Showing posts with label apologetics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apologetics. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The phenomenology of ontological argumentation

Look, even I think that this ↑ title sounds pretentious.  I was going to call this post ‘the ontological argument as religious experience’, but then I thought that ‘religious’ didn’t quite convey what I was trying to convey.  I rejected ‘existential’ for the same reason.

In the opening chapter of their mammoth Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (IVP), William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland tell us that

The conventional wisdom says, “You can’t use arguments to bring people to Christ.”  This has not been our experience.

It has not been my experience, either.  Rational arguments played a significant role in my coming to faith, in particular the moral argument and the argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  There is, however, one form of theistic argument featuring in that volume that I doubt has ever been used to bring someone to Christ: the ontological argument.  Craig and Moreland define it (p 496) as follows:

The common thread in ontological arguments is that they try to deduce the existence of God from the very concept of God, together with certain other necessary truths.

However, I do believe that this argument can play a surprising role in the Christian life.  In his journals, Søren Kierkegaard had the following to say about Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God:

Anselm prays to God in all sincerity that he may succeed in proving God's existence. He thinks he has succeeded and throws himself down to thank God: curious, he does not notice that this prayer and thanksgiving are infinitely more proof of God's existence than the proof.

If you didn’t know Kierkegaard better, you would suspect that his point may have simply been that Anselm’s argument is absolutely no good at all.  It is entirely possible that Kierkegaard did think that, but I believe that that is not the only thing going on here.  Nor do I think that Kierkegaard was rejecting rational argumentation in toto and advocating irrational fideism, as the caricature of him would have it.  I think that there is a line of thought here that pulls Anselm’s argumentation and his prayers closer to each other than is initially apparent.

In order to try to get at this line of thought, let’s move from Kierkegaard’s journal to my own.  A few weeks after I became a Christian, I made an entry in there that reads as follows:

The fact that this is such an important question[1] means that the answer can't be meaningless. The very power to reason is based on this fact.

Looking at it now, this seems like a mangled attempt at ontological argumentation.  But when I wrote it, it was not an attempt to prove that God exists; rather, it was an attempt to articulate the content of a religious experience in which I was certain of the existence of God.  What was unusual (perhaps) is that the content of that experience was itself more like an argument than a felt presence – I didn’t see lights, hear voices or feel ecstatic; I was simply locked in to a certain kind of thinking.

Reading my diary entry, some readers might have thought of a particular xkcd comic:

I would say (from my own experience) that ‘getting existential’ is just a shade off of the religious experience I described above.  I had ‘gotten existential’ before, and the quality of the two experiences was actually very similar.  There was something vertiginous about them both.  That is why, as I made clear in the very first post on this blog, I think that the instinct to ‘super soak’ people who ‘get existential’ is diabolical.  In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a senior demon advise a more junior tempter that

By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream.[2]  Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means by ‘real’.

I suspect that there is a sound ontological argument out there somewhere, although I doubt that it can be recovered from my journal,[3] and making the case for one has not been the point of this post.  Rather, what I have tried to do is explain an attraction that ontological arguments hold for me apart from their apologetic potential or logical intricacy.  It was prompted by a recent Doug Benscoter post in which he attempted to turn some of his own youthful thoughts into a valid ontological argument.


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Five interesting testimonies

I am always fascinated to hear about the ways in which God has worked in people’s lives to draw them to himself.  Every such story is interesting (and, moreover, a cause for rejoicing), and so perhaps the title of this post is badly chosen.  But I choose to retain it because these are all testimonies with which I particularly identify in some way or other.  I hope that many of my readers will feel the same way.

1) Escape from nihilism by J. Budziszewski

J. Budziszewski is a professor of Philosophy and Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

When some people flee from God they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn't do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. That is how I ended up doing a doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and evil and that we aren't responsible for what we do. I remember now that I even taught these things to students; now that's sin.

It was also agony. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself--well, if you are like I was, maybe you can--what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense. […]

Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God's image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there's still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focussed. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn't believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes. Of course I was the fool.

