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Transcript: Sam Harris v William Lane Craig Debate “Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?” UPDATED

May 3rd, 2011 by Machine Philosophy

William Lane Craig v Sam HarrisSam Harris and William Lane Craig debated the moot “Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?” at the University of Notre Dame on 7 April 2011. We’ve already linked to the debate MP3 and a playlist of the video and we have published a two part review but now, as an MandM exclusive, we bring you the transcript.

This transcript is the result of some 32 playbacks of the debate and is accurate down to the “uhs” and “oks”.

UPDATE:
Since publishing this transcript, William Lane Craig has emailed us and asked us to adjust the paragraph breaks and punctuation in his sections of the transcript in accord with where he placed them — something he conceded was very hard to get right when one is transcribing from audio. He also provided us with the footnotes for his sources which we have also included below.

If Sam Harris wishes us to adjust his sections of this transcript in the same manner we are very happy to do so.

- Madeleine

Transcript of the Harris v Craig debate

MODERATOR:

Welcome to the second installment of “The God Debate”. My name is Michael Rea. I’m a professor of philosophy here at the University of Notre Dame, and the director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion, one of the sponsors of tonight’s event. The Center for Philosophy of Religion was founded in the late 1970s with the aim of promoting cutting-edge research on topics in the philosophy of religion, and in distinctively Christian philosophy. One of our goals in sponsoring the “God Debate” series is to try to bring some of the very issues discussed among our research fellows to a wider, non-academic audience, and in a format that will hopefully be fun and engaging.

Our show tonight, as you already know, is a debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris, coming together for the very first time to discuss the question, “Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?”

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He is best-known among philosophers for his extensive and influential work in the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion. He is known to the wider public as someone who is able to articulate and defend the doctrines of the Christian faith in a way that is highly accessible but also philosophically and theologically rigorous. He became a Christian at the age of 16, pursued undergraduate studies at Wheaton College, and holds two earned doctorates: one in philosophy from the University of Birmingham, and one in theology from the University of Munich. He has authored or edited over 30 books, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology.

Known as one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheist movement, Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times best sellers: The Moral Landscape, The End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 Pen Award for non-fiction. Mr. Harris’s writing has been published in over 15 languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, Scientific American, Nature, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Times London, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, the Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. Mr. Harris is a co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, a non-profit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University, and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.

The structure of tonight’s debate will be as follows: Each debater will take 20 minutes for his opening speech, followed by rebuttals of 12 minutes and 8 minutes respectively, and then closing speeches of 5 minutes each. At the conclusion of the debate, we will have about 30 minutes for questions from the audience. If you would like to ask a question, line up behind one of the two microphones in front, or in the balcony. We’re letting Notre Dame students ask the first four questions tonight, so if you are not a Notre Dame student, and somehow find yourself at the front of the Q&A line, please allow a student to go ahead of you.

Time will be kept strictly. There is a timekeeper in the front who can be seen by both speakers, and once each speaker’s time has elapsed, he will be given at most 15 seconds to finish his final sentence before being rudely interrupted by me, the time enforcer. Because we are keeping the time strict, we ask you to hold all applause and other indications of agreement or disagreement, cheering, crowd-surfing, and the like, until the very end of the debate. Please remember that flash photography, video taping, and active cell phones are all prohibited.

Finally, remember that Notre Dame is the world’s number one institution in the philosophy of religion, and also has one of the world’s best theology departments. Any questions you don’t get to ask during the 25 or 30 minute Q&A, you can ask of your local faculty in the days and weeks to come. And now, on with the show.

CRAIG:

Well, good evening. It’s wonderful to be here at the University of Notre Dame, and I want to begin by

MODERATOR:

Bill

CRAIG:

thank—

MODERATOR:

Sorry.

CRAIG:

Sorry.

MODERATOR:

I need to—We’re gonna begin each speech with me checking with the timekeeper to make sure that he’s ready, and then the timekeeper is gonna hit “Go”, and then you get to go—

CRAIG:

Alright.

MODERATOR:

So, so you go—

CRAIG:

Sorry—

MODERATOR:

—when I say “Begin”.

CRAIG:

Sorry for jumping the gun.

MODERATOR:

Professor Craig gets, uh, gets the first word in the debate, uh, Dr. Harris gets the last word. Timekeeper, are you ready? This is 20 minutes. Begin.

CRAIG:

I want to begin by thanking the Center for Philosophy of Religion for the invitation to participate in tonight’s debate. The question of the correct foundation of morality is one that is not only of tremendous academic interest, but also one that has enormous practical application for our lives.

Now to begin with an important point of agreement: Dr. Harris and I agree that there are objective moral values and duties. To say that moral values and duties are objective is to say that they are valid and binding independent of human opinion. For example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively evil is to say that it was evil, even though the Nazis who carried it out thought that it was good, and it would still have been evil even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everyone who disagreed with them, so that everybody thought the Holocaust was good.

One of the great merits of Dr. Harris’ recent book The Moral Landscape is his bold affirmation of the objectivity of moral values and duties. He inveighs against what he calls “the over-educated atheistic moral nihilist[s]” and relativists who refuse to condemn as objectively wrong terrible atrocities like the genital mutilation of little girls.[1] He rightly declares, “If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, … the only question would be how severely that person should be punished. …”[2] What is not in question is that such a person has done something horribly, objectively, wrong.

The question before us this evening, then, is, “what is the best foundation for the existence of objective moral values and duties? What grounds them? What makes certain actions objectively good or evil, right or wrong?” In tonight’s debate I’m going to defend two basic contentions:

  1. If God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.
  2. If God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

Now notice that these are conditional claims. I shall not be arguing tonight that God exists. Maybe Dr. Harris is right that atheism is true. That wouldn’t affect the truth of my two contentions. All that would follow is that objective moral values and duties would, then, contrary to Dr. Harris, not exist.

So, let’s look at that first contention together: If God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. Here, I want to examine two subpoints with you.

First, theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral values. Moral values have to do with what is good or evil. On the theistic view objective moral values are grounded in God. As St. Anselm saw, God is by definition the greatest conceivable being and therefore the highest Good. Indeed, He is not merely perfectly good, He is the locus and paradigm of moral value. God’s own holy and loving nature provides the absolute standard against which all actions are measured. He is by nature loving, generous, faithful, kind, and so forth. Thus if God exists, objective moral values exist, wholly independent of human beings.

Second, theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral duties. On a theistic view objective moral duties are constituted by God’s commands. God’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commandments which constitute our moral duties or obligations. Far from being arbitrary, God’s commandments must be consistent with His holy and loving nature. Our duties, then, are constituted by God’s commandments and these in turn reflect his essential character. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the whole moral duty of man can be summed up in the two great commandments: First, you shall love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind, and, second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On this foundation we can affirm the objective rightness of love, generosity, self-sacrifice, and equality, and condemn as objectively wrong selfishness, hatred, abuse, discrimination, and oppression.

In summary, then, theism has the resources for a sound foundation for morality: it grounds both objective moral values and objective moral duties; and hence, I think it’s evident that if God exists, we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

Let’s turn, then, to my second contention, that if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

Consider first the question of objective moral values. If God does not exist, then what basis remains for the existence of objective moral values? In particular, why think that human beings would have objective moral worth? On the atheistic view human beings are just accidental byproducts of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On atheism it’s hard to see any reason to think that human well-being is objectively good, anymore than insect well-being or rat well-being or hyena well-being. This is what Dr. Harris calls “The Value Problem”.[3]

The purpose of Dr. Harris’ book The Moral Landscape is to explain the basis, on atheism, of the existence of objective moral values.[4] He explicitly rejects the view that moral values are Platonic objects existing independent of the world.[5] So his only recourse is to try to ground moral values in the natural world. But how can you do that, since nature in and of itself is just morally neutral?

On a naturalistic view moral values are just the behavioral byproducts of biological evolution and social conditioning. Just as a troop of baboons exhibit cooperative and even self-sacrificial behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousins homo sapiens have evolved a sort of herd morality for precisely the same reasons. As a result of socio-biological pressures there has evolved among homo sapiens a sort of herd morality which functions well in the perpetuation of our species. But on the atheistic view there doesn’t seem to be anything that makes this morality objectively binding and true.

The philosopher of science Michael Ruse reports,

The position of the modern evolutionist … is that humans have an awareness of morality … because such an awareness is of biological worth.  Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. …Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory.  I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. … Nevertheless, … such reference is truly without foundation.  Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory …[6]

If we were to rewind the film of human evolution and start anew, people with a very different set of moral values might well have evolved. As Darwin himself wrote in The Descent of Man,

If … men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.[7]

For us to think that human beings are special and our morality is objectively true is to succumb to the temptation to species-ism, that is to say an unjustified bias in favor of one’s own species.

If there is no God, then any reason for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens on this planet as objectively true seems to have been removed. Take God out of the picture, and all you seem to be left with is an ape-like creature on a speck of dust beset with delusions of moral grandeur.

Richard Dawkins’ assessment of human worth may be depressing, but why, on atheism, is he mistaken, when he says, “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. … We are machines for propagating DNA. … It is every living object’s sole reason for being”?[8]

So how does Sam Harris propose to solve the Value Problem? The trick he proposes is simply to re-define what he means by “good” and “evil”, in non-moral terms. He says, “We should “define ‘good’ as that which supports [the] well-being” of conscious creatures.[9] So, he says, “questions about values … are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.”[10] And therefore, he concludes, “it makes no sense … to ask whether maximizing well-being is ‘good’.”[11] Why not? Because he’s redefined the word “good” to mean the well-being of conscious creatures. So to ask, “Why is maximizing creatures’ well-being good?” is on his definition the same as asking, “Why does maximizing creatures’ well-being maximize creatures’ well-being?” It’s just a tautology. It’s just talking in circles! So, Dr. Harris has quote-unquote “solved” the Value Problem just by re-defining his terms. It’s nothing but wordplay.

At the end of the day Dr. Harris isn’t really talking about moral values at all. He’s just talking about what’s conducive to the flourishing of sentient life on this planet. Seen in this light, his claim that science can tell us a great deal about what contributes to human flourishing is hardly controversial. Of course, it can–just as it can tell us what is conducive to the flourishing of corn or mosquitoes or bacteria. His so-called “moral landscape”, which features the highs and lows of human flourishing isn’t really a moral landscape at all.

Thus Dr. Harris has failed to solve the Value Problem. He hasn’t provided any justification or explanation for why, on atheism, moral values would objectively exist at all. His so-called “solution” is just a semantical trick of an arbitrary and idiosyncratic re-definition of the terms “good” and “evil” in non-moral vocabulary.

Second question: does atheism provide a sound foundation for objective moral duties? Duty has to do with moral obligation or prohibition, what I ought or ought not to do. Here, the reviewers of The Moral Landscape have been merciless in pounding Dr. Harris’s attempt to provide a naturalistic account of moral obligation. Two problems stand out.

First, natural science tells us only what is, not what ought to be, the case. As the philosopher Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.”[12] In particular it cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions which are conducive to human flourishing.

So, if there is no God, what foundation remains for objective moral duties? On the naturalistic view, human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligation to one another. When a lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra, but it doesn’t murder the zebra. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her but it doesn’t rape her–for none of these actions is forbidden or obligatory. There is no moral dimension to these actions.

So if God does not exist, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes these obligations upon us? Where do they come from? It’s very hard to see why they would be anything more than a subjective impression ingrained into us by societal and parental conditioning.

On the atheistic view, certain actions such as rape and incest may not be biologically and socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development have become taboo, that is, socially unacceptable behavior. But, that does absolutely nothing to prove that such acts are really wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. On the atheistic view the rapist who chooses to flout the “herd morality” is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, the moral equivalent, if you will, of Lady Gaga. If there is no moral lawgiver, then there is no objective moral law, and if there is no objective moral law, then we have no objective moral duties.

Thus, Dr. Harris’s view lacks any source for objective moral duty.

Second problem: “ought” implies “can.” A person is not morally responsible for an action which he is unable to avoid. For example, if somebody shoves you into another person, you’re not responsible for bumping into him. You had no choice. But Sam Harris believes that all of our actions are causally determined and that there is no free will.[13] Dr. Harris rejects not only libertarian accounts of free will but also compatibilistic accounts of freedom. But, if there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything! In the end, Dr. Harris admits this, though it’s tucked away in the endnotes of his volume. Moral responsibility, he says, and I quote, “is a social construct,” not an objective reality: I quote: “in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other” for the actions they perform.[14] His thoroughgoing determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties because on his worldview we have no control over what we do.

Thus, on Dr. Harris’ view there is no source of objective moral duties because there is no moral law-giver, and no possibility of objective moral duty, because there is no free will. Therefore, on his view, despite his protestations to the contrary, right and wrong do not really exist.

Thus, Dr. Harris’s naturalistic view fails to provide a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. Hence, if God does not exist, we do not have a sound foundation for objective morality, which is my second contention.

In conclusion then, we’ve seen that if God exists, we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and objective moral duties, but that if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. Dr. Harris’ atheism thus sits very ill with his ethical theory.

What I’m offering Dr. Harris tonight is not a new set of moral values–I think by and large we share the same applied ethics–rather what I’m offering is a sound foundation for the objective moral values and duties that we both hold dear.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:

Dr. Harris now has 20 minutes. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

HARRIS:

I just want to say, it’s an honor to be here at Notre Dame, and I’m very happy to be debating Dr. Craig, the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists. I’ve actually gotten more than a few emails this week, that more or less read, “Brother, please, don’t blow this.” So, you will be the judge.

Now, as many of you know, I’ve spent a fair amount of time criticizing religion. And one of the perks of this job is that you immediately hear from all the people who think that criticizing religion is a terrible thing to do. And, strangely, the reason people rise to the defense of God is not that there’s so much evidence that God exists, but that they believe that belief in God is the only intellectual framework for an objective morality. And, clearly, Dr. Craig is among their number.

Now, the sense is, that without the conviction that moral truths exist, that words like “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “evil”, actually mean something, humanity will just lose its way. That’s the fear. And I actually share that fear. I’ve come to believe that this, this concern that many religious people have, of the erosion of secular morality, is not an entirely empty one.

Now I once spoke at an academic meeting on these themes, and I, and I said, as I will say tonight, that once we understand morality in terms of human well-being, we’ll be able to make strong claims about which behaviors and ways of life are good for us and which aren’t. And I cited, as an example, the sadism and misogyny of the Taliban as an example of a worldview that was less than perfectly conducive to human flourishing. And it turns out, that to denigrate the Taliban at a scientific meeting is to court controversy, and after my remarks I, I fell into debate with another uh, invited speaker, and this is more or less exactly how our conversation went.

