Examining the Content of the Krauss Debates Part 2

Examining the Content of the Krauss Debates Part 2

Was Jesus just compiled from various ancient myths? Does science need God? Is God being eliminated by science?


Transcript Examining the Content of the Krauss Debates (Part 2)

Kevin Harris: We’re glad you’re here for the Reasonable Faith podcast with Dr. William Lane Craig. We’re continuing a look at the opening statements in the dialogue with Lawrence Krauss in Brisbane. Oh, and by the way, Dr. Craig has a new book out – it’s called A Reasonable Response. It’s available now at ReasonableFaith.org. Stay close after the podcast and I’ll tell you a little bit about it.

Bill, Dr. Krauss continued in his opening statement that there’s really nothing special about Jesus; that the character of Christ was borrowed or merely typical of ancient pagan savior gods. Is that where he’s going here?

Dr. Craig: Yes, that’s right. It’s the typical Zeitgeist movie misinformation on the internet, and it’s distressing that a professor at a major state university could be so ignorant of the historical Jesus as to believe this. And, in fact, this is one of the areas where Krauss makes a major shift in the course of these three dialogues, Kevin. I didn’t respond to this point in Brisbane because it was a red herring. It wasn’t on topic – which was, has science buried God? But it comes up again in Melbourne. And in Melbourne I explain to Dr. Krauss how this scholarship trying to show Jesus is similar to models in mythology through comparative religious studies is over 100 years out of date, and has been abandoned for principally two reasons: number one, because the parallels were spurious; and secondly because there was no causal connection between these myths and the original disciples of Jesus. And Krauss concedes the point. It’s very significant that in Melbourne he comes to see and admits that Jesus was a historical figure and that you can’t explain these events on the basis of the influence of pagan mythology. So it will be very interesting to me, Kevin, to see whether in future speeches, now, Dr. Krauss continues to give his stock approach of the mythological Jesus, or whether he’s going to revise, now, his stock speech to take cognizance of what he admitted in Melbourne.

Kevin Harris: Bill, I’m just going to be blunt here. I’ll pay Dr. Krauss a compliment but then also make a suggestion. I get the impression from listening to these three debates and going over the transcripts that while I would assume that Dr. Krauss, when it comes to cosmology and physics and various sciences would read journals, peer reviewed papers, texts, and very rightly so; but for some reason when it comes to the Christian faith, when it comes to God, when it comes to religion, it looks to me as if he goes to hack websites, and does a google, and sees these things over and over and over because I’ve made a list of these memes, if you want to use it, that I can always tell when one has been to these popular websites because they say the same thing. They’re caricatures, and they’re not scholarly, and they’re not well researched; but they’re popular and they’re trafficked. Now, again, read Jesus scholarship rather than go to some website.

Dr. Craig: Yes. Yeah, if we have unbelieving listeners who are tuning into this podcast, you folks really need to understand that the study of Jesus of Nazareth as a historical individual is just as much a field of historical study as Roman history or Greek history – the study of figures like Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great.[1] And that historians have come to know a good deal about the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and that the kind of misinformation that Dr. Krauss is giving out here doesn’t represent responsible historical scholarship. This is internet garbage and you shouldn’t be deceived by it.

Kevin Harris: And so much of it is just false and exaggerated. There are sites and memes that I see that say things like Osiris had a sermon on the mount . . .

Dr. Craig: Oh, gosh.

Kevin Harris: . . . and he raised somebody named Lazarus. Well, that’s not even true.

Dr. Craig: No, I mean, that’s not even –

Kevin Harris: And we also know that what we know about things, like Mithraism, and so on, come after the Christian era. Now they predate Christianity, but what we know about them, a lot of it, comes after the Christian era, and there could have been borrowing the other way. There could have been infused – what am I trying to say here?

Dr. Craig: Yes. Apollonius of Tyana would be a good example of that. His life described by Philostratus was intended to be a treatise for the Roman empress that would be deliberately a kind of pagan counterpart to Jesus of Nazareth to give pagans a figure to believe in. So Apollonius is probably largely shaped by, as you say, post-Christian deliberate motifs. But a good example of the sort of distortion of the original sources would be the claim that Dr. Krauss gave that the virgin birth is something that is found in pagan mythology. In fact, when you look at the stories that he’s talking about, what these are, Kevin, are stories of how the gods come down from heaven, take on human form, and copulate with human females to have children. So that it’s the exact opposite of a virgin birth; these are stories of gods having sexual intercourse with women to sire children. So, in fact, there is nothing comparable to the belief in the virginal conception and birth of Jesus of Nazareth that can be found in pagan mythology.

Kevin Harris: This is nothing new . . .

Dr. Craig: No, no.

