Victor Stenger debates William Lane Craig on the existence of God

manicstreetpreacher analyses an occasion where for once William Lane Craig gets a proper pasting.

I have referred to this debate countless times on my own blog and comments on other blogs that I thought it was high time I supplied all the links together with all my comments in one post.

Victor J Stenger, American cosmologist, atheist and author of Has Science Found God? The Latest Result for the Search for Purpose in the Universe and God, The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist debates Christian apologist William Lane Craig at the University of Hawaii in 2003 on the motion “Is there a God?”

The YouTube video (which goes to audio-only for the cross-examination, closing statements and audience Q&A) starts here:

The whole debate is available to download as an MP3 audio.

Analysis

Opinions among the commenters at Debunking Christianity and on YouTube are divided, but personally, I think for once Craig received an absolute flogging!  Stenger may not be a great showman, but what he lacks in flare, he more than adequately makes up for in authority and clarity.

William Lane Craig ought to be easy to beat in a debate since he uses exactly the same arguments every time, but frustratingly he is not.  This is due in part to many of his opponents failing to research his arguments and tactics properly, but also because Craig has a range of dirty tricks up his sleeve.  One of such dirty trick is to shift the burden of proof onto his opponent when he is the one making the positive claims.

However, Stenger skilfully refutes every single one of Craig’s lame “arguments” and presents positive reasons for non-belief over and above mere the absence of evidence for God.  Craig fails to respond to three quarters of Stenger’s opening address: the failures of revelation, the ineffectiveness of prayer, the existence of non-believers, and the absence of special knowledge in the Bible.  Stenger even trashes him in areas that one would think would not his forte, such biblical scholarship.

In his first rebuttal Craig actually agrees with Stenger that naturalistic explanations are preferable to supernatural explanations, but then argues that when naturalism falls short, we have no alternative but to resort to a supernatural explanation.

So basically Craig’s cosmology boils down to, “The zeros after the decimal point are too many, it’s all too complex and improbable for my tiny mind…  I’VE GOT IT!!!  It must have been The Thing That Made The Things For Which There Is No Known Maker!”

Stenger runs so many rings around Craig that this is the only debate where I have not heard Craig finish his closing statement by preaching to the audience how JC changed his life forever and that they should try reading the New Testament as well.

Make sure you listen to the tape all the way through to the Q & A after closing statements because Stenger even manages to steamroller Craig on his biblical scholarship thus: “Dr Craig continually talks about ‘majorities of scholars’.  I don’t know where he takes these polls.  Does he take them at Bob Jones University?!”  Genius!

Highlights

I’ve published the transcript of Stenger’s three main speeches on another post, but listen carefully at the following points on the audio where Stenger produces some real gems:

32 minutes Stenger demonstrates philosophically that the mere existence of the universe is evidence against God!
38 minutes Stenger points out that saying “God did it” is about as useful as saying “Santa Claus did it”.
39 minutes Stenger sticks two fingers up to NOMA by informing us that the world’s greatest scientists do not see God with their telescopes, microscopes and other powerful instruments.
42 minutes Stenger points out that we’ve waited too long for JC’s Second Coming and it just ain’t gonna happen.
46 minutes Stenger cites the failed double-blind prayer experiments and imagines an alternative universe where doctors prescribe “prayer aspirin”.
68 minutes Stenger rubbishes Craig’s argument from improbability by asking what is the probability of God and then showing that every person’s very existence is stupendously improbable without requiring any supernatural aid.
70 minutes Stenger asks why we would automatically expect “nothing” rather than “something” if God does not exist and why there is God rather than nothing.
71 minutes Stenger puts paid the notion that modern cosmology confirms Genesis (!).
102 minutes Stenger exposes Craig’s “arguments” as nothing more than gap theology.
108 minutes Stenger would come out of retirement at the prospect of the all the funding opportunities that scientists would be presented with if evidence of a personal creator God were discovered.
110 minutes Stenger movingly shows up Craig’s rancid theodicy for what it is by saying that he would gladly accept eternal punishment if he could stop the suffering of a child dying in agony of leukaemia if he had the power.  So why won’t God?
114 minutes Stenger floors Craig on his argument from “the universal opinion of modern scholarship”.
122 minutes Stenger wonders how the hell Craig can possibly know what he has just said!
143 minutes Stenger quotes the Good Book to show that God admits that he is the cause of evil (Isaiah 45: 7).  Further along Craig appeals to “context” and “translation” to show that the passage should not be taken literally.  The King James Version is not the inerrant edition of the Bible, I take it?  Biblical scholarship FAIL!
152 minutes Stenger tells Craig that most of the evil and suffering in the world most certainly does not come from humans.  And child torture and the Holocaust are wrong.  With or without God.