2) How I came to faith by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

I became very bitter toward the institutional church because of the phoniness that I thought it represented […] I began to read the New Testament […] and as I did so I was absolutely captivated by the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  There was a wisdom about his teaching that I had never encountered before, and there was an authenticity about his life that wasn’t characteristic of [some of] his followers […] I realised at that point that I couldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

3) Quam dilecta by Peter van Inwagen

Peter van Inwagen is John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

There is, I believe, an identifiable and cohesive historical phenomenon that named itself the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, and which, although it long ago abandoned the name, still exists. Like the Church, it does not speak with one voice. Like the Church, it has no central government. Like the Church, it is made up of many groups some of which heartily detest many of the others--some of which, indeed, regard themselves as its sole true representatives and all others who claim to be its representatives as wolves in sheep's clothing. Like the Church, it has a creed, although, unlike the Church's creeds, its creed has never received an official formulation. […]

The Enlightenment has had its chance with me and I have found it wanting. I was once one of its adherents, and now I am an apostate. On the level of intellectual argument and evidence, it leaves a lot to be desired. And its social consequences have been horrible.

I am going to compare the attractiveness of the Church and the Enlightenment. I will group my comparisons into three parts. First, it seems to me, the teachings of the Church are, as I shall say, "congruent" with the facts of science and history in a way that the "creed" of the Enlightenment is not, and I shall discuss this. Secondly, I shall compare the "fruits" of the Church with the fruits of the Enlightenment. Thirdly, I shall compare the effects of adherence to the Church and to the Enlightenment in the lives of individuals.

4) A surprising discovery by Anne Rice

Anne Rice is the author of the hugely successful Vampire Chronicles and many other books.

I had taken in a lot of fashionable notions about Jesus—that he’d been oversold, that the Gospels were “late” documents, that we really didn’t know anything about him, that violence and quarrelling marked the movement of Christianity from its start. I’d acquired many books on Jesus, and the filled the shelves of my office. […]

What gradually came clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments—arguments that insisted most of the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eyewitness accounts—lacked coherence.  They were not elegant. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were no more than assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were reached on the basis of little or no data at all.

In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it—that the whole picture which has floated in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years—that case was not made. Not only was it not made. I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I’d ever read.

5) I am second by Brian ‘Head’ Welch

Brian Welch was formerly the guitarist for (and a founding member of) the multiplatinum nu-metal band KoRn, and is now a solo artist.

I felt so much fatherly love from heaven, and it was like ‘I don’t condemn you; I love you’.  It was just love.  And instantly that love from God came into me. […] It changed me – my heart was changed like that.

My dream came true way more than I dreamt about. […] I tried everything to try to get pleasure out of this life, and I thought that I could fulfil my life with all this stuff, having my dream come true.  It came true, but it didn’t fulfil it.  And Christ came in, that feeling he gives you: the gift of understanding life, which is that everything was created for Christ and by him, and we’re created to be with him.  And it’s the most incredible feeling because you’re where you belong.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Human values and the value of humans

The reason I cast my moral argument in terms of human rights rather than, say, an objective values syllogism like William Lane Craig[1] or natural law like C.S. Lewis or J. Budziszewski is that denial of human specialness seems to be not so much an unintended consequence of atheism as an impressive mark of humility of which many thinkers are quite proud[2]. Atheist shpokeshman Christopher Hitchens regards Christian belief to be reflective of
a deformity or shortcoming in the human personality, because the religion keeps stressing how humble it is, and how meek it is, and how accepting, and, um, almost to the point of [...] It actually makes extraordinarily arrogant claims, because it says, "I suddenly realize the universe is all about me".[3]
Given, then, that human cosmic insignificance is not just maintained but actually welcomed, it becomes exceedignly difficult to see how on atheism human dignity and value can be affirmed is a sense more robust than that of bald assertion. So it should hardly be surprising that some take the logic of this line of thought further than others. Here is an example of some of the stuff Pekka-Eric Auvinen was coming out with on the 'net before he put his money where his mouth was and shot up his school:

Life is just a coincidence… result of long process of evolution and many several factors, causes and effects. However, life is also something that an individual wants and determines it to be. And I… I’m the dictator of my own life. [...]

