Is Varghese going to sue Carrier or the New York Times?Of course not.Just 2 years ago, Flew was writing that he should probably have always called himself an agnostic.And then a book appears with a ludicrous title calling Flew 'The Worlds Most Notorious Atheist'.Sorry guys, you have to make it at least a bit believable. 'The Worlds Most Notorious Atheist' is too much of a giveaway.But lets get Flew on the witness stand in a libel case to answer questions about 'his' book.
My, Steven, you are a busy blog commenter. I can't seem to find a post on the 'net you haven't beaten me to.Thanks for that helpful clarification, Dr. Craig.
Well, Dr Craig, regardless of the fact that Carrier doesn't yet have his doctorate (though he is very close as I understand it) and though in your opinion he has nothing of academic distinction published, he's still brilliant. So are you and Habermas and Flew, but brilliant is still an accurate description of Carrier. I hope to see you debate him at some point.
Jon,Did you say that Carrier is brilliant? I know that Carrier fancies himself a great genius (in the same league as Aristotle and Hume), but I'd be interested in seeing what your conclusion here is based on. Please fill me in.You note that Carrier is close to completing his doctorate. You should also note that he completed his MA in 1998. He started the graduate program in 1997, and he still hasn't earned his PhD! Perhaps his doctoral committee just hasn't grasped the guy's brilliance. Hopefully they'll catch on soon, before Carrier breaks the record for "slowest dissertation in history."BTW, did you catch Daniel Wallace's first critique of Richard's translations of the New Testament?
Carrier should be ashamed of himself, talk about a lack of respect. I agree with Craig, Flew isn't even a Christian and Christians still respect the man. Carrier is not brilliant, just listen to him try and debate the resurrection with Habermas.
Guys, Carrier gave specific reasons for doubting the official story here, and nobody seems to take that into account. Dr. Craig, I recommend the blog entry that Carrier wrote about this whole issue. It should clear up some of the confusion surrounding this situation.David, it's no surprise to see you criticizing Carrier, though after your book review of "Sense and Goodness Without God" I don't think you're all that qualified to evaluate Carrier's brilliance or lack thereof.Also, Daniel, I don't recall Carrier debating the resurrection with Habermas. The only thing similar to that from my memory is the interview on Infidel Guy, but he clearly wasn't trying to debate the issue thoroughly. He has argued against Habermas' conclusions elsewhere already.
Craig has debated Carrier once before on TV.As far as I know, Craig has stipulated that he now will only debate Carrier, if the final product can be edited by Christians before transmission.Will Varghese sue the New York Times or Carrier for claims that Flew's book is 'bogus'?Of course not.
I looked at Wallace's critique of Carrier.He only found one passage he could critique.Carrier translated a bit of Romans 8:11-13 as 'he who raised Christ' (The Empty Tomb, page 149) and Wallace claims it should be translated 'the one who raised'.I guess Wallace hasn't read the book.
Wallace says that Carrier translated a pssage as saying 'Spirit' when it should read 'his Spirit', and that this is really important.Amusingly, Wallace is one of those people who claim that textual variations in the manuscripts are insignificant for Christian doctrine, a claim belied by his making a mountain out of the molehill where somebody wrote 'Spirit' , instead of 'his Spirit'.
Anonymous (if that is your real name), I find it interesting that you bring up Richard's book in a discussion about Richard's brilliance. Who can forget his "Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys": "Since there is no observable divine hand in nature as a causal process, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no divine hand. After all, that there are no blue monkeys flying out my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no such creatures, and so it is with anything else" (p. 273). Then there was his "Evidential Argument from Large Breasts": "[F]emale breasts do not need to be large, or prominent at all—as instruments for nursing, small breasts are just as effective, while large breasts create increased strain on a woman’s back and increased risk of injury and lethal malfunctions like cancer. . . . [T]hey are a liability, a needless waste of energy. . . . What possible use such an inefficient tactic would have in the eyes of an intelligent engineer is hard to fathom" (pp. 171-172). If I had to describe Richard's level of argumentation, I certainly wouldn't use the word "brilliant." "Silly," perhaps. Or maybe even "childish." But not "brilliant." Given the inconsistencies, misunderstandings, misrepresentations, fallacies, etc., in Richard's book, I can't imagine he'd be competent to address (philosophically, at least) a work by Flew or anyone else.
Yes, David, my real name ;-)I knew that you would bring up Carrier's monkey argument, even though your review of his book clearly showed that you didn't understand the point that he was trying to make there. (And the rest of your review was basically downright disingenuous.) Carrier was drawing an analogy with that argument, and he should have written "...that there are no *observable* blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no such creatures..." (and by "such creatures" he is referring to "blue monkeys flying out of my butt", not blue monkeys in general). Give the man an honest criticism. I don't care if you'd call Carrier "silly" rather than "brilliant." Anybody who reads his book, then your review and his response to your review will get a clear picture of the situation.
Anonymous,You fell right into my trap (but I'll get to that in a moment). I'm shocked that anyone would defend Carrier's Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys, given (1) that the argument is so incredibly childish, (2) that, as Carrier has written it, the argument is clearly flawed, and (3) that Carrier could only defend himself by saying that he really meant something else. He resorts to (3) quite often, usually after he commits (1) or (2). For instance, when he wrote that "religion is socially acceptable insanity," and Licona pointed it out, Carrier tried to say that by "is" he meant "can become." That seems like an absurd display of verbal gymnastics to anyone who isn't a loyal fan. We see something similar in Carrier's defense of his Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys. What does he say in his book? " . . . that there are no blue monkeys flying out my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no such creatures." Notice that, as the claim stands, Carrier has said that the fact that there are no X are flying out of his butt is sufficient reason to believe that no X exist: "there are no such creatures." Carrier (and you) then try to defend the brilliance of the claim by saying that by "there are no such creatures," he really meant "there are no such creatures flying out of my butt." But this obviously isn't what Carrier originally meant (unless you're willing to grant that he is extremely inept at communicating what he means). Take a closer look. The evidence he offers is "that there are no blue monkeys flying out my butt." According to Carrier (and you), he takes this as evidence that there are no blue monkeys flying out of his butt. Hence, what Carrier meant was this: "That there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt." Well, then, that would be quite redundant: "That X is sufficient reason to believe that X." If you're right, then since Carrier's argument is an argument from analogy, his analogy is clearly strained, for such an analogy could only support the following: "that there is no God is sufficient reason to believe that there is no God." Thus, you're forced to insert the word "observable." But even here the argument from analogy would fail. For if he's merely claiming that since he does not observe a divine hand at some particular place, therefore there is apparently no divine hand in that particular place, Carrier has made an incredibly insignificant claim. For he's trying conclude that God doesn't exist. The analogy, then, must conclude that blue butt monkeys do not exist. As the argument stands in his book, that's exactly what he claims. But since his claim is obviously absurd, he had to do some gymnastics and say that he wasn't really denying the existence of blue butt-monkeys, only that these creatures are flying out of his butt. But now the analogy fails. So no matter how you look at it, this is one of the worst arguments ever made for anything (shocking, coming from someone who thinks he's equal to Aristotle). And yet you're defending the argument, which brings me back to the trap I laid.
No one except Carrier or someone completely senile would defend his Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys, since I have refuted the argument at length and both you and Carrier know it. Thus, I conclude that you are either completely senile or else you are Richard Carrier. I'm now going to contact the New York Times. "Anonymous is a big fraud!" Of course, you might post a news release saying that you're not Carrier and not senile and that you do indeed support Carrier's argument. But then we could all just call you a liar. That would be pretty childish, eh? (P.S. You just accused me of being disingenuous. That's quite a claim. Please share some examples with the group. I asked for evidence for your claim that Carrier is brilliant, and you've offered none. Now you're calling me deceptive, and them's fightin' words. So back it up or apologize. I've had enough of your "Since I'm anonymous I can say whatever I want about whomever I want and I don't have to give any evidence for anything I say" attitude.)
David, how charming, you laid a trap. No, I am not Carrier, and no, I do not think your review of his book was an honest criticism. In regards to that particular argument, as I remember it he was arguing that "absence of evidence is evidence of absence." That we don't observe blue monkeys flying out of his butt ought to be evidence enough that there are no blue monkeys flying out of his butt. Likewise, that we don't observe a God who actively prevents natural disasters from occurring ought to be evidence enough that there isn't a God preventing natural disasters. Any failed prediction made by a specific God hypothesis is evidence enough to not believe in that particular conception of God. To my knowledge, that was Carrier's point. You're right, Carrier didn't word it as well as he could have (I think he needs to add the word "observable" to make it understandable, and when he says "such creatures" he should specify exactly what he means so people like you won't write unfair criticisms). But nevertheless, it is an argument--and it does make a good point. That I don't observe a tub of butter in my refrigerator is evidence enough to believe that there is no tub of butter in there. Please contact the NY Times and let them know that there's an Anonymous out here who's defending a seemingly good argument from somebody who has a vested interest in portraying that argument to be silly. What can we conclude on the basis of this "absence of evidence is evidence of absence" issue? If there is a God, he is not a God who cures AIDS, saves all babies from fires, prevents natural disasters, etc. I'm not making an issue out of the problem of evil here, but the fact of the matter is, the absence of evidence tells us quite a bit. By the way, I hope I'm not senile. But anybody who reads Carrier's book, your review, and his response to your review and who still believes that you gave him a fair criticism may be senile. That's just my opinion, take it for what it's worth (and with a grain of salt).
Anonymous, aka Richard Carrier (no, I don't really believe you're Carrier; I just can't resist pointing out the inconsistency; if Flew puts his name on a book and says it represents his views, he must be lying, but if you say you're not Richard Carrier and not senile, I should trust what you say.) I honestly can't believe you just called the Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys a good argument. I assume you must be kidding. But let me tackle the issue a little differently, just in case. I think, of course, that Carrier's meaning was as plain as day. He simply recognized the absurdity of his argument and tried to change his meaning to save face. You obviously agree with his defense. I don't see how he could possibly have meant what you (and he) say he meant. So I hold that Richard is, in effect, lying about what he meant. Lying is a strong charge, so the question for us would be: Do we have evidence that Richard lies to cover up statements he later regrets? Absolutely. Again, after he said that "religion is socially acceptable insanity," he tried to say that by "is" he really meant "can become." I'm sure that makes perfect sense to you, since you don't seem to question Carrier very much. Here's where an argument from analogy comes in. Suppose I made the following claim on my website: "Atheists are child-molesting, murdering rapists." Perhaps a few atheists would complain. Now imagine I made the following reply: "When I said that atheists are child-molesting, murdering rapists, I really meant that atheists can become child-molesting, murdering rapists. And that's a true statement. It's always possible for a person to become a child-molesting, murdering rapist, so my claim is entirely true and unoffensive." Would you accept this answer for even a moment? Of course you wouldn't. But if you wouldn't accept my claim that "are"="can become", why would you accept Richard's claim that "is"="can become"? Here again, you'd have to say that Richard is extremely inept at communicating what he means. Now notice what we have. It seems that we have a clear case of Richard lying about what he meant in order to excuse himself from some embarrassing statement. Returning to Richard's Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys, I understand that what he really meant was that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. However, the example he uses to show this proves how poor a thinker he is (or how poor a communicator he is). To defend his point about evidence, he says that an absence of blue monkeys flying out of his butt is a sufficient reason to believe that no such creatures exist. When the absurdity of this claim is pointed out, Richard employs the same tactic we see him use elsewhere. When Richard translates the Bible, for instance, he twists and distorts the meaning to fit his agenda. Amazingly, we see him doing the same thing with his own words! "When I said 'is' I meant 'can become.' When I claimed to be equal to Aristotle, I only meant that I'm a philosopher too. When I said that the fact that blue monkeys aren't flying out of my butt proves that blue monkeys don't exist, I really meant that the fact that I don't observe blue monkeys flying out of my butt is reason to believe that monkeys with the property of flying out of my butt don't exist." You know, Anonymous, I think you should convert to Christianity based on the following argument: (1) If the Bible were not the word of God, it would contain errors; (2) The Bible contains no errors; (3) Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God; (4) The Bible supports Christianity; (5) Hence, Christianity is true. Traditionally, non-Christians would be most likely to attack premise (2). But by your willingness to reinterpret everything Richard Carrier says, no matter how absurd his defense may be, I would say that you have forfeited your right to say that any claim is false (since any claim can be reinterpreted). Hence, you cannot reject premise (2) without revealing your complete inconsistency. Thus, you should accept my argument. (P.S. Even if you think that I'm wrong about Richard's argument, you should at least be able to see that there really is a problem here, and that Richard's "solution" only works with his followers. Hence, while you have accused me of being deceptive, you still have offered no evidence to support such a claim. Notice that, when I accused Richard of being deceptive, I gave evidence to prove my claim. The reason is simple: It's not right to toss around claims of brilliance and dishonesty without some strong support. You've offered none. All you've demonstrated is your willingness to agree with Carrier no matter what he says. Again, back up your claim or apologize.)