Finally!  One of Craig’s opponents who actually did his homework, which alas Christopher Hitchens did not.  Why, I do not know.  Hitchens bangs on about how great Stenger’s God, The Failed Hypothesis is and even wrote the foreword for the paperback edition.  He ought to have re-read it in preparation for meeting Craig, since Stenger demolishes Craig’s arguments within its pages!

Stenger and the New Atheism

Stenger has recently published a booked called The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason where he summarises the arguments of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens and his own in the God debate as well as the often underhanded attempts by religious apologists to refute them, such as misrepresenting what they actually say and quote-mining prominent atheist scientists to give the impression that they support theism.

I haven’t read Stenger’s new book for myself, but I’d recommend this recent lecture where he comments that he refuted Craig’s cosmological argument during their live debate 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 with 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.

William Lane Craig and evolution

In years gone by Craig has been non-committal about his belief in the truth of Darwinian evolution.  In his 2007 debate in London against British embryologist Lewis Wolpert, author of Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief, Craig stated that he neither believed nor disbelieved in evolution, but reserved his opinion on the grounds that the evolution of Homo sapiens may have been so “improbable” that there simply isn’t enough time for the process to be completed before the sun burnt out.

As Wolpert pointed out at the time, this is complete nonsense.  However, in the last year or so Craig has hardened his scepticism towards evolution and has turned around its plausibility as only he knows how.  During his debate against Christopher Hitchens at Biola University in April, Craig cited John Barrow and Frank Tipler’s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle stating that there were ten stages in human evolution each of which were so “improbable” (!) that the amount of time required to complete the process would be so great that our sun would have ceased to become a main sequence star and exploded into a red giant.

In Craig’s world, if evolution did occur it would quite literally be a miracle and therefore evidence for God’s existence.  This next clip is from another event, but it is virtually identical to what Craig said in his debate against Hitchens:

Since then, Craig has become what he claims a tentative advocate of Intelligent Design “Theory” and debated theistic evolutionary scientist Francisco Ayala at Indiana University on 5 November 2009.  Contrary to the fawning opinions of certain Craigophilies, Ayala did reasonably well against Craig.  I’m not going to review that debate as well but Ayala is a lecturer, not a debater.  And besides, Craig did his job for him by using fallacious reasoning by arguing that end products of unguided genetic mutations are too improbable and therefore an invisible, undetectable, unknowable designer is a rational alternative.

Stenger actually corrected this flawed argument in their debate six years ago.  From Stenger’s first rebuttal:

Argument from improbability

In this argument and other arguments about the design in the universe, Dr Craig claims that the universe and life are too improbable to be solely natural.

The improbable happens

However, this is a fallacious argument.  To use probability to decide between two alternatives requires a comparison of the probabilities of each alternative.  Dr Craig claims that these natural probabilities are exceeding low.  But he hasn’t told us anything about what the supernatural probabilities are and yet it’s a comparison of these two that must be made.

What’s the probability that the laws of nature are violated?  What’s the probability that there’s an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing but undetectable­ super-being behind all of this?  Complex things are common.  We see natural events every moment.  We’ve never seen a supernatural event.

Furthermore, low probability events happen every day.  What’s the probability that my distinguished opponent exists?  You have to calculate the probability that a particular sperm united with a particular egg, then multiply that by the probability that his parents met, and then repeat that calculation for his grandparents and all his ancestors going back to the beginning of life on Earth.

Even if you stop the calculation with Adam and Eve, you are going to get a fantastically small number.

To use words that Dr Craig has used before, “Improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.”

Well, Dr Craig has a mind-reeling, incomprehensibly low probability – a priori probability – for existing.  Yet here he is before us today.

Modern versions of the argument from design – both the fine-tuning argument and the intelligent design argument – share this fatal flaw.  They are based on the idea that natural causes can be ruled out by some arbitrary notion of low probability.

My point is that Craig has been told that his arguments from fine-tuning and improbability are fallacious on many occasions.  Outright dishonesty – in effect, “telling lies for God” – is the only inference to the best explanation we can draw in respect of his pronouncements.

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20 Responses to “Victor Stenger debates William Lane Craig on the existence of God”

  1. Frank Yohansen Says:

    It obvious to me that your bias is affecting your reasoning. Examine your own arguments as you do others to discover the flaws in your logic.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I admit that am a pretty staunch atheist and not the biggest fan of William Lane Craig. But I know when the guy has won a debate (Christopher Hitchens, Richard Carrier and Peter Atkins) and when he has lost (Bart Ehrman and Stenger).