Kevin Harris: . . . but it has come roaring back. C. S. Lewis was having a conversation around the fire with the most hardened atheist, the skeptic of skeptics, hard-boiled atheist, who sat there and said, “One thing. All that about Frazer’s dying and rising gods; it actually looks as if it might have happened once.”

Dr. Craig: Yes. [laughter] And that shook Lewis deeply.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, he goes, “Whoa!” But Frazer’s Golden Bough – that was dealt with then. But here it comes, it just came back up from a . . .

Dr. Craig: On the lips of a sophisticated scientist.

Kevin Harris: Yes. His next point after this is that the reason that God is being buried is because we live in an age of information, and the reason that religion is going to be eliminated is because we have the internet and we’re more privy to information. I think he presses this point a couple of times.

Dr. Craig: Yes, and he does so in multiple dialogues. He makes the astonishing claim, Kevin, that religion is dying more and more; that it’s monotonically declining in the world. Unfortunately, Dr. Krauss cites no sociological studies to back up this astonishing assertion. Do you remember, Kevin, I think it was last year, you and I did some podcasts on surveys that had been released about the diminishing of atheism worldwide. And remember – it was astonishing – in countries like Russia and, I believe, even Japan and so forth, it turns out that theism is growing around the world. This idea that atheism is somehow on the march was quite false. So the sociological studies simply don’t support Dr. Krauss’ assertion here. And I suppose even if it were declining, again, that says absolutely nothing about the truth of these religions or worldviews. This is another bad argument where you say, “Oh, religion is declining, therefore God doesn’t exist.” I mean, is that the argument, Dr. Krauss? Is that supposed to be a serious argument? The premise is false to begin with, but even if it were true, nothing follows from that about the existence of God.

Kevin Harris: Think about information being more freely available on the internet; they can hear these podcasts. People can learn of the kalam cosmological argument or the argument from design. Before that he makes a quick mention, though, that it all depends on where you live.[2] If you’re in the U.S. you’re probably going to be religious, you’re going to believe in the Bible and Jesus. If you’re born in India . . .

Dr. Craig: Yeah, again, is this supposed to be an argument? How does the influence of one’s geographical origin upon one’s religious beliefs do anything to show that God does not exist? Where’s the argument here, Kevin? Again, this is just potshots. It’s just sloganeering. I don’t see any argument from the relativity of religious belief to one’s geographical region to have any sort of proof that God doesn’t exist. What this would be an argument for, I think, would be perhaps some sort of universalism; that because people’s beliefs tend to be shaped by their geographical origin that therefore God must cut them some slack in how he judges them. And that has nothing to do with the existence of God. That’s an in-house question among theists as to how God will judge the unevangelized. And I am persuaded that God will probably judge people based upon the amount of information that they do have and that people will not be judged on the basis of information that someone who is differently located geographically has. And I have talked a lot about this in my writings on religious pluralism and Christian particularism. These are on the website under the section “Popular Articles: Christian Particularism.”[3] So this is an in-house issue among theists; this not an argument against theism.

Kevin Harris: He goes on to say at this point that there is a point, and Stephen Pinker has a quote, Dr. Krauss says, that says, “The acquisition of knowledge is hard; our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and superstitions.” Krauss goes on to say that is the point. It was put more succinctly by Fox Molder on the X-Files TV show who said, “I want to believe.” And the point is: we all want to believe. That is what we have to remember, and as scientists we have to remember that we want to believe and we have to work hard to overcome that desire to believe.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I frankly don’t understand the point of this argument because it cuts both ways. Everyone is conditioned.

Kevin Harris: What about your illusion?

Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. We all have to work to overcome our natural prejudices and dispositions that we’ve inherited from our parents and upbringing and so forth. These are really bad arguments. There’s no atheistic conclusion that follows from this. If someone thinks there is then I would like to hear the premises and how the conclusion follows from them.

Kevin Harris: He goes on then, again, to decry god of the gaps. He doesn’t like what he perceives to be an attack on science. He says science is doing away with all these myths, the dissemination and discovery of information, and thank goodness that’s the case. And so he makes his bias known and clear. Anything that he sees as threatening to science he’s going to be very much against and argue against.

Dr. Craig: Well we don’t want to endorse the god of the gaps so I think that we would agree that insofar as we think that God has made the universe a rational place that operates according to natural laws and that is open to rational exploration and discovery we should expect science to be a successful human enterprise, and we should not expect to have these sorts of god of the gaps appeals to plug up the gaps in scientific ignorance. In fact, what I go on to argue later in my opening speech is that it’s precisely because of theism that modern science can exist and flourish, because it provides the conceptual framework that is necessary for science. And that’s very different from a god of the gaps where you are trying to plug up the gaps of scientific ignorance by punting to God, and that’s not what we endorse.

