Tag Archives: William Lane Craig

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.

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.

“I Agree With You, But You’re Still Wrong.”

hulk2-243pic-1In discussing William Lane Craig’s moral argument, Chris Hallquist (aka “The Uncredible Hallq”) agrees that morality needs to be objective in order to be properly called morality. This strikes me as obviously true. Subjective morality is simply a matter of opinion, which one is free to dismiss without bothering to give a reason.

Hallquist further agrees that objective morality exists. As such, it is very strange that he spends more time arguing against Craig’s defense that there is such a thing as objective morality than with the idea that God is the basis of morality. He agrees with the point, but can’t seem to resist attacking Craig personally.

I mention this because I think it is a pattern that goes far beyond Hallquist. Obviously, the desire to attack an opponent in any way one can is a common human trait. We all feel it, from time to time. But I get the feeling that, with respect to Craig, it has long run unchecked.

To offer an example, Hallquist attacks Craig for only citing those people and points which support his case when he’s debating. Hallquist calls that dishonest, but I would call it “making an argument”. Citing opposed quotations would be his opponent’s job.

Surely, I’ve never heard any of Craig’s opponents cite someone who opposes them, but Hallquist doesn’t seem bothered by that. He’s never once accused, say, Sam Harris of dishonesty for failing to quote any of the (many) people who think his moral theory is bunk. Yet he condemns Craig for this. That being the case, this does rather seem like an attempt to make the argument feel weaker than it is by making irrelevant attacks on the presenter.

That is, it’s a case of ad hominem in the proper sense of the term.

Hallquist does include a point amidst all this Craig-bashing, however. He, applauds the idea that our ability to do amazing things makes humans special. One can always ask “but what’s so special about that”, of course, but he thinks this is a good answer to Craig’s insistence that God is necessary for moral value. We are special because we can do amazing things–end of story.

But, surely, I can be forgiven for suspecting that this isn’t thought, so much as a halt to thinking. Talk about a thing being “special” gets us into appeals to emotion, and taking an “end of story” approach is the opposite of reason. The only logical way a thing could be considered important in anything like an objective sense would be some objective standard of morality. It can’t simply be based on how amazing we happen to find the human nervous system, or anything else. Otherwise, it would be subjective.

This being the case, it is important that Hallquist makes no attempt to offer such a standard. He claims there is one, but doesn’t tell us a thing about what it is. He simply assures us that it isn’t God, and that, if you follow the logic of why such a thing exists, you won’t eventually get to the conclusion that God exists.

As such, he’s done a lot to attack Craig here, but nothing at all to show that the moral argument fails.

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. 

(Not) Answering the Question

ClassClown_webtile_041012Though he’s finished with his reasons why he disagrees with the idea that the universe had a cause of its beginning, Hallquist has some other things to say about the Kalam. Essentially, he rejects the idea that a cause to the universe would be God.

This is where I come the closest to agreeing with Hallquist. He notes that Craig spends little time on this point, and doesn’t answer questions that seem rather important to raise. I can definitely relate, as I had this same thought when I first encountered the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

My disagreement, however, is twofold:

1. He thinks this means there are no answers to these questions, and

2. He seems to think this defends materialism.

Starting with the latter point, I’m not sure whether Hallquist actively thinks this or not. But it is definitely worth noting that the fact that the universe had a cause is a blatant contradiction of materialism. Craig spends little time elaborating, I’d wager, because thoughtful materialists realize that we’ve already moved past their view.

So, unless Hallquist is willing do defend some form of Platonism (which contradicts the New Atheists’ favorite memes), this isn’t a valid objection.

But, regarding the first point, he simply attacks our certainty of the idea that the universe could have a personal cause by assuming that personal causes must be scientifically measurable. But this, like every New Atheist argument I’ve encountered, is simply assuming that materialism is true rather than proving it.

If Hallquist had ventured a guess at a superior alternative, then, I think it would have been much more obvious how much worse his materialism really is at accounting for the facts.

