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4/12/2016 5:04 am  #1


William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

 

4/12/2016 7:19 am  #2


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

[If there's not a transcript of is available, I think I'll come back and summarize this later. - Edit: scroll down for summary]

Craig does this maneuver which I'm never happy with even though I agree with the thrust of his arguments. He'll say "There are only X kinds of Y that could possibly explain Z." After which he will list the candidates, one of which will be stupid.

How can you possibly know that the only two candidates to explain the creation of the universe are merely abstract entities or disembodied minds? Why should it be supposed that God is either thing? I suppose that you could always claim that God is more relevantly similar to a disembodied mind then he is to an abstract entity, but it would not follow from this that he is in fact a disembodied mind.

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Summary of talk [version 1.1]

Summary of Debate

Craig:

Thanks.

Topic stated:

Is there evidence for God?

Craig answers yes.

"God’s existence best explains a wide range of the data of human experience."

1. God is the best explanation for why anything at all exists.

Something contingent must be explained. Even if that something is as large as the universe, it is still contingent and must be explained. (Contingent means: Can exist but doesn’t have to exist.) Craig gives an example of a ball come across in the woods.

The only thing that could explain the universe is a transcendent (beyond space and time) necessary cause.

Craig thinks that only a transcendent personal being could do this.

Craig summarizes the reasoning process in the following argument:
 
1. Every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a transcendent, personal being.
3. The universe is a contingent thing.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (from 1, 3)
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is a transcendent, personal being. (from 2, 4)
 
2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe. (Kalam argument)
 
We have strong evidence that the universe is not eternal but had a beginning. It has been demonstrated that no expanding universe can be eternal into the past.
 
Thus we must ask why the universe came into being. There must be a transcendent cause.
 
The reasoning goes as follows:

1. The universe began to exist.
2. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent cause.
3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.
 
The cause of 3 must the a timeless spaceless immaterial cause.  Craig can only think of two possibilities: an abstract object or an immaterial mind. Abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations to anything. Thus, it’s an immaterial mind.
 
3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.
 
Many have puzzled over the fact that mathematics is effective in knowing things about the world even without investigation. How can we explain this?

If mathematical objects are abstract and causally isolated for the physical universe, then their applicability is a happy coincidence.

If they are fictions, how is it possible that they be the way that the universe operates?

The naturalist has no explanation for this. The best explanation is that God designed the universe with a mathematical model in mind.
 
This reasoning is summarized as:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
3. Therefore, God exists.
 
4. God is the best explanation of the fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
 
Scientists have found that the universe is fine tuned for the existence of intelligent life to such a high level of precision that it defies easy comprehension.
 
The only three possibilities are physical necessity, chance, or design. Neither physical necessity nor chance are plausible, and chance has been supported only by appeal to hypothetical large numbers of random universe. We do not have observations consistent with this hypothesis, so it’s not a good explanation.
 
The reasoning can be summarized as:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It’s not due to physical necessity of chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.
 
5. The existence of God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world.
 
We apprehend in moral experience an objective set of moral values that impose upon us. On a naturalist view there are, however, in fact, no real moral values. The theist has a better explanation for moral experience.
 
The reasoning can be summarized as follows:
 
1. Objective moral values and duties exist.
2. But is God did not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
 
6. God can be personally known and experienced.
 
This isn’t an argument so much as the claim that you can know God directly, as a properly basic belief, akin to the reality of the past and the external world.

These sorts of beliefs are not arbitrary but grounded in experience, though not provable in terms of evidence.
God can be properly basic because it would be grounded in the direct experience of God, just as belief in the external world is grounded in the experience of that world.
 
Summary:
 
1. Beliefs which are appropriately grounded may be (rationally) accepted as basic beliefs not grounded on argument.
2. Belief that God exists is appropriately grounded.
3. Therefore, belief that God exists may be accepted as a basic belief not grounded on argument.
 
This line of reasoning would indicate that arguments for God’s existence can actually distract you from the immediate reality of God.
 
Kevin Scharp:
 
Thanks. Introduction.
 
Position: 21st Century Atheism
 
Definition:
 
We should define theism and atheism in terms of confidence levels, which are more precise, and not in terms of belief- from 0 – 100%
 
We should formulate theism and atheism in terms of particular religions or gods: Theist about X and Atheist about X are to be primary.
 
We should distinguish between weak religious views vs strong religious views: A weak religious view is merely higher than 50% confidence and a strong religious view is high enough to count as belief or knowledge.

