Why they don’t believe: Counter Apologist

Posted on 05/28/13 75 Comments

This is the second installment in the series “Why they don’t believe” in which atheists, agnostics and other assorted skeptics are invited to explain why the reject Christianity and/or theism. Today we have Counter Apologist who blogs at http://counterapologist.blogspot.ca/

* * *

I was raised a fundamentalist Christian, went to evangelical private schools, was taught creation science, and lived in the church until college. In college I “backslid” a bit, but re-committed myself around graduation and was very active in the church for eight years before becoming an atheist.  From age seven to 28 I was a theologically educated believer.  I believed, fully and with conviction.  I took actions privately that make no sense unless I actually believed Christian theology.

I began to question my faith because I had close friends who were gay that clearly shared the same committed and fulfilling love that my wife and I shared.  By having more non-Christian friends, the Problem of Hell weighed heavily on my mind, and I started the process of deconverting.  For the first time in my life, I asked myself why I believed in a god and I found no good answers.  Because my wife still was a believer, I spent two years engaging with church leaders, friends, and reading apologetics trying to go back to the faith. 

In every case, I found the apologetic arguments to be completely vacuous. I researched every argument I could fully, trying to explore both sides, and every time I found that the arguments for god just did not establish their conclusion.  When researching the arguments involving modern cosmology (these were the most convincing to me), I found the science in question was being distorted, with half-truths being told in debates and presentations as to what was actually established.  Philosophical sleight of hand was constantly employed, and I found that answers to common atheist objections ended up contradicting other answers or different parts of theology.  How can god permit evil because of free will, if at the same time goodness is defined by god’s nature?  That would mean that it’s logically impossible for god to sin, meaning he has no moral free will.  Further, if his nature defines goodness and god doesn’t have moral free will, then moral free will isn’t “good” by the Christian’s own definition!

The process of trying to believe again weighed on me, but fortunately my wife (who was not indoctrinated as a child like me) also deconverted. The times we spent discussing things had convinced her that the version of Christianity she believed, which was far more liberal than what our church taught, was false.  My love for her was the only thing that kept me searching for ways to believe, so that was the last straw for me and I was finally able to embrace the fact that I was an atheist: I didn’t believe in any god or gods.

The process of deconverting and trying to go back for so long had kindled a love for philosophy in me that I hadn’t had before.  I’m an engineer who wrote off philosophy in college, but now I found a use for the subject – helping to show others the flaws in apologetics and how atheism makes better sense of the world we find around us.

***

Let’s start with the initial catalyst for Counter Apologist’s deconversion: “I began to question my faith because I had close friends who were gay that clearly shared the same committed and fulfilling love that my wife and I shared.” In one sense, this is a surprising starting point for deconversion given that Christians line up on different sides of this question. Some, like Richard Hays, maintain the historic Christian position that passages like 1 Cor. 6:9 constitute a prohibition of homosexual acts simpliciter. Others like Peter Gomes think this is a culturally specific prohibition. And still others like Lewis Smedes take a middling position that would allow for the moral licitness of same-gendered monogamous relationships while recognizing that they represent a deviation from God’s optimal design and intentions. (Smedes develops his case in parallel with the way Christians justify remarriage after divorce.) So while this is an important moral issue, it is not one that is determinative of one’s identity as a Christian. That point is illustrated in the fact that Tony and Peggy Campolo disagree on this question while (by all accounts) maintaining a healthy marriage in which each recognizes the other as an evangelical Christian.

At the same time, it isn’t that surprising at all. Deconversion often begins with a relatively small starting point, like that first hairline crack which appears in the iron girder of a bridge and leads some years later to a devastating bridge collapse.

Next, I note that Counter Apologist reflects: “I found the apologetic arguments to be completely vacuous.” I hope this is hyperbolic. To be vacuous is to be without content, empty, lacking in intelligence. Does Counter Apologist really believe that all the arguments for God’s existence are utterly empty and lacking in intelligence? If he does then this represents a red flag for me as regards Counter Apologist’s objectivity. (By comparison, I would doubt the objectivity of any Democrat or Republican who declared that the other party’s platform to be “completely vacuous”.)

The third point that strikes me is Counter Apologist’s claim that the apologists he listened to were employing “Philosophical sleight of hand”. The phrase “slight of hand” is a metaphor which is used to flag skills in deception. There are two issues here. First, were the apologists Counter Apologist listened to in fact being deceptive? That’s a strong charge which, as they would say in the courts, would require Counter Apologist to have access to the operation of their minds. I suspect that in at least some cases it is an unjustified and unfair charge. But that brings me to the second point of trust. Think about the husband who violates his wife’s trust by having an affair. In the future when he is late getting home because he was caught in traffic, his wife may not believe him. Once trust is gone it is difficult to regain.

So it is for apologists (whether Christian, or atheistic or anything else). This fact hit me in an interesting way when I was in a group the other day and the profound topic of “Ford vs. Chevy” came up. I was about to say “Ford, of course!” when two people jumped in with their opinions. Both told stories of how they’d owned a Ford in the past and it was a lemon. “I’d never buy a Ford again!” each declared. These were intelligent people, but their position was irrational. Indeed, it was just like the jilted lover who declares “I’ll never trust a man again!” (If you’re in the market for a compact car, the rational thing to do is read up at JD Power and Associates, Consumer Reports, automotive journalists, and so on. That provides good evidence for the relative merits of the Ford Focus over-against other models. The 1998 Ford Windstar you owned that blew the transmission doesn’t.)

The lesson is this: don’t squander trust when you’re defending your beliefs. (For more on that see my book You’re not as Crazy as I Think.)

Counter Apologist writes: “can god permit evil because of free will, if at the same time goodness is defined by god’s nature?  That would mean that it’s logically impossible for god to sin, meaning he has no moral free will. ” However, libertarian free will doesn’t require the ability to sin. I have a chapter on this topic in my forthcoming book on heaven.

Finally, Counter Apologist concludes: “I was finally able to embrace the fact that I was an atheist: I didn’t believe in any god or gods.”

This puzzles me. Theism is the belief that there exists a necessary agent cause, and atheism is the belief that there does not exist a necessary agent cause. Even if all the arguments for the existence of this being were completely vacuous, it wouldn’t follow that one ought to believe no such being exists. So I wonder why Counter Apologist is an atheist rather than an agnostic.

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  • Jeff

    Even if all the arguments for the existence of this being were
    completely vacuous, it wouldn’t follow that one ought to believe no such
    being exists. So I wonder why Counter Apologist is an atheist rather
    than an agnostic.

    If all such arguments are vacuous (or “unsuccessful” if you prefer), then there’s no reason to seriously consider theism as a live option, and atheism is a perfectly valid label. There’s no need for the atheist to exhaustively rule out theism.

    • AdamHazzard

      Yes, exactly. I think I would have preferred to call such arguments “ultimately vacuous” — not necessarily stupid, not without content, but in the end, simply wrong. (I think “vacuous” itself is a rather good term in this context, since theology, critically considered, looks very much like reasoning devised to conceal or explain away an evident absence.)

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      One problem is that the author said they ‘don’t believe in any god or gods’, but the arguments they provided specifically took aim at either the God of Christianity, or ‘omnibenevolent’ views of gods.

      Assuming success – and that is a big assumption – that rules out only a fraction of possibly God/gods.

      • cyngus

        What is a fraction out of nothing?

        Romans, from which Catholics proudly refers as their roots, did not know anything about “zero”, “nada”, “zilch”, or “zip”

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          Romans, from which Catholics proudly refers as their roots, did not know anything about “zero”, “nada”, “zilch”, or “zip”

          “Proudly refers to as their roots”? LOL. Your interpretation of “roman catholicism” is precious.

          I’m Byzantine rite Catholic, which I suppose will blow your mind.

          • cyngus

            Where’s the history book when you need one?

            The Byzantine Empire was the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

            • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

              Is english even your first language?

              • Kerk

                No.

                • cyngus

                  Any idiot whose first language is English can see that English is not the language my mother sang the lullaby for me.

                  I don’t understand why somebody asks if English is my first language, as if it matters. If there are questions about content, then I gladly try to explain better in form.

                  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                    I don’t understand why somebody asks if English is my first language, as if it matters. If there are questions about content, then I gladly try to explain better in form.

                    I’m trying to suss out some of the reasons why the content of your comments is baffling, awkward, and illogical.

                    I suspected a language barrier may be part of the reason.

                    • cyngus

                      Illogical and awkward is nothing new when you read the bible, especially when it is translated in English, or worse, when it is interpreted by Catholics.

                    • cyngus

                      Language barrier did not stop Jesus preaching in English :)

              • cyngus

                Is Hebrew or Greek your first language?

    • Kerk

      I don’t know about that. Consider the situation: You walk into a room. There’s a table with a big box on it. There’s also a note saying, “There’s something in the box.” Without coming close to that box and examining it, are you justified in assuming that there’s nothing in it?

      You’ll probably say, “no,” but I think the most you can do is being agnostic about it.

      • cyngus

        Whoever wrote “There’s something in the box”, did that NOT because there is something in the box, but because they believed that something is in the box.

