Saturday, 24 September 2011

William Lane Craig to visit

One of the greatest proponents of Christian goobledegook is coming to UK soon, and the for some reason the organisers of his tour have found it a little challenging to find an opponent for him in a debate.

This is hardly surprising, not just because he is undeniably a skilled and experienced speaker, but because he tends to take no notice at all of what his opponents say and the whole exercise could be a little pointless.  Rosa Rubicondior mentioned this on her blog about the Kal├óm Cosmological Argument, describing how this outdated and long discredited line of argument has passed its sell-by date.

Briefly the argument goes:
  • Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause.
  • The universe had a beginning.
  • Therefore the universe had a cause.
  • That cause must be God.

Given the right audience, namely one filled with unquestioning believers, he wins the debate.  Given an audience who can see through his tricks he would have a tougher time.  It remains to be seen which type he will get at the venues that he will visit on his 'Reasonable Faith' tour.

The preferred 'victim' for Lane Craig was Richard Dawkins who has gracefully declined from the challenge, saying that it would look better on Lane Craig's CV (or resume) than on his own.  Another Oxford professor, Daniel Cane, has warned Dawkins "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."  Fortunately Dawkins has the presence of mind and bravery not to take such threats seriously.  After all - all the arguments are well known already and there will probably be nothing new to hear.

On, Dawkins described Lane-Craig thus.  "He is a ponderous buffoon who brandishes impressive-sounding syllogisms from Logic 101 to bamboozle his faith-head audience into believing he is 'winning' a debate. He also possesses some stunningly unpleasant opinions, including his view that the massacre of the Canaanites was OK because God ordered it . . .Read on

Following the rebutted challenge to Dawkins, A C Grayling was invited as a substitute.  He said that he would prefer to debate the existence of fairies and water nymphs.  Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Asociation briefly agreed, but once she saw what she was up against she (perhaps sensibly) stepped down too.

At present another able speaker, philosopher Steven Law, author of Believing Bullshit, is slated to debate with Lane Craig at Westminster Central Hall. Having seen him speak a few times, including at Oxford Skeptics in the Pub, I am sure that he will have a few ideas in mind.

I'm very tempted to get a ticket and have an evening out in London on 17th October, or to go to the Sheldonian in Oxford to hear his views about The God Delusion!

Anyone want to come?


krissthesexyatheist said...

They don't have to debate a professional debater (although AC would be good). I've seen Hector Avalos and Robert Price do well against him, but everyone else loses: Krauss, Carrier. John at Debunking christianity wants to debate him, but I don't think he would win either. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe what Craig says or how he says it, I'm just saying a professional scientist is not a professional debater. You should go, it'll be awesome.


RosaRubicondior said...

It might be fun. Does he take questions from the floor?

Anonymous said...

Once again what I'm reading are insults such as 'ponderous buffoon' from Dawkins and arrogance that he clearly thinks himself a cut above in being on someone's cv.

What interests me, is that so much of what goes under the name of science is actually assumption, belief, philosophy and influence from history, yet none of these are generally acknowledged by those who are so very quick to decry 'faith' as 'gobblygook' as you call it - another insult by the way.

'Faith' for me isn't just about what I believe it is about how I live, and how I conduct my life in speech and actions and motive. It is ultimately about serving Christ.

So, what is the basis of how to live as an atheist, where do you draw the line concerning morality and conduct...freedom of speech for all except those who believe 'gobblygook' perhaps? ...or treat everyone with respect except those of faith whom you can freely mock and think of yourselves as superior to? Force people to deny their faith and beliefs in the world of education because you think you have the truth?

Plasma Engineer said...

Who's forcing anyone to deny anything? You go to church and listen to sermons every Sunday, little realising how the words of the preacher would make 95% of the world feel uncomfortable - even offend them. Its not that we would feel guilty. We just wonder how anyone can believe all this stuff that has no evidence (apart from the 24,000 independent documents that were two centuries too late to count as evidence).

I have to assume that you haven't listened in detail to William Lane Craig speaking or read the origins of the Kalam argument? But did you notice that far from forcing him to deny anything, I was actually thinking of going to London to PAY to hear him speak? Will you come too? I'll buy you a ticket.