 
Space of Religious Views Slide:
 
http://i.imgur.com/Obx2BBO.jpg


21st century atheism rests on the following argument “The confidence argument”:

1. The existing evidence for any familiar god is very weak.
2. The existing evidence for and familiar god conflicts with our best scientific theories.
3. We should have much higher confidence in our scientific theories in biology, chemistry,and physics than we have in any evidence for any familiar god.
4. Therefore, we should have high confidence that the familiar gods do not exist.
 
We have no reason to believe in gods that do not intervene in the world because they do not explain anything and any that do will fall to the confidence argument.
 
21st century atheism is not:
 
Strong general atheism (would require for arguing for high confidence against the existence of all conceivable gods)
Reductive naturalism
Religion had bad consequences
Theists are stupid
Miracles are impossible (I’ve only argued that all the evidence for them does not override the evidence we have for scientific theories that would conflict with them).
 
He’s not argued from the problem of evil because as contemporary philosophical theists has successfully argued you can have no confidence in God’s psychology. But this mode of arguing cuts both ways. Scharp thinks this constitutes a general argument that is effective against many theistic arguments. It goes as follows:
 
The No Divine Psychology Argument (adapted from slide and discussion):

The problem of evil: how can there be evil if God exists?
Divine psychology-claims about a god’s psychology-what a god would do or believe of desire or plan are not permissible to discuss (blocking the problem of evil).
But without appeals to divine psychology, the theist is harmed more than the atheist.
 
Scharp alleges that abandoning divine psychology harms cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, explanatory arguments, and miracle arguments. The theist can accept appeals to divine psychology, but then the problem of evil returns, and “you don’t want that”.
 
Critique of Craig’s System:
 
Introduction, general respect for Craig.
 
Craig’s system:
 
http://i.imgur.com/85SrO17.jpg

 
Objections:
 
http://i.imgur.com/DXjupwp.jpg

 
Weakness means that Craig is arguing for a much stronger level of confidence than his arguments can support.
 
Divine psychology means that appeal to divine psychology is used in the argument.
 
Explanation means that God makes no predictions and no retrodictions so God cannot be acting as an explanation despite the argument being framed as an abduction.
 
Reductive naturalism means that the moral argument supposes that atheists cannot accept objective moral values. Scharp proceeds to give a long list of atheistic moral theorist who accept objective moral values.
 
Craig’s cosmology is bad because his rejection of evolutionary theory in favor of intelligent design requires the rejection of the science that supports his cosmology in the first place. Scharp feigns personal concern and desire for a stronger opponent.
 
Scharp claims he need say nothing more about the other argument’s in Craig’s system because the real heart of his system is the experience argument.

The experience argument:

1. The existence of God is a basic belief, because like a perceptual belief.
2. His religious experience is an intrinsic defeater defeater: his experience is so powerful that it undermines any reasons one might have to doubt it, i.e. so powerful that it allows him to know God exists, it can never be reasonably doubted, and he doesn’t have to provide any arguments in its defense.

Problems:

Religious experiences are not like perception. Perceptual experiences are backed by other evidence including biology.

We have good reason to think there are no intrinsic defeater defeaters, since any experience can be misleading. For instance, we can stimulate a person’s brain and cause them to have powerful religious experiences, even though they aren’t experiencing anything. Craig’s belief would have to be able to defeat all neuroscience which could potentially defeat it, and that’s absurd. Subjective experiences, even really powerful ones, are just subjective experiences, and don’t let us know anything objective all by themselves.

Apologetics is irrational

Since it’s committed only to defending the faith, it puts the belief in God out of bounds for critical thinking, which is seriously irrational.

Craig thinks that if you subject the belief in God to critical thought it’s going to lose.
 
Why care?
 
Craig is a hypocrite about Christian morals: it’s wrong for gays to marry or adopt but not wrong for greedy people to do so. Morally objectionable views like this creep in to public discourse from people like Craig.

Discussion Section

[Switching primarily to transcription over summary]

Craig:

Thanks. Amazement at the content-rich character of the debate.

“You characterize weak theism as having a greater than 50% confidence level, and then talked about how I draw stronger conclusions than that.” “I think this was the so-called weakness problem.” “I draw stronger conclusions from arguments whose premises are simply more plausible than their contradictories.” “Now, the way I understand this is that I was trying to set minimal thresholds for reasonable theistic belief, and the idea was that in a deductive argument if the conjunction of the premises is more plausible than not than that sufficient for weak theism.” “I myself think that these premises are far more plausible than that.” “I’m just trying to set a minimal level so that someone like you can get into the kingdom.”

Scharp:

“50% isn’t sufficient for belief. Belief requires a much higher confidence than that.”