Yes David, I do think Carrier is brilliant. I base this of course on his writings, as well as his performance in oral debate. His performance against Licona was superb (not to take anything away from Licona, who also did a great job), his performance against Frank Turek on the infidel guy show was excellent (note Frank's treatment of Carrier during that debate, being very deferential) and of course his many on line writings. His response to J.P. Holding is excellent. His "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story" is excellent. His chapters in "The Empty Tomb" are excellent. It's better than the work of a lot of other skeptics. He's obviously brilliant.My problem with Craig is his suggestion that simply because he doesn't yet have a doctorate or has no papers that are in Craig's mind "of distinction" this makes it surprising that the author of the Times article would call him brilliant. He called him brilliant because he is brilliant. You don't have to have a doctorate to be brilliant, nor will he go from being non-brilliant to brilliant after the doctorate is earned.
Dear David, I hope we can get to the bottom of this issue before long. Before I delve into it once again, I'd just like to agree with Jon on some of his points. Licona and Carrier were both great in their debate, and much of Carrier's work online is certainly worthy of distinction. Also, David, I'm not sure I was the one who called Carrier "brilliant," I just said that you aren't in any position to determine his brilliance or lack thereof (and that was based on your book review). We have two issues here. First, I'm not going to defend how Carrier worded his argument in his book. I've already agreed that it was worded poorly, and I've explained how it could be worded better to get his point across. You and I can sit around and criticize authors for not wording things clearly enough, or we can acknowledge that that sort of thing happens and recommend to the author that they change their wording to be more clear. I'm right with you on that, let's tell Carrier to explain his argument a bit differently next time. But what we shouldn't do is assume that the obvious point Carrier was trying to make (however poorly) was somehow completely absent from the passage in question. What point do you think Richard was actually trying to make? Do you think he actually wanted to argue something like "since there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt, that means that there are no blue monkeys"? Or even something like "since there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt, that means that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt"? Do you honestly think that Carrier was trying to make one of those points? And even after Richard tried to clarify the issue you still simply assert that he didn't mean what he says he meant? He is now somehow able to change a few words in his original passage for clarification and all of a sudden it makes a good point that seems to fit the context of what he was writing? Isn't it obvious what he meant? Please, David, grow up and give the man a fair hearing. The other main issue we have here in this discussion is whether or not you're disingenuous. You want me to supply evidence, when the only thing I've done so far is cite the book, your review, and Carrier's knock-out (in my opinion) response to your review. Let me mention a couple of things. First, the "religion is socially acceptable insanity" remark has already been dealt with by Carrier himself. I won't defend him there, though I think the context of what he was writing in his online essay made his meaning pretty clear. To you, obviously it wasn't clear enough. I do feel like you try to find any crack in the foundation and turn it into a wide chasm. Other than that, I recommend that other readers (and you, David) go back and read Carrier's lengthy essay in which he responded directly to your review: http://www.columbia.edu/~rcc20/contrawood.html
Jon, I think we simply have different definitions of "brilliant." Or else one of us is missing something. But I'll save that for another post. Right now I'll say that I think you missed Craig's point. Craig wasn't saying, "Since Carrier doesn't have his degree, he can't be brilliant." Rather, he was saying something like this: "Several people mentioned in the article (e.g. Paul Davies and Antony Flew) are clearly brilliant, and we know they are brilliant because of their work (I should qualify Flew as "brilliant in his prime," so that there won't be any disagreements). We don't know that Carrier is brilliant, because he hasn't really accomplished anything apart from being a graduate student in history (hardly a sure sign of brilliance). Yet the only person the author notes as "brilliant" is Carrier, and this is rather clear evidence that the author is extraordinarily biased towards the atheist side. Hence, the comment wasn't an insult to Carrier, but (1) a warning against unwarranted praise, and (2) a warning that the article is not a clear presentation of the facts. Now, as long as we're clear on this, I might move on to prove that Carrier isn't brilliant. Would that be okay? Since Anonymous and Steve Carr are on your side, and since you three are Richard's biggest fans, you should have nothing to worry about. (Note: If I had to assess Richard's intellectual ability, I would say that he's good at absorbing information and regurgitating information. If that's all you meant by brilliant, then our disagreement is only a matter of words. But if you meant more than that, I'm sure I can refute you with very little effort.)
Steven Carr,We've been over this and over this. The better question is "Will Flew sue Varghese for taking him for granted?" Well, so far, it hasn't happened. Get over it, Flew wrote the book.
Anonymous, (1) I think it's clear what Carrier was trying to get across, and I've said that already. He wanted to say that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. My objection is to the example he used to defend this claim (and to his attempted patchwork after the fact). Notice that he chose "blue monkeys" as his example, because we all know that blue monkeys don't exist. And how do we know they don't exist? According to Richard, we know this because they're not flying out of his butt. When you say that Richard must mean something quite different, you're thinking something like this: "It would be absolutely absurd of Richard to make the claim David attributes to him; since Richard is awesome, he wouldn't make an absurd claim; hence, he must mean something else." But the question here is whether Richard is really all his fans think he is. Like it or not, the passage as it stands allows only one conclusion: Richard used an example that fails to support the claim he was trying to get across. And even if you reinterpret it according to Richard's wishes, the point fails because now the analogy doesn't work. Either way, it's an awful argument (immaturity aside). (BTW, Anon, I should go ahead and confess here that I often bring up Richard's argument largely because I want everyone to see how his followers will defend absolutely anything the man says. Christians defend "The Argument from Design" and the "Kalam Cosmological Argument." Richard's fans defend "The Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys and "The Argument from Large Breasts." Wow.) (2) You say you're satisfied with Richard's Clintonian defense of his claim that religion is socially acceptable insanity (as I said you would be): "It all depends on what your definition of 'is' is. But you didn't respond to my argument. You see, if you're willing to grant things like "When Richard says X is Y, he can redefine 'is' as 'can become," you should have no problem allowing others to do the same. So if I were to say that atheists are child-molesting, murdering rapists, and then I were to say that I really meant "can become," would you be equally satisfied? If so, wow! Words are practically meaningless. If not, you're biased and you believe everything Richard says. (3) You've said over and over that I'm disingenuous, and I've asked over and over again for some evidence of this. All you do is appeal to Richard's response to my review of his book. Now since you've made a strong claim, you must have something in mind. If you're familiar will all the relevant writings, you should have no problem providing some evidence for your claim. Richard's book is over 400 pages, and my review and his response are each more than 50 pages. Since most people won't want to go through all this just to see whether you're right, I'll make the challenge quite easy for you. Please provide us, right here, with the three most obvious examples of my deception. Surely you have some good ones in mind. Please share them with the group. If I keep challenging you and you can't come up with any actual examples, some people might think you really don't have any evidence, and that you throw around accusations without backing them up. So come on, give me your best three. (I'll say here that I only know of one place in Carrier's entire response where he actually had a point; other than that, the review consisted largely of calling me a bigot and redefining what he said.) The ball's in your court. So come now, and prove my ineptitude.
David, I'd be glad to discuss these issues with you. Let's take them one at a time, though. For organizational purposes, we have a few different things to eventually discuss: (1) Carrier's argument about monkeys, (2) Carrier's comment about religion being "socially acceptable insanity," (3) arguments for atheism and theism in general, and (4) your disingenuous book review. I'll discuss the monkey argument first. The argument appears on page 273 of his book, toward the beginning of Carrier's teleological argument for atheism. The context before the quote simply talks about how the universe acts entirely naturally, not as if there is some superintelligence guiding things along. And as Carrier points out, this is a successful prediction for atheism, but not for theism. Then Richard makes the comment that, since we don't have strong evidence of a divine hand (which interferes in nature), that lack of evidence suggests that there isn't really a divine hand. (Could there be a God who, nevertheless, doesn't do anything to interfere in nature? Sure, and Carrier wouldn't dispute that. But if Carrier is right about the universe acting entirely natural, then he's right that we shouldn't believe in a supernatural guiding force behind the scenes.) Next comes Richard's (perhaps more careless) comment that, since there aren't any blue monkeys flying out of his butt, we have good reason to believe that they don't exist. And this is where your trouble comes in. You accuse Richard of making perhaps the worst argument ever. You think that he is saying either (1) "since there aren't any blue monkeys flying out of my butt, there aren't any blue monkeys flying out of my butt," or (2) "since there aren't any blue monkeys flying out of my butt, blue monkeys don't exist." What he actually wrote is "that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no such creatures..." You have offered two interpretations, so allow me to offer my own: "Since there are no *observable* blue monkeys flying out of my butt, we have sufficient reason to believe that there aren't any blue monkeys flying out of my butt." That should summarize the conversation thus far. Now the only question becomes: who has the correct interpretation? I will argue that my interpretation is better than both of yours because (1) it fits the context of what Richard was already trying to say in that particular part of the book, whereas your interpretations don't fit, and (2) your two interpretations say things that are just complete nonsense, wheareas mine makes an actual point (and we must assume that Richard was trying to make a point of some sort). Let me begin with point (1). It seems quite clear that, given the context of the argument (X would probably imply Y, but we have reason to believe not-Y and no reason to believe Y, therefore, we have reason to believe not-X) that my interpretation fits and yours do not. He is saying that if we posit the existence of something, it makes certain predictions, and if we don't observe these predictions, then that thing probably doesn't exist. Thus, if we posit a God who has his divine hand in nature causing all sorts of events to occur (like God did in the Old Testament), and if we don't observe this stuff, then we have sufficient justification to believe that such a God doesn't exist. Likewise, if we posit blue monkeys flying out of Richard's butt, that entails the prediction that we can observe blue monkeys flying out of his butt. But since we don't observe them flying out of his butt, we are sufficiently justified in not believing in such creatures (that is, "blue monkeys flying out of his butt"). So my interpretation fits perfectly with the context, and it makes a valid point (even if we do think it is a bit immature--Richard just says it's a joke). It should be clear that your interpretations don't fit with the context at all. In the context that I have described, you're arguing that Richard either threw in a statment that said something as simple as "since X, X" or something as stupid as "since I don't observe X in this particualar location, X do not exist anywhere." The first one is easy to dismiss completely, so let me focus on the second one. Does the context around Richard's quote suggest that he is saying that since there are no blue monkeys flying out of his butt that means that blue monkeys don't exist anywhere? No. In the rest of the argument Richard is careful to explain how certain statements entail specific predictions, and how these specific predictions have failed to be observed. Can we imagine that Richard would simply say something like "since there are no elephants living in my brain, elephants don't exist"? No, presumably, Richard is a bit more intelligent than that. Thus, the context around this particular passage fits perfectly with my interpretation of what Richard was trying to say, and it doesn't fit at all with what you think he was trying to say. Now, I'll fully admit again that Richard could have worded it better, and I hope he does in the future. The way it is worded leaves it open for people like you to give it unfair interpretations. Another reason my interpretation is better than both of yours is that mine actually says something that makes a good point, and both of yours say useless things (one is simple, and one is stupid). When Richard says "X entails that we will see Y, but we don't see Y, so we have good reason to believe that X is false," he is making a valid modus tollens argument. If he was just saying "since X, X," he would not really be communicating anything profound (just an obvious statement), and if he was saying "since we don't find X in my butt, X doesn't exist anywhere" he would have to be the stupidest person on the planet. Needless to say, Richard Carrier is not the stupidest person on the planet. He is fully aware (like the rest of us) that a thing can exist even if it isn't flying out of his butt. Since there is probably only one thing that ever flies out of his butt, and since he makes it quite clear in his book that he believes in the existence of a lot more things than human feces (see the enormous section of his book titled "What There Is"), we can safely rule out your interpretation of his passage. What does that leave, David? It leaves my interpretation, and whatever other disingenuous interpretation you want to invent and attribute to him for your own purposes. To me, it seems quite clear what Richard meant with this particular passage, and I don't know how you are going to argue for your interpretation given the arguemnts I just provided for mine. Nevertheless, I look forward to a response from you.