      Pray tell me; what devastating strength of logic am I missing in Craig’s warmed-over Aquinas with a lot of zeros after the decimal point “arguments”?

      MSP

  2. ChristianJR4 Says:

    FYI, Craig will be debating Vic Stenger again on March 1. As far as your analysis here is concerned, I have to agree with Frank. It seems your strong bias is clearly affecting your judgment. There are two sides to everything, and it’s quite obvious that your only interested in praising your side. There’s so much that could be disputed here. I’ll list just a few examples.

    (1) You point out that Craig failed to respond to three quarters of Stenger’s opening address but fail to point out that Craig did respond directly to each of Stenger’s 4 arguments that Stenger himself said he would mainly argue. Can you really blame him for not responding to EVERY single sub point that was brought up? After all, it’s a debate and time is limited. Obviously one has to prioritize time to the most important points made. Moreover, if you were fair here, you would have pointed out that Stenger failed to address many of the rebuttal points Craig brought up to his points (ie. on Quantum events, specific attributes being contradictory, the problem of evil, etc), not to mention the fact that Stenger almost virtually ignored all of Craig’s re-defenses of his own arguments.

    (2) You claim that Stenger “trashes” and manages to “steamroller” Craig on matters of Biblical scholarship. Stenger makes a cheap rhetorical line about Craig getting his “poll” from “Bob Jones University” on the majority position of NT scholars. You uncharitably give the point to Stenger. Yet anyone at all familiar with NT scholarship can vouch in favor of Craig on this. The majority position among NT scholars is indeed one that favors the probability of each of those events that Craig cites. It’s not unanimous, but it is still nonetheless the majority position. Surveys of positions have been carried out (“Journal of the American Academy of Religion”, “Journal for the Study of the History Jesus” and there are numerous scholars who themselves would attest to that majority. You cite Bart Ehrman as one of Craig’s opponents who you thought won against him. Ironically, even Ehrman attests to the probability of each of the 4 facts Craig mentions (something I’m guessing you probably never even considered in his debate with him).

    (3) You and Stenger suggest that Craig is actually “lying” to his audience and guilty of misrepresenting science on matters of cosmology and physics. I would like to know the evidence for these claims. Where does Craig lie or misrepresent science? Strangely enough, when I went out to check out exactly what Stenger was talking about I quickly realized that it was HE who was misrepresenting science as well as Dr. Craig’s position. Take for example Stenger’s claim (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH5s6HqOLEs) that Craig believes that all events are uncaused. That’s not Craig’s position and Stenger should know better. Craig’s position is that things which BEGIN to exist have a cause, not that all events are uncaused. Craig himself has stated that his premise 1 of his Kalam argument “has nothing to do with events at all, but with things. It states that things do not come into existence without a cause. The premise is fully compatible with events happening without a cause and so leaves that question open” (Craig and Armstrong “God: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist”, p 56). Stenger then has the audacity to say that Craig is lying because quantum mechanics has proven this not to be true. Not only did Stenger misrepresent Craig’s position as already explained he also, however, misrepresented science. Quantum mechanics has not proven this to be the case. Only on a certain interpretation of quantum mechanics, namely the Copenhagen interpretation, would this be the case. Oddly enough, even Stenger himself recognizes how quantum mechanics has not proved this exception when he writes:

    “Other viable interpretations of quantum mechanics remain with no consensus on which, if any, is the correct one.” (Vic Stenger, “Has Science Found God” pp. 188-189)

    “Unfortunately, no consensus interpretation of quantum mechanics exists among physicists and philosophers.” (Vic Stenger, “The Anthropic Coincidences”; -Interpreting the Coincidences: (B) They Are All in the Head-)

    Well if no consensus exists among physicists which interpretation is the correct one, then it follows that any interpretation, including all the deterministic ones, may be legitimate interpretations. But if that’s the case then Dr. Stenger is wrong that quantum mechanics has proved that events don’t have a cause. Again, by his own admission, this remains in doubt.

    (4) In the same video, as well as in the other video you post here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF4w5cDvsiw), Stenger basically implies that Craig is lying to his audience by claiming that the universe began with a singularity. Dr. Stenger again misrepresents Craig’s position. Stenger seems to think that Craig’s argument depends on the singularity, in which it doesn’t. His argument depends on the universe having a beginning. The singularity is inconsequential to his argument. In fact Craig has argued even from non-standard models that the Universe has a beginning (see his and Moreland’s “Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument” in which he surveys various non-singular models of the Universe).

