Dawkins and Grayling Defend Atheism: Afterthoughts

manicstreetpreacher relaxes with a cigar and a glass of brandy following a dashed fine battle of rhetoric between the godly and the infidels.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you.  I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

- Johann Hari, “Why should I respect these oppressive religions?”

On Sunday, 30 November 2009, I attended a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared at Wellington College, Berkshire entitled “Atheism is the new fundamentalism”.

Speaking for the motion were former bishop of Oxford Richard Harries and former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, Charles Moore.

Speaking against the motion were prominent professor of philosopher from Birkbeck College, University of London, author and public commentator A C Grayling and evolutionary biologist, former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and “Britain’s Most Prominent Atheist”, Richard Dawkins.

The moderator of the debate was Dr Antony Seldon, master of Wellington College, who deserves an MSP blog profile to himself!

The event was streamed live over the Internet by the organisers and questions were taken over email and Twitter from viewers at the other end of the fibre optics.  Within 24 hours, the full recording was posted on the Intelligence Squared website.

The YouTube playlist begins here:

You can download an MP3 audio of the debate here.

The pre-debate/ live-streaming page for the debate on RichardDawkins.net is here.

The post-debate page on RichardDawkins.net is here.

The motion was defeated in both audience and online polls before and after the event.  The results were as follows:

Initial audience vote

For: 333
Against: 675
Undecided: 389

Final online vote

For: 37
Against: 889
Undecided: 12

Final audience vote

For: 363
Against: 1,070
Undecided: 85

Since the debate was made available on the Internet so soon after the event, I will not give a blow-by-blow account, but will let the viewers judge for themselves and provide my thoughts from the frontline.

As I predicted before the event, this one was far more evenly matched than Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry’s massacre of the Catholic Church in London at the end of October.  Against my predictions, however, was that the tone of the debate was far more hand-to-throat than the tea-and-cucumber-sandwiches-garden-party that I had envisaged.  There was genuine anger between the parties, which surprised me because Richard Dawkins and Richard Harries have shared a platform on a number of occasions and have been united in the fight against the teaching of creationism in science school classes.

Harries especially appeared to have taken matters awfully personally that his friend and colleague, Dawkins, had been so forceful in his condemnation of religion.  Charles Moore, I have say, even as a lifelong reader of The Daily Telegraph, let his side down badly.  His opening speech was packed with ad hominems Richard Dawkins, accusing him of treating the debate on religion like a game of Cluedo: “It was Reverend Green, with the Bible, in the nursery”, and even called him “Kommandant Dawkins” at one point.  Grayling drew a pretty large cheer later on in the evening for hauling Moore up on his below-the-belt tactics.

A commenter on RichardDawkins.net summed Moore up rather well:

After that loathsome Charles Moore used his entire time on a ranting, batshit crazy personal attack against Richard, calling him “Commandant Dawkins” and comparing him to Josef Mengele, I was at first astonished that Richard didn’t bother to respond to any of that garbage, but proceeded to issue a focused attack on the debate proposition which effectively ended the discussion; his points were unanswerable and Harries and Moore didn’t even bother to try.  But then I realized that this is one of the reasons I admire Richard so much: he is perfectly capable of becoming enraged if someone lies about the theory of evolution, but the fact that an asshole slanders him at length is of no interest to him.  Is there anybody around, atheist or otherwise, more passionate about fighting for the truth?

It was Dawkins and Grayling were the stars of the debate and were on tip-top form.  Dawkins was cool and rational.  Grayling – who I saw speak live for the first time on the night – said the least on the panel in terms of words, but spoke volumes more than any of them.  I was very impressed.  The cartoon to which he referred in his opening speech is below:

Grayling continually hammered home the point that it is simply not possible for an atheist to be fundamentalist about their non-belief.  You either believe or you do not.  The word “atheist” is an invention by believers to label those who do not share their views.  Except we do not have words like “afairyist” or “non-stamp collector”.  Grayling was understated and good humoured and drew a big “aaaaaaaah!” from the crowd when he said that the most religious experience he has had was meeting his wife.  He  also also a bitching impression of an old Irish woman greeting a leprechaun.

One member of the audience asked Dawkins why he refused to debate American Christian apologist William Lane Craig, as surely he was avoiding religion’s “best case” in so doing.  Dawkins pithily dismissed Craig (without repeating his name) by saying that he debated with bishops, scientists and theologians who had a valid contribution to make and not just someone “whose only claim to fame is being a professional debater; I’m busy”.

