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Contra Mundum: Dawkins and Secular Hypocrisy

July 7th, 2012 by Matt

Richard DawkinsWhen I was a non-Christian I was forever hearing about how Christians are hypocrites. When I converted to Christianity at 17, one thing that struck me is how often these charges were often a case of the pot calling the kettle black. While there is undoubtedly some hypocrisy within the church, it is also pervasive outside it. Secular culture often contains absurd ironies and hypocrisy which are conveniently ignored.

A great example was the media fiasco over William Lane Craig’s visit to the United Kingdom last year. Craig is distinguished philosopher known professionally for his work in philosophy of time and philosophy of religion. Alongside his scholarly work, he has also developed a reputation as a prolific public speaker and debater, debating many of the world’s leading sceptics. His combination of scholarly ability and effective debating skills has earned him a reputation as one of the world’s foremost Christian apologists.

“Apparently, having two PhD’s, authoring over 100 papers, and writing 30 books on a topic makes you unqualified to speak on it, but being the star of the 80′s TV series “Growing Pains” does.”

Craig’s visit to the UK attracted media attention when Richard Dawkins, author of the best selling “God Delusion”, publically and resolutely refused to debate him. Dawkins publically stated earlier of his critics that “he did not care” who they were, he would “dialogue” with them and “win the argument”. He also had publically debated numerous critics significantly less qualified than Craig, notably Ted Haggard. These facts, alongside Dawkins implausible and inconsistent reasons lead to accusations of cowardice and hypocrisy from other academics such as Daniel Came a philosophy professor at St Hugh’s College Oxford.

In the UK newspaper the Guardian Dawkin’s gave two reasons for his refusal. According to Dawkins, Craig “parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name”. Dawkins omitted to mention that this was not the first time he had publicly denigrated Craig’s scholarly credentials. On a previous occasion  Daniel Came,  had e-mailed him stating:

“Professor Craig has a PhD in philosophy and a PhD in theology. He is Research Professor in Philosophy at Talbot University. He has published more than thirty books and over a hundred papers in reputable peer-reviewed journal. Given your passionate and unconditional commitment to truth, I can only think that you were not aware of Professor Craig’s credentials when you made the above reference.”

So Dawkins claim that no philosopher he had consulted had ever heard of Craig was less than honest. A less charitable person might describe this as simply slander.

Dawkins concern about Craig’s alleged lack of scholarly credentials also seems odd seeing that he (Dawkins) had earlier accepted an invitation to debate actor Kirk Cameron.  Apparently, having two PhD’s, authoring over 100 papers, and writing 30 books on a topic makes you unqualified to speak on it but being the star of the 80′s TV series “Growing Pains” does qualify you. It’s also ironic that Dawkins would accuse Craig of lacking scholarly credentials on the matter given that he (Dawkins) is a biologist and not a philosopher of religion.

Dawkins next excuse was that Craig is “morally unfit” to debate him.  To substantiate this he cites not from any of Craig’s scholarly writings. But two blog posts Craig had written on with the conquest of Canaan. At face value  the early chapters of the book of Joshua portrays God as commanding the killing of every man women and child in Canaan. I say “appears”, here because latter sections of the book of Joshua and its sequel in judges proceed on the assumption this never occurred, and studies into ancient conquest accounts of this genre have noted the widespread use of literary hyperbole whereby victories are described in sweeping rhetoric of killing absolutely everyone when in reality they were nothing of the sort.

As it happens Craig does not take these accounts at face value. While he rejects a hyperbolic reading, he suggests the commands are best understood as a command to destroy the nations as a collective group, not to destroy every individual. The command, on Craig’s view, is a command to drive the inhabitants out of the land (land to which the Israelites had legal title), with only the die-hard occupants who refused to leave being killed. Moreover, Craig expresses scepticism that women and children were remaining at the time of the attack.

In one place however, Craig granted the face value reading for the sake of argument and argued that even if one accepts this, one can still coherently claim that a loving and just God could have issued the commands in question.  While a loving and just God would, in normal circumstances, condemn killing of the innocent, in highly unusual rare circumstances a loving and just being could, for the sake of some greater good, permit or command such killing. Craig is clear that he is talking about rare, highly unusual circumstances where killing brings about some greater good. Moreover, Craig believes that with the exception of a couple of incidents recorded in the bible, God has not ever issued such commands, and we should be extremely sceptical of any claim that he has today.

In the Guardian, Dawkins takes the position Craig adopted for the sake of argument as Craig’s actual view, and issued a vitriolic attack on Craig. Dawkins asks? “Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.”

Now I have shaken hands with Craig and attended conferences with him, and while I don’t endorse some of the arguments he gives for his conclusion, and while Craig in fact criticises my views in one of the articles that Dawkins cites from,  I am inclined to agree that it’s possible for a loving and just God  to command killing innocent people in rare circumstances to bring about some greater good. But what interests me here, is Dawkins’ outspoken denunciation of such an idea. This is ironic, because Dawkin’s comments elsewhere suggest he is committed to this conclusion.

In a documentary he hosted entitled “the Genius of Darwin” on UK’s channel four, Dawkins  interviewed Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer.  Dawkins opened the interview by stating that   Singer was “one of the most moral people in the world”, and that he “certainly [had] the one of most logically thought out ethical position in world.”

The irony of this is that Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of  infanticide: the killing of newborn infants. In his book Practical Ethics, Singer has argued that atheism and Darwinism lead to the conclusion that human infants have no greater moral standing than that of other animals such as pigs or cows. He concludes that the only reason it’s wrong to kill an infant is that doing so upsets the parents or other people in society who desire that it lives. If an infant is disabled, so that its parents do not want it, killing it is permissible. Singer does not limit his conclusion to the severely disabled. He goes so far as to argue that even moderately disabled children can be killed provided that the parents replace the child by having another healthy one. Doing so brings about greater happiness in the world and hence a greater good.

Even more ironic, is the moral theory which Singer uses to undergird his position. Singer argues that moral claims are best understood not as true or false statements about what is right or wrong, but as imperative or commands that people issue to each other.  A moral rule is correct, it if would be commanded or prescribed by a fully informed rational person who was totally aware of all the consequences of the action and totally impartial. In Practical ethics, Singer argues such a person would endorse infanticide.

It’s evident from watching the “The Genius of Darwin” that Singer’s position was known to Dawkins as he mentioned it on several occasions.

So in the world of Richard Dawkins, Craig is morally unfit to share a platform with him because he believes that in rare, unusual circumstances in the past, a loving and just God commanded killing the innocent for some greater good. On the other hand Singer, who holds that infanticide is permissible today, in a wide variety of common situations because a fully impartial person would command it, is the most moral person in the world with the most “logically thought out ethical position in the world”.  The only significant difference between these perspectives is that Singer endorses infanticide in a much wider range of possibilities than Craig does, and that Craig believes that the loving fully rational, impartial person actually exists.  It’s hard to see how this difference makes Craig “morally unfit” to shake his hand while Singer is one of the most “moral people in the world” worth fawning over on UK TV. It makes about as much sense as the claim that a distinguished philosopher of religion is not academically qualified to debate philosophy of religion, while a famous teen heart throb from an 80’s sitcom is.

Is Dawkins a hypocrite, a liar, a cynical opportunist or just logically confused? I leave my readers to decide.

Matt writes a monthly column for Investigate Magazine entitled “Contra Mundum.” This blog post was published in the  June-July 2012 issue and is reproduced here with permission. Contra Mundum is Latin for ‘against the world;’ the phrase is usually attributed to Athanasius who was exiled for defending Christian orthodoxy.

Letters to the editor should be sent to:
editorial@investigatemagazine.DELETE.com

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105 responses so far ↓

  • Dawkins has a bad memory it seems. in the same way he forgot that someone told him about Craig’s credentials, he also often forgets what Christians tell him about faith. However many times Christians tell him “no – that is not what we mean by faith at all” the next time he speaks he is back to the same flawed understanding. Like you I am honestly not sure if he is deliberately lying or just lacks basic reasoning skills. Given his ability to reason in other areas it would seem only one conclusion is possible – but then perhaps his skills as a biologist are not transferable and we should charitably conclude that he really is that stupid and not insult him by calling him a liar.

  • Hawkins is a dogmatic Anti-Christian, i dont think he forgets or is stupid, rather he is not interested in the possibility that there might be alternate information/positions to that which he wants to propagate.
    He may suffer nagging doubt that God is actually real and be trying very hard to persuade himself that He is not.
    It is a very common human characteristic that those who protest the most are actually guilty of what they protest against.

  • Dawkins quoted Craig in a national newspaper, knowing full well that the newspaper would never print an article by Craig defending Craig’s views on genocide and how it is not murder if it is in the Bible.

    That was despicable of Dawkins.

    Here is Craig explaining that one way to Heaven for some people is to join the NSDAP.

    CRAIG
    ….God loves Heinrich just as much as He loves you and so accords him sufficient grace for salvation and seeks to draw him to Himself.

    Indeed, God may have known that through the guilt and shame of what Heinrich did under the Third Reich, he would eventually come to repent and find salvation and eternal life.

    Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation. Of course, one may wonder about those poor people who suffered in the death camps because of Heinrich. But God has a plan for their lives, too,….

    CARR
    I guess if you were on a train to Belsen, you too would have thought that Craig’s god came up with some really great plans – much better plans for your life than you would have thought of for yourself.

  • Steven
    Not sure what your point is, it appears to be this, ignore the argument I give above, quote some comments from Craig on a totally different topic (Molinism) out of context , and then express disgust. Does that about summarise it?

  • Don’t’ cha just hate it when atheists quote Craig?

    And , of course, in context, there is nothing wrong with being a Nazi. Just ask Craig – who claims becoming a Nazi was the way some people found salvation.

    And his god planned it that way.

  • No I don’t like it when people ignore the argument actually made, quote out of context and express disgust rather than a reasoned response. And falsely accusing people of supporting the Nazi’s is I think just despicable.

    Let me know when you have something other than slander for an argument

  • So god uses human evil and transforms it into good… I am not particularly troubled by your quote even in its out of context state.

    He does not say there is nothing wrong with being a Nazi, but that even Nazis are not powerful enough to escape from God’s ever-waiting patient love.

    Quote away!