Craig:

“I misunderstood what you’re saying.” “You’re saying that a confidence level of 51% would be enough for having a weak theistic belief?”

Scharp:

“No, weak theism, so thinking that theism is more probable than not, but that doesn’t justify you in saying that a believe God exists or I know that God exists. That’s what you want.”

Craig:

“Okay, then I misunderstood what you’re saying.” Suppose I have a confidence in the premises of these arguments that leads me to think that the conclusions is true. If the logic is valid and I think that the premises taken together are more plausible than not then it follows that the conclusion is true, so why would I not believe the conclusion?”

Scharp:

“Good. So this is I think a good example of why the debate shouldn’t be cast in terms of belief. You said “I think the conclusion is true.” or “I believe the conclusion is true.” But instead it makes more sense to cast them in terms of confidence levels. If you have 51% for the confidence levels of for the premises of your argument, then your conclusion isn’t going to end up being somehow 70% or 80% confidence.”

Craig:

“Well, all those probability levels for the premises do is set a minimum level for the probability of the conclusion in a deductive argument. The could be much higher.”

Scharp:

“So let me rephrase: Your minimum level need to be much higher in order to get your conclusion to convince somebody to *believe* that God exists as opposed to just say “I think it’s more probable than not.” Those are different.”

Craig:

“That puzzles me. Why would…? If you think it’s more probable than not, if you think this is more probably true than false, I guess I would say that is enough for belief.”

Scharp:

“Yeah, not according to contemporary epistemology and the Bayesianism you yourself have used to frequently to formulate probability claims and so forth. 51% is super variable. It goes up and down. Think about the Hillary example I just gave: I’m at 51% for Hillary winning. Does that mean I *believe* Hillary is going to win? No.”

Craig:

"Well I suppose that’s going to depend on how much confidence you require for belief."

Scharp:

"I agree, it does, yeah."

Craig:

"Do you *have* a threshold for how much confidence is required to believe in something?"

Scharp:

"Yeah, in my example, I put it at 80%, you can put it at 70% if you want, somewhere in there. It’s going to be context dependant to some extent dependant on the topic at hand, but it’s surely not 51%."

Craig:

"That sounds like you just plucked that out of the air."

[Laughter and applause for the audience]

Scharp:

"I did. It’s just an example, but it’s got to be way higher than 51% or at least considerably higher than that for a belief. I don’t think that…"

Craig:

"Well that was the question I wanted to address."

Scharp:

"Just as recommendation, for when you think about this in the future, I would look at work on confidence levels, outright belief, and knowledge and see if you can argue that 51% *is* good enough for belief. I would expect that that would be your move next time."

Moderator:

"Can I just ask about that? I take it that part of what Dr. Craig’s question is…................

Last edited by iwpoe (4/21/2016 2:55 pm)


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

4/12/2016 7:27 am  #3


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

iwpoe wrote:

I suppose that you could always claim that God is more relevantly similar to a disembodied mind then he is to an abstract entity, but it would not follow from this that he is in fact a disembodied mind.

To be fair I suspect that is what he is doing, albeit without the qualifier to save time. Even with his account of God going from atemporal to temporal he still needs to admit there are a lot of relevent differences.

iwpoe wrote:

How can you possibly know that the only two candidates to explain the creation of the universe are merely abstract entities or disembodied minds?

One might answer: what other options are there? If the other party wants to introduce a new kind of being as primitive (arguably classical Theists do just this) they may do so, though they needs must give at least a sketch of what such a thing is and why it is a better alternative. People, and here I'm not accusing you, are too keen to parrot 'But how do we know there isn't some other option?' without presenting any viable alternative - it's equivalent to saying 'But another philosopher might find an objection' and strutting off as if by that one had won the debate.

 

Last edited by DanielCC (4/12/2016 7:38 am)

 

4/12/2016 7:41 am  #4


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

That's true. I don't mean to do that. I've just spent so much time with classical texts that the other Arguments for God's existence clearly entail that he has properties that are very different from a disembodied mind in any mundane sense. Even Craig's own argument, that entails that the mind in question has necessary being entails a lot of differences from what we normally would understand by mind, even if we are avoiding materialism about minds.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

4/12/2016 9:05 am  #5


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

That step has always made me squirm too, Poe. When I complain it is usually explained to me the way Daniel has just done.

Part of my beef is also that it seems like a tendentious move with his usual audience. The sort of unreflective atheists whom he is courting often hold a naive eliminativism or else would mutter something about emergence. But in either case they will insist that a disembodied mind is a contradiction in terms.

