On Trigger-Happy Atheists: Chris Hallquist

People who eschew party lines in favor of critical thought always win my respect, and on that note Jeff Lowder is awesome. Over at Secular Outpost, he’s taken Chris Hallquist to task over Hallquist’s smearing and libeling of William Lane Craig as a “liar.” As one who’s suffered through such libel first hand, I’m sympathetic to Lowder’s case. Hallquist has responded, and today I’d like to focus on a snippet that perfectly illustrates the danger of letting emotion lead the brain. Before we start, I’d like to point out that Hallquist has this much going for him: he concedes the difficulty of knowing intent, which is precisely what is required to establish claims of lying. He writes,

Furthermore, Jeff is right to ask how I know Craig is being intentionally deceptive, as opposed to honestly mistaken, in particular cases. This is hard to know.

Unfortunately, Hallquist doesn’t heed his own advice.

UPDATE: it appears John Loftus has also stepped forward to condemn Hallquist. I never thought I’d being saying this, but I must also salute John Loftus in this regard! Good on you, Loftus!

For context, Lowder thinks Hallquist was wrong to libel Craig as a liar. In response, after providing alleged “evidence” of Craig’s dishonesty in the Harris / Craig debate on morality, Hallquist writes,

Hey Jeff, can I call Craig a liar now?

No, he can’t. Let’s assess Hallquist’s “evidence” to see why not. Hallquist quotes Harris:

We are being offered a psychopathic and psychotic moral attitude… it is psychopathic because this is a total detachment from the, from the well-being of human beings. It, this so easily rationalizes the slaughter of children. Ok, just think about the Muslims at this moment who are blowing themselves up, convinced that they are agents of God’s will. There is absolutely nothing that Dr. Craig can s—can say against their behavior, in moral terms, apart from his own faith-based claim that they’re praying to the wrong God. If they had the right God, what they were doing would be good, on Divine Command theory.

Now, I’m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics, but this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.

Okay, Harris clarified: he isn’t calling Craig, or all religious people, psychopaths or psychotics. However, Harris *DID* call the “moral attitude” (read: belief) both psychopathic and psychotic, and he also said that “otherwise sane and decent people” can hold psychopathic or psychotic beliefs. Next, Hallquist quotes Craig’s response:

[Harris] also says it’s “psychopathic” to believe these things. Now, that remark is just as stupid as it is insulting. It is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is psychopathic, or that a guy like Dr. Tom Flint, who is as gracious a Christian gentlemen as I could have ever met, is psychopathic. Uh, this is simply, uh, below the belt.

Then, without even providing a critical assessment of the options like we might expect from a “freethinker” ostensibly committed to reason, Hallquist leaps to condemn Craig:

This is a disgusting smear against Harris, and I am sickened and angered every time I think about it. Harris explicitly said that he was not saying what Craig insinuates he was saying. Hey Jeff, can I call Craig a liar now?

Let’s temporarily ignore the hypocrisy of Hallquist whining about Craig “smearing” Harris after Hallquist just dedicated an entire series of posts to smearing Craig as a “liar.” At least Craig didn’t stoop to *THAT* level! Instead, let’s assess the facts and see what sort of options are available besides “Craig is a liar.”

Harris *DID* say the moral attitude (belief) was psychopathic. Harris *DID* say that religion makes otherwise sane and decent people believe psychopathic things. Craig *DIDN’T* say, “It is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is a psychopath.” Craig *DID* clarify that he understood Harris as saying, “it’s psychopathic to believe such things.” That is a fair reading of Harris’ words, and Craig’s comment makes perfect sense when read in the context Harris established: Craig didn’t turn around and accuse Harris of calling people like van Inwagen psychopaths and psychotics. Rather, Craig said it’s absurd to imply that people like van Inwagen are psychopathic simply because they support God’s judgment of the Canaanites. That is exactly what Harris alleged.

Undoubtedly, some readers will think this is just another issue of semantics. There will be those who accuse me of “lying for Craig” just as they accuse Craig of “lying for Jesus.” If that’s your opinion, so be it. I can abandon this distinction entirely and still make the case that Hallquist departed from cold reason.

Let’s play devil’s advocate. Let’s say Craig omitted the clarification about understanding Harris as saying, “it’s psychopathic to believe these things.” Then let’s say Craig straight-out replied, “It is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is a psychopath.” Then, yes, Craig would be guilty of attributing to Harris precisely the claim Harris distanced himself from. However, even then, a rational person shouldn’t just rush for the tar-and-feathers and libel another human being as a “liar.” After all, how many times has Hallquist, in the heat of debate, mistakenly interpreted or overlooked something an interlocutor said? It’s quite easy to do, especially in such an emotionally charged topic as (a)theism, presumably more so in public debate where the stakes are high. We’ve all made these types of mistakes whether we blog or not. Unfortunately misunderstanding is widespread amongst human beings. Therefore, there are at least three options here:

  • 1) Craig was being intentionally dishonest;
  • 2) Craig correctly clarified that he understood Harris as saying it is psychopathic to hold the moral attitude in question;
  • 3) Craig mistakenly overlooked or misunderstood the implications of Harris’ statement.