She said, “How could you ever say that forcing women to wear burqas is wrong from the point of view of science?” I said, “Well, because I think it’s pretty clear that right and wrong relate to human well-being, and it’s just as clear that forcing half the population to live in cloth bags and beating them, or killing them when they try to get out, is not a way of maximizing human well-being.”

And she said, “Well, that’s just your opinion.” And I said, “Well, okay, let’s make it even easier. Let’s say we found a culture that was literally removing the eyeballs of every third child, ok, at birth. Would you then agree that we have found a culture that is not perfectly maximizing well-being?”

And she said, “It would depend on why they were doing it.” So after my eyebrows returned from the back of my head, I said, “Okay, well say they were doing it for religious reasons. Let’s say they have a scripture which says, ‘Every third should walk in darkness.’ or some such nonsense.” And then she said, “Well, then you could never say that they were wrong.” Okay, and so I, I—you should know, I was talking to someone who has a deep background in science and philosophy. She’s actually since been appointed to the President’s Council on Bioethics. She’s one of thirteen people advising the President on the ethical implications of advances in medicine and, and uh, related sciences and technology, and she had just delivered a perfectly lucid lecture on the moral implications of neuroscience for the courts. And she was especially concerned that we could be subjecting captured terrorists to lie-detection neuro-imaging technology–—and she viewed this as, as really an unconscionable violation of cognitive liberty. So on the one hand, her moral scruples were very finely calibrated to recoil from the slightest perceived misstep in ethical terms in our War on Terror; and yet she was quite willing to forgive some primitive culture its fondness for removing the eyeballs of children in its religious rituals. And she seemed to me quite terrifyingly detached from the real suffering of millions of women in Afghanistan at this moment. So, I see this double standard as a problem. And strangely, this is precisely the erosion of basic common sense that many religious people are worried about. I hope it’ll be clear to you, at the end of this hour, that religion is not an answer to this problem, ok. Belief in God is not only unnecessary for a universal morality, it’s, it’s, it’s, it is itself a source of moral blindness.

Now, it’s widely believed that there are two quantities in this universe—there are facts, on the one hand, and of course science can give us our most rigorous discussion of these; but then there are values, which many people, like Dr. Craig, think science can’t touch; questions of meaning, and morality, and what life is good for. Now of course, everyone thinks that science can help us get what we value, ok, but it can never tell us what we ought to value, ok, and therefore it cannot, in principle, be applied to the most important questions in human life–—questions like how we should raise our children, or what constitutes a good life. Now, it’s thought, from the point of view of science, and Dr. Craig just gave voice to this opinion, that when we look at the universe, all we see are patterns of events–—just one thing follows another–—and there’s no corner of the universe that declares certain of its events to be good or evil, or right or wrong apart from us. I mean, our minds—–we declare certain events to be better than others. But in doing that, it seems that we’re merely projecting our own values and desires onto a reality that is intrinsically value-free. And where do our notions of right and wrong come from? Well clearly they’ve been drummed into us by evolution. They’re the product of these apish urges and social emotions; and then they get modulated by culture. If you take sexual jealousy, for instance. This is an attitude that has been bred into us, over millions of years, ok. Our ancestors were highly covetous of one another, despite the fact that everyone was covered with hair, and had terrible teeth; and this, this possessiveness now gets enshrined in various cultural institutions like the institution of marriage, ok. So therefore, a statement like, “It’s wrong to cheat on one’s spouse”, ok, seems a mere summation of these contingencies. It seems like it, it, it’s an improvisation on the back of biology, ok. It seems that, that, that from the point of view of science, it can’t really be wrong to cheat on your spouse, ok. This is just, just how apes like ourselves worry, when we learn to worry with words, ok.

Now here is where religious people, like Dr. Craig, begin to get a little queasy, as I think they should. And many see no alternative but to insert the God of Abraham—–an Iron Age god of war–—into the clockwork, as an invisible arbiter of moral truth. It is wrong to cheat on your spouse because Yahweh deems that it is so. Which is curious, because in other moods, Yahweh is perfectly fond of genocide, and slavery, and human sacrifice. I must say, it’s pretty amusing to hear Dr. Craig in his opening remarks say that I’m merely focused on the flourishing of sentient creatures on this planet. If that’s a sin, I’ll take it. One wonders what Dr. Craig is focused on.

Now, incidentally, you should not trust Dr. Craig’s reading of me. Half the quotes he provided “from me” as though I wrote them were quotes from people I was quoting in my book and often to different effect. So you’ll have to read the book.

Now, in claiming that values reduce to the well-being of conscious creatures—–as I will–—uh, I’m introducing two concepts: Consciousness and well-being. Now, let’s start with consciousness—–this is not an arbitrary starting point. Imagine a universe devoid of the possibility of consciousness–—imagine a universe entirely constituted of rocks. Ok, there’s clearly no happiness or suffering in this universe; there’s no good or evil; value judgments don’t apply. For, for changes in the universe to matter, they have to matter, at least potentially, to some conscious system.

Ok, what about well-being? Well, the well-being of conscious creatures, and the, and the link between that and morality, may seem open to doubt, but it shouldn’t. Ok, here’s the only assumption you have to make. Imagine a universe in which every conscious creatures suffers as much as it possibly can, for as long as it can. Ok, I call this “the worst possible misery for everyone”. Ok, the worst possible misery for everyone is bad. Ok, if, if, if the word “bad” applies anywhere, it applies here. Now, if you think the worst possible misery for everyone isn’t bad, or maybe it has a silver lining, or maybe there’s something worse, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And what’s more, I’m pretty sure you don’t know what you’re talking about either.

The—what I’m saying is, the minimum standard of moral goodness is to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone. If we should do anything in this universe, if we ought to do anything, if we have a moral duty to do anything, it’s to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone. And the moment you admit this, you admit that, that, that all other possible states of the universe are better than the worst possible misery for everyone. You have the worst possible misery for everyone over here, and all these other constellation of experiences arrayed out here, and because the experience of conscious creatures is dependent in some way on the laws of nature, there will be right and wrong ways to move along this continuum. It will be possible to think that you’re avoiding the worst possible misery for everyone—–and to fail. You can be wrong in your beliefs about how to navigate this space.

So here’s my argument, for moral truth in the context of science. Questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, depend upon minds. They depend upon the possibility of experience. Minds are natural phenomena. They depend upon the laws of nature in some way. Morality and human values, therefore, can be understood through science, because in talking about these things, we are talking about all of the facts that influence the well-being of conscious creatures. In our case, we’re talking about genetics, and neurobiology, and psychology, and sociology, and economics.

Now, I view this space of all possible experience as a kind of moral landscape, with peaks that correspond to the heights of well-being, and valleys that correspond to the lowest suffering. And the first thing to realize, is that there may be many equivalent peaks on this landscape. There may be many different, but morally-equivalent ways for human beings to thrive. But there will be many more ways not to thrive. There will be many more ways to fail to be on a peak. There are clearly many more ways to suffer unnecessarily in this world than to be sublimely happy.

Now, the Taliban are still my favorite example, of a culture that is struggling mightily to build a society that’s clearly less good than many other societies on offer. Ok, the average lifespan for women in Afghanistan is 44 years. Ok, they have a 12% literacy rate. They have the highest, almost the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality in the world—–and also almost the highest fertility—–so this is one of the best places on Earth to watch women and infants die. Ok, it seems to me perfectly obvious that the, the best response to this dire situation—–which is to say the most moral response—–is not to throw battery acid in the faces of little girls for the crime of learning to read. Now of course, this is common sense to us, unless you happen to be a bioethicist on the President’s commission at this moment. But I’m saying, at bottom, it is also, these are also truths about biology, and neurology, and psychology, and sociology, and economics. It is not unscientific to say that the Taliban are wrong about morality, that the moment we notice that we know anything at all about human well-being, we have to say this.

Ok, now some people with a little philosophical training may be tempted to say, “What if a father wants to burn off his daughter’s face with battery acid? Who are you to say that he’s not as moral as we are? What if he has an alternate conception of well-being that’s just as legitimate?” or, “Who’s to say that we should care about the well-being of little girls?” This is the kind of email I get, incidentally. Now, moral skeptics of this kind, and Dr. Craig has essentially endorsed this position, in a way, without God, think that the only way to judge one person’s values to be wrong are with respect to another person’s values, and all such judgments have to be on a par. Ok, this is not true. There, there are many ways for my values to be objectively wrong. They can be, they can be wrong with respect to deeper values that I hold. They can be wrong with respect to deeper values that I would hold if I were only a deeper person. It’s clearly possible to value things that reliably make you miserable in this life. Ok, it’s clearly possible to be cognitively and emotionally closed to experiences that you would want if you were only intelligent and knowledgeable enough to want them. It is possible not to know what one is missing in life. So things can be right or wrong, or good and evil, quite independent of a person’s opinions.

Now, some of you might worry that I haven’t defined “well-being” enough. How can something this loose as a concept be the, the, the benchmark of, of, uh, objective values? Well, consider by analogy the concept of physical health. Physical health is very difficult to define, you know. It used to be that if you were “healthy” you could expect to live to the ripe old age of forty. Even now, our lifespan, our life expectancy has doubled in the last 150 years. What, what does “health” mean? Well, it has something to do with not always vomiting, ok, not being in excruciating pain, not running a fever. Ok but how fast should a “healthy” person be able to run? That question might not have an answer, but this does not make the question of health vacuous. Ok, it doesn’t make it merely a matter of opinion, or of cultural construction. The distinction between a healthy person and a dead one is about as clear and consequential as any we ever make in science. Ok, and notice that no one is ever tempted to attack the philosophical underpinnings of medicine with questions like, “Well, who are you to say that not always vomiting is healthy? What if you meet someone who wants to vomit, and he wants to vomit until he dies, ok? How could you argue that he is not as healthy as you are?” In talking about morality and human values, I think we really are talking about mental health and the health of societies.

And the truth is, science has always been in the values business. We simply cannot speak of facts without resorting to values. Consider the simplest statement of scientific fact: Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. This seems as value-free an utterance as human beings ever make. But what do we do when someone doubts the truth of this proposition? Ok, all we can do is appeal to scientific values. The value of understanding the world. The value of evidence. The value of logical consistency. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water. Ok, I’m Biblical chemist, and I read in Genesis 1 that God created water before he created light. So I take that to mean that there were no stars. So there were no stars to fuse hydrogen and helium into heavier elements like oxygen; therefore there was no oxygen to put in the water, so either God created, either water has no oxygen, or God created special oxygen to put in the water—but I don’t think he would do that, because that would be Biblically inelegant.” Ok, what can we say to such a person? Ok, all we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. Ok, if someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?

Ok, so this, this, I think this split between facts and values should look really strange to you on its face. I mean, what are we really saying when we say that science can’t be applied to the most important questions in human life? Ok, we’re saying that when we get our biases out of the way, when we, when we most fully rely on clear reasoning and honest observation, when, when intellectual honesty is at its zenith, well, then those efforts have no application whatsoever to the most important questions of human life. That is precisely the mood you cannot be in to answer the most important questions in human life. It would be very strange if that were so.

MODERATOR:

Professor Craig now has 12 minutes for rebuttal. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

CRAIG:

You’ll recall in my first speech that I said I was going to defend two basic contentions tonight. First, that if God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

First, I explained that if God exists, then objective moral values are grounded in the character of God himself, who is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, generous, and so forth.

Here Dr. Harris didn’t have anything by way of disagreement to say, but I do want to clear up a possible confusion. He represented this by saying that if religion were not true, then words like “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “evil” would have no meaning. I’m not maintaining that. That is to confuse moral ontology with moral semantics. Moral ontology asks, “What is the foundation of objective moral values and duties?” Moral semantics asks, “What is the meaning of moral terms?” And I am not making any kind of semantical claim tonight that “good” means something like “commanded by God”. Rather, my concern is moral ontology: What is the ground, or foundation, of moral values and duties?

To give an illustration, think of light. Light is a certain visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. But obviously, that isn’t the meaning of the word “light”. People knew how to use the word “light” long before they discovered its physical nature. And, I might also add, they certainly knew the difference between light and darkness long before they understood the physics of light. Now, in exactly the same way, we can know the meaning of moral terms like “good” and “evil”, “right” and “wrong”, and know the difference between good and evil, without being aware that the good is grounded in God ontologically.

So, that is the position I am defending tonight, that moral values are grounded ontologically in God.

Second, that our moral duties are grounded by God’s commandments, which are a necessary reflection of his nature. Here the only response that I detected from Dr. Harris was to refer to the atrocities in the Hebrew Bible. But I think this is quite irrelevant to tonight’s discussion; there are plenty of Divine Command theorists who are not Jews or Christians and place no stock whatsoever in the Bible. So this isn’t an objection to Divine Command theory that I’m defending tonight.  Now, if you are interested in biblical ethics, I want to highly recommend Paul Copan’s new book Is God a Moral Monster?, which examines those passages in the Hebrew Bible in light of the Ancient Near East.[15] And I can guarantee you, it will be a very enlightening and interesting read. But this issue is strictly irrelevant in tonight’s debate.

So we’ve not heard any objection to a theistic grounding for ethics.  If God does exist, it’s clear, I think—obvious even—that we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

Now, what if God does not exist? Is there a sound foundation, first of all, for objective moral values? Now here, Dr. Harris said, “You don’t need religion in order to have universal morality.” Again, that’s a confusion. Of course, you don’t! Remember, the Nazis, for example, could have won World War II and established a universal morality. The issue isn’t universality, the issue is objectivity.  And I’m maintaining that in the absence of God, there isn’t any reason, any explanation, for the existence of objective moral values.

Now Dr. Harris says, “But we can imagine creatures being in the worst possible misery, and it’s obviously better for creatures to be flourishing—the well-being of conscious creatures is good.” Well, of course, it is. That’s not the question. We agree that, all things being equal, flourishing of conscious creatures is good. The question is rather, if atheism were true, what would make the flourishing of conscious creatures objectively good?  Conscious creatures might like to flourish, but there’s no reason on atheism to think that it would really be objectively good.

Now here Dr. Harris, I think, is guilty of misusing, uh, terms like “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong”, in equivocal ways. He will often use them in non-moral senses. For example, he’ll say there are objectively good and bad moves in chess.[16] Now that’s clearly not a moral use of the terms “good” and “bad”. You just mean they’re not apt to win or produce a winning strategy.  It’s not evil, what you’ve done. And similarly, in ordinary English, we use the words “good” and “bad” in a number of non-moral ways.  For example, we say Notre Dame has a “good” team. Now we can hope it’s an ethical team, but that’s not what’s indicated by the win-loss record! That—that is a different meaning of “good”. Or we say, “That’s a good way to get yourself killed!” or “That’s a good game plan” or “The sunshine felt good” or “That’s a good route to East Lansing” or “There’s no good reason to do that” or “She’s in good health”. All of these are non-moral uses of the word “good”. And Dr. Harris’s contrast of the good life and the bad life is not an ethical contrast between a morally good life and an evil life. It’s a contrast between a pleasurable life and a miserable life. And there’s no reason to equate “pleasure/misery” with “good” and “evil”–especially on atheism! So there’s just no reason that’s been given, on atheism, for thinking the flourishing of conscious creatures is objectively good.

