Tag Archives: Chris Hallquist

We Don’t Need to Defend Our Case

CL_062313_stop_avoiding_criticism_329296110At long last, we’ve reached the end of Chris Hallquist’s“William Lane Craig Exposed”. Hallquist decides to close this chapter with a commentary of Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig.

This issue has become something of a bygone matter, and I doubt that there’s much more to be said about it. Even Hallquist struggles to add anything to the discussion–simply repeating Dawkins own statements, and implying that it was Craig, rather than others (including many atheists), who accused Dawkins of cowardice for not debating.

But I see no point in beating that drum. Any chance of the debate happening is gone, and we all know how it would have gone. An actual debate would have simply been a formality, and the fact that Dawkins refused, I think, turned out to be a bigger victory than a debate would have been.

This is because it showed so clearly that both Dawkins and his fans can pretty consistently be found attempting to insulate themselves from the same sort of criticism they are quick to fire at others, in spite of the fact that Dawkins lists being open to criticism in his own revision of the Ten Commandments.

He refuses debates, his fans refuse to defend their views:

For instance, very few of Dawkins’ supporters will defend his Boeing 747 argument. Nor will they support the materialism they passionately embrace. Even the term “atheism” has been redefined by them as “a lack of belief” in order to avoid having to defend it as a position. Personally, I can’t think of any argument in The God Delusion that the New Atheists are still willing to defend.

This leaves me to wonder why they are still following him.

Really, the only thing that the New Atheists are as consistent about as their hatred of religion is their refusal to offer a logical defense for any actual claim. This seems odd coming from the self-proclaimed champions of reason and science–who complain that religion is holding back the advancement of knowledge and insist that one should have evidence ready on demand for anything one claims.

Not that they don’t make claims. Dawkins publicly maintained that raising children Catholic is child abuse for more than a decade before someone finally asked him for supporting evidence. The best he could do was to say that it was “intuitively very reasonable”.

If these are the kinds of defenses we hear from a man who demands overwhelming support from the opposition, it’s no wonder that neither he nor his intellectual disciples are eager to put their position forward for careful examination.

That being the case, I feel it best to move on from the New Atheists, and interact with a more reasonable opposition to Christian theism. To fail to acknowledge that there are more sophisticated atheists than them is to make the same mistake they make about theists.

As such, I’ll be moving on to some more serious thinkers in my next series.

Historians are Biased: so Trust Conspiracy Theorists

conspiracy-theoriesContinuing on with Chris Hallquist’s “William Lane Craig Exposed”, I waded through several pages of insults and accusations of dishonesty before reaching actual content. In this case, it was a discussion of the argument for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

This discussion, predictably enough, opens with more accusations of dishonesty.

I’ll not comment on that, except to say in passing that it misses the point of whether or not the argument is a good one. Craig asserts that most Biblical scholars accept the following facts to be true:

1. Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb, which was later found empty

2. Jesus’ followers claimed to have seen him alive after his death

3. Jesus’ followers came to sincerely believe that he’d been resurrected

Hallquist points out that there are some scholars who deny one or more of these facts. This is both true and entirely consistent with Craig’s claim. After all, he claimed only that the majority agreed with him on these points. In any field of study, there is always a fringe of disagreement about nearly any topic. Even Bart Ehrman, though he emphatically denies the truth of the resurrection, agrees with Craig on these points.

Hallquist, then, simply sides with the minority view. This is his right, of course, but it hardly establishes atheism as the only, or even the most, reasonable position. Much less does it establish that Craig’s position is nearly so unreasonable or dishonest as Hallquist (repeatedly) claims.

Really, one would think a chapter called “William Lane Craig Exposed” would have juicier gossip in it than “Craig claimed that the majority agrees with him, and that’s true, but some people disagree”.

As to Craig’s actual argument, it is simply that the Christian interpretation is the most reasonable explanation of these facts. This is understandable, as there is no competing theory among experts; the positions are “Resurrection” and “We have no idea what happened”. But, while one may or may not agree with Craig, it is no good to take the approach that Hallquist does.

That is, he references several different scenarios, each of which are known by historians to be implausible, in an attempt to use them together against Criag’s position.

