The Latest From Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Latest From Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Kevin plays some recent video clips for Dr. Craig from these two popular scientists.


Transcript The Latest From Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, every once in a while Lawrence Krauss comes back up all over YouTube. I found an interview with him. I have a short excerpt for you that may be kind of a change in his tune. He has been roundly criticized for saying we don't need philosophy – he has criticized philosophy. In your debate with him, didn't he lean or look toward an anti-philosophical view?

DR. CRAIG: So far as I know, that was his view at the time. I don't think he expressed it in the debate itself so much, but certainly in his newspaper editorial pieces or opinion pieces he was trashing philosophy and criticizing people like David Albert – the great philosopher of science – for being a moronic philosopher which drew down condemnations on Krauss from people like Daniel Dennett and others.

KEVIN HARRIS: He may have changed his tune a little bit. We will listen to this excerpt.

DR. KRAUSS: We all do philosophy. Of course, scientists do philosophy. Philosophy is critical reasoning, logical reasoning, and analysis. So in that sense of course physics needs philosophy. But does it need philosophers? That is the question. The answer is not so much any more. It did early on. The early physicists were philosophers when the questions weren't well defined. That's when philosophy becomes critically important. Physics [inaudible] natural philosophy, but it has grown out of it. Now there is very little relationship between what physicists do and what even philosophers of science do. Of course physics needs philosophy, it just doesn't need philosophers. Except that physicists themselves are doing philosophy, but they are not credentialed to do that, if you wish. They are just asking questions, trying to do critical analyses, distinguish between hypotheses, use logic – all the kinds of things that philosophy is very important for. I don't mean to discount the activity of philosophy because it is what we all do in a real way. Philosophy is in many aspects of life quite useful. I spent recently a long dialogue on stage with Noam Chomsky about philosophy. I will be having a dialogue later this month with a friend of mine, Peter Singer, who is a well-known philosopher. These questions that they raise are vitally interesting in many areas of human activity. It is just in physics they are not.

DR. CRAIG: So we need philosophy but we don't need people like Peter Singer and Noam Chomsky, according to him. Right? We don't need people who are credentialed or specialists in philosophy. Let the physicists do the philosophizing. That seems to me to be self-evidently silly. It is like saying physics is really good but we don't need physicists. We don't need people who are credentialed in the field. I think that he is quite right – it is very welcomed to see his recognition of the importance of critical reasoning and analysis and its relevance to science. But the claim that philosophers of science are not doing work that bears closely upon science is just a terrible misrepresentation. The field in which I've worked the most in this interface – philosophy of time – is deeply involved with theories of time as it appears in various fields of science and various subdisciplines of physics. What time is, the essential properties of time, is a philosophical question that scientists are often very ill-equipped to address because, as Krauss admitted, they are not trained in philosophical analysis. So the best way of not being duped by unexamined assumptions is by having some training in critically examining those assumptions. That will involve courses and work in philosophy.

KEVIN HARRIS: I see a little progress or a little concession here. Still, it is a little fuzzy to me along the lines of maybe it is as if he is saying, We don't need philosophers in physics. Let them do it.

DR. CRAIG: That caveat at the end was interesting because he did seem to want to say that philosophy might be perhaps important in other areas, maybe ethics and epistemology, but not in physics. Don't impinge upon my area of specialization, he is saying. Yet, I think the work of philosophers of science (like David Albert who has a doctoral degree in quantum mechanics) illustrates how philosophy is deeply involved in physics. He takes Lawrence Krauss to task for Krauss' uninformed and misleading comments about the nature of nothing where he identifies various quantum physical entities with nothing.[1] Albert exposes this in his review of Krauss' book, A Universe from Nothing, and concludes by saying that Krauss is dead wrong and his philosophical and religious critics are absolutely right.

KEVIN HARRIS: Neil deGrasse Tyson – here is another clip. Poor Neil. Everybody who ever interviews him gets on the topic of God. Here he is answering that question.

DR. CRAIG: Do you think they keep forcing him into discussing something that he feels awkward talking about?

KEVIN HARRIS: I guess so.

DR. CRAIG: Isn't it interesting, though, how physical scientists have become the new priesthood in our culture where persons who have no training or expertise in this at all are asked questions about God. This would be like asking a physical scientist about culinary practices or golfing or something of that sort. Why in the world think that they would be able to pronounce authoritatively in this field?

KEVIN HARRIS: If I were reading his body language right in this, it is like, How many times are you going to ask me this?

DR. CRAIG: It think it just shows the reverence in which our contemporary culture holds scientists that they would allow them to speak upon these issues without any sort of expertise in the area.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here is the excerpt.

INTERVIEWER: Do you believe in God? A Creator?

DR. TYSON: The more I look at the universe the less convinced I am that there is something benevolent going on. If your concept of a Creator is someone who is all-powerful and all-good (that is not an uncommon pairing of powers that you might ascribe to a Creator – all-powerful and all-good) and I look at disasters that afflict Earth and life on Earth – volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease, pestilence, congenital birth defects – you look at this list of ways that life is made miserable on Earth by natural causes and I just ask, “How do you deal with that?” Philosophers rose up and said, If there is a God, God is either not all-powerful or not all-good. I have no problems if, as we probe the origins of things, we bump up into the bearded man. If that shows up, we are good to go. OK? Not a problem. There is just no evidence of it.