HUMANITY IS OVERRATED!

Human life is not sacred. Humans are just a species among other animals and world does not exist only for humans. Death is not a tragedy, it happens in nature all the time between species. Not all human lives are important or worth saving. Sometimes I feel like no-one is really worth of life at all. [...]

There are no other universal laws than the laws of nature[4]

Now, these implications are worrying. And Paul Wright has taken this on board. In a comment on my last post he relates some of his "ultimate fallback position"[5] in case human value cannot be established on atheism:
Humans are valuable because I say so. If you agree, we'd better convince others of that, work to bring about a society which believes that, and oppose (by force if necessary, as it was in World War II, to use your example) those who want to treat people as things. A consequence of the lack of ethical absolutes is that we can lose and the universe will not care. We're all treading water in the deep ocean and we can't touch bedrock to hold us up. Better get working.
I hope Paul won't mind my saying that the comment has something of the feel of unfinished business about it after our last discussion on the topic, so readers may find that useful background reading (the bit about morality is almost right at the end) .

I agree ("humans are valuable") and I disagree ("because I say so"), but that second part reveals that we mean something different by "valuable" here. Value is part of my ontology: on my view, all humans have value, objectively, as one of their properties. Like material bodies have mass. But on the "because I say so" view, humans are valuable not in themselves but merely to Paul - which tells us something (good!) about Paul but nothing about humans.

As a result, I wonder what to "convince" in this context would look like. We're certainly not talking about convincing people of a truth, but merely of an opinion. So will we go all the way? Will we say to people "all human beings have intrinsic value and you should believe this because it's true", or will we say "there is no such thing as intrinsic value, but all the same you ought to value humans"? If the former, then Paul is talking about trying to convince people of something he himself is not entitled to believe, as I've taken pains to show. If the latter, then precisely how is this supposed to make any fewer Auvinens (or Nazis, to keep that example running) than we have already? And what in the heck is "ought" supposed to mean in this context, anyway?

So yes, I am very much up for bringing about a society which believes that humans (including the unborn) are valuable, in the first of those senses. Knowing myself to be right and everyone else to be wrong would be scant consolation if everyone else became a moral nihilist, so I don't see any advantage to believing in a "lack of ethical absolutes" here. All the same, it is important, otherwise right really does make right and we're staring down the barrel of the Abolition of Man. [6]

UPDATE: I forgot to tip my hat to Alex Fear for the info on Auvinen. My bad.


[1] In short:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
Of course, the human rights argument can be used to support premise 2. of this syllogism: if humans have instrinsic value, then we have an objective moral duty not to harm them for no reason, and so at least one objective moral duty exists. But I think the HR argument also stands alone.
[2] Proud of humility. Go figure.
[3] 13:05 into this video. I'll pass over the question of whether Christians actually do think the universe is "all about us".
[4] This is probably going to be my standard response to the fundy atheists who occasionally try to tell me that people have done bad things in the name of belief but never in the name of unbelief. Just tell me which part of what I've quoted Auvinen as saying you disagree with, and why.
[5] Which can be found in full here.
[6] Read this. Read this now.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Book review: God's Undertaker by John Lennox

Lennox, John C., God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford: Lion, 2007)

Imagine you knew nothing about how cars work. Imagine, then, that on first seeing a car and being told it was a Ford, you took to thinking that a person named Ford was inside the car, making it run. You would be wrong. And were you to open up the bonnet, have a look inside and learn the principles about how engines work, you would see you were wrong, and note that there was no need to introduce Mr. Ford to explain those principles. Suppose, then, you were to conclude that this knowledge made it impossible for you to believe in the existence of a Mr. Ford who designed the engine in the first place. You would be wrong again. The relevance to contemporary atheology should be obvious.

