Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Law vs Craig update

I didn’t make it to the debate at Westminster last night, having been lazy and left it too late to get tickets. You can get a flavour from the comments here, though, and a podcast will be available soon. The consensus seems to be the Law lost the argument because he did not even attempt to reply to Craig’s ‘kalam’ argument (The kalam argument is that the universe has a beginning, that everything has a cause for beginning, and that the cause is God. I believe Aquinas rejects this argument). Law’s argument was that if God exists at all, he must be an evil God, and therefore Craig’s god (who is perfectly good) does not exist. I argued in an earlier post that perhaps God is not fair, in leaving many clues (e.g. dinosaur bones) that suggest that the universe was designed in a different way that he has said it was designed, and thus designed it in a way that invites punishment of the inquisitive and intelligent.

Further update: Stephen Law has now posted his version of the debate on his site, with the following sections, with transcripts of his opening speech, and his criticism of Craig's moral and Resurrection arguments.

I summarise Law’s opening speech as follows. Law begins with the standard argument from evil, including a graphic description of the suffering that has existed in the world. If Professor Craig’s god exists, there must be, not just some reason, but an entirely adequate reason for every last ounce of all this suffering and horror.
He turns to an interesting twist on this argument (I don’t know whether this is and original twist or not, I shall ask). An evil god hypothesis is as well supported by Professor Craig’s cosmological and fine-tuning arguments as is belief in his good god hypotheses. Yet, if you believe in an evil god, you face the mirror problem of explaining why there’s so very much good. But if the evil god argument is absurd, so is the good God. (This is essentially an appeal to identical logical form, which we at Beyond Necessity like very much).

He forestalls an objection. Some Christians try to explain certain evils by saying that, being good, god gave us free will. Law flips this around. Why couldn’t the evil god have given us free will in order to choose evil? By means of similar ‘flipping’ arguments, he argues “if the evil god hypothesis can, solely on the basis of observational evidence, be ruled out as highly unlikely, why can’t we similarly rule out the good god hypothesis?”. He concludes “That’s the challenge I am setting Professor Craig tonight. To explain why belief in a good god is, on the basis of the available evidence and arguments, not just a bit more reasonable than belief in an evil god, but very significantly more reasonable.”
It seems clear from this that the Facebook commenters here did not understand Law’s point. One of them says “The kalam was not challenged once, only the moral nature of the Creator of the cosmos”, as though this was an objection, and quotes Craig as saying several times that “it’s a strange form of atheism that holds to the existence of an uncaused, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, powerful, transcendent and personal being who just isn’t morally perfect”.

This is not a reply to Law’s argument. As Law makes clear above, his evil god argument applies equally to the kalam argument as to the fine tuning argument. Law is not challenging these arguments themselves, but rather challenging the fact that they do not support the existence of an uncaused, immaterial, timeless, spaceless being who is good, rather than evil.

1 comment:

Michael Sullivan said...

Aquinas rejects the kalam argument because he thinks that reason cannot demonstrate that the universe had a beginning. For him an adequate argument for God's existence has to work even given the supposition that the the world has infinite past duration.

I think there are good reasons (in one of the "permanent posts" on my blog I discuss Bonaventure's formulation of some of them) to hold that the notion of an infinite past is incoherent, but that's another story.

I wonder if the present debate noticed the Augustinian definition of evil as the privation of some proper good, such that evil is necessarily derivative of and parasitic off of good, but not vice versa, since good is transcendentally convertible with being. This is I believe the standard way of dealing with such "arguments from evil".