For instance, Hallquist suggests that the disciples were simply hallucinating, and completely ignores that this theory has been discredited. He does nothing at all to address the reasons why the overwhelming majority of experts reject this view, but simply throws out other discredited theories. After five or six, we’re apparently supposed to throw up our hands and agree that the resurrection must not have happened.

No good scholar tries to counter a theory in this way. Certainly, it is hard to imagine Hallquist rejecting the cosmological model he defended earlier simply because I can name quite a few discredited speculations which contradict it.

But Hallquist has a reason why his interpretation is dismissed by the experts: they are nearly all Christians, and don’t want to say anything too embarrassing for their religion. Of course, this completely overlooks the fact that it is not merely the Christian scholars who disagree with him (again I reference Ehrman). It also overlooks the fact that making bold claims is how one makes one’s name as an historian. This is how conspiracy theories about the Bible were begun, after all.

As when discussing Craig, the only argument Hallquist seems to have against those who disagree with him is to throw out the accusation of dishonesty. He never seems to realize that, to defend his atheism, he actually has to give us a reason to think that the experts are wrong. Simply implying that one can’t trust a Christian, any Christian, when many of the people disagreeing with him aren’t Christian is a conspiracy theory of his own, not a defense of rational thought.

At this point in the chapter, Hallquist takes a break from attacking the honesty of historians to spend a few more pages attacking the honesty of William Lane Craig. But I don’t think this warrants a response. Really, if conspiracy theories and personal attacks are the best Hallquist has to offer for his position, I don’t think he has any right to accuse others of biased thinking. One would think that, if he had a reason why Craig’s argument was wrong, he’d simply give it, and skip all the pointless and unsupported accusations flung at his enemies.

And this seems a common trait among Hallquist and his fellow New Atheists: loud emotive attacks in the guise of “reason” and “science”. Actual reason and science is fairly slim in this book.

Hallq’s Uncredible “Yo Mamma” Attack

hulk screamContinuing on in “William Lane Craig Exposed”, Chris Hallquist attempts to refute Craig’s arguments for God’s existence. While Hallquist makes some good points, he can’t seem to resist flinging accusations of dishonesty at Craig.

He states repeatedly that this is done for the purpose of inculcating people against trusting Craig as a valid source of information. But there seems to be two obvious problems with Hallquist’s approach.

1. Nothing in these accusations shows any of Craig’s claims to be false.

2. The accusations are themselves poorly supported.

After making (failed) attempts at refuting most of Craig’s arguments (which are themselves peppered with accusations of dishonesty), Hallquist pauses to dedicate a few pages solely to the purpose of accusing Craig of lying.

It seems that everything in this section was based either on a misunderstanding of what Craig actually said, or (in at least one case) the assumption that Craig’s opponents couldn’t possibly be mistaken.

But I’ll not go over each point made. I think the more significant issue here is that none of this has anything to do with the actual arguments. As much as Hallquist claims he’s establishing that Craig is a poor source of information, it seems obvious to me that this would be far better accomplished by showing the information Craig presents to be wrong. Of course, anyone who check’s Craig’s sources learns that he’s not lying.

And this makes sense. After all, there would be no need at all to attack Craig personally if Hallquist could refute his arguments–or point to facts which counter Craig’s presented information. As such, the attacks on Craig stand more as a testimony to the strength of his case than a legitimate refutation of it.

And attacks abound. Craig’s name seems to invoke the ire of New Atheists like no other.

For my part, I’m rather ambivalent. I’d love to see more openness to the arguments, as well as a more rational approach than something that (often as not) degenerates into name-calling. Still, I’m definitely encouraged that the New Atheists, the self-proclaimed defenders or reason, can seem to find no better response than personal insults when confronted with Craig’s arguments.

For these and other reasons, part of me suspects that the New Atheism has largely backfired–making atheists look like uneducated name-callers (as unfair as that would be to other atheists). To many, this particular group seems to be leeching atheism dry of any air of sophistication it once had.

But that would all be forgivable if they could defend their position, but it seems to be precisely their inability to do so which is leads them to resort to mockery.