Anonymous,An excellent defense, much better than Richard's. However, I think you're wrong. Let's proceed carefully (and I'm delighted to see you admit that you think Richard's Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys is a good argument). The point Richard was trying to make is obvious. You and I aren't disputing Richard's point, so your comments about context are irrelevant. We both agree (I've said it twice) that Richard was trying to say that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. What we disagree about is whether Richard thought that what he ACTUALLY SAID was evidence for his point, or whether he really meant something DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HE SAID, and this other meaning was what supposedly supported his point. Here are the facts. Richard is not a careful thinker or writer. You assume that he is (so it might be better if we move on to some even more obvious errors on Richard's part, since this will have a bearing on our discussion here). Richard wants to compare the existence of God to something. So what does he compare it to? Blue monkeys, which don't exist. What sort of evidence would prove that blue monkeys exist? Well, for starters, if blue monkeys flew out of my butt, that would prove that they exist. But there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt. Hence, blue monkeys don't exist. Put into logical form, we have: (1) If blue monkeys fly out of my butt, I have sufficient reason to believe that they exist. (2) But there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt. (3) Therefore, blue monkeys probably don't exist. This, of course, if the fallacy of denying the antecedent, and it's not difficult to make if one isn't thinking carefully. So I would say that Richard, writing hastily, committed a simple fallacy. You say otherwise, but again, what he ACTUALLY said is on my side. You criticized my alternatives, but look at why I offered them. Richard says, quite clearly, "that there are no blue monkeys flying out my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are no such creatures." Let's divide this in half, because it's important to note that you must reinterpret both parts. First, Richard says "that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt." He states this as a fact, not as a claim about a lack of observational evidence. Second, he says "that there are no such creatures." What such creatures? Blue monkeys. So, according to Richard, there are no blue monkeys. Here you step in and say that Richard is referring only to blue monkeys flying out of his butt. Fine, but that's not what he says. If this were your only reinterpretation, perhaps I could bear it. But with only this reinterpretation, we would have: "that there are no blue monkeys flying out my butt is sufficient reason to believe that there are are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt." And you agree that this would be a pointless statement. Hence, you must reinterpret the first part of his claim by changing the meaning from "there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt" to something like "I don't observe blue monkeys flying out of my butt." Add to all of this the fact that Richard is referring to blue monkeys. This is significant, for if his argument were only meant to deny that certain creatures are flying out of his butt, he could have used real animals, such as monkeys or elephants. But he didn't. He chose a creature that does not exist, apparently because he knows we will agree with him that such creatures do not exist. The only problem is that he didn't pay attention to the reasoning he offered for this conclusion. So what do we have? My view is based on what Richard says and the clear implications of his appeal to nonexistent blue monkeys. Moreover, since we agree about the point Richard was trying to make in context, context fits both of our views equally. Your view requires us to reinterpret, not one part of his claim, but both parts of his claim, and your reinterpretations stand or fall together (i.e. one would be insufficient). If I knew that Richard was a careful thinker who almost never makes mistakes, I would have to give him the benefit of the doubt here. Or, if I knew him to be honest when he says, as he frequently does, "But when I said X I really meant Y," then I would give him the benefit of the doubt. But when I know that Richard habitually makes factual errors and commits logical fallacies, and also that he constantly reinterprets his own words whenever he's found out, I find it incredibly difficult to take this argument for anything other that what it obviously is: A silly, unsound, and in all other ways ridiculous argument. Now, I think we've said all that can be said either way. Let's move on to (2), since, if you can show that Richard was honest in his reinterpretation of (2), I would have less reason to believe he is dishonest when he explains what he REALLY meant here. Of course, you'll probably eventually have to show that he was honest when he reinterpreted his own claim to be equal to Aristotle and Hume, as well as many other "what I really meant" claims. After (2), we can go to (4), since that's extremely important to me. If you could show that I'm somehow mentally or morally deficient, it would cast doubt on everything I've said so far. Alternatively, if I can show that my many criticisms of Carrier in my review are correct, it would suggest that I'm right that he is not a careful thinker, and that he simply goofed when he made his Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys.
Flew wrote the book and claimed 'This is all Roy's doing.'Yes, right.Varghese is accused by a national newspaper of exploiting an old man.He does not sue.
Steve Carr said:"Craig has debated Carrier once before on TV. As far as I know, Craig has stipulated that he now will only debate Carrier, if the final product can be edited by Christians before transmission."I really find this hard to believe.
Craig has done more debates with non-Christians than almost any apologist out there (James R. White being a possible exception). And we are supposed to believe that Craig won't debate Carrier unless the recording can be edited by Christians?Steve, what is your source for this?
Have you heard this from Craig himself?
Anonymous,Hi. Just to let you know, I don't value online interaction very much. It's simply an inferior form of communication than real life conversations.But I would like to make a quick point. Even if Carrier's argument is saying what you say it is, which is simply that the absence of an objectively observed divine hand implies the nonexistance of God, it's still not a good argument. In fact, lucky for our discussion, the most recent podcast on this site is on this very topic (although it takes about halfway through the podcast to get to this very discussion). As Carrier uses it, by presuming the expected evidence of a creator would be random observable miracles, is not only not a good argument, it isn't even interesting.
Steve, I agree with Kumikata. I'd love to see your source (presumably, the source is Carrier himself). Dr. Craig, if you're reading, we'd love to hear whether this claim is true, and, if so, what the reason is. Of course, I would understand why Craig wouldn't want to debate Carrier until the latter has built up some credentials (defeating a grad student in history is hardly a noteworthy feat), but like Kumikata, I find it difficult to believe that Craig would be willing to debate Carrier, yet only on the condition that the debate is edited by Christians. (P.S. Kumikata, I'm pretty sure Craig has done more debates with non-Christians than White. White, I think, has done over 60 debates. A number of these were debates with Christians, however. I think Craig has over a hundred debates with non-Christians under his belt.)
David, glad to continue the conversation. We'll move on to the other points in due time. It seems that our disagreement here is about whether Richard was intentionally denying the antecedent or if he was using a modus tollens argument that ended up being worded badly. At the outset I should point out that I don't think Richard is infallible, as you seem to constantly allege. I just don't think you're giving him a fair criticism. Our disagreement about this issue centers around that (now infamous) passage that you take delight in quoting, so let's look at it once more. "The nature of the world is manifestly dispassionate and blind, exhibiting no value-laden behavior or message of any kind. It is like an autistic idiot savant, a marvelous machine wholly incomprehending of itself or others. This is exactly what we should expect if it was not created and governed by a benevolent deity, while it is hardly explicable on the theory that there is such a being. Since there is no observable divine hand in nature as a causal process, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no divine hand. After all, that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures, and so it is with anything else." Let's look at it piece by piece and, at the end, I think we'll have a better understanding of Richard's intended meaning here. I'll attempt to refute your hypothesis with three points: (1) The wording Richard used could go either way, (2) The context shows that Richard was using a modus tollens argument, and not denying the antecedent, and (3) The wording after the passage is the smoking-gun rebuttal of your hypothesis. First, let's begin with (1)--that the wording could fit either hypothesis. This is your main line of argument, and if I can refute this particular point and confirm the other two points, I think I can show why my hypothesis is more likely than yours. The first obvious point is that the wording can fit your hypothesis. Specifically, when Richard says "that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures...", it can easily be interpreted to mean what you think it means. But I think it can also be read as a modus tollens argument. Without the word "observable," it makes my case more difficult. So assume for a moment that Richard had inserted that word, and he pointed to the fact that we don't see any blue monkeys flying out of his butt, so we can conclude that there are no such creatures. The point I'd like to address is what Richard meant by "such creatures." As I said, it can mean what you want it to mean "blue monkeys," but I think it can also mean something more specific "blue monkeys that have the property of flying out of my butt." Nothing in the passage contradicts my interpretation, because "such creatures" can refer to specific entities. When I speak of unicorns living at the center of the sun, and I say "there's no reason to believe that such creatures exist," I may be referring to unicorns in general or to unicorns that live at the center of the sun in particular. Nothing in my wording makes it exclusively one interpretation over the other, and it is the same with Richard's passage. It could go either way. Given that the wording doesn't exclusively favor your hypothesis on that point, I now have to justify the assumption that Richard meant "observable blue monkeys." In order to do that, we have to look at Richard's statement immediately prior to the passage and evaluate the overall modus tollens structure of the section. I'll save the structure for later in this post and just look at the previous statement for now. Richard is drawing a parallel between the statement about a divine hand and blue monkeys. In the first statement he specifically wrote "observable divine hand," and since it is supposed to be a parallel statement, we can mentally insert it into the second passage. This point is bolstered even more by the fact that the previous statement was a logically valid modus tollens, as is the overall argument in the section of the book. Given these two points (that the wording doesn't exclusively favor your hypothesis and that we can safely assume that Richard meant "observable blue monkeys"), I think this is reason enough to show that the wording itself (which was your only real line of argument) can favor both positions. But now I want to focus on the fact that the context of the whole section is modus tollens, which suggests that Richard understands the relevant logic. As I've said, the statement immediately prior to the one in question is a valid modus tollens. Richard points out that, since we don't observe a divine hand in nature (in fact, the universe seems to act like a dumb machine), that's sufficient reason to believe that there isn't a God with his divine hand helping things along. This goes back to the very foundation of Richard's epistemology--that statements make predictions about the world, and that the absence of our observing these predictions to come true when they should gives us reason to doubt the truth of the statements. So the parallel statement Richard made was modus tollens, not denying the antecedent. But the entire section of the book (pp. 273-275) was a modus tollens argument against God's existence. The hypothesis of metaphysical naturalism predicts that our universe would be like this, whereas the God hypothesis doesn't predict this universe. He especially argues that the evidence contradicts the idea that there is a loving God who wants us to know him. But overall, the entire section is just modus tollens after modus tollens. This suggests that Richard hasn't made the stupidest argument ever (denying the antecedent), but that he was just trying to explain how this sort of modus tollens argument works against the God hypothesis. It was a colorful illustration (poorly worded), and no more. I think this fact favors my hypothesis over yours. But there is one more reason to think that Richard wasn't trying to deny the antecedent, and I think it weighs heavily against you. It's in the few words immediately following the passage: "and so it is with anything else." Since this follows Richard's statement about blue monkeys flying out of his butt, it should help us understand what Richard was trying to say. Was he saying that we are sufficiently justified in believing in the nonexistence of anything that doesn't fly out of his butt? I doubt it. Surely Richard doesn't think that just because jet airliners aren't flying out of his butt that means they don't exist. Let's not fool ourselves, Richard knows better than that. So with all of these considerations, I think that my hypothesis is more likely than yours. At the very least, I think my hypotheis is at least as likely as yours. And given that yours isn't a knock-out winner, your continued criticism of the passage is a good example of unfair criticism. Recall what Richard wrote in his introduction, David: "If what I say anywhere in this book appears to contradict, directly or indirectly, something else I say here, the principle of interpretive charity should be applied: assume you are misreading the meaning of what I said in each or either case. Whatever interpretation would eliminate the contradiction and produce agreement is probably correct. So you are encouraged in every problem that may trouble you to find that interpretation. If all attempts at this fail, and you cannot but see a contradiction remaining, you should write to me about this at once..." Perhaps you skipped that part of the book, David, but since we can interpret the passage differently than you have been interpreting it, and since Richard has confirmed that your interpretion is not his intended meaning, and since my interpretation fits perfectly with the rest of the section and it makes a good logical point, I think your criticism is unfair. I hope that adequately justifies my position, and I hope it shows that I'm not the type of person that will just defend Richard on everything. He worded the passage badly; let's admit that and move on.
Interesting reasoning there Steven.