There has been an Internet campaign to get Dawkins and Craig on the same platform and apologists have accused Dawkins of cowardice in refusing the invitation.  Craig himself said that Peter May, Chair of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the UK contacted Dawkins shortly after The God Delusion went on sale to invite him to debate as part of Craig’s upcoming “Reasonable Faith” tour in the UK in 2007, but Dawkins replied saying that “he had never heard of him” and “it wouldn’t look very good on my CV”.

I’m glad that Dawkins took the opportunity to put this matter to rest.  I will certainly credit Craig with being an expert debater, but that is all he is.  His five “arguments” have been refuted ad nauseum yet he still keeps on using them.  American physicist and author of God, The Failed Hypothesis, Victor Stenger commented during a recent lecture (YouTube Part One) that he refuted Craig’s cosmological argument during their debate in at the University of Hawaii back in 2003 (video / audio) on the basis that Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time recanted his and Roger Penrose’s earlier thesis and now state that the universe did not begin in a singularity known as the “Big Bang”.  According to Stenger, Craig is clearly “lying” to his scientifically ignorant audiences by continuing to use the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Craig’s strongest weapon is to drop in several points of misinformation and scientific hokum during his time at the microphone and then ridicule and belittle (even by the standards of Christopher Hitchens!) his opponents and say that they have not answered his points.  Pathetic.   I’m sure Craig would mop the floor with Dawkins in a live debate, but it would be the result of multiple punches below the belt.  Besides, Dawkins soundly refutes all five of Craig’s “arguments” in The God Delusion.

The same arguments keep coming up as well.  Dawkins and Grayling had to refute the old “Hitler and Stalin were atheists…” canard for the umpteenth time.  While Dawkins’ line that their atheism was as incidental to their evil acts as their moustaches goes so far, I am still frustrated that he has never really tackled the issue of Stalin’s brutal oppression of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Grayling made up for this minor deficiency by arguing that the 20th century totalitarians were strikingly similar to the three monotheisms in that they set up a monolithic ideology with a leader that could not be questioned under pain of horrific punishment.  It is unsurprising that despite Stalin being an atheist in respect of Yahweh, Christ and Zeus, was still educated to become a priest in a Georgian seminary.  This would have immeasurably influenced his politics and his methods.

And I have to say that Dr Seldon was one of the best moderators I have ever seen!  He was an absolute hoot and very nearly upstaged the speakers with sparklingly wit and camp demeanour which reminded me of John Hurt’s performance in The Naked Civil Servant!

My question to Moore and Harries about their subtle, scholarly, nuanced brand of religion –v- creationist ignorance of the kind I witnessed Ken Ham, head of Answers In Genesis, preach at Liverpool University in March 2008 is at the beginning of part seven.  I’m the baldy headed toff in the cream shirt:

I was reasonably satisfied with their answers in that they did not attempt to evade the question, although of course I wasn’t convinced by them.  Harries played that theist’s trick of saying that the New Atheists are ignoring the evidence.  WELL WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD AND ALL THAT’S HOLY IS THIS EVIDENCE?!?!?!?!?!

Earlier on the in the Q & A, Harries drew jeers and whistles (including from myself) when he objected to Dawkins and Grayling comparing the probability of the existence of God to the existence of leprechauns.  If Harries thinks we are being shrill and strident in rejecting the Judeo-Christian God as a fairytale, he really ought to consider for a moment whether there is any more evidence to support his faith than belief in Zeus or Amon-Ra!

And I just love the way that both men consider that young-earth creationist beliefs are mad without giving a moment’s thought to the plausibility of a virgin conceiving, a corpse walking and a man defying all the laws of gravity and natural prohibitions with regard to flight without the aid of technology by descending from the sky trailing clouds of glory, surrounded by angels to commence his two thousand year overdue judgment of humanity (both living and dead) for its wrongdoings, before casting most of them into a pit of fire and taking a select few to live happily ever after in his “kingdom”.

Where is the evidence in support of that?

In conclusion – how dare you call us fundamentalists!

This was a truly electric debate.  It was great to be in the audience.  The video really doesn’t do it justice.  While not quite as much fun as the cheap thrill of witnessing Hitch and Fry steamroller the Vatican, the more balanced spread of audience support and the stronger showing by the theist side of the house made for a tense experience.  I had genuine doubts about whether the motion would be defeated in the audience vote.

And all credit to Dawkins and Grayling.  They were polite yet forceful.  They were passionate without being angry.  There were no theatrical performances or cheap personal attacks.  They focused on their opponents’ arguments and demolished them thoroughly.  Moore and Harries were firmly on the back foot and as one questioner towards the end pointed out, they were getting defensive because their side is losing the argument.