    (ps… those maths problems I have to keep solving are getting taxing on my aging mind)

  • Great blog post Matt!

    I’ve linked to the video I made at the time about Dawkins’ cowardly excuse list, but you’ve inspired me to update it and do a better version next time (I’ve counted 13 excuses recently)!

    I would add, notice how Dawkins already did shake hands and share a platform with Craig in Mexico in their brief 3 v 3 encounter (which of course Dawkins denied counted at the time).

  • “express disgust rather than a reasoned response. ”

    there’s no appropriate response to someone who’s stated that the true victims of a wholesale massacre as described in the OT are the killers themselves(!), since the adults who were butchered were guilty, and the infants (there’s nothing in the Bible that suggests they were all seriously disabled, and their existence would bring nothing but misery to them and their families, is there?) were the recipients of an infinite good, and were better off dead! (those are Craig’s actual words!), other than condemnation and mockery. You don’t reason with such a nut-bag, let alone share a stage with him, any more than you reason or share a stage with Ted Budny, John Wane Gacy, or Heinrich Himmler. Himmler surely would’ve been proud of Craig’s writings on genocide which are so similar to his own infamous speech at Poznan.
    In his response to a question during the Oxford debate William “Genocide is just dandy” Craig basically reiterated his abhorrent views that God can give and take life as he sees fit (it appears Sam Harris was right about Craig’s ‘morality’ being psychopathic), besides “children die all the time” (huh?)

    But even if you put this aside, just watching Craig explain, with his characteristically annoying “odiously unctuous, smug and self-satisfied tone of voice” as Dawkins put it, that “Dawkins is so popular because people are so unsophisticated”, and apparently fail to appreciate Craig’s genius (and so does the rest of academia, btw, since it’s Dawkins’s naturalism that is widely accepted among academics, not Craig’s crazy branch of theism which holds that Satan literally exists(!)– that, alone, is a good enough reason to refuse debating this loony), is enough for many people to find Craig repulsive and not share a platform with him. Besides why debate or argue with someone who, while making a career putting forward arguments for his god, is on record saying that no argument or evidence could convince him he’s wrong and if reason goes against his faith, “so much the worse for reason!” I mean, , that’s like Mother Theresa admitting she holds a nighttime job as a hooker. So Craig has basically revealed himself to be nothing but a shameless hack and his “project”- a worthless charade. But then, that’s a person has the gal to say that “you have to feel a little sorry for the atheist, because he just can’t follow the evidence where it leads”, and even said in his debate with Hitchens that “If Mr. Hitchens is a man of good will he will follow the evidence where it leads, and all the evidence tonight are on the side of theism”! Again, that’s form a guy who’s made it perfectly clear that he will not follow the evidence where it leads if it leads away form his faith because the Holy Spirit in his heart trumps it all, so according to his own words, he’s not a “man of good will”!. Craig has to be the most shameless person I’ve ever seen.

    As for Craig’s academic “achievements”, please.. both Talbot and Wheaton College ask their staff to sign a doctrinal statement on the inerrancy of the Bible. Here’s part of Talbiot’s
    “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind.”
    It should go without saying that such a dogma is the antithesis of everything academia stands for and being associated with such institutions is nothing short of an intellectual suicide. Although in William “Two Citations” Craig’s case (which is his new nickname, reflecting on the impact his writings have actually had in academia), his crazy statements about the Holy Spirit taking precedence over any and all arguments and evidence–one can’t stress this enough– is more than enough to achieve that and trash any credibility he might’ve had, if any.
    In other words, Craig is a complete disgrace in every possible sense of the word.

    Dawkins is right to say that “Craig really is a truly disgusting person in the literal sense: he disgusts”
    If only Dawkins knew the half of it…

    p.s.: I hope that sheds enough light on Craig, so that you stop defending this guy, Matt. Certainly not all apologists are like him., so why not pick someone else?

  • Obviously, you’ve failed to look at Craig’s credentials, which is less than the ‘intellectual dishonesty’ you claim on him and others. This is no doubt pathetic to the extreme.

    Philosopher and atheist Quentin Smith has repeatedly talked about how Craig has quality credentials. For your other assertions time does not permit. However, I would cautiously assume that your ad hominem attacks are based upon a moral standard that cannot exist objectively and thus as a result you have no ground whatsoever to criticize anyone…but then again, you’ll point to this as wrong as well again without being able to point to a standard…good luck arguing in circles..

  • When atheism’s not enough, the haunted and paranoid bypass the problem of criteria in judging good and evil, and proceed to pass judgment anyway, as if in a magically self-exempted position to arbitrate such universals without any justification of the legitimacy of the evaluative stance in the first place. Typical.

  • Dawkins is such a scumbag. Check out how overblown his scientific credentials really are:

    http://physicalismisdead.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-i-loathe-richard-dawkins-part-four.html

  • @Moi, truly fascinating. So Dawkins scientific theories are now discredited or out of date, his expertise never all that great and his only real ability that of being a populist author and speaker. Even the academic of Professor was bought for him, not to do research but to further enable his public speaking and writing.

  • @ Jeremy

    Exactly right. Spread the news far and wide :-)

  • [...] attack Singer.They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than [...]

  • Ageofreason:

    Dawkins’ stance basically boils down to:

    I disagree with Craig about some stuff so I will not debate him.

    Which when you think about it is rather silly. If he did not disagree with him it would be a rather dull debate now wouldn’t it?

    I think neither Dawkins nor Craig are the great intellectual giants their supports want them to be. A debate between these two men would be so predictable – they both just trot out the same stale ideas every debate they have….

    Still at least Craig has the guts to face someone who disagrees with him.

  • Ageofreason, once again I see you don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant

    You refer to “William “Two Citations” Craig’s case. Here I’ll simply refer you to Quentin Smiths article on the Kalam cosmological argument in the Cambridge companion to Atheism

    a count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about
    Craig’s defense of the Kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence. Surprisingly, this even holds for Plantinga’s argument for the rational acceptability of the ontological argument and Plantinga’s argument that theism is a rationally acceptable basic belief. The fact that theists and atheists alike “cannot leave Craig’s Kalam argument alone”suggests that it may be an argument of unusual philosophical interest or else has an attractive core of plausibility that keeps philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again.

    Apparently the leading atheist critic of Craig’s cosmological argument does not agree with your claim of “two citations” funny that?

    Craig’s publication list also does not support your conclusion http://www.reasonablefaith.org/william-lane-craig/publications

    Second, you mention Talbot and Wheaton’s doctrinal statements. In fact Craig got his PhD in philosophy from Birmingham and his PhD in Theology from Universität München in Germany. The first was under John Hick the latter Pannenberg. Try not to defame people by lying about there scholarly credentials on my blog. Insults and invective are not a substitute for facts.

    Interestingly however your argument here is simply that Craig can’t be a scholar because he teaches at an evangelical institution. So Craig’s arguments for evangelical Christianity can be dismissed because he is not a real scholar, and he is not a real scholar because he is affiliated with evangelical Christianity. That’s circular reasoning

    Finally you write“, is on record saying that no argument or evidence could convince him he’s wrong and if reason goes against his faith, “so much the worse for reason!” Craig does not say “so much the worse for reason” this comment simply shows you don’t understand some basic epistemological concepts saying a belief is properly basic is not the same as saying its contrary to reason. In fact properly basic beliefs are necessary to avoid an infinite regress.
    The only time you remotely address the argument I gave is when you argue “and the infants (there’s nothing in the Bible that suggests they were all seriously disabled, and their existence would bring nothing but misery to them and their families, is there?” However, as I noted Singer does not limit his conclusions to seriously disabled children, he in fact says the only reason its wrong to kill any child is that their parents want it to exist.

    So perhaps you can address the question, how is the claim that it’s permissible to kill an infant if a parent does not want it? Make you the most moral person in the world and the claim that its permissible if a loving and just omniscient person commands it make you unfit to share the stage. Rhetoric and insults don’t provide a response to this contradiction.

    Let me know when you can assert something remotely accurate and actually address the argument I made in my post rather than simply express inaccurate defamation of someone because you disagree with him.

  • Is Dawkins a hypocrite, a liar, a cynical opportunist or just logically confused?

    Yes.

  • [...] attack Singer.They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than [...]

  • [...] attack Singer.They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than [...]

  • Ken’s links are some of the best irony he has provided yet. He criticises my post as follows:

    But that is what happens for some people. I have noticed a tendency for Christian apologists to misrepresent and attack Singer.They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than an ethicist seriously considering the issues faced by parents and medical professionals considering the morality of intervening to save the life of a seriously damaged infant and the consequent repercussions.

    Now if you actually read the post above nowhere do I compare Singer to Nazis so Ken is simply misrepresenting my article to his readers.

    But let’s grant for the sake of argument that I did compare Singer to Nazi death camp commanders, Ken goes on to argue:

    Now I think “infanticide” is an appropriate word to describe what Craig was justifying. This was ethnic cleansing, the denial of the right to life based on ethnicity of the children. Craig was justifying behaviours more typical of a death camp commander in the Holocaust

    Why don’t scientists heads explode when they engage blatant contradictions like this?

  • “In fact Craig got his PhD in philosophy from Birmingham”

    To be honest, that’s nothing to brag about.

    I personally don’t think that Dawkins should have refused the debate, but I couldn’t see it being a worthwhile enterprise in any case. Craig is emblematic of the political and religious right’s response to being largely shut out of traditional academia. This means establishing partisan think tanks and groups of marginal academics who operate in groups semi-cut off from the mainstream. To be fair, the same thing sometimes happens in women’s/gender studies.

  • Not sure what the problem is with Birmingham is, its a mainstream secular university in the UK. I am not one for citing Wikipedia, but according to Wikipedia:

    “Birmingham is ranked nationally between 10th (The Times HES[16]) and 23rd (The Independent[17]) and internationally between 59th (The Times HES[16]) and 99th (ARWU[18]) in the 2010 rankings. The 2011 QS World University Rankings places Birmingham University at 67th [19] in the world. The Sunday Times’ composite ranking placed the university 19th from 1998 to 2007.[20] Birmingham was ranked 12th[21][22] in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise with 16 percent of the university’s research regarded as ‘world-leading’ and a further 41 percent as ‘internationally excellent’, with particular strengths in the fields of music, physics, biosciences, computer science, mechanical engineering, political science, international relations and law.”