        Actually what happened was that somebody wrote: “The box is empty, therefore “something” resurrected. Come and examine it… sucker!”

      • Jeff

        Kerk, I’m not following you here. Can you elaborate?

        • Kerk

          Hmm. I thought that was fairly clear of me…I’m making a parallel to the claim, “There’s something beyond our natural world.” Doesn’t matter what, just something. Suppose I make such a claim. Suppose I make no argument for that. What is the more rational position for you to take? “No, there’s nothing out there” “Or “I don’t know”?

          • Jeff

            It may be that there’s a God. But unless I have some specific reason to think that’s the case, why would I actively entertain that speculation?

            Similarly, it may be that my cat is an alien battleship in feline disguise mode. But unless I have some specific reason to think that’s the case, why would I actively entertain that speculation?

            • Kerk

              I was thinking more in the line of “supernatural or not.” Forget about God. When it comes to supernatural, you really only have two options.

  • Jason Thibodeau

    Randal,
    In your last paragraph you are using a definition of ‘theism’ that allows you to make a rhetorically satisfying point but, ultimately, a philosophically empty one. I really think that you know better.

    Theism can be defined in the way you describe, as the belief that there is a necessary causal agent. But it can also be defined, and commonly is, as you know, as the belief that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator.

    Since ‘theism’ has multiple senses, so does ‘atheism.’ While I cannot speak for Counter Apologist, I suspect that he is an atheist relative to the second definition, that is, he believes that there is no omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator. One can certainly be an atheist in this sense of the word, while being agnostic about whether there is a necessary causal agent.

    While I cannot speak for him, I suspect that this is a fair rendering of his belief, especially considering the fact that he specifically brought up the problem of evil in the passage that you quoted.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      It certainly is possible to be agnostic about the existence of a necessary agent cause while believing that there is no such being as a necessary agent cause with all the Omni-attributes.

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      But it can also be defined, and commonly is, as you know, as the belief that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator.

      Show me a person who defines theism this way – as in, they don’t regard Zeus as a god, belief in whom is comparable to the sort of God you mention.

      They’re probably out there. They seem to be very small in number.

      • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

        Someone who believes in Zeus alone is not a theist. Ask Randal.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          My chapter “Why Zeus, at least, isn’t God” in “Swedish Atheist” will explain all…

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          Randal may well not – and he’ll have interesting grounds upon which to say that, no doubt.

          As I said: probably out there. Very small in number.

  • TheAtheistMissionary

    Long-time readers of this blog will notice that Randal spends precious little time trying to defend the core theological tenets of Christianity (deity that actively intervenes in human affairs, original sin, virgin birth, NT miracles, resurrection, atonement, ascension, etc.) and far more time trying to defend notions commensurate with deism. He sets up the straw man of an atheist denying the possibility of a “necessary agent cause” when what most of are really targeting with our skepticism are the supernatural claims of his (and all other) religions.

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      If it turns out that atheists are not actually atheists, but merely doubt ‘supernatural claims of religions’, that’s going to be pretty devastating for modern atheism.

      • TheAtheistMissionary

        Crude, if you want to hold your arms up towards the sky and thank Anselm’s god, I have no problem with that. My problem starts when you suggest that your god has specific attributes, cared about whether a penis was circumcised, favored a particular race to the exclusion of other races, condemns homosexuality, imbued mankind with original sin and in any way actively intervenes in the affairs of humanity. It’s at that point that we go beyond mere philosophical “first cause” debate and enter the realm where you are obliged to provide evidence to support your claims – atheists evaluate that evidence based on what is most likely to be true.

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          Crude, if you want to hold your arms up towards the sky and thank Anselm’s god, I have no problem with that.

          If by that you mean you think that belief is either true or likely to be true, then you have admitted defeat – at least practical defeat – to theism/deism.

          And once you admit defeat there, the debate has shifted in a very different direction – one that is not favorable to you.

          • TheAtheistMissionary

            Crude, for the sake of argument, I’ll grant you the existence of Anselm’s first cause. Now that the tide of argument has (apparently) moved in an unfavorable direction against me, I’ll look forward to hearing what you rely on to arrive at probability conclusions regarding your deity’s specific attributes. Please don’t forget to address his fondness for circumcision, his designation of the Jews as his chosen people, his condemnation of homosexuality, his decision to imbue mankind with original sin (how you get there without an Adam and Eve is beyond my ken) and how he actively intervenes in the affairs of humanity. Thanks!

            • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

              Now that the tide of argument has (apparently) moved in an unfavorable direction against me, I’ll look forward to hearing what you rely on to arrive at probability conclusions regarding your deity’s specific attributes.

              Apparently? You’re an atheist who just conceded the existence of God for the sake of argument. If you can’t understand how granting the existence, or the reasonableness in the belief in the existence of such a deity is kind of a problem for atheism, then buddy, it’s time to give up the missionary gig.

              • TheAtheistMissionary

                Crude, please answer my question.

                • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                  You didn’t ask one question – you asked me a shotgun blast ranging from circumcision to Adam and Eve to God’s intervening.

                  And you know why you asked me so many, Missionary? Because you know that asking one would mean you’d be outgunned.

                  Either way – thank you for the concessions re: God. Consider changing your name from ‘The Atheist Missionary’ to ‘The anti-Christian Missionary’. Truth in advertising. ;)

                  • cyngus

                    ” I’ll look forward to hearing what you rely on to arrive at probability conclusions regarding your deity’s specific attributes”

                    I guess TAM asked way too much from you.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      TAM doesn’t want to hear answers to any of his questions – that’s why he picked as many as he could think of off the top of his head rather than one.

                      Meanwhile, I asked you for your supposed demonstration that God does not exist. A single question, based on information you implied you had.

                      Still waiting. ;)

                    • TheAtheistMissionary

                      These threads are priceless time capsules that show believers like Crude chasing their tails. I asked him a simple question (repeated now by cyngus above) and he has refused to answer it. Anyone reviewing this thread can plainly see that I did not barrage Crude with questions – I merely provided examples of the long list of the Judeo-Christian god’s supposed attributes.

                      Crude now asks me for my “supposed demonstration that God does not exist”. Not exactly the most formidable apologetic tactic – when backed into a corner, demand that the atheist disprove your deity. I can no more disprove Anselm’s god than I can disprove the existence of a unicorn somewhere in Alpha Centauri. It’s only when believers start ascribing specific attributes to their god (such as caring whether a penis was circumcised or not) that they open themselves up to skepticism and (I say) deserved derision. Again, we all make probability assessments to arrive at what is likely true, whether we are talking about the safest way to get to work or the problem of other minds.

                      Crude hasn’t whiffed on this one … he won’t even take a swing. Perhaps some other believers out there (Randal?) can explain how they can rely on special revelation to arrive at “more likely than not” determinations about the attributes of their deity. They sure aren’t going to get that from natural revelation, the ontological argument or the design argument.

                    • TheAtheistMissionary

                      Randal, I’ll offer some future blog post topic suggestions:

                      Why I consider it more likely than not that God ever cared about whether a penis was circumcised.

                      Why I consider it more likely than not that God favored the Jews over other races.*

                      Why I consider it more likely than not that God condemns homosexuality.

                      Why I consider it more likely than not that God imbued mankind with original sin.

                      Why I consider it more likely than not that God actively intervenes in the affairs of humanity.

                      * Note (another great blog topic) – Genesis 17: 7 (NIV) provides: I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. What does “your descendants” mean? If a Jewish women moved to another region (or was taken hostage by foreigners and forcibly relocated), would her grandchildren be part of God’s chosen people? What about the descendants of a Jewish man who raped a foreign women who returned to her country to bear the child? Finally, if all modern humans can trace their genetic lineage back to the same west African tribe, isn’t the concept of preferring one race to the exclusion of another incoherent?

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Crude now asks me for my “supposed demonstration that God does not exist”.

                      No, I asked Cygnus.

                      Anyone reviewing this thread can plainly see that I did not barrage Crude with questions – I merely provided examples of the long list of the Judeo-Christian god’s supposed attributes.

                      Anyone reading this thread can see that what TAM did was ask me to argue for God’s attributes – and then proceeded to dump a long list of attributes he expected me to argue for – which TAM unwittingly demonstrates in his ‘future blog post topic suggestions’. Strange – he gives 5 separate ones, not just 1. And they’re all 5 of the attributes he expected me to defend.

                      What onlookers to this conversation will see, however, is that when it comes to arguing for the existence of God simpliciter, TAM is not interested. Hell, he’d rather grant that, and claims that the atheist argument is with revelation rather than God’s existence. But to say as much is to say that atheists are not, at the end of the day, actually committed to atheism. They’re merely anti-religious.

                      Hell of a thing, that.

                    • TheAtheistMissionary

                      atheists are not, at the end of the day, actually committed to atheism. They’re merely anti-religious.
                      Fair comment.
                      Crude … you’re still standing at the plate. Care to take a swing?

                    • Daniel Stenning

                      Crude maybe you are wise to avoid biting the bullet.