How can one compare Dawkins and Craig? Craig's 'impressive sounding syllogisms' (to complete the context) are typical of sermonising evangelists who can't back up their claims.

The thing is that freedom of speech is just what it says . . . freedom of speech. And at least on my blog I allow people to leave comments, whereas some others (naming no names) prohibit freedom of speech by not allowing comments on their blogs where they have made pointed and unsubstantiated comments about atheists. So - would you feature a guest response to your post?

I'm just wondering why it is not an offence to question where an atheist draws the line regarding morality as if morality could somehow be claimed by your particular religion.

Anonymous said...

1) I believe that Jesus Christ is/gives the ultimate basis for morality.
2) Sadly not every christian strives to follow the teachings of Jesus. I have not always succeeded either. The Christian life is both a striving for serving Christ as best as possible whilst being very grateful for the Grace of God for the times when I have failed.
3) Craig's debating is in my opinion actually very good.
4) you have the choice not to publish my comments and if you choose not to I respect that.
5) I decided not to allow comments on some aspects of my blog after realising that the kind of comments certain people (and I am not referring to you at all, and would be happy for you to post on my blog anytime P.E as I have already done a few posts ago) are likely to post would be of the incredibly rude and insulting variety which I do not see to be beneficial to readers of my blog.

My question remains as to what would you say is a basis of morality for atheists. This is a genuine question. I am certainly not saying that atheists are immoral, I am simply asking out of interest what would be your starting point, your basis of a system of values.

I suppose it is about ethics ultimately isn't it, and there are some questions which are not easy to make ethical decisions about whether one is coming from a christian standpoint or an atheistic one. Generally I would say in my life when I have had to make difficult decisions, I have prayed, sought the Lord, weighed up possible outcomes etc come to a peace within myself about one or the other decision.

Derby Sceptic said...

forbsy: You could always allow moderated comments on your blog whereby you could decline to publish those that are rude and offensive yet publish the constructive comments. I do this with mine and as yet have not had to decline any - providing they are well thought out and constructive I will publish comments that may disagree with my point of view and then I would counter comment as necessary.
P.E. also allows comments and has the opportunity to remove any that are rude or offensive and again there are comments which disagree with P.E.'s point of view.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yes but fair's fair. Some of Forbsy's readers might be sensitive in ways that our readers are not. I'm not saying that they have a right not to be offended, but Forbsy might be writing to a loyal audience who prefer her beliefs and feel comforted by them. We all write to our own readers and choose our styles accordingly. I happen to have an open policy and so far only ever deleted one comment (although blogger has done it for me on another day).

Rational gaze said...

"this outdated and long discredited line of argument has passed its sell-by date."
Only to those who know absolutely nothing about physics whatsoever.

Fergus Gallagher said...

I much prefer the list of counter-arguments at for example.

Anonymous said...

In the apparent absence here of any compelling (or any) counter arguments against Craig, and the strange absence of any positive case for atheism, and the ready personal attack or mockery towards Craig...why would a committed atheist be interested in a WL Craig debate anyway?

My guess, is that not all who claim to be atheists (those who make the singular negative statement "the Christian God does not exist", are not really atheists. I think it is more likely they are agnostics hiding behind a veneer of atheism. In which case, going to a Craig vs atheist debate would be very beneficial.

Fergus Gallagher said...

@Anonymous wrote: "any compelling (or any) counter"

"Or any"????

"the strange absence of any positive case for atheism"

Why does atheism need a positive case? What are the positive claims of atheism?

Derby Sceptic said...

Anonymous - as an atheist myself I make the statement that NO gods exist.

Plasma Engineer said...

@Rational - I defer to your superior expertise in physics (but question its veracity). PE, BSc Hons, Physics.

Plasma Engineer said...

@Anonymous - and normally I ignore anonymous comments because any further conversation might be with any other anonymous person - I thought the counter-arguments were clear enough but I obviously failed to use small enough words - just as Craig always does.