    Craig’s PhD supervisor was John Hick, hardly an obscure nut job.

    In Theology his supervisor was Pannenberg.

    Why not just admit Craig is a reputable scholar and you disagree with him instead of attempting to defame his credentials?

  • I have some familiarity with graduate philosophy programs in the UK and US. If I were to apply for a PhD program in the UK, I would not waste the application fee on Birmingham because AFAIK it historically hasn’t been anywhere near one of the good programs, no matter the general strength of the university (which to be fair is in the Russell Group).

    This is not uncommon: Pittsburgh is a good American university, but has had an excellent philosophy department for many years.

    All this would make anyone wonder at why someone of such reputed philosophical ability would settle for attending such a middling institution. The usual answer is that either they aren’t very good or that they are working in an area of marginal influence in the discipline.

    Note that Alvin Plantinga didn’t work at some obscure Bible College, and he’s an example of a philosopher of religion who enjoys a reputation as a really sharp mind.

  • A wrote:

    All this would make anyone wonder at why someone of such reputed philosophical ability would settle for attending such a middling institution. The usual answer is that either they aren’t very good or that they are working in an area of marginal influence in the discipline.

    My understanding is Craig didn’t “settle” for Birmingham, he choose it because he wanted to be supervised by John Hick given Hick’s reputation in the specific topic he was doing his dissertation on. So the picture is not what you suggest.

    I have some familiarity with graduate philosophy programs in the UK and US. If I were to apply for a PhD program in the UK, I would not waste the application fee on Birmingham because AFAIK it historically hasn’t been anywhere near one of the good programs, no matter the general strength of the university (which to be fair is in the Russell Group).

    You might if there was a particular person on faculty who had a formidable reputation in the area your doing you dissertation in.

    This is not uncommon: Pittsburgh is a good American university, but has had an excellent philosophy department for many years.

    Note that Alvin Plantinga didn’t work at some obscure Bible College, and he’s an example of a philosopher of religion who enjoys a reputation as a really sharp mind.

    I wouldn’t call Talbot an obsurce “bible college”. Actually that’s not correct, Alvin Plantinga left Harvard for Calvin College as an undergraduate, he also taught at Calvin for decades before he was offered a post at Notre Dame, he is back to teaching at Calvin now.

  • People often find it hard to grasp hypothetical situations, or to be able to understand IF/THEN questions. Often the response will be… yes but the IF part is not true…

    As an example, I was recently trying to point out to someone that IF there was a loving God who actually knew all of the results of his actions, and IF this God had worked out that a small amount of suffering now would lead to a vastly improved situation later THEN there would be nothing immoral about the God causing the suffering.

    Now, there may be objections to this argument, but he was unable to even engage with it instead respondingwith something along the lines of Yeah – but anyone who believes in a God is mentally retarded.

    The problem is – after this response he can then flip back to saying – and any such God would be evil in any case… but still refuse to engage with the hypothetical situation.

    This attitude was well summed up in VALIS (by Phillip K Dick)…

    There is an old saying where a man is accused of stealing a horse, and he replies “I have never seen your horse, and what’s more it was lame in any case.” Now it looks for a split second like the second bit of information backs up the first, but really it doesn’t…

    Similarly many Atheists fall into the same pattern with something along the lines of:

    “God doesn’t exist, and what’s more he is a complete monster.”

    Think about how this applies to the analysis of Craig. Think about it.

  • I’d like to defend the University of Birmingham – I am a philosophy lecturer at a University in Britain, and I will be encouraging my students, particularly those interested in Philosophy of Religion, to consider the MA course in Philosophy of Religon there. Birmingham is particularly strong now that they have established the John Hick centre: http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2011/06/new-philosophy-.html
    Birmingham’s strength in Phil. Religion is no accident – it is founded on a strong history of Philosophy of Religion. It is perfectly true that when considering a University, especially for a postgraduate degree, the faculty’s reputation assumes greater importance compared with the University’s general reputation. And a specific supervisor even more so. Remember than at the time Craig was interested in doing his PhD., particularly given that he wanted to concentrate on Natural Theology, such topics were not as fashionable as they are now. Hick was one of the few who had written favourably on natural theology back then (his book The Many Faced Argument was published in ’67) – most other defenders of natural theology would have been Thomists, and even Plantinga’s ’67 book was guarded on the subject of natural theology. Hick, and Birmingham, would have been an obvious choice for Craig. So it is true that Craig was working in an area of marginal relevance to the discipline as it was conceived then – most work in Phil. Religion was still covering topics in Religious Language as a hangover of the 50s and 60s. What is remarkable is that Craig, along with a number of other distinguished philosophers of religion, such as Richard Swinburne and WIlliam Rowe moved natural theology from marginal relevance to a much more central role.

  • Ugh – apologies for the typos in the above, btw. Posted in haste, but hopefully it still makes sense!

  • Max: “God doesn’t exist, and what’s more he is a complete monster.”

    It should be fairly obvious that what is actually being said is “God doesn’t exist, and what’s more, the version you believe in is a complete monster.”

  • “Ry” – no it is more complicated than that. Because in fact if the God DID exist in this situation he would not be a monster. The action is monster-like because it is done in the absence of a God. But having concluded that there is no God, and that in the absence of a God this action would be monstrous, the conclusion “the God is monstrous” is thought to follow. It doesn’t . Logical breakdown.

    This logical breakdown comes from an inability to think hypothetically.

  • Ry wrote:

    : “God doesn’t exist, and what’s more he is a complete monster.”
    It should be fairly obvious that what is actually being said is “God doesn’t exist, and what’s more,the version you believe in is a complete monster.”

    I agree it should be fairly obvious that this is what is being said. Unfortunately, as Max states, the actual reasoning used suggests this can’t be whats going on.

    For example if the claim is that the version of God you believe in is a complete monster, then the relevant question is what do you believe about God and is that God a complete monster. The interlocutor in the conversation is therefore legitimately able to draw from what he believes assume it for the sake of argument and asses wether its monstrous.

    One the other hand if the atheist responds by refusing to assume what the other person believes for the sake of argument and demands he prove it before he accepts it, he is not arguing that “what you believe …” he is arguing from what he believes or is willing to accept. If he concludes that God is a monster from this dialectical stance then he cannot be claiming that God “you” believe in is a monster.

  • Would Richard Dawkins have the same notoriety world wide if he had kept his work within his specialised field of Zoology?(I believe) He has however made philosophical comments about religion in general in the public square. Craig seeing his arguments, thinks discussing them publicly would be suitable arena to flesh these ‘publicly’ made claims . Now, lets reverse the roles. What would be said if Craig publicly made unqualified comments about something within the field of Zoology. Dawkins hearing these statements requested an audience with him to debate his claims. Probably the two of them meeting together would seem necessary, and reasonable to most people. I listen to the reasonable doubts podcast. In one episode (title was ‘no atheists allowed’, I believe this is correct) they discuss last years request by Craig to debate Dawkins in the UK. However, they thought Dawkins should not do so because he is not a ‘philosopher’. So, they gave him a back door to escape through.
    it would seem reasonable If he wishes to make claims as he has done, then debate them. Also, Dawkins and they agreed it would only promote Craig’s visit. Something they did not think was good thing to do. So, not discussing publicly made philosophical statements with a qualified individual seems to be the strategy to adopt it would appear. Perhaps, if he lost the argument to Craig his status and cause would be damaged given his notoriety.

  • Nick, you Matt and other commenters seem oblivious to the fact that Dawkins effectively offered, and initiated, a debate with Craig – In the Guardian which has a far bigger readership than any meeting Craig can muster.

    He initiated it with an important point on morality and Craig’s endorsement of ethnic cleansing and infanticide. Craig did not take him up on it, even though his endorsement has lead to expressions of concern from some Christian members of his audience.

    Is Craig afraid to debate these important moral issues.? Or is he just unwilling to participate in a debate within a national well regarded newspaper?

    Either way it’s a pity – these are important issues, worth airing in the Guardian, and Craig has been allowed to run away from them.

  • Ken,
    Craig does not endorse ethnic cleansing he does not believe that the biblical text refers to ethnic cleansing.

    Nor does Craig endorse infanticide, as I point out above, Dawkins is on record supporting infanticide not Craig.

    Nor did Dawkin’s also did not “debate” anything in the guardian, he essentially lied about Craig’s academic credentials, ( as I have documented above) and then attacked Craig’s character. He actually offered no argument against Craig’s reasoning and in fact distorted what Craig’s argument was taking a position Craig adopted for the sake of argument as Craig’s actual position.

    I have offered an argument as to why Dawkin’s position is incoherent above. I note you have not responded to it.

    Keep ignoring the facts and engaging in the spin.
    While your at it you can point out where in the article above I compared Peter Singer to nazi death camps, you after all told your readers I did in your article on open parachute. Are you going to retract that claim?

    Don’t you think that these kind of rhetorical tactics on your part just a little dishonest?

  • Matt, it’s really really surprising then, if Dawkins was so wrong, that Craig did nothing to reply. He gave up the chance of putting his case to such a large audience.

    Doesn’t he know how to write?

    Talking about retracting claims, Matt. I had sort of assumed you were backing away from bad mouthing Singer as you refused to respond to my comments several days ago showing in detail where you had misinterpreted him and performed leaps of logic.

  • The response addresses what I said how? You might think changing the subject, and liberally committing the fallacy of argumentum e silentio counts as response. It doesn’t.

  • And so what does Craig “supporting” God’s ethnic cleansing have anything to do with God existing or not? Nothing. Unless the debate is about the bible or Christianity itself, in which case Dawkins debated Cardinal George Pell and the Archbishopo of Canterbury on that, and I’m pretty sure Dawkins assumed that Pell and Rowan Williams supported biblical violence, which shows that either Dawkins is hiding something or he just conveniently debates people when he wants and makes excuses to not do it when he doesn’t.
    Also, he already shared a group debate with Craig anyway, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3eQE5q_UP8.

  • Matt, change of subject, eh?

    You here misrepresented Singer. I asked you what your opinion was based on and showed how your interpretation was unwarranted. You responded with quotes from Singers book. I showed in detail where you had misinterpreted him and taken leaps of logic to fit your preconceived position. (See http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/end-of-life-decisions/)

    At that stage you withdrew. No wonder you complain about change of subject – you either can’t or don’t want to respond to a detailed critique of your analysis of Singer’s position.