                      Defending a god who on the one hand supposedly utterly condemns the practice of child sacrifice, yet gives Abraham the highest honours for his willingness to carry out such a deed on the request of god must be hard.

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrsVe0T_4Y0

                    • cyngus

                      “Meanwhile, I asked you for your supposed demonstration that God does not exist.”
                      =========

                      Do you want the long demonstration or the short one?

              • Daniel Stenning

                Here is one of MY big initial kickstarters towards atheist – namely the kind of evasive maneuvres being demonstrated here.

                The basic point being made is that core “raw” theism of the kind debated by philosophers is a wide chasm away from all the tenets for Abrahamic faiths.

                Proving a theistic god does no more than that.

                You still have all the remaining work in front of you ( as Hitchens liked to say )

      • cyngus

        “Pretty” devastation for modern atheism is to become modern religionists.

    • Jeff

      Yeah, I’ve certainly noticed that with specifically Christian claims, the vast majority of what Randal argues is, “You can’t demonstrate that these beliefs are irrational.” Even if that’s correct, so what? Randal just recently said that flat earth beliefs are not necessarily irrational, so clearly a mere verdict of “rational” tells us very little of importance.

  • Tim

    It’s funny that Counter Apologist complains that Christian apologists regularly engage in philosophical “sleight of hand” just before indulging in a bit of that himself.

    • cyngus

      Actually, Christian apologists do not engage in philosophical discussions, but theological discussions.

      And if Counter Apologists indulges in philosophical discussions it is because he does not proselytize, but he is a free thinker, not tainted by religion as are the apologists.

      Where do you see Counter Apologists writing: “I am complaining about…”? Is that your vision as is the vision of “hating atheists”?

  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

    Thanks for putting this up, I hope you don’t mind me responding to some of
    what you’ve written!

    In terms of questioning my faith, I was raised in the fundamentalist style
    faith, so in terms of homosexuality being a sin that wasn’t something that was ever even remotely up for debate. In terms of reading the bible, I do think it’s amazingly clear that homosexuality is condemned as wrong.

    My friends long term relationship and clear display of mutual fulfilling love
    is what caused me to question whether or not the bible was true, it was a clear contradiction in what I was taught and how I read what the bible was
    communicating. That led to the problem of hell, then evil, and finally
    questioning why I believed – which led to becoming an atheist.

    Vacuous

    In terms of using the word vacuous, I did use it for a bit of flair, so I don’t
    mean to paint with too broad of a brush. That said, I don’t believe there are
    any arguments for the existence of god that can establish the fact that such a being exists, so I meant the term in that sense – the arguments end up being “empty” in that they don’t amount to anything substantial.

    Philosophical sleight of hand

    I again probably painted with too broad a brush, but a lot of my experience was with William Lane Craig’s apologetics, specifically with respect to using
    modern cosmology and the Kalam. I’m not a cosmologist, but I am an engineer with a good amount of physics training, so Craig’s apologetic appeals to science were very persuasive initially.

    That said, Craig does engage in some shenanigans when it
    comes to representing modern cosmology.

    For instance, there is absolutely no empirical evidence whatsoever that “all
    of material reality had an absolute beginning, preceded by nothing” in the big bang (using Craig’s definition of “universe” and how he admits he eliminates universal material causation for the Kalam).

    The real answer from Cosmology is: “We don’t know what happens before the first Planck second, and we may never know.”

    Watch any debate with Craig where he presents the argument, or read most of his published works, or how he deflects the idea of the First Law of
    Thermodynamics contradicting his notion of creation ex nihilo, and he tries to say that in doing so, we contradict Big Bang cosmology. That’s just not true!

    When pressed, eventually you will see Craig admit this, but it’s most certainly never done in any of his popular works or in any debate:

    “[i]t is true that an accurate physical description of the universe prior to the Planck time remains unknown and perhaps always will remain unknown, thereby affording room for speculations aimed at averting the origin of time and space implied in the expanding universe.” Creation Out of Nothing, at 246

    There are all sorts of other “Philosophical sleights of hand” like where he insists there is a Singularity (most modern cosmologists, including Hawking don’t believe there is one), and that the singularity is equivalent to “nothing”. There are huge philosophical leaps there that would go unnoticed by those who aren’t as well versed in physics.

    There are other areas where I feel that he’s not upfront at all, specifically with the Modal Ontological Argument (MOA). Where Plantinga shows some humility in openly admitting that the argument doesn’t establish its conclusion (he argues rather it shows belief in god to be rational), Craig misrepresents what the argument actually establishes (FWIW, I made some comments on the MOA to you recently, but it’s on an older post here: http://randalrauser.com/2013/05/the-a-unicornist-replies-but-is/)

    Libertarian Free Will

    You say:

    However, libertarian free will doesn’t require the ability
    to sin.

    But that misses the point I’m making, if LFW didn’t require the ability to
    sin, then why were we given the ability to sin?

    That’s the heart of the objection: having the ability to sin isn’t in god’s nature; therefore having the ability to sin isn’t “good” on the Christian’s definition.

    Atheism vs. Agnosticism

    Theism is the belief that there exists a necessary agent
    cause, and atheism is the belief that there does not exist a necessary agent
    cause. Even if all the arguments for the existence of this being were
    completely vacuous, it wouldn’t follow that one ought to believe no such being exists. So I wonder why Counter Apologist is an atheist rather than an
    agnostic.

    I fully admit that I’m an “Agnostic Atheist” if you want to break out the
    chart of Agnostic/Gnostic vs Theist/Atheist.

    I don’t believe in any god or gods.

    Does that make me an agnostic? I don’t think so, since I similarly don’t
    believe in all sorts of things (Unicorns, Fairies, Leprechauns, etc) that I can’t
    prove don’t exist, but I don’t go around saying: “I’m agnostic about unicorns”.

    If you want to abstract god out to the deistic god of the philosophers, then
    sure, I have no idea if a being exists, but I also don’t believe that there is
    any good argument that establishes that I should believe in such a being.

    • Tim

      Counter Apologist,

      In my opinion, it is quite reasonable to think that contemporary Big Bang cosmology provides some kind of evidence in favor of the second premise of the KCA even if the model cannot take us as far back as Planck time. Your objection to Craig’s use of that model in defense of the second premise of the KCA is pedantic at best.

      Moreover, your understanding of how Christians conceive of the relationship between goodness and God is too crude. For example, you would have Christians be committed to the claim that mortality is evil simply because mortality is not a part of God’s nature, but, of course, no Christian believes this sort of thing. For Christians, the relationship between God and goodness has always been more subtle than the old adage “God is good” would let on.

      • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

        First off, in the context of the Kalam, Craig himself admits that premise two needs to show that “all of material reality had an absolute beginning, preceeded by nothing”.

        That is not at all shown in anything in modern cosmology. His use of the singularity is both disingenuous (it’s disregarded, inluding by Hawking who popularized it) and because he makes wild leaps as to what it means.

        As to what is implied by the big bang model you can look at what the scientists say, and they have many models that have our space time either coming out of a quantum vacuum or existing eternally as a self contained thing (Craig refers to these as being influenced by the B-theory of time).

        Hell he needs to disregard the evidence relativity gives us in order to keep the theory of time he needs for the KCA to work! See here: http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2013/04/william-lane-craig-science-denial-and.html

        As for goodness, Christian theology teaches that mortality is not good! “For the wages of sin is death!”

        Further this isn’t drawn from the adage “god is good” but the Christian response to the Euthyphro dilemma in the context of the moral argument where they use god’s nature as the ontic grounds for “goodness”.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Craig has published an extended refutation of Hawking’s attempt to eliminate the singularity in “What place then for a creator?”

          “Hell he needs to disregard the evidence relativity gives us ….”

          I don’t think so. In “Time and Eternity” he makes the point that relativity doesn’t address the question of whether there is an absolute Newtonian now inaccessible to human beings.

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            I can reply to both comments, since Craig’s extended refutation of Hawking hinges largely on his theory of time.

            Suffice it to say, Craig only “makes the point that relativity doesn’t address the question of whether there is an absolute Newtonian now inaccessible to human beings” only be retreating completely into the metaphysical, and in a move not at all unlike that of modern Young Earth Creationists, flatly denies that any and all empirical investigation into the matter will actually reveal the truth about the nature of time.

            This claim completely undercuts science, and is in exactly the same vein as “God created the universe 6000 years ago with the light from distant stars already on it’s way to earth.”

            Further, Craig can’t make that move about the theory of time without first pre-supposing the existence of a god, since he has to admit that his Neo-Lorentzian view is a much more complex theory than the standard interpretation of Relativity with time being a fourth dimention (hence Space-Time). The way he gets around the “more complex theory” issue is just by saying he has theological and metaphysical reasons to prefer a theory that (at its heart) is in principle unfalsifiable and undetectable.

