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"The Unbelievers Movie" Part 3

June 17, 2013     Time: 16:12
“The Unbelievers Movie” Part 3


In a movie that extols the virtues of science, it's surprising how many unscientific assertions there are in this movie!

Transcript The "Unbelievers Movie" Part 3


Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, we have been talking about this new movie The Unbelievers featuring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss. I think this has really hit a nerve with you. I can see a couple of things it fosters and promotes. What you see as a false dichotomy between science and religion and an attack on philosophy yet it asks philosophical questions. And, of course, all the talking head shows are talking about this movie and also interviewing Krauss and Dawkins. So, once again, lets explore it.

Dr. Craig: Yes, I’d like to. I think the film is of interest precisely because of the points that you just made, Kevin. It’s ironic that it extols the virtues of questioning one's assumptions, examining everything; and yet, the film is full of unexamined assumptions on which Krauss and Dawkins operate that they will not allow to be examined. Indeed, they will often deride these questions, as you say, as silly questions; and yet, they have their own philosophical assumptions that go unquestioned throughout the film. So, because of the cultural influence of these two men and this film, I think it is very important to address.

Having debated both of them in the past, I am convinced that they do not have the intellectual muscle to support the case against religious belief that they claim they have and, therefore, I am looking for some sort of argument in this film to interact with. In fact, the film has very little argument in it. I believe that this is mainly an in-house film designed for those who are already unbelievers in an attempt to get them to come out of the closet and to be overt about their unbelief. Dawkins is convinced that there are vast numbers of people, including vast numbers of clergy - he thinks probably two hundred members of the U.S. House and Senate - who are actually atheists and he wants them to come out of the closet and be overt about their unbelief. So, I get the impression that one reason this film is so short on argument is it’s not really an attempt to engage believers in conversation and convince them to become unbelievers. It’s an in-house film aimed at people who are already secretly unbelievers and to try to get them to come out and be honest.

Kevin Harris: Reports I’ve gotten on screenings of the film show exactly that. It’s attended largely by unbelievers who cheer. Well, another thing that seems to show that it is really just kind of a rallying film for unbelievers to come out and be atheist and proud; be an unbeliever and be proud. There are a few things that seems that the film brings up however, as far as a few assertions toward atheism. One would be that the universe could plausibly come from nothing, and we talked about that. Dawkins seems to be confused about nothingness as well. He seems to be calling it something. Not necessarily in this film but in some of his other things.

Dr. Craig: Yes, that’s quite right. When you look at Dawkins’ statements, he has been taken in by Krauss’ use of the word “nothing” to describe the early condition of the universe. So, for example, in his dialogue with Cardinal Pell, some clips of which are shown in this film, he says, “the nothing Lawrence Krauss is talking about is going to be something much, much simpler than a creative intelligence.” Now, that’s a self-contradiction to say that the “nothing” is “something.”

Kevin Harris: The audience picked up on that because they started laughing when he said that, and he said “Why is that funny?”

Dr. Craig: Yes, Yes, that’s right. That comes at the line where he says “You can dispute exactly what is meant by “nothing” but whatever it is, it is very, very simple,” and the audience, as you said, is laughing as he said “why is that funny?” He doesn’t see the point and yet it is very clear that nothingness is non-being, it’s just not any thing, and therefore has no properties, no powers. It doesn’t have even simplicity. So this is just a gross misuse of equivocal terms to characterize things like the quantum vacuum.

Kevin Harris: Well, Bill, I wonder if Dr. Krauss is kind of changing his tune.[1] He says in the film, “The multiverse is an object beyond the universe. Multiverse serves the role of the prime mover.”

Dr. Craig: Yes, I thought this was huge, Kevin. As you know, the Kalam Cosmological Argument goes:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exists.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now, heretofore, Krauss has responded to that sort of argument by denying the first premise by saying, “No, the universe came from nothing.” Unfortunately, he is using the word nothing, as we just said, in an equivocal sense to indicate something like the quantum vacuum or some other early state of the universe. He’s not talking about nothing in the proper sense of that term, and here now, in this film, he seems to get the point, which is very encouraging. Now, what he says is that yes, there is a cause of the universe. He grants, in effect, the soundness of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and he says “the multiverse is that which serves the role of the prime mover. It is eternal and beyond the universe and it is the source of the universe. It is an object beyond the universe, it is not nothing.” So, this is hugely significant, because the prime mover of course, was Aristotle's designation of God. In Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, his proof for the prime mover was his cosmological argument for the existence of God.

So, what Krauss is doing here is an enormous concession in this film that I wonder if people will pick up. He has invalidated his own prior view that the universe came from nothing and now is agreeing that there is a transcendent cause, beyond space and time, eternal, which is the cause of the universe. He identifies this now with the multiverse which plays the role of God in his system.

Kevin Harris: You realize that the sequel to this film is going to be called “The Believers” starring Lawrence Krauss!

Dr. Craig: Now, he says, “I don’t like the multiverse.” He has actually written against it in the past but he says the evidence points to it. Well, that’s not true.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, I wondered about that.