More like this Intelligence Squared, please.  And get Antony Seldon to moderate all your debates!

manicstreetpreacher relaxes with a cigar and a glass of brandy following a dashed fine battle of rhetoric between the godly and the infidels.

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44 Responses to “Dawkins and Grayling Defend Atheism: Afterthoughts”

  1. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I have since blogged on Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate William Lane Craig here.

    After I published that piece, I came across this comment by Dawkins posted on the debate forum at RichardDawkins.net, courtesy of Steven Carr:

    Theological justification for genocide Part One

    Richard Dawkins >> Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:22 am

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

    One of our commenters on another thread, stevencarrwork, posted a link to this article by the American theologian and Christian apologist William Lane Craig. I read it and found it so dumbfoundingly, staggeringly awful that I wanted to post it again. It is a stunning example of the theological mind at work. And remember, this is NOT an ‘extremist’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘picking on the worst case’ example. My understanding is that William Lane Craig is a widely respected apologist for the Christian religion. Read his article and rub your eyes to make sure you are not having a bad dream.

    Richard

    That just about says it all.

    MSP

  2. Martin Says:

    I’m sorry. I realize this post is old but I just noticed this:

    “Besides, Dawkins soundly refutes all five of Craig’s “arguments” in The God Delusion.”

    To which I respond Simpsons-style: WHAAAA….??!!

  3. Martin Says:

    That ain’t no ad hominem. Ad hominem is when you attack a person instead of what the person says. I attacked what you said, not you yourself.

    I was just expressing shock that there is anything even remotely like a refutation of Craig’s five arguments in that book. Dawkins doesn’t even seem to be aware that most of them exist. Although, I gave away my copy of God Delusion so I can’t easily reference it.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      OK, I’ll refresh your memory. Dawkins does not reference Craig directly (he had never heard of him when his book was published!) but he does address all five of Craig’s arguments:

      1. Cosmological argument – Positing God as an end to the infinite regress is pointless, since it only begs the question of who made God. Also, Darwinian evolution has raised our consciousness that if the universe had a cause, it is perfectly plausible that this was a simple quantum fluctuation, not Craig’s “being of unfathomable power”, which would have to be even more complex and improbable than the existence of the universe it seeks to explain.

      2. Fine-tuning – Again the anthropic fine tuning argument is an alternative to the design explanation, rather like Darwinian evolution, not a feature of it. Dawkins explores the possibility that the constants of the universe are set like the radius of a circle in relation to its circumference. Dawkins also explores the Multi-Verse Theory as an intriguing possibility than does not require a supernatural designer.

      3. Objective moral values – Dawkins uses the term “absolute” rather than “objective”. Absolutism has lead to stoning to death adulterers, apostates and homosexuals. Also, the shifting moral Zeitgeist whereby Western societies morals have improved over the centuries and people are no longer racist as they once were owes little to religion and everything to secular rationalism. We cherry pick our scriptures and claim the good bits as religion. See this post for a succinct explanation from The Dawk himself.

      4. Resurrection of Jesus – Dawkins highlights the inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts, the copycat elements of the Jesus myth in relation to previous myths, the manuscripts being written decades after the events they purport to describe by non-eyewitnesses and the lack of biographical details in the epistles of Paul which were written earlier than the Gospels. Like The Da Vinci Code, the Gospels are a complete fiction.

      5. Personal experience of God – This is easily explained away by hallucinations and other tricks of the mind, in a similar way to ghost and UFO experiences. And it is interesting how no one ever returns from a religious experience knowing anything that could not have already been in their heads. George W Bush claimed that God advised him to invade Iraq. It is a shame that the Almighty did not let him in on the awkward fact that he would find no weapons of mass destruction there.

      There.

  4. Martin Says:

    See, I guess here’s what I like about Craig: he keeps everything to strict rational argumentation. He offers premises, then a conclusion, and then justification for his premises.

    A rule of rational argumentation is that in order to refute an argument you have to stick to either showing that the argument is logically invalid, or that there is something wrong with some of the premises. This makes it easy to stay on track rather than spewing all over the place.

    For instance, Craig’s moral argument:

    1. If objective moral values do not exist, then God does not exist
    2. Objective moral values exist
    3. Therefore God exists

    There is a huge difference between moral absolutism and moral objectivism: “Moral absolutism is not the same as moral universalism (also called moral objectivism). Universalism holds merely that what is right or wrong is independent of custom or opinion (as opposed to relativism), but not necessarily that what is right or wrong is independent of context or consequences (as in absolutism).” Wikipedia

    So which premise is Dawkins disputing? I have no idea.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I don’t think Dawkins ever uses the term “objective morals”, but I suppose he doesn’t believe in them either and certainly doesn’t believe they are handed down from God.