    Craig is a one trick pony – he can’t handle normal intellectual discussion and hides behind a structured debate on irrelevant subjects. Why else would he not respond to Dawkins’ criticism? And give up such an ideal opportunity to communicate with so any readers?

  • It is pretty clear Ken to anyone with a basic grasp of logic. And again you are making the “and your horse was lame anyway”: fallacy.

    Let me spell it out to you:
    Here is your argument. See if you can spot where you went wrong. If not get back to me and I will explain further.

    Craig does not think there was ethnic cleansing in section X
    Craig supports the actions in section X
    ————————————————————–
    :. Craig supports a section in which he considers there is ethnic cleansing
    ————————————————————
    :. Craig supports ethnic cleansing

  • he can’t handle normal intellectual discussion and hides behind a structured debate on irrelevant subjects.

    And we all know structured debates are far easier than “normal intellectual discussions” online, hence the resounding success in debates of intellects such as Richard Dawkins.

  • Ken, that’s again a change of subject, I asked about your comment that I compared Singer to Nazi death camps, again can you substantiate that or are you going to change the subject again?

    Your response appears to be that Singer did not hold the view I ascribe to him. Even if that’s correct it does not show I compared him to the nazi’s does it?
    So again where is the claim above that I compared him to the Nazi’s, your so concerned about misrepresentation why do you do it?

    But as to you “showing” that Singer doesn’t hold the view I ascribed to him. Actually you show no such thing. In Practical Ethics Singer points out that on the total view of ultitarianism its justifiable to kill a disabled child even if it has a life worth living, provided one replaces it with a healthy child. I pointed out that in a footnote Singer states he holds the total existence view. You dismissed this as “mental gymnastics” unfortunately simply calling a citation names is not an argument, the only argument you cited was as follows.

    “Now, Matt I don’t think this is a valid evidence for you to claim that Singer advocates the “total” version of utilitarianism. He says specifically that he “originally tried to defend the prior existence view.” Parfitt changed his mind. It appears to me the change was to incorporate “other sentient creatures” (an argument Singer would appreciate) – not to advocate that killing is morally justified even when there is no damage.

    Actually this response simply shows your inability to read carefully, here is what the text says

    My discussion of the “total” and “prior existence” versions of utilitarianism owes much to Derek Parfit. I originally tried to defend the prior existence view in “A Utilitarian Population Principle,” in M. Bayles, ed., Ethics and Population (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 19760), but Parfit’s reply, “On Doing the Best for Our Children,” in the same volume, persuaded me to change my mind. Parfit’s Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984) is required reading for anyone wishing to pursue this topic in depth. See also his short account of some of the issues in “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life,”

    Here Singer talks about two different versions of ultitarianism, the total view and prior existence view. Seeing Singer is a ultitarian he must hold one of these views. He states he used to hold the prior existence view, but changed his mind due to the arguments of Derek Parfitt. If you look in Practical Ethics in you’ll note he discusses the total view and offers various arguments as to why it does not conflict with our moral practises, the arguments he gives are drawn from Derek Parfit. The book he cites above is a book by Derek Parfit which offers arguments in favour of total existence views regarding population. So Singer states there are two versions of the view he holds, A and B, he used to hold A but has changed his mind and has been convinced by the arguments Parfit made for B, that pretty clearly suggests he holds B.
    If someone had said, I used to hold evolution but I have abandoned it due to the arguments of Michael Behe in Darwin’s black box. I have no doubt whatsoever you would take this as clear proof the author supported Intelligent Design. The argument here is the same.
    Second your “interpretation” of this text is nonsense, you claim It appears to me the change was to incorporate “other sentient creatures” (an argument Singer would appreciate) – not to advocate that killing is morally justified even when there is no damage. The quote “other sentient creatures” is from the proceeding section which says.

    Parfit’s Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984) is required reading for anyone wishing to pursue this topic in depth. See also his short account of some of the issues in “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life,” in P. Singer, ed. Applied Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). Parfit uses the term “person-affecting” where I use “prior existence.” The reason for the change is that the view has no special reference to persons, as distinct from other sentient creatures.

    Here Singer does not claim he rejected the prior existence view because it does not incorporate the interest of other sentient creatures. He says he prefers the term “prior existence” to Parfits term “person effecting” because the former term (which describes the position Singer just said he was rejecting) has no special reference to persons and hence is more accurate account of the position. All that’s happened here is you have not read carefully and leapt on a statement without reading the context.
    As to Singer changing because of wanting to incorporate sentinet beinsg not to adopt the total view infants. This refuted by the fact Singer advocated the prior existence view regarding the issue of “human population” that is the ethics of bringing human infants into existence. Parfitts book is on the same topic. This is not about animal rights, which Singer wrote on in 1975, it’s the total existence view applied to people.
    The same failure to read occurs in your use of the quote from Being Silenced in Germany.

    ” Parents may not always be able to make an unbiased decision concerning the future of their infant, and their decisions may not be defensible. In some cases – Down’s syndrome perhaps – the outlook for the child might be for a life without suffering, but the child would need much more care and attention, over a longer period, than a normal child would require. . . . . . In these circumstances, given that the child will not be living a life of unredeemed misery, and the parents will not be coerced into rearing that child, they can no longer insist upon having the major role in life or death decisions for their child.”

    I note you put this quote on Openparachute and used it to suggest I am dishonest. I also note that you have placed a …… between the word “require” and “These circumstances” why did you snip the relevant section out Ken?
    I venture a suggestion, because in the section you snipped, Singer spells out the circumstances in which he thinks it’s impermissible for parents to kill a downs syndrome child. They were circumstances where “other couples” in the community were willing to take over care of the child and so the parents don’t have to if they don’t want to. In otherwords Singer here, consistent with what he says elsewhere claims disabled children lack any right to life at all and one should refrain from killing them only if adults want to look after them or choose to.
    If a downs syndrome child is unwanted and no one wants the burden of caring for it on Singers view there is nothing wrong will killing them. This of course was the view Max attributed to Singer and you suggested Max was mistaken in attributing to him . Ken why did you “snip” this section from the quote? I look forward to you changing the subject and finding a new reason to accuse some one of dishonesty.
    We then see your summary:

    #1: You have based your attack on Singer on a section of Practical Ethics where Singer compares the possible consequences of two different starting points (quite normal for an academic text and he provides no advocacy for either);

    2#: You make some claims and mention a footnote in a completely separate book to justify your interpretation that Singer would advocate the killing of new-born children even if completely normal. No quote of evidence provided – only your opinion.
    3#: The footnote turns out not to do anything of the sort but presumably enables you to do a bit of mental gymnastics to get the answer you want.
    4#: Anyway there are a number of places in practical Ethics where Singer clearly does differentiate between damaged and undamaged children in a way that clearly expresses his advocacy because he is defending himself against the sort of charge you are making.

    Matt, I really think this discussion is over. You have not provided any credible support for your claim.

    In fact Re# 1. I provided several quotes from practical ethics, including this one.

    In Chapter 4 we saw that the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. …. No infant – disabled or not – has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time.
    The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing. Most obviously there is the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents.

    Re #2, as you are aware the footnote was not in a “completely separate book” it was a reprint of the same article you cited in a latter book.
    Re#3, I deal with that above, in fact the so called “mental gymnastics” are simply you reading what Singer says about the terms used to describe a view he rejects not the reasons why he rejected the view, which is evident from reading in context.
    Re#4, Actually the other places you cite, were not from Practical Ethics but from an article he wrote called. On being Silenced in Germany, which was published in the “New York Review of Books.” Moreover when one includes the sentences you snipped, the position he holds there is entirely consistent with the position I attributed to him which was that disabled infants regardless of wether they are several disabled or not, have no right to life and its permissible kill them if the parents or society don’t want to look after them.
    I agree the conversation is over, you claimed I compared Singer to the Nazi’s. I didn’t. When I challenged you on this you did not admit error. Instead you tried to find another think to accuse me of , and then claimed I lied about Singer’s position and demanded quotes. I provided them, you then ignored what these quotes said, claimed they said something else and provided a further quote where you conveniently “snipped” a sentence.
    You also did not mention in here that in the exchange you claimed Singer claimed the total existence view was counter intuitive and I pointed out in context he said the opposite. Oddly enough that has dropped out of the conversation. You also claimed I lied about the BBC interview and Singer’s views on infanticide were not mentioned on the interview. I provided the interview, now your claim is that the interview suggests Singer had different opinions on infantice to the ones I claim. How can this be Ken if the interview never mentions infanticide which was what you said.
    This is the reason I don’t respond, not because I can’t or your arguments are compelling or anything but because you are dishonest you make a claim when its refuted you change the claim and pretent the new claim was the one under discussion, when that’s rebutted you do it again and again. You dance about looking for any claim that can be used to accuse others of lying if it does not support this you simply grab another, but you never retract the original false accusations.

    Now care to show where I claimed Singer was like the Nazi’s? Which was the original claim you made, or are we going to see you try and change the subject yet again to avoid the fact that you grossly misrepresented my article to your readers and continue to do so.

  • Yes Hugh, and the claim Craig can’t handle normal intellectual conversation and hides behind structured debate is odd, given Craig has written hundreds of normal peer reviewed articles in response to his critics over the years, most of whom he has not had a structured formal debate with? It also is odd given the 20 or so books he has written and the numerous lectures and conferences he puts forward his ideas in? I am not sure what Ken considers normal intellectual debate?

    Is it perhaps writing ad hominen attacks on people in the popular press? If so it kinda says more about Ken’s concept of normal intellectual debate than anything else.

  • Matt, could you please put your replies to my comments at Open Parachute as comments on that blog?

    The details of the discussion are intricate and it is important that your replies go together with your original comments and my replies to them.

    It will be impossible to hold this discussion in comments over two separate blogs.

    Thanks.

  • Max, if things are as simple as you suggest why did Craig not write his reply in the appropriate place – on the Guardian?

    We know he had to defend himself against Chiristian suppporters in hisi meetings who were shocked with his position. Why did he not try to explain himself to the mapny Guardian readers?