But Dr. Harris has to defend an even more radical claim than that: Uh, he claims that the property of being good is identical with the property of creaturely flourishing. And he’s not offered any defense of this radical identity claim. In fact, I think we have a knock-down argument against it. Now bear with me here; this is a little technical. On the next-to-last page of his book, Dr. Harris makes the telling admission that if people like rapists, liars, and thieves could be just as happy as good people, then his “moral landscape” would no longer be a moral landscape.[17] Rather, it would just be a continuum of well-being whose peaks are occupied by good and bad people, or evil people, alike.

Now what’s interesting about this is that earlier in the book, Dr. Harris explained that about three million Americans are psychopathic.[18] That is to say, they don’t care about the mental states of others. They enjoy inflicting pain on other people. But that implies that there’s a possible world, which we can conceive, in which the continuum of human well-being is not a moral landscape. The peaks of well-being could be occupied by evil people. But that entails that in the actual world, the continuum of well-being and the moral landscape are not identical either. For identity is a necessary relation. There is no possible world in which some entity A is not identical to A. So if there’s any possible world in which A is not identical to B, then it follows that A is not in fact identical to B.

Now since it’s possible that human well-being and moral goodness are not identical, it follows necessarily that human well-being and goodness are not the same, as Dr. Harris has asserted in his book.

Now it’s not often in philosophy that you get a knock-down argument against a position. But I think we’ve got one here.  Uh, by granting that it’s possible that the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape, Dr. Harris’s view becomes logically incoherent.

And all of this goes to underline my fundamental point that on atheism, there’s just no reason to identify the well-being of conscious creatures with moral goodness. Atheism cannot explain the reality—the objective reality—of moral values.

What about objective moral duties? I first argued from the is/ought distinction that there is no basis on, uh, atheism, for thinking that we have any moral val—uh, duties. And here Dr. Harris says, “If we have a moral duty to do anything, we have a duty, uh, to avoid the worst possible misery”. But the question is the antecedent of that conditional: “If we have a moral duty to do anything.” What I’m arguing is that on atheism, I don’t see any reason to think we have any moral duties to do anything.

Moral obligations or prohibitions arise in response to imperatives from a competent authority. For example, if a policeman tells you to pull over, then because of his authority, who he is, you are legally obligated to pull over. But if some random stranger tells you to pull over, you’re not legally obligated to do so. Now, in the absence of God, what authority is there to issue moral commands or prohibitions? There is none on atheism, and therefore there are no moral imperatives for us to obey. In the absence of God there just isn’t any sort of moral obligation or prohibition that characterizes our lives. In particular, we’re not morally obligated to promote the flourishing of conscious creatures. So this is/ought distinction seems to me to be one that’s fatal to Dr. Harris’s position and has been widely recognized as such by reviewers of The Moral Landscape.

But secondly, the problem that’s even worse is the “ought implies can” problem. In the absence of the ability to do otherwise, there is no moral responsibility. In the absence of freedom of the will, we are just puppets or electro-chemical machines. And puppets do not have moral responsibilities. Machines are not moral agents. But on Dr. Harris’s view, there is no freedom of the will, either in a libertarian or a compatibilistic sense, and therefore, there is no moral responsibility. So there isn’t even the possibility of moral duty on his view.

So while I can affirm and applaud Dr. Harris’s affirmation of the objectivity of moral values and moral duties, at the end of the day his philosophical worldview just doesn’t ground these entities that we both want to affirm. If God exists, then we clearly have a sound foundation for objective moral values and moral duties. But if God does not exist, that is, if atheism is true, then there is no basis for the affirmation of objective moral values; and there is no ground for objective moral duties because there is no moral lawgiver and there is no freedom of the will. And therefore it seems to me that atheism is simply bereft of the adequate ontological foundations to establish the moral life.

MODERATOR:

Dr. Harris now has 12 minutes. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

HARRIS:

Well, that was all very interesting. Ask yourselves, what is wrong with spending eternity in Hell? Well, I, I’m told it’s rather hot there, for one. Dr. Craig is not offering an alternative view of morality. Ok, the whole point of Christianity, or so it is imagined, is to safeguard the eternal well-being of human souls. Now, happily, there’s absolutely no evidence that the Christian Hell exists. I think we should look at the consequences of believing in this framework, this theistic framework, in this world, and what these moral underpinnings actually would be.

Alright, nine million children die every year before they reach the age of five. ok, picture, picture a, a a Asian tsunami of the sort we saw in 2004, that killed a quarter of a million people. One of those, every ten days, killing children only under five. Ok, that’s 20, 24,000 children a day, a thousand an hour, 17 or so a minute. That means before I can get to the end of this sentence, some few children, very likely, will have died in terror and agony. Ok,, think of, think of the parents of these children. Think of the fact that most of these men and women believe in God, and are praying at this moment for their children to be spared. And their prayers will not be answered. Ok, but according to Dr. Craig, this is all part of God’s plan. Any God who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them, or doesn’t care to. He is therefore either impotent or evil.

And worse than that, on Dr. Craig’s view, most of these people—–many of these people, certainly—–will be going to Hell because they’re praying to the wrong God. Just think about that. Ok, through no fault of their own, they were born into the wrong culture, where they got the wrong theology, and they missed the revelation. Ok, there are 1.2 billion people in India at this moment. Most of them are Hindus, most of them therefore are polytheists. Ok, in Dr. Craig’s universe, no matter how good these people are, they are doomed. If you are, if you are praying to the Monkey God Hanuman, you are doomed, ok. You’ll be tortured in Hell for eternity. Now, is there the slightest evidence for this? No. It just says so in Mark 9, and Matthew 13, and Revelation 14. Ok, perhaps you’ll remember from The Lord of the Rings, it says when the elves die, they go to Valanor, but they can be reborn in Middle Earth. I say that just as a point of comparison.

Ok, so God created the cultural isolation of the Hindus, ok. He engineered the circumstance of their deaths in ignorance of revelation, and then he created the penalty for this ignorance, which is an eternity of conscious torment in fire. Ok, on the other hand, on Dr. Craig’s account, your run-of-the-mill serial killer in America, ok, who spent his life raping and torturing children, need only come to God, come to Jesus, on Death Row, and after a final meal of fried chicken, he’s going to spend an eternity in Heaven after death, ok. One thing should be crystal clear to you: This vision of life has absolutely nothing to do with moral accountability.

Ok, and please notice the double standard that people like Dr. Craig use to exonerate God from all this evil, ok. We’re told that God is loving, and kind, and just, and intrinsically good; but when someone like myself points out the rather obvious and compelling evidence that God is cruel and unjust, because he visits suffering on innocent people, of a scope and scale that would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath, we’re told that God is mysterious, ok. “Who can understand God’s will?” Ok and yet, this is precisely—this, this, this “merely human” understanding of God’s will, is precisely what believers use to establish his goodness in the first place. You know, something good happens to a Christian, he feels some bliss while praying, say, or he sees some positive change in his life, and we’re told that God is good. But when children by the tens of thousands are torn from their parents’ arms and drowned, we’re told that God is mysterious, ok. This is how you play tennis without the net.

And I want to suggest to you, that it is not only tiresome when otherwise-intelligent people speak this way, it is morally reprehensible. Ok, this kind of faith, is, is really the perfection of narcissism. “God loves me, dontcha know. He, he cured me of my eczema. He makes me feel so good while singing in church, and, and just when we had given up hope, we found a banker who was willing to reduce my mother’s mortgage.”

Ok given all the good—all that this God of yours does not accomplish in the lives of others, given, given the, the misery that’s being imposed on some helpless child at this instant, this kind of faith is obscene. Ok, to think in this way is to fail to reason honestly, or to care sufficiently about the suffering of other human beings. And if God is good and loving and just and kind, and he wanted to guide us morally with a book, why give us a book that supports slavery? Why give us a book that admonishes us to kill people for imaginary crimes, like witchcraft. Now, of course, there is a way of not taking these questions to heart, ok. According to Dr. Craig’s Divine Command theory, God is not bound by moral duties; God doesn’t have to be good. Whatever he commands is good, so when he commands that the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites, that behavior becomes intrinsically good because he commanded it.

Ok, well here we’re being offered—I’m glad he raised the issue of psychopathy—we are being offered a psychopathic and psychotic moral attitude. It’s psychotic because this is completely delusional. There’s no reason to believe that we live in a universe ruled by an invisible monster Yahweh. But it is, it is psychopathic because this is a total detachment from the, from the well-being of human beings. It, this so easily rationalizes the slaughter of children. Ok, just think about the Muslims at this moment who are blowing themselves up, convinced that they are agents of God’s will. There is absolutely nothing that Dr. Craig can s—can say against their behavior, in moral terms, apart from his own faith-based claim that they’re praying to the wrong God. If they had the right God, what they were doing would be good, on Divine Command theory.

Now, I’m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics, but this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own. If you wake up tomorrow morning thinking that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is gonna turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, ok, you have lost your mind. But if you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.

And, and I’m not the first person to notice that it’s a, it’s a very strange sort of loving God who would make salvation depend on believing in him on bad evidence. Ok, it’s, it’s, I mean, if you lived 2,000 years ago, there was evidence galore, I mean, he was just performing miracles. But apparently, he got tired of being so helpful. And so now, we all inherit this very heavy burden of the doctrine’s implausibility. And, and, and, and the effort to square it with what we now know about the cosmos and what we know about the all-too-human origins of Scripture becomes more and more difficult. Ok, and, and, and it’s not just the generic God that Dr. Craig is recommending; it is God the Father and Jesus the Son. Christianity, on Dr. Craig’s account, is the true moral wealth of the world.

Well, I hate to break it to you, here at Notre Dame, but Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice. Christianity is not a religion that cel—that repudiates human sacrifice. It is a religion that celebrates a single human sacrifice as though it were effective. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” John 3:16. Okay, the idea is that Jesus suffered the crucifixion so that none need suffer Hell—except those billions in India, and billions like them throughout history. Ok, this is, this is, this is astride, this doctrine is astride a contemptible history of scientific ignorance and religious barbarism. We come from people who used to bury children under the foundations of new buildings as offerings to their imaginary gods. Ok, just think about that. There, in vast numbers of societies, people would bury children in postholes–—people like ourselves—–thinking that this would prevent an invisible being from knocking down their buildings. These are the sorts of people who wrote the Bible. Ok, if there is a less moral, moral framework than the one Dr. Craig is proposing, I haven’t heard of it.

MODERATOR:

Professor Craig now has 8 minutes for a rebuttal. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

CRAIG:

The less moral framework is atheism! Atheism has no grounds for objective moral values or duties. And it’s interesting that in that last speech, I was disappointed to hear no defense given of that crucial, uh, second contention that I offered against Dr. Harris’s view. Remember, we talked about the Value Problem. I gave what I consider a knock-down argument to show that the moral landscape is not identical to the continuum of human flourishing. We talked about objective moral duties, the “is vs. ought” distinction, the “ought implies can” problem. None of these have been responded to. So if you want a really desperate moral system, try atheism. There’s no foundation for objective moral values and duties there.

Now, what about theism? Does it do any better? Well, in the last speech, we heard some attacks on my first contention, that God provides a sound foundation for morality. Unfortunately, it seems to me that most of these were red herrings. A red herring is a smelly old fish that’s dragged across the path of the bloodhounds to distract them from their true quarry, so they get distracted and go off following the dead fish. And I’m not going to be distracted by the red herrings that were offered in that speech!

For example, in response to my claim that if God exists, then objective moral values exist, we heard that I haven’t truly offered an alternative to his view because the goal on theism is to avoid Hell. Honestly, that just simply shows how poorly Sam Harris understands Christianity. You don’t believe in God to avoid going to Hell. Belief in God isn’t some kind of fire insurance. You believe in God because God, as the supreme Good, is the appropriate object of adoration and love. He is Goodness itself, to be desired for its own sake. And so the fulfillment of human existence is to be found in relation to God. It’s because of who God is and his moral worth that he is worthy of worship. It has nothing to do with avoiding Hell, or promoting your own well-being.

He then responds, “But there’s no good reason to believe that such a being exists. Look at the problem of evil and the problem of the unevangelized.” Both of these, as I explained in my opening, are irrelevant in tonight’s debate because I’m not arguing that God exists. Maybe he’s right; maybe these are insuperable objections to Christianity or to theism. It wouldn’t affect either of my contentions: that if God exists, then we have a sound foundation for moral values and duties; if God does not exist, then we have no foundation for objective moral values and duties. So these are red herrings.

Now I have written on each of these problems, the problem of evil and the problem of the unevangelized, and you can find much of what I’ve said at our website reasonablefaith.org. If you’re interested, go ahead and look at that. Or, as Michael Rea suggested, talk to one of your philosophy professors. Michael has written extensively on the problem of evil, and I’m sure he’d love to have a conversation with you about, uh, those things.

Notice, uh, secondly, I would want to say, evil actually proves that God exists because if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist! If evil exists, it follows that moral values and duties do exist, namely, some things are evil. So evil actually proves the existence of God, since in the absence of God, good and evil as such would not exist. So you cannot press both the problem of evil and agree with my, uh, contention that if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist because evil will actually be an argument for the existence of God.

Notice that Dr. Harris has no moral foundation for saying that Christian beliefs are morally execrable, because he has no foundation for making such a judgment. If atheism is true, what objective foundation is there for affirming that one view is execrable and another is not? There’s simply no basis for such judgments. So if he wants to have a debate on theism, I will happily, uh, engage in one with him; but that’s not the debate for tonight.

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

So it seems to me that we’ve not been given any refutation of the view that if God does exist, then his essence, his character, is determinative for the existence of objective moral values.

What about objective moral duties? Here I explained that God’s commands must be consistent with his nature. And Dr. Harris continues to press the point, “Oh, but the Bible supports slavery”. Again I’ll refer you to Professor Copan’s book,[19] which shows that that is a gross misrepresentation of ancient Israel, which did not in fact promote slavery as we understand it, uh, in light of the experience in the American South.

But, again, that’s simply not relevant, ’cause I’m not—uh, that isn’t relevant because I’m not defending, uh, the Bible tonight! I’m saying that, uh, for a theist—whether Jew, Christian, deist, Hindu—uh, moral duties will be grounded in the divine commands, which are based in his nature.