Kevin Harris: In a dialogue like this, by the way, Bill, you wouldn’t have a chance to respond to all of these point by point by point, would you?

Dr. Craig: Well, no, and I didn’t, as you noticed, Kevin, because we had to be guided by the moderator as to what questions we would discuss, and here I fault the moderator for not bringing up the arguments in my opening speech for points of discussion. I shared three ways in which science and theology fruitfully interact to the mutual benefit of both, and only one of these got any discussion in the dialogue that followed. I find that very unfortunate because it means that these points just sort of dropped out of the debate.[4] And many of these points that Dr. Krauss brings up I think, as you can see, are just red herrings. That is to say, they don’t have anything to do with the topic that evening, and so they don’t really get discussed either.

Kevin Harris: When someone says, we don’t need God because we have this and this and this and this scientific discovery, that’s god of the gaps right?

Dr. Craig: I think it is, Kevin, and I address that in my opening statement. I say when it is said that we don’t need God, the question you immediately need to ask is, need him for what? I think we do need God for forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, for coming to find meaning and purpose in existence in an objective way. So I think God is very necessary. What Dr. Krauss thinks is that God isn’t necessary to do science, and with that we are in wholehearted agreement. To deny that is to say that God is a god of the gaps, and that you’ve got to somehow appeal to God to plug up these gaps in scientific knowledge, and that is a caricature.

Kevin Harris: Bill, I found it interesting that you said that – when you said that we need God for salvation, for forgiveness of sins. And while you made the point, the temptation would be we do need God because God is the best explanation for the beginning of the universe, we need God because God is the best explanation of . . . but you showed – what? – a broader view that goes to more existential . . .

Dr. Craig: Yes, absolutely, Kevin, that’s right. We shouldn’t think of God as just some sort of explanatory hypothesis. Alvin Plantinga has emphasized this point. God is not just an explanatory hypothesis. We need God in order to know our moral duties to him, to be saved, to have forgiveness and reconciliation to God, to find eternal life. These are the things that really matter. And therefore God is vitally necessary wholly apart from his explanatory adequacy as a hypothesis for various things in the universe. Now, someone like Dr. Krauss, of course, isn’t interested in, ostensibly, forgiveness of sins and eternal life and knowing God, but that’s his problem. That’s not to show that God is in any way unnecessary or unimportant.

Kevin Harris: Bill, can you make a distinction for me here? Because when you say we need God for these transcendental aspects of life – for meaning, for love, and for salvation, the really important things of life – you’re saying that God is an explanation for those as well. Not that we need to create God in order to fulfill those, you know what I mean? That would be an emotional god of the gaps.

Dr. Craig: Well, I certainly. Yeah, I do, I understand. I’m not saying we create God for those things but neither am I saying that God is an explanation for those things. I’m rather saying that, “What is God a necessary condition of?” Well, he’s a necessary condition of things like salvation – right? – you can’t have salvation if God doesn’t exist. If atheism is true there is no salvation. We need God, he is a necessary condition of redemption. As Louis Antony said, one of the things that most struck her in becoming an atheist was that on atheism there is no redemption. Once you’ve done something wrong it’s indelible; there is no redemption on atheism. So God is a necessary condition of redemption. God is a necessary condition of eternal life – without God, if atheism is true, the entire universe and humankind with it is destined to destruction in the heat death of the universe. There is no eternal life or immortality. So God is a necessary condition of those things. That is a quite different question from the question, is there evidence for God? And I’m certainly ready to discuss that. That was the topic of the Melbourne debate – is it reasonable to believe that God exists? But insofar as one is talking about “is God necessary?,” well, clearly God is a necessary condition of some very, very important things. And even if he’s not necessary to plug up the gaps in scientific knowledge of the world, that in no way shows that God is unnecessary.

Kevin Harris: Let me try to go to the final points that he’s making in this opening speech, Dr. Craig. Krauss talks about science stripping the church of its credibility on factual matters, and science has certainly done that he says. Therefore we cast doubt on its authority to certitude in matters of morality.[5]

Dr. Craig: There’s a number of things wrong there. One would be, it’s an attack on the church, but we’re not here defending the institution of the church. This is supposed to be a debate about theism, about whether God exists or not, regardless of the record of the human institution of the church. Again, certitude is a red herring that comes up again and again in these dialogues. Krauss is under the impression that religious believers have some sort of 100% certitude about what they believe, and that’s just simply false. There may be some believers who have 100% conviction that what they believe is true, but that’s not universal among believers. Many times faith is held with great fear and trembling and with doubt and going through a dark valley of despair. So the idea that religious faith is characterized by certainty is, again, simply more evidence of how unfamiliar Dr. Krauss is with real religion, with real faith, and with religious people. And as for, again, moral claims, I think he is absolutely wrong when he says, for example, that the facts of science force us to take responsibly for us and for our planet. There is nothing about science that forces you to adopt a certain moral course of action. He is under the false impression that moral values can be established scientifically. And the reason he makes this false assumption is that he quite rightly sees that science presupposes certain moral values like reporting your results honestly, being open to criticism, and things of that sort. It’s certainly true that science presupposes moral values, but it doesn’t do anything to justify them. For that, as I argued, you need a conceptual framework outside of science, but there’s nothing in science that can force you to be an environmentalist or to care about other people rather than look out for number one. That is just incredibly naïve.