    He handed an easy victory to Dawkins by default and no amount of mental gymnastics on your part cn change that.

  • Hugh, your point is not at all clear to me. You seem to be avoiding e facts:

    Craig is a one trick pony who attempts to impose a structured debate format with his choice of subject and format. He is well know for his close and riigid control of these.

    Craig did not take up the opportunity of writing a reply in the Guardian, despite it’s huge readership. I suspect that he did not have the vision enabling him to appreciate the opportunity because he seems to be obsessed with his debate format.

    Consequently Dawkins’ assertion have stuck – even among many of Craig’s former supporters who have been shocked by his justification of biblical ethnic cleansing and infanticide.

  • “Max, if things are as simple as you suggest why did Craig not write his reply in the appropriate place – on the Guardian?”

    How the hell would I know? I have not read this famous Guardian article – nor can I read Craig’s mind! And what does this have to do with anyth8ing I said?

    Yet again you have managed to do a distraction tactic. However, having read the fault in your thought I hope it is clear to you even if you dare not loose face by admitting in in public!

  • You miss the point over and over that it would only be the case that Craig supported ethnic cleansing if HE (not you. Not Dawkins) thought that there was ethnic cleansing in this passage…

    Let me give you an analogy to help.

    lets say Bobby Bobstone is on trial for murdering SallySallstone, and *I* think he did not actually murder her. But *you* think Bobby did murder her.

    Now if I say “Bobby is a moral person” you can not then say that I support muder because I think a murderer is a moral person?

    Can you understand this Ken?

  • Max, you seem to want to argue Craig’s case for him. The fact that he decided not to take up the opportunity to defend his own case in the Guardian puts you somewhat at a disadvantage. Maybe that explains your clumsiness.

  • “Max, you seem to want to argue Craig’s case for him. The fact that he decided not to take up the opportunity to defend his own case in the Guardian puts you somewhat at a disadvantage. Maybe that explains your clumsiness.”

    One more distraction?

    How does what Craig did or did not do have an impact on the argument I have put before you? Stop obsessing over celebrities and engage with the issues themselves for once.

    I could not care less what Craig did or did not say to whoever – what I do care about is the fact that the argument you support is a fallacy. Care to comment on that?

  • I notice you also refuse to answer the direct questions Matt has posed for you too. A sort of pattern emerges.

  • Max, Matt has responded to only one (minor) point in my comments. He has completely ignored the rest – including the basic theoretical outline on which Singer bases his different responses to a new-born infant and an autonomous human, and his differentiation between a seriously damaged child (eg spina bifida), a less damaged child (don’t syndrome) and a healthy child.

    I will briefly respond to that minor point ( really a diversion) on Open Parachute where all the discussion has taken place (until this last comment of Matt’s). Personally I would welcome the opportunity to consider Matt’s response to the substantive comments I made about his misrepresentation of Singer. However, I suspect he is not going to respond to them.

    If you are referring to his claim that I claimed he had said “Singer was like the Nazis.” of course it didn’t occur but this sort of red herring is commonly used by Matt to obscure the real issues.

    Now Max, you participated in the discussion at Open Parachute so it is rather disingenuous to accuse me of avoiding any issue. Quite the contrary, as you know.

  • “Now Max, you participated in the discussion at Open Parachute so it is rather disingenuous to accuse me of avoiding any issue. Quite the contrary, as you know.”

    Well lets see shall we? How do you respond to the points I have made above? Not what do you think about Craig. Not have you answered Matt or has he answered you. How do you respond to what I have said above. No more distractions.

  • My response, Max, is that I have no idea what you are burbling about. it seems so confused and off topic.

    I just wish Matt would front up over my critique of his misrepresentation of Singer.

    That is the real issue

  • “My response, Max, is that I have no idea what you are burbling about. it seems so confused and off topic.”

    OK. You are not capable of understanding it. that is a fair and honest response. I will leave it at that.

  • I appreciate W.L. Craig’s public challenge of Dawkins’ criticisms of theism. Philosophically, Dawkins is probably out of his depths. I also appreciate Dawkins’ challenge of Craig’s defenses of what, to all appearance, are religiously motivated moral atrocities. Here we have instances of public intellectuals holding each other accountable on socially important views. What I cannot appreciate, however, are Flannagan’s ideologically slanted portrayals of all of the people involved: Dawkins, Craig, and Singer.

  • “What I cannot appreciate, however, are Flannagan’s ideologically slanted portrayals of all of the people involved: Dawkins, Craig, and Singer.”

    Can you elaborate how what I have said is “ideologically’ slanted? Also can you elaborate this into some kind of cogent argument or criticism?

  • I think it’s clear that Dawkins, Craig, and Singer have entered the realm of public advocacy. Such endeavors should be distinguished from scholarship, truth-seeking, and philosophy. In challenging one another to public debates, Dawkins and Craig are helping to hold each other accountable in their advocacy endeavors. In doing so Dawkins and Craig are not primarily seeking to discover truth or to improve their own ideas; rather, they are primarily seeking to score points against each other and influence public opinion. There’s still something good about that, as I noted.

    But now we have the opportunity to stand back and assess what’s going on between Dawkins and Craig. And we have a choice: we can either weigh in as advocates, cheerleading our own side and painting purely damning portrayals of the other, or we can aim for a more objective assessment. Flannagan chose the former. While Flannagan’s endeavor is not devoid of merit, I think the other choice would have been far better.

  • But now we have the opportunity to stand back and assess what’s going on between Dawkins and Craig. And we have a choice: we can either weigh in as advocates, cheerleading our own side and painting purely damning portrayals of the other, or we can aim for a more objective assessment. Flannagan chose the former. While Flannagan’s endeavor is not devoid of merit, I think the other choice would have been far better

    Again that’s an assertion, I asked you for reasons for your assessment. I have offered criticisims of Dawkin’s arguments and why I think they are incoherent and false. If you think these arguments are unsound your welcome to offer counter arguments. I have made some critical comments about Craig’s ideas in other blog posts. All you do here is assert I am cheerleading and attribute bad motives to me. That’s really not an answer to anything.

  • Matt, statements of reasons, observations, and facts all take the form of assertions. Any reason/observation/fact that I offer can therefore always be readily re-described as an assertion. But while you may think that such redescription is a sufficient dismissal, it is, quite clearly, empty.

    To see this, try asking yourself: are these remarks of mine assertions or observations or both?

    So instead of dismissing some statement as an “assertion” (the move of a sophist, not of a philosopher), you might try to instead to disavow such a move. Then, without that crutch, engage the statement(s) you want to dispute. Say why you think it is false–if that’s indeed what your honest and non-egotistical reflections leads you to believe.

  • Matt, statements of reasons, observations, and facts all take the form of assertions. Any reason/observation/fact that I offer can therefore always be readily re-described as an assertion. But while you may think that such redescription is a sufficient dismissal, it is, quite clearly, empty.

    To see this, try asking yourself: are these remarks of mine assertions or observations or both?

    So instead of dismissing some statement as an “assertion” (the move of a sophist, not of a philosopher), you might try to instead disavow such a move. Then, without that crutch, engage the statement(s) you want to dispute. Say why you think it is false–if that’s indeed what your honest and non-egotistical reflections leads you to believe.

  • kostya, it’s not good enough to just say that “Flannagan is doing x, and not doing x would be better”, you have to demonstrate how you think he is doing x, otherwise you aren’t providing anything substantive to discuss, just “observations” that may as well be flat out denied.

  • Hugh, you’ve just made assertions about what is “not good enough” and what I need to do. As such, they can be just flat out denied. :)

    Now notice the difference between the following two responses:
    (a) “You’ve just made assertions.”
    (b) “I disagree with your claims.”

    Why say (a) when all you really have is (b)? Maybe here’s why: in saying (a) you make it appear as if you’ve found a real fault with the claim. But, as we’ve seen, no claim is at fault for being an assertion. Therefore, the appearance is misleading. Therefore, to avoid sophistry, Flannagan should rather say something like (b). Notice, however, that if Flannagan says something like (b), then it’s more obvious that, at least with regard to form, his denial is more or less on equal footing with my affirmation of the claim. People will then be more likely to simply look at the claims themselves and to reflect on whether or not they are plausible. That is precisely what I’d like people to do–as opposed to dismissing my claims because Flannagan has simply labeled them as assertions.

  • @ Kostya

    But you made an observations/opinions without offering any reasons or supporting arguments ie an unfounded assertion and therefore not open to meaningful response.

    If you want engagement with your comments you will need to provide something for people to engage with.

  • Kosta, perhaps you should read carefully what I said

    Again that’s an assertion, I asked you for reasons for your assessment. I have offered criticisims of Dawkin’s arguments and why I think they are incoherent and false. If you think these arguments are unsound your welcome to offer counter arguments.

    Here when I contrasted assertions of a position with offering reasons for you assesment. In context then the term “thats an assertion” mean it was simply a claim with no supporting reasons provided for it. You’ll note I also provided a summary of the reasons or arguments for my position.

    Its simply false to claim as you did that asking a person respond to your arguments and offer some reasons for rejecting them is “sophistry”. Now again, can your provide some reasons for why you claim my position is “ideologically slanted” or inaccurate.

    As to the rest of what you say it simply involves the insinuation I am honest and egotistical. That again is not really an argument for your position either.

  • So instead of dismissing some statement as an “assertion” (the move of a sophist, not of a philosopher), you might try to instead disavow such a move. Then, without that crutch, engage the statement(s) you want to dispute. Say why you think it is false–if that’s indeed what your honest and non-egotistical reflections leads you to believe.

    OK here you suggest my position is sophistical because I dismissed it as an assertion and did not offer an argument for it. So your requiring people offer an argument before they dismiss something.The problem is that this is exactly what I asked you to do when you dismissed my position as “slanted” .

    Either people need to provide substantive arguments or they don’t. If they do then my original response was sound and you should withdraw the charge of sophistry. If its not then your objection which demands I offer an argument is unsound and you should withdraw it. Either way your response is unsound.

  • Jeremy, you made an observation without offering any reasons or supporting arguments. In other words, there is some observation that you made for which you did not also offer supporting arguments. But what of it? Take just about any comment in this thread (leave aside those comments that are merely questions, exclamations, and/or imperatives). You will find that every such comment, whether it is a long comment or a short one, is guilty as charged. What of it?