    It seems, therefore, that these accusations of misrepresentation and lying are outright false. If anything, they apply to Stenger, not to Craig.

    Also as a side observation, it’s interesting to note that when it comes to intellectual honesty, it’s Stenger, not Craig who goes overboard with his claims. For example he claimed in the debate that his arguments prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that God doesn’t exist, as if his arguments amount to a mathematical proof akin to 2+2 being 4. The fact that he thinks like this shows that he is woefully ignorant of just how complex this debate is. Either that, or Stenger is just so caught up in his personal dislike of theism that he feels the need to make such bold claims about it, not to mention accuse people of intentional lying (which usually thoughtful scholars are careful to avoid given that such language obviously carries with it emotional baggage). Contrast that with Craig who is much more modest in his claims about God being “probable” and open to inspection and objection. Nor does he go around accusing those who disagree with him as liars all for an academic disagreement.

    (5) Finally, you yourself should get your facts straight on Craig. In addition to the false accusations and misrepresentations above, you yourself misrepresented Craig on intelligent design. In his debate with Francisco Ayala, he was defending the VIABILITY of intelligent design, not intelligent design itself. He made very clear in that debate (and elsewhere) that he doesn’t know if ID is true. Therefore he is not an advocate of intelligent design as you described him, nor did he claim he was one as you erroneously attributed to him. The irony of false misrepresentation in this article is quite revealing.

    This is where your reasoning and judgment fails, to answer your own question posed above. I’d also suggest you come to grips with the nature of these arguments. You, like many other “staunch atheists” seem to take the simplistic and dogmatic position that these arguments are easily refuted just like that. What’s weird is that you actually expect Craig to give up his whole Kalam Cosmological Argument based just based on the simple one liner refutations you’ve heard in a debate. In reality it doesn’t work that way. Perhaps for arguments advancing the Earth being flat, but not for complex philosophical arguments. Craig’s “Kalam Cosmological Argument” didn’t gain academic notoriety as a simplistic easy to refute argument. It gained it because it has a degree of sophistication and plausibility that keep “philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again” (to quote atheist philosopher Quentin Smith). Ultimately, that is the reason why this argument alone dominates over all others in the professional journals, even after 30 years of its publication.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for, ChristianJR4 for your lengthy counter-analysis. While I admire your attempt at a thorough rebuttal, I am thinking of imposing a comment policy on my blog that prescribes a limit of 200 words…

      Vic obviously agrees with my analysis both of the debate and Craig’s stance since he posted this piece on his own website.

      Stenger provided plausible naturalistic alternatives to each one of Craig’s five arguments in his first rebuttal. As he says, if you read my transcript, he can’t prove these, but he doesn’t have too. Craig is the one making the claim that certain natural phenomena can only explained by a supernatural explanation. This is clearly inadequate and amounts to “gap theology”.

      OK, what does Craig blatantly ignore in Stenger’s opening statement? The ineffectiveness of prayer, the failed Second Coming of JC, the extent of the gratuitous suffering in the world unconnected with man’s “free will” and/ or God’s desire to have a “right” and “wrong” in order to provide objectivity morality, the existence of non-believers flying in the face of an all-powerful God who wishes everyone to know him, most scientists not believing in God and not using God in their work, the failure of “divine revelation” to impart anything that could not have already been known or imagined by someone living at that time, God choosing to hide from those he supposedly loves, theologians keeping their children fed by re-inventing God like computer games designers without a though for the real world.

      I think that amounts to 3/4s, give or take.

      This isn’t an ad hom, it really isn’t. But Craig’s debating style is akin to David Irving denying the Holocaust or the producers of Loose Change saying that 9/11 was an inside job. Craig focuses in a few issues and ignores a wealth of contradictory evidence and come what may, asserts that his opponents have failed to refute his case.

      You may have thought that the “polls of scholars at Bob Jones University” was a cheap point, but I thought it was comedic genius and the only response that Craig’s lame appeals to authority can warrant! Most NT scholars are believing Christians and are therefore committed to the text before they have even put pen to paper. Rather like most Islamic scholars who are convinced that the core texts of their religion constitute irrefutable evidence that Mohammed cut the moon in half and flew to heaven on a horse. I doubt whether Craig is convinced by that consensus.