A. If person X accuses person Y of something untrue, Y will sue (I presume successfully?)
B. Y did not sue.C. The accusation of X is true.Using this reasoning David Icke has accused people including George Bush and Queen Elizabeth of being shape-shiftiing reptilians. As far as I know, neither of them has sued. Therefore you would conclude that this is indeed the case.
Philip, I don't recall Dr. Craig taking on this issue, and I don't see any way that this sort of argument can be refuted without presenting contrary evidence. Let's posit the existence of a god who prevents all houses from burning down on earth by extinguishing the flames himself. This makes the prediction that there will not be any houses that burn down, and that we will observe some mysterious extinguishing of the flames in houses that are on fire. Given that we do observe houses burning down from time to time, and that never see the flames in a burning house mysteriously extinguished, we can conclude that this particular god doesn't exist. The only way this could be refuted is if somebody brought forth evidence of burning houses being mysteriously extinguished and if all of our evidence of houses burning down were shown to be faulty for some reason. I hope that makes enough sense to get my point across. Let me know.
I love this quote from Anonymous (speaking of Carrier)
"I don't think Richard is infallible"Wouldn't it be nice if the atheists could return that same respect to Anthony Flew?He has made his decision clear as to what he is, he has thought a long time about this. Over the years he may be showing signs of senility, but again this was a long time decision.
Anonymous,I think we've said everything that can be said, and I agree that we should move on. I'll simply sum up my reasoning, which will lead into other topics. Here goes. Richard is horribly illogical, and he makes tons of factual errors. So here's what happens. As I'm reading his book, I come across a passage in which he says "that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures." I'm surprised to see such silliness in a published work, so I take a closer look. I notice that, as it stands, the statement is absolutely ridiculous. Now, while I certainly don't consider Richard to be a genius, I don't consider him to be stupid either (just illogical, a poor fact checker, and a victim of narcissistic personality disorder). So I try to figure out what he could possibly mean. I then see that the second part of the claim can, with a stretch of the imagination, be reinterpreted, but that this reinterpretation simply will not do given the first part of the claim. Then I realize that, in order to reinterpret the second part, I need to reinterpret the first part as well. At this point I have to ask myself, "Is Richard simply an awful writer who can't express a basic point without making it sound absurd?" And my answer here is "no." I think that Richard is a good writer, and that he is typically quite clear as to his meaning. So I then have to ask myself, "Am I willing to reinterpret multiple parts of an apparently absurd claim." And here I recall that Richard, though a clear writer, is horribly illogical and a poor fact-checker, so I conclude that he really did make a huge blunder (I'm not sure why you said that I think his blunder was intentional). Richard then assures me that he really meant something quite reasonable, at which point I have to consider what I know about Richard. I think he's quite dishonest in his attempts at correcting his blunders, so I just can't bring myself to believe him. At the end of the day, I'm left thinking that he just goofed up. You at least admit that he goofed up on the wording. I just go a little further and conclude that he goofed up on the entire claim. You say that I must have missed Richard's request for interpretive charity, but if you've read my review, you know that I wrote a section on this request. If anyone has missed Richard's request for charity, it's Richard himself, as many of his responses to Christian authors show. (Yes, this is an example of Richard's methodological inconsistency, perhaps his biggest problem, apart from not knowing enough about the subjects he discusses.) Of course, Richard's lack of charity shouldn't affect my own interpretive charity, and it doesn't. As I've explained, I just can't bring myself to reinterpret his words on multiple levels, at least not when I know that Richard is (1) a clear writer, but (2) logically challenged. Am I really supposed to assume that a person who appeals to butt-monkeys in an argument is a pillar of reason? Am I supposed to assume that a person who constantly reinterprets his own words to save himself from embarrassment must be telling the truth when does so? Perhaps you're more charitable than I am, but I just don't think of Richard as a charity case. With all of that said, feel free to object to anything I've said here, or to move on to another issue.
Most intelligent folks consider it an intellectual virtue to refrain from speaking authoritatively on matters about which you're uninformed. Richard Carrier apparently considers it a vice. He's a popular atheist apologist with no rigorous training in philosophy in a formal environment, yet he tries to convince naive atheists that he has actually done some serious and comphrensive philosophy in his book about naturalism. The fact is, there is scarcely a single argument in the book that is not marred by fallacies, ambiguities, undefined terms, false premises, etc. Here's a challenge: go through Carrier's book and try to find an argument, and then try to post it formulated with premises and conclusions. Specify every inference rule used in the argument. You'll find that either the argument is invalid or most likely contains premises whose negations are much more plausible. In any case, Carrier's blog entry on the controversey surrounding Flew's rejection of atheism is yet another advertisement of Carrier's clumsy thinking. He provides absolutely no evidence that Flew's book is "bogus". Let's strip away the rhetorical fluff from his entry. We end up with this string of facts about Flew's book:"This book never once mentions my name.""Nor does it address any of the questions or issues that I raised in my correspondence with Flew.""Not a single argument in this book is anything Flew ever said in his letters to me were his reasons for becoming a theist, except one: the DNA argument, which he phrased very differently, and then rescinded in his letters to me.""The book has everywhere the hallmarks of Christian apologetic interests and idioms, but none of Flew's""...absent from the entire book is any discussion of Deism or the God of Thomas Jefferson, which Flew repeatedly emphasized in his letters to me."But what precisely is supposed to follow from these facts? Says Carrier, "All this makes this book a grand and shameless lie."But that's ridiculous. Why should anybody expect Flew to mention Carrier in the first place? Moreover, the book has Christian idiom here and there because, well, it was co-authored with a Christian. Varghese has been very open about this. So how do the facts above individually or collectively add up to the book being "a shameless lie"? Oh, that's right, Carrier just has a fondness for non sequitors.Further, Flew himself has said that the book accurately reflects his position. Why on earth should we give the benefit of the doubt to an atheist apologist like Carrier rather than Flew himself, especially when Carrier's case is so flimsy and speculative to begin with?
David, you're right, we've said all that needs to be said. I think I've sufficiently defended my hypothesis that Richard botched the wording on a modus tollens argument, and you just think he committed an obvious denying the antecedent fallacy. Any reader of these posts can decide for his or herself. At the very least, I think that it's been adequately shown that your continued criticism of Richard on this point is unfair. We can continue discussing those other issues after Thanksgiving when I have another opportunity to get back on here. To W.H., I don't feel the urgency of defending Carrier's blog post on Flew's book for him. I recommend that you post your comment on his blog and he will respond directly to you. In regards to not having any sound arguments in his book, I might just take you up on that challenge. My first candidate will probably be the modus tollens argument I've been discussing in previous posts which stems directly from the core of Richard's epistemology. Have a good Thanksgiving everyone.
I'm frequently amazed at the false rumors about me circulating through the grapevine! I have never said that I would debate Richard Carrier only if the final product can be edited by Christians. In fact, a debate between us is currently in the works for the spring of 2009.WmLC
What shocks me about this entire discussion over Carrier is how bloody bias he is in his articles. Ive read much of Carriers work that he has submitted online and what you find is a rediculous amount of poor scholarship and incredibly questionable conclusions. Carrier may be intelligent but he certainly is willing to make ludicrous assertions that most New Testament scholars wont consider for a moment. Just thinking of his borderline advocation of the Jesus mythicists and his belief that Jesus could have been taken from his tomb after being buried already by Joseph is about par for the very long and windy course.
This has turned into a discussion about Richard Carrier. It isn't really about him. Its about Flew and what Carrier did in regards to that.
Daniel, There's are good reasons for discussing Carrier's reliability. (1) The case against Flew's involvement in the book is based largely on Carrier's testimony. So, if Carrier turns out to be childish, illogical, and unable to distinguish fact from fiction, we have good reason to question his comments about the book. (2) One of Carrier's main accusations against Flew is that the latter doesn't respond to CARRIER'S arguments. If we look at Carrier's arguments and we find that they are not scholarly arguments in any sense, Flew can hardly be blamed for not addressing them. (3) As Craig noted, the article refers to Carrier, and Carrier alone, as "brilliant," even though a number of truly brilliant thinkers are mentioned in the article. If we examine Carrier's writings, and we find that he is brilliant, we don't have much cause for concern regarding the author's bias. But if we look at Carrier's case and we find arguments that look like something we'd expect from the Rational Response Squad, we have good reason to believe that the article is unbelievably biased towards the atheist side. (4) Like it or not, Carrier's fans really do think he's brilliant, and when he speaks, they listen with reverence. It seems important then, to provide them with some evidence that Carrier's arguments are, in reality, weak and childish. Now, Anonymous and I have been discussing Richard's Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys. The reason I brought this up is to show how childish Carrier's thinking is (as well as to show how quickly atheists will say, "Well, you should give Carrier the benefit of the doubt," when they obviously aren't willing to give Flew or Varghese any such benefit). But we can quite easily turn in other directions, such as logical or factual mistakes, and we would have enough material from Carrier to spend all of 2008 pointing out problems. Today, when I have time, I'll probably post an example or two, to see if Carrier's fans really think he's reliable.
Steve, If you have an ounce of integrity, you will apologize to Craig for spreading false information about him. And don't say, "But I thought it was true," for this only shows that you blindly accepted a rumor without considering the reliability of the source. (P.S. I noticed that you disappeared as soon as people started asking for the source of your rumor. Come now, be honest, was the source your dear friend Richard Carrier? Inquiring minds want to know.)
David, that rather dodges the point. "Flew" may well have chosen not to mention Carrier, and has no direct obligation to do so, but that was not the point at all. The problem is the difference between what Flew said previously, and what is portrayed in the book as the evolution of his thinking. Flew really DID admit he had been misled on abiogenesis, and really did rewrite an introduction to one of his works on this basis. And yet the author of "Flew's" book does not seem to be aware of this or acknowledge even to re-re-retract it.
Bad, If Flew says he believes that atheism cannot account for the origin of life, what difference does it make whether he felt differently at one point? In case you haven't noticed, Flew doesn't seem to embrace points dogmatically. That is, if tomorrow he sees some strong evidence against a belief he holds today, he will most likely change his position tomorrow. And I can see why Flew would go back and forth on this point. Originally, he feels that atheism can account for the origin of life. Later, he announces that he's a theist and that he finds the origin of life to be compelling evidence for an intelligent designer. Atheists then flood him with mail, assuring him that there are many good atheistic accounts of the origin of life. Flew trusts their testimony, and so he announces that he has changed his mind. Later, he discusses the matter with others, or perhaps studies some research on the matter, and he realizes that atheists have absolutely no clue how life could have arisen from non-life, and that atheist protests to the contrary are smokescreens. So he tells the world that he is impressed with the theistic evidence provided by the complexity of life. Notice that this would account for what you seem to consider a huge issue. My explanation, however, wouldn't require us to posit a conspiracy of evil Christians to deceive a senile philosopher. So, conspiracy theorists will likely opt for your view.
David Wood and I stand corrected, those are valid reasons you mentioned and I can't disagree, its just Flew was taking a back seat.Just to mention Steve Carr goes around the internet posting things on different message forums about William Lane Craig and spreading rumours about him. I wonder why he is so fixated on Craig??He has said over and over again that William Lane Craig is afraid of having another debate with Eddie Tabash. He has said that William Lane Craig is afraid of debating Jeffery Jay Lowder and Doug Kruger.He says the debate with Tabash was so one sided that Craig doesn't want to repeat it. I checked out the video of it, and I really thought that Steve was totally out to lunch. Tabash just rambled off points and never developed anything as well as used his classic straw man --Hell is a barbecue etc.Now he is saying that Craig won't debate Carrier. Even though Carrier looked completely lost when he had that 'discussion' with Habermas.