And this is very telling for me. Initially, I wasn’t impressed by the Kalam for much the same issue as Hallquist raises here. I didn’t see that it should lead me to conclude that God exists–and wondered what other options might be there.

However, the fact that neither myself, nor any of the (many) opponents of the Kalam I’ve read, have been able to give a superior alternative is very important. Actually, no one in history seems to have been able to give an option other than those Craig lists.

Anyone who extolls  the importance of science, of “following the evidence where it leads” and the like, should be willing to accept the concept of a personal cause as the best explanation.

But, instead, Hallquist has simply insisted (without support) that personal causes must be physical as well, and skirted the question of what such a cause of the universe might actually be like.

So, when he should be trying to answer the question Craig has raised, he offers this as a reason to dismiss the Kalam: We don’t already know that there is such a thing as an immaterial mind. But the Kalam is itself a argument for an immaterial mind. Unless Hallquist can give a good objection to it (including a better alternative), then it is reason to believe in exactly the sort of thing Hallquist dismisses.

And it’s Always Been Forever…

Mea_Culpa_(After_Forever_album)_coverartIn attacking the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence, Chris Hallquist has insisted that the universe can be past eternal (and therefore doesn’t require a cause).

But, among the scientific reasons why the universe cannot be past-eternal, there is this argument:

1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by adding one event after another.

2. A collection formed by adding one member after another cannot be actually infinite.

3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite.

Essentially, this is the argument that you can’t put together an infinite collection of things one step at a time because you’d (literally) never get there.

Now, Hallquist makes the objection that this assumes that the universe started at a certain point, and that this is wrong-headed. The idea of an infinite past is that the universe has always been here, so that it didn’t ever start. Thus, it was always infinite–there’s no need to build it up to an infinite age one moment at a time.

Admittedly, someone as formidable as J.L. Mackie takes this approach. Still, I think it misses the real point of the argument. The claim of an infinite past is, after all, the claim that there are moments in history which are infinitely distant from the point we are now at. And that it is a logical impossibility for us to have reached this moment from those times in the infinite past. It makes no difference whether or not any of them are the “starting point” of the universe, or even that there would be no starting point.

So, one cannot get out of the argument simply by denying that infinitely distant moments weren’t the beginning. One would have to deny that there are no infinitely distant moments at all. But this last is agreeing with the idea that the universe isn’t past-eternal.

That being the case, Hallquist has not given us a reason to doubt that the universe has a cause of its coming into existence. In fact, he’s not adequately refuted any of the reasons for thinking that it has a cause.

But he needs to refute all of them for his argument to work.

It’s Always Been This Way

Infinity-Time1In arguing that the universe must have had a cause to come into existence, William Lane Craig has said that he finds the philosophical arguments for a beginning to the universe stronger than the scientific arguments.

Chris Hallquist, after an attempt to refute Craig’s review of the scientific evidence (without citing any actual science), turns to the philosophical arguments.

He correctly summarizes Craig’s argument thus:
1. An actually infinite number of things cannot exist

2. A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.

3. Therefore, a beginningless series of events cannot exist.

If this is true, then one is forced to accept what the Bible has claimed for millennia: that the universe has an origin.

Hallquist’s strategy is to argue chiefly with premise (1). He claims that there is no contradiction to be found in examples like the famous Hilbert’s Hotel (where subtracting infinity from infinity can yield any number of a range of results).

I find this response much better than the previous section, probably because Hallquist has actually studied the subject. However, he still has not shown an actually existing infinite number to be a cogent idea.

In fact, I find this to be Hallquist’s best moment in his discussion of Craig. He shows a real understanding of Craig’s argument, and offers a reasonable answer. Even if I don’t find it convincing, and he ignores other points, it isn’t difficult to picture a sane person believing this.

Still, I do disagree.

Personally, I prefer the “Grim Reaper Paradox” to the examples Craig uses. In this example, a man has been passed by an infinite number of grim reapers, any of which will kill him if he’s still alive. But, if one asks the question “which reaper actually killed him?”, contradictory answers surface.