Dr. Craig: That’s not true. There isn’t any evidence that the multiverse exists. In fact, there is a very powerful argument from Roger Penrose against the existence of the multiverse, which I have shared in debates and publications. Namely, if our universe is just a random member of a multiverse of different words, then it is incomprehensibly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than the one that we observe. The most probable observable universe in a multiverse will be a universe in which a single brain fluctuates into existence randomly out of the quantum vacuum and observes it’s otherwise empty world. That kind of universe is simply vastly, incomprehensibly, more probable than a universe involving this incredible fine-tuning, this kind of biological complexity, and thirteen billion years of thermodynamic history behind us to get to the point today.

So, the fact that we don’t have those kind of observations, the observations of a single brain in the quantum vacuum, strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. So, in fact, the evidence is very, very powerful against the multiverse. Now, in this film, Krauss says that you don’t need to prove your worldview; you just need to show that it’s plausible. Plausibility is his test for truth. It is plausible. But, in fact, his multiverse scenario is not plausible. It is implausible. So, I would argue as a theist that the existence of a transcendent, personal, creator of the universe is vastly more plausible than the multiverse hypothesis. So, I think we are seeing movement here in Krauss, and I think he is increasingly being backed into a very uncomfortable corner from which it will be difficult for him to extricate himself.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, not just his colleagues, Bill, but his students in the university are going to be really holding his feet to the fire on this because many of his students are very well versed in the Kalam and other arguments like that.[2] I picked up the latest collector’s edition of Scientific American. It’s a collector’s edition on extreme physics and it has Hawking and many others. It is just kind of a latest compilation of where we are in physics and cosmology. The whole thing indicates a beginning; that you can say goodbye to an eternal universe. So, when he says that the evidence points to it, he might be convinced of that, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be a consensus here.

Dr. Craig: No, not at all, and it is very interesting that this film shows none of that supposed evidence. Even people who are sympathetic to this film, as was evident from the question and answer period that followed the premiere of the film in Toronto, complained that the film is really short on solid scientific evidence for the belief. It’s more about Krauss and Dawkins and their magical mystery tour of these various cities than it is about the substantive, solid scientific evidence in support of what they say.

Kevin Harris: Let’s look at a couple more things that Krauss says, Bill. In this film he says, “Be happy, though you are insignificant, because you can ask questions.”

Dr. Craig: Yes, he says, “You are insignificant. You are more insignificant that you realize because there is no God to give your life meaning and purpose, and so you are just a blip in cosmic history that is dissolved in an instant in the history of the universe. You are more insignificant than you can imagine. Your life has no meaning or purpose, but be happy anyway. Why? Because you can ask questions.” Now, what is interesting about that to me, Kevin, is earlier in the film Dawkins says that why questions are silly questions. We ought not to ask the really deep questions about life, its mean and purpose and so forth. We ought to confine ourselves to just pedestrian questions of physical science. So, Krauss says that we can be happy by our ability to ask questions, and yet, Dawkins puts a damper and a restraint on what questions we can ask. He wants us to ignore what I think are the most important human questions. John Stuart Mill once said that it is better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig. Dawkins, in effect, wants us to be pigs; not to ask those Socratic questions about the meaning and purpose in life. When you think about what Dawkins and Krauss believe human beings are, that’s not surprising. We are just electrochemical machines. We are machines for propagating DNA, and that’s all we are. So, better to be a satisfied pig if that means not asking the why questions.

Kevin Harris: That is such a radical thing to say. That why questions are silly. You could say “why are why questions silly” and you could go into an infinite regress.

Dr. Craig: You can’t even ask that question on that view.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, and you certainly can’t answer it because if you say why questions are silly, but if I ask you why why questions are silly, well, you shouldn’t answer it.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, so it insulates itself from criticism, doesn’t it? It’s this, again, this paradox in a film that extols the importance of leaving nothing unexamined, nothing unquestioned, will not question it’s own assumptions.

Kevin Harris: Let me look at this, Bill, as well. Dawkins says that religion lobby is increasingly desperate as evidence by it’s vitriol.

Dr. Craig: Yes, this struck me as remarkable! The religion lobby, he says, is increasingly desperate, and why think that? It’s desperate because it’s so vitriolic. Now, this is in a film in which Krauss characterizes the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney and a Muslim debater, as quote unquote “the forces of evil.” Now, you talk about vitriol! This film is vitriolic throughout and yet they have the audacity to accuse religious believers of being vitriolic.

Kevin Harris: Bill, another point is Krauss’ statement about Darwin. Krauss says that Darwin showed the origin of life is “not a miracle.”

Dr. Craig: Isn’t that a remarkable statement?[3] “Darwin showed that the origin of life is not a miracle.” Darwin had nothing to say about the origin of life. His is a theory about the development or the evolution of biological complexity. But Darwin’s Origin of the Species has nothing to say about the origin of life itself. So this is just a scientific error on Krauss’ part in this film. And, in fact, even subsequent science has not succeeded in showing that the origin of life is not a miracle. The whole field of origin of life studies is in chaos today and there is no consensus theory available and nothing even on the horizon that would explain how life originated on this planet. So Krauss is simply scientifically mistaken here. And this is one of the ironies - that this film actually contains a number of scientific mistakes; a film that is supposedly extolling the greatness of science to the detriment of belief in God.[4]