I don’t know about you, but I think a truly rational person should consider all possible conclusions before judging. It is telling that Hallquist doesn’t even examine 2 or 3. Rather, he goes straight for 1 and simply assumes he has knowledge of Craig’s intent, then calls him a “liar” with apparent disregard for his own claim that it was hard to verify intent! To call Craig a “liar” means Hallquist has knowledge of Craig’s intent, and as Hallquist said himself, that is hard. How in the world can Hallquist possibly have knowledge of Craig’s intent? No critical thinking, no cross-examination, nothing. Hallquist just points, aims, and shoots.

Well, it’s easy to say you’ve got a bullseye when you draw circles around wild arrows. Personally, I think Hallquist has betrayed his commitments to reason and rationality, and I think he owes Craig a public apology. We’ll see what happens next.

22 comments

I usually avoid pointless internet spats (e.g. Myers v. Thunderf00t). But what Hallq did was inexcusable. I’m pretty sure Dr. Craig isn’t going to bother to defend himself, so others will have to step up. It’s inspiring to see the secular community do it. I’m glad you are, cl. I’ve just been adding my two cents here and there.

The best part is, now Hallq is asking Lowder to discuss the matter with him privately. It’s interesting in light of what Lowder wrote regarding the Ehrman accusation:

Of course, if Ehrman did change his views and told Craig, someone reminded Craig of that, and Craig refused to issue a correction, then he could be justifiably accused of lying. But Hallquist mentions no attempt by him to contact Craig about this. So, based solely on what Hallquist has written, I don’t think he’s shown that lying, i.e., intent to deceive, is the best explanation.

Did Hallq bother to give Dr. Craig an opportunity to correct of clarify anything before posting this libel-ridden trash? Somehow I doubt it. But now Hallq wants to go private again, so that he can salvage his “reputation” among the more reasonable minds over at The Secular Outpost. So hypocritical! He fits in much better over on FTblogs with PZ Myers.

“Rather, Craig said it’s absurd to imply that people like van Inwagen are psychopathic simply because they support God’s judgment of the Canaanites. That is exactly what Harris alleged.”

No, that’s not at all what Harris alleged. What’s wrong with you? Saying that someone is a “psychopath” and “psychopathic” is the same thing. Saying s/he has “psychopathic beliefs”, though, is something else entirely. It doesn’t take a psychopath (i.e., a person who is psychopathic), in order to believe things that are inherently psychopathic.
So Hallquist is absolute right here. And I’m tired of atheists defending this disgusting hack, liar and fraud Craig.

“he owes Craig a public apology”

since you’re the second person I see who thinks Hallq owes this guy an apology, let me re-post my comment from the Secular Outpost(btw, if any of it strikes you as surprising, and you’re not aware that Craig has said and believes those things, you have no business saying anyone owes this scumbag an apology):

and why should Hallq apologize to a hack, who insists nothing could convince him he’s wrong(!), and a brain-dead lunatic who believes Satan literally exists and is out to get you, nonbelievers would (and should!) be tormented in Hell for an eternity, since they deserve it (here Hitch’s qualification “wicked and delusional idiot” seems to be the right one), and if Yahweh commands you to butcher man, women and children, it’s your moral duty to obey, since God, as the giver of life, apparently has the right to be a homicidal maniac and kill everyone.
sick freaks like Craig don’t get apologies, but ridicule and contempt. not incidentally, that’s what he mostly gets from the atheist community. sadly, there are still people willing to debate (and defend) him. disgrace.

AGEOFREASONXXI,

What an odd moniker for somebody so emotionally driven! Aren’t statements prompted by strong emotion the very antithesis of statements calculated by reason? I digress.

It doesn’t take a psychopath (i.e., a person who is psychopathic), in order to believe things that are inherently psychopathic.

Yes, that’s exactly my point. Likewise, Craig didn’t say Harris’ remarks entailed that van Inwagen, et al. were psychopaths, but that they were psychopathic in the sense that they held psychopathic beliefs. Regardless, you’ve completely ignored the part of this post where I explain how Hallquist fails even if I don’t make that distinction. Can you grapple with that? Or do you just want to continue venting your hostile opinions?

Our only differences WRT this matter are that I read Craig charitably, you don’t. I think it’s sick and morally reprehensible to libel other people as liars on nothing more than circumstantial evidence, you have no shame in doing so. I tend to think the real “hack” is that hater libeling others every chance they get on the internet, while contributing nothing worthwhile to the fields of inquiry. You, on the other hand, apparently see yourself as some sort of martyr for truth.