He says, “But then what about people like the Taliban, who say that God has commanded them to do certain atrocities?” I would say the very same thing to the Taliban that Dr. Harris says, namely, “God did not command you to do those things.” That’s exactly what Dr. Harris would say. The reason he thinks that is that he doesn’t believe that God exists, but I would say that because I think that the Taliban has got the wrong God, that in fact God hasn’t commanded them to commit these atrocities, and, indeed, God will only issue such commands are—as are consistent with his moral nature and for which he has morally sufficient reasons.

So I don’t think this first contention is really in much dispute tonight. I think it’s obvious that if God exists, then obviously objective moral values exist, independently of human opinion—they’re grounded in the character of God—and there would be objective moral duties, if God exists, because our duties arise in response to the moral imperatives that God issues to us.

So the real debate is on that second contention: can atheism provide a foundation for objective moral values and duties? And I think we’ve seen powerful reasons to think that it cannot.

MODERATOR:

Dr. Harris now has 8 minutes. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

HARRIS:

Well, you, uh, perhaps you’ve noticed Dr. Craig has a charming habit of summarizing his opponent’s points in a way in which they were not actually given, so I will leave it to you to sort it out on Youtube. Needless to say, I didn’t call those esteemed colleagues of his psychopaths, as I made clear.

Uh, in any case, Dr. Craig has merely defined God as being intrinsically good. It’s, if you want to charge someone with merely semantic games, it ap—the shoe’s on, on the other foot as well. There is, there is no reason that I can see why there couldn’t be an evil God, uh, or several. Ok, he, but his God is intrinsically good, goodness is grounded in his very nature. That is a, a, a definitional move that he has made.

Now, I have presented a positive case for grounding an objective morality in the context of science. And thinking about moral truth in the context of science should only pose a problem for you, if you imagine that a science of morality has to be absolutely self-justifying in a way that no science ever could be. Ok, every branch of science must rely on certain axiomatic assumptions, ok, certain core values. And a science of morality would be on the same footing as a science of medicine, or physics, or chemistry. You need only assume that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad and worth avoiding, and indeed, the worst-case scenario for conscious life. And if science is unscientific, if this, if, if, if, if having a value assumption at the core renders science unscientific, what is scientific?

Now, Dr. Craig is confused about what it means to speak with scientific objectivity about the human condition. He says things like, “from the point of view of science, we’re just constellations of atoms, and we’re no more valuable than rats or insects”, ok, as though the only scientifically objective thing that could be said about us that we’re constellations of atoms. Ok there, there are two very different senses in which we, we use these terms, “subjective” and “objective”. Ok there, there is, the first is epistemological. It relates to how we know. And when we say we’re reasoning or thinking objectively in this sense, we’re talking about, about the style in which we’re thinking. We’re talking about the fact that we’re, we’re, we’re seeing through our biases, which is to say, trying to jettison bias. We are reasoning in a way that’s available to the data. Ok our minds are open to counter-arguments. Uh, now this is the, this is the absolute foundation of science, and this is what, this is what opens such an invidious gulf between science and religion, the difference, here, in the approach to objectivity. But science does not require that we ignore the fact that certain facts are subjective, ontologically subjective. Ok there are facts about the human condition that science can understand and study, that are first-person facts, facts about what it’s like to be you. Ok and, and we can study these facts, and our study of them reveals how much deeper and richer and more meaningful our lives are than the lives of cockroaches. Ok so this is a false reductionism that he’s purveying here.

Now, so there are subjective facts. If you happen to have an intact nervous system, being burned alive will be excruciatingly painful. The painfulness of pain is a subjective fact about you. Ok I’m—but what my argument, uh, entails is that there, there are, we can speak objectively about a certain class of subjective facts that go by the name of morality, that relate to questions of “good” and “evil”, and that these depend upon the well-being of conscious creatures, especially our own.

And by this light, we can see that it’s possible to value the wrong things. I mean, if you think you prefer to be neurotic and in pain, and incapable of creative work, and completely disconnected from other people, there’s something wrong with you, ok. Objectively wrong with you? Yes! In that you are closed to higher states of consciousness. Higher with respect to what? Higher as in further from the lowest possible state of consciousness, the worst possible misery for everyone.

Is the worst possible misery for everyone really bad? Once again, we have hit philosophical bedrock with the shovel of a stupid question. Now, I want to take a brief moment to speak about these higher possibilities, because it’s often thought that nonbelievers like myself are closed to some remarkable experiences that religious people have. That’s not true; that’s not true. There’s nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing self-transcending love and ecstasy, and rapture, and awe. There’s nothing that prevents an atheist from going into a cave for a year, like a proper mystic, and doing nothing but meditate on compassion. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustifiable and unjustified claims about the nature of the cosmos or about the divine origin of certain books on the basis of those experiences.

Now, the, the prospect of somebody becoming a true saint in life and, and inspiring people long after their deaths, is something that I take very seriously. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time studying meditation with some very great wise old yogis and Tibetan lamas who’ve spent decades on retreat, I mean really remarkable people, ok. People who I actually consider to be spiritual geniuses, of a certain sort. And so I can well imagine that if Jesus was a spiritual genius, you know, a palpably non-neurotic, and charismatic and wise person, I can well imagine the experience of his disciples. I can well imagine the kind of influence he could have on their lives, ok. We do not have to presuppose anything on insufficient evidence in order to explore this higher terrain of human well-being. We don’t have to take anything on faith. We don’t have to lie to ourselves, or to, to our children, about the nature of reality. If we want to understand our situation in the world, along with these deeper possibilities, we have to do it in the spirit of science. Ok given, given that people have had these experiences in every context, while worshiping one God, while worshiping hundreds, while worshiping none, that proves, that a deeper principle is at work. That the sectarian claims of, of our various religions can’t possibly be true in that context. And all we have is human conversation to capture these possibilities. We can either have a first-century conversation, as dictated by the New Testament, or a seventh century conversation as dictated by the Qur’an—or a twenty-first century conversation that leaves us open to the full wealth of human learning.

Please think about these things.

MODERATOR:

We’re now moving to 5 minute closing speeches. Timekeeper, are you ready? Okay, begin.

CRAIG:

In my closing statement, I’d like to draw together some of the threads of the debate and see if we can come to some conclusions.

First, I argued that God, if he exists, provides a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties. By the time of last his rebuttal, the only argument that I heard Dr. Harris offering against this position is to say that you’re merely defining God as good, which is the same fallacy I accused him of committing. I don’t think this is the case at all. God is a being worthy of worship. Any being that is not worthy of worship is not God. And therefore God must be perfectly good and essentially good. More than that, as Anselm saw, God is the greatest conceivable being, and therefore he is, uh, the very paradigm of goodness itself. He is the greatest good. So once you understand the concept of God, you can see that asking, “Well, why is God good?” is sort of like asking, “Why are all bachelors unmarried?” Uh, it’s the very concept of the greatest conceivable being, of being worthy of worship that entails the essential goodness of God. And I think it’s evident, that if God exists, then, we do have objective moral values and duties.

Secondly, I argued if God does not exist, we have no foundation for objective moral values or objective moral duties. Um, I showed that on his view there is—it is logically impossible to say that the moral landscape is identical to the landscape of the flourishing of conscious beings, and that therefore his view is incoherent. We also looked at the is/ought distinction, and the “ought implies can”, to which Dr. Harris has never replied in the course of this evening’s debate.

In his last speech, he said, “But we simply must rely upon certain axioms”. Well, that’s the same as saying you’ve got to take it by faith! And if these axioms are moral axioms, then I think he’s admitting my point, that on atheism, there simply is no ground for believing in the objective moral values and duties. He just takes them by a leap of faith.

He says, “Well, there are different senses of the word objective.” Yes, of course; and in my opening speech I made clear the sense in which I was defining the term:  I mean “valid and binding independent of human opinion”. And moral values are not objectively binding and valid in that way on atheism. He says, “Science can study subjective facts; for example, pain is a subjective fact.” Granted, that’s certainly true. So my question is: Is the wrongness of an action a subjective fact? On atheism, it’s hard to see how it couldn’t be any more—anything more than a subjective fact, in which case you cannot say, as Dr. Harris wants to say, (and I agree with him) that the genital mutilation of little girls is objectively wrong, not just a subjective opinion.

He says, “Well, but, uh, if you’re psychopathic or neurotic, there’s something wrong with you!” Granted, I agree with that; there is something wrong with you!  But the question is, on atheism—if atheism were true—, would there be anything objectively morally wrong with doing what the psychopath does? He hasn’t been able to show that. Indeed, there are no moral duties on his view, and remember he himself admitted that psychopaths could occupy the peaks of well-being on his so-called “moral landscape”, and that therefore it is not a moral landscape at all.

To conclude, I want to quote from a remarkable article that appeared in the Duke Law Journal, by, uh, Arthur Allen Leff, called “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law.” Dr. Leff’s difficulty is the same as Dr. Harris’s. He wants to find a foundation for moral values and duties, in this case, for the law, that would be, uh, independent of human opinion—it would be objective and it would be in the world. And he can’t find one. He says any attempt to ground values is open to the playground bully’s retort, “Who says?” And this is how his article concludes:

All I can say is this: It looks as if we are all we have. . . . Only if ethics is something unspeakable by us [that is, something transcendent], could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable.  As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.

Nevertheless:
Napalming babies is bad.
Starving the poor is wicked.
Buying and selling each other is depraved. . . .
There is in the world such a thing as evil.
[All together now:]  Sez who?
God help us.[20]

MODERATOR:

And now Dr. Harris has 5 minutes. Timekeeper, are you ready? Begin.

HARRIS:

I’m curious: How many of you consider yourselves to be devout Muslims? Let’s see a show of hands. Don’t mean to single anyone out, but not many. Now, you’re all aware, of course, that the Qur’an exists, and claims to be the perfect word of the creator of the universe? You’re aware that once having heard this possibility and rejecting it, you’re all going to Hell, for eternity? I mean, needless to say, Dr. Craig and I are both going to Hell if this vision of life is true. The problem is that everything Dr. Craig has said tonight, with a few modifications, could be said in defense of Islam, in fact has been said in defense of Islam, ok. The logic is exactly the same: We have a book that claims to be the word of the creator of the universe. It tells us about the nature of moral reality and how to live within it. But what if Muslims are right? What if Islam is true? How should we view God in moral terms? How would we view God in moral terms, or I should say, Allah? Ok, we have been born in the wrong place, to the wrong parents, given the wrong culture, given the wrong theology. Ok, needless to say, Dr. Craig is doomed. He’s been thoroughly confused by Christianity. I mean, just appreciate what a bad position he’s now in to appreciate the true word of God. I have been thoroughly misled by science. Ok, where is Allah’s compassion? And yet, an eter—He’s omni—He’s omnipotent; he could change this in an instant. He could give us a sign that would convince everyone in this room. And yet he’s not gonna do it. And Hell awaits. And Hell awaits our children, because we can’t help but mislead our children. Now, just hold this vision in mind, and first appreciate how little sleep you have lost over this possibility ok. Just feel in this moment how carefree you are, and will continue to be, in the face of this possibility. What are the chances that we’re all going to go Hell, for, for eternity, because we haven’t recognized the Qur’an to be the perfect word of the creator of the universe? Please know that this is exactly how Christianity appears to someone who’s not been indoctrinated by it.

Our scriptures were written by people, who by, by, by, by virtue of their placement in history, had less access to scientific information and facts, and basic common sense, than any person in this room. ok, in fact, there’s not a person in this room who has ever met a person whose worldview was as narrow as the worldview of Abraham, or Moses, or Jesus, or Muhammad. And most of the people, with a few exceptions, had, had a moral worldview that was more or less indistinguishable from that of an Afghan warlord today. Ok and yet, Dr. Craig insists that the authors of the Bible knew everything that they had to know about the nature of the cosmos, and about how to live within it, to guide us at this moment. Ok I want to suggest to you that this vision of life can’t possibly be true. Ok, it would, just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no such thing as Christian or Muslim morality. Whatever is true about our circumstance in moral terms, and in spiritual terms, is discoverable now, and can be talked about in, in language that is not an outright affront to everything that we’ve learned in the last 2000 years. What remains for us to discover are the facts, in every domain of knowledge, that will allow the greatest number of us to live lives truly worth living in this world. I mean, how is it that we can build a global civilization, a viable global civilization, of now destined to be 9 billion people, where the maximum number of people truly flourish. That is the challenge we face. Sectarian moral denominations, ok, a world shattered, Balkanized by competing claims about an invisible God, is not the way to do it. Apart from the fact that there’s no evidence in the first place that should be compelling to us to adopt that view.

The only tool we need is honest inquiry. And I would suggest to you that, if faith is ever right about anything in this domain, it’s right by accident. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure to talk to all of you.


[1] Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape:  How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York:  Free Press, 2010), p. 198.  He adds, “I sincerely hope that people like Rick Warren have not been paying attention.”
[2] Ibid., p. 46, citing Donald Symons.
[3] Sam Harris, “A Response to Critics,” Huffington Post (January 29, 2011).
[4] Harris, Moral Landscape, p. 102.
[5] Ibid., p. 30.
[6]Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.
[7] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd edition (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1909), p. 100.
[8] Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (London:  Allen Lane, 1998), cited in Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things before Breakfast (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p.  215.  Unfortunately, Wolpert’s reference is mistaken.  The quotation seems to be a pastiche from Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: a Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1996), p. 133 and Richard Dawkins, “The Ultraviolet Garden,” Lecture 4 of 7 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (1992).  Thanks to my assistant Joe Gorra for tracking down this reference!
[9] Harris, Moral Landscape, p. 12.
[10] Ibid., p. 1.
[11] Ibid., pp. 12.
[12] Cited in ibid., p. 11.
[13] Ibid., p. 104.
[14] Ibid., p. 217.
[15] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? (Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Baker, 2011).
[16] Moral Landscape, p. 8.
[17] Ibid., p. 190.
[18] Ibid., pp. 97-99.
[19] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, chaps. 12-14.
[20] Arthur Allen Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal 1979, no. 6, p. 1249.

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82 responses so far ↓

  • Thanks to the transcript compiler – I’ve done several myself and I know the effort involved.

  • While I appreciate you going to the trouble of creating the transcript your decision to include all the verbal ticks was a mistake and renders the transcription suboptimal. The verbal ticks are “noise” and don’t add anything to the meaning of the words. Quite the contrary, on the printed page they get in the way of the ideas the speakers were communicating.

  • Tell that to the speakers. It’s an accurate transcript. If you don’t like it, and are so concerned about their ideas, then you can always copy the thing and edit them out yourself to “clear the way” for the speakers ideas and then get criticized by yet other seed-pickers.

    I’ve already been contacted by several people about the possible psychological significance of the frequency of the ticks. Suboptimal by whose standard? And who said the ticks were supposed to add anything to the meaning of the words? It’s a -transcript-.