            EDIT: While as a philosopher, he can certainly appeal to god to take whatever unfalsifiable metaphysical stance he wants, he can’t do that without at the same time undermining his Kalam argument, since he has to assume that god exists to get a A-Theory of time so he can use the Kalam to show that time had a finite past and thus requires a god…

            I tackled this in a good amount of depth here:
            http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2013/01/countering-kalam-circular-and.html

            and here:http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2013/04/william-lane-craig-science-denial-and.html

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              No, Craig isn’t “retreating into the metaphysical”. Rather, he argues that one only rejects a Newtonian metric based upon a positivist philosophy.

              I don’t see why that would “undercut science” and I find the analogy with young earth creationism to be spurious.

              • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                No, Craig isn’t “retreating into the metaphysical”. Rather, he argues that one only rejects a Newtonian metric based upon a positivist philosophy.

                How is postulating that there is an undetectable in principle privileged reference frame not retreating to metaphysics?

                You don’t have to be a positivist to believe that as a result of the mountains of empirical data we have that space-time is Lorentz Invariant, hence relative and not absolute.

                Craig argues otherwise, contrary to science and postulating something new existing, based only on theological and metaphysical argument.

                I don’t see why that would “undercut science” and I find the analogy with young earth creationism to be spurious

                He explicitly argues that Lorentz Invariance from time dilation and length contraction (the evidence that time isn’t Newtonian) is merely “apparent and not real”, meaning that it doesn’t happen.
                This is the same kind of denial of empirical data that YEC’s engage in when one points out the light from stars millions of light years away or the CMB radiation.

                • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                  Craig does say that the Kalam argument depends on an A-series view of time. He also notes cosmological arguments that go through if one takes up a B-series view of time from the outset.

                  As for the ‘retreating to metaphysics’ charge – it’s not much of a retreat if the topic is metaphysical to begin with. To say that ‘all the evidence we have’ of time supports the B-theory over the A-theory, sorry, there’s no other way to describe your move other than patently dishonest. There’s evidence and arguments for both views, to put it mildly. There are also problems for both views.

                  Say that you find B-theory to be a better fit given the data, but pretending that all evidence ends up in the B-theory column is simply absurd.

                  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                    What evidence is there for the A-Theory? All empirical data we have is that space-time is Lorentz Invariant, all that the A-Theory has is theological and metaphysical argument.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      What evidence is there for the A-Theory? All empirical data we have is that space-time is Lorentz Invariant, all that the A-Theory has is theological and metaphysical argument.

                      No – what we have is empirical data that is entirely capable of being squared with both the A-theory and B-theory views of time, both of which are metaphysical and philosophical claims. Both can rally ‘theological’ arguments behind them (in case you’re unaware, there are theists who embrace B-theory – and even Craig has pointed out explicitly that if he were arguing with someone who accepted the B-theory view of time, he would rely on other cosmological arguments to try and persuade them).

                      Again, one is not ‘retreating into metaphysics’ when dealing with a question that is itself metaphysical. I’ve pointed out two sources that show that the argument over A-theory and B-theory does not come down to simple theological prejudice, and it certainly isn’t comparable to YEC views.

                      Do you deny that the Philpapers survey gave the numbers I quote? Do you dispute the veracity of the SEP summary of the philosophy of time dispute? Hell, do you even recognize that there is a valid discipline called ‘philosophy of time’ that involves claims and views that science, in and of itself, does not settle?

                      Or are you going to tell me the poll is wrong, the SEP summary is bunk, and all questions can either be settled by science or are not valid questions?

                    • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                      No – what we have is empirical data that is entirely capable of being squared with both the A-theory and B-theory views of time, both of which are metaphysical and philosophical claims.

                      I’m sorry, but I have to take major issue with this statement (emphasis mine). That simply is not the case at all.

                      The only way the empirical data can be “squared” with the A-Theory is to explicitly state that all possible observation does not actually reflect reality.

                      For the Neo-Lorentzian view that Craig endorses, it explicitly states that Time Dilation and Length Contraction don’t really happen, but that they merely appear to happen but do so in a way that we can never verify that this is actually the case. This is exactly the move that is made by Young Earth Creationists when things like the speed of light or the cosmic microwave background radiation are pointed out to falsify their claims.

                      This is not “squaring the data” with the theory, this is adopting an unfalsifiable stance so as to make the theory immune to what the data actually shows. This kind of approach can be taken for literally any “theory”, including the ones where it’s postulated that the universe is only 6000 years old.

                      Craig has pointed out explicitly that if he were arguing with someone who accepted the B-theory view of time, he would rely on other cosmological arguments to try and persuade them

                      Then Craig can go ahead and make those other arguments, they can be knocked down just as well as the Kalam (which fails for other reasons). In my view, it’s much easier to knock down Craig’s formulation of the Leibniz Cosmological Argument since he can’t easily obfuscate things with modern Cosmology. That said, if one takes a B-Theory view, they’re denying creation ex-nihilo, which further reduces the force behind any cosmological argument.

                      Again, one is not ‘retreating into metaphysics’ when dealing with a question that is itself metaphysical. I’ve pointed out two sources that show that the argument over A-theory and B-theory does not come down to simple theological prejudice, and it certainly isn’t comparable to YEC views.

                      The “retreat to metaphysics” is done in how the A-Theorist squares the empirical data with it’s predictions. The claim as to whether time is relative or absolute is and empirical one, it can be tested. Before we could do tests near the speed of light, space and time seemed absolute because Galilean transformations worked for all cases we could test. Then major issues came about with the discovery of the laws of electromagnetism which could only be Lorentz invariant and not Galilean invariant. Einstein unified the two aspects of physics, and eventually we were able to do tests that would bear out if Einstein’s theory held true – and they did. We observe time dilation and length contraction, and the only way the A-Theorist can match the data is to assert that the claim can not in principle be solved by science and postulate an undetectable privileged reference frame.

                      Do you deny that the Philpapers survey gave the numbers I quote? Do you dispute the veracity of the SEP summary of the philosophy of time dispute? Hell, do you even recognize that there is a valid discipline called ‘philosophy of time’ that involves claims and views that science, in and of itself, does not settle?

                      Just FYI, I didn’t see the edit with those references when I made my previous reply to you. That’s why I didn’t address them in that post. Please let me do so here.

                      I am well aware that there is a dispute in the philosophy of time, but I am of the view that metaphysics is subject to actual physics. Arguments and intuitions get trumped by data, and the data has come in very strongly against the A-Theory.

                      Or are you going to tell me the poll is wrong, the SEP summary is bunk, and all questions can either be settled by science or are not valid questions?

                      I’m not making that claim whatsoever that only science can answer the question, but I do hold that science is the highest authority we’ve got, and that data trumps argument every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

                      In terms of other philosophers who put metaphysical
                      argument above scientific investigation, I think they’re wrong for much the same reason Craig is.

                      However, when we’re discussing Craig’s defense of the A-Theory, he explicitly centralizes it around theological claims, which undercuts using the Kalam; and that’s all I’m looking to show here.

                      That said, your summary of the philosophical opinion on the philosophy of time does give us some very interesting data.

                      Only Hawking’s theory is predicated on the B-Theory of time as an answer to a Kalam style argument. Other theories such as the quantum nucleation ones espoused by Guth, Vilenkin, Krauss, etc don’t hinge on that.

                      That said, in terms of refuting the Kalam on these grounds one does not have to hang their hat to the B-Theory. All we need to do is show that whatever time is like, it’s simply not the A-Theory/Presentism (this is required for absolute simultaneity) – which is what is shown quite well by the survey data (85% are not in line with the A-Theory) and by the empirical data we have.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      The only way the empirical data can be “squared” with the A-Theory is to explicitly state that all possible observation does not actually reflect reality.

                      Except for, you know, actual experience of the flow of time itself. This is one of the reasons why it’s patently absurd to try and play off A-theory as being akin to YEC: it’s not as if A-theory involves a claim about the distant past, which we have no immediate experience with other than some written claims. Between A-theory and B-theory, only one of them could reasonably be called the common sense view that squares with our day to day experience – and that would be A-theory.

                      Now, you can go ahead and say that you think physics, divorced from actual experience, supports B-theory. Great – do that. Go ahead, say you think that the arguments favor B-theory over A-theory, even powerfully so.

                      Do not present Craig as a lone wolf who supports this crazy thing called an A-theory view of time, which only Christians do. He’s got plenty of people, including plenty of atheists, who agree with him.

                      Likewise, do not talk about how Craig is an A-theorist purely because of ‘theological commitments’ – because again, there are plenty of A-theorists who are so yet who are atheists.

                      Do not present Craig as ‘retreating into metaphysics’ as if his view that this is a metaphysical question that science itself can’t ultimately determine is unique to him or even supremely controversial.

                      I say all these because the alternative is to engage in some patent dishonesty and deception.

                      For the Neo-Lorentzian view that Craig endorses, it explicitly states that Time Dilation and Length Contraction don’t really happen, but that they merely appear to happen but do so in a way that we can never verify that this is actually the case. This is exactly the move that is made by Young Earth Creationists

                      No, it’s not. What it IS similar to is the claim that, while it seems that time is actually moving forward and that there is a ‘flow’ of time from past to present to future, it really isn’t and that’s all just an illusion. This isn’t the only objection the A-theorist lodges against the B-theorist, but it’s a damn reasonable one on its surface: Craig treats our theories as practical models that have pragmatic utility but aren’t the final word about reality. B-theorists treat our direct, conscious experience as illusory.