However, it’s possible you’re just angry and letting your emotions and strong dislike of Craig cloud your judgments, so, I’ll give you another chance at having a *REASONED* discussion. When you said,

btw, if any of it strikes you as surprising, and you’re not aware that Craig has said and believes those things, you have no business saying anyone owes this scumbag an apology

…what does “those things” refer to, and how do Craig’s *BELIEFS* make him undeserving of an apology? When it comes to considering whether or not somebody is owed an apology, isn’t the crucial point whether or not they were unfairly wronged? Is circumstantial evidence sufficient to justify convictions in *YOUR* court of law? Because I’ll tell you what, it sure ain’t so here in America.

So if you’re so about reason, use some. Don’t just rant and call names.

I don’t think Chris is “trigger happy” on this, neither is it sensible to analyse one incident in detail.

One incident can always be explained away. But, with Craig, there is a constant drip, drip, drip of incidents. Here he takes a statement about a system of thought and responds to a statement about persons. There (http://bit.ly/MZMe9l ) he leaves out inconvenient context (whilst complaining of a lack of context!) Elsewhere he claims “no reason” for morals without God when he’s previously (http://bit.ly/PmhJcf) been given precisely those reasons (whether the reasons are satisfying to Craig is not relevant to their existence). And on, and on, and on.

There seems to be no-one, not Dawkins, not Dennett, not Ehrman, without some suspicious little incident. Maybe we can’t prove any one of these statements was dishonest. But we aren’t trying to lock him up, “beyond reasonable doubt” isn’t relevant. There comes a point, just as with incessant attempts to prove homoeopathy, astrology, reiki or whatever, when you are entitled to just give up.

There’s also some responsibility on Craig here. He may not have deliberately lied. He may not even have told the truth but in a deliberately misleading way. But if he repeatedly gives the wrong impression of people’s arguments, even innocently, he is negligent if he doesn’t do something about it.

Criag misrepresents both arguments and facts, he misrepresents his own position as much as opponents and as much as these general consensuses amongst experts he is fond of citing. You may just have an issue with Chris over the use of the word “lie”, though the difference between “lie”, “bullshit”, “negligence” or (following John Loftus) “fudging the truth” is minor compared to the extent of persistent and uncorrected false impressions given.

Hi, I’ve just written a blog post which gives a few examples (with references) concerning the honesty of William Lane Craig:

http://aigbusted.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-you-shouldnt-trust-william-lane.html

Ryan,

Thanks for the link, I’ll definitely check it out.

Tony Lloyd,

Thanks for a reasoned response, in contrast to the lack of reason typified by AgeOfReasonXXI.

First off, how do you define “trigger-happy?” That might help me isolate where we actually disagree. Second, I understand that Hallquist founds his libel on a cumulative case. I did not offer today’s post as a defeater of Hallquist’s cumulative case. Rather, I offered it as an insight into what I perceive to be the faults in Hallquist’s thinking, then I imply that said faults have led him to premature conclusions. I agree with you that conclusions shouldn’t be drawn on a single case. I’ve read Hallquist’s cumulative case and I think it’s bunk for all the reasons Lowder so articulately outlined.

Since we’re newly acquainted, maybe this would be a good time to point you to one of my criticisms of Craig (here). I can see how an atheist or skeptic could easily get the impression I’m a Craig fanboy. I respect many of his arguments and I think he’s a great debater, but I definitely do not turn a blind eye by refusing to criticize him where I think it’s merited.

And on, and on, and on.

I would love to examine those issues with you, but you haven’t given me enough to go on. If you could write a blog post or comment that fleshes out your accusations, I’d be more than happy to comment on them, but as it stands, I simply can’t agree with you.

Maybe we can’t prove any one of these statements was dishonest. But we aren’t trying to lock him up, “beyond reasonable doubt” isn’t relevant.

I strongly disagree. Had Hallquist been responsible in his statements, I would agree with you. For example, had Hallquist carefully considered options and shown even a modicum of respect for critical analysis and cross-examination, things would be different. But Hallquist has crucified Craig in public by libeling him on nothing but circumstantial evidence. Do you think it’s at all rational or moral to do so?

There’s also some responsibility on Craig here. He may not have deliberately lied. He may not even have told the truth but in a deliberately misleading way. But if he repeatedly gives the wrong impression of people’s arguments, even innocently, he is negligent if he doesn’t do something about it.

I agree. However, notice how you’re careful and you refrain from libeling? Negligent is one thing, libeling a man as a “liar” is another entirely. Had Hallquist took your tack, I wouldn’t have wrote this post in the first place, but he didn’t. He went straight for libel and that’s just wrong.

Ryan,

Bad list.

You say:

“In order to show that an argument is no good, it is not enough for the sceptic to show that it’s possible that a premiss is false. Possibilities come cheap. I’m puzzled that so many laymen seem to think that merely stating another possibility is sufficient to defeat a premiss.”