I think I understand why there's such disagreement over Carrier, i.e. why some think he's brilliant and others think he most certainly is not. Here's a quick example. On pp. 43-47 of "Sense and Goodness without God," Carrier responds to Plantinga's claim that theistic beliefs may be properly basic. (Note: A belief is "basic" when it is foundational and not based on other beliefs; a belief is "properly basic" if it is both basic and rational for the believer.) He quotes Plantinga saying that it "is entirely right, rational, reasonable, and proper to believe in God without any evidence or argument at all." Plantinga defends this claim by appealing to other properly basic beliefs, such as belief in the past, in other minds, and in the external world. Here's where Carrier jumps in. He notes, quite correctly, that our beliefs in other minds, the external world, and the past are in fact based on evidence--the evidence we gain from various experiences. And he thinks he has thereby refuted Plantinga. After some further discussion along these lines, Carrier concludes: "So much for the claim that belief can be warranted without evidence." Carrier's fans read this analysis and reason thus: "Plantinga is one of the foremost Christian philosophers in the world; Carrier just obliterated his argument; hence, Carrier must be brilliant." The problem here, of course, is that neither Carrier nor his fans know anything about Plantinga. When Plantinga talks about "evidence" here, he is using the term in a semi-technical sense to refer to PROPOSITIONAL evidence, as opposed to non-propositional evidence. I have propositional evidence for a belief when the justification for my belief is based on other propositions I believe. Non-propositional evidence includes various experiences, such as sense experience. When I see a tree, I believe that there is a tree. I do not reason that there is a tree because of various other propositions that I believe. So consider what we have here. Anyone in the world who has even a remote familiarity with Plantinga knows exactly what he means when he says "evidence." He means "propositional evidence." Since Carrier doesn't really know anything about Plantinga, he concludes that when Plantinga says "evidence," he is referring to BOTH propositional and non-propositional evidence. Carrier then "refutes" Plantinga by showing that we have non-propositional evidence for Plantinga's examples. Yet Plantinga would agree completely that we have non-propositional evidence for these beliefs. Thus, this is a perfect example of a straw man. Carrier portrays Plantinga as making an argument that the latter has never once made. Then Carrier refutes the straw man and proclaims his victory. The sort of people who read Carrier's book have never studied Plantinga, so they assume that Plantinga has been refuted. The sort of people who study Plantinga aren't going to read something as poorly thought out as Carrier's book, so Carrier's absurd response passes without objection. And so Carrier's fans think he's brilliant, when, if they had studied a bit more, they would have recognized his entire response as a clear example of his ignorance. Moreover, they would have recognized his response as proof that he "refutes" his opponents without so much as an attempt at understanding them. Beyond this, they would have noted a degree of hypocrisy here. In his book, Carrier tells his readers that, if they find what looks like a mistake, they should (1) assume they are misreading him, or (2) contact him for clarification. Obviously, Carrier doesn't act on the principle of interpretive charity he demands of others. But what should we expect from the man who brought us the Argument from Blue-Butt Monkeys.
There are many comments I should respond to. David, I'm pretty sure that Richard was not Steven's source for that information. Don't jump to conclusions. Now, I'll try to go through the many points you brought up (at least the ones I think are in need of comment). (1) The work that Richard Carrier thought Flew needed to respond to in his book was his article in "Biology and Philosophy." If you want to examine Carrier's work and decide whether or not Flew ought to consider responding to it, you should make sure you actually read that article. (2) If Carrier's arguments are so "weak and childish," I would expect you to challenge him to a debate so you can silence him once and for all. Let us know when that takes place. (3) I haven't read Plantinga, so I can't conclude that Richard's couple page rebuttal is really profound. In fact, from what I know of Planginga, I highly doubt that anybody can refute his epistemology in a couple of pages. Believe it or not, some fans of Carrier aren't as gullible as you may think. In regards to Daniel's post, I do hope that people aren't intentionally spreading false rumors about Dr. Craig or Carrier (or anybody for that matter).
Not to derail this to far but here are some links of Steve Carr and him saying the same thing over and over again.http://stevencarrwork.blogspot.com/2007/03/bbcradio-4-thought-for-day.htmlhttp://markmeynell.wordpress.com/2007/03/03/missing-the-point-perhaps-william-lane-craig-interviewed-in-the-daily-telegraph/http://mattghg.blogspot.com/2007/02/craigwolpert-debate.html~~~one of Carr's statements is this---
"when will Craig debate Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Krueger of the Internet Infidels?Craig has been ducking them for years.Craig has once debate Eddie Tabash of the Internet Infidels.Guess what? Craig does not want to repeat *that* experience...."---- Now here on this blog he(Carr) is talking about Craig ducking Carrier. This is slanderous and borderline obsession if you ask me.Then we see the way Carrier is going after Flew and showing very little respect.There is something wrong with this, very wrong.
Anonymous,Responding to your points: (1) I haven't read the article, but I've read Richard's entire book, along with several articles. Given the arguments I've encountered so far, I highly suspect I won't be impressed by his arguments in B&P. As far as I know, Richard was simply responding to various calculations regarding the improbability of abiogenesis. I'm not sure why this would be significant for Flew. Supposing that Dembski and others left this or that factor out of their calculations, no one (except perhaps Richard) denies that the odds of life forming are astronomical, to say the least. (2) I would LOVE to debate Carrier. In fact, several months ago we were asked to debate on an atheist show. I accepted, Richard declined. (Unlike Steve, I didn't spread it around the internet, even though, in this case, the rumor would actually be true. But now you're calling me out, so it seems relevant here.) So a debate between us isn't likely. If you can get him to change his mind, however, all I can say is: any place, any time, any format. (3) My objection to Richard's response to Plantinga isn't that it's not profound or that it's too short. My objection is that it's completely, utterly, totally wrong. Just a recap: (i) Plantinga has a specific definition of "evidence," which everyone familiar with his work knows about; (ii) Carrier doesn't know what Plantinga means by "evidence"; (iii) Carrier's response to Plantinga is based on his own misunderstanding of Plantinga's meaning; (iv) this makes Richard's argument a straw man; (v) this means (a) that Richard is sloppy (at least here), (b) that fans who accept the argument are gullible for trusting Richard, and (c) that Richard doesn't consistently apply the rules (interpretive charity) that he demands of his readers. Now, if this were the only example of (a)-(c) in Richard's writings, it would hardly be worth noting. But this isn't the exception; it's the rule. (P.S. I know there is going to be a spectrum as far as Richard's fans are concerned. Some will blindly accept everything he says, while some will be far more skeptical. The problem is that Richard discusses a wide variety of topics, most of which he is completely incompetent to address. Since his readers won't be familiar with many of these topics, there is a danger that they will trust what Richard says. And, as the Plantinga example shows, Richard isn't always careful. BTW, feel free to contact any atheist philosophers in the world who have studied Plantinga. They will assure you that what I have said is accurate.)
Daniel,Now that Steve has been called out for spreading false rumors about Craig, I wonder if he's going to use his famous response: "Well, if what I've said is wrong, why hasn't Craig sued me? Huh? Thus, what I've said is true."
I do wish Steven Carr would be a bit more polite to Dr. Craig on this issue. If you want to get Dr. Craig to debate somebody, you don't go around the internet declaring that he's afraid to do so. He is a top-notch scholar who deserves respect. David, I think you're right about the article of Carrier's. His point is that we simply don't know what the odds are of abiogenesis, and until we do we can't argue that the improbability of it is evidence of God. I didn't know you had challenged Carrier to a debate. I would love to see a lengthy written debate between you two, since both of you can probably make your points much clearer in a written debate. (But I would like it to be much longer than the Carrier-Wanchick debate.) And on the issue of Plantinga, as I've said, I haven't read him yet so I can't join in on the criticism of Richard with you. I have mentioned that I'm suspicious of anybody trying to refute Plantinga in a couple of pages, and I doubt that Carrier did a fair job. Your critique bolsters my suspicion. At least we are finding some common ground here.
Anonymous, (1) I think everyone's on the same page regarding Steve Carr. (2) I didn't challenge Richard to debate; we were both asked by a third (atheist) party to debate. (3) Again, everyone (except Richard, who knows nothing about the topic) agrees that the odds of life forming by natural processes are astronomical. However, some thinkers try to calculate an actual numerical probability. Doing so allows someone like Richard to say, "Well, you never factored in X. Since you didn't factor in X, your probability may be off. Hence, you can't give us an actual probability value. And since you can't give us an actual probability value, you can't say that the odds are astronomical." But this is just false. We can say (and atheists and theists agree on this) that something is astronomically improbable without being able to calculate a precise value. So I would say that Richard's reasoning is no threat to Flew's or anyone else's here. (4) As for Richard's erroneous response to Plantinga, I'll give you a quotation from Paul Draper (whom Craig has debated) so that you won't have to take my word for it when I say that Plantinga is using a narrow definition of "evidence" (and that Plantinga's usage is widely known). In his discussion of Plantinga's epistemology, Draper says that "properly basic beliefs are not groundless. Like nonbasic rational beliefs, they have their justification conferred upon them. For example, when I see a tree, I do not believe the proposition 'I see a tree' on the basis of other propositions like propositions describing my sense experience. But my sense experience, my being 'appeared to treely' (together with other circumstances) 'is what justifies me in holding it; this is the ground of my justification, and, by extension, the ground of the belief itself.' So when Plantinga assserts that one does not need evidence for theism in order to have rational theistic beliefs, it is important to keep in mind that he takes the word 'evidence' to be equivalent in meaning to 'propositional evidence.' If we use the word 'evidence' to refer to both propositional and nonpropositional evidence, then it is Plantinga's view that a theistic belief cannot be rational unless its subject has evidence for it" (Paul Draper, "Evil and the Proper Basicality of Belief in God," pp. 135-6). So Plantinga doesn't believe that beliefs can be rational without any evidence in the broad sense, and everyone who studies Plantinga knows this. Everyone except Richard. So again, this is a clear example of a straw man on Richard's part. (5) Since you have no objections to the Plantinga example, perhaps we should return to an argument you seem to find compelling--the argument Richard employs in the pages surrounding his Argument from Blue Butt-Monkeys. I didn't respond to your claim that Richard's argument here is a good one, since we were instead focusing on what Richard meant in a certain sentence. But let me see if I'm clear here. If we assume that Richard really meant what you claim he meant, you think he's making a strong argument on those pages, yes? If so, let's focus on that briefly, for I think Richard's reasoning here is extremely sloppy.
Dr. Craig stands no chance against Carrier's "since no blue monkeys are flying out of my butt, God doesn't exist" argument. That's quality PhD stuff for you there, buddy! (In this case, PhD stands for Pot-head Dopers). How does Carrier come up with such great and wonderful analogies? Forget Plato's cave, we have Carrier's butt! May Carrier's butt break wind that's hard enough to blow the existence of God away! You Christians are doomed!
David, I appreciate your responses to my previous post, and I don't have any responses of my own. Yes, we can talk about Richard's argument for a bit. Frank, since you have not read Carrier's book, you're really not qualified to criticize it. Also, Carrier's argument is nothing like how you portray it, as usual.
Anonymous,Richard sums up his argument in this section as follows: "And if what we would expect on the assumption of a superintelligent creator is not found, there probably is no such creator. And since what we would expect on the assumption of a mindless, uncreated natural universe is what we find, and nothing else, the most reasonable conclusion is that such a universe is all there is" (p. 274). We have two issues here: (1) Whether Richard's denial of theism, based on his expectations, is reasonable; and (2) whether Richard applies his argument consistently (i.e to his own view of the universe). Let's turn to (1). I have to say that I find it simply amazing that Richard doesn't think the fine-tuning of the universe, the complexity of life, and the rise of consciousness count as confirmation of theories that involve intelligence. His attempts to explain away the evidence is astounding. Just as important, however, is that Richard hasn't really addressed any theistic hypotheses. He formulates his expectations based on what HE would do if HE were God, but no theist expects God to be like Richard Carrier. Put differently, the theistic hypothesis IS NOT: "God exists, and he is like Richard Carrier." If I were to formulate expectations concerning the sort of world God would create, I would have to incorporate a number of claims into my hypothesis. It might look something like this: "God exists; AND he places a high value on human freedom; AND he is all just, and therefore won't give a hedonistic paradise to creatures who rebel against him; AND his primary goals are not the maximization of pleasure or the minimization of pain; AND it's important that we understand that he doesn't owe us anything; and so on." The point is that, when we factor in what theists actually believe, we arrive at different expectations concering the sort of universe we will find. Since Richard doesn't really address what theists actually believe, his argument is only a threat to theists who share the values of Richard Carrier. (2) But let's assume that, given our expecations that arise from the God Hypothesis, the world just doesn't line up with these expectations. What happens when we turn this reasoning against atheism? Both of the multiverse theories Richard proposes begin with "a pure chaos, lacking inherent order" (p. 86). I have no clue what a "pure chaos" would be, but I'm perfectly willing to grant you one as your first cause. Now that we've got our first cause of RH (the Richard Hypothesis), let's formulate our expectations. Wow! I can't think of any. The only expectation I would have given a "pure chaos" is, well, more pure chaos. But pure chaos isn't what we find in our world. On the contrary, we find a finely-tuned world governed by natural laws. So my expectations certainly aren't met, and RH is disconfirmed. But let's go a step further. Starting with "pure chaos" as our first cause, would we expect a multiverse to develop? No. Would we expect our finely-tuned world to develop? No. Would we expect life to form? No. Would we expect life to be even possible? I sure wouldn't. Would we expect self-aware beings to arise? Not at all. Would we expect objective moral values? Nope. So not only is our initial expectation (nothing but chaos) obviously not met, we also find that, given Richard's first cause, we wouldn't expect anything we do find. So if you think we should dismiss theism based on "what I would expect" reasoning, you should reject Richard's naturalism all the more. I have much more to say on this issue; but I'll let you respond to what I have said so far.
