The Debate in Melbourne Part 2

The Debate in Melbourne Part 2

Dr. Craig concludes the series on the Australian tour with a look at Lawrence Krauss' response to the Moral Argument, the Resurrection, and use of logic.


Transcript The Debate in Melbourne (Part 2)

Cars have horns, cows have horns. Therefore a cow is a car.
It’s easy to do logic, no matter who you are.
I have a head, a hog has a head. Therefore I am a hog.
And if I put in Fido, then that must mean I’m a dog.
My cat has legs, my table has legs. Therefore my table is a cat.
You can do great logic no matter where you’re at.

Kevin Harris: Welcome to Reasonable Faith. We’re talking about the Melbourne exchange with Dr. Craig and Dr. Krauss, which was moderated by Graham Oppy. Dr. Craig, you did six arguments for God in your opening statement, the topic being: is it reasonable to believe there is a God? And up next in your opening statement was: God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world. What about Dr. Krauss’ response to the moral argument?

Dr. Craig: He never, again, seemed to really understand it. He would say things like “If you ceased to believe in God would you go out and kill people?” thinking that belief in God is necessary to moral behavior or that that was my position, and it’s not. The claim is not that you need to believe in God in order to behave as good and decent people. Rather the argument is that without God there isn’t any objective foundation for moral values and duties. And in response to this, Dr. Krauss was just all over the map. He would extol the moral values that are found in science. And Graham Oppy responded to him, well, science also gives us chemical weapons, right? Meaning that science needs to have ethical constraints on it. Science can tell you how to develop a chemical weapon but it won’t tell you that you ought not to use it. And Krauss’ response to that is just a red herring. He says, science is not a thing, it’s a human activity; he talks about how science is a process, and then he says, power, dogma and ideology misuse science. Yes, quite right, and the question is: is there anything objectively wrong in using science, say, to produce chemical weapons and kill people? And Dr. Krauss isn’t able to show on a naturalistic view that that is wrong. In fact his own example that I appealed to (of incest) at most would show that incest is taboo, but it doesn't show that it’s morally wrong. And his response to that was – when I said that on naturalism moral values would simply be like, in Australia you drive on the left hand side of the road and in America you drive on the right – his response was to say: well the laws of Australia aren't based on the Bible. Well, right, I mean that wasn’t the point. The point was that moral values are not just social conventions like that; you need to explain some sort of objective value. And then he said, “Well, without these we would have disorder; there would be a lack of productivity in society.” Well that obviously, again, doesn’t secure moral objectivity. He says, it’s unethical to be dishonest, but he never explains why. And then he finally says, “Well, there is no objective moral ought.” This is an affirmation of moral nihilism – there are no objective moral duties or obligations to fulfill. He said, “But we can base our morality simply on rationality.” And I said surely you wouldn’t call someone like Nietzsche or Bertrand Russell, I was going to say Jean-Paul Sartre before I was interrupted. You wouldn’t call these amoralists as irrational, would you? And he interrupted me and said, “Don’t call Russell amoral because he stood up against war” and so forth. And again, Kevin, it was just so embarrassing. He interpreted the argument to be an attack upon Bertrand Russell’s personal character – that I was saying Russell as a person was amoral. And I said, no Dr. Krauss, I’m saying that Russell’s view was amoralism. He didn’t believe in the objectivity of moral values and duties, and it would be difficult to show on a naturalistic view that he was irrational in doing so. So Dr. Krauss was just all over the map on this area of ethics. On one hand he would seem to affirm them, on the other hand he would deny that there is an objective moral ought. He just doesn’t seem to grasp the force of the moral argument, that in order to affirm the objectivity of moral values and duties – which underlie science and which he seems to want to affirm most of the time – you need some transcendent ground for these outside of the scientific naturalistic process.[1]

Kevin Harris: His two statements were: science develops morals, and you don’t need God. And then he said, reason guides, reason is why we have morality. So science and reason develops morals, and we don’t need God for it; so he goes back to that, again.

Dr. Craig: That doesn't answer the question of the foundation, does it?

Kevin Harris: No, no.

Dr. Craig: I mean I would certainly agree that we use reason and science in moral deliberation. Of course we do. But that doesn't answer the question as to the foundation of objective moral values, and that’s why I raise the issue of people like Sartre, Russell, and Nietzsche. He would have to say that these people, since they hold to amoralism or moral nihilism, are irrational in doing so. And that would be a very bold claim to make.