      Craig himself admits in his books that he did not come to Christianity by evidence or argument, but by his inner feelings that exist wholly apart from evidence. As Robert Price so brilliantly put it in his debate against Craig:

      Dr Craig then freely admits that his conviction arises from purely subjective factors. To me it sounds no different in principle from the teenage Mormon door-knocker: he tells you that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient Americans because he has a warm swelling feeling inside when he asks God if it’s true.

      You want an example where Craig has lied? As well as Stenger’s debate, try his 1998 debate against Anthony Flew or his 2006 lecture on Kalam with Daniel Dennett and Alister McGrath in attendance, which are both linked in this piece. On all three occasions Craig quotes Stephen Hawking as writing in A Brief History of Time, “nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a Big Bang singularity.” However, the very next sentence Hawking writes, “It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe – as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account.” (p. 50)

      Voilà.

      Perhaps this is a case of differing interpretations of syntax and word definition, but I think Craig’s use of the Kalam argument very much depends on the Big Bang singularity since he states it in no uncertain terms as one of the most important discoveries in science that proves that Aquinas was right.

      As Stenger points out in his recent book The New Atheism, which I have now read, he corrected Craig during this debate, but Craig has never acknowledged and continues to ignore and website still contains the bogus assertion that the universe began with the Big Bang (p. 171).

      As for Craig’s assertion that the universe cannot possibly be infinitely old, otherwise it would take an infinity long time to reach the present, I can only refer to Stenger’s views on this in his first rebuttal:

      However, if the universe is infinitely old, then it had no beginning – not a beginning infinitely long ago. Furthermore, the universe can be finite – and I actually believe that the universe is finite – it can be finite and still not have a beginning.

      Universe can be finite and still not have a beginning

      Einstein defined time as what you read on a clock. It’s a number, the number of ticks of the clock. We count time forward time: one, two, three, four, five ticks. We never reach infinitive time. We can also count time backward and never reach minus infinity. The notion that the universe had either a beginning or will have an end are theological notions, not scientific ones.

      “Tentative supporter of ID” / “arguing for the viability of ID”? Again we are arguing over semantics. Craig clearly rejects evolution by natural selection on the grounds of a priori improbability and is therefore either an Old Earth Creationist or an ID proponent, no matter how he tries to disguise his position. I reject your accusation that I have misrepresented him.

      If Craig argues for the viability of theories he doesn’t believe in, how come he’s not arguing for the viability of alternative theories about the shape of the Earth by speaking on behalf of those brave Flat Earthers attempting to have their view of cosmology taught to school children?

      Thank you for notifying me of Stenger –v- Craig: Round Two. I will listen and watch with intent. I hope Craig takes the opportunity to clarify his position in light of Stenger’s accusations. But for now, I am standing by this blog post 100%.

      manicstreetpreacher

      • ChristianJR4 Says:

        I was busy with other matters, hence my “lack of response”. That said, your response in no way counters anything that I’ve stated so far. I really do hope Craig in his debate took to task the things that Stenger has falsely accused him of, because the more I look into this, the more easily Craig is vindicated of this false misrepresentation.

        I came to your view your analysis of this debate through Vic Stenger’s site so I’m aware of his approval. His approval comes as no surprise to me. Contrary to what you said, Stenger does have to “prove” his naturalistic alternatives, since he was the one who made the bold and sweeping claim that he can “prove with a high degree of certainty” that a personal God does not exist. If he can’t meet that standard of certainty with his own case then he shouldn’t make that kind of claim in the first place. Moreover, epistemological considerations involving justification theory require him in such a debate to bring forth arguments. Fortunately, he at least attempted to do that.

        To return to the points that I defended (I’ll be much shorter):

        (1) You repeated your claim that Craig did not address three quarters of Stenger’s case. Again though, he did address the main arguments he brought up as were illustrated in his powerpoint slides. The fact that he failed to address all the sub-points can hardly be counted against him. Finally, there were still many arguments and counter arguments that Stenger failed to address so this point of yours never seemed to have any force to begin when you look at it objectively.

        (2) You point out that most NT scholars are Christian and that Islamic scholars regard their holy scripture as proof of their supernatural claims. This response fails to grasp the methods of which NT scholars employ. Virtually all Western NT scholars, Christians included, employ standard historical methods used to assess the historicity NT events. Muslim scholars, by far and large, do not employ such criticisms to their text. Thus the comparison here is inadequate. Moreover, if Christians NT scholars were really so committed as you allege, then it’s unlikely that the vast majority of them would reject Biblical inerrancy. Indeed, many Christian liberal NT scholars reject the historicity of the Resurrection event itself, and even some of the facts that Craig’s cited. Your main point can be laid to rest, however, since you don’t need “Christian” NT scholars anyways to form the majority on those facts. You can, using non-Christian scholars (ie. Jewish and atheist/agnostic scholars) form a majority. Consider for example, any of the prominent Jewish/atheist scholars and you’ll still find that virtually all of them side with the facts that Craig mentioned (ie. Most notably, Ehrman, Ludemann, Friedrickkson, Vermes)

        (3,) You ignored my comments here about Stenger’s misrepresentation of Craig on quantum events so I’ll simply take that as a tacit admission of my points here (not that there was ever anything disputable here anyhow).