                      It’s not a clear cut over which one of these views is more ‘data-ignoring’ in a relevant sense. Suffice to say, the B-theory of time has its own problems – I’m simply touching on one.

                      This is not “squaring the data” with the theory, this is adopting an unfalsifiable stance so as to make the theory immune to what the data actually shows.

                      No, it’s not. Again, you keep depicting this as some kind of ‘retreat’ – Craig not only views this as a metaphysical question right from the start, he is far from alone in that stance.

                      Here’s another way to put it: what’s the empirical data you have to question A-theorist (not just Craig’s, but A-theorist) motivations on this front? Is it ‘complete, baseless speculation’? Let’s see the empirical data.

                      That said, if one takes a B-Theory view, they’re denying creation ex-nihilo, which further reduces the force behind any cosmological argument.

                      Your understanding of creation ex-nihilo leaves something to be desired. You can assert that all these cosmological arguments fail as much as you like, but Goddamn, I hope you base that on far better criticisms than you are versus A-theory.

                      The “retreat to metaphysics” is done in how the A-Theorist squares the empirical data with it’s predictions. The claim as to whether time is relative or absolute is and empirical one, it can be tested.

                      No, it can’t, because it’s not an empirical question in the relevant sense. Maybe what you mean is that, if you ditch and ignore all the metaphysical complications and aspects of the problem, you can pretend it’s a wholly empirical question. For people interested in actually recognizing the problem for what it is, rather than abusing science, it’s a metaphysical question.

                      I am well aware that there is a dispute in the philosophy of time, but I am of the view that metaphysics is subject to actual physics. Arguments and intuitions get trumped by data, and the data has come in very strongly against the A-Theory.

                      Then your understanding of metaphysics is pretty poor, to say nothing of controversial. Physical questions are decided by physical data (given all the assumptions they come with.) Metaphysical questions may well be informed by the physical data, but are not necessarily determined by them. In the case of A- and B-theory, the B-theorist is in the position of having to deny not just intuition but direct experience. That’s one hell of a thing.

                      I’m not making that claim whatsoever that only science can answer the question, but I do hold that science is the highest authority we’ve got, and that data trumps argument every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

                      “Data” hardly ever trumps anything. Data with rare exception – direct subjective experience in and of itself – awaits a theory to make sense of it, or arguments that utilize it. What’s more, the idea that science is ‘the highest authority we’ve got’ is itself a metaphysical and philosophical claim – and frankly, a pretty shaky one.

                      However, when we’re discussing Craig’s defense of the A-Theory, he explicitly centralizes it around theological claims, which undercuts using the Kalam; and that’s all I’m looking to show here.

                      No, what you’ve done is present the situation as if the only reason anyone ever prefers A-theory over B-theory is because of their theological precommitments that fly in the face of all argument and data. What *I* have done is shown that this is complete nonsense. There are arguments and data – even direct experience – that don’t fit easily with B-theory, but do with A-theory. The idea that it’s a metaphysical question is not some desperate theological move, but an extremely common one among A-theorists and B-theorists alike.

                      That said, in terms of refuting the Kalam on these groundsone does not have to hang their hat to the B-Theory. All we need to do is show that whatever time is like, it’s simply not the A-Theory/Presentism (this is required for absolute simultaneity) – which is what is shown quite well by the survey data (85% are not in line with the A-Theory) and by the empirical data we have.

                      What you just did here? This was either ignorant or dishonest to the extreme.

                      What if I rolled in here presenting the Philpapers data as ‘~75% of those polled oppose B-theory’? You’d rightly go after me, considering that the remainder of those polled could be favoring anything from ‘other’ to ‘hybrid A-/B-theory’ to ‘not sure’ to ‘agnostic’ to anything else.

                      15.5% go for A-theory. ~26% go for B-theory. The rest simply selected ‘other’. And the point of this was to show that, contra your implied claims, A-theory wasn’t the move of lone wolf Craig, or some kind of ‘only Christians do this’ view. It’s a popular view, with arguments and evidence in support of it.

                    • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                      Except for, you know, actual experience of the flow of time itself. This is one of the reasons why it’s patently absurd to try and play off A-theory as being akin to YEC: it’s not as if A-theory involves a claim about the distant past, which we have no immediate experience with other than some written claims. Between A-theory and B-theory, only one of them could reasonably be called the common sense view that squares with our day to day experience – and that would be A-theory.

                      Except science has a long history of disproving things that we think we actually experience, like a flat earth or a earth centric cosmology.

                      And we still experience a “flow of time” on B-Theory, there’s just no “objective now” or present moment, it all simply becomes relative.

                      Further, you’re not addressing the inference to the YEC comparison is because to square the A-Theory one must expressly deny that all possible observation will not reflect what’s actually happening. Einstein recognized this as have most of physicists.

                      That says, as I stated before, only Hawking’s theory relies expressly on the B-Theory, to refute the Kalam all we need to do is refute the A-Theory, the majority consensus is that the dichotomy between the two isn’t exactly appealing. Fortunately, the A-Theory has the hardest time accounting for the data without rejecting observation in a manner that justifies any “theory” for any bit of science out there.

                      No, it can’t, because it’s not an empirical question in the relevant sense. Maybe what you mean is that, if you ditch and ignore all the metaphysical complications and aspects of the problem, you can pretend it’s a wholly empirical question. For people interested in actually recognizing the problem for what it is, rather than abusing science, it’s a metaphysical question.

                      I’m sorry but speculating on the nature of what time actually is absolutely has implications for what we’d find in science. If it’s absolute, we’d expect to see Galilean Invariance, if relative then Lorentz Invariance. The data is in, and it’s favoring the idea that space and time are relative.

                      Then your understanding of metaphysics is pretty poor, to say nothing of
                      controversial. Physical questions are decided by physical data (given all the assumptions they come with.) Metaphysical questions may well be informed by the physical data, but are not necessarily determined by them. In the case of A- and B-theory, the B-theorist is in the position of having to deny not just intuition but direct experience. That’s one hell of a thing.

                      And this is one of the largest problems with metaphysics, you can always retreat to the logically possible. Science on the other hand has proven to be extraordinarily useful, and the basic assumption it relies on that repeated experimentation and observation accurately reflects reality, has proven itself time and time again. Is it absolute? No. Is it the best we’ve got? Yes.

                      To retreat to the mere possible is to make a move shared by tons of crackpot theories (YEC, flat earthers, etc). Can I prove you absolutely wrong to do such a thing? No. But it does indicate a theory that is highly improbable.

                      “Data” hardly ever trumps anything. Data with rare exception – direct subjective experience in and of itself – awaits a theory to make sense of it, or arguments that utilize it. What’s more, the idea that science is ‘the highest authority we’ve got’ is itself a metaphysical and philosophical claim – and frankly, a pretty shaky one.

                      Science, or specifically falsifiability through experimentation is the only way we’ve got to knowledge that leads to some certainty. Metaphysics can really only ever truly rule something out via logical impossibility. The A-Theory maintains consistency with the data only by retreating to a completely unfalsifiable position.

                      No, what you’ve done is present the situation as if the only reason anyone ever prefers A-theory over B-theory is because of their theological precommitments that fly in the face of all argument and data. What *I* have done is shown that this is complete nonsense. There are arguments and data – even direct experience – that don’t fit easily with B-theory, but do with A-theory. The idea that it’s a metaphysical question is not some desperate theological move, but an extremely common one among A-theorists and B-theorists alike.

                      I expressly said “theological and metaphysical”, but in the context of Craig’s own defense of the Neo-Lorentzian view, he does center it largely around his theism. His articles talk about how Lorentz’s own view centered around theism.

                      What you just did here? This was either ignorant or dishonest to the extreme.

                      What if I rolled in here presenting the Philpapers data as ‘~75% of those polled oppose B-theory’? You’d rightly go after me, considering that the remainder of those polled could be favoring anything from ‘other’ to ‘hybrid A-/B-theory’ to ‘not sure’ to ‘agnostic’ to anything else.

                      15.5% go for A-theory. ~26% go for B-theory. The rest simply selected ‘other’. And the point of this was to show that, contra your implied claims, A-theory wasn’t the move of lone wolf Craig, or some kind of ‘only Christians do this’ view. It’s a popular view, with arguments and evidence in support of it.

                      Other philosophers hold to the A-Theory, and I disagree with the atheist ones on exactly the same grounds. But it is certainly a minority position, the smallest one.

                      I have no issue if you wanted to represent the B-Theory that way. My point is that the Kalam itself is explicitly tied to the A-Theory, so if there is some better theory of time than the dichotomy between the A and B Theory, that’s fine, but for the context of the Kalam one thing we can most likely rule out is that space and time are absolute, which is what the Kalam needs. Further, when Craig makes his defense of the A-Theory on theological grounds, which he does – he undermines the Kalam. He can try to do it on purely metaphysical grounds, but he can’t pretend that he has scientific backing for this view. Even Craig has admitted that the majority of physicists don’t ascribe to A-Theory.

