Lawrence Krauss vs. William Lane Craig

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William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss-Thoughts and links

The debate took place on March 30th. I recently watched it and wanted to share my own comments, along with some others’ excellent thoughts.

First, the audio of the debate: here.

Second, William Lane Craig’s “Post Mortem”: here.

Third, Wintery Knight posted an excellent summary of Krauss’ “arguments”. I highly recommend reading it: here.

Fourth, the video is here.

Fifth, cosmologist Luke Barnes writes on Krauss’ misrepresentation of “nothing” here.

Sixth, Craig responds to Krauss’ extensive critique here.

DISCLAIMER: This post has been linked to by PZ Myers as a post which demonstrates the “dishonest distortions of some attendees.” For clarification: I did not attend the  debate, but rather watched it online. Further, I answer Myers’ discussion of Bayes in a comment in response to a visitor below. Krauss definitely mistreprents Bayesian theorems in a way which undermines his own position. Finally, Myers’ ad hominem attacks upon Craig do little to back up Krauss’ self-defeating debate. For example, Myers writes that Craig is a “vacuous moron”; he rails against theists who “reject the atheist without thinking”; and he calls me dishonest, though admittedly only through linking to my site. Myers, in other words, uses the same strategy Krauss did in his debate: Calls himself smart, calls his opponents dumb, and declares “win” on the internet.

My thoughts:

Craig Opening

Craig went through his standard 5 arguments set, which remains as powerful as ever. The reason he doesn’t change his opening statement (unless the debate is about something other than the existence of God) is because he doesn’t need to fix what “ain’t broke”.

Krauss Opening

Krauss’ opening statement is simply awful. He starts off by saying Craig is a “professional debater” which is an obvious jab, because Craig is a professional philosopher who is world-renowned in both philosophy of religion and philosophy of time. Krauss goes on to bash logic and philosophy. Against Craig’s argument from contingency, he asserts that some contingent events happen causelessly. For example, he argues that “accidents happen all the time,” and seems to think that this shows that things can happen without cause. Against the Kalam, he argues that the universe is big, and concludes the argument is false. He also says that 2+2=5. He further argues that we can deal mathematically with infinities–something Craig agrees with and in fact deals with in extensive detail in his literature (specifically, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, and elsewhere).

Krauss also seems to argue that Craig’s evidence is not falsifiable, which is strange, considering every argument Craig offered is falsifiable simply by disproving one of the premises. He went on to assert that the universe came into existence out of nothing, for which he provides no evidence. Then he argues that “We don’t know!” if the universe is infinitely old (which runs smack in the face of the Big Bang).  We also “don’t know” if there are objective moral values.

So, summing up Krauss’ opening, we have: logic doesn’t work, things pop into existence out of nothing, things can cause themselves, 2+2=5, and we don’t know anything.

Craig 2

Craig pointed out that you can’t deny logic without using logic to come to that conclusion, therefore defeating Krauss’ schoolyard “reasoning”. Craig then destroys Krauss’ argument from Hume, by pointing out Hume didn’t even have access to the probability calculus utilized in arguments from miracles. He goes on to point out that Krauss’ argument that “accidents just happen” as a way to get around causal reasoning is ridiculous–the example of a friend falling out of bed and breaking a leg is not causeless–he broke his leg because he fell out of bed in such and such a way! He also points out that we certainly can add infinites together (again, if Krauss had actually done any research, he’d have known Craig already responded to this argument), but that actual infinites are impossible because it leads to contradictions. Craig goes on to quote George Ellis, a cosmologist, as an expert who disagrees with Krauss.

Craig then pointed out that there’s a difference in terminology between what Krauss said is “nothing” and actual “nothing.” Krauss simply misrepresented what is meant by “nothing” comes from “nothing.” The quantum vacuum, for example, is not “nothing”. He then quoted Krauss on the very topic, pointing out that Krauss clearly intended to distort the meaning of “nothing.” Nothing, Craig explains, means actually nothing–no quantum vacuum, no energy, no matter: nothing. So Krauss has to point out that the universe can come from actual nothing. He then points out that Krauss doesn’t even argue against moral values, and has to go on to quote Krauss’ body of work to point out his only response to the argument, which is that there is no freedom of the will. So Krauss has to argue that there’s no freedom of the will in order to get around Craig’s argument. Finally, Craig nicely shows Krauss how to logically get to God from Christ, since apparently Krauss was unable to make that same inference.

Krauss 2

Krauss starts off by holding that empty space is not empty–something Craig agrees with, which is the entire point of the argument! Craig has been arguing that there was nothing before the universe–something the Big Bang also leads to, but Krauss either can’t fit his mind around this simple concept (before the universe there was actually nothing) or he is blatantly misrepresenting the argument. My bets are on the latter. Krauss says the beginning of the universe is “fascinating” and we should try to understand it, and then argues that it’s possible to not believe in God. (Fantastic reasoning). He then makes another jab at Craig by saying “he’s not an expert” …but well, maybe he is “because he’s read my stuff.”