Kevin Harris: And he even attributes biology as to why we hold things like incest as taboo. He goes on to say – he won’t get good press from this – he says, “I have to say, let’s take the example of a brother and sister, an adult brother and sister, who decide that they love one another, decide to have sex, decide to use protection so that they don’t reproduce. Is that morally wrong?” He says, “Well, I can’t say that it is, frankly.”

Dr. Craig: Yeah, now see he used here a very candy-coated example of incest. When he said that incest is merely taboo and not wrong, what I thought of, Kevin, was a father who sexually molests his daughter for years, or a mother who forces herself upon her son to copulate. And frankly, from the interviews I’ve seen, these kinds of relationships are terribly destructive to children, horribly damaging, morally. And so to affirm that incest is not objectively wrong but just taboo is, I think, ethically unconscionable. Now if he says, well, but to do this where you do damage and cause harm of this sort, then it’s wrong. Well, I would ask why, on naturalism? This kind of thing goes on all the time in the animal kingdom; some animals eat their offspring, much less sexually abuse them. So why on naturalism are there the objective values that Dr. Krauss wants to maintain? Or is he serious when he says there is no objective moral ought, and that therefore it is ethically permissible for a father to sexually molest his daughter or a mother to force herself upon her son?

Kevin Harris: He really needs to stay in physics and cosmology here.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, he does Kevin.

Kevin Harris: I mean, come on Dr. Krauss. Because he says we have a revulsion against incest.

Dr. Craig: Yeah.

Kevin Harris: A natural biological revulsion against incest. But our biology makes us revolted by it; why? It’s biological taboo – the offspring can be bad. Genetically, sexual reproduction by siblings is bad; it can lead to birth defects and deficiencies, and things like that.

Dr. Craig: Yeah and therefore it’s been ingrained into us by evolution to have a taboo against incestuous relationships. But there’s nothing really objectively wrong with them. There is no objective moral ought.

Kevin Harris: Yeah. Once you realize it’s just your biology fooling you so you won’t do that you can say, well, why ought I follow my biology. Biology be darned.

Dr. Craig: Yeah and if it harms another person, so what, on atheism?

Kevin Harris: Let’s see, you went to the resurrection, up next. Krauss’ response was, I think, kind of positive on this.

Dr. Craig: Well this was an interesting point, Kevin. I almost never change my speech at the last minute. But the organizers of this event, knowing when I shared with them that I was actually going to use the argument from intentionality, said, “Oh, wouldn't you please raise the resurrection of Jesus, instead?” And I said, all right, I do think that since Krauss brought up Dionysius and Osiris in the Brisbane dialogue and there was no response made to that, it is time to bring it up and address it. And so I was very glad that I brought this up. And I thought here, again, Krauss showed real movement; he really conceded a lot. His position heretofore has been that Jesus is a mythological figure who may have never existed, and that things like the resurrection of Jesus are based upon models in pagan mythology, like Dionysius and Osiris. And frankly, Kevin, it emerged in the dialogue that that is an utterly untenable position, based upon scholarship that is over 100 years out of date. And to my surprise Krauss actually conceded the point and said, “All right, then, I guess Jesus was historical after all.” He still denies the resurrection, of course, but that mythological explanation collapsed in the course of the dialogue, and that is real progress.[2]

Kevin Harris: I’m trying to recall – you ended your opening speech with what you usually end with and that is: this is not really an argument but God can be personally known and experienced. And sometimes arguments might even get in the way and we need to be careful not to let that happen.

Dr. Craig: Yeah.

Kevin Harris: I’m trying to recall if there was a response to that.

Dr. Craig: No, interestingly enough, Kevin, as far as I can remember I don’t think that this ever did get discussed in the course of the dialogue. And this is where my own personal epistemology emerges, namely, I think that God can be known, we can know that God exists, wholly apart from arguments. I think that God has provided a kind of interior way, through the ministry of his Holy Spirit in which even the most illiterate peasant, the most unlearned person, or the person who has no access to libraries and internet materials, a person who perhaps is living in horrible poverty and destitution, even that person can come to know that God exists through this interior way that is quite independent of arguments.