                      Finally, I should be specific, the A-Theory has no scientific evidence going for it, and all available data suggests it is not the case.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Except science has a long history of disproving things that we think we actually experience, like a flat earth or a earth centric cosmology.

                      For one thing, no: no one ever ‘experienced a flat earth’ or ‘experienced an earth centric cosmology’. Those things are manifestly different from experiencing the flow of time, whether or not that flow of time is actually real.

                      Second, “science” also has a history of disproving itself. Scientific theories – of which an earth centric cosmology was one, by the way – have been disproven in the past. It’s not as if you have ‘intuitions’ on one side and ‘science’ on the other, and whenever intuitions buck against the science of the time, the intuitions ultimately fail. Science is, for as great as it is, one long string of refuted scientific theories.

                      Another reason, by the way, to be more moderate in our acceptance of science – and note that moderation is different from rejection.

                      And we still experience a “flow of time” on B-Theory, there’s just no “objective now” or present moment, it all simply becomes relative.

                      No, what we have in B-theory is the claim that our experience of the flow of time is illusory. We don’t really experience it – that’s an artifact of our minds. We just think we experience it.

                      By the way, experiences and observation? Tell me how that’s not empirical data? So much for the ‘all the empirical data lines up with B-theory’ claim.

                      Further, you’re not addressing the inference to the YEC comparison is because to square the A-Theory one must expressly deny that all possible observation will not reflect what’s actually happening. Einstein recognized this as have most of physicists.

                      No, this is incorrect. Again, you try to make it sound as if the B-theory is just manifestly obvious, while the A-theory is some crazy scheme cooked up exclusively by religious people. What did Lorentz himself think about this question? I’ve already shown that the A-theory/B-theory argument is not limited to fringe theists.

                      Further, no, the A-theorist is not committed to “all possible observation will not reflect what’s actually happening”, at least if that’s taken to mean that there can never be observations that would more comfortably square with the A-theory, even if science alone will never be decisive. By the way, the idea that science is not decisive on this subject isn’t exclusive to the A-theorist either – plenty of B-theorists are willing to admit that their justifications are ultimately metaphysical, even if they rely on science for some amount of support.

                      I’m sorry but speculating on the nature of what time actually is absolutely has implications for what we’d find in science. If it’s absolute, we’d expect to see Galilean Invariance, if relative then Lorentz Invariance. The data is in, and it’s favoring the idea that space and time are relative.

                      No, we wouldn’t ‘expect’ that, full stop. You can go to Einstein himself and see support for the very idea that we can grasp some aspects of nature mathematically is itself unexpected. Maybe what you mean to say is that if A-theory were true, it should be scientifically obvious. But that’s absurd – why believe that?

                      The data is not decisive here. Argue that it favors B-theory if you like – and I’ll note that ‘favors’ is a damn sight short of ‘demonstrates’ – but that still doesn’t remove our own observations or the metaphysical arguments.

                      And this is one of the largest problems with metaphysics, you can always retreat to the logically possible. Science on the other hand has proven to be extraordinarily useful, and the basic assumption it relies on that repeated experimentation and observation accurately reflects reality, has proven itself time and time again. Is it absolute? No. Is it the best we’ve got? Yes.

                      Here’s the funny thing about science: it has proven itself to be useful A) only in certain, limited contexts, and B) it can be extremely useful even when the underlying theories themselves are ultimately wrong. Pre-quantum mechanics science was based on what turned out to be ultimately incorrect views of nature, but that didn’t matter – the practical models that engineered developed with reference to it still functioned even if the theories were ultimately flawed.

                      You make it sound as if science is one long string of correct theories, accurate interpretations, and uniform reliability. In reality, the history of science is filled with a growing pile of ultimately discarded theories, inaccurate extrapolations of the data, and a reliability track record that varies widely depending on what the subject and field in question is.

                      Recognizing this is not some kind of insult to, much less a rejection of science. It just plains happens to be realistic.

                      At the same time, no, metaphysics is not just a retreat to the ‘logically possible’. For one thing, metaphysical views can and have been shot down in the past by showing that some things may not be logically possible at all. Arguments and evidence – even science, at times – can be rallied to support or oppose various claims. And considering science is ultimately based on metaphysics, you should be glad that is the case.

                      Besides logical impossibility, science, or specifically falsifiability through experimentation is the only way we’ve got to knowledge that leads to some certainty. Metaphysics can really only ever truly rule something out via logical impossibility. The A-Theory maintains consistency with the data only by retreating to a completely unfalsifiable position.

                      You keep talking about ‘retreat’, and I’ll keep correcting you: both A-theory and B-theory are metaphysical views. B-theory wasn’t ‘falsified’ prior to Einstein, and A-theory wasn’t ‘falsified’ afterwards.

                      Further, look at what you’re telling me. You criticize metaphysics for being unable to ever ‘truly rule out something’ – but science never ‘truly rules out’ anything either. At best, the theory falls by the wayside – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. So the comparison doesn’t work.

                      Now, maybe you mean that you have a greater psychological trust in science, or that it feels more emotionally satisfactory to say ‘science is on my side’ rather than ‘I have the superior metaphysical argument’. But considering A) you’re going to be making a metaphysical argument in your defense of science, and B) neither ‘truly rules out’ anything, what’s the point? Emotional satisfaction? ILLUSORY emotional satisfaction?

                      I expressly said “theological and metaphysical”, but in the context of Craig’s own defense of the Neo-Lorentzian view, he does center it largely around his theism. His articles talk about how Lorentz’s own view centered around theism.

                      And yet I’ve provided ample evidence that A-theory is a view embraced by many atheists, and that metaphysical and observational considerations are what drive them first and foremost. Trying to portray Craig as the lone wolf (or among theistic lone wolves) who defends A-theory because of theological precommitments is a dishonest way of presenting the situation. There are arguments against B-theory and for A-theory that have nothing to do with Christianity, or even God.

                      Other philosophers hold to the A-Theory, and I disagree with the atheist ones on exactly the same grounds. But it is certainly a minority position, the smallest one.

                      Really – don’t play these wordsmith games around people who can see them. It’s a ‘minority position’ in the same way that B-theory is by the same exact damn poll. 15.5 to 26%, with the rest going another way? Granted, these things aren’t decided by popular vote, but let’s really appreciate the current perspective people have on those topics. No, it’s not just a theist thing, much less a Christian thing. And apparently B-theory isn’t overwhelmingly popular. If you want to reduce that to ‘marginally more popular’, be my guest.

                      My point is that the Kalam itself is explicitly tied to the A-Theory,

                      Wonderful – in other words, you’re saying something Craig himself has already admitted. It’s not as if Craig hides or obscures B-theory, even by your own terms. He’s up front about what Kalam relies upon in his view, and he makes his arguments with that in mind.

                      Finally, I should be specific, the A-Theory has no scientific evidence going for it, and all available data suggests it is not the case.

                      And once again, this is not true. ‘All available data’ would include arguments, evidence, and observation – and there are problems with B-theory, and places A-theory does better. There’s more to data and observation than your particular view of relativity.

                      It’s still logically possible to have a “creation ex-nihilo” on different interpretations of the B-Theory, but trying to argue that there must have been a creator from that view is not a good prospect.

                      I disagree. There’s a reason why Kalam was largely resuscitated by Craig in the 20th century – it was because other arguments, for a damn long time, were viewed as more powerful.

                      Further, my refutation of the Kalam does not at all hinge on A or B theory, the argument has many other issues, even staying on Craig’s A-Theory. It is extraordinarily far from establishing it’s conclusion in any sense, and it has absolutely no scientific support – despite what Craig tries to make it look like in his debates.

                      What Craig does when he discusses these things is appeal to evidence for A-theory and point out problems with B-theory, all while openly discussing the current metaphysical views of scientists on this subject, pointing out his points of disagreement, and quoting scientists whose views and rendering of the data supports or opposes his own, depending on whether he wants to show that support or argue against opposition. If nothing else, he’s at least direct.

                      You meanwhile have tried to present A-theory as being some Christian thing that people only accept in order to believe in God. No, I think Craig’s far more up front about the evidence in comparison. One thing’s for sure: when Craig talks metaphysics, he admits he is. You don’t seem like you’ve come to grips with the fact that you are, at times, relying on metaphysics rather than ‘science’.

                    • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                      For one thing, no: no one ever ‘experienced a flat earth’ or ‘experienced an earth centric cosmology’. Those things are manifestly different from experiencing the flow of time, whether or not that flow of time is actually real.

                      Second, “science” also has a history of disproving itself. Scientific theories – of which an earth centric cosmology was one, by the way – have been disproven in the past. It’s not as if you have ‘intuitions’ on one side and ‘science’ on the other, and whenever intuitions buck against the science of the time, the intuitions ultimately fail. Science is, for as great as it is, one long string of refuted scientific theories.

                      I would be interested in explaining how experience of the external world is really much different from a cognitive experience, but that’s it’s own ball of wax.

                      How’s about this one: The experience of moving.