        (4) Here, your example of Craig lying is once again a misrepresentation of Craig. Craig doesn’t use a quote from Hawking’s “A Brief history of Time”. He uses a quote from Hawking’s book “The Nature of Space and Time” in which he states that “almost everyone now believes that the Universe and time itself had a beginning at the Big Bang” (p. 20). Notice that neither Hawking nor Craig uses the word “singularity” here. As I already explained, the singularity is inconsequential to Craig’s argument. It’s the finite beginning of the Universe that forms the core of his argument. So once again, please get your facts straight on Craig. All of the three events that you mentioned (Craig’s debate with Stenger, his debate with Flew, and his lecture with Daniel Dennett) use the same quote from that other book, not “A brief History of Time”. If you had carefully payed attention you would have realized that. Also, Hawking’s statement that you cited can be used against Stenger, interestingly enough. Stenger falsely misleads his audience (in this YouTube video you cited earlier) into thinking that cosmologists no longer believe in the singularity. Yet, Hawking himself points out in that statement from “A Brief History of Time” that “nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a Big Bang singularity” (p. 67 illustrated version). Clearly most cosmologists still believe in it and so he is guilty of misrepresenting the current position in cosmology when he says that there was no singularity. Therefore, even if Craig had used that particular quote, it still would have been perfectly legitimate to do so, as he was only trying to represent the current position among cosmologists anyhow. As for Hawking’s position on the singularity, Craig has dealt with his quantum “spin” on it in many of his books and articles. The salient feature of all his writings in this regard is that the Universe still began to exist. Finally, I already pointed out that Craig has argued that even non-singular models of the Universe currently being explored still have a beginning.

        (5) A proponent of ID is not the same thing as arguing for its viability. Even the atheist moderator at that debate that night thought that ID was viable. Viability just refers to the potential merits or success of something. An ID proponent, in this specific context, is someone who specifically argues or agrees that intelligent design in biology is warranted. Craig explicitly stated otherwise, however, and therefore is not an ID proponent, anymore than a person who is agnostic about evolution is a proponent of evolution (obviously). As for the viability of a flat Earth, get real! The reason why Craig doesn’t argue for the viability of a flat Earth is because it has no viability. There is no potential merits to such a position and that’s why no one argues it. It seems your confused here on definitions. You’re equating Craig’s “not believing” in ID as him being against it. That doesn’t follow. An agnostic likewise does not believe in God, but does that therefore mean he believes that God doesn’t exist? No, it doesn’t.

        A few other brief comments. Craig’s style is not akin to denying the Holocaust or believing in 9/11 conspiracy theories. For one, those things aren’t actually debated in academic circles (at least extremely rarely, if they are), whereas God is. Secondly, Craig argues his Kalam Cosmological Argument based on arguments he has presented in his professional peer reviewed published work. If his style of argumentation were really equivalent to the examples you mention THEY WOULD NOT MAKE IT INTO PROFESSIONAL PUBLICATIONS, not to mention attracting the most attention among professional philosophers.

        In summary then, none of the points you made commend themselves. Craig is not lying, as has been adequately explained. On the other hand, it seems it can be shown quite easily that misrepresentation is clearly taking place on the other side. Misrepresentation on NT scholarship, on Craig’s position of quantum events, the beginning of the Universe and of ID stand out with specific mention.

      • manicstreetpreacher Says:

        ChristianJR4 – There was a lot bluster and hand-waving, so hopefully I’ll not be spending anything like a thousand words dignifying it with a response.

        Arguments over syntax and word definition are a common last resort of religious apologists and your reply is full of them. I’m standing by my take on Craig’s take of ID.

        Personally, I think that ID has about as much viability as the Earth being a flat disc or the planets influencing our lives, but that’s for another post.

        Religion is the ultimate conspiracy theory, so in a way it is like arguing that 9/11 was a government set up, but perhaps that is for a different thread. I can only repeat my comments about Craig refusing to consider anything other than his four “facts / five “arguments” and saying that they have not been refuted. Rather like David Irving banging on about how no official document signed by Hitler ordering the Holocaust has ever been found.