Kevin Harris: I want to mention here that the group that, I think, coaches a lot of people who engage in debates with you and everything, this how to beat Dr. Craig in a debate group, one of the things that they say, Bill, is Dr. Craig will point out when you don’t respond to one of the arguments that you present, as either opening or in the course of the debate. Well that’s nothing, I don’t think, to criticize anyone on. You either say it as just a fact – he didn’t respond to this or she didn’t respond to this and so let’s go to the next one – rather than, nah nah nah nah nah nah, he didn’t respond.

Dr. Craig: [laughter] Right.

Kevin Harris: I mean, so you have your case . . .

Dr. Craig: Yes.

Kevin Harris: . . . and then you look and listen to see if they respond to your case . . .

Dr. Craig: Right.

Kevin Harris: . . . and put a little check mark or put what the response is, and if there’s nothing there well then they haven't yet, or are not going to, or for whatever reason have not responded.

Dr. Craig: And what you need to keep in mind is that your audience is not taking notes, and therefore you need to remind them of your case, that is consists of these five arguments, and you need to point out to them that some of these arguments haven’t even been addressed. If you don’t say that, Kevin, then it will simply fall through the cracks into oblivion and people will forget that you have even presented that argument. So this is a very important part of effective public speaking – to remind the audience constantly of the case that you’ve given and come back to those arguments and explain how your opponent has addressed it, or, if he has failed to address it, that he has failed to answer it. And so the original argument still stands until you get some sort of response.

Kevin Harris: I guess there are situations where maybe someone just doesn’t get to it, maybe you run out of time, or the time wasn’t managed well or whatever. But try to say something about everything that the person has said or – what? – unless it was such a red herring or so irrelevant that you don’t respond and just try to repeat what the issue is or your main contention.

Dr. Craig: That’s a very good point, Kevin. You don’t need to respond to red herrings. And in case our audience doesn't know what that is, a red herring is something that is off topic. It comes from the practice of dragging a smelly old fish across the path of the bloodhounds so that they don’t go after their quarry but they go after the smelly fish instead. It gets them off track. And when somebody tries to introduce a red herring then the wise thing to do is to recognize it as such and to ignore it and stay on track. Keep going after your quarry and don’t get distracted by the red herring. One of the best illustrations of this would be my debate with Sam Harris where one red herring after another was introduced by Harris, and there was very little substantive response to my three criticisms that I offered of his moral theory in his book. And it was quite surprising to see his lack of engagement in defense of his own book, but instead appeal to red herrings.

Kevin Harris: We come now to Dr. Krauss’ opening statement. Bill, I made a little list here of memes, internet memes. I can always tell when one has been hanging around on certain atheist, secularist, skeptic websites because I see the same phrases used over and over and over. I can see it, I’ve been there too, I can spot these, and here are some of the phrases: invisible man in the sky; invisible friend; sky daddy; sky buddy; flying spaghetti monster; iron-aged peasants; pagan savior gods; Thor; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; talking snakes; we’re all atheists about some gods, we’re just atheists about one less; spelling God with a small ‘g’; and then some I even see that they derisively spell Jesus’ name “Jeebus,” J-e-e-b-u-s. These phrases that come time and time again.[3]

Dr. Craig: And what’s discouraging is to see this kind of garbage on the lips of a sophisticated scientist in a dialogue that is supposed to be an intelligent discussion of these questions. And these are not substantive arguments for atheism; they’re not even relevant for the most part to the topic. And we’ve already talked about these in our conversation about the Brisbane dialogue. Krauss pretty much brought up the same arguments in both of these.

Kevin Harris: He uses almost every one of these that I listed – that’s why I just kind of spelled them out – almost every one of them. He goes on next to say, “God is at best irrelevant, and I mean at best irrelevant. Science has gotten rid of God from pretty well everywhere God used to reside.” I should add to that list God of the gaps.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, well that’s what he’s talking about.

Kevin Harris: But anyway as we look at the opening speech, one part that got a big laugh from everyone was his syllogism to show that deductive arguments don’t work.