In an infinite string of them, there is no “first” grim reaper, so each of them should have passed a dead man, killed by some in front of it–but this would mean that none of them actually killed him.

But, if none of them killed him, he shouldn’t be dead–which is obviously wrong.

The oddness can be explored further, but the point is that this isn’t answered by Hallquist’s statements about Cantorian set theory. Nor are Craig’s examples that Hallquist failed to mentioned addressed by it. This would be understandable if he then moved on to these ideas, but he seems to think that dealing with one issue proves that all issues can be likewise addressed.

One could say any number of things to this, but the thing not to say is that this is a silly example–not applicable to the real world. Not only is it a logical test, but moments in time are very much like grim reapers in that they advance the heat death of the universe.

This paradox shows that there is no way that we could ever have reached this moment in time were the universe eternal.

So, while I appreciate that Hallquist has understood the arguments about infinities (rather than simply dismissing them as “fairyology”), and gives a much better response as a result of his studies, I do disagree.

As do the majority of people. Very few individuals, even atheists, are still trying to argue that the universe has existed eternally.  There is very little, if any, to take this view.

Rejecting Science in the Name of Science

Fear - HateAfter failing to refute the Leibnitzian Cosmological Argument, Chris Hallquist turns to the Kalam Cosmological Argument. For those who don’t already know the Kalam, I’ve argued for it both here and elsewhere.

Always slightly more reasonable than the average New Atheist, Hallquist doesn’t object to the first premise of the argument (“Whatever begins to exist has a cause”). He’s a little glib, as if he’s doing Craig a personal favor by allowing an obvious truth that is fundamental to science to pass without argument.

Still, he does allow it.

Rather, he argues against premise two (“The universe began to exist”). But, in the end, there isn’t much in the way of argument made here.

The closest he gets is a claim that there are models of the universe consistent with the evidence that are past-infinite. But he never says what these models are, or addresses any of Craig’s specific arguments against these claims. Rather, he simply claims this, apparently hoping that no one will notice that he hasn’t actually made a cogent point.

Really, anyone who is so quick to accuse Craig of basing arguments on bravado, rather than facts, should support his case with facts.

There is one shining exception to this pattern, though. He’s one of the only atheists who is actually willing to address Craig’s repeated use of the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin theorem, which (according to Craig) shows that the universe cannot be past eternal.

However, all he does is quote a passage from another New Atheist writer, who in turn quotes Alexander Vilenkin out of context to imply that there is no reason to think that the universe has a finite past. While it is true that Vilenkin personally thinks a reason will be found to restore an eternal universe, he admits that there is no reason to think this, and has no answers for Craig’s argument that this is impossible.

So, while Hallquist is right to say that many past eternal universes have been proposed by scientists, it is wrong to say that any of these are anywhere near as plausible as the past finite standard model. Rather, they are speculations specifically designed to avoid a beginning of the universe, but which have failed to do this.

So far as I’ve read, no one has been able to point to a valid piece of evidence that the universe is past-eternal (and there is much evidence to the contrary). Those who believe that evidence is required for a belief, then, should conclude that it is not.

Hallquist also complains that Craig doesn’t apply the same standards to “the God hypothesis”, but, here, he’s simply confused. The idea that there is such a thing as a “God hypothesis” is a fantasy of Richard Dawkins. The scientific hypothesis Craig is arguing for in the second premise of the “KCA” is the idea that the universe began to exist. Everything beyond that is logical analysis based on that conclusion. To demand that we apply scientific tests to metaphysics is to quit doing serious thinking and simply to insist on Scientism.

More than that, Hallquist consistently avoids offering an alternative for equal examination when it does happen to be pertinent–as we’ll see later in the series.

But Hallquist has one more line of argument on this point: “What if there’s an undiscovered exception to the second law of thermodynamics?”.

I honestly don’t see how that’s any more scientific than the obvious reply: “Yes, and what if that exception turns out to be God?”.

Hallquist, in fact, insists that the idea that God created the universe would have to be an exception to the second law of thermodynamics, and therefore false. Not only, then, is he insisting that what he himself suggests is impossible, but he completely overlooks the very simple answer to this:

A law pertaining to time and space wouldn’t apply to the first moment of time and space–nor to a God that transcends time and space.