    Now you also claim that such observations (i.e., those for which supporting arguments aren’t offered) are “not open to meaningful response.” That’s simply false.

    In summary, you made one insignificant claim and one false one. Your last and remaining claim is therefore irrelevant but misleading.

  • Matt, before making a general response, let’s look at some of the particular comments you’ve made:

    Matt asserts, “Its simply false to claim as you did that asking a person respond to your arguments and offer some reasons for rejecting them is “sophistry””

    I have not made such a claim. To understand my claim about sophistry, please carefully read my response to Hugh.

    Matt asks, “Now again, can your provide some reasons for why you claim my position is “ideologically slanted.”

    For this please re-read my first two comments. Ask yourself this: what reasons might be inferred from the statements Kostya made prior to the disputed claims?

    Matt asserts, “As to the rest of what you say it simply involves the insinuation I am honest and egotistical.”

    It’s odd to say that I’ve “insinuated” that you are honest. With the phrase that concerns you, however, what I do suggest is the possibility that you may be responding with more defensiveness than is helpful. Your ego may have gotten too involved. Evidence of this is that the only bit of my comments that you discuss is the part that in which I mention you. Now this, of course, is a perfectly natural tendency. If, however, my suggestions (about the possibility of egotistical concern influencing your thinking) strike you as particularly hard to hear, this may in fact be evidence of the very possibility that I am suggesting.

    Mat asserts, “…then your objection which demands I offer an argument is unsound”

    But again, read my actual comments. You’ll search in vain for any such demand made by me. This of course is evidence that you have simply not read my comments with due care. And why? Again, given the patterns, the subject matter, and the forum, there’s the very real possibility of egotistical concern.

    Therefore my general advice (not a demand, mind you, just advice): re-read the conversation with more care, including my related responses to Hugh and Jeremy. Go to back to the beginning. Try to approach the comments afresh: not as an advocate, nor as an adversary, but rather as one attempting honest and non-ego-driven reflection and understanding.

  • Great. Another discussion thread that has descended into a Meta-argument. An argument about the nature of the argument…..

    You should make a “No Meta-arguments” rule!

  • Kostya, actually note the “otherwise” clause in my post, which preceeds the reason for my assertion.

  • Now notice the difference between the following two responses:
    (a) “You’ve just made assertions.”
    (b) “I disagree with your claims.”
    Why say (a) when all you really have is (b)? Maybe here’s why: in saying (a) you make it appear as if you’ve found a real fault with the claim. But, as we’ve seen, no claim is at fault for being an assertion. Therefore, the appearance is misleading. Therefore, to avoid sophistry, Flannagan should rather say something like (b).

    I disagree, this argument relies on the assumption that no claim is at fault for being an assertion but I’d contest that. As I noted when I said it was an assertion my point was that your claim was unsupported, no reasons were offered for thinking it true and hence it was unwarranted.

    Note that claiming something is unwarranted is not the same as (b): (b) is to assert the claim is false. A claim can be true and unwarranted, and claims can be false even though the evidence at a particular time might support the claim.

    So there is no sophistry here at all, pointing out a claim is unwarranted because no reason has been provided for it is not sophistry.

    So again, I ask you to provide some reasons for your conclusions.

  • It is likely, then, that you also think that a claim can be at fault for being a claim, and that a statement can be at fault for being a statement. Is this right?

    (Note, btw, that (b) is not equivalent to “the claim is false.” Consider their different truth conditions.)

  • It is likely, then, that you also think that a claim can be at fault for being a claim, and that a statement can be at fault for being a statement. Is this right?

    This getting tiresome, I’ll repeat it one last time, I think a claim can be one I have no reason to believe if its merely asserted and not supported by any reasons or argument.

    A statement could be true and impeccably correct, but if no one offers any reasons or grounds for thinking its true then that will usually mean I lack any basis for thinking its true.

  • I think a claim can be one I have no reason to believe if its merely asserted and not supported by any reasons or argument.

    Yes, but you should also recognize that a claim can be one that you have good reason to believe even if it is merely asserted. That the claim is asserted simply isn’t a reason for faulting it. As such, it is odd to think that a “claim is at fault for being an assertion,” as you evidently still insist.

  • Yes, but you should also recognize that a claim can be one that you have good reason to believe even if it is merely asserted.

    What makes you think that your claims about matt’s post being “ideologically slanted” and him just cheerleading for his own side are claims that we have good reason to believe in spite of it being merely asserted?

  • Matt, maybe it would help to look at this from another direction. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you are right. That is, suppose that an assertion should be faulted if, when it is asserted, no one offers further reasons for believing that it is true. That, I take it, is your assertion. Call this your “original assertion.”

    Such a position runs into error. In particular, it is self-undermining: if your original assertion is true, then it should be faulted. But suppose you are crafty and you offer further reasons for your original assertion. This doesn’t get you out of trouble entirely, because each of these further reasons that you offer are also assertions. If you don’t offer reasons for those assertions, and if you don’t offer reasons for those reasons for those assertions, then, while you may have offered reasons for your assertion, these reasons must themselves be faulted if your original assertion is still correct. One way out of this trap is try to offer a circular sort of argument. For example, the reasons you offer for your original assertion might themselves be supported by the original assertion. Is that the kind of argument you want to try to make? If so, perhaps you could spell it out. I don’t see how it should go.

  • “Yes, but you should also recognize that a claim can be one that you have good reason to believe even if it is merely asserted.”

    If I have reasons for it or grounds for it then its not “merely” asserted.

  • Koysta

    Such a position runs into error. In particular, it is self-undermining: if your original assertion is true, then it should be faulted. But suppose you are crafty and you offer further reasons for your original assertion. This doesn’t get you out of trouble entirely, because each of these further reasons that you offer are also assertions. If you don’t offer reasons for those assertions, and if you don’t offer reasons for those reasons for those assertions, then, while you may have offered reasons for your assertion, these reasons must themselves be faulted if your original assertion is still correct.

    I am well aware of the “regress argument” I learnt it in epistemology 101 some time ago. I also have referred to it on occasion in this blog.

    I agree that if one claimed that every assertion needed to be backed up with an argument before one could rationally accept it then one would have an self undermining position.

    But I did not say that, I said one particular assertion , the one you made that my “portrayals of Singer, Dawkins and Craig ideologically slanted” is one I and may of my readers would be unwarranted in accepting as you offered no reasons for it.
    It’s true that to avoid a regress there needs to be beliefs which one believes that are not based on argument. (basic beliefs) Normally, these beliefs however while not having arguments are ones we have certain grounds for, such as experience in the form of perceptual or rational intuition.

    Moreover even beliefs which are basic can require justification if someone offers an argument against those beliefs.

    In this case my position is that I have no grounds for accepting your belief in a basic way, I have no reasons for accepting it, and I have offered arguments against it above.

    I note you still avoid actually providing any reasons for your assertion. Despite this.

    Again can you provide any reasons for your claim my comments were ideologically slanted? That I was “cheerleading” and so on?

  • If I have reasons for it or grounds for it then its not “merely” asserted.

    I think there is some confusion here, but I think I can demonstrate your error.

    It’s important to differentiate several cases. Let P be a proposition. P can be asserted or not. And you can have grounds for believing P, or you can lack grounds for believing P. Whether or not P is asserted is independent of whether or not you have grounds for believing P. This allows four distinct cases:

    1. P is asserted and you have grounds for believing P.
    2. P is asserted and you lack grounds for believing P.
    3. P is not asserted and you have grounds for believing P.
    4. P is not asserted and you lack grounds for believing P.

    We can now add a further factor: whether or not grounds for believing P are asserted. Consider this factor only with regard to cases 1 and 2:

    1′: P is asserted and you have grounds for believing P, and grounds for believing P are asserted.

    1”: P is asserted and you have grounds for believing P, and grounds for believing P are not asserted.

    2′: P is asserted and you lack grounds for believing P, and grounds for believing P are asserted.

    2”: P is asserted and you lack grounds for believing P, and grounds for believing P are not asserted.

    Of all the heretofore considered cases, which are the cases in which P is “merely asserted”? I would say that the cases in which P is merely asserted are simply those cases in which P is asserted, but that grounds for believing P are not asserted. In other words, cases 1” and 2” are cases in which P is merely asserted.

    Your apparent error, then, is that you only consider cases of type 2”, failing to acknowledge the possibility of 1”. The possibility of 1” shows that your claim, which I quoted at the beginning of this comment, is false.

  • Kostya, again you are not attending carefully to what was said, and also avoiding the key issue.

    I agree you could have grounds for a proposition without asserting those grounds. Moreover if you did then you would be rational in believing that proposition regardless of the fact it was merely asserted.But that was not my point, I was not commenting on the rationality of your beliefs.

    My point was this: In a discussion thread there is a dialogue where people offer reasons to each other, for why the other person should accept a particular proposition. In this context we can ask wether you have provided others with adequate reasons or grounds for the claims you make.

    In this context you offered public criticisms of my article for others to considered. However you did not offer me nor my readers any reasons for the conclusions you draw. Hence, in the context of a discussion you offered us an unsupported claim. It may well be that you have grounds for that claim, but unless you offer me or my readers reasons why we should accept the claim, it remains one that is unwarranted for us to accept.

    You confusing to issues: what its rational for you to believe, and what conclusions its warranted for other people to accept in a dialogue or debate context.

    An example: I am accused of a crime, the prosecution provides various lines of evidence for the claim I committed the crime. I however did not do this, and I know this because I remember the night was in another city.

    In this situation I have grounds for thinking I am innocent. If however I simply turn up in court and say, “I am innocent” and fail to rebut any of the evidence presented against me. Fail to explain that I remember clearly not being there, and fail to present any positive evidence that I was in another city such as allibi witnesses and so on, but simply assert my innocence. The jury will be unwarranted in thinking I am innocent. One could in this context legitimately say my assertion was unsupported and I had provided the court with an unwarranted assertion.

    So again I ask you what reasons do you have for your assertion that my article is “cheerleading” and “idealogically slanted”

  • Kostya, again you are not attending carefully to what was said….