      You don’t prove anything with Craig’s style of philosophical syllogisms. Premises can always be disputed and therefore the conclusions invalidated. They are merely the summary of an argument if you agree with view being proffered.

      Kant argued against deductive arguments for God such the Ontological Argument by stating that you cannot prove anything other than an abstraction by sheer force of logic. You need empirical evidence, and for God there is none.

      I dispute both premises of Craig’s argument for objective morality. First, objective values do not exist in reality. Not every person, society or culture has the same morals. You only have to witness the gapping differences between our world’s religions and the even greater disagreement between religion and secularism to see that this is so.

      Perhaps is would be wonderful if there was a moral code out there somewhere in the metaphysical universe to which we could refer all our problems, but I simply don’t see any evidence of it.

      Secondly, objective morals could well exist without God. They could be built into our genetic make up to assist survival. Craig has never ruled out that possibility. He simply appeals to emotional blackmail by invoking images of the Holocaust and child torture and asks “How can we ever say that is wrong?”

      Erm, religiously motivated female circumcision, Bill?

  5. Martin Says:

    Well, I wasn’t necessarily trying to defend the argument so much as expressing my skepticism that Dawkins has refuted the arguments. Justifying my “WHAAA…??!!!” as you requested. :)

    Pointing out that some religions practice stoning is not addressing either of the premises. In fact, it could be argued that Dawkins is just confirming premise #2. He obviously thinks stoning is a moral abomination. But on moral relativism, which he pays lip service to, it may be right for some cultures and some religions and therefore can be no more condemned than can another man’s opinion. “To each his own” if there are no objective morals, right?

    Disclaimer: I don’t actually know if that’s correct or not; as usual, I’m just trying to point out that you are no longer playing chess against a moron; you are sitting across the board from Gary Kasparov now. OK, maybe not Kasparov, but at least a worthy opponent that is actually able to play the game rather than just drool on the pieces and knock them over. :)

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Dawkins bases his morality on the humanistic basis of increasing human happiness and reducing human suffering. Religious ethics often ignores this implication, concerning itself greatly with what consenting adults get up to in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

      Ergo, stoning to death someone for apostasy, i.e. simply changing you mind without actually harming another is bad and immoral for humanists because it causes pain, suffering and death with no justification, such as the protection of society at large.

      I’m just trying to point out that you are no longer playing chess against a moron; you are sitting across the board from Gary Kasparov now. OK, maybe not Kasparov, but at least a worthy opponent that is actually able to play the game rather than just drool on the pieces and knock them over.

      Riiiiiiiiiiight…

  6. Martin Says:

    Riiiiiiiiiiight…

    Yup. Observe:

    As atheists would agree, humans are just another animal species, nothing special about them. So on what basis is secular humanism making humans out to be morally special? If a baboon troop slaughters another troop, then that is just nature at work; nothing morally wrong with that behavior. So too with humans, on naturalism, right? Why are you trying to elevate humans to some special status, above other animals?

    Your king is in check, atheist!

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      You just try behaving like a baboon and go around raping, stealing and killing till your heart’s content and then see how quickly your neighbours rush to your aid when you need a stitch in time in order to save you nine.

      Animals also don’t use cutlery and eat their own faeces. That doesn’t mean we should take any example from it.

      Again, Craig seems to appeal to our inner feelings when he asserts that for morals to be objective they need to have some cosmic significance, otherwise “we are just imperfectly evolved primates existing on a speck of cosmic dust in a far flung corner of the galaxy.”

      Well, if that’s what we are, then that’s what we are. You can’t just wish it otherwise.

      All the evidence points to morality being a human construct for the purpose of assisting our own survival. I believe that we can distil objective moral truths by looking at the consequences of our thoughts and actions, but I don’t see any evidence for a predetermined absolute or objective moral standard.

      I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s where all the evidence points to.

      Your checking Queen has just been taken, agnostic.

  7. Martin Says:

    Oh yeah?

    So, the only reason you don’t want to rape is because it might result in your neighbors coming to hurt you, huh? You don’t feel there is anything really morally wrong with rape. While you atheists might say that there are bad short term consequences to rape, and so it might be socially unfashionable, you can’t say that it is a moral abomination.