Courageously Demanding Real Answers to Vague Questions

thriving_on_vague_objectives_coverFrom Chris Hallquist’s “William Lane Craig Exposed”:

Craig writes, “If the Many Worlds Hypothesis is to commend itself as a plausible hypothesis, then some plausible mechanism for generating the many worlds needs to be explained.” To which I reply, “If the God Hypothesis is to commend itself as a plausible hypothesis, then some plausible mechanism for generating the god must be explained.”

Hallquist quickly adds to this that it is “somewhat tongue-in-cheek”, but I’m not sure if this helps him.

After all, it is either a good objection or it isn’t, and his response to Craig assumes that God needs to be generated somehow. And this is to say that he’s refuting a god that no one is proposing.

And, as many know, Richard Dawkins makes the exact same mistake in what he calls his “central argument” against theism. For all the bravado about “reason” and “evidence”, all the actual arguments put forward by this group seem to have been dealt with.

Personally, I find it astonishing that so many people seem to think that “disproving” a god that no one actually believes in is a reason to reject all forms of theism. This is no different, and certainly no more scientific, than rejecting gravity on the grounds that the Earth isn’t flat.

But perhaps Hallquist knows this, and is instead suggesting that the “many worlds” (usually called the “multiverse”) are eternal in the same sense that God is said to be by Craig.

If so, this is still a very poor argument.

Not only are the universes in the multiverse contingent, meaning that they need an external explanation while God is self-explained, but the multiverse cannot be extrapolated to past infinity. That is, it cannot be eternal. More than this, it would be this universe that would have to be eternal to answer Craig’s challenge. 

Either way we choose to take Hallquist, his argument is circular. He should be showing us why there is no significant difference between God and the multiverse in terms of explaining the universe we observe. Instead, he’s simply asserting this, and leaving us to guess at whether he means to say that God is like the multiverse, or that the multiverse is like God.

This leaves one to suspect that he simply doesn’t understand the difference, but that is a far cry from showing us that there is no difference. It is one more piece in a mounting pile of evidence that Hallquist doesn’t understand the idea he’s trying to refute. Far too often, the New Atheists confuse mocking an idea for offering a rational argument against it. 

And this is why they should study theology and philosophy, rather than simply attack them out of ignorance. 

The Brute and the Philosopher

imagesThough I don’t always agree with him, I rather like William Lane Craig. I think he’s done an excellent job at arguing the case for God’s existence on both the academic and lay level.

I think it is very hard to defend the claim that he is either incompetent or dishonest as a philosopher. One doesn’t have to agree with any of his arguments to say this. Really, it is the civil human being who sees that intelligent people acting in good faith can disagree. Only a form of philistinism would demand that all dissension is the result of dishonesty or stupidity.

The fact that it’s common to make both accusations of Craig, then, has always struck me as more than a little strange.

But popular New Atheist blogger, Chris Hallquist  (aka “the Uncredible Hallq”) has always been willing to jump on that bandwagon. He has written an ebook arguing against God’s existence, and devotes a chapter to Craig. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t establish much in the chapter other than his own close-mindedness.

If this seems like a harsh assessment, I can only say that Hallquist deserves it. He doesn’t take the time to understand clearly what is being said before presuming to judge Craig and his arguments.

And judge he does. He devotes the opening section of this chapter to attacking Craig’s honesty. He then shows some genuine clear-headedness by pointing out that it would be a fallacy to suggest that this makes Craig’s arguments wrong.

He then dives right into committing this fallacy.

It seems that Hallquist is keen to accuse Craig of dishonesty because he thinks that it takes nothing more than the accusation of dishonesty to dismiss Craig’s claims of fact. He doesn’t seem to feel the need to offer us any reason at all why Craig is wrong about the things he points out. There really is no point in even considering Craig’s personal character except to commit this fallacy.

But all this would be moot if Hallquist could otherwise show that Craig is wrong. But it seems likely as not that it is precisely his inability to refute Craig which forces him to resort to personal attacks. I’ve long suspected that this is why so many attack Craig, actually. I don’t see any reason at all for so much energy to be spent on slandering the man other than as a distraction from the inability to refute him.

That said, Hallquist does have some interesting things to say. I’ll be responding to his comments in my next series of posts.