        From Stenger’s The New Atheism regarding Dinesh D’Souza’s quote-mining of Hawking:

        [D’Souza] quotes Hawking as saying, “There must have been a Big Bang singularity.” D’Souza has lifted it out of context and given it precisely the opposite meaning of what Hawking intended… Hawking was referring to the calculation he published with Penrose in 1970, and D’Souza cut off the quotation. This act of editorship makes it look like Hawking is confirming that the big bang actually happened when in fact the full quote reveals just the opposite.

        “So in the end our [Hawking and Penrose] work became generally accepted and nowadays nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a big bang singularity. It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe—as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account”. (BHOT p.50)

        So Hawking doesn’t believe in the big bang singularity. Craig’s use of Hawking’s words is rather like Hawking being a disbeliever in unicorns, but him conceding that virtually everyone believes in them regardless. It is as if Craig has quoted Hawking’s words out of context to make it appear that Hawking supports the plausibility of unicorns.

        You cannot prove a negative with absolute certainty. It is the atheist case that the phenomena we witness in the natural world are satisfactorily explained without the need to postulate an invisible supernatural design that ultimately explains nothing. I think that Stenger has proved that God does not exist “with a high degree of certainty” by merely offering plausible naturalistic alternatives. Stenger cannot prove that someone stole the body from the empty tomb (alas no contemporary copy of The Jerusalem Times with a screaming headline “Crucified man stays dead in tomb!” has survived), but it is far more plausible than God raising Jesus from the dead. So there.

        NT “scholars” most certainly do not employ standards that historians of other disciplines use. Name me an example in secular history where J P Meier’s ridiculous “criterion of embarrassment” is used? The CoE is like saying “Look, it’s just so idiotic and absurd, no one in their right mind could have swallowed it hook, line and sinker, they must have needed the Holy Spirit to infect their minds to buy a group of hysterical, illiterate girls finding the empty tomb!!!”

        FAIL!

        Have you seen Craig’s against Ehrman? His four “facts” were explained away adequately by Ehrman as most likely being later inventions by the Gospel writers, which today’s modern scholars do not agree on. Of course Craig just ignored Ehrman and continued to harp on about them regardless as per his David Irving style of debating.

        Your first post was so long, that I did not have the time or the will to answer every single point. Therefore, my silence over your accusations that Stenger has misrepresented Craig’s position on quantum most certainly should not taken as agreement with it passive, tacit or explicit.

        Richard Feyman once said “If you think you understand quantum, you don’t understand quantum”. I would like to investigate both Craig’s and Stenger’s conflicting views regarding quantum at the origins of the universe before commenting further. But given Craig’s utterly backside-about-face interpretation of science, particularly in relation to <a priori probabilities, this may well be a foregone conclusion.

        However, I am standing by mine and Vic’s views that Craig is telling porkies about the scientific consensus on whether there was a big bang singularity.

        MSP

      • Neehou Says:

        RE:
        “On all three occasions Craig quotes Stephen Hawking as writing in >A Brief History of Time,<[pub. 1998] …
        “It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe …(p. 50)"
        Compare that with:

        which was made just recently, Hawking states unequivocally, starting at time 36:11 (& 38:50), that the universe started with a singularity.
        Someone keeps changing their "science". Why is that?

      • manicstreetpreacher Says:

        Neehou

        I have watched the programme you posted and paid particular attention around the 38 min mark and NOWHERE does Hawking state that the universe started with a singularity, much less that any singularity points to a creator god.

        Your comment is yet another example of the faithful reading what they want to read into the works of atheistic scientists to provide evidence post-hoc for their dogmas.

        MSP

  3. Kris Says:

    @manicstreetpreacher

    I’m sorry but your last comment’s first line had me rolling in laughter. You want to limit someone to 200 words and yet you use over 1,000? ROFL.

    Seriously.. his rebuttal and analysis of the debate trumps your biased view hand over fist.

    Sadly the “round two” at OSU on March 1st was in no way a knock out for Dr. Stenger, but an embarrassing three hours of recycled failed arguments. I do hope the Socratic Society that hosted the even posts a YouTube video of the debate.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Kris – thank you your comment. Insults and all.

      ChristianJR4 posted a lengthy comment which required a full response from me. It takes twice as long (sometimes more) to answer a question than it does to ask it. I just saw the comment as I was starting my day job that morning and my heart sank at setting aside the time to reply.