    Maybe I should have consulted Sam Robo-Messiah Harris, to make sure my transcribing conformed to the scientific human flourishing obligations provided by the Fact Commandments.

  • Why so hostile? It wasn’t a personal attack. Indeed the advice (if taken) will make the task considerably easier for you should you decide to transcribe another talk.

    It’s suboptimal by the standards of nearly any news organizations that transcribes what people say so their words can be printed for others to read.

  • No evidence for either hostility claims or what about my response was a personal attack. No addressing of my response. No criteria. Just complaints and allegations. Typical. And I’m not some mediocre “news organization”. Now there’s some real high-class obligating standards.

    Anyone who trolls groundless criticism of others efforts, will get their bluff called—minus the clockwork peevishness that started it all.

  • as much as it pains me to say this, i think craig won this one. by a whisker perhaps, but won nonetheless. hang in there harris, keep on fighting the good fight. or the morally neutral fight. or whatever it is.

  • Why is Dr. Harris even famous? That was shocking..

  • Thanks a lot for the transcription.
    I’ll translate it into Spanish.
    Would you like to have it?

  • Sam Harris was great, as usual.

    But if you really want to see the buffoon W.L. Craig embarrassed and out of his element then GOOGLE the debate between him and Shelly Kagan.

    Is there a religion that has more embarrassing, ludicrous,asinine,inane lunacy than Christianity?
    Haman sacrifice in the Middle East desert 2000 years ago in the midst of an ancient,superstitious, pre scientific, mostly illiterate bunch of dark age peasants?

    How are Christians not embarrassed beyond belief by this lunacy?

    Cheers!

  • @ truthoverfaith
    “pre scientific, mostly illiterate bunch of dark age peasants?”

    not exactly helping your argument by getting so much wrong in such a short statement.

    1st jewish boys of the period went to synagogue school, they were not illiterate
    2nd the so called “dark ages” belong in Europe not the Middle East
    3rd they didnt occur untill after the fall of the Roman Empire from about 500 AD onwards

    How are you not embarrassed beyond belief by this ignorance?

  • Is there any way that you can convert this into a PDF? just curious, if you can’t that’s cool.

  • I am still shaking my head at how badly Bart Ehrman kicked the intellectual snot out of William Lane Craig in their 2006 debate on “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?” This gem is available on iTunes) and the transcript can be found here: http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/p96.htm

    Craig’s dodge of the issue of inerrancy is priceless and so is his refusal to answer what I thought were some fairly straightforward questions from Ehrman.

    Loved this volley from Ehrman:

    “I don’t know if Bill has read [the Life of Apollonius]. They’re very interesting; they are Greek texts; they are widely available. They report Apollonius of Tyana did many of things that Jesus did; he could cast out demons, he could heal the sick, he could raise the dead, at the end of his life he ascended to heaven. And Apollonius of Tyana was just one of the hundreds of people about such things were said in the ancient world. So if we allow for the possibility of Jesus, how about allowing the possibility for Apollonius? Or Honi the Circle-Drawer or Hanina ben Dosa or the Emperor Vespasian? Or you could name the list as long as your arm of people. Now the reason we don’t know about these people is because, of course, the only miracle-working Son of God we know about is Jesus. But in fact in the ancient world there are hundreds of people like this, with hundreds of stories told about them. We discount them because they’re not within our tradition.

    Here is Craig’s response:

    “The reason that we don’t believe in many other miracle claims is not because one is not open to them. On the contrary, I am completely open to the idea that God has done miracles apart from Jesus. But with respect, for example, to Muhammad, there isn’t any evidence for such things. There’s no claim in the Qur’an that Muhammad performed miracles. The first biography we have of Muhammad comes from at least 150 years after his death, and I am not sure that even there, there are miracle claims. With Apollonius of Tyana, these are myths and legends that have no historical value whatsoever. They are post-Christian inventions, where Apollonius is a figure that is deliberately constructed to compete with early Christianity. So the reason one doesn’t believe in miracles in those cases is because there isn’t any good evidence for it. But by contrast, most New Testament scholars, as Bart Ehrman knows, do believe that Jesus of Nazareth carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms. Whether you believe they’re supernatural is an additional step. But there’s no doubt today that Jesus of Nazareth was what he thought was a miracle worker.”

    Notice how Craig is “completely open” to the suggestion that his God performed other miracles. What about other gods? What about Ehrman’s suggestion that there are a host of other more probable explanations for an empty tomb and post-crucifixion appearances than a physical resurrection? No, Craig won’t even consider these possibilities because he is married to his dogma.

    As Ehrman points out earlier in the debate, most New Testament scholars, like Craig, are “theologically committed to the text”. Most are employed by conservative Christian institutions who would deliver a pink slip in response to common sense thinking such as that presented by Ehrman.

  • TAM
    Seems to me Craig answered Ehrman more than adequately, i am afraid i have missed your point. Ehrman also tries to raise points very non-specifically that he must know have long since been answered in other forums eg speculation about alternate reasons for the empty tomb. I note that Honi and Hanina are remembered not so much for miracles as having their prayers answered. I cannot see how a Christian being open to the idea that God answers prayer is controversial or in any way undermines the Christian position.

  • TAM you state that Christian readers are theologically commited to certain presuppositions when reading the text.

    You ignore the point that critical historians are also commited to naturalistic presuppositions when reading the text. This actually is pretty much granted by many of them.

  • “No evidence for either hostility claims or what about my response was a personal attack. No addressing of my response. No criteria. Just complaints and allegations. Typical. And I’m not some mediocre “news organization”. Now there’s some real high-class obligating standards.”

    By “personal attack” I was referring to *my* post, not yours. You seem angry and your anger seems to blind you.

    You provide all the evidence for hostility that’s needed in your response. But I could play your game too: “Clockwork peevishness”? Where’s your evidence? “Troll?” No criteria.

    By your standards you’re guilty of the same.

    I thought this blog might be a good resource for dialogue about opposing viewpoints but your display here demonstrates you’re not interested in genuine conversation. I won’t be back.

    n
    p.s. anticipating snide reply

  • Thank you for taking the time to transcript this debate. Did you by any chance transcript the debate Craig-Krauss?
    When TAM writes that Bart Ehrman kicked Craig, honestly, I don´t know what debate he watched. I guess your previous ideas have a lot to do with it.

  • @Jeremy

    Spot on.

    What’s more, most historians don’t use the term Dark Ages anymore as it really only applies to eras and areas where we don’t have much left in the way of writing. The ‘official’ Dark Ages weren’t even that widespread in Europe and were remarkably ‘enlightened’ considering …

  • Nicholas I can convert it to a PDF as Machine Philosophy emailed it to me in Word form – email me if you want a PDF.

    m_flannagan at clear dot net dot nz

  • Thanks for the transcript, “uh’s” and all.

  • 1 st Century Jewish boys were not illiterate?
    Oh, right. That’s why we have all those first person accounts of Jesus’ life from his followers. And Jesus himself, of course. And all of those who witnessed the astonishing miracles of Jesus. Those huge crowds who followed Jesus’ every move and wrote about the most astonishing human that ever walked the earth!
    Thanks for clearing that up, Jer.
    Because, contrary to historians, most people in Jesus’ time were not illiterate!!

    And the Dark Ages reference was metaphor, moron.
    Go back to your virgin born sky-god with all your Jebus nutter friends, you poor,pitiful,deluded fruitcake. Christian doctrine makes the Icelandic belief in fairies look downright rational!

  • When you learn anything at all about rationality, feel free to comment again.

    Jesus was literate enough to read from the Isaiah scroll when handed to him. As a tax collector Matthew Levi would have been literate and fluent in Greek and Hebrew, and that’s probably why, as Papias tells us, his gospel was the first written (probably as a teaching aid). Jewish boys (not to be confused with Jewish girls, or any other group throughout the Roman Empire, because saying that 98% of people in that time were illiterate does not mean that 98% of any particular sub-group were illiterate) learned enough to read and write to a limited degree. But then, even when literate people wanted something written they’d hire a scribe to do the job.

    For the rest of your mindless rant.

  • truthoverfaith’s statements are a clear example of groupthink, he’s such a shining light to the evidence that there are indeed fundy and stupid atheists who go about sloganeering their way through insults and strawmen, thinking that such caricatures are the apex of why their position is more logical and rational than the other.

    Dawkins and Harris have to really apply their standards of religion being divisive “Us vs Them” paradigm to their own screwed-up followers.

  • Could anybody transcribe the questions & answers section at the end of the debate?
    I tried, but my English is not good enough to understand everything.
    I’m translating and subtitling the debate into Spanish.
    And I think the questions & answers part is also very, very interesting,
    Thanks!

  • I always enjoy a vigorous and reasoned debate, and i enjoy learning. Thankyou TruthOverFaith for my enlightenment
    I stand humbled by the eloquence of such an erudite response.

  • Funny, somehow I just did not realize that seedpicking someone’s transcript of a debate because it’s too realistially accurate constituted “dialogue about opposing viewpoints” Learn something new every day.

    @Ben – Thanks

    @Karmen – I have not transcribed the Craig-Krauss debate, but if I don’t find one (and I haven’t so far) I will transcribe it as well.

  • Sam Harris got owned. And that surprised me. I thought he’d give it a better go.

    He had no counter argument, and he knew it. Instead he ranted to cover it up.

    Embarrassing really.

    Totally out of his depth here.

  • I’ve found it interesting to follow the commentary on the debate and find it hilarious how predictable we all are. We must admit that the majority of us who listen to such a debate have already decided what we want to get out of it. It’s like going to a ball game. Even if your team losses it was the refs fault. We’re all guilty. In fact those who think it was a logical and reasoned debate are in my opinion kidding themselves. Each speaker was talking to their own audience. It’s kinda like watching two teams on the same field trying to score as many goals as possible while ignoring the other team. And of course that is often what debates are about.

  • @John
    i accept and agree with you point, but with one little proviso in this case. WLC stayed on topic, SH drifted well away.

  • @Jeremy ….. hehe

    Point made.

  • [...] the transcript of a debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig on “Is the Foundation of Morality [...]

  • Matt wrote: You ignore the point that critical historians are also commited to naturalistic presuppositions when reading the text. This actually is pretty much granted by many of them.

    You’re right. Critical historians begin their inquiry with the knowledge that people don’t usually walk on water or come back from the dead. That’s what you teach your kids – correct?

  • John,

    That’s why I generally think debates are useless – I can’t think of a single debate that I thought worked better than just having a moderated discussion. I know it’s easier to advertise the debate “to decide once and for all which is the one true religion”, but, as you say, those sort of debates are really just a kind of sport.

  • TAM You’re right. Critical historians begin their inquiry with the knowledge that people don’t usually walk on water or come back from the dead. That’s what you teach your kids – correct?

    People don’t usually, bring elephants across the alps either. Nor is it terribly common or usual for small armies of a few thousand defeat armies several times their size on the plain of Gaugamela.

    There are lots of unusual things that history records. If your going to rule out things which “don’t usually happen” your going to have to justify why its only unusual supernatural things, and not unusual naturalistic ones, that are singled out by this criteria.

    The fact is critical history trypically presupposes naturalism. You don’t get to then turn around and complain that Christians use controversial theological presuppositions.

  • John, I disagree, how do you explain the people who claim Craig did not do well against Shelley Kagan. Or people like me who think Ray Comforts debates against athiests are terrible.

    I suppose you can simply disregard the arguments I made for my conclusion and simply assert people are biased if you like. But that’s not really a fair or accurate or rational response.

    Rational people asses the arguments they can accept when a conclusion they accept has been defended with a poor argument. Christian Philosophers actually do it all the time in the literature. If Dawkin’s and Harris and there fans actually read the literature they would know this.

  • Also TAM, if Christians did not believe that people do not “usually walk on water” then they would not consider such things Miracles would they.

  • @Matt, I wasn’t making a blanket statement and it’s great to hear that occasionally you say that the other side wins some days.
    I’ve met Ray C and used to admire him but unfortunately he’s not the best debater and has put his foot in it a few times lately.
    I don’t think I’m being irrational when I say that we all tend to be biased – if you’ve learned the secret of total rationality then I’d be happy to learn. I think you often make excellent points and reach highly developed logical conclusions here on your blog, but just as often I find reason to disagree with your initial assumptions.
    I just don’t think debates lend themselves to rational discussion. I agree with others that a managed discussion would be a much better format. I’d also think that Dawkins and Harris have allot of good things to say in amongst the rest and to write them off as irrational because they do us would not be fair at all. If they’re not being rational, why worry about them at all? Our rationality includes recognition of spiritual realities. Theirs does not. I don’t see why we even try debate when the differences are so fundamental.
    Of course, it’s always fun to watch, and due to my background I’m always fascinated but, without fail, tend to leave disappointed. I think it is because both sides never fully or honestly consider the other sides assumptions or conclusions.

  • [...] Where does morality come from? Here’s the transcript of the debate at Notre Dame University between Christian William Lane Craig [...]

  • Thanks for the effort. I was on Chicago but the attendance was full. Blessings.

  • [...] New Atheist, Sam Harris, said of William Lane Craig in his introductory comments at their recent debate; [...]

  • Just wanted to say I appreciate the work that went into this transcription.

  • if God omnipotent, provident, all-powerful, loving, is it necessary for us to pray to him again? and how one can justify the selective attitude and action of God in response to our prayer in times we need him most?

  • John wrote “I just don’t think debates lend themselves to rational discussion.”

    This seems to me to be self evidently false, a debate is where people offer reasons for a position and offer rebuttals for there opponents reason, what else could a rational discussion involve. If people think that forums where this occurs are unhelpful then I suggest they have abandoned rational thought altogether.

  • Thanks for transcribing this.

    I thought Craig did a better job of presenting his points and staying on topic.

  • Says Harris: “half the quotes he provided “from me” as though I wrote them were quotes from people I was quoting in my book [Moral Landscape] and often to different effect.”

    Thanks to the transcript and the sources Craig provides, I was able to check whether the quotations were legit.

    The only quote that is not “Harris speaking” is the one with footnote 14 (““in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other”).

    Harris was quoting neurobiologist Paulo Gazzaniga. However, the book reads (page 233 in the edition first available in Amazon):

    Gazzaniga is surely correct to say that “in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other”

    When you say someone is “surely correct to say that so and so” and then you that person verbatim, is it not fair to attribute the same assertion to you?

  • MP: Just a note of thanks for transcribing this debate. It is so much more efficient to read the debate than to watch it. I appreciate the time you invested to make our lives a little more convenient.

  • [...] the belief in one God) provides a better explanation for the existence of moral truths (transcript here). Opinions may differ as to which of them held the more defensible position. What can hardly be [...]

  • nice article…
    i’ll bookmark it..