    If we are monkeys on a speck of dust, and “if that’s what we are then that’s what we are,” then that’s fine. But then all you can do is condemn the Holocaust, child rape, and racism as maybe unfashionable, but not morally wrong. And of course, if everyone were brainwashed to feel the Holocaust is right, then it would be right. If you wish to say they are morally wrong, then you are elevating humans above the animal kingdom and giving them special status.

    Your rook and queen have been forked by my knight! BOO YA!

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I judge the moral content of rape by virtue of the fact that it inflicts physical and emotional suffering of a kind that I would not like to be inflicted on me.

      No one wants to be raped, otherwise it would be consensual sex.

      And if everyone carried out these acts it would have a detrimental effect on the survival and well-being of our species in the long run.

      Are you saying that the only reason why you don’t go around raping and killing is because you think The Big Surveillance Camera In The Sky doesn’t like it? You can’t see the intrinsic immorality for yourself?

      Bishop takes Knight. Checkmate.

  8. Martin Says:

    No fuhrer wants to have his Third Reich City invaded and destroyed by the US and Russians. Therefore, the US and the Russians should refrain from doing so.

    Not so fast with that checkmate; you missed the bishop hidden in the corner.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Yes, invading a country, killing a lot people, including unarmed civilians, is pretty bad and causes a lot of pain and suffering and would normally be considered immoral by humanists.

      However, the greater evil would have been to allow Hitler to take over the World and cause more death, pain and suffering than that inflicted attempting to stop him.

      Consequentialist humanist morality at work: pacifism and loving your enemies is not moral; it’s suicidal.

      That’s not to say that some of the methods that the Allies used during the Second World War were ethical. Notice how the Coalition today has not carpet-bombed, Agent Oranged or nuked Afghanistan or Iraq?

      Your King ain’t going anywhere.

  9. Martin Says:

    Consequentialism. Ah, so let’s say the Nazi’s did win the war, and brainwashed every remaining non-Jew to be a Nazi. Two choices:

    A) Holocaust: 3 billion happy Nazis vs 100 million unhappy Jews
    B) No Holocaust: 3 billion unhappy Nazis vs 100 million happy Jews

    Clearly, A results in the greater good.

    Rook to A4. Check.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Nice try, but FAIL!

      Humanists never justify the pleasure of any number of human beings if it causes the gratuitous suffering of even one other person. The 3 billion Nazis are not being harmed by the existence of the Jews; therefore there is no justification in killing them even if it would make them happier.

      See The Trolley Problem. It might be morally justified to throw a point’s switch on a track with a runaway trolley car and sacrifice one person on one track, if five people on the other track will be saved.

      However, it would not be justifiable throwing a fat man off a bridge and into the path of a runaway trolley car even if his wobbly carcass would save the lives of five people standing further along the track. That corpulent bloke is completely innocent and in no way responsible for the fate of the five unfortunates on the track.

      Conversely, it is more moral to let the trolley car kill the five people and spare the fat bloke.

      Btw, it’s all very well saying that you and I know that murder, theft and racism are wrong and we shouldn’t do them. Why didn’t the Almighty let the Nazis in on these important moral facts?

      Or is he just toying with us by causing some people to commit evil acts in order to provide the rest of us with moral values as part of his Great Plan for humanity?

      Your King is looking pretty naked from this side of the board.

      • Martin Says:

        Oh, and I forgot:

        The moral code is written on everyone’s heart. The Nazi’s knew it was wrong, but they chose to follow their Fuher instead.

        And yes, God does have a plan and you and I can’t see it. When worded like that, it sounds admittedly like a cop-out.

        But how about when worded like this: your dog must think you and that scary guy in the white shirt are pure evil when he gets poked with a needle, but vaccines and viruses are beyond the dog’s comprehension and he has no way of knowing that the short term evil is for a greater good.

        AH HA!!!

  10. Martin Says:

    Oh yeah?

    Well consider the obliging stranger, who agrees to let you perform an experiment on him by placing him into a 500 degree oven.

    This is morally wrong, but consequentialism can’t condemn it.

    HA!

    Chickety-chickety-CHECK!

  11. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    The vaccination process may not be very pleasant for the dog at the time, but it does not kill it. Indeed, it prolongs its life.

    The same cannot be said for the Holocaust.

    And if you argue that it was God’s way of bringing as many souls as possible into an eternal relationship of love and joy with him, then we must praise Hitler and the Nazis for being agents of the divine will. Ultimately they did nothing wrong and acted perfectly morally.

    A man is prepared to have you cook him in an oven as part of an experiment? That’s an interesting one!