In Craig’s 1991 article “Theism and Big Bang Cosmology” Australasian Journal of Philosophy69: 498, Craig gives the following response to one of Quentin Smith’s arguments for the nonexistence of God:

“If such a metaphysical interpretation of the initial singularity is even possible, then [Premise 5] is unsubstantiated, and Smith’s anti-theistic argument is undercut.” [empahasis added. Note: I believe I've heard Craig making statements like this elsewhere, but I don't recall where. Please comment if you know.]

From the very same article you quote Craig on his site:

Similarly, it’s not enough for critics of an argument to show that one of the premisses may be rationally denied. A good argument need not compel the assent of a rational person. Hence, I’ve never claimed that those who reject the theistic arguments I defend are irrational for doing so. Since plausibility is to a good degree person-relative, I’m not even unduly bothered by the fact that some people may not find one of the premisses more plausible than its contradictory. If someone, for example, thinks that it’s just as plausible as not that things can come into being utterly uncaused, I figure that’s his problem, not mine. My different assessment of the plausibility of the causal principle is perfectly reasonable whether or not he sees the point. Hence, my confidence in the argument’s worth as a good one is not shaken by the sceptic’s merely saying that a premiss doesn’t seem more plausible than not to him.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-leibnizian-cosmological-argument#ixzz22EleOYPL

I have to ask at this point. Are you aware that “undercuts” does not mean “destroys”? It really seems as if you’ve misrepresented Craig here, intentionally or not.

Next up:

Richard Dawkins has previously objected to using God to explain the fine-tuning problem on the grounds that God would be even more improbable, even more in need of an explanation, than the fine-tuning itself. Craig responds to this: “in order to recognize an explanation is the best, you don’t have to have an explanation for the explanation” (see this video, about 1:00-1:30).

However, when debating atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, look at how Craig responds to Sinnott-Armstrong after he brings up the objection to the fine-tuning argument that some of the anthropic coincidences might be explained by “tracker fields”:

“[Robin] Collins points out that ‘even if such fields were discovered, it would have to have just the right (“fine-tuned” or “well-designed”) mathematical form to overcome the severe problems facing such proposals. This would reintroduce the problem of fine-tuning and design at a different level, though in a mitigated way.’ This has been the pattern with attempts to explain fine-tuning by physical law: Like a stubborn bump in the carpet, fine-tuning is suppressed at one point only to pop up at another.” (pp.63-64, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist)

Craig is not saying that it isn’t possible for tracker fields to be an explanation for fine-tuning. In fact, he really seems to be granting that these tracker fields could be the best explanation! He’s pointing out that if tracker fields ARE the best explanation, then (in his and Collins’ view) we have another fine-tuning problem to answer – so we’re back to square one.

Likewise with God – from the narrow point Craig is making here – if it turns out that God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning, then “but we still have to explain things about God!” doesn’t remove God as the best explanation. You can have lingering questions about an explanation, and still have it be the best.

Again, I think you’re misrepresenting Craig, intentionally or not.

Regarding point 3, you don’t even quote Craig on this point, so it’s difficult for me to evaluate your claims. Provide that, and I’ll do so here.

Ryan,

Of your three examples, only (1) has any merit whatsoever in my book. Even if we grant it to you for the sake of argument it establishes special pleading at best. Logical errors do not entail intentional dishonesty (though I acknowledge you haven’t called Craig a “liar” like Hallquist). Nonetheless, if contradicting oneself even a few times is grounds for withholding trust, then I submit that none of us are trustworthy. I can state for a fact that I’ve definitely trotted out an occasional hurried rebuttal or contradictory statement. Does that mean I’m inherently untrustworthy or intentionally dishonest? Frankly, I just think it means I’m human.

I think you draw incorrect conclusions from (2) and (3). Regarding (2), nothing you cited shows that Craig contradicted his claim that, “in order to recognize an explanation is the best, you don’t have to have an explanation for the explanation.” Craig simply pointed out that the original (fine-tuning) dilemma persists if we push back causality to tracker fields. That strikes me as wholly valid, but even if it weren’t, again, that doesn’t entail intentional dishonesty or reason to withhold trust. You simply disagree with Craig, and I suspect you misunderstand his objection because you call it “special pleading” when it is not.

Regarding (3), “spontaneous” is NOT a non-sequitur. It’s undeniable fact that sans teleology, human evolution is the result of a spontaneous process. Or do you think it’s without reason that scientists refer to the question of spontaneous generation? The “facts” of evolution emphatically do not demonstrate that the human genome didn’t evolve from spontaneous processes. The only alternative to spontaneity is agency. Again, you disagree with Craig while seemingly not understanding the nuance of his argument. Disagreement is not grounds for mistrust.

Do you have any conclusive evidence?

Incidentally, regarding the “Hallquist was presenting a cumulative case” line.