                      People rejected the idea of the earth moving through space, insisting that they were stationary. Science came along and pointed out that they are only stationary relative to the earth, but that they are indeed moving (with great speed!) as the earth rotates on its axis, or around the sun, or through the galaxy, etc.

                      Much like you with science, I don’t say we disregard all intuition or experience, but when science comes along and shows something contrary to what we experience, it usually turns out to be the best way to describe the world.

                      Now I don’t think that we should just take whatever science says, if it contradicts our notions of something deeply intuitive, it means we should investigate further!

                      The problem with this issue is that Craig has endorsed a view that closes off all possible investigation into the matter by positing an undetectable privileged reference frame.

                      No, what we have in B-theory is the claim that our experience of the flow of time is illusory. We don’t really experience it – that’s an artifact of our minds. We just think we experience it.

                      By the way, experiences and observation? Tell me how that’s not empirical data? So much for the ‘all the empirical data lines up with B-theory’ claim.

                      I’m sorry but that is not inherently the case on B-Theory. There is no question that if spacetime is a 4D object that we are “moving through that object” along the time axis. We may not know why we are moving along that axis, and according to Hawking time wouldn’t reverse if the universe contracted, but we certainly move from one moment in space time to another along an axis.

                      To quote Einstein (from Relativity):

                      “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.”

                      No, this is incorrect. Again, you try to make it sound as if the B-theory is just manifestly obvious, while the A-theory is some crazy scheme cooked up exclusively by religious people. What did Lorentz himself think about this question? I’ve already shown that the A-theory/B-theory argument is not limited to fringe theists.

                      I have not said that B-Theory is obvious, but the data is in, and I do hold that “theories” like the Neo-Lorentzian view are very much akin to a “crazy scheme”, I’ve not stated it was only by religious people, but Craig himself expressly claims that the reason people should accept the NL view is because they believe in the Christian god. He even references Lorentz recognizing the connection between absolute space-time and theism.

                      Further, no, the A-theorist is not committed to “all possible observation will not reflect what’s actually happening”, at least if that’s taken to mean that there can never be observations that would more comfortably square with the A-theory, even if science alone will never be decisive. By the way, the idea that science is not decisive on this subject isn’t exclusive to the A-theorist either – plenty of B-theorists are willing to admit that their justifications are ultimately metaphysical, even if they rely on science for some amount of support.

                      They absolutely are committed to there being no more observation to support that spacetime is absolute if they endorse the Neo-Lorentzian view that Craig does!

                      This is where the issue is getting conflated. It’s not so much about “A-Theory vs. B-Theory” so much as it is about spacetime being relative or absolute.

                      No, we wouldn’t ‘expect’ that, full stop. You can go to Einstein himself and see support for the very idea that we can grasp some aspects of nature mathematically is itself unexpected. Maybe what you mean to say is that if A-theory were true, it should be scientifically obvious. But that’s absurd – why believe that?

                      We absolutely do “expect” that if space and time are absolute that it would be Galilean invariant, that’s a direct consequence of what it means to be absolute. A Galilean transformation would describe how to move from one reference frame to another in a absolute space-time.

                      Being Lorentz Invariant means that space-time will warp and distort with motion, meaning it wouldn’t be absolute. Craig does not deny this, rather he outright denies that space-time actually is Lorentz Invariant and calls time dilation and length contraction an illusion.

                      You can try to shift the goalposts to asking why we should think math accurately describes reality, but that’s a completely separate argument.

                      The data is not decisive here. Argue that it favors B-theory if you like – and I’ll note that ‘favors’ is a damn sight short of ‘demonstrates’ – but that still doesn’t remove our own observations or the metaphysical arguments.

                      The data demonstrates that space time is not absolute as much as science can demonstrate anything. Your argument can be used just as well to defend a YEC view in that “the data favors an old universe, but that doesn’t demonstrate anything!”.

                      Maybe I’m using words like “demonstrate” in a context you’re not happy with. But I’m not seeing any way that Craig can call YEC’s an “embarrassment” for believing in “scientific nonsense” and not have the exact same charge be leveled against himself for endorsing a Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of Relativity. The analogy is absolutely direct when you understand what he is saying with the view.

                      Here’s the funny thing about science: it has proven itself to be useful A) only in certain, limited contexts, and B) it can be extremely useful even when the underlying theories themselves are ultimately wrong.
                      Pre-quantum mechanics science was based on what turned out to be ultimately incorrect views of nature, but that didn’t matter – the practical models that engineered developed with reference to it still functioned even if the theories were ultimately flawed.

                      Recognizing this is not some kind of insult to, much less a rejection of science. It just plains happens to be realistic.

                      I don’t agree with the “‘limited contexts” part, but you’re absolutely right that science can be wrong about the totality of something but still be useful at certain scales. Here’s the thing, below the speed of light or away from large masses, space and time appear to be absolute, Newtonian mechanics works great. Scale up, and ultimately we find out that space and time are relative, not absolute. That’s what this is about.

                      The problem is that spacetime being relative means the A-Theory is a no-go.

                      You keep talking about ‘retreat’, and I’ll keep correcting you: both A-theory and B-theory are metaphysical views. B-theory wasn’t ‘falsified’ prior to Einstein, and A-theory wasn’t ‘falsified’ afterwards.

                      And the issue that we’ve conflated is that the claim isn’t so much about A-Theory vs. B-Theory is that it is about whether or not space-time is relative or absolute.

                      The question as to whether space-time is relative or absolute is an empirical question. Or it is as much as the question of “how old is the universe” is to be considered an empirical question.

                      Science is not silent on the matter, and it has weighed in as decisively as it possibly can. To “square the theory with the data” in the way Craig tries to do so you have to reject the finding’s of science and retreat to the unfalsifiable.

                      Further, look at what you’re telling me. You criticize metaphysics for being unable to ever ‘truly rule out something’ – but science never ‘truly rules out’ anything either. At best, the theory falls by the wayside – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. So the comparison doesn’t work.

                      And yet I’ve provided ample evidence that A-theory is a view embraced by many atheists, and that metaphysical and observational considerations are what drive them first and foremost. Trying to portray Craig as the lone wolf (or among theistic lone wolves) who defends A-theory because of theological precommitments is a dishonest way of presenting the situation. There are arguments against B-theory and for A-theory that have nothing to do with Christianity, or even God.

                      I’m not portraying Craig as a lone wolf, but I am criticizing his “scientific” theory that entails a retreat to the unfalsifiable. I am also criticizing him over his “central and radical claim” in his work on the theory of time, namely that Christians should embrace the more complex Neo-Lorentzian view because they believe in a god and creation ex-nihilo.

                      That’s Craig’s claim, he admits it up front and I am criticizing him for it.

                      Others can argue for the A-Theory on their own terms, and I can respond with the same scientifically based arguments.

            • Tim

              Counter Apologist,

              I seriously doubt that you have the technical competence needed to weigh-in on the merits/demerits of Craig’s neo-Lorentzian interpretation of SR. These are very technical matters within Craig’s work and involve a complex interaction of scientific and philosophical concepts. Not the sort of thing immediately accessible to an amateur with an axe to grind against his childhood religion.

              • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                Odd, I guess all those years of physics for my engineering degree, and the graduate level math classes for my masters didn’t count for much.

                That said, you don’t need a lick of it to see what Craig is pulling. I break it all down completely in the last video in my Countering the Kalam series (Shameless plug alert! http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2013/01/countering-kalam-circular-and.html ). We have no evidence to support what Craig claims exists, and we can never have evidence for it, in principle! In fact we have tons of evidence to the contrary of what he claims. There’s a reason his theory is rejected almost completely by modern cosmologists.

                To get what he wants he has to admit that he is taking a more complex theory over the simpler one for theological reasons, which undercuts the Kalam.

                • Tim

                  Counter Apologist,

                  It’s not a matter of what courses you took to get your degrees. I’ve spent years learning some of the most complicated mathematical structures ever conceived and have more degrees than I care to admit across three different disciplines but that doesn’t mean I can properly assess the merits/demerits of Craig’s neo-Lorentzian interpretation of SR without doing a little homework of my own. In any case, I am not sure that this is even a significant aspect of Craig’s larger defense of the KCA.

                  “Oh and the story of Adam and Eve doesn’t at all imply (metaphorically or literally) that death entered the world as a result of sin?”

                  If you mean physical death then no. To wit, Adam did not physically die when he disobeyed the commandment.

                  “There is absolutely no reason to assume that is the ‘most natural interpretation’ unless you want to go into cosmology to cherry pick items to try and prop up millennia old theological claims.”

                  Well, for one thing it is certainly the most philosophically economical explanation of the standard model. Other explanations such as those advanced by Hawking and proponents of the multiverse strike me as being needlessly baroque and, therefore, probably false.

                  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

                    You’re making an appeal to authority here, and the issues with Craig’s Neo-Lorentzian view aren’t technical (the equations work out to be equivalent to Einstein’s), the issue are:

                    It postulates excess entities that are not necessary to explain all relevant data.

                    The central claim that differentiates it from the Einstein/Minkowski view is undetectable in principle.