    The problem is rather I am attending to precisely what you have written, and that you have been refusing to do the same. You want me to overlook what you precisely said so that you can instead argue for something else without acknowledging your errors. The problem, however, is that even in framing the very matter that you want to discuss, you repeat the very errors that I am very patiently trying to get you to see, acknowledge, and disown. In repeating these errors you also inhibit clear analysis of the more substantive matters. If I cannot get you to acknowledge the more formal errors that you are making (which errors are muddying the waters), I cannot reasonably expect to make progress with you on the more substantive issues.

    My previous comment (July 24, 6:49am) is a clear and decisive refutation of one of your claims. You cannot reasonably expect to encounter on a blog thread a clearer or more decisive refutation of a claim. Now, if you cannot straightforwardly acknowledge the falsity of your refuted claim, then it would be foolish for me to think that we could make progress on the more substantive matters that you want to discuss. Those matters, after all, are not only more personal (recall the very real possibility of interference from the ego), but–like in most other substantive matters–they will not admit of such clear demonstrations, one way or the other.

  • Kostya wrote:

    “Your apparent error, then, is that you only consider cases of type 2”, failing to acknowledge the possibility of 1”. The possibility of 1” shows that your claim, which I quoted at the beginning of this comment, is false.”

    Right, you could assert a proposition p, and provide no reasons for thinking p, and yet I your interlocutor have good reasons for thinking p, so a claim can be a mere assertion and yet a person have reasons for believing it. Granted. So the phrase you highlight was strictly speaking false.

    The problem again Koysta is that this is irrelevant to the issue at hand because when I objected to your claim being a mere assertion, that is a claim made without you offering any supporting reasons for it. I was suggesting your claim was a case of 2”. I was asking you to provide me and my readers grounds or reasons for you conclusion because I don’t see any reason to accept it apart from your mere say say so.

    So while your correct that a claim can be a mere assertion and yet unproblematic in cases 1’’ Your claim was a mere assertion of the form 2’ not 1’’. So really this observation does nothing to deflect my criticisms. Pointing out that a different kind of mere assertion to the one you made is unproblematic does not show yours is unproblematic.

    So again, can you actually provide any reasons for your claims, or do you want to keep evading this request by talking about other things and then making insinuations that other people may have “ego” issues.

    I’d be interested in discussing whether my objections to Dawkin’s are sound and whether I have read Craig correctly. I don’t appreciate accusations I have been a cheer leader and they are ideologically slanted by people who then refuse to back those accusations up with any credible evidence after repeated requests.

  • Fishing for blind fish is poor sport. Stop it.

  • “The problem again Koysta [sic] is that this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Not so. To see why, consider what happens if we allow your supposedly irrelevant claim to stand. We allow the following inference:

    1. P is a mere assertion.
    2. Therefore, I have no grounds for believing P.

    The inference from 1 to 2 is licensed by Flannagan’s false, but supposedly irrelevant claim, namely his claim that if he has grounds for believing a claim, then such a claim is not merely asserted.

    Suppose now that P is the claim that Flannagan’s portrayals of Dawkins, Craig, and Singer are ideologically slanted. Suppose, further, that this claim were “merely asserted” (this is probably also false, but let’s deal with one error at a time). If we allow Flannagan’s false claim to pass unchallenged, then we open the door for him to more easily conclude that he has no grounds for believing that his portrayals of Dawkins, Craig, and Singer are ideologically slanted. But, quite obviously, Flannagan shouldn’t draw such a conclusion so easily–and certainly not on such grounds! If, then, we want to block such an ill-founded but self-gratifying inference, we must take care to resist Flannagan’s oft-repeated false claim that if a claim is merely asserted, then he has no grounds for believing it. I have provided such resistance in the form of clear and decisive refutations of Flannagan’s false claim.

  • Dear Matt,

    Would I debate Craig? No. Why? Based on the evidence of debates that he has participated in (You Tube ) I have concluded that this man is “unreasonable”
    Why is he unreasonable?
    Because by now he should have changed his opinion and position on many aspects of his beliefs. …and why… “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?”

    Many of the debates that Craig participates in are crude and ingenious. Craig argues points of view/opinion by stating specific context and ignoring the generality of the hypothesis of religion. In my opinion you (Matt) can be accused of the same thing.
    Look at how many words you took to explain your argument above and then you criticize the various respondents who attempt to engage you on it. Your responses to these people are nit-picking and condescending.

    Dawkins has nothing to prove to you or Craig or any of us for that matter.

    Pete
    p.s. My apologies for not keeping up with your blog posts – It has been busy here in Chch

  • “Craig argues points of view/opinion by stating specific context and ignoring the generality of the hypothesis of religion.”

    I’m not even sure what you’re referring to, but where precisely is an example of Craig doing whatever it is? It may be that he did such a thing, I don’t know without specifics.

  • “The problem again Koysta [sic] is that this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.”
    Not so. To see why, consider what happens if we allow your supposedly irrelevant claim to stand. We allow the following inference:
    1. P is a mere assertion.
    2. Therefore, I have no grounds for believing P.
    The inference from 1 to 2 is licensed by Flannagan’s false, but supposedly irrelevant claim, namely his claim that if he has grounds for believing a claim, then such a claim is not merely asserted.

    I suggest you re read my comment above and look carefully at how you have misrepresented it.

    Here you quote me saying “this is irrelevant to the issue at hand” and go on to suggest that the “this” the claim “if he has grounds for believing a claim, then such a claim is not merely asserted” You then argue that this claim is highly relevant because if its affirmed it refutes your position.

    The problem is that that was not the claim I was referring to when I made the comment you quoted, as a simple reading of the context shows. Here is what I said:

    Right, you could assert a proposition p, and provide no reasons for thinking p, and yet I your interlocutor have good reasons for thinking p, so a claim can be a mere assertion and yet a person have reasons for believing it. Granted. So the phrase you highlight was strictly speaking false.
    The problem again Koysta is that this is irrelevant to the issue at hand

    Here I do not say that the claim “if he has grounds for believing a claim, then such a claim is not merely asserted” was irrelevant, What I said was that the reasons you gave for thinking that claim are is false are irrelevant to the issue at hand. I also provided reasons why I think these reasons, not the claim you refer to, is irrelevant in the rest of the comment.

    This response simply highlights a point I made earlier. Instead of responding to what I actually said, evidenced by reading the comment in question in its context. You have snipped a comment out of context. Written a detailed rebuttal to an argument I did not make, and ignored the argument I did make.

    Perhaps however a simple clarificatory question will clear everything up.

    If someone responds to another persons argument by asserting the author of the argument is “cheer leading” and is “ideologically slanted” and they offer no reasons for this conclusion, is this in anyway a defective response to the authors argument?

  • Pete

    Why is he unreasonable?
    Because by now he should have changed his opinion and position on many aspects of his beliefs. …and why… “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?”

    If you could highlight some “facts” which have changed and rationally require Craig to change his mind on many of his beliefs, that would be interesting. I often here rationalist claim that Theism is false, stupid irrational and obviously so given the facts, it’s a lot harder however to find any actual arguments which show this.

    Many of the debates that Craig participates in are crude and ingenious. Craig argues points of view/opinion by stating specific context and ignoring the generality of the hypothesis of religion.

    I second Machines comments above.

    In my opinion you (Matt) can be accused of the same thing.
    Look at how many words you took to explain your argument above and then you criticize the various respondents who attempt to engage you on it. Your responses to these people are nit-picking and condescending.

    Not sure how any of this calls into question my argument, you suggest my character is condescending, that may or may not be true, but it says nothing about the truth or falsity of the claims I made or the validity of the arguments.

    You note my writing took “ a lot of words” but I am not sure how the number of words used discredits the validity of an argument.

    As to being “nit picking” again I am not sure what your referring to, but even if my comments nit pick, does that show they are false, or the argument is unsound?

    Dawkins has nothing to prove to you or Craig or any of us for that matter.

    I disagree, Dawkin’s wrote a book that claimed Theism was a delusion, he claimed to have esthablished in that book that there is almost certainly “no God” he publically claimed he would refute any critic of the book. He then enthusatically entered into public debates with representatives of theism to establish this. I think when someone with Craig’s credentials wants to criticise the arguments in Dawkin’s book he does actually have some responsibility to listen to them and either offer an answer or make appropriate corrections. To lie about their credentials publically, attack their character and refuse to answer really is not a rational response and is unbecoming someone claiming to be scientific.

  • Dawkins actually debated Kirk Cameron? Yikes. That’s just juvenile desperation, as well as face-down-in-the-gutter embarrassing.

    I don’t think Dawkins owes anyone anything. But the bottom line is: until and unless Dawkins debates Craig, he will freakin never live it down. Ever.

  • Machine, my understanding is that Dawkin’s agreed to debate Cameron, but Cameron pulled out. At least that’s what Dawkin’s says on this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhmsDGanyes.

  • Here I do not say that the claim “if he has grounds for believing a claim, then such a claim is not merely asserted” was irrelevant, What I said was that the reasons you gave for thinking that claim are is false are irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Matt, since the falsity of the claim is demonstrably relevant to the issue at hand (as I have shown), so too are the reasons for thinking that the claim is false–particularly because the demonstrably false claim is an error that you have been repeating.

    That’s rather straightforward. One is tempted to suspect you of deliberately obfuscating. Please help me resist that temptation.

  • Kostya

    Matt, since the falsity of the claim is demonstrably relevant to the issue at hand (as I have shown), so too are the reasons for thinking that the claim is false–particularly because the demonstrably false claim is an error that you have been repeating.

    That is mistaken:

    First, you did not show the “falsity” of the claim was relevant. Your argument was that the “truth” of the claim was relevant. Note what you argued.

    If we allow Flannagan’s false claim to pass unchallenged, then we open the door for him to more easily conclude that he has no grounds for believing that his portrayals of Dawkins, Craig, and Singer are ideologically slanted. But, quite obviously, Flannagan shouldn’t draw such a conclusion so easily–and certainly not on such grounds!

    Here you argue a particular claim is relevant because if we grant it , then it makes a difference to the conclusion. In otherwords, you argue that the claim is such that if it is true we can easily esthablish the conclusion in question.

    However, the fact that the truth of a claim is relevant to a question does not mean the falsity of the claim is. Here is an example: suppose a person gives three arguments A1 A2 and A3 for a proposition P. Each argument is independent of the other and such that if the premises the argument are true the truth of P follows self-evidently.