  • [...] of logical fallacies to support their arguments or to tear down theism. A recent example came from a debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at Notre Dame on the question “Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?”. [...]

  • Could you please transcript the Q&A session too? There, Harris casually admitted both that a God could ground value statements, and that in the (atheistic) end all knowledge is based on ungrounded value statements – precisely Craig’s two points. Had he conceded (or refuted) those in the first minute, an interesting discussion could have followed. Now he was mostly trying to show that Christianity was false – which Craig had already granted as a possibility for the sake of this debate.

    It is a general problem in such debates that there are really two independent monologues going on. Maybe one should hold a double debate: one about the thesis the one wants to affirm, and one about the one the other wants to affirm. (I was tempted to switch “the one” and “the other” in that last sentence, to have it end “and one about the one the one wants to affirm..)

  • [...] [24] William Lane Craig “Opening statement” in Are the Foundations of Morality Natural or Supernatural? A Debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris. University of Notre Dame, 7 April 2011, transcript available at http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/05/transcript-sam-harris-v-william-lane-craig-debate-%E2%80%9Cis-good-f… [...]

  • [...] his debate with Sam Harris, Christian apologist William Lane Craig used what is technically known as the [...]

  • [...] for the greatest number of beings?  (Note: this argument, as you can see if you’ve read the transcript, is quite close to Harris’, who has almost certainly been influenced by Buddhist thinking on [...]

  • To those who say that Sam Harris strayed off topic, you are clearly unfamiliar with the topic of the debate. The debate was “Does Good Come From God” not “Could There be Objective Morality Without God?” Harris was arguing that our basest intuitions about good and evil come from something else.

    This is what Sam Harris had to say about it:

    “While I believe I answered (or preempted) all of Craig’s substantive challenges, I’ve received a fair amount of criticism for not rebutting his remarks point for point. Generally speaking, my critics seem to have been duped by Craig’s opening statement, in which he presumed to narrow the topic of our debate (I later learned that he insisted upon speaking first and made many other demands. You can read an amusing, behind-the-scenes account here.) Those who expected me to follow the path Craig cut in his opening remarks don’t seem to understand the game he was playing. He knew that if he began, “Here are 5 (bogus) points that Sam Harris must answer if he has a shred of self-respect,” this would leave me with a choice between delivering my prepared remarks, which I believed to be crucial, or wasting my time putting out the small fires he had set. If I stuck to my argument, as I mostly did, he could return in the next round to say, “You will notice that Dr. Harris entirely failed to address points 2 and 5. It is no wonder, because they make a mockery of his entire philosophy.”

    As I observed once during the debate, but should have probably mentioned again, Craig employs other high school debating tricks to mislead the audience: He falsely summarizes what his opponent has said; he falsely claims that certain points have been conceded; and, in our debate, he falsely charged me with having wandered from the agreed upon topic. The fact that such tricks often work is a real weakness of the debate format, especially one in which the participants are unable to address one another directly. Nevertheless, I believe I was right not to waste much time rebutting irrelevancies, correcting Craig’s distortions of my published work, or taking his words out of my mouth. Instead, I simply argued for a scientific conception of moral truth and against one based on the biblical God. This was, after all, the argument that the organizer’s at Notre Dame had invited me to make.”

  • Jonathan To those who say that Sam Harris strayed off topic, you are clearly unfamiliar with the topic of the debate. The debate was “Does Good Come From God” not “Could There be Objective Morality Without God?” Harris was arguing that our basest intuitions about good and evil come from something else.

    I don’t “say” Harris went off topic, I actually demonstrated how he did so in the review of the debate I wrote.

    Moreover, the topic was : Are the foundations of Morality Natural or Supernatural? , the moot does Good come from God was suggested but that was rejected because of its ambiguities: it could for example mean, does goodness have its ontological origins or source in God or it could means can we known what is good apart from belief in God. Moreover the e-mail correspondence between the organisers show that the ontological formulation was what they had in mind. As alternative suggested resolutions all suggest this.

    Also, Harris did not argue our “basest intutions about good and evil” come from somewhere else. In his opening statement he argued that goodness is identified with human flourishing. He did not make any comments about the origins of our moral intititions. That’s plain from the transcript. After the first rebuttal where several problems were noted with this he began talking about the doctrine of hell and particularism, all not the topic.

    “While I believe I answered (or preempted) all of Craig’s substantive challenges

    False, if you read my review I document that he addressed none of them.

    I’ve received a fair amount of criticism for not rebutting his remarks point for point. Generally speaking, my critics seem to have been duped by Craig’s opening statement, in which he presumed to narrow the topic of our debate

    Actually the agreed upon topic, was Is the foundations of morality natural or supernatural? Moreover, Harris seemed aware of this given his opening statement was on this topic, it was latter he changed the subject after his opening statement was rebutted.

    (I later learned that he insisted upon speaking first and made many other demands. You can read an amusing, behind-the-scenes account here.)

    Harris here implictly contradicts your position. If the moot was “is god from God” as you claim, then Craig was defending the affirmative answer to the question. The affirmative speaks first in debates this is not a “demand” it’s the normal procedure. Craig could only have been making unreasonable demands if that was not the moot.

    Also this is odd because in a debate the second speaker has an advantage over the first. The second speaker gets to hear what the other speaker is presenting and respond, the opening speaker can’t do this. Moreover, the second speaker often speaks last and delivers the last rebuttal which can’t be responded to.

    Those who expected me to follow the path Craig cut in his opening remarks don’t seem to understand the game he was playing. He knew that if he began, “Here are 5 (bogus) points that Sam Harris must answer if he has a shred of self-respect,”

    Actually Craig only raised two points: [1] if God exists then we have a plausible ontological foundation for morality . [2] if God does not exist we do not have a plausible foundation for morality. Note five, there was no claim he had to address these to maintain “self respect” it is rather he has to address them if he is to answer the question.

    Perhaps you can explain for example how one would show there is a defensible atheistic account of morality if you did not address [2], or how you could show theistic accounts of morality are flawed if you don’t address [1].

    this would leave me with a choice between delivering my prepared remarks, which I believed to be crucial, or wasting my time putting out the small fires he had set.

    Contentions [1] and [2] are hardly small fires, they are the moot.

    If I stuck to my argument, as I mostly did, he could return in the next round to say, “You will notice that Dr. Harris entirely failed to address points 2 and 5. It is no wonder, because they make a mockery of his entire philosophy.”

    You seem to have not followed the debate. Harris did stick to his prepared statement until after the first rebuttal. In the first rebuttal Craig offered several criticisms of Harris’s position, as affirmed in his opening statement. It was these he criticisms Harris failed to address. Harris’s failure was not so much to fail to address Craig’s points, it was rather that he refused to defend his own assertions against counter arguments. Sorry, but asserting something and refusing to defend it is not debating.

    What Harris showed is that he is willing to make all manner of assertions about ethics but not actually defend them from objection.

    As I observed once during the debate, but should have probably mentioned again, Craig employs other high school debating tricks to mislead the audience: He falsely summarizes what his opponent has said; he falsely claims that certain points have been conceded; and, in our debate, he falsely charged me with having wandered from the agreed upon topic.

    Specific examples would be helpful rather than assertion, in fact as I demonstrate in my review of the debate Sam Harris did wander from the agreed topic. After the first rebuttal he began speaking about “hell” and “particularism” and also “old testament ethics” all of which was not the moot. You can read my review where I document this.

    Also Harris in fact inaccurately summarises others positions in his opening statement, for example he characterises Craig’s divine command theory as an account of the meaning of moral terms and also suggests Craig’s theory relies on YHWH the old testament God. In fact neither claim is true, and a simple survey of the literature on divine command theory would show this.

    The fact that such tricks often work is a real weakness of the debate format, especially one in which the participants are unable to address one another directly. Nevertheless, I believe I was right not to waste much time rebutting irrelevancies, correcting Craig’s distortions of my published work, or taking his words out of my mouth.

    Again assertion, Harris here simply dismisses any criticisms of his position as “irrelevancies”. In fact Craig raised several sensible and potentially serious criticisms of Harris’s “scientific conception of moral truth” and Harris refused to answer them.
    Instead, I simply argued for a scientific conception of moral truth and against one based on the biblical God. This was, after all, the argument that the organizer’s at Notre Dame had invited me to make.”

    Actually as I noted Harris was invited to address the moot, is the foundations of morality natural or supernatural? This says nothing about the biblical God.

    But there are two obvious problems here.

    First , Harris’s claim here that “the organisers” invited him to argue “ for a scientific conception of moral truth and against one based on the biblical God” contradicts your claim that the topic of the debate was that “our basest intuitions have origins in something other than God” so Harris contradicts you.

    Second, Harris here shows in fact everything he says before this is false. Because if he was asked to argue for a naturalistic scientific account of moral truth and against a Christian theistic one, then he was asked to address the contentions [1] and [2] Craig raised. Which is it.

  • If what you say is true, and the topic of the debate was “Is the Foundation for Morality Natural or Supernatural?”, then Harris was right to make his case that morality boils down to a concern for well being. It’s exceedingly easy to demonstrate that morality is grounded in nature, and it’s impossible to demonstrate that morality is divinely commanded. Whether morality is relative or absolute, it has its grounding in nature.

    Harris was also correct in illustrating how immoral the Christian God is. Of course, we know this is the God Craig argues for. It hardly matters whether it’s made a part of the debate or not.

    Besides, if Sam is guilty for getting off topic for speaking about the Christian God, then surely Craig is guilty of this for saying “On Atheism,” a hundred times. The topic, afterall, was naturalism vs supernaturalism. Not Atheism vs Theism.

    Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that if the topic is as you say, Harris wins by virtue of pointing out well understood facts. Morality is a product of nature. Fact.

    But, Sam engaged Craig in a more interesting debate, and Craig was unable to keep up and unwilling to engage.

  • “Harris was also correct in illustrating how immoral the Christian God is. Of course, we know this is the God Craig argues for. It hardly matters whether it’s made a part of the debate or not.”

    So basically in a debate it’s fine to make points which attack the beliefs of the opponent even if those points are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand?

  • Btw, Jonathan, since it is apparently easy to do, could you use “nature” to demonstrate *why* I ought to care about the well being of others? Sure, it may promote human flourishing, but *why* should I, or anyone else, care about doing that?

  • then Harris was right to make his case that morality boils down to a concern for well being. It’s exceedingly easy to demonstrate that morality is grounded in nature, and it’s impossible to demonstrate that morality is divinely commanded. Whether morality is relative or absolute, it has its grounding in nature.

    These are a string of assertions that ethical naturalism is easily demonstrated. If it was that easy one wonders why so many secular meta-ethicists don’t accept it. The fact is no one has demonstrated this position.
    In fact in the debate Craig offered some reasons why moral goodness can’t be identified with wellbeing. One was that its possible for a person to flourish and be an evil person. That would be impossible if the two were identical. Harris simply ignored that.

    Harris was also correct in illustrating how immoral the Christian God is. Of course, we know this is the God Craig argues for. It hardly matters whether it’s made a part of the debate or not.

    Your confusing what Craig thinks with what he was arguing in a particular debate. The fact I think X does not mean every argument I give is for X.
    In a debate it does matter wether your arguments are on topic. To claim that because you think something is true one can advance it even if its irrelevant does not stand up. Can I argue against massacres in Syria by pointing out the world is round. The latter claim is true after all, but it provides no reason for opposing massacres in Syria.
    Besides, if Sam is guilty for getting off topic for speaking about the Christian God, then surely Craig is guilty of this for saying “On Atheism,” a hundred times. The topic, afterall, was naturalism vs supernaturalism. Not Atheism vs Theism.
    This is mistaken, even if Harris’s arguments were sound ( and they weren’t) they show one form of theism is insufficient to ground morality, but showing one form of theism does not do this does not show that all forms of supernaturalism are insufficient.
    Naturalism is a form of atheism, therefore if Craig can that atheism is insufficient to ground morality he has argued that all forms of atheism including naturalism is insufficent.
    There is a world of difference between showing all forms of X are problematic and one form of X is

    Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that if the topic is as you say, Harris wins by virtue of pointing out well understood facts. Morality is a product of nature. Fact.

    You don’t actually debate by simply asserting your position is a fact.

    But, Sam engaged Craig in a more interesting debate, and Craig was unable to keep up and unwilling to engage.

    This is wishful thinking, the topics Harris raised such as religious pluralism and hell were not the topic of the debate. Your welcome to pretend Craig can’t address these points, however in fact he has written articles on them and had debates on them before so that’s simply false. Craig did not engage them because they were not the topic.
    Your welcome to read my review where I point this out.

  • “So basically in a debate it’s fine to make points which attack the beliefs of the opponent even if those points are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand?”

    I don’t know. I guess. Let’s consult Dr. Craig.

    “Maybe Dr. Harris is right that Atheism is true.”

    If the debate is strictly regarding naturalism and supernaturalism, what does Atheism have to do with it? Surely, one could argue against a supernatural morality and still believe in God. There are many Deists who believe in the existence of an amoral God, so technically, WLC was guilty of that offense before Harris ever said a word.

    “The purpose of Dr. Harris’ book The Moral Landscape is to explain the basis, on atheism, of the existence of objective moral values.”

    Craig raised these issues before Dr. Harris ever had a chance to make his opening statement. Dr. Craig isn’t allowed to change the framing of the debate so as to prohibit his opponent from bringing up his irrelevant body of work and beliefs, then proceed to bring up his opponent’s irrelevant body of work and
    beliefs. If WLC was free to reframe the debate as “GOD vs ATHEISM”, then surely Harris can be pardoned for reframing the debate as “CHRISTIANITY VS ATHEISM”.

    Remember that Craig, despite how hard he tries to make it appear so, is not an acting moderator, and he doesn’t get to change the rules of the debate.

    “Btw, Jonathan, since it is apparently easy to do, could you use “nature” to demonstrate *why* I ought to care about the well being of others? Sure, it may promote human flourishing, but *why* should I, or anyone else, care about doing that?”

    You don’t have to care about the well being of anything for morality to have its basis in nature. The is/ought question is of little concern in determining where moral instincts and intuitions are rooted. It may not be objective, but the topic of debate doesn’t require that morality be demonstrated to be
    objective or binding in nature. Just that it has its foundations in nature.

    Everyone knows that morality has its roots in nature. It emerged as a pragmatic evolutionary tool for facilitating social-cohesion among intelligent, social creatures. Indeed, Dr. Craig knows this to be true, and has said as much. The only difference is that Dr. Craig believes that God was the creator of nature and that he is the ultimate root of morality.

    Morality – at least as a concept – does in fact exist. If you concede this, you’ve already conceded that it emerged in nature. But, to show that it is of supernatural origins, Dr. Craig would have to show that there is such a thing as supernature. He hasn’t.