Keep in mind, Lowder took Hallquist apart, piece by piece, in his opening salvo – and pretty much judged Hallquist as incorrect across the board. So, oddly enough, there’s another cumulative case argument being established – one against Hallquist.

On my count, Lowder went through 8 examples where Hallquist accused Craig of lying. Lowder argued persuasively that Hallquist was incorrect in his conclusions on all 8 counts. I think that helps create a cumulative case that Hallquist really has problems evaluating his opponents, or evaluating their honesty.

Hi

I took “trigger happy” to be something akin to being too quick, or being too ready, to make accusations. I’m not with Chris yet but I’m also being ground down by the little niggles Craig constantly raises. I suspect that Chris has too; not leapt to judge but been dragged to it.

I’m overly charitable about this sort of thing. I remember a certain “psychic” who I did not believe was a fraud: ie I thought she really believed. Turns out she is a total fraud, utterly cynical. Now this can’t be proven (and I’m not naming her for the same reason I was careful not to libel WLC: I live in England and our libel laws are totally skewed in favour of the litigant!). But though it can’t be proven it’s pretty obvious as a result of a big accumulation of little, explicable on their own but not together, incidents.

I think we disagree in the importance of the word “lie” and burden of proof.

On the word, I think dissemblers of various stripes make use of the various types of dishonesty and the difficulty people have in pinning down just which one a particular example falls under. Take the psychopathic example above. One way of misrepresenting your case is to say something that can be interpreted two ways, one of which is true, one false. The false interpretation is the one your audience are most likely to have.

WLC didn’t say: “It is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is a psychopath.” But that’s one fairly likely interpretation of “(i)t is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is psychopathic”, perhaps the most likely explanation. If you say the former hoping that your audience will interpret your words as the latter then you are being dishonest. You’re not lying, not bullshitting, not fudging but, frankly, who cares? The dissembler cares as the honest person often feels constrained by getting the accusation right. We can’t prove which particular form of dishonesty is behind a misrepresentation, so we hold back on making any accusation.

I say it can be best to just accuse away. John Loftus says he “believes”, but can’t prove, that WLC “fudges the truth”. Well “fudging the truth” is just not good enough, we should behave just the same way to WLC if he fudges or if he lies. Or if he bullshits. We should even behave much the same way towards WLC if it is cognitive dissonance at the root.

On the burden of proof, the requirements of good faith require the sort of analysis you mention. But I’m running out of confidence in WLC’s good faith. Again, I’m not quite where Chris is but I am approaching the opinion that whatever WLC is doing, even if it’s just negligence, he is culpable and not showing the rest of us good faith.

(PS I like this automated preview of a post you have on your blog. How did you get it?)

Frankly, I think the Harris line weighs more against Harris’ honesty than Craig’s.

Harris says, “We are being offered a psychopathic and psychotic moral attitude… it is psychopathic because this is a total detachment from the, from the well-being of human beings.” And then later, “Now, I’m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics, but this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.

This strikes me as insincere: Harris wants to have the rhetorical effect of calling a given belief psychotic or psychopathic, but he doesn’t want to be anchored with the burden of actually calling someone psychopathic.

A simple question: if a moral attitude is described as psychopathic or psychotic, are you implying a person is psychopathic or psychotic for believing in or subscribing to that attitude? Because I think you are, and I think claiming “But I’m not saying it’s psychopathic to believe these things!’ doesn’t exonerate Harris. It just illustrates an immediate inconsistency, or worse, bullshitting on his part.

Again, keep in mind what’s Harris is doing: he’s calling a given moral attitude psychotic/psychopathic, but then saying he’s not suggesting people who hold these attitudes are psychotic/psychopathic. That sits in tension: either he has to give up his claim that these are psychotic/psychopathic moral attitudes, or he has to give up his claim that he’s not suggesting that people who believe this adhere to a psychotic/psychopathic moral attitude.

Also, keep something in mind about the specific “psychotic” charge. This apparently wasn’t a case of Craig sitting down and writing an article about one of Harris’ books, interpreting a line his audience has no exposure to.

Craig did this in his immediate rebuttal in the same debate. Not only that, but everyone heard what Harris just said – they’re aware of the context, they’re aware of the exact words.

Focusing on this as even a “nibble” against Craig’s honesty doesn’t wash. If anyone has a problem in this specific interaction, it’s Harris.

Hi CL,

“Even if we grant it to you for the sake of argument it establishes special pleading at best. Logical errors do not entail intentional dishonesty (though I acknowledge you haven’t called Craig a ‘liar’ like Hallquist). Nonetheless, if contradicting oneself even a few times is grounds for withholding trust, then I submit that none of us are trustworthy.”

I agree that a lapse in logical thinking does not *necessarily* make one dishonest. But think about our options in this case specifically: Craig is a philosopher and someone who spends a great deal of time examining arguments. How could he not notice a rather blatant double standard when it comes to something as basic as determining when an argument has been undercut and when it has not?