Dr. Lennox has been using this analogy - and the ones about Aunt Matilda's cake (of which scientists could tell its contents and nutritional value but not who or what it is for) and about the paper with writing on (about the meaning of which neither physical, chemical nor mathematical analysis would tell you a thing) - in talks for years. I know, because I was at one of them in Oxford in 2003. On that day he had been given half an hour to burn through all his material, so he spoke at breakneck speed and barely had time to catch breath. There's something of that vibe about this book, too. Over these 179 pages of fine print, Lennox seems to have been determined to cover as much ground as possible, which makes for either an exhilarating or an infuriating read, depending on the disposition of the reader. I loved it.

One immense positive of the book is that it clears up a whole mass of confusions over issues relating to the question in the title. First, he points out that to see this big argument as one between science and religion is to commit a category error (not to mention to ignore all the religious scientists out there); the argument is between two ways of understanding the results of science, between two worldviews: naturalism and theism[1]. Briefly, the naturalist sees the universe as a closed and self-sufficient system, while the theist sees the universe as caused by, ontologically dependent on and liable to inference from God. It's a categorisation which is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' in the second chapter of Miracles.

Second, he points out that much scientific observation is open to many different interpretations and so cautions that many conclusions are "theory-laden", while explicitly steering well clear of any postmodern hyper-scepticism. Third, he explains just how a basically Christian worldview led to the emergence of modern science (the reasoning: God made the universe, therefore he could have made it however he liked, therefore the only way to find out how it works is to go and make studied observations). Fourth, he argues that the question "Is intelligent design science?" is misplaced; what we should be asking is "Is there scientific evidence for intelligent design?" (taken pan-scientifically). He clearly thinks there is, and goes on to explain way.

And so the rest of the book consists of a series of expositions and defences of teleological arguments, interspersed with Lennox taking apart some of the more ludicrous things to have come from the mouth of Peter "nothing exists" Atkins and others. Most of these arguments, both cosmological and biological, will be familiar to interested readers. Lennox makes clear that he could have stopped with the cosmological ones without delving into the realms of irreducible complexity and origin of life studies; but he explains he didn't think the atheists deserve to have those areas uncontested. Them's fightin' words.

However, in all this it is quite clear where Lennox's expert knowledge lies and where it doesn't. He is "Reader in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green College [a graduate-only Oxford college]". During the first couple of chapters dealing with scientific methodology, worldview construction and inferences (i.e. Philosophy of Science) Lennox is clearly in his element, but this authoritative tone rather drops off in chapters 5-7 ("Designer universe?", "Designer biosphere?" and "The origin of life") as he relies heavily on quotations. Now, these are well-chosen quotations, and the arguments he constructs with them are cogent, but I was left longing for a return to the assurance of the first few chapters.

That return duly comes, as the discussion turns to information theory and hence Mathematics. Now, Lennox has been concerned on numerous occasions throughout the book to anticipate and rebut the objection that he's arguing for a "God of the gaps", insisting that abduction is a valid method of inference in science and that we make inferences to intelligent causes all the time. He also points out that many of these arguments are only possible because of discoveries made in the last fifty years, reinforcing the argument that the advance of science is friendly to what he is saying and that his arguments are based preciesly on what we do know, not on what we don't. However, it's when he turns to treating DNA in information theoretical terms that these ideas are really fleshed out:

In order to explain the next step in the argument we now turn to the realm of pure mathematics. If a conjecture [...] has been thought about for many years and all attempts to prove it true have failed, then, though mathematicians will not necessarily give up trying to prove it true, they may also mount an attempt to see if it is provably false [...] Why should we not apply the same kind of logic to the question of the origin of genetic information? Might not the difficulties involved in all attempts so far to give a naturalistic explanation for the origin of genetic information be sufficient reason to expend at least some of our intellectual energy inquiring if there is something like an information-theoretic parallel to the law of energy conservation?[2]

Lennox then goes on to spend about the next chapter and a half arguing for such a law, to the effect that "no molecular device is capable of generating any information that does not either belong to its input or its own informational structure", with supporting quotations from Peter Medawar and Kurt Gödel among others. He also takes a swipe at Dawkins' infamous "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL" while he's at it. To me, this suggests a research programme. If this law of conservation holds, then what motivated researchers should be doing is studying the DNA sequences from the origin of life to homo sapiens and trying to identify points in history at which there is an information injection into the system, and how much. In bytes. Y'know, numbers. That thing evolutionary biology is so great at.