    But I think consequentialism can still prevent you from doing it. It would be the gratuitous loss of a human life, and if someone is asking you to do such a thing, it is likely that not all of their marbles are in the bag and they cannot form the right state of mind to consent to such a thing being done to them.

    You were checkmated long ago.

  12. Martin Says:

    It’s not even a flesh wound!

    The point remains that short term evils can be had for long term gain, and most notably that this is an issue primarily when you have a smarter creature caring for a lesser creature. Humans:cats::God:humans.

    You have no way of showing that the Holocaust was pointless evil. It may have a ripple effect for thousands of years before paying off. In addition, all the people who suffered horribly at the hands of the Nazis were instantly swept into Heaven where they now enjoy eternal bliss, more than making up for their horrible suffering.

    As for the man in the oven, assume for the sake of argument that he has been fully evaluated by a psychiatrist and is perfectly rational and stable, and further assume that he has no family at all. No matter the case, you probably still would not cook him in that oven.

    OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES FTW, BIAAAAATCH!!!

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Those 6 million Jews are now being rewarded with an eternity in heaven and therefore the Holocaust was OK?

      This is exactly the same grotesque theology that saw the Conquistadors baptise Indian babies so that they would be saved from hellfire for being brought up in the wrong religion gods before smashing their heads against the rocks. Morality FAIL!

      In addition, this line of attack depends on unproven assumptions about dualism and the afterlife. Where is you evidence for an eternal soul and heaven?

      Someone who wants to be cooked alive in an oven is by definition a lunatic. I don’t care what your hypothetical shrink says.

      Like Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, a bomber crewman cannot possibly go off sick with mental health problems, since you cannot be sane and want to fly planes.

      I still would not cook the dude.

      I can assure you, all four of your limbs have been severed and now lying on the floor. I don’t care what your stubby torso is now screaming.

  13. Martin Says:

    Nuh uh.

    Why is “gratuitous loss of a human life” bad? Who is now miserable, or unhappy, if you cook the guy? After all, that’s what consequentialism says.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Perhaps the man’s friends and family would be upset that he would do something so horrible to himself. After all, he is effectively committing suicide.

      It is bad from a consequentialist point of view because no one likes losing someone close to them in such a manner. We have special terms for people who do, such as “sociopath”. And special institutions, generally known as “asylums”.

      You’re not even going to take a nip at my legs.

  14. Martin Says:

    Nope. Remember, he has no family or friends. No one will suffer upon his death.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      He will suffer from doing such a horrendous thing to himself. And possibly those running the experiment will be left psychologically damaged.

      If he is doing it to himself with no other assistance, it is suicide. I suppose that is his choice. I am undecided about whether society should allow people to commit suicide, especially if they are otherwise fit and healthy.

      I am cautiously in favour of patients who are terminally ill, in horrendous physical and emotional pain, with little or no quality of life having their lives ended for them by consent, but need to read into that area more.

      But you said earlier that this was a scientific experiment. What possible benefit could this serve to mankind? We all know the combustible properties of the human body.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I do think you solve the problem of why we shouldn’t all incinerate each other by positing an all-powerful deity who gives us objective moral values and stands in final judgement of us all after we die.

      Read my post on the afterlife to discover how a former Archbishop of Canterbury (!) positively welcomed the prospect of the Cold War resulting in nuclear Holocaust as a way of bringing about the Second Coming.

      To this day, there are fundamentalist American Christians hard at work in the Middle East by attempting to incite Armageddon in order to bring back the Messiah and in doing so are ruining the peace process.

      The words “One”, “back” and “Square” spring to mind.

  15. Martin Says:

    All right then. He has no family or friends, he is mentally healthy, and you will kill him by using carbon monoxide poisoning. He will just go to sleep. He will feel nothing. No suffering.

    You still wouldn’t do it and neither would I.

    It’s objectively wrong.

    I do think you solve the problem of why we shouldn’t all incinerate each other by positing an all-powerful deity who gives us objective moral values and stands in final judgement of us all after we die.

    ACHT! You’re jumping the gun. It’s just premise 2 in question. Objective moral values. Do they exist or not?

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      OK, well we’ve back off significantly from the horrible, pointless scientific experiment with which we began. The man has made an informed decision to take his own life and I suppose we should leave him to it.

      No, I wouldn’t flick the switch. I would get in trouble with the law and there is no reason why he cannot do it himself. The act would have a bad effect on me, which is a consequentialist barrier.

      However, if he needed me to do it because he was physically incapable, I might consider it…

      This is a perfect example of the truth being complicated and how undesirable it is to have it all predetermined for us.