Your guess about doubting atheists is completely wrong in my case. It is also one of the old and boring things that theists say quite often. In my opinion Craig is a great debater but also a great deluder of credulous people. I'm really quite keen to understand what power he has to delude people in that way. I'm interested to hear him speak, even though his style irritates me and the content is largely vacuous and old fashioned.

The point is that atheists are often prepared to think about things and to hear the opposing arguments without sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting la la la la la.

There is hope for you to. At least you joined the debate.

Plasma Engineer said...

@Fergus - I appreciate your comments and general support' your questions, and the link you provided. I think I preferred Rosa's style but its good to see another approach that might work better for those who are more intellectual than me.


Plasma Engineer said...


So you're not one of those awful agnostic atheists then? :)

Its interesting - isn't it - that some people still fail to realise that one can be agnostic and atheist. All they need is good evidence.

Derby Sceptic said...

@PE If someone produces good evidence for one or more gods then I will look at it. I am not holding my breath.

confused but not by God said...

To Derby Sceptic - What do you consider good evidence?
To Plasma Engineer: if you are agnostic you are not an atheist? if you are an atheist you imagine there is no God? (impressed with the openness of your comments).

Plasma Engineer said...

Dear confused . . .

The evidence question comes up quite often. If you see (towards the end of) my post for today you will see why I say that.

I'm not sure whether I'm agnostic or not. I just don't know. It is a bit confusing isn't it.

I suppose, in fairness, that I should sum up my views that I'm fairly sure that there is no evidence for the presence of any god, including the one that I assume you believe in.

Derby Sceptic said...

@Confused I don't think I need to say what evidence I am looking for, that narrows down the possibilities and may exclude something I had not thought of. I do not believe there are any gods but if someone who does suggests what THEY believe to be evidence then I am open minded enough to investigate it.
I use the Oxford Dictionary of English for my definition of evidence.

confused said...

Dear Derby Sceptic

"Anonymous - as an atheist myself I make the statement that NO gods exist."

"@PE If someone produces good evidence for one or more gods then I will look at it. I am not holding my breath."

If you begin with the first statement, my hunch is that you are biased against claiming that the second is true.

On the other hand, perhaps to let go of the first would leave you free to assess the second?

Derby Sceptic said...

@confused I disagree - it is like any scientific theory, the theory is defined and evidence may be offered to test the theory. If the theory fails the test then it must either be modified or discarded.

Your comments could also be applied to a person of great religious faith - they believe that god or another deity exists so by your argument they would not be open to evidence that this is incorrect.

What we have to look for however is evidence, not beliefs, or faith. Personal experiences cannot be accepted as they are just that - personal.

Don't be confused said...

To Derby Sceptic:
True, you do need to have a premise to undertake e.g. a scientific investigation. However, as in law, if you are determined that one particular 'viewpoint' is correct BEFORE you have carried out your investigations, then your investigation would be flawed and unable to produce an unbiased result.

Reference evidence, I think personal experience can be accepted because it shows itself in action - changed lives.

I understand from Dr. Craig among others that things such as fine tuning, design, morality in the world and the resurrection of Jesus (as I am sure the accuracy, prophetic nature, obvious wisdom of the Bible) are all proofs of the truth that God says that He is!

Plasma Engineer said...

@Don't be confused (who is clearly confused)

Is this 'as in law' the stage where one is arrested (and presumed innocent) or on trial (and still officially innocent but in reality presumed to be guilty)? The latter seems to happen quite frequently at the trial stage.

Besides that - the purpose of the law (at the trial stage) is to determine whether someONE is guilty or not, and it has little to do with finding who else might be guilty. It is not at all unbiased.

You 'think' personal evidence counts? How nice for you.

Your third paragraph suggests that 'the argument from authority' works well against you. Have you asked anyone other that the great debater, Dr Craig? If you take the time to read around the subject you might risk encountering the truth.

As a counter-example - almost all biological scientists (and actually rather a lot of christians) accept the theory of evolution. Do you? If not, why not?

Don't be confused said...

p.s. there's even support -

Law - information drawn from personal testimony, a document, or a material object, used to establish facts in a legal investigation or admissible as testimony in a law court:
without evidence, they can’t bring a charge

(some dots and dashes mine)

no more confusion said...