 

4/12/2016 9:20 am  #6


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

I consider formal debate to be a kind of pseudo dialectic. It's not adequate to the task that it's pointing to. It's unfortunate that there is no very good public forum for real dialectic. I mean, I guess you have internet forums like this and blogs where something like dialectic can go on, but that's usually not for a mass audience.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

4/12/2016 12:33 pm  #7


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

I've never much cared for modern "debates" either; they always seem to devolve into multi-staged press conferences.

I think Craig come out the winner of the debate, as his opponent never really made clear what his substantive criticism were, but rather seemed to take a hodge-podge approach, trying to never stay on any topic too long.

And some of the attacks were almost obviously calculated political moves to discredit him with the audience (I'm looking at you completely off topic same-sex adoption criticism, as well as, to a lesser degree, Craig stated skepticism on macro-evolution)

One of my biggest beefs was his insistence that miracles "violate" the laws of nature, which I think was supposed to be a Humean inspired criticism, but given on the grounds of a absolutist theory of the laws of nature, which is something that just is not compatible with Hume's critique of miracles.

I mean really, I just cannot understand why people always get so huffy about this; it is no violation of the laws of gravity, for say, for Christ to walk on water, because we can clearly appeal to a cause which can apply a force to keep him up, or to change the density of water locally, or to simply stop concurring with the earth's exercising of its casual power to pull Christ down, etc.

Yes, under normal circumstances this is not an option, because physical things presumably cannot do these things without being able to be observed doing so, and hence we can empirically rule out natural causes, which is precisely why when we see this happen, we shift to a supernatural cause.

So I'm not at all impressed by this objection.

I also found his complaints about Craig not having enough evidence by his weak theism arguments to support a claim to either belief or knowledge to be quite strange; I can somewhat see where he's going with the knowledge bit, at least if you think knowledge implies some sort of certainty, but then he seems to equate beliefs with this, which I think need not boast to any pretentions of certainty. And while he equates them in some places, I seems to remember it being crucial to his arguments somewhere that they keep these notions distinct; but I might just be remembering wrong.

Not that Craig couldn't have some wiggle room here even using his weak arguments to ground knowledge; while it may be true that each individual argument is at a somewhat dubious 51% likelihood of being correct, the precentage that at least one of the six 51% arguments being correct, taken as a cumulative case, has a likelihood of 98.6%*** (i.e. 1- the likelihood that all of the arguments are bad, which is 1 - 0.49^6), which fits his opponent's criteria for knowledge.

I think his opponent was at his best when he was insisting that we cannot perform divine psychology, and that we cannot just assume God will in fact decide to create, although he muddles the strength of this claim by suggesting that God might create us in a state of demon skepticism, since this calls into question God's justice, and we don't need psychology to rule on that.

Also, at least for the argument for contingency, I don't see why Craig might not just say here that God is the explanation for the possibility of the universe since this will need explanation whether or not he in fact decides to create.

*** assuming of course that each of the arguments are independent of each other; each of his arguments that were mentioned I think could be formulated such that they don't share any premises, or at least very few, so I take it that my calculation is a good estimate.

Last edited by Timotheos (4/12/2016 12:37 pm)

 

4/12/2016 12:42 pm  #8


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

I agree, formal debates are not an ideal forum, and blog posts, while better in many respects, are still not great. It often strikes me, when I read (say) the combox at Strange Notions, that things would be so much better if people would say, "This month, I am going to stick away from responding point-by-point to random people on the internet and go read some real philosophy."

Pop atheism has no philosophical ambition or curiosity. It just picks out claims that theists make and says things like "I find this unconvincing."

And frankly, theists sometimes do this as well. I sometimes come across theists who learned about philosophy from William Lane Craig, who spend their time compiling lists of formally valid arguments for the existence of God. Then in debate, they just copy and paste the arguments and defend them against criticism. There's no curiosity, no attempt to imagine what the worldview of someone who rejected one of the premises might be like, no attempt (really) to probe whether the premises have other interesting (or troubling) consequences.

 

4/12/2016 1:45 pm  #9


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

I'm preparing a transcript and/or summary of the video now. Transcript depends on how good my audio transcription software is, but the summary will come in any case.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

4/12/2016 1:54 pm  #10


Re: William Lane Craig and Kevin Scharp | Is There Evidence for God?

I really don't like epistemology generally. What the hell am I listening to when I have to listen to Sharp talk to me about "51% confidence isn't good enough for belief" &etc? It, with all due respect to any epistemologists, sounds like horseshit when you just start presenting it as if it weren't contentious. I know enough about his language from game theory and the like in Political Science, but I have no idea why you would think it was importantly relivant to this discussion.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

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