    Now take one of these arguments A1, the truth of the premises of A1, by itself is obviously relevant to whether P is true. If they are true we have established P and its impossible that P be false. However, the falsity of these premises A1 would not make a difference to the question of whether P is true. Because even if the premises of A1 are false, the premises of A2 and A3 could be true and if they were P is still true regardless of the falsity of A1’s premises. In fact, even if the premises of A1 A2 and A3 are all false that still does not make a difference to the truth of P it only shows we have failed to prove it. Consequently, while the truth of the premises of A1 is relevant to the question is P1 true there falsity is not.

    Consquently your argument that if you granted the inference in question were true that would be highly relevant does not show that your arguments for the falsity of this claim are relevant.
    Second, in my comment above I offered an argument that even if you grant the inference is false, the reasons you give for this conclusion are irrelevant. Responding to this argument by asserting “since the falsity of the claim is demonstrably relevant to the issue at hand (as I have shown), so too are the reasons for thinking that the claim is false” does not rebut it, any more than my asserting that your argument is unsound rebuts you.

    I know the fact that asserting an argument is unsound does not actually provide a rebuttal of the argument, is something you find hard to grasp. But unfortunately it’s correct.

    But I note again you have ignored my question to you: Do you think responding to an argument by simply asserting the author of the argument is “cheerleading” and “ideologically slanted” rebuts the argument. Yes or No.

  • Kostya
    To save us all time, my response to all your above comments and any future ones along the same lines is as follows:

    Those arguments are ideologically slanted, you’re a cheer leader.

    I take it you think this constitutes an adequate rebuttal of your position?

  • If we allow Flannagan’s false claim to pass unchallenged, then we open the door for him to more easily conclude that he has no grounds for believing that his portrayals of Dawkins, Craig, and Singer are ideologically slanted.

    If, however, we demonstrate the falsity of Flannagan’s claim, then we block that opening. Hence, the showing the falsity of Flannigan’s claim is relevant.

    Again, that’s fairly straightforward. You’re not making a very good case for yourself Matt.

  • Given at Jul 25, 2012 at 11:09 am I offered an argument that your case for it “was” irrelevant, and given in the previous comment I just pointed out other reasons why blocking one inference for a conclusion is irrelevant to the truth of the conclusion. Responding by “asserting” that its relevant is not a rebuttal. I see this point is still lost on you.

    But I’ll refer you to the post above. Those arguments are ideologically slanted, you’re a cheer leader.

    Stop fighting Kostya, the phrase in italics is by ,your logic, clearly an adequate rebuttal of your position. You have spent much of this thread claiming defending responses like this. So either retract you arguments or admit this type response is inadequate.

  • Matt, from the very beginning you latched onto the one part of my comments that mentioned you, you lifted it out of context, and thereafter you have reacted with ego and emotion. When I attempted to clear the air with some formal points that would also set the stage for reasoning about the more contentious and personal matters that so concerned you, you objected and obfuscated at every step, repeating and insisting upon the very falsities that were obstructing an unbiased and level-headed discussion.

    You are putting your reasoning powers to bad use. I would therefore advise you to take a break from this thread. Then–perhaps much later–when you can be confident that your emotions and defensiveness have subsided, come back and revisit this thread. When you read through it then, you might even consider imagining that the disputant and the subject matter of this thread is not you but someone else.

  • To be fair to Matt–and as I believe I suggested earlier–it is entirely natural to respond with particular interest to a criticism directed towards oneself. I do not fault Matt for that. Nor do I think that it was obvious from the beginning that Matt’s self-defensiveness was negatively influencing his responses. I think, however, that this has become clear as the thread has “progressed”. This of course is an assertion, but hopefully now we won’t infer from this that we have no grounds for acknowledging it.

  • Kostya, interestingly again when I offer an argument again we get an assertion followed by insinuations of motives.

    Despite repeatedly being asked to back up your claims with some kind of reason, you refused to do so. Finally when I applied your own reasoning to yourself you say “its time to take a break” and accuse me of being emotional.

  • Matt, what you are calling arguments are obfuscations. This is not productive. Can you at least acknowledge that?

    Let this thread rest for a month. You can email me then, and we can both have a fresh look at it.

  • Kostya, interestingly again when I offer an argument you again respond with assertion followed by insinuations of bad motives, deception and so on.

    You made an assertion, I asked you to offer reasons for it. You offered another assertion. I pointed out that was an assertion and not reasons. You then went on a tangent defending the propriety of simply making assertions in response to arguments.

    At no time did you actually provide the reasons I asked for.

    Funnily, Now when I respond to you with the same assertions you made to begin with. You suggest this is evidence I am emotional, engage in bad reasoning. The problem is Kostya, that response was simply the same response you made. I agree its bad reasoning and emotional, the problem is you have spent the rest of the thread defending it.

    I agree the conversation should stop. Your clearly more interested in making assertions attacking peoples motives and refusing to actually back these assertions up. You also clearly recognize this is bad reasoning when its applied to your own position. Consequently, there is no good faith in this conversation.

  • I hear you Matt. It is entirely natural to feel this way. Let’s recognize that, let it rest, and come back to it later.

  • Is Dawkins a hypocrite, a liar, a cynical opportunist or just logically confused? I leave my readers to decide.

    Dawkins is a hypocrite, a liar, and a cynical opportunist … who preys upon (and encourages the state) a public that is logically, and morally, confused. Why, I even used his own written words to show this two years ago.

  • Ilion, I think one can find serious credibility holes in many things Dawkin’s says, here for example is a post which raises some questions about his quotations of early church figures like Augustine http://sntjohnny.com/front/outright-lies-illiteracy-or-just-bad-scholarship/33.html.

  • Ilion, I think one can find serious credibility holes in many things Dawkin’s says, …

    Sure, but but one might charitably put that down to an honest mistake — and those who make a fetish of “charity” and “civility” will never be convinced that such an interpretation has been exhausted.

    What I showed, among other things, is that Dawkins doesn’t believe, and knows he doesn’t believe, and even openly admits that he does not believe, the false materialistic-based things he wants to convince the gullible to believe.

    In other words, Dawkins is a hypocrite, a liar, and a cynical opportunist … who seeks to logically (and morally) confuse the public.

    What I showed, among other things, is that Dawkins doesn’t believe, and knows he doesn’t believe, and even openly admits that he does not believe, the false materialistic-based things he wants to convince the gullible to believe.

  • Two quick things. Please do not misrepresent Singer in the same way you claim Dawkins misrepresents Craig, lest you, too, should be guilty of hypocrisy. Singer does not “advocate” infanticide. This is a ridiculous distortion of his attitude, and if you took the time to read Practical Ethics, you would discover this for yourself.

    Second, regarding the following statement: “…widespread use of literary hyperbole whereby victories are described in sweeping rhetoric of killing absolutely everyone… ”

    And what exactly does it say about the biblical authors that they thought such hyperbole was actually a good idea? Not much.

    Having said all this, I agree with many points in your post. Dawkins has not been particularly convincing in his refusal to debate Craig. In fact, given a bit of proper preparation, Dawkins could easily take down Craig’s arguments, which other philosophers have already done anyway.

    Perhaps part of the problem is that Craig refuses to acknowledge mistakes in his own arguments when they’re pointed out to him, and insists on making them again and again.

  • Keith, thanks for your comments, you write

    Two quick things. Please do not misrepresent Singer in the same way you claim Dawkins misrepresents Craig, lest you, too, should be guilty of hypocrisy. Singer does not “advocate” infanticide. This is a ridiculous distortion of his attitude, and if you took the time to read Practical Ethics, you would discover this for yourself.

    Perhaps you could be specific as to the alleged misrepresentation of Singer. I have read “Practical Ethics” and in fact I refer to that book in the above post. In fact a copy of one relevant chapter Practical Ethics is available here: http://www.utilitarianism.net/singer/by/1993—-.htm
    If you look at this chapter you’ll see a section called “justifying infanticide” and if you read this you’ll see my summary is accurate. Singer explicitly states that infants lack a right to life, and the only reason its wrong to kill them is because it upsets their parents and other people who desire they not die. He also goes on to argue that, in cases where the child is disabled and if the parents or society don’t wan to care for it killing infants is permissible. Here is how he sums the section up Nevertheless the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all.

    Second, regarding the following statement: “…widespread use of literary hyperbole whereby victories are described in sweeping rhetoric of killing absolutely everyone… ”
    And what exactly does it say about the biblical authors that they thought such hyperbole was actually a good idea? Not much.

    Not sure what the objection is supposed to be, is it that using hyperbole shows low moral character? That seems odd, suppose I say to my son “the all blacks walloped the wallabies, totally killed there defence” is that immoral?
    Suppose however one grants your point and concludes that the human authors of scripture had moral flaws, not sure how this is an objection. No notion of biblical authority I am aware of holds that the human authors are morally perfect or even that the manner of expression they use is perfect. Inerrancy is the view that what the biblical text teaches is true.

    Having said all this, I agree with many points in your post. Dawkins has not been particularly convincing in his refusal to debate Craig. In fact, given a bit of proper preparation, Dawkins could easily take down Craig’s arguments, which other philosophers have already done anyway.

    I don’t share you estimate of Dawkins and Craig. While I don’t agree with or endorse all Craig’s arguments, the suggestion that they can be “easily” be taken down, or that philosophers have done so seems to me to grossly overstate things. The issues in the Kalam for example are complex and rely on very thorny issues in Philosophy of time, big bang cosmology, and questions about the ontological status of mathematics, interpretations of quantum mechanics, and Cantorian mathematics. To suggest that these are “easily” answered is quite frankly false.
    Moreover, the suggestion that Dawkins has the ability to do this is I think ridiculous. Dawkins own work shows he does not even understand the cosmological argument let alone have the ability to respond competently.

    Perhaps part of the problem is that Craig refuses to acknowledge mistakes in his own arguments when they’re pointed out to him, and insists on making them again and again

    Note sure what evidence you have for this. In his book Craig has repeatedly responded to leading critics of his argument in the philosophical literature. You may not agree with these responses but to suggest he is silent and never does so is false. One only has to follow his scholarly writings to see this. Most of the debates I have followed, his opponents don’t raise any substantive arguments he has not already addressed in these writings.