      I am a moral realist. I believe that there are objective moral truths for sane a rational people to discover as long as we keep talking to each other. I believe that slavery was morally wrong as it was when God was given Moses a “How 2” guide a top of Sinai and St Paul was defending it to Timothy as it is today.

      I don’t think I am jumping the gun at all. My examples over the religious obsession with the End Times is a perfect example of how objective morality cannot be derived from the supernatural, as it causes people to do things which the religious claim are objectively wrong!

  16. Martin Says:

    Forget all that…

    I borrowed a copy of God Delusion, to see if Dawkins has refuted all five of Craig’s arguments. I’m going through it now. Now remember, in rational argumentation you have to show what’s wrong with the premises. You can’t just through a bunch of poop around, like “well, even if that were true, it doesn’t mean that God is the Biblical God.” You have to address the premises and nothing else. Anything else is just red herrings.

  17. Martin Says:

    Kalam

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
    2. The universe began to exist
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

    Does Dawkins refute premise #1? He talks about Aquinas. Terminating an infinite regress in God, and shows that it is possible to do this by dividing a piece of gold over and over until it terminates at the atom. But that it isn’t clear that God does this with the universe. So, Dawkins does not refute that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Does he refute premise #2? He doesn’t really talk about the beginning of the universe, and whether it did or did not begin to exist. So no. He does not refute premise #2.

    Kalam has not been refuted nor even touched by Dawkins.

  18. Martin Says:

    Fine Tuning

    1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
    2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
    3. Therefore, it is due to design.

    He doesn’t mention this one, from what I can tell. At least not in the chapter on arguments for the existence of God.

    Fine tuning has not been refuted nor even touched by Dawkins.

  19. Martin Says:

    Ontological

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

    Laughably, Dawkins seems completely unaware of Plantinga’s reformulated version of this argument. This is like a creationist “refuting” evolution by complaining about Haekel’s phony embryo drawings. I’m sorry. The truth hurts. Dawkins is engaging in the same behavior that creationists do. All the more reason I’m so insistent on calling him out on this kind of horseshit. Nobody, creationist nor atheist, should be able to get away with slop reasoning like this.

    He does address Anselm’s original formulation, but he doesn’t actually refute any of the premises. He just complains about it. And brings up the island objection, an objection which has been refuted because the attributes of an island have no intrinsic maximums: it can always be bigger, more palm trees, more beaches, etc. Compare to God: omniscient means you know everything there is to know, omipotent means you can do anything, and omnibenevolent means you are perfectly good. You can’t get better than that, like you can with the island. He also brings up the parody argument, how a non-existent God that creates everything is greater than an existent God that creates everything. However, a non-existent God creating something is a logical absurdity, like a square circle, so this parody argument is dead before it begins.

  20. Martin Says:

    Oops, sorry:

    Dawkins has not refuted the ontological argument, and does not even seem to be aware of more recent updated ones. A biologist such as Dawkins would shred a creationist for attacking old arguments rather than newer ones, and rightly so. Dawkins does not escape from this same criticism.

  21. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    This is getting off-topic, Martin, so I’ll let the dog have his bone. Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher. He does not deal in syllogisms.

    You should watch Craig’s 2003 debate against Victor Stenger.

    As Stenger points out, Craig is making the extraordinary claim that certain scientific phenomena require a supernatural explanation. All that is necessary in order to refute them is provide plausible natural alternatives. There is no need to prove these alternatives. If he wants to argue that God is required to exist in order to explain the observed universe, Craig must disprove all possible, natural explanations for these phenomena. So far, he has abjectly failed to do so.

    As for the need to address Craig’s premises, or else you have failed, I’ll refer you to Steven Carr’s take on Craig’s Four “Facts” with regard to the Empty Tomb:

    Craig comes up with four pseudo-facts and demands people explain them. Imagine if people used that approach in other fields. Suppose a Holocaust-denier came up with these four facts. And these are real facts, unlike Craig’s pseudo-facts:

    Fact 1: Hitler never signed a document ordering Jews to be liquidated in Europe.

    Fact 2: No German ever recorded hearing Hitler saying orally that all Jews were to be killed.

    Fact 3: The building now known as Gas Chamber 1 at Auschwitz was an air-raid shelter in 1944.

    Fact 4: After the war, trained historians like David Irving and clergymen like Bishop Williamson testified that there was no systematic killing of 6 million Jews.

    Now these are all genuine facts, unlike Craig’s claim that it was a fact that a person called Joseph of Arimathea (where’s that?) buried Jesus. Imagine if Holocaust-deniers suddenly demanded that people explain these four facts, and refused to consider anything else in a debate. Craig’s four facts approach to a debate is so bad that even Holocaust-deniers do not use that kind of logic!