Furthermore, if information is conserved in this way, then it is most likely more fundamental than matter. And information implies intelligence. This is the argument with which Lennox closes: "In the beginning was the word..."[3]

Lennox provides the positive arguments his Oxford colleague Alister McGrath lacked in his reponses to Dawkins. This is a popular level book, it's an overview and, as I said at the start, the pace of it will not be to everyone's liking. It's not a textbook or a series of academic papers. But for what it is, it is very good book indeed, and comes recommended.


[1] Lennox doesn't intend for these two worldviews to be taken as exhausting all the possibilities; it's just that these are the two most obviously and publicly in conflict at the moment.
[2] pp. 149f.
[3] John 1:1

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Doug Powell presents the transcendental argument


Here, Doug Powell explains his previous response to the Blasphemy Challenge. I don't think I've heard the transcendental argument for the existence of God presented so clearly.
HT: Frank Walton

Friday, 5 October 2007

Argumentum ad hyperlink

Who hasn't seen this kind of debate online?

A: Look, everyone knows you're wrong.
B: Not everyone. You've forgotten Smith, Jones and Harris.
A: Those criticisms all hopelessly miss the point, as Miller points out.
B: Miller's response is just a load of rhetoric, and he doesn't address this argument or this one.
A: The first of those arguments commits several obvious fallacies; the second isn't even relevant.
B: Yes it is.
A: No it isn't.
B: IS SO!
A: IS NOT!
...etc.
This is a template instance of what I'd like to dub the ad hyperlink fallacy: that is, in debate, linking all over the net instead of making the arguments pertinent to the discussion yourself. It represents a tendency which is prevalent on every topic, which is why this post has so many labels.

Obviously, we can't always be spelling out all the arguments all the time. It very often is helpful to direct our readers to the people who've made the relevant points better than we could. And I'm well aware that I myself at times am just as gulity of this as anyone else - and indeed I will be whenever, in the future, I think I spot someone else doing this and point it out to them by linking to this post. D'oh!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

CADRE on atheist apologetics

For anyone looking to make a quick buck, J.D. Walters over at the Christian CADRE blog (bookmark it now) has helpfully given an eight-step guide to writing popular atheist apologetics. Extract:

[When talking about teleological arguments] Quote a few lines from Paley, then triumphantly announce that Darwin with the help of Richard Dawkins has proved him WRONG [...] leave out any mention of Richard Swinburne, Rodney Holder, Holmes Rolston, Mark Wynn or Robin Collins. The interested reader might find that the conversation has moved on just a bit since Paley.

[...]

Religious experience is easy to dismiss: it's all in the head. Remind your readers that Freud proved that religious beliefs were just illusions (without asking exactly what he meant by that word) and then make a reference to Michael Persinger's "God Machine" and the psilocybin trip you took during your hippy days in college (it was, like, intense, man, one-with-everything and all that).

Ouch. I wish Walters hadn't fallen into the trap of criticising Dawkins' lack of knowledge of Theology without at the same time explaining how this shows itself and what difference it makes to the whole argument, but otherwise it seems a good satire. Of course, it could be objected that it is unfair of Walters to judge pop-level argumentation by academic standards, but this recourse is rather blocked by the claims the pop atheists make on behalf of their arguments. Like House says, arrogance has to be earned (although I'd obviously prefer no-one to be arrogant).

Sunday, 29 July 2007

G.K. Chesterton on the reasoning behind belief and unbelief

If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, "For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity." I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion. Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences. I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it. For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flows the other way.
- Orthodoxy (New York: Image, 2001), 150-151
Comments? Thoughts? I'm with him in saying that Christianity accounts for the totality of the evidence better than anything else. Too much of modern discussion is spent ruling certain evidence inadmissible, i.e. if it's not the result of some experiment. I suggest that, when faced with the atheist's "why are you a Christian and not a Zeus-worshipper" line, the Chestertonian response is a good one: Zeus simply doesn't do the explanatory work that Jesus does. And, of course, Zeus doesn't have the historical evidence that Jesus does. And finally, Zeus simply isn't like Jesus, indeed no-one is! And then you can do evangelism proper.