David, thanks for your explanation. I'll address the two points that you specifically brought up in your comment. First, you argue that Carrier's argument is weak because he presupposes that if God existed, he would act how Richard Carrier thinks he should act. This is a valid point. From my reading of the text, however, I'm not convinced that Carrier thinks God should do any particular action that Richard suggests. Instead, he simply gives numerous examples of what sorts of things God *could* do if he had a certain property. For example, if God is a being who wants to save humankind, there are all sorts of observations that could lead to the conclusion that God exists. Richard gives examples of the types of things that God could do, but he doesn't say that these particular things (turning all guns into flowers, for example) are things that he expects God to do. It's just an example of the kind of thing we would expect from a God with a given set of properties. Richard concludes that, since we don't observe any sort of value-laden behavior from the universe, we are justified in assuming that there is none. On the second point, you accuse Richard of not being consistent, since his "first cause" doesn't entail any predictions. Given that I haven't studied these particular cosmologies that Richard argues for, I'll just quote Richard's response to you on this point: "a chaos by definition will constantly spew up many random combinations of properties, and a self-replicating universe is one random possibility." Other than that, I can't think of how Richard would respond to your particular point. Moving beyond your two points (even though, I realize, I haven't satisfied your objections to them), I should point out that the logical structure of these types of arguments are sound. For example (1) If "God X" exists, we would expect to observe Y every once in a while, (2) We have never observed Y, (3) Therefore, we are justified in concluding that "God X" does not exist. The wording of this modus tollens argument may trouble you, but it can clearly be worded in a valid manner. I think this is the reasoning that Richard is using in this section of the book, and I don't see anything wrong with it (except, perhaps, for the point you brought up against it--that you have to be sure that you're examining the predictions made by versions of God that people actually believe in).
Anonymous, I’ll do separate posts for the two issues. Let me begin by saying that I have no objections to reasoning that says, “We would expect observation O given Hypothesis H; yet we don’t observe O; hence, this is some disconfirmation of H.” The difficulty is that, as Hume would say, the further we go beyond what is familiar to us, the less accurate our predictions will be. So, when we’re listing the observations we would expect on Theism, we must be extremely careful. My objection to Richard’s reasoning is that he’s not careful at all. Consider one of Richard’s “If I were God . . .” claims, drawn from the section we are discussing: “If I were to make a universe, and cared how the people in it felt—whether they suffered or were happy—I would make it a law of the universe that the more good a person really was the more invulnerable they would be to harm or illness; and the more evil, the weaker and more ill” (p.274). Now an atheist is likely to read this and say, “Yeah, that would be a good idea. It would make sense for God to do that.” But what happens when we consider the matter more carefully? Richard seems to think that this would be a good way to increase moral behavior, and to deter immoral behavior. But think about the implications. Suppose I see someone in need. I give him $10 to get something to eat. Suddenly, my broken pinky is healed. After this happens several times I notice a correlation: Whenever I do something to help someone, something good happens to me. I dare say that my motive for doing good deeds would change very quickly. Whereas originally I gave out of a sense of compassion, I would now be giving because of all the good things I get for doing so. According to Richard’s plan, people who do good things would be more invulnerable to harm, and people who do bad things would be sick and feeble. But if this were the case, people would end up doing good deeds, not for selfless reasons, but because that’s the best way to become healthy and invulnerable. The result would be that no one would ever act for selfless reasons, for every time a good deed was in view, the wonderful personal benefits of such a deed would be in the back of a person’s mind. It’s obvious, then, that, far from increasing morality, Richard’s plan would actually destroy morality. No moral actions would ever be performed, because all good deeds would have an element of selfishness. The point here is that it’s quite easy to say, “Well, this is what I would do if I were God.” It’s something else altogether to show that this is what God would actually do. As you know, Richard constantly gives suggestions as to how God could convince people to believe in him: Just produce glow-in-the-dark Bibles, turn guns into flowers, put force fields around churches, etc. But if God actually values moral behavior, he could do none of these. For imagine what would happen if he did. God goes with Richard’s suggestions and starts putting force fields around churches and jumping through all sorts of other hoops. Well, now everyone would know, conclusively, that a powerful being is watching our every move—the cosmic Big Brother, an infinite police officer. Belief in God would, of course, increase. But now there would be no more morality. For here, just as with Richard’s “good deeds = better health” suggestion, moral acts would all be hopelessly contaminated. As Kant noted, in such a world, “most actions conforming to the law would be done from fear, only a few from hope, and none at all from duty, and the moral worth of actions, on which alone in the eyes of supreme wisdom the worth of the person and even that of the world depends, would not exist at all” (Critique of Practical Wisdom, 5:147). So, we can see massive problems in Richard’s predictions, and this is exactly what I would expect. It’s safe to say that Richard, knowing practically nothing an all-powerful, all-knowing, wholly good being would know, cannot make reliable predictions concerning what such a being would do.
Anonymous, All right, now for Richard's Hypothesis. Richard's first cause is "pure chaos." I said that the only prediction I would make on pure chaos is more pure chaos. But pure chaos is not what we find. Moreover, I can't think of anything that we observe that would be predicted on pure chaos. Hence, if Richard were consistent in his methodology (he never is), he would have to say that RH is disconfirmed. Richard's response to this objection, as you noted, was this: "a chaos by definition will constantly spew up many random combinations of properties, and a self-replicating universe is one random possibility." Uh-huh. A Taj Mahal is another random possibility. But would we say that a Taj Mahal might arise out of a pure chaos? No. Think about how absurd Richard's claim is. He's saying that he's starting with a pure chaos, and he needs to get to a self-replicating universe from that first cause. To bridge the (mind-boggling) gap, he says, in effect, that pretty much anything might arise out of a pure chaos. Do you find this at all convincing? Think about it for a moment. I actually have no clue what a pure chaos would be. Would it be in time? Would it be material? Could it follow any laws at all? Richard is quite stingy on the details. But let's roll with it. Do we really define "chaos" as "something which gives rise to random properties." I certainly don't. If we do, then we're already ascribing a property to the pure chaos, namely, the property of producing random properties. But let's grant him that property. The question here is whether we would EXPECT a multiverse given his first cause. And the answer here is no. Actually, a massive universe-producing system is about the most complicated system I can imagine. Are we really willing to make the jump there via "pure chaos randomly spitting out properties"? I don't see how Richard could expect us to be that charitable. Think about what we would need--not just a universe (that would be complex enough in itself), but a SELF-REPLICATING universe, i.e. a universe that produces other universes! But even this isn't enough, for this self-replicating universe needs to have certain properties. First, it can't produce universes exactly like itself, for this would not allow the diversity that Richard needs to "account" for fine-tuning. On the other hand, it can't produce universes much different from itself, for this wouldn't allow the sort of evolution that Richard requires for his theory. So we need a very specific and amazing kind of universe, and we need this to arise out of pure chaos. Talk about faith! We don't even have evidence that such universes exist! Let alone that they arise from pure chaos! On Richard's view, it seems that pure chaos is omnipotent. After all, it can produce just about anything--even a multiverse, something unimaginably more complicated than our own world. Be honest, Anonymous, are you ready to go down with Richard's ship? Do you think he's given a reasonable account of how he gets from pure chaos to a multiverse? With that sort of faith, I could say that pure chaos, randomly spitting out properties, spit out the properties of omnipotence, omniscience, and complete goodness, all in one being, and that this being created our world and will judge us in the future. How would this leap be any less probable than Richard's move?
Anonymous, One more thought about first causes. With God as first cause, the question is never "Does God have the power to do X?" Rather, the question is "Would God WANT to do X?" The question is not one of power, but of motive. Given the appropriate motive, God has the power to create just about anything. But with pure chaos as our first cause, the question is not one of motive, for pure chaos has no motives. Rather, the question is one of power. That is, I doubt whether pure chaos has the ABILITY to account for anything at all. I especially doubt chaos's ability to produce something as complicated as a multiverse. Thus, I would say that in a battle of explanatory power, theism will always win over anything starting with chaos, simply because there is no question of the former's power to create. That's why I don't think this sort of approach works for atheists.
David, I apologize for not having responded to any of your points until now. I've been rather busy. Your first post seems to simply argue that the logical end of Richard's "If I were God..." reasoning is that people would do good things for selfish reasons. To you, this destroys morality. First of all, I'm not thoroughly convinced that all good acts would become selfish. I think it's distinctly possible that, recognizing that there is some "higher power" in the universe that seems to want us to perform good acts, people will want to do good acts by virtue of the fact that the "higher power" desires it. If I was convinced that God existed, and if I knew what God desired, I would want to act in accordance with his desire simply because it would be God's desire (even if there were benefits for acting in such a manner--eternal life, for example). So I'm not completely sold on the notion that all good acts would be done out of selfishness. But even if you were right, this doesn't necessarily destroy morality. We have to distinguish between the various facets of moral actions. An action can be good by virtue of the fact that the moral agent's intention was good, even if the motivation for the act was selfish. For example, if I act to save a person's life, my intention would be good because it would be to save a life. But what if my motivation in saving the person's life was selfish--for example, what if I saved a football player's life just because I personally enjoy watching that person play, and I would personally be upset if the person were to stop playing? That would be an act of selfishness, but the intention would be good (saving the person's life), and if successful, the consequence of the action would be good. So it seems as if this would only destroy morality if you take selfless motivation to be a necessary condition in a morally good action. I'm not sure everybody does, or needs to. Furthermore, you argue that if we knew conclusively that God exists, and what God desired, then there would be no morality. Instead, all actions would be done out of fear. But that's not necessarily true. Sure, we would all know conclusively that God exists, and we would know the kinds of things that he would want us to do, but what reason would we have to please him out of fear? The only type of God that would scare us into doing things his way would be one that punishes us for failing to do so, but we have no reason to think (without further evidence and argument) that this is the type of being that created our universe. And even if it was, people could still do things just because they know that a loving God desires it, and not out of fear (though some might do things out of fear, just like some might do things out of selfishness). Think about this for a moment, if you think that doing things out of fear of punishment follows logically from conclusive knowledge that there is a punishing God watching our every move, then how do the Christians claim morality today? Many of them claim to be certain that God exists, and they know precisely what he desires, and they even believe that he has an eternal place for punishment, yet does that mean that all of their good actions are performed out of fear (and therefore not moral at all)? Overall, I still think we can have morality if we know that God exists and if we know what God desires. Thus, I don't think your objection to Carrier's "If I were God..." reasoning is all too fatal. Even so, we should recognize that Carrier is not suggesting that just because God does not do these particular things, that proves God doesn't exist. Instead, he's saying that because God doesn't do *anything* like this that could convince us, we are justified in believing that that sort of God does not exist. Your problem with Carrier on this point just seems to be that his "If I were God..." reasoning seems to implicate versions of God that nobody actually believes in, and that may be true. But it still might allow us to narrow down the possible characteristics that we are justified in attributing to God. Indeed, it is difficult to make accurate predictions on the basis of very simple propositions like "God exists," but once you start attributing details to proposition, it makes many more predictions and it becomes easier to validate or invalidate the proposition. The simple claim that "God exists," actually, is rather worthless, because it doesn't tell us anything about what God is. Anyway, that's the way I understand it.
