable from “Good without warrant,” and how can Good without warrant be imposed upon others, especially given that imposing on others may itself be Bad.

    From a Good because God, framework, Mother Theresa, Dahmer, and I are all accountable to His standard of Goodness, as I am sure you will agree.

    *Johnson’s On Nihilism and the End of Law explores this issue brilliantly.

  54. Intended as an open question…

    How is “Good without God” distinguishable from “Good without warrant,” and how can Good without warrant be imposed upon others, especially given that imposing on others may itself be Bad?

  55. P: Very good question, esp. when we see how rights — where we are not talking politically awarded entitlements but natural, fundamental rights — are indeed often binding moral expectations of others rooted in the dignity of our nature. KF

  56. Emphasis added…

    The humanist is thus engaged in a struggle on two fronts: on the one side against the theists and on the other side against the nihilists. This is important because it underlines the fact that humanism is not a default position. That is to say, even if the theist were wrong, that would not mean that the humanist is right. For if God does not exist, maybe it is the nihilist who is right . . .

    The new humanist Web site never encourages kids to think critically about the tough questions concerning the justification of humanism itself. Humanists tend to be condescendingly dismissive of theism and oblivious to nihilism. Meanwhile, they blithely extol the virtues of critical thinking, curiosity, and science, apparently unaware of the incoherence at the heart of their own worldview.

    Craig makes a great point here.

    Based on what’s happening in Europe — where, after God has been dismissed from the culture, populations have begun shrinking — it could be argued that the empirical evidence points to nihilism, not humanism, as the default position of human beings who say, “There is no God.” (See interview of Mark Steyn by Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson regarding Steyn’s book America Alone.)

    “Oblivious” indeed.

  57. Addendum: The Muslim immigration to Europe (which will be renamed “Eurabia” sooner than anyone thinks [see above interview]) is necessary to make up for the demographic shortfall among its citizens. Without that immigration, the economies of their welfare states would collapse, simple as that.

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