“Craig simply pointed out that the original (fine-tuning) dilemma persists if we push back causality to tracker fields.”

And Dawkins pointed out that the fine-tuning problem still exists if you posit a God. That Craig denies what Dawkins says while making the exact same point is self-contradictory. Again, you might want to chalk this up to a lapse in consistent thought. However, honest people make scattershot errors. That is, sometimes they err when judging the arguments for their case, and sometimes they err in judging arguments against their case. That Craig seems to so frequently engage in self-contradiction when defending himself (and not making errors that hurt his own case) suggests something funny to me.

“Regarding (3), ‘spontaneous’ is NOT a non-sequitur.”

Yes, it is. Confusing the probability of the spontaneous assembly of the genome with the probability of gradual, non-random evolution is a whopping error. How does someone trained in philosophy make an error like this?

“It’s undeniable fact that sans teleology, human evolution is the result of a spontaneous process.”

I’m not sure exactly what you mean. Evolution is not spontaneous.

“Or do you think it’s without reason that scientists refer to the question of spontaneous generation?”

Spontaneous generation was discredited a long time ago. It’s not a question for anyone.

But think about our options in this case specifically: Craig is a philosopher and someone who spends a great deal of time examining arguments. How could he not notice a rather blatant double standard when it comes to something as basic as determining when an argument has been undercut and when it has not?

I’ve already pointed out the mistake you’re making with regards to Craig on this question, and even quoted Craig from the very article you cite to illustrate your mistake:

Similarly, it’s not enough for critics of an argument to show that one of the premisses may be rationally denied. A good argument need not compel the assent of a rational person. Hence, I’ve never claimed that those who reject the theistic arguments I defend are irrational for doing so. Since plausibility is to a good degree person-relative, I’m not even unduly bothered by the fact that some people may not find one of the premisses more plausible than its contradictory. If someone, for example, thinks that it’s just as plausible as not that things can come into being utterly uncaused, I figure that’s his problem, not mine. My different assessment of the plausibility of the causal principle is perfectly reasonable whether or not he sees the point. Hence, my confidence in the argument’s worth as a good one is not shaken by the sceptic’s merely saying that a premiss doesn’t seem more plausible than not to him.
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-leibnizian-cosmological-argument#ixzz22EleOYPL

And Dawkins pointed out that the fine-tuning problem still exists if you posit a God. That Craig denies what Dawkins says while making the exact same point is self-contradictory.

Also answered: Craig is not saying that it isn’t possible for tracker fields to be an explanation for fine-tuning. In fact, he really seems to be granting that these tracker fields could be the best explanation! He’s pointing out that if tracker fields ARE the best explanation, then (in his and Collins’ view) we have another fine-tuning problem to answer – so we’re back to square one.

Likewise with God – from the narrow point Craig is making here – if it turns out that God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning, then “but we still have to explain things about God!” doesn’t remove God as the best explanation. You can have lingering questions about an explanation, and still have it be the best.

Again, I think you’re misrepresenting Craig, intentionally or not.

Regarding point 3, you don’t even quote Craig on this point, so it’s difficult for me to evaluate your claims. Provide that, and I’ll do so here.

Regarding 3, I’m still waiting for the actual quote from Craig.

Tony,

I took “trigger happy” to be something akin to being too quick, or being too ready, to make accusations.

Yeah, that’s how I define it, too, so we don’t disagree there. I guess we just disagree that it’s morally reprehensible, irrational and unethical to libel people on circumstantial evidence. But, like I said, I appreciate your reasoned response. I don’t know where to go from here. You don’t think Hallquist was trigger-happy. I think he was. I guess we both just have different standards for what constitutes sufficient evidence to publicly condemn another man as a “liar.”

As for the live comment preview, it’s a nifty little PHP plugin for WordPress. I zipped it up and emailed you a copy. I can’t remember where I got it from.

Crude,

Frankly, I think the Harris line weighs more against Harris’ honesty than Craig’s.

Yeah, I do too, but for different reasons. Harris says, “it is psychopathic because this is a total detachment from the, from the well-being of human beings.” Yet, that shows Harris is either, A) woefully ignorant of biblical context; B) purposely distorting said context; or, C) dumb as a doornail. It’s not good for Harris whichever way you cut it. The truth is, God’s command is actually quite detached to the well-being of human beings. The Canaanites were the ones detached from well-being. They sacrificed their own children to the idol Molech! They were a depraved race. If they existed today, they would *UNDENIABLY* fall into the category of people Harris believes it “may be okay to kill” because of their beliefs. No question about it. Imagine if Christians were running around burning children to idols. What would Harris and the rest of the atheist community say?

A simple question: if a moral attitude is described as psychopathic or psychotic, are you implying a person is psychopathic or psychotic for believing in or subscribing to that attitude? Because I think you are, and I think claiming “But I’m not saying it’s psychopathic to believe these things!’ doesn’t exonerate Harris.