Dear Plasma Engineer, there's a lot in your post so don't expect to cover it all or very well but here goes...

in a court, say, the person is presumed innocent but some say there is evidence - the jury cannot take one look at the individual - how he/she is dressed, speaking, nationality etc. and think yes or no - they must consider the evidence...

I don't understand your second paragraph (so this 'trial' in a way is to discuss whether there is God or not).

In what way do you think
fine tuning - sun at correct distance to give us life, food water present, air, etc - all the things scientists who see and know so much more about these things than others marvel at - in what way do you think this says - there is definitely no God,

design - why do you think there was no forethought in the production of the daisy?

morality - why do you think we laugh, cry, put every effort into things that we do, say - "if I were you, I would..."

Jesus' resurrection - the grave was empty: )

Derby Sceptic said...

@Don't be confused

'accuracy, prophetic nature and obvious wisdom of the bible'

Perhaps you should try and look at the bible in more detail to see that this statement cannot be supported.

Will help you.

Derby Sceptic said...

@no more confusion

fine tuning - I suggest you look at the discussion of a puddle by Douglas Adams

'... imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.'

design - why DO you think there was forethought in the production of a daisy?

resurrection - a stone that can be rolled into place can just as easily be rolled out of place. Guards can be bribed, drugged or simply drunk. It is only an account in a book that tells us what happened.

I should also refer you to

no more confusion said...

Dear Derby Sceptic,

We're not puddles, but people who don't fade away when the sun rises - even for puddles, they evaporate, form clouds, rain - form puddles again - there is purpose in the world. You fail to explain.

the daisy - why DO you think there wasn't! colours - always white on the outside, orange in the middle for the ones I see - always on grass or at least in soil, always with roots, petals, stalks, always take up water to survive, using leaves to make chlorophyl (?) for food, appear at certain times of the year, etc etc - you have whole encyclopaedias which tell you with great predictability, how things in nature work, and things are predictable which is why farmers will plant seeds in the ground for hours, look at a field ploughed and go home happy - they know with rain and sun, in several months time, unless there was something wrong with the seed, given a few birds, disease etc, they will have food to eat. You are alive and have been for several years because of the predictability of this world.

Chance? no chance!

Derby Sceptic said...

@no more confusion
I think you have missed some of my points - I know we are not puddles but it was an elegant way from Douglas Adams to show that beliefs can be made to fit the evidence.

As for the daisy, it has evolved over time to the present day characteristics. It lives on soil as a way of absorbing water and nutrients, has roots to support itself and to gather the water and nutrients, takes up water to allow the photosynthesis which is required to generate food and ultimately replicate. None of this needs a creator.

The predictability of the world, seed generating crops etc. is not evidence for a creator either.

confused by you said...

Dear Derby Sceptic,

Beliefs CAN be made to fit the evidence. However, given the evidence that we are as human beings, amazing creatures in the way we are intricately put together (e.g. doctors take 6 years after 18 years of learning (from birth) and being at the 'top' of that field (maths, physics, chemistry etc) even before starting their doctors' course to learn enough to be confident to treat us - in the UK) so there is obviously quite a bit to the human body - agreed? in addition to this, to keep the body functioning, what does it need outside of itself - e.g. food, water, a certain minimum of emotional wellbeing, air, sun etc. - HOW did these all happen by chance to be present ? to have just the body as it is to stand for one second let alone let it move live, talk etc. - fist calculate the chance of the body being where it is (no other creature has communication at the level we do, skills to think outside survival needs - music, cooking, is a biped - (easily walks not just from time to time on two legs), the sensitivity of fingers together with the brain machinery to enable encoding (writing), decoding (reading) - all these make humans very different from animals)

and as I was saying, all this makes us very different but then in addition to this, we need the sun at the correct distance to keep us and the creation sufficiently warm and not too cold to make life impossible, the air to breathe to keep our organs working, the heart to pump it around, the mind to tell it to do so, water available - how how how did it all by chance happen to be together?

this goes for the daisy too - first you need it - impossible for it not to be designed - then you need it's nutrients impossible for them to be present to feed it without a 'mind' having put them there!

start from nothing and give me (in layman's terms) the (plausible) steps you took for the daisy to be there. :+)

Derby Sceptic said...