In regards to your second point, I should say at the outset that I'm not well-versed in cosmology, so I can't (and won't) argue for the "In the beginning there was chaos..." hypothesis. Nevertheless, I will attempt to give a reasonable defense of Carrier here. You argue that, since Carrier says that the first cause may have been "pure chaos," that predicts that what we would find is just more chaos. But what we actually find is not chaos, and therefore, Carrier's hypothesis is disproved. I don't think that's the case. I think a closer examination will show that your objection cannot be sustained on this point. You complain that "pure chaos" doesn't specifically predict what we find, but if "pure chaos" does indeed spew forth random possibilities, then it could have spewed forth our universe (or multiverse). The point is, if "pure chaos" is what Carrier says it is (and we'd have to check his cosmologists to see), then the existence of our universe does not disprove the the so-called Richard Hypothesis. And remember, this is how the argument is supposed to work. "X predicts Y, but we don't find Y, so X is probably false." We can't therefore say "Pure chaos predicts many random states of affairs, and we observe one possible state of affairs, therefore pure chaos is disproved." Instead, the argument simply works to justify the nonexistence of things that make predictions that never seem to be fulfilled when we would expect them to be. So your only possible line of attack here is that "pure chaos" would not predict what Carrier says it predicts. But you and I aren't going to settle that here, as I said, because neither of us know the cosmology well enough to do so. On the other hand, it's quite easy to see how various God hypotheses make predictions that we never see fulfilled, and why this justifies our belief in the nonexistence of those various gods. "God X's existence predicts state of affairs Y, but we never observe state of affairs Y, therefore we are justified in believing that God X does not exist." I think this reasoning works. Now, as we've been saying, we have to make sure that we're making honest predictions. And it's way too difficult from simple propositions like "God exists," to predict anything at all, as I've said. Instead, we have to apply this type of reasoning to specific gods for which we can make detailed predictions. That's why Carrier's use of it against the Christian God is more successful than it would be if it was against some ambiguous god. He says that if the Christian God exists (as many Christians imagine him to exist), then we would expect the universe to be a certain way, but since the universe doesn't appear to be that way (or anything close to it), we are justified in believing that the Christian God does not exist. So as long as Carrier is being fair on his predictions, I think he's making a good argument. But I should answer a couple of your questions that you bring up toward the end of your post. You ask if I think that Richard has given an adequate account of cosmology. My answer is no, but simply because he was not intending to prove his cosmology in his book. You cannot judge that cosmology on the basis of Richard's book, you have to judge it on the basis of what the cosmologists have written. At the end of your post you say that the "pure chaos" could have created God (as you imagine him), who then created our world. Yes, this is definitely possible, and I think even Carrier would admit it. But we have a way of determining whether or not this is the case, and it's the same argument we've been talking about all along. What predictions would that entail? Are the predictions fulfilled? If not, we are justified in not believing that proposition. It's the same game all over again. (Also, if you think that the "pure chaos"--as defined by Carrier--could create God, that means that God is not a necessary being but a contingent one. Just something interesting to keep in mind.)
In regards to your third post, your point can only be sustained if you can figure out exactly what the cosmologists are saying about "pure chaos" and you can demonstrate that it isn't what Carrier is saying it is. If it is what Carrier says it is, and if you still want to make your point, you would have to disprove any cosmologist who thinks that "pure chaos" may have created the universe, which would be a good cosmological project for you to undertake.
Anonymous, Glad to hear from you once again. As for your first response, I think my examples may have distracted you from my main point. Let me introduce it differently. Some ecological disasters may help. Human history is filled with instances in which some people got together and said, "You know what this place needs? Some rabbits (or frogs, or snakes, or some other species). Rabbits would do well in this environment." Then the people bring the rabbits into the new environment, and the entire ecosystem falls to pieces. Why? Because those people didn't see the delicate balance among all the various species. In other words, it's quite easy to say, "I think rabbits would be good here." It's quite another to know what effect the rabbits will have on the ecosystem. Now, I would say the same thing about Richard's suggestions. It's quite easy to say, "You know what would be good? It would be good if moral acts produced better health." It's quite another to know what effect this would have on our world. The examples I offered were potential difficulties that, for all we know, may be genuine difficulties. If they are genuine, then Richard's suggestions would result in an inferior world. I claimed that if health incentives were given to people who do good deeds, people would soon end up doing good deeds for selfish reasons. You said that some acts may still be good. Well, that's certainly possible, but you're ignoring the fact that the vast majority of acts would become quite selfish. You said that an act can still be good, even if it's done from selfish motives. I can grant that, but it doesn't change a thing. Do you really not see the difference between a person who rushes into a burning building to save someone's life, regardless of the danger, and someone who runs into the building to save someone's life, knowing that it's going to make his immune system stronger? If you don't, I don't think we're morally similar enough to continue this conversation on moral grounds. You argue that, even if we knew absolutely that God existed, we could still do good things. Here you're missing the point. Of course people could still do good things. I do good things, not because I hope to receive payment in heaven, but because God's existence means that some things really are good (I did the opposite when I was an atheist). So I agree with you that some people would say, "I'm going to do good deeds because that's God's will." (Note: Kant would reject the idea that acts done in obedience to God are moral.) But that's not what I mean. THINK ABOUT THE GLOBAL IMPACT ON FREEWILL AND MORALITY. All of a sudden, everyone would know that there is an all-powerful, all-just, completely holy being who sees everything, knows everything, and (we would have to assume there's a possibility) will judge all of us. You don't think that this would have a massive impact on freedom and morality? I don't see how any act done in such circumstances could be performed without any thought of reward or punishment. If you disagree, you should at least admit that, for all you know, these things would have a tremendous impact, and that, for all we know, God has goals that are inconsistent with Richard's suggestions. Finally, you say that Richard is merely tossing out examples of what we would expect, and that we should expect to see some things along these lines (though not necessarily this or that in particular), but that we don't in fact see them. I honestly don't know what world you and Richard live in. I've had countless prayers that were answered by God. I know tons of Christians who have had prayers answered. I know people who have had visions and other experiences. My own life was changed dramatically (and instantly) when I converted from atheism to Christianity. So was my wife's when she converted from agnosticism. So was my best friend's when he converted from Islam. That's the world I live in--visions, healings, miracles, answered prayers, and, most importantly, the presence of God. So I'm not sure you can fairly say that we don't see ANYTHING we would expect if God existed (and don't forget cosmic fine-tuning, objective moral values, etc.). At best, you can say, "Well, none of this would be enough to convince me or Richard." Here I wouldn't disagree. But let's be clear here. That's exactly what I would predict on my view of God. I believe that human freedom is extremely important, and that too much intervention by an omnipotent being would destroy it. I also believe that this being wants us to know him. What does all this lead me to predict? A world in which God gives enough evidence to convince those who are open, but doesn't overwhelm those who aren't. And that's exactly what we find. Christian theism is confirmed.
David, I appreciate the clarification. Your ecological point is well taken. To bring it back over to the discussion about God's actions, you're essentially saying that the "If I were God..." reasoning that Carrier employs is not sound because Carrier doesn't know the fine balance of things as they are, which may mean that whatever thing he is suggesting that God do would result in an inferior world. I'll agree with you that it may be the case that any particular example that Carrier gives is subject to this potential problem. Indeed, we may not realize it, but it might be the case that God has things balanced out for this world to be a maximally great world, and any other actions God were to perform would result in an inferior world. This may be true, as (I believe) Leibniz postulated as his theodicy. But let's examine exactly what Carrier is saying here. He is arguing that we should expect *some* good evidence of value-laden behavior in the universe, as opposed to the mindless machine that we encounter (not including, for the moment, the examples you brought up at the end of your comment). So if it is the case that God X exists, we would expect to see some indication of this in the way the universe operates. That reasoning is sound. The only question becomes: "Is there any indication of a mind at work in the universe?" I'll grant you that it could be the case that a silent God exists--that is, one who wants to remain hidden enough so as not to convince people with overwhelming evidence that he exists. It could be the case that a part-silent God exists--one who wants to keep the previously-mentioned characteristic but also wants to give enough evidence to some people so that they might believe in his existence. And what would this entail? It may, as you said, entail the type of world we live in (to many people the universe seems to be a mindless machine, and to some people there is evidence of purpose). But these characteristics that we've given this God necessarily limit the other possible characteristics that we can give him. So, for example, if we posit a part-silent God, we cannot conclude that God is a being who has given everybody sufficient evidence for belief (because, by definition, this cannot be the same God). And by that reasoning, God is a being that either (a) does not desire to give everybody sufficient evidence for belief, or (b) does not have the capability to give everybody sufficient evidence for belief. If you take (a), you're concluding that God is not the type of being that Carrier was arguing against, because he specifically defined God X as a being "driven by a mission to save humankind," and the God you've posited is not driven by such a mission because he does not desire to give everybody sufficient evidence to believe that he exists in order that they may be saved. So God X (one who wants all humans to be saved, and therefore wants all humans to have sufficient evidence to know that he exists) does not exist. This is what Carrier argued, and this is why the argument is a useful tool. We can narrow down the type of God that might possibly exist. But what if you went with (b) instead? You'd be arguing that God literally cannot give Carrier enough evidence to convince him that he exists, which entails that God is not capable of doing the things that Carrier suggests (or any of an infinite number of other things that God could presumably come up with). So the God you believe in would seem to have limited powers. Either way you resolve the issue, it necessarily tells us something about what God is not. Now, keep in mind that Carrier never argued that his "If I were God X..." reasoning proved that there were no gods. As I mentioned, if God were a silent being (like the Deists believe), then that would predict the type of universe Carrier thinks we live in. This is why he says in his book that he thinks a form of Deism is entirely compatible with everything he argues, because it really doesn't make any (observable) predictions different than the predictions entailed by metaphysical naturalism. So if your objection to Carrier on this point is valid, then that entails certain things about God. On your other points, you argue that the particular examples that Carrier uses are things that *might* result in an inferior world, which would explain why we don't see such behavior in the universe. But even if that were true, that defense entails that even God himself could not come up with any examples that could convince some people while at the same time not resulting in an inferior world. But I don't think you've shown that the world would be inferior if God *would* take Carrier's advice, so at best you can say that it still might be the case. On that point, you argue that even though people would do good things just because they know that God desires it, the fact is "that the vast majority of acts would become quite selfish." But you have not demonstrated that this is a fact, so at best we can agree that it seems to be probable given what we know about human beings. Even so, I pointed out that an action may still be moral if done for a selfish motivation. You draw the distinction between somebody who saves a person from a fire with a selfless motivation and somebody who saves a person from a fire with a selfish motivation. I can see the difference, David, but you've given no reason for us to believe that a selfless motivation is a necessary condition of a moral action (or that it is a necessary condition of the type of moral actions God desires in the universe). Recall that you argued that morality would fail to exist if our health was improved when we performed moral actions, but you haven't demonstrated why besides to point to the difference between selflessly motivated actions and selfishly motivated actions (even if the actions have the same intention and result). Again on a similar point you say that if everybody had conclusive evidence that God existed, it would "have a massive impact on freedom and morality." As I've already pointed out, this is true only insofar as it is true for theists now. Presumably, you believe conclusively that the Christian God exists, so by your reckoning this has a massive impact on your freedom and your morality. So also by your reckoning no action that you perform can be done "without any thought of reward or punishment." So if you think it would destroy morality if everybody knew that God existed, then you cannot claim to be acting morally while at the same time claim to believe conclusively that the Christian God exists. Finally, at the end of your comment you pointed to some things that you would expect to be true if the Christian God existed. For example, a lot of people tend to have answered prayers. Yet this can also be explained by metaphysical naturalism, since there has never been a double-blind study that has conclusively proven that prayers are answered any more than mere probability in a mindless universe would predict. So although answered prayers do help confirm your belief in the Christian God, this does not contradict what we should expect to find if metaphysical naturalism were true. And the failure of empirical studies to prove the efficacy of prayer does confirm what we would expect to be true with metaphysical naturalism. The same goes with visions and spiritual experiences. Neither of them contradicts metaphysical naturalism, and if they did, and if we had conclusive proof of them, then metaphysical naturalism wouldn't even be on the discussion table. The issue of miracles has been dealt with by Richard in some detail already elsewhere, so I won't address it. The "presence of God" can also be explained by metaphysical naturalism. So it seems as if none of the predictions entailed by your God hypothesis contradict what we should expect if metaphysical naturalism were true (if they do, let me know). This entails that we have to look for things that would be the case if Christian Theism were true and that would not be the case if metaphysical naturalism were true. You offer cosmic fine-tuning, but if Smolin's cosmology holds up, then this doesn't contradict metaphysical naturalism either, and in fact that cosmological model would predict many things about the universe we find, I think. And finally you mentioned the existence of objective moral values. This is a large issue in and of itself, so if you'd like to discuss the moral argument we can, but I won't address it now. And lastly, I'll deal with the very last point you made: "I believe that human freedom is extremely important, and that too much intervention by an omnipotent being would destroy it. I also believe that this being wants us to know him." Again, if this is true, then neither you nor Dr. Craig (nor any other Christian theist) really has conclusive knowledge that God exists. You may agree to that and admit that you don't really know for certain, but to my knowledge Dr. Craig wouldn't make that concession. Anyway, I apologize for the length of this and I hope we can begin discussing topics that don't require such elaboration :-)