Krauss interestingly points out there was a time when there was no space and time, and then it came into existence. He holds that this is for no reason, out of nothing.

He goes on to make what I call the “observer’s fallacy”: claiming that because we’re here, we don’t need to explain why we’re here. As with many terrible arguments, the “observer’s fallacy” proves too much–we’re here to observe x, therefore x is probable or had to happen (and therefore we don’t need to speculate about a cause–or there is no cause). Anything can be plugged in. I’m here to observe the hamburger in front of me to eat, therefore it is uncaused!

Krauss’ argument about “empty space” holds that these quantum events happen with different laws at different times. He then concludes that therefore, these are uncaused or undesigned, there is no God. But the obvious flaw in this reasoning is that he already noted that these quantum events happen due to laws, which then precludes his argument against logic in science. He argues that physics has different, random kinds of laws across an unobservable multiverse which we can’t test. Nice bit of metaphysical baggage to add on there.

Krauss also makes the absurd error of equating mathematical probability with epistemic probability. Krauss is correct in saying that if something is 50% likely, that’s just a chance, not a reason to believe it’s true or that it’s the case. However, he misunderstands (I say this because it’s clear so far that he doesn’t know what epistemic probability is) epistemic probability. One example could be drawn from Robin Collins about the thesis of common descent–if I think it is more likely than another theory, I’m not saying that it has a 60% chance, whereas other theories have a 30% or 20% chance… no, I’m saying that given the evidence, it seems as though the thesis of common descent has more epistemic weight than its rivals–it is more likely epistemically. I doubt Krauss will address this in any way through the rest of the debate, because I really do think, judging by his strategy so far, he doesn’t have the philosophical know-how to do so.

In summary, Krauss’ response to Craig’s rejoinder is: “Everything is random! HA! Also, things happen due to causes, but they are uncaused! I’m here to observe things, so they are uncaused!”

Craig 3

Craig now has to get to the point of debating someone who denies logic. Not an enviable position.

Craig starts off by refocusing the debate on whether there is evidence for God or not–“is it the case that God’s existence is more probable” given the evidence presented “than not.” He points out that Krauss didn’t engage Craig’s theses, but rather went off on tangents. For example, Krauss did not deny that he was using the taxicab fallacy–the idea that everything needs an explanation, but once we get to the universe, it needs no explanation. Then Craig argues that the scientific evidence supports the beginning of the universe, using the same paper Krauss argued had nothing to do with God. Craig’s only intent is to use the research to point to a beginning of the universe, so Krauss was again mistaken in his response.

Craig challenges Krauss to present any evidence to suggest the universe is past-eternal. I sincerely doubt Krauss will do anything of the sort, given how evasive he’s been to this point. Craig also challenges Krauss to actually address the fine-tuning argument and present some reason as to why we should believe in the multiverse which we can’t observe. Then Craig points out that most scientists agree the universe is fine-tuned for life, contra Krauss’ denial earlier.

Finally, Craig points out that Krauss misrepresents the moral argument because God’s nature is necessarily such that the divine commands He issues cannot be evil.

Summary: Craig has challenged Krauss to deal with the evidence at hand.

Krauss 3

Not that it is unexpected, but Krauss starts off by outlining just how clear it is that he doesn’t understand epistemic probability. He continues to think that it is reducible to mathematic probability. Plus, his example is simply wrong. Krauss says (paraphrased) “You wanna talk about probability, how bout we ask some scientists if God exists!” He then says that 90% of the National Academy of scientists are atheists. Okay… so how is this probability? It’s a statistic. Apparently Krauss is unaware of the fact that to have a probability, you must, you know, draw a conclusion. He could have said “The chance for me to pull an atheist out of the National Academy of Scientists is 9/10” but simply saying that 90% of them are atheists is not a probability. Not only that, but Krauss is clearly being disingenuous. Also, he clearly doesn’t understand epistemic probability.

Krauss then randomly brought up the “Old Testament God” and says He’s clearly not compassionate.

He hints at the Euthyphro dilemma… but then says “rationality defines morality.” How?

Closing Statements

Craig simply points out Krauss hasn’t refuted any argument.

Krauss resorts to saying “We don’t know x, we don’t know y, we don’t know z.” Then he makes the infamous “We’re all atheists” argument that is the subject of this post and one I will write soon.

Final Thoughts

Imagine a theist/Christian came to a debate and, in order to establish his point, stood up and said “Well logic doesn’t work. Logic isn’t reality. Philosophy is dumb. Theology is better. Theology isn’t governed by logic. Logic is dumb. Logic can’t prove anything about the universe [this latter is a direct quote from Krauss].”

The Christian would be laughed out of the building. But an atheist can stand up and say “logic doesn’t prove anything… Logic isn’t reality… etc.” and people take them seriously. It’s another example of “atheism at any cost.” Rather than acknowledge the existence of God, to which logic and sound reasoning continue to lead us, atheists reject logic and sound reasoning. Krauss, to his credit, did manage to demonstrate this with profound success: atheism is irrational.



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