I wonder if the psychological insight is valid as well: is this the way people form or decide upon their worldview, in general? It seems reasonable, in that anyone's own motives for deciding anything are very often vastly more complex, or even confused, than they tell us. I speak from experience.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Craig/Wolpert debate

I just got back from the UCCF-organised debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Professor Lewis Wolpert on the question "Is God a delusion?" No prizes for guessing where the idea for that title came from. Esteemed BBC journalist John Humphrys chaired the debate and pitched in with half an hour's worth of questions at the end (which took place instead of the speakers' taking questions from the floor).

One of my first feelings as proceedings kicked off was one of disappointment at discovering there were so few atheists there: about 10% of the audience according to the initial show of hands. This disappointment remained as Craig proceeded to thrash Wolpert out of the jam-packed Westminster Central Hall; I just kept wishing there had been even more people there to see it.

As it was, we didn't get a real debate at all. Wolpert was simply appalling. At face value, his two main arguments seemed to be (1) that religious belief can be accounted for naturalistically and (2) who made God, eh? However, implicit throughout was his main argument, something like that which J.P. Holding has dubbed "the argument from serious assertion", namely:
  1. God does not exist.
  2. No, seriously.
  3. Therefore, God does not exist.

His naturalistic explanations for the origins of belief in the divine and for religious experience were such unmitigated just-so stories that I can hardly be bothered to repeat them; and, in any case, as Craig pointed out, used in this way they are near-irrelevant (I think most theists would welcome the claim that people are somehow neurologically hard-wired to belive in God). It is worth noting that - while each speaker was given 20 minutes for an initial address, 10 minutes for a first rebuttal, 7 minutes for a second rebuttal and 5 minutes for a conclusion - Craig used nearly all of his available time while Wolpert ran out of things to say very early on, and that in every speech Wolpert asked "who made God" and in every reply Craig pointed out that to be God means (in part) to be uncaused and eternal.

Craig, for his part, used his now-standard 5 arguments (Craig's Five Ways?): the argument from the beginning of the universe (and hence, all matter, energy, space and time), the argument from the fine-tuning of the universe, the argument from the objectivity of moral values, the argument for the historical reliability of the resurrection accounts and the argument from personal experience (his testimony). I was expecting to hear some tough responses... and I heard sixth-form arguments. I expected to hear a challenge to the coherence of the divine attributes... and I heard "who made God?" I expected to hear an appeal to a possible multiverse... and I heard a rhetorical shrug of the shoulders as regards the mind-bogglingly small probability of a life-permitting universe. I expected to hear a robust version of the Euthypro dilemma... and I heard a man who first claimed that there was nothing more to morality than biological and social imperatives, then said there were some things that were really wrong, then refused to acknowledge that he had contradicted himself. I expected to hear an empassioned appeal to the problem of evil... and yet only Humphrys seemed in the least concerned with that. Finally, I felt entitled, from such a renowned professor of Biology, to hear a discussion of evolution that went at least slightly deeper than "evolution did it", "there's loads of evidence" and "you're just ignorant".

In sum, I expected to hear some atheistic arguments, and yet all I heard Wolpert do was repeat loudly that "there's no evidence for God at all whatsoever" while refusing to engage with the theistic arguments he had just heard. My question for any atheists out there is: is this the best you can do? This was the Vice-President of the British Humanist Association, after all.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

A Musickle response to the Blasphemy Challenge

HT: Atheism Sucks! (although I kind of wish they'd change the name of that blog - but then again who am I to talk?)

I mainly put this on here because I thought it was about time I did one of those embedded YouTube video things. He makes some good arguments, though.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

John Sentamu gives an answer to everyone who asks him to give a reason for the hope that he has

For an example in dealing gracefully with some aggressive questioning, one could do a lot worse than to follow this example from the Anglican Archbishop of (or for, as he prefers) York, Dr. John Sentamu. The link is a couple of months old, but as I don't make a habit of reading The Independent...