So, for all his implication that he respects science, Hallquist seems to dismiss it here. Anyone who claims to follow the evidence where it leads has no business making an argument from “what if the fundamental laws of science are wrong”. This is the crudest form of wishful thinking.

But Hallquist has more to say about the Kalam. I’ll address that next.


You keep using that word...The first item in “The Uncredible Hallq’s” response to William Lane Craig is the Leibnitzian Cosmological Argument. I’ve already defended the argument in the past. So I’ll simply be responding to Hallquist’s challenge here.

He correctly summarizes it as follows:

1. Anything that exists has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its nature or in an external cause.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1 and 3).

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God (from 2 and 4).

To this, Hallquist skips any discussion of the first premise, saying only that he’s “not sure if (1) is true”. Personally, I think it is rather obvious that “There must be an explanation for this” is always more rational than “This thing exists for literally no reason whatsoever”. But I’ll return to this in a moment.

In the mean time, he claims that Craig’s defense of (2) is dishonest. (Actually, that’s not what he claimed; that’s the cleaned up version.) Craig makes the point that atheists often claim that, from their perspective, the universe exists without an explanation. He then points out that this is logically equivalent with claiming that an explanation of the universe requires theism.

I don’t know what Hallquist’s problem with this, and he doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t even attempt to offer a non-theistic explanation of the universe, but simply insists that Craig is lying.

That being the case, I feel compelled to point out that I’ve personally read Bertrand Russell, Steven Hawking, J.L. Makie, and countless less known atheists claim that the universe has no explanation.

Really, if Hallquist is going to flatly accuse Craig of lying, he really ought to give us some reason to think so. Or, more to the point, he ought to give us some reason to think that what Craig has said isn’t true. But he hasn’t even tried to do this. He seems to think that the mere accusation of dishonesty is enough to prove that atheists have never claimed exactly what many of them have put in print.

More simply, the fact that Hallquist isn’t well read enough to know that what Craig said happens to be true does not make Craig a liar. In order to refute the premise, Hallquist should offer us an explanation for the universe other than God. But he doesn’t even attempt to do this.

To his credit, he does feel compelled to offer a reason why the argument fails. He claims that one could just as easily turn it around to argue that all non-physical things require a physical explanation.

His support for this, so he says, is that he’s never been given any reason why God doesn’t also need an external cause. But the answer to this is the first premise of the argument, which allows for God (as a necessary being) to be explained without an external cause. He simply dismissed this with an “I’m not sure if (1) is true”. He can’t suddenly act as if he’s refuted the idea that a thing could be necessary, when he simply dismissed it.

He isn’t quite rejecting it, however. Rather, he seems to be claiming that God can’t be the necessary being because he thinks it is “conceivable that God does not exist”. But, here, he completely misunderstands what it is to be conceivable. He simply says that he, personally, can conceive of the idea that God doesn’t exist. But the fact that Hallquist can personally hold that opinion says nothing about whether or not God is a necessary being.

Rather, a thing’s being conceivable (in a philosophical sense) is its being logically consistent. Leibnitz has given an argument that it is logically consistent to believe in theism, but inconsistent to think that there is no such thing as a necessary being. One can’t simply say that the atheism is conceivable simply because one thinks one can imagine it. Like Inigo Mantoya, we’ll be forced to reply “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

As such, this is all based on a very poor grasp of the argument itself. Anyone willing to take an open-minded look at the situation can see that the universe is contingent, and (therefore) needs an explanation. But it doesn’t seem to bother Hallquist at all that he hasn’t done a thing to refute the idea that there must be a necessary being that explains the universe.

Perhaps he thinks he’s refuted it by telling us that he can imagine the necessary being not existing–as if that makes a thing contingent. And this is simply a case study in sloppy thinking; it does nothing to counter anything Craig has said.

Thus, Hallquist has given us no serious challenge to Leibnitz.

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.