Dr. Craig: Yes. This was the most remarkable attack on deductive logic that I have ever heard in my life, Kevin. This was so bad I’ve said it represents the Mariana Trench of philosophy, it’s that low. This is the low point of these debates philosophically speaking. He says, look at this syllogism: all mammals exhibit homosexual behavior; William Craig is a mammal; therefore William Craig exhibits homosexual behavior. Now the syllogism is so outrageous and provocative that people miss the point. The point is supposed to be that here we have a valid argument based on true premises that leads to a false conclusion. It leads to the conclusion: William Lane Craig is a homosexual, which is false, and yet that conclusion is derived from a valid argument with true premises. And therefore this is supposed to invalidate the use of deductive logic. This is astonishing. I mean – never mind the self-defeating procedure of trying to use logic to refute logic – the point is that this argument is informally invalid because it uses terms equivocally. It’s like the following syllogism, Kevin: Socrates was Greek; Greek is a language; therefore Socrates was a language. Now that’s obviously wrong because it uses the word “Greek” equivocally. In the first premise it’s an ethnicity, in the second premise it’s a language. And so the argument is simply invalid because of equivocation. Similarly, when you say: all mammals exhibit homosexual behavior, what you mean is: all species of mammals. But when you say in the second premise: William Lane Craig is a mammal, you don’t mean William Craig is a species of mammal, you mean he is an individual organism that is a mammal. And therefore the argument is invalid; you’ve used the terms equivocally. If you mean, all individual organisms that are mammals exhibit homosexual behavior then the first premise is false. If you mean, by the second premise, William Lane Craig is a species of mammal then the second premise is false. So you cannot construct a valid argument from those premises when you use the terms to have the same meaning. It’s only by equivocating on the terms that you construct this argument leading to this false conclusion. So this, as I say, is really, oh, this is the low point of these three dialogues where Professor Krauss mounts this attack upon deductive logic itself based upon this specious argument.

Kevin Harris: Dr. Krauss in his opening says, “and the last thing I will say is that Dr. Craig the other day said that the biggest problem for him in terms of understanding and believing in God was the problem of human suffering. And in this case, the suffering of animals. How could a compassionate God let animals suffer? Well his answer is that a compassionate God wouldn’t and therefore they don’t. They are not self-aware and they do not suffer.” What he’s referring to here is what we’ve done a couple of podcasts on, there’s been some questions of the week on this. It raised quite a stir, Bill, when we talked about the work of Dr. Murray who talks about first-level pain, second-level pain. Dr. Krauss criticizes you for this at the end of his opening.[4]

Dr. Craig: Dr. Krauss presents me as thinking that because God wouldn’t allow animals to suffer, therefore animals must not suffer. And that is not at all the argument that I presented or that Michael Murray presented. In fact I have believed for most of my life that God does permit animals to suffer morally significant pain so that’s simply not the case. But my eyes were opened by reading Michael Murray’s book where he calls into question whether or not animals experience this second order awareness of being aware that they are suffering pain. And that’s very different from suffering pain. This is a second order awareness that they are aware, “I am suffering pain.” And it’s not at all evident that animals do experience that kind of second order pain awareness because in order to have that you have to have self-awareness. And Dr. Krauss notwithstanding, this is a highly controversial point within neurobiology and animal studies: whether any non-primate animals have this second order self-awareness of themselves as selves. So he has completely misrepresented my views here. The reason that I draw into question whether or not animals have this second order awareness that they are themselves in a state of pain is on the basis that it’s not clear that animals have this sort of self-awareness. So he simply misconstrued the argument here.

Kevin Harris: Well, Bill, we’ve tried to hit some of the most important points in this. We don’t have time to hit them all but this material is available, the transcripts are available. I urge people, speaking for you, I’m sure, as well, go and take a look and let this promote further study. We did get this email, one self-identified atheist wrote about the dialogue with Krauss that he attended, he says,

I must say, being there as an atheist has really opened my eyes to how reasonable, intelligent people can believe in God. My mind has been changed. My opinion still hasn’t but that’s not the point. I thought that Craig took large parts of the debate away from a very feisty Krauss. This type of dialogue reaches more people than anyone would realize. Can’t tell people how grateful I was to be there. Congratulations to W.L.C (William Lane Craig) for accepting a debate such as this. The forum suits argumentative atheists like myself. William Lane Craig nailed it! Much credit to you guys for a super gusty and even effort in a difficult forum. I’m now going to endeavor to read all of William Lane Craig's books with a very open mind, might even open the Bible again. I will also read Krauss’ book again for some clarity. I feel blessed; lol

Remarkable testimony, Dr. Craig, from an atheist.

Dr. Craig: Tremendous; so gratifying.[5]



[1] 5:05

[2] 10:04

[3] 15:17

[4] 20:03

[5] Total Running Time: 24:20 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)