  • “These are a string of assertions that ethical naturalism is easily demonstrated. If it was that easy one wonders why so many secular meta-ethicists don’t accept it. The fact is no one has demonstrated this position.”

    Excuse me, I never asserted that ethical realism is easily demonstrated; I asserted that it’s easy to demonstrate that morality is grounded in nature. That is to say that morality is a product of nature. If you’ll just refer to my response to Hugh, I think you’ll understand my position on this.

    “Naturalism is a form of atheism, therefore if Craig can that atheism is insufficient to ground morality he has argued that all forms of atheism including naturalism is insufficent.
    There is a world of difference between showing all forms of X are problematic and one form of X is”

    This is demonstrably false. Deism – a form of theism – is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes. Naturalism commonly refers to the viewpoint that laws of nature operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe. It is not antonymic to theism, and not synonymous with Atheism. That’s really quite silly.

    http://www.skepdic.com/naturalism.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism

    I don’t see anything else in your comments that I haven’t already addressed in my response to Hugh. Thank you.


  • Excuse me, I never asserted that ethical realism is easily demonstrated; I asserted that it’s easy to demonstrate that morality is grounded in nature. That is to say that morality is a product of nature. If you’ll just refer to my response to Hugh, I think you’ll understand my position on this.

    In your response to Hugh you argued that, ethical intuitions are a product of nature, that’s not the same thing as claiming moral obligations are identical with natural facts as I pointed out in my previous comments that was what the debate was about. Harris in fact propounded the view that moral obligations and moral goodness are identical with facts about nature..
    The claim that Y causes one to intuitively believe B, is not the claim that B is identified with an Y. Human Evolution causes people to intuitively believe in the existence of stars when they look into the sky, it does not follow that stars are identical to human evolution.
    “Naturalism is a form of atheism, therefore if Craig can that atheism is insufficient to ground morality he has argued that all forms of atheism including naturalism is insufficent.
    There is a world of difference between showing all forms of X are problematic and one form of X is”

    [the claim that naturalism is a form of atheism] is is demonstrably false. Deism – a form of theism – is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes.

    If a higher power created the universe then its creation cannot be due only to natural processes. So this is no more than a contradiction.

    Naturalism commonly refers to the viewpoint that laws of nature operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe. It is not antonymic to theism, and not synonymous with Atheism. That’s really quite silly.

    If nothing exists beyond the natural universe than God does not exist. Moreover if nothing outside the universe effects it, then nothing can have created it or sustain it in which case deism is false.
    As to being “really quite sill” in fact Wikipedia defines naturalism as follows
    Metaphysical naturalism, also called ontological naturalism and philosophical naturalism is a strong belief in naturalism, a worldview with a philosophical aspect which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e., those required to understand our physical environment by mathematical modeling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysical_naturalism
    I however the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    “The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003).”

    You can also see Quentin Smith’s definition in the leading philosophy of religion journal Philo

    Naturalism, i.e., the thesis that there exist inanimate or animate bodies, with animate bodies being either intelligent organisms or non-intelligent organisms, but there exists nothing supernatural. The example of something supernatural of most interest to contemporary analytic philosophers is an unembodied mind that is the original and/or continuous creator of the universe and has the omniattributes described in perfect being theology.4 Other examples of hypothesized supernatural realities that govern or create in some sense the universe are the governing mind posited by the Stoics or the “Absolute I” posited by the early Fichte.

    So the argument is straightforward, if atheism cannot explain X, then naturalism which is a form of atheism cannot explain X.

  • If the debate is strictly regarding naturalism and supernaturalism, what does Atheism have to do with it? Surely, one could argue against a supernatural morality and still believe in God. There are many Deists who believe in the existence of an amoral God, so technically, WLC was guilty of that offense before Harris ever said a word.

    I have already addressed this, naturalism is a form of atheism, hence if the nature of moral obligations and values morality cannot be explained in the absence of God, it can’t be explained by nature alone without reference to God. This is a straight forward inferences it all forms of X fail to explain something and Y is a form of X, then Y fails to explain the phenomena in question.
    Also Craig’s conditional addresses your reference to theists who don’t believe in a supernatural morality and still believe in God. Because if you can’t ground moral obligations in the absence of God’s existence. You can’t claim it can be grounded in natural phenomena alone.
    So whatever Sam Harris might say, his arguments were off topic. If athiests want to argue against divine command theories of ethics they are welcome to actually address them. To rant and rave about other topics and then claim they have refuted them does not do this. Similarly if they think moral obligations exist an can be plausibly identified with natural phenomena alone, they are welcome to offer arguments for this claim. To rant and rave about how religious people such as the Taliban or texts or doctrines such as hell or particularism or violate moral obligations they believe in does not do this either.

  • Matt, you ignored so much of my comment that it’s laughable. You say that the debate was about whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts? First of all, I’m not sure that means anything. Secondly, where did you get that out of “Is the foundation for morality natural or supernatural?” This is a fabricated discussion. You can’t decide what the debate was supposed to mean.

    And I see that you’ve ignored my links for the most part and conceded my point on naturalism. The best you could do to refute my definition of Naturalism is post a link to a website which states right away that there is no precise contemporary definition, so you will have to work harder than that if you really mean to show that Naturalism is a “form of atheism”. Lol

    Regardless, all of this is a straw man. A Deist could argue against a supernatural morality because Deists often believe in an amoral God, so my point that Harris’ Atheism was irrelevant still stands.

  • Jonathan, unfortunately as is custom defenders of the new atheism resort to asserting there opponents position is “laughable” and so on and simply asserting there position. Sorry but if you really want to have a “rational” stance you need to respond to criticism with argument.

    about whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts? First of all, I’m not sure that means anything.

    Actually it does, and if you don’t understand the basic issues and questions it pays to admit that and refrain from making bold claims about it.

    Secondly, where did you get that out of “Is the foundation for morality natural or supernatural?” This is a fabricated discussion. You can’t decide what the debate was supposed to mean.

    I told you this was the question the organizers decided on, moreover if you read the transcript you’ll see prof Mike Rea the organizer stating Our show tonight, as you already know, is a debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris, coming together for the very first time to discuss the question, “Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?” I did not decide it that was what was organised.

    As to how I get the claim “whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts” out of that, simple by understanding what is mean’t by the term foundations in this debate. Craig has written numerous articles where he explains what he means when he states that the foundations of morality are supernatural. It’s very clear that whenever he affirms they are supernatural he is stating that they are identical to something supernatural. I can provide numerous citations that this is what he means if you like.

    Harris’s position is that moral properties exist and are identical with natural facts. He states in the debate he is claiming that values reduce to the well-being of conscious creatures the word “reduce” in philosophy typically means one explains by identifying it with something more basic. He goes on to state

    Morality and human values, therefore, can be understood through science, because in talking about these things, we are talking about all of the facts that influence the well-being of conscious creatures

    Moreover the correspondence between the participants shows this the resolutions agreed upon was that

    Resolved: Moral values can be reduced to scientific facts.
    Resolved: The separation between scientific facts and human
    values is an illusion.
    Resolved: Moral value is an entirely natural phenomenon,
    grounded entirely in scientifically detectable facts.

    The phrase “are the foundations of morality natural or supernatural” was proposed as a popular pithy way of expressing this question for lay people.

    So the topic both speakers were asked to address the question of the ontological or metaphysical nature of moral values and obligations, are they identical with natural facts or are they identical with supernatural facts.

    And I see that you’ve ignored my links for the most part and conceded my point on naturalism.

    Actually I pointed out that one source you cited “Wikipedia” actually proposes that naturalism is a form of atheism. The other link was from a popular free thinker site, so I countered by showing you two from much more authoritative sources and which were by specialists in the field who were not theists. So in fact I addressed them.

    The best you could do to refute my definition of Naturalism is post a link to a website which states right away that there is no precise contemporary definition, so you will have to work harder than that if you really mean to show that Naturalism is a “form of atheism”. Lol

    Actually you should read the Stanford a bit more carefully because it doesn’t say that. It says that naturalism involves the view that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality it says there is no precise meaning as to what over and above this naturalism requires so its hard to pin it down.

    I also provided two other sources which confirm my definition one from probably the leading academic journal on naturalism in philosophy of religion.I suppose if you want to you can choose to believe a popular free thinker website over these. But don’t pretend that’s sensible or rational.

    Regardless, all of this is a straw man. A Deist could argue against a supernatural morality because Deists often believe in an amoral God, so my point that Harris’ Atheism was irrelevant still stands.

    And I addressed that, Craig’s claim is that the conditional: If God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.” Now one does not have to believe in atheism to accept this ( Craig doesn’t for example) one only has to believe that if atheism is true then no plausible account of the nature of moral obligation and moral goodness is available. A deist who held that God had no relevance to morality and morality could be explained ontologically entirely independently of God would be commited to denying this conditional, he would have to accept that if God did not exist a plausible foundation is possible. To say something is irrelevant to explaining something is to say that even if it were not true the explanation would still stand. So your point about deist’s is irrelevant, because by establishing this conditional, Craig refutes any deistic accounts of the sort you mention.

    Another problem is that according to the definition of God, Craig uses when he makes this claim deism is a form of atheism. Craig is clear that when he proposes these conditionals he is stipulating that God is understood in the anslemian sense as a being worthy of worship, a maximally excellent being. So as the terms are being used in this particular discussion, deism is a form of atheism.

    You’ll notice also that I pointed out to you that deism is incompatible with naturalism as you define it. A deist believes God created and sustains the universe; if God created the universe then the origin of the universe does not have a natural cause similarly if God sustains the universe its continued existence is not explained by natural causes alone. So naturalism rules out deism.

    So each of your claims has been addressed.

  • Matt, I don’t accept the grammar of your comment. Moral obligations are identical to moral facts? Is that to say that they’re alike, or similar? I can’t be sure what that means. Sounds like babble to me. Of course, I’m not sure I can ever trust the grammar of someone who twice mistook the adverb “there” for the possessive form of they in the same sentence.

    The unbelievable degree of confusion and misunderstanding evident in your response is both astounding and discouraging. I almost didn’t respond, but I decided that it’s my duty to enlighten you.

    I suppose if I can’t expect you to express yourself with adequate articulation, I can’t very well expect you to follow perfectly direct English.

    I understand that the topic of the debate was “Is The Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural”. What I don’t understand is how you decided that the agreed upon topic somehow translates to “Whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts.” You seem to think that this imprudent interpretation of the topic is justified because William Lane Craig has written on this issue. This is self-evidently mistaken, unless you honestly expect me to believe that Notre Dame premeditatedly took Dr. Craig’s body of work and shamelessly phrased the topic accordingly to suit his line of argument. Of course they didn’t.

    The topic can only be interpreted to mean what it asks: Is the foundation, or basis – that is to say something that underlies, supports, or is essential to something else – of morality natural or supernatural.

    Let’s explore what this means.

    Craig doesn’t merely argue for a moral foundation, he attempts to narrow the focus of the debate to “Objective” morality. Of course, Harris isn’t required to make the case for an objective morality in nature, just a basis for morality in nature. Sam Harris did a successful job of illustrating how one could provide a basis for a morality in nature. Whether it is objective, subjective, relative or absolute is of no consequence to the topic of the debate.
    Craig, on the other hand, seemed to think his task was not to demonstrate that there is a supernatural basis for morality, but to demonstrate how there would, in theory, be a basis for morality if there were a God. The irony is that Craig is being asked here what the foundation is. If he had answered the question, he would surely have had to demonstrate that there is a supernatural dimension, and that the God of that dimension has the attributes of the Christian God, in order to show that the foundation of morality is supernatural. He failed to address the question as well as to engage, and rather decided to try and reframe the debate for his own purposes.

    “Moreover the correspondence between the participants shows this.”

    The only reason I quoted the above is for amusement purposes. It is delusional to think that the correspondence between the debate participants during the debate dictates the topic. Indeed, if this were so, Harris was well in his rights to inject the Christian God into the debate. This is laughable.

    As for Craig’s conditional claim, what bearing does it have on the topic of debate? As I said before, Craig is not allowed to change the conditions for his own convenience. The debate is not over “a sound foundation for objective moral values.” This is a fabricated discussion!

    And I don’t accept your premises regarding Dr. Craig’s conditional claim. My point still stands.

    If a Deist held that God has no interest in morality, he/she could acknowledge the existence of morality in nature. A morality that has emerged perfectly independent of a deistic God as a product of human nature.

  • @jonathon
    You seem to be making the same basic mistake as Sam Hariis, ie cnfusing the ability to recognise a moral question with knowing the answer and also with knowing the source of the answer. Nothing SH says addresses the “is-ought” question. You should know full well that on naturalism there are no “oughts”, only what “is” and what “works” and what works changes with selective pressure. On naturalism, direction is illusory and any apparent pathways are strictly historical records that provide no guidance as to how things ought to happen in the future.

  • For this debate, the is/ought problem is not an issue. I’ve already explained this. Did you read?

  • One can surely have a personal morality without believing he ought to do anything. Human moral intuitions are just a product of social pressure, and we’ve transformed it into something else. Of course, while there may be no reason we ought to be moral, morality still exists at least as a concept, and it came about in nature.

    I happen to think, however, that deriving an ought from an is, is trivially easy with the addition of a prepositional qualifier.

    For example:

    1. Sam wants to be happy.
    2. Sam’s personal morality will bring him happiness.
    3. If Sam wishes to be happy, Sam ought to apply his morality in his life.

    This is a clear example of why someone SHOULD do something. It’s not hard to do, and this has been settled for a while. It seems to me that Matt and you are only able to discuss this topic using talking points from WLC debates.

  • You are quite right, that was completely trivial. But lets continue with it. What if Sam found happiness in the torture and degradation of little girls and his personal “morality” had no trouble with this?

  • Further you may be technically right about the is-ought question wrt the moot of this debate but both SH and your inability to understand is really hindering you for making meaningful commentary on the subject. This is your whole problem, successful adaptive behaviour is not moral behaviour, and no amount of conflating the two will make it so. Take for example the way in which alpha males in some species kill the new born and recent offspring of previous alpha, this ensures the propagation of their own genetics (happens quite a bit in humans as well, witness the number of children killed by unrelated boyfriends of their mothers). Would you suggest such behaviour is moral? If not, why and how on naturalism do you attribute greater value to humans than any other species?

  • What makes Sam happy poses no problem to the issue of morality. I don’t think you’re quite getting it. Morality IS successful adaptive behavior. It’s different for some, but it’s still the root of our moral intuitions. And, while I don’t think anyone would consider the torture of little girls moral, if it poses no problem with Sam’s morality it would be amoral. Your whole problem is thinking that every action must be either moral or immoral on everyone’s view. No. Some actions may just be amoral, neutral.