    You comments about the Plantinga’s reformulation of the Ontological Argument are sheer Courtier’s Reply. I don’t have the will.

  22. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    This is getting off-topic, Martin, so I’ll let the dog have his bone. Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher. He does not deal in syllogisms.

    You should watch Craig’s 2003 debate against Victor Stenger.

    As Stenger points out, Craig is making the extraordinary claim that certain scientific phenomena require a supernatural explanation. All that is necessary in order to refute them is provide plausible natural alternatives. There is no need to prove these alternatives. If he wants to argue that God is required to exist in order to explain the observed universe, Craig must disprove all possible, natural explanations for these phenomena. So far, he has abjectly failed to do so.

    As for the need to address Craig’s premises, or else you have failed, I’ll refer you to Steven Carr’s take on Craig’s Four “Facts” with regard to the Empty Tomb:

    Craig comes up with four pseudo-facts and demands people explain them. Imagine if people used that approach in other fields. Suppose a Holocaust-denier came up with these four facts. And these are real facts, unlike Craig’s pseudo-facts:

    Fact 1: Hitler never signed a document ordering Jews to be liquidated in Europe.

    Fact 2: No German ever recorded hearing Hitler saying orally that all Jews were to be killed.

    Fact 3: The building now known as Gas Chamber 1 at Auschwitz was an air-raid shelter in 1944.

    Fact 4: After the war, trained historians like David Irving and clergymen like Bishop Williamson testified that there was no systematic killing of 6 million Jews.

    Now these are all genuine facts, unlike Craig’s claim that it was a fact that a person called Joseph of Arimathea (where’s that?) buried Jesus. Imagine if Holocaust-deniers suddenly demanded that people explain these four facts, and refused to consider anything else in a debate. Craig’s four facts approach to a debate is so bad that even Holocaust-deniers do not use that kind of logic!

    Your comments about the Plantinga’s reformulation of the Ontological Argument are sheer Courtier’s Reply. I don’t have the will.

  23. Martin Says:

    Resurrection

    1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
    2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.
    3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
    4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

    Nope. He doesn’t touch any of these premises. He mentions Ehrman, which is fine, but then he goes on to say that the four gospels were chosen arbitrarily from a large selection of gospels, such as Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, etc. This is absolutely insane. Most scholars date these apocrophyl gospels to 2nd century, 3rd century, and later. Don’t take my word for it. Look them up in Wikipedia. He never addresses any of the premises of this argument.

    Dawkins has not refuted the Resurrection argument.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth [agreed upon by the majority of New Testament scholars today]

      As Stenger asked in his debate with Craig, where does he takes these polls of scholars; Bob Jones University?

  24. Martin Says:

    Oops, cross replies. Sorry.

    OK, I thought it was actually more back on topic, but I’ll leave it there.

    The Courtier’s Reply is fine when someone demands that Dawkins first study up on the Emperor’s Clothes. Indeed, I have seen some Christians do this and he is correct.

    However…

    The argument in question is about whether the Emperor does have clothes or not.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I can assure you, the theological emperor has no clothes.

      Read this article by UK National Secular Society president, Terry Sanderson, for the most recent deadly blow to the discipline as not being a complete waste of the rainforest.

  25. Martin Says:

    I won! My “WHAAAA….?!” was justified!

    Woo hoo!

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Martin, silence is not an argument.

      Dawkins may not refute Craig’s five “arguments” syllogism by syllogism, but he does provide plausible naturalistic alternatives for all the phenomena that Craig ascribes to God.

      These naturalistic explanations may not be correct, but they have greater explanatory power than saying “God did it”, which answers nothing.

      It’s not all that long ago that people like Craig thought that disease and earthquakes were God’s punishment for sin. Now, thank to scientists like Dawkins, we have the true miracles of seismology and germ theory.

      Besides, you know that I have refuted all five of Craig’s “arguments” and exposed his underhand debating tactics at length in my three posts re-examining his first debate against Christopher Hitchens, beginning here.

  26. Premier Christian Radio Debate 30/07/11: MSP –v- Peter Harris – “Does religion make people kill?” « manicstreetpreacher Says:

    [...] And finally, my write-up of the I2 debate on whether atheism is fundamentalism with my question to the panel duri… [...]

  27. I am censored | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] also asked Richard Dawkins why he refused to debate William Lane Craig at Intelligence Squared’s debate on atheist fundamentalism a few weeks later.  Dawkins’ reply was not much more respectful: he made clear that he thought […]

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