@confused by you (an ever changing name if you are the same person)

It's called evolution and there is insufficient room in this blog to explain it in detail. Furthermore it is explained perfectly well elsewhere by people far more knowledgeable than myself.

Have you considered that life as we know it has developed to take advantage of the conditions created by the Sun/Earth distance, atmosphere and presence of water.

There are other environments on this planet where we could not exist, nor the daisy, but life does exist and it is adapted for it's environment. An example is the deep ocean.

Perhaps another example of minor adaptation is people who live in high mountains - if you or I were to go to Everest base camp for example then we would struggle with minimal exertions. The Nepalese Sherpas who live in the region are much better adapted to the lower air pressure. I would not be surprised if you studied these peoples over a sufficient period you would be able to see how their bodies have evolved to cope better.

Chance meanwhile is all around us. In the current windy conditions some seeds from fields nearby may blow in to my garden, land in soil that is damp and start to germinate. Is that the design of a superior being?

Similarly, there are a number of bodies of water in Derbyshire, some of which have developed harmful algae - others which seem similar have not, chance acting again.

I would also say that we do not know whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. There is no reason that it has to be like humans, or indeed any organism from Earth. If the idea that Earth was created by a supernatural being and no other planets were populated then I presume you will state that there is none to be found. As I see it there are two problems, one that even our nearest neighbours in the universe are impractical to travel to, and second that we don't know what we are looking for.

perplexed said...

"It's called evolution and there is insufficient room in this blog to explain it in detail. Furthermore it is explained perfectly well elsewhere by people far more knowledgeable than myself."

unacceptable by someone who is convinced by it...not even to start to explain your understanding of it?

"Have you considered that life as we know it has developed to take advantage of the conditions created by the Sun/Earth distance, atmosphere and presence of water."

I don't see how life has "developed" - it would not exist if the sun/light were not there?

"life does exist and it is adapted for it's environment.."

I agree - nothing to do with evolution - things are designed to work in their environments - humans have slightly different features from each other which have enabled us to be more comfortable in some environments than other, but all are humans - this has no bearing on one species changing into another. The differences in humans is no proof that they were ever anything else.

"some seeds from fields nearby may blow in to my garden, land in soil that is damp and start to germinate. Is that the design of a superior being?"

the seed is the design of a superior being. The fact that the seed germinates, that it needs water and that the water is present.

"Similarly, there are a number of bodies of water in Derbyshire, some of which have developed harmful algae - others which seem similar have not, chance acting again."

You did not give any indication of how you think all these things appeared in the first place.

There were factors which caused algae to be present in one place and not in the other.

"I would also say that we do not know whether life exists elsewhere in the universe."

that would only create a situation where you would have to explain that life.

"If the idea that Earth was created by a supernatural being and no other planets were populated then I presume you will state that there is none to be found."

Whether there is life elsewhere or not, does not give us the answers to our being here.

You certainly have plenty to think about! fascinating. (Thank you for your thoughts).

(yes, I have written in various states of confusion over the past few days!)

Plasma Engineer said...


Fine tuning - yes indeed humans are finely tuned for our environment. You anthropocentric view seems to have no evidence. You can read about this in many places. I recommend Victor Stenger's books for this topic, or possibly Lawrence Krauss.

Design - several comments have answered this. I don't need to write more.

Morality - by what right do you claim that your religion has a better take on morality than mine or anyone else's?

Plasma Engineer said...


I feel honoured that people are visiting my blog to continue their oft-rehearsed arguments.

Feel free to continue the discussion if you think it will get you anywhere, but perhaps I should start a new post about the topic that is actually being discussed. This post was actually about William Lane Craig but the comments have strayed somewhat.

Derby Sceptic and I clearly have a higher regard for the science and humour of the books of Douglas Adams than the assertion that the books of the bible contain anything better than bronze age pre-scientific 'wisdom'.

I will create a new post shortly, based on DS's quotation from Adams. Let's take the discussion to that page instead. I will add a link here when it is ready.

Plasma Engineer said...