Kevin Harris: He goes on next to say that Dr. Craig is an apologist and that, “apologists often conjure up a veneer of rational justification and evidential support for their God by distorting and misrepresenting results of science and logic, something Dr. Craig does exceptionally well.”

Dr. Craig: Here I want to say that the pot is calling the kettle black. I think Dr. Krauss is the one who distorts the facts of science and logic in support of his agenda. He distorts and misrepresents the facts of science when he says that modern physics can plausibly explain the origin of the universe out of nothing. That is a deliberate misrepresentation of science. His distortions of logic, Kevin, are even more egregious and emerge in the Sydney debate where he launches a misguided attack upon deductive logic based upon a syllogism that uses certain terms equivocally (that is to say, they have two different meanings), and he takes this to invalidate deductive logic and says we should beware of syllogisms. So if anyone is guilty of misusing science and logic in support of his agenda, it is Dr. Krauss. If it is I who have done this then I welcome correction. Show me where the mistake is and I will acknowledge it. But until that is done, this is just name-calling.

Kevin Harris: It seems to me that a good rule of thumb, Bill, is before you say something see if the sword cuts both ways. In what ways does that apply to me? It’s just contradictory to put down apologetics because then you’re an apologist. You’re doing apologetics against apologetics, in a sense. If you’re defending a view and trying to give reasons for that view, I don’t know how to make the term more plain and make it less vulnerable to critique, because people always say, “Well, apologists, that’s their job. They’ve got to do that.” Well, just call it what you want – philosophy, defending your view, giving reasons and evidence for your view – call it what you want, but Dr. Krauss came there doing apologetics for his view as well.

Dr. Craig: That’s right, these are anti-theistic apologetics that he presents. And as you point out, Kevin, a lot of it is just drawn from these atheist websites on the internet.[6] These are not thoughtful, well-developed arguments. They are just sound-bites and slogans that get repeated over and over again in the infidel subculture.

Kevin Harris: Let me give Lawrence some faint praise. Yeah, he’s right, we should not do a disservice – no one should – by giving false information in your defense and in your apologetics. Well, of course you shouldn’t. And he quotes St. Augustine. He says, “St. Augustine once said if you want to go out and convince the heathen of your God, you better show that you’re not lying about the real world.” Jesus said something similar: “If you can’t believe me about earthly things then how can you believe me about heavenly things?” So this point is well taken.

Dr. Craig: Right, and this is why, Kevin, I have tried to be very responsible in my appeal to facts of modern science in support of, for example, the beginning of the universe and the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. I run my material past professional physicists for critique and commentary. And we’ll see when we get to talking about the later dialogues how, I think, I have accurately represented the contemporary science on these issues, and it’s actually Dr. Krauss who is distorting it.

Kevin Harris: What I would say to Dr. Krauss or anyone else, and I think you would too as well, Bill: words are cheap. If you want to say that this person is doing their apologetics by distortions, lies, falsehoods, and inaccuracies, well then don’t just say it, show it. Show it. And you do me a favor if you point it out. Again, we’re back to what you can do in a debate and you can’t do it in a dialogue – there are too many interruptions. [laughter]

Dr. Craig: Unfortunately. But you’re point is a good one. These arguments stand on their own irrespective of the person who offers them. And if you think there’s a false premise or an invalid inference then simply point it out. Until you do so, all of the rest is just name-calling.

Kevin Harris: We’re moving through these points quickly, and we’ll continue examining the Australian tour and debates in the next podcast.[7]



[1] 5:19

[2] 10:03

[3] Dr. Craig misspoke. He meant to say these are under the main “Scholarly Articles” section, not the “Popular Articles” section. See the “Scholarly Articles: Christian Particularism” section at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/scholarly-articles/christian-particularism (accessed December 19, 2013). Note that there is a relevant article under “Popular Articles” which can be found under “Christianity and Other Faiths” titled “How Can Christ Be the Only Way to God?” See http://www.reasonablefaith.org/how-can-christ-be-the-only-way-to-god (accessed December 19, 2013).

[4] 15:05

[5] 20:08

[6] 25:00

[7] Total Running Time: 28:00 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)