I think one can say somebody “is psychopathic” without actually calling them a psychopath. As an analogy, some of my friends (and I) do jerky things at times, but we’re not jerks overall. Also, I’d note that Harris didn’t respond, “But I’m not saying it’s psychopathic to believe these things!” As I read him, Harris believes it *IS* psychopathic for an otherwise sane and decent person to believe these things. He’s just saying they’re not necessarily a psychopath overall. At least, that’s how I read Harris. But, ironically, Harris also believes the same sort of things he decries as “psychopathic” when God ordains them. Harris believes it “may be ethical” to kill people based on what they believe. At least God exterminated the Canaanites for what they did, as opposed to what they believed! Really, we could argue that Harris’ views are more psychopathic. Why isn’t God ethical for wiping out a bunch of perverted pagans who humped each other in fertility orgies and sacrificed their own children on the altar of Molech?

Craig did this in his immediate rebuttal in the same debate. Not only that, but everyone heard what Harris just said – they’re aware of the context, they’re aware of the exact words.

I know. That’s why I think it’s more than reasonable to assume Craig responded to Harris in the context Harris established. Hell, Craig even took the time to clarify: “[Harris] also says it’s ‘psychopathic’ to believe these things.”

cl,

I think one can say somebody “is psychopathic” without actually calling them a psychopath. As an analogy, some of my friends (and I) do jerky things at times, but we’re not jerks overall.

I see where you’re going, but I think that gets into very muddled territory for Craig/Harris. Harris is saying that a given moral attitude is psychotic/psychopathic – he gave no qualification. An attitude goes beyond a single act – it covers, or so it would seem, a person’s entire moral system. I think it gets really hard to say that a person’s moral system/moral attitude is psychotic/psychopathic, while at the same time maintaining that the person themselves is not.

As I read him, Harris believes it *IS* psychopathic for an otherwise sane and decent person to believe these things. He’s just saying they’re not necessarily a psychopath overall. At least, that’s how I read Harris.

See, I agree with this, I think. But the problem is, if this is right, then Harris is saying holding a given belief is “psychopathic”, Craig’s response is justified an HARRIS is the one with a problem on his hands. Either way, I really think Harris can’t absolve himself by saying something like, “It’s psychopathic to believe these things. But I’m not saying a person is a psychopath.” It goes beyond a singular act a la the jerk example.

But, ironically, Harris also believes the same sort of things he decries as “psychopathic” when God ordains them. Harris believes it “may be ethical” to kill people based on what they believe. At least God exterminated the Canaanites for what they did, as opposed to what they believed! Really, we could argue that Harris’ views are more psychopathic.

This gets off-topic, but I think it’s even worse for Harris.

Harris believes – and I think Craig successfully showed – that under his “moral calculus”, in principle a lot of pretty deplorable things can be justified, given the right knowledge on our part. (Say, we do the imaginary moral calculus and hey – the optimal moral calculus just so happens to be Rapeworld.)

But if this is the case, then Harris has just justified even his caricature of theistic morality. God is omniscient and omnipotent – hell, He doesn’t even need to be omniscient/omnipotent, He just needs to be smarter than humanity and in possession of more data/knowledge, and in principle even the most lopsided view of (say) the Canaanite slaughter is justified by Harris’ own system.

Ryan,

***Regarding (1):

Craig is a philosopher and someone who spends a great deal of time examining arguments. How could he not notice a rather blatant double standard when it comes to something as basic as determining when an argument has been undercut and when it has not?

Well, Crude already pointed out the problem here, and I’m waiting to hear your response, but even before hearing it I can ask:

1) Do you remember everything you said over 20 years ago?

2) Even if you do, are you always 100% consistent with what you said 20 years ago?

3) Since I assume any honest person must answer “no” to 1) and 2), even if I grant you for the sake of argument that Craig contradicted himself—which I don’t think you’ve sufficiently established—why is that grounds to distrust him from here on out? That strikes me as the genetic fallacy.

To contrast, Dawkins straight-out denied he ever had a debate with a certain rabbi (can’t find the link at the moment but I assure you it exists), despite the public record proving Dawkins’ claim was false. Dawkins’ culpability has been sufficiently demonstrated, and the only possible counter-explanation is that Dawkins forgot about the debate. Dawkins also ignores the scientific evidence which challenges his claim that religious upbringing is child abuse. Where is your post saying we shouldn’t trust Dawkins? Should you respond that you weren’t aware of these things, now that you are, would you say we shouldn’t trust Dawkins?

~

***Regarding (2)

And Dawkins pointed out that the fine-tuning problem still exists if you posit a God. That Craig denies what Dawkins says while making the exact same point is self-contradictory.