      However, the exercise was a very fruitful exercise and has silenced ChristianJR4 given his lack of response to my counter-response, particularly over Craig’s dishonest use of Stephen Hawking’s writings.

      Glad to hear that Vic held his own against Craig at Round 2 the other night. I hope the video / audio goes up soon.

      I’m sorry, but one of Craig’s fans accusing the other side of using “recycled failed arguments”?

  4. Billbuffet Says:

    theists will sooner or later see what have been founded scientifically are the only truth and evidences we have. this issues are just like when Copernicus stated his idea about the sun is the center of our solar system, which in the past this issue against what many religious people believes. the facts are atheists grow rapidly all over the world due to what they observe in their life experience does not support what they have learned from their holy bible, i found myself some of them are telling lies. After all, we (of course, including theists) rely our life on science and technology, great thanks to all scientist and engineer who have revolutionized the way we see the world. today, we have no longer relied on believe and faith.
    i would like personally to thank STEPHEN HAWKING, RICHARD DAWKINS, VICTOR J. STENGER, and some other great guys out there. your brilliant ideas have impressively REVOLUTIONIZED the way we see the world.

  5. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    @ChristianJR4 and anyone else who wants to accuse me of misrepresenting Craig’s position on ID.

    Craig is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute!!!!!

    If that’s not being a supporter of ID, then I don’t know what is!

    It appears that the person who most misrepresented Craig’s position on ID in the Ayala debate was Craig.

    MSP

  6. Ignostic Morgan [ Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth] Says:

    Thanks for pointing out WLC’s solecistic, sophisticared sophistry- ignorant,complicated nonsense- of wily, woeful woo!
    So much for theology!

  7. Joseph Says:

    Have you listened to the debate between Dan Barker and Kyle Butt? I would like to know your thoughts on this debate.

  8. Metacrock Says:

    another good little atheist solider boy finds that big strong cool smart atheist bull shitter is right and stupid restarted Christian is wrong. wow what am amazing development I would never have suspected that.

    when are you going to start dealing with real Christian concepts of God instead of the straw man big man in the sky?

    It is logically impossible that sconce could ever disprove God. science cannot disprove God not matter what it finds. It can’t gt out side of our perceptions as humans and check,t he. it can’t get under begin and find what it means to be.

    Stinger has not proved that something can come from nothing. The most he has proved is that something can come from something else (vacuum flux) but the can’t account for that something else, which he deceptively calls “nothing.”

    It doesn’t make any difference if it’s possible for natural to come into existence form nothing. That is not a disproof of God. That is nothing more than a disproof of one concept of God and one concept creation. It doesn’t touch being itself. it doesn’t touch The real thinkers.

  9. The burden of proof in absolute/objective religious morals | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] Victor Stenger argued in his 2003 debate against William Lane Craig, even if an objective moral standard did exist, it could have been hardwired into our genetics by […]

  10. My favourite philosophical disproofs of God’s existence | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] my all time favourite disproof was aired by physicist Victor Stenger at the start of his first debate against Christian apologist William Lane Craig at the University of Hawaii in […]

  11. Sam Harris beats William Lane Craig in their debate on morality | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] maintain that Victor Stenger and Bart Ehrman retain their joint-crown of Atheist Opponent Who Has Made Craig Look Like A […]

  12. Truth Preacher Says:

    Pathetic. Atheists doing what they do best–pathologically lying. You don’t like Craig because he smashed every atheist fool ever set before him. An atheist couldn’t tell the truth unless in war and in fear for his life. Then they all start praying! HAHA

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for your comment, Truth Preacher.

      I can see that you are a close student of Craig’s Ad Hominem Module at BIOLA University and an avid reader of his Handbook Of Dirty Debating Tactics.

      I don’t mind so much that Craig has beaten many atheist opponents at the lectern and I am quite prepared to admit when he has done so, such as Christopher Hitchens and Peter Atkins.

      What I DO mind is his wilful distortion of authorities, both in support of and against his positions. See my more recent posts on Craig’s debates against Sam Harris (and the additional post dedicated to correcting his distortions of Harris’ written work) and Lawrence Krauss.

      As I said at the end of my post on his debate against Sam Harris, I have given up watching any more of Craig’s debates and feel that I have wasted enough of my life already with his lies.

      Finally, there most certainly ARE atheists in foxholes. In God Is Not Great Hitchens recalls an incident during the Bosnian War when, under heavy Serb shelling and trembling with fear, he took off his flak jacket and gave it to a woman civilian sheltering next to him.

      MSP

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