KEVIN HARRIS: We can stop right there.

DR. CRAIG: Well, it's the old problem of evil, isn't it? It is not a sophisticated development of it but very fundamental that focuses on natural evil or natural disasters and suffering. He claims this disproves the existence of an all-powerful and all-good God. He'd be prepared to accept the existence of a finite deity or perhaps a morally flawed deity if that should emerge. But he thinks that the natural evil in the world is incompatible with the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God because of the misery that it causes.

One of the interesting assumptions underlying this concern is the assumption that if God exists his purpose for human life on this planet is happiness in this life. Because if that is God's purpose then he doesn't seem to be providing a very good terrarium for his human pets to flourish in. If God exists he ought to be making us happy, he ought to be giving us a nice environment here on Earth in which his human pets can flourish, and God doesn't do that. But, of course, Christianity denies that fundamental assumption. According to Christianity, the purpose of life on this planet is not happiness in this life. There are many, many things that happen in the world that may be utterly inimical to the production of human happiness in this life. But that doesn't mean that they haven't been justly permitted by God in view of other ends. According to Christianity, the overriding end of human life on this planet is drawing men and women freely into the Kingdom of God. God is in the business of establishing his Kingdom, and he is doing this through human history. I have no problem whatsoever in thinking that only in a world suffused with natural evil that the optimal number of people would freely come into God's Kingdom and find salvation and eternal life.[2] I can't imagine how the atheist could prove that if God existed then it is probable that if he created a world with less natural evil in it that just as many people would come into the Kingdom of God and find eternal life as do in the actual world.

KEVIN HARRIS: Did you hear him say, If, through our scientific observations, instrumentation, and the scientific method, we bump into the bearded man, so be it.

DR. CRAIG: I took that to be equivalent to saying a finite God. That is to say, a God who is not all-powerful or not all-good.

KEVIN HARRIS: It is that anthropomorphism that you often hear – God is this bearded man with the long, white beard. If, through our science, we find him, OK, then I'll believe.

DR. CRAIG: Right, but not in a God that is all-good and all-powerful. The bearded man is a reference to a god whose existence is consistent with the natural evil in the world – some sort of finite god with a lowercase 'g' that he could characterize as the bearded man. But, of course, that is not the God we believe in. We believe in a God who is all-good and all-powerful and who has a purpose for human life on this planet that transcends the mere happiness of human beings in this life.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here is the rest of the excerpt:

DR. TYSON: This is why religions are called faiths collectively. Because you believe something in the absence of evidence.

DR. CRAIG: That's a naive definition of faith. One gets tired of hearing this. It has been corrected over and over again, and yet those on the other side relentlessly repeat it. I think that faith is trusting in that which you have good reason to think is true. So, for example, several years ago I had corneal surgery on my eyes. That was a big step – to let somebody cut on my eyes. What we did was we examined who were the best corneal surgeons in the United States; we looked into this thoroughly. On the basis of that evidence I trusted him – I put my faith in him – to cut on my eyes and do this corneal surgery. So my faith in Dr. Binder (that was his name) was not at all irrational or a leap in the dark. It was faith that was based on good evidence.

KEVIN HARRIS: I met a chiropractor in Dallas whose name was Dr. Bonebreak, and I am not kidding!

DR. CRAIG: I wouldn't want to go to him! [laughter]

KEVIN HARRIS: He's supposed to be one of the best though! Here's the rest of the comment:

DR. TYSON: It is why it is called faith, otherwise we would call all religions “evidence.” But we don't for exactly that reason.

DR. CRAIG: No, no. Faith is the idea of trust – like you have faith in someone. You have trust in them. But his characterization of faith is, I think, quite incorrect, and it is not in line with the way the word has historically been used. It is used in this way by its detractors who want to repudiate faith in God.

DR. TYSON: . . . describes to be the properties that will be expressed by an all-powerful being and the gods that they worship. I look for that in the universe and I don't find it. So I remain unconvinced. But if you've got some good evidence, bring it. Bring it. Bring it! OK? I don't believe with that information because what I believe should be irrelevant to anyone. It is not about me. It is about the real world.

KEVIN HARRIS: That's the end of that excerpt.

DR. CRAIG: OK. He sounds like an agnostic. He claims to be open to the evidence. I hope he is.

KEVIN HARRIS: If you have some evidence, bring it. He hasn't seen any yet. Would you encourage him as to, I don't know, I'm thinking, where he is looking and how what he is looking for? If you were to sit down with him and he said, You know, I'm a scientist. I need evidence. So show me some evidence for God. What would most resonate with him – scientific inferences? Possibly he is still looking for something empirical.

DR. CRAIG: Could be. Who knows? I don't know the man. We don't know whether he is sincere. We don't know his heart.[3] But I think there are multiple lines of evidence for a Creator and Designer of the universe who is the locus of moral goodness and who has revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth. If Dr. Tyson would look at this evidence open-mindedly I think he could be convinced.[4]



[1] 5:13

[2] 10:14

[3] 15:03

[4] Total Running Time: 16:20 (Copyright © 2017 William Lane Craig)