                    It denies that all possible empirical evidence we have on the nature of space and time actually occurs (Craig explicitly calls it illusory).

                    Craig admits the reason he adopts this more complex view is because of Theological and Metaphysical reasons, where he otherwise admits that when we have two theories the simpler one is most likely to be true.

                    I am not sure that this is even a significant aspect of Craig’s larger defense of the KCA.

                    It is extremely significant, Craig explicitly admits that without the A-Theory, the Kalam fails.

                    If you mean physical death then no. To wit, Adam did not physically die when he disobeyed the commandment.

                    He was denied access to the Tree of Life as a result, and if he hadn’t sinned, he would never have died. The standard Christian theological answer as to why there is pain and suffering in the world is because mankind (specifically Adam as a federal headship of humanity).

                    Well, for one thing it is certainly the most philosophically economical explanation of the standard model. Other explanations such as those advanced by Hawking and proponents of the multiverse strike me as being needlessly baroque and, therefore, probably false.

                    Most economical? The idea of eternally existing quantum vacuum birthing our spacetime, or Hawking’s view of our spacetime existing eternally on the B-Theory style interpretation is much simpler and is in line with everything else we know about physics.

                    Craig makes assumptions that go well beyond all available data that entails a miracle, and my entire point is that there is absolutely no evidence that warrants the leap he is making. You can call that whatever you like, but it’s the fact of the matter.

                  • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                    Tim,
                    This is a totally disingenuous tack.
                    1) and Craig IS a physicist / cosmologist with the required training an knowledge in SR / cosmology etc?
                    2) Actually, having looked at CA’s claims on Craig’s ‘science denailism’ (at least as far as falsifiability is concerned), he has a very solid point. His defence for the premises of the KCA are circular.

                    Look, Craig even hints this on his closertotruth videos where he admits preferring the B-Theory of time since they fit with God., Which he then uses to prove God. You don’t need to know anything about these concepts per se in order to see that Craig is on epistemologically shaky ground.

        • Tim

          Counter Apologist,

          “As for goodness, Christian theology teaches that mortality is not good! ‘For the wages of sin is death!’”

          Paul wasn’t referring to physical death in that sentence, see Rom. 7.9. In this context, “death” refers to the spiritual state of being under condemnation due to personal sin (cf. John 5.24).

          “That is not at all shown in anything in modern cosmology.”

          Again, you’re being pedantic here. It’s true that, strictly speaking, the standard model doesn’t tell us whether the universe actually began to exist or whether it tunneled into existence via some other part of physical reality and/or exists within a world ensemble of infinitely many different universes, etc. However, the most natural philosophical interpretation of the standard model is the one given to it by Craig et al.

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            Paul wasn’t referring to physical death in that sentence, see Rom. 7.9. In this context, “death” refers to the spiritual state of being under condemnation due to personal sin (cf. John 5.24).

            Oh and the story of Adam and Eve doesn’t at all imply (metaphorically or literally) that death entered the world as a result of sin? That understanding was absolutely part of Paul’s theology when he wrote his epistles.

            Again, you’re being pedantic here. It’s true that, strictly speaking, the standard model doesn’t tell us whether the universe actually began to exist or whether it tunneled into existence via some other part of physical reality and/or exists within a world ensemble of infinitely many different universes, etc. However, the most natural philosophical interpretation of the standard model is the one given to it by Craig et al.

            Emphasis mine. Talk about biases, you’ve simply got to be kidding me. There is absolutely no reason to assume that is the ‘most natural interpretation’ unless you want to go into cosmology to cherry pick items to try and prop up millennia old theological claims.

            Conversely we do have good reasons to think the former is the case on the basis of what we already do know about the universe, and we have strong theoretical backing to show that a space-time can arise from simply a quantum vacuum.

            Also, since we want to get technical, which is what science does, there IS no answer in cosmology to support the premise that Craig is using it for. That’s not just correct, it’s technically correct, which is the best kind of correct.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    Randal, a/theism and a/gnosticism are not mutually exclusive positions. William Lane Craig, for example, has declared that no amount of evidence would undermine his belief because of the “internal witness of the Holy Spirit”. That position – that one’s beliefs are not amenable to evidence and argument – makes him a gnostic theist.

    Similarly, an agnostic theist might say, “I believe in God because of x, y, and z. But if these beliefs could be shown to be unwarranted, I would no longer believe”.

    I’ve never quite understood this notion that to disbelieve in something we must be able to demonstrate its non-existence. I don’t believe there is a planet called Xulgar that is populated by pink unicorns. But since I can’t conclusively demonstrate that to be true, am I hence justified in affirming the existence of the unicorns of Xulgar? Of course not!

    Another easily overlook nuance is that our degree of a/gnosticism varies with the specificity of the claim. I’m much more of a gnostic/strong atheist with regard to the Christian god than, for example, a being who might exist yet completely eludes human understanding. That’s because the Christian god is described with specific claims of agency and influence, historical context, and a robust theology that describes him and his relationship with humanity in great detail.

    Most modern atheists are agnostic atheists. Heck, Richard Dawkins has a whole chapter in The God Delusion explaining his agnosticism and uncertainty, and even charts it out on a handy 1-7 scale. And yet for some reason theists still seem to think they’ve caught us red-handed when we say we’re not TOTALLY CERTAIN there is no god of any kind.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      I guess you can call Craig a “gnostic theist” if you like, but in standard epistemological terminology he is a theist who believes that a subset of his theistic beliefs are indefeasible.

      As for your term “agnostic theist”, that just amounts to a theist who takes the view that their theistic commitments are defeasible.

      “I’ve never quite understood this notion that to disbelieve in something we must be able to demonstrate its non-existence.”

      I never said you must. But look, there are two kinds of justified belief, i.e. properly basic and properly non-basic. If you want to claim that “God does not exist” is properly basic, you need to explain how relative to a theory of epistemology. If you believe it is properly non-basic then that means the belief is derived from evidence which you should be able to produce.

      Anyway, back to the main point, I think terms like “agnostic theist” and “agnostic atheist” just confuse matters. Rather, what you have are theists and atheists with various degrees of conviction about the claim “God does (or does not) exist”.

      • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

        I agree actually, and I think even the term “agnostic” is a little silly. That’s because anyone with the least bit of epistemic humility ought to acknowledge that there may be knowledge to which they are not privy.

        Even myself, sure, I’m totally unpersuaded by theistic arguments and even less by specific religious arguments. But I can at least allow for the possibility that perhaps I haven’t understood something correctly, or that perhaps there’s something evidence I haven’t considered. Regardless, I can only do my best to make sense of it all and go where my best judgment takes me.

        I do think one point needs clarification. Emphasis, even. If atheism was rooted in the claim “God does not exist”, I think there’d be a major burden of proof on the atheist. But given how God is often defined in ways that elude empirical investigation, I don’t see how God’s existence could be “disproved”, ever. But there are an infinite number of things that can’t be disproved, so I think that’s really pretty trivial.

        My objections are mainly rooted in theological noncognitivism and evidential issues – that the theistic claims are unsupported by the evidence available to me. So while I don’t like to parade around saying, “God does not exist” (at least without specifying what I mean by “God”), I think it’s fair to say I find the arguments and purported evidence unpersuasive, and thus live my life under the provisional assumption that there are no gods – at least not any that are relevant to my existence.

        Whether someone wants to call that atheism or agnosticism, I really don’t care. I call it atheism because I operate day to day on the assumption that there isn’t any god that cares about me. But if someone wants to brand me “agnostic” because I don’t claim to be able to categorically disprove any and every possible god, well… big whoop.

  • RayIngles

    However, libertarian free will doesn’t require the ability to sin.

    Wouldn’t that necessarily imply that the ‘free will defense’ of theodicy – the idea that God had to give humans free will that included the ability to sin – does not in fact offer a justification/explanation for the evil we see today?

  • wanted a real discussion

    Randall, you seem pretty proud of your debating skills. Lots of zingers in there, rounded out with a little faux puzzlement. If you would focus more on the content of counterapologist’s argument and less on turning words around to score cheap points this would be a much more interesting blog.

  • contrararian

    The clearest reason for not believing, is that the reasons believers give for believing are so monumentally stupid.

    Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago so that people who believe he was God could spend eternity in a state of bliss, while those who don’t would spend eternity knowing they’d made the wrong choice. I mean, if he wanted to help people he could have taught the germ theory of disease… But no, instead we get to watch apologists performing intellectual backflips, to justify why God created the Universe knowing in advance that most people would be “damned”.

    “Even if all the arguments for the existence of this being were completely vacuous, it wouldn’t follow that one ought to believe no such being exists.

    Can that get some sort of award for the most inane apologetic argument ever?

    Pro-tip: “believing” that there exists a necessary agent cause, does not mean that one exists, or that your grounds for that belief are true or sound.

    I don’t need to “prove””there does not exist a necessary agent cause” any more than I have to prove there’s no Santa Claus.

    If there is a “necessary agent cause”, and we can’t come up with any non-vacuous arguments for what it is or what it means, that’s indistinguishable from it meaning nothing at all.

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