Anonymous, Sorry I took so long to get back to you. I've been busy the past few days. There are several issues to cover. (1) We need a distinction between "evidence sufficient to convince everyone" and "evidence sufficient to convince open-minded people." I don't think the former is even possible. For instance, suppose God were to appear to the entire world, in tremendous glory, for an extended period of time. Atheists would still be free to say, "Well, this may be a powerful alien trying to trick us into believing that God exists." (I don't think this response would be any worse than many other atheistic attempts to explain away the evidence.) So God's appearing to everyone wouldn't be sufficient evidence to convince every sort of person. God's appearing to everyone would, however, radically affect our moral freedom (the "Cosmic Police Officer, watching our every move, perhaps waiting to zap us"). There are two important goods here: moral freedom and knowing God. Hence, I suspect there would be two important goals for God: (i) Not to give the sort of evidence that would radically affect moral freedom, and (ii) Providing the sort of evidence that would convince a person who is open to God's existence. I see no difference between the world predicted by these goals and the world we live in. (2) We continue to disagree regarding the moral value of actions. As I said, if you don't agree with me that a selfless act is morally better than a selfish act (even if they produce the same outer results), then our differing moral frameworks do not permit discourse on this issue. I'm appealing to what should be a point of agreement between any moral beings, namely, that selfless concern for others is superior to selfish concern for oneself. If you don't agree on this point, then we just have to disagree. But I think that you should concede something like the following: If my moral framework is correct (and most people would agree with me on this), then for God to intervene on the level you and Richard demand would have a significant negative effect on moral freedom. (3) You say that if God exists, you would expect value laden behavior in the universe. I would say that we do see this. Even Richard admits that there are objective moral values. Hence, morality is part of the fabric of our world. And, of course, we can now return to the sort of world we actually live in. (4) I don't think you understand what I mean when I talk about answered prayer. You assume that, if a prayer is not answered in a double-blind prayer study, then it is completely consistent with Metaphysical Naturalism. Here you've made a mistake on two counts: (i) there has been a double-blind prayer study that confirms the efficacy of prayer (though I've never been tremendously interested in such studies), and (ii) while Metaphysical Naturalism would be consistent with certain seemingly answered prayers, this consistency would be limited to what might REASONABLY be attributed to chance. Let's distinguish between some different levels of answered prayer here. (a) I catch a cold, and I pray for God to heal me before a big meeting on Wednesday. I then get better before Wednesday. Is this an answered prayer? Who knows, but I'd be inclined to give thanks to God. (b) Here's a true story. Two or three years after I converted to Christianity, I got into some conflict with a group of devil-worshipers who were intimidating some youth in my area. One day I found my best friend, Philip, on the floor praying with one of the (now former) devil-worshipers (named Steve). Steve became a Christian and wanted nothing to do with his former associates. However, one day Steve came running up to Philip and me, complaining that the devil-worshipers were threatening him with violence and trying to force him to come back. Thus, I hunted down the leader and his two lieutenants, poked the leader in the head (come on, I was a young Christian), and said: "Goob, I'm going to say this ONE time. Stay away from Steve, or I'm going to get my Father after you." Goob (aka Peter Murphy) responded, mockingly, "Oooooooooohhhh." To which I replied, "All right, now it's too late." I went back to my room and prayed for God to get rid of the three devil-worshipers so that they could never harm Steve. I never saw any of them again. But I found out what happened (from another devil worshiper). About an hour after I prayed, the three devil-worshipers got together to talk to Satan about dealing with me. As they did whatever it is that they do, a demon appeared to them and said that, if they were to commit a certain crime that night, they would have his full support. So, they went through with it, got caught, and went to prison, never to harm Steve again. Now, was this an answered prayer? It could, of course, be a huge coincidence, but I find that hard to believe. What are the odds that I would pray for God to remove three individuals, and those three individuals would be gone that very night? But again, it's still possibly a coincidence. (c) Here's another true story. My best friend Nabeel used to be a Muslim. We discussed Christianity vs. Islam for several years. One day, Nabeel asked God to give him a vision that would show him which religion was true. As soon as he prayed, the room he was in faded to black, and he had a vision of hundreds of crosses. Was this a hallucination? Possibly, but my friend had never hallucinated before. Beyond this, I would expect a hallucination, coming from his own mind, to confirm Islam (which he wanted to believe) rather than Christianity (which would ruin his life). But let's go further. Nabeel didn't convert based on this vision. he asked God for a series of dreams, and he got them. The second dream was interesting. Nabeel found himself in one of Jesus' parables, exactly as the Gospel of Luke describes it. The problem is that Nabeel had never read the Gospel of Luke, and he had never heard the parable. He called me and asked if I could interpret his dream, to which I replied: "I don't need to interpret it; it's straight out of Luke." Was this a coincidence, Anonymous? Nabeel prays for a dream to show him whether Christianity is true. He receives a dream telling him that Christianity is true, along with a biblical parable which he had never heard. Coincidence? Possibly. But we have to consider the odds here. Nabeel's prayers were specific, and they were specifically answered. (d) Now back to me. I was a mental patient prior to becoming a Christian. I'm a schizophrenic sociopath (I've also spent more than five years in jails and prisons). I converted to Christianity after studying the Bible (in order to refute it) and the resurrection (as the central evidence for Christianity). But after asking God for a sign, and receiving it, I surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord. That was eleven years ago. At first, I thought I had been completely healed of my mental problems. For years, I had no major difficulties, so much so that psychiatrists told me that I needn't see them anymore. But here's what happened since then. Whenever I become exceedingly busy, so that I don't even have time to pray or study the Bible, and when this goes on for several weeks, I begin having problems. I think that everyone is conspiring against me, etc. Then I turn to prayer and scripture for help, and the problems go away. This has happened on several occasions since I've become a Christian. So here's the world I live in, Anonymous. I have not been healed of my problems. Instead, I'm being sustained by God. When I'm in close fellowship with God, I have no problems. When I'm out of fellowship, I become deranged. So think of all of this from my perspective. You and Richard say, "If God exists, we would expect to see certain things in our world, but we don't see them, so God doesn't exist." The problem is that, even though you don't see them, other people do. Your only option is to say that answered prayer is just chance, that the world is finely-tuned by luck, that life formed by chance, and so on. But surely you believe that by faith, not by evidence. There comes a point when chance just doesn't cut it. And don't think that occurrences of the sort I'm describing are rare. They happen all the time. How, then, can you and Richard say that we don't live in a world where God is present? It would be more accurate if you said something like this: "We see no divine intervention in our world; and if we see anything that looks like divine intervention, we're going to explain it away." This would be entirely true, but you could hardly use it as a premise of an argument meant to convince those who are already convinced of atheism. (5) You say that, if knowledge of God's existence interferes with morality (as I have claimed), then moral acts by people who believe in God are affected. ABSOLUTELY! A Christian who is convinced of God's existence isn't free to be moral in the same way as, say, an agnostic. The Christian has a relationship with God, which is a greater good, and so we have a trade-off. But let's keep in mind that Christians still have a good amount of moral freedom. Christians say they know that God exists. This doesn't mean, however, that they possess absolute certainty. I know I'm sitting in front of a computer right now, but I don't have absolute certainty. We do, then, have moral freedom. But you're right that, on my view, our moral freedom has been affected. However, our relationship with God brings with it a greater power to act in accord with God's will. In this sense, then, our freedom is increased. But this doesn't come by simply believing that God exists (even demons believe that God exists), but by having a relationship with God. And our world is great for forming relationships with God. (6) I haven't gone on to cosmology, even though you've made some significant errors. I thought it would be best to finish up this issue before we handle another. So let me know what you think. To sum up, Richard is making an argument, and sound arguments must have true premises. Richard claims that we don't observe the sort of world we would expect on Theism, since we don't see anything but cold indifference. I say that I don't live in a world of cold indifference, and neither do most people in the world. So to believe that Richard's argument is sound, we'd have to agree that the world is as he describes it. But who, apart from the most negative, pessimistic sort of atheists, lives in Richard's world? Who, then, would agree with his argument? Atheists?
Holy Advanced Rhetorical Theory 401, Batman! I've never seen such voluminous exchanges regarding rather moot issues such as whether or not John Q. Atheist's coming to theism was a result of senility or sound decision making. Even if Flew were completely senile and said senility explains his changing views, those views are not therefore invalidated (ref: Genetic Fallacy). I believe that trying to decipher a person's internal motives for belief or unbelief is a largely superfluous activity better left to those who have all of the facts (e.g. God). In looking back at the people I've met over the years, I've met just as many dumb atheists as I have dumb Christians, and many of the most brilliant people I've ever met have included both theists and atheists. I've tried to get away from the cult of the personality a long time ago, because it is vanity. As you may have gathered from my pseudonym (indicating my future profession), I believe that it is far more important to really care about people than it is to explain them. There is only one Person who "knew what was in man," and there ain't nobody seen him for about 1900 years.
I have read the book, and I think Flew has simply stated his journey towards becoming a diest, end of story. At times it is true that the thought of God can seem absurd, but atheism is even more so.
Dr. Craig, I respectfully take issue with the way you represent Carrier in your talk.
Can atheists or grad students not be brilliant? Is it only theists and people with doctorate degrees that are brilliant? What about yourself? Did you notice some sort of change in the level of your intellect the instant you became a doctor?
I don't know Richard Carrier but I'm familiar enough with his work, and it seems to me that in your act of labeling him as a mere grad student with no academic distinctions is not only factually incorrect but completely unfair.
He wasn't saying that Richard Carrier wasn't brilliant, just that the columnist singling him out as such in an article which included many other distinguished scholars--whom he did not care to mention were "brilliant"--indicated the author's bias towards one side in the issue.
I agree with Philip on this. The way Carrier was singled out against the backdrop of many other 'accomplished' individuals was odd/bias and so Craig contrasted this. One could also say by this that the writer who singled out Carrier was in fact making it look as if Carrier *ALONE* was the brilliant one, although not said this way it certainly was implied.
Craig is missing the point. He seems to think that atheists are accusing Flew of becoming a deist because he is senile. That isn't it at all - I think the real issue is that because of his mental state he has allowed himself (understandably perhaps) to be manipulated in ascribing his name to something he essentially didn't write (even Craig admits this).
It may well be that Flew is a deist; given his current mental state we may never know. The real issue is that Flew, regardless of his position, was not sufficiently mentally acuit enough to put his name to this book - something that even Craig admits, but wants to overlook.
Looks like Carrier has another response that's pretty devastating to Craig's claims over at his blog.
Anon, as far as I've seen from the atheist blogs, they are overwhelmingly accusing FLew of becoming a deist because he is senile. I dont' read their blogs all the time, so maybe I am wrong.
Carrier says: "I don't think Flew is "crazy." But I do think he is mentally incompetent"
All the other stuff he wrote is nice filler material, but damage has been done: atheists just don't like the fact Flew said what he said. End of story. Lets move on. There are bigger issues to talk about.
Oh dear! I know this was ages ago, but what is Steven Carr trying to say! Does he not know that even Richard Dawkins describes himself as "technically agnostic" and sits on a 6/7 on the atheist scale?
You can't win with these atheists. They either want to say there's no such thing as an atheist, or they want everybody to be a "true" one!
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