No, it isn’t. For one, even if you were correct, it would be special pleading, not self-contradictory. You’ve confused two logical fallacies. But, you’re incorrect. The fine-tuning problem *DOES NOT* persist given the God of classical theism or deism. Dawkins just doesn’t know jack about nuanced philosophy and that’s really all there is to say here. Again, this is just an example of you (and Dawkins) disagreeing with Craig while apparently not understanding his argument. Why should I distrust Craig because you disagree with him? Why should I distrust Craig because you and Dawkins don’t understand what constitutes a proper rebuttal to the fine-tuning argument?

Again, you might want to chalk this up to a lapse in consistent thought.

No, I don’t want to “chalk it up” to that at all. I “chalk it up” to the fact that neither you nor Dawkins understands why the fine-tuning problem is *SOLVED* by an intelligent agent like God. Do you really think “who designed the designer” is a valid objection?

However, honest people make scattershot errors. That is, sometimes they err when judging the arguments for their case, and sometimes they err in judging arguments against their case.

I totally agree with you there, but again, Craig has not contradicted himself at all here, nor has he pleaded specially. If you want we can discuss this further, maybe you’ve just never taken the fine-tuning / design arguments this far. I don’t know since we’re newly acquainted.

~

***Regarding (3):

How does someone trained in philosophy make an error like this?

I can’t answer because you never even paid us the charity of linking to Craig’s actual words on this matter. That, in my opinion, is at least as suspect as anything you’ve leveled against Craig. You call your accusations “damning” yet you withhold crucial evidence a rational person would need to make an informed decision.

That, in my book, is an intellectual no-no (to put it lightly).

By the way. I like how Hallquist’s response here has been to ask Lowder for a private pow-wow. I said this on Lowder’s blog, but that’s telling. I can just imagine what the need is for that. ;)

Some people might find it amusing that Craig’s response to the tracker field point made by Walter, that the tracker field themselves would have to be ‘fine-tuned’ was answered in the Scientific American resource that Walter provided. Here is a relevant snippet.

“The initial energy density of the tracker field does not have to be tuned to a certain value, because the field rapidly adjusts itself to that value.”

Robin Collins who Craig quoted with the objection is not a scientist, but a theistic philosopher from Messiah College of all places. Why does Craig seem to always duck his research responsibilities? He should read or at-least review the resources an opponent provides himself, not get someone to do it for him, especially someone who isn’t relevantly qualified. Craig’s reply quite obviously applies to his genocide commanding god, the exact same point provides the thrust of Dawkins ‘Ultimate 747 gambit’ that Craig thinks is the worst atheistic argument ever. I’ve long stopped expecting Craig to be consistent.

It has also seemed to me that if the more you dig into a supposedly professional philosopher’s arguments the more you find such blatant mistakes, which are always made in their favour, the more you should distrust them. Craig is the exemplar of such a ‘philosopher’.

Here’s some research for you to actually read yourself.

The Craig Armstrong debate: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong-God-A-Debate-between-a-Christian-and-an-Atheist.pdf

Craig’s straw man ‘refutation’ of Dawkins’’Ultimate 747 Gambit’ can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/richard-dawkins-argument-for-atheism-in-the-god-delusion (note the inconsistency between Craig’s arguments here with the above debate)

Scientific American article about tracker fields: http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ast21/sciam/AcceleratingUniverse2.pdf

You can find Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ in The God Delusion, read the whole chapter not just the summary pages as Craig did.

For a rigorous defence of Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate 747 Gambit’ from common misconceptions see: http://omnisaffirmatioestnegatio.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/dawkins-and-the-ultimate-747-gambit/

Hi Benjamin.

I have nothing to say at the moment RE tracker fields. As far as Craig is concerned, I’m not the biggest fan. I’ve criticized more than one of his arguments — but the point of this article wasn’t to defend Craig. It was to properly accuse Hallquist of his shameful behavior.

As far as Dawkins’ 747 gambit… I’m a fan of TaiChi, but I didn’t find his defense of the gambit persuasive at all. For example,

14. A designer is a person, having a conception of some particular object of design prior to the creation of that object.

15. Self-conception is a necessary feature of personhood.

16. Therefore, a designer conceives of himself/herself as a person, as well as the designed object, prior to the creation of that object.

17. A conceived person and conceived object are together more complex than the conceived object alone.

18. So, a designer is necessarily more complex than the object conceived (via 17 and considerations of the previous argument).

19. God, if he exists, is the designer of the universe.

3. So, God himself would have to be more complex than the highly complex universe.

…that doesn’t work. 17 doesn’t entail 18, at all.

But let’s say it did. The theist can, very easily, simply admit that God is more complex than the universe. Then what? Dawkins is committed to some response ala, “Then God is even more improbable than the universe.” But that only flies if Dawkins then DENIES the very assumption TaiChi suggests he implicitly accepts: that God is an entity not amenable to the laws of probability.

Thanks for pointing me over there, though. Hadn’t read anything from TaiChi in a while. I like the guy’s exacting style. This particular argument just doesn’t work for me.

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