    By the way, this entire pedantic discussion was meant to illustrate to the rest of you how fatuous your pedantic quibbling with the topic really is. To write entire essays on how Sam Harris veered of topic is silly, especially if that’s the way you wish to argue Craig wins this debate. It is true that Craig evades the bigger picture in every debate by narrowing the focus to trivialities, and his loyal followers gobble it up. It’s pathetic, really. If you’re allowed to do that, I’m allowed to show you how Harris DIDN’T veer off topic.

  • Except you havent showed any such thing. All you have done is continue to assert (not demonstrate) that morality is nothing more than successfull adaptive behaviour. If this is true then any behaviour that successfully propagates your genes into feture generations is moral. Your use of the word moral then has nothing to do with whether thoughts, actions, behaviours are right or wrong, since such concepts are meaningless and success is the only yardstick. On your understanding of moral behaviour rape infanticide genocide virtually anything is moral if after the fact it can be demonstrated to have successfully propagated the genes of those involved. SH talk of human flourishing simply shows a lack of understanding of biological evolution. Intraspecies competition is invariably greater than interspecies competition and species change/evolve as diferent traits achieve dominance in expression.

  • I don’t accept the grammar of your comment. Moral obligations are identical to moral facts? Is that to say that they’re alike, or similar? I can’t be sure what that means. Sounds like babble to me. Of course, I’m not sure I can ever trust the grammar of someone who twice mistook the adverb “there” for the possessive form of they in the same sentence.

    Actually there is an unbelievable degree of confusion and misunderstanding evident in this comment.
    First, I talked about moral obligations being identical to natural facts. Second, to claim two things are identical is not the same as saying they are “similar” or “alike” its to say they are the same thing. Here are some examples, water is identical to H20. The morning star is identical to the evening star. Superman is identical to clark kent and so on.
    Third, if you really don’t even understand the basic questions involved in these discussions perhaps you should be a little more humble in what you write on them.

    The unbelievable degree of confusion and misunderstanding evident in your response is both astounding and discouraging. I almost didn’t respond, but I decided that it’s my duty to enlighten you.

    I understand that the topic of the debate was “Is The Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural”. What I don’t understand is how you decided that the agreed upon topic somehow translates to “Whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts.”

    If you read my comments above you’ll see I provided reasons for why this is what they meant. It helps to respond to peoples arguments rather than ignore them.

    You seem to think that this imprudent interpretation of the topic is justified because William Lane Craig has written on this issue. This is self-evidently mistaken, unless you honestly expect me to believe that Notre Dame premeditatedly took Dr. Craig’s body of work and shamelessly phrased the topic accordingly to suit his line of argument. Of course they didn’t.

    Actually, if you read what I wrote above you’ll see I did not argue that’s what it mean’t because “Craig” had written on this issue. Rather I suggested that it was plausible because (a) that’s how these terms are used in writings on the subject (Craig’s writings being an example) (b) that’s the topic Harris addressed in his opening statement (c) the suggested resolutions of which the question “Are the foundations of Morality Natural or Supernatural?” was a popular summary all show it had this meaning.

    As to Notre Dame’s actions, I can turn this around on you, do you think Michael Rea of Notre Dame who is familiar with Craig’s writings selected Craig to present the affirmative answer to the question “are the foundations of morality natural or supernatural?” if by this phrase he mean’t a position Craig actually does not hold but rejects, and that Rea just decided to use the language Craig uses to describe his own position in doing so? I doubt it.

    The topic can only be interpreted to mean what it asks: Is the foundation, or basis – that is to say something that underlies, supports, or is essential to something else – of morality natural or supernatural.

    Actually what words mean in a discipline like moral philosophy is determined by how those words are used in the discipline, its not given it’s the same as popular dictionary definitions.

    As it stands your definition is ambiguous. That is ambiguous, you could be referring to what philosophies call a epistemic foundation (the reasons that purport ones belief in morality and provide a foundation for it in that sense) or one could mean ontological foundation ( what existing things constitute moral obligations).
    As I noted, Notre Dame asked them to address the latter, for the reasons I gave

    Let’s explore what this means.Craig doesn’t merely argue for a moral foundation, he attempts to narrow the focus of the debate to “Objective” morality.

    Err no, both he and Harris take it for granted that moral obligations are objective and argue that such obligations are best understood as supernatural facts about what God has commanded ( Craig) or facts about human flourishing ( Harris).

    Of course, Harris isn’t required to make the case for an objective morality in nature, just a basis for morality in nature.

    If its grounded in natural facts about human flourishing its objective. Because natural facts about human flourishing are objective.

    Sam Harris did a successful job of illustrating how one could provide a basis for a morality in nature. Whether it is objective, subjective, relative or absolute is of no consequence to the topic of the debate.

    Err No, because one formal feature of moral obligations is that they are an objective property of actions, a theory that failed to identify moral obligations with something that was objective would be less plausible because it would fail to explain this feature of moral obligations.

    Craig, on the other hand, seemed to think his task was not to demonstrate that there is a supernatural basis for morality, but to demonstrate how there would, in theory, be a basis for morality if there were a God.

    Actually, you again don’t seem to have understood the argument. Craig offered two conditionals: the first was that if God exists there is a plausible foundation for morality. The second was that if God does not exist there isn’t. If he esthablishes both these conditionals then that does provide evidence that morality has a supernatural basis. If, P is explicable on the assumption that God exists, and can’t be explained on the assumption that he doesn’t. P provides evidence for Gods existence.

    The irony is that Craig is being asked here what the foundation is. If he had answered the question, he would surely have had to demonstrate that there is a supernatural dimension, and that the God of that dimension has the attributes of the Christian God, in order to show that the foundation of morality is supernatural.

    Actually he wouldn’t have to do this at all, all he would have to do is show the nature of moral obligations is best explained by the assumption God exists.

    He failed to address the question as well as to engage, and rather decided to try and reframe the debate for his own purposes.

    I am sure quoting this atheist meme over and over might give you comfort but its false.

    The question was is the (ontological) foundation of morality natural or supernatural? Craig argued that moral obligations can be plausibly explained as supernatural facts but can’t be plausibly explained as natural facts. That answers the question.

    The only reason I quoted the above is for amusement purposes. It is delusional to think that the correspondence between the debate participants during the debate dictates the topic.

    I see, so if all the participants agree to a topic by correspondence, that has no bearing on the topic they agreed to. I think the only person who is deluded here is you.

    Indeed, if this were so, Harris was well in his rights to inject the Christian God into the debate. This is laughable.

    I see so if everyone agrees to a debate on a particular topic Harris is within his rights to speak on a different topic?
    Sorry but asserting obvious garbage and then claiming anyone who disagrees is “laughable” doesn’t make it sensible.

    As for Craig’s conditional claim, what bearing does it have on the topic of debate? As I said before, Craig is not allowed to change the conditions for his own convenience. The debate is not over “a sound foundation for objective moral values.” This is a fabricated discussion!

    Already addressed this above, both Harris and Craig assume moral obligations are objective, there are good reasons for doing this, this is because certain features of our concept of obligation presuppose objectivity.

    And I don’t accept your premises regarding Dr. Craig’s conditional claim. My point still stands.

    I see you think asserting “I don’t accept that” is a rebuttal.

    If a Deist held that God has no interest in morality, he/she could acknowledge the existence of morality in nature. A morality that has emerged perfectly independent of a deistic God as a product of human nature.

    And I have already addressed this argument twice now, a deist who held that morality was perfectly explicable by nature without God would hold the conditional: if God does not exist a sound foundation for moral obligations exist.

  • “I talked about moral obligations being identical to natural facts.”

    Oh, well, you’ll have to excuse my typo. I apologize for any misunderstanding. It was an unintentional slip of the finger, if you will, and I think that its Freudian nature is underlined by the fact that it was corrected in my later comments.

    Anyway, let’s move on. I’m thrilled that you decided to respond. We have a lot to cover.

    “Second, to claim two things are identical is not the same as saying they are similar or alike it’s to say they are the same thing.”

    This is false. Surprise. You are wrong, yet again, about grammar.

    Identical as an adjective can only be used to describe something as being exactly the same as something else when it is immediately followed by a noun. Otherwise, it’s used to describe something that is similar to something else. There are many examples of this.

    http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/identical

    http://i.word.com/idictionary/identical

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=identical

    http://m.dictionary.com/d/?q=identical&o=0&l=dir

    So, in fact, water is not identical to H20; Water IS H20.

    “Actually, if you read what I wrote above you’ll see I did not argue that’s what it mean’t because Craig had written on this issue. ”

    Wait, didn’t you write this?

    As to how I get the claim whether moral obligations are identical to natural facts out of that, simple by understanding what is mean’t by the term foundations in this debate. DR. CRAIG has written numerous articles where HE explains what HE means when HE states that the foundations of morality are supernatural. It’s very clear that whenever HE affirms they are supernatural HE is stating that they are identical to something supernatural. I can provide numerous citations that this is what HE means if you like.”

    Err… So when he says that the foundations of morality are identical to something supernatural he’s saying that the foundations of morality are supernatural? Why not just say that then? I don’t think Dr. Craig would be so ineloquent as to say actually speak in those rather unlettered terms.

    Sam Harris is not, by the way, saying that morality reduces to natural facts, he’s saying that morality boils down to a concern for well being. He’s not saying that nature produced moral obligations, and he makes it clear in his discussion with Richard Dawkins that an ‘is’ like the selfish gene does not mean that we ought to be selfish. So, it’s pretty clear that Sam Harris is making a distinction between his moral philosophy and mere facts about nature. When he speaks about natural facts, he’s saying that facts can tell us something about well being, not that moral obligations are issued by nature.

    “Rather I suggested that it was plausible because (a) that’s how these terms are used in writings on the subject.”

    Did you? Where? Can you point out where in the above quotation?

    Regardless, this is demonstrably false. Do you sincerely expect me to believe that the term “moral foundation” is used to mean “objective moral foundation” without exception in philosophical discourse, and that there’s no way it could possibly mean anything else in this context? I mean, honestly? What is subjective morality in philosophical discourse, in that case? What about relative morality? Absolute morality…? You really have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?

    Besides, the fact that something might be plausible is not enough grounds to assert something as fact as rigorously as you did.

    “(b)That’s the topic Harris addressed in his opening statement.”

    When? Where? How? Sam Harris doesn’t use the word “obligation” a single time in regards to morality in his opening statement. He also clearly points out, later in the debate, that he and Dr. Craig are using the word “objective” in two distinctly different ways. AGAIN, this is a fabricated discussion. Sam Harris understands that even in the realm of philosophy, morality is not by definition or in principle required to be commanded or even binding independent of human opinion. Moral obligations are not important to his case.

    “Actually, what words mean in a discipline like moral philosophy are determined by how those words are used in a discipline, it’s not given it’s the same as popular dictionary definitions.”

    Okay, it seems to me that you’re conceding defeat here on the definitional argument, so I’ll give you the opportunity to provide evidence that supports the notion that the word “Foundation” has any other meaning in philosophy when not modified by another word. That means you have to provide an example of the word foundation being used to mean something other than what it usually means when it’s NOT being modified by another word. I have a background in Philosophy, by the way, so be careful how you play this.

    “As it stands your definition is ambiguous.”

    No it’s not. I underlined it clearly there in the comment you quoted. That’s the definition. YOUR definition of foundation is ambiguous. You haven’t even given one.

    “No, because one formal feature of moral obligations is that they are an objective property of actions,”

    Lol What…? Could you rephrase? That doesn’t make any sense. You can’t just make circumlocutory statements to equivocate the issue.

    “Both he and Harris take it for granted that moral obligations are objective.”

    Again, Harris never uses the word obligation, and clearly distinguishes between the way he uses the word “objective” and how Craig uses the word. Sam Harris doesn’t presume that we are obligated to do anything in the way of morality. He pitches it by comparing a science of morality to a science of health. Your logic is non existent.

    “Actually, again you don’t seem to have understood the argument.”

    Again, I don’t care about Dr. Craig’s “conditionals”. They mean nothing. Unless you can provide a satisfactory reason as to why Craig should be allowed to reframe the debate for his own convenience, his conditionals are irrelevant.

    Why would there be a plausible foundation for morality simply because God exists? God could be amoral and utterly unconcerned with our moral struggles.

    And there’s no reason to accept the notion that there could be no moral foundation without God. Perhaps it hasn’t been demonstrated to exist, but Craig has far from demonstrated that it is impossible.

    So, Dr. Craig has established neither, and there’s no reason to think that his argument was meant to prove that morality is supernatural. He certainly doesn’t appear to be making that case.

    “All he would have to do is show the nature of moral obligations is best explained by the assumption God exists.”

    But, he hasn’t. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a complete non sequitur.

    “The question was is the Ontological Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural.”

    Lol… So, you thought you’d just interpolate the word “ontological” and I wouldn’t notice? It doesn’t matter what kind of logical acrobatics you engage in, the topic does NOT say anything about an ontological moral foundation. Sorry.

    “So if everyone agrees to debate on a particular topic Harris is within his rights to debate a different topic?”

    If by agree you mean that Craig stubbornly insists on debating ontological moral objectivity and Sam Harris speaks about objectivity in the sense that he’s “jettisoning bias”, sure. If Craig can change the subject, so can Harris.

    “A deist who held that morality is perfectly explicable by nature without God would hold the conditional: if God does not exist a sound foundation for moral obligations exist.”

    Lol Where are you getting this? This is absolutely and obviously false.

    Firstly, I didn’t say without, I said independent of. There’s an important distinction to be made because ‘without’ means in the absence of, whereas ‘independent’ means free of outside control. I guess it’s not a big deal either way, because without doesn’t imply that God does not exist, it simply means he is absent in our moral affairs as a Deistic God would be.

    Secondly, A Deist who believes in a Deistic God could not believe that because God does not exist, a “sound foundation for moral obligations exist”. That doesn’t even make sense. A Deist would only have to believe that a morality emerged in nature independent of a God. Besides, what’s this obsession over obligations? I’ve explained this repeatedly.

  • [...] his debate with Sam Harris, Christian apologist William Lane Craig used what is technically known as the [...]

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  • Just a friendly note for machinephilosophy in case he ever visits here again. You don’t understand the purpose of a transcript and you don’t know how they are done by professionals who do understand the purpose. If you don’t know and you don’t know that you don’t know, but you are thin-skinned to boot and go immediately on the attack even though you weren’t yourself attacked, but merely corrected, then you can’t learn what you don’t know. You really don’t want to be ignorant, arrogant, and aggressive–it’s a losing combo.

  • […] Transcript of Craig’s and Harris’ main speeches and rebuttals (I have removed the irritating ‘Er, uh’s in my citations below) […]

  • […] Transcript of Craig’s and Harris’ main speeches and rebuttals (I have removed the irritating ‘Er, uh’s in my citations below) […]