That's a new post on the topic of fine tuning. Paste that into your address bar or look for the post for 00.01 on 7th October. See you there.

no more confused said...

Dear Plasma Engineer,

I think this is a William Craig post but re your recent comment on morality, "Morality - by what right do you claim that your religion has a better take on morality than mine or anyone else's?"

I don't know your basis on morality - could you tell us?

I do know that the 10 commandments provide the "recipe" for a perfect society. I would say human rights issues would be solved in an instant if laws were based on these rather than ad hoc who appeals the most to the one man in government etc. Obviously things are more complex in terms of who influences who. I think generally there was an unwillingness in the past to push anything which obviously opposed the 10 commandments - I suspect people were happier.: ( It was probably the basis for a successful present. It has been weakened of late..

what is your basis for morality? I would be happy to read your answer on a new post if that's what you wished.

Plasma Engineer said...

@ my confused fried

You don't need to know my basis for morality, but I think it is more along the lines presented by Sam Harris in his latest book 'The Moral Landscape'. I haven't read it yet, but I have heard him speak about it and found his argument compelling.

The '10 commandments' are absolutely not a basis for morality though. Four of them are wasted on god for a start. I think human morality was around before they were written and that it will continue to change over the centuries. The fact that there is clearly no such thing as objective morality, let alone the version presented by christians, is obvious if you look at different cultures around the world.

continues to be perplexed said...

Dear Plasma Engineer,

"The '10 commandments' are absolutely not a basis for morality though. Four of them are wasted on god for a start."
a circular argument if ever I heard one.

"there is clearly no such thing as objective morality"
you don't think worshipping something is universal - even if it's money or football etc? I studied anthropology and believer me, there were many things which it was decided are found in ALL societies, even what would be called 'simple societies'. Those would be such as hunter/gatherers. Family, a legal system (saying what was right and wrong and what punishment accrued for deviance), education, rites of passage (e.g. boy to man, contractual ceremonies etc.) and redistribution including conspicuous consumption and worship are found in all societies.

"morality was around before they were written" mmm - I don't know. Adam gave names to all the animals - amazing zoologist if you ask me...I do admit I think Noah is the first one recorded/suggested to have written things down...(directions for building the ark?)...look at the detail in Genesis Chapter 10. As Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, did people have amazing memories to get all that information - all those genealogies and the numbers to him (how many people)? or possibly people were writing things down. As far as I am aware, there was Egyptian and Chinese writing as well as Hebrew...

" I think human morality was around before they were written " that would make it pretty universal still.

"clearly no such thing as objective morality"
not so clear.. most laws in the world WOULD be based on the 10 commandments. Those not - often changed!

Plasma Engineer said...

I can hardly be bothered to reply to that as I consider it to be nonsense. Some people just fail to see the bigger picture. Most of the world has no need of Old Testament 'rules of thumb', even assuming that you limit the original 613 to just 10. On the whole their societies work as well as ours. (Don't try to tell me that Jesus came to change all that as it is clear that he did not - see

Plasma Engineer said...

Actually - I remembered a useful link on this topic. I will post it tomorrow, 19th October. Watch the video of Dan Barker and then tell me about objective morality.

The "Ayes" have it said...

Dear Plasma Engineer,

(Sorry, I haven't watched your suggested video.).

Quoting from something I have read on the internet:
“Bad Argumentsm for Relativism
Still, there are ways in which we are worse off, morally speaking. And it’s arguable that these changes are in part a result of the rise of moral relativism.
..the Authoritarians..are right to reject moral relativism, certainly that crude form of non-judgementalist moral relativism that gets the blame for the ‘moral malaise’…The usual, politically-motivated arguments for moral relativism and non-judgementalism are feeble..” p87
“Exactly the same is true of morality. Indeed, it’s precisely because the proponents of the Liberal approach advocated here think there really is a non-relative truth to discover about what’s right and what’s wrong that they place so much emphasis on questioning..” p93
“If we simply invent or make up morality,.. If relativism were true, there would be no point bothering with the kind of critical thinking recommended here” p94

These are snippets. Apologies for anything taken out of context. (Advertisement for a book). The author recently debated W. L. Craig.