Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

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Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#1  Postby andrewk » Oct 29, 2011 10:54 pm

I listened to the Law vs Craig debate from 17 October 2011 in London. Audio is available at apologetics315 amongst other places.
Video is on youtube here.

I had not heard of Dr Law before but I was impressed. He took a different approach from most of Craig's opponents in that he didn't set out to rebut any of Craig's arguments for the existence of a general god. Instead he set out to show that the god that those arguments claim to prove could just as easily be an evil god as a good one. He then progresses to observe that almost nobody believes that a supreme being would be evil, rejecting the possibility on fairly flimsy grounds. Hence, to be rationally consistent, one should also reject the proposition that there is a good god, as symmetrical arguments, of precisely the same strength, can be made against that proposition.

It was refreshing to hear a debate not get bogged down in the kalam cosmological argument, the logical errors in which Craig is never going to concede (and his opponents are rarely well enough prepared to identify them anyway). Craig tried very hard to force Law onto Craig's preferred territory of debating the kalam, but Law steadfastly refused, maintaining that, as the kalam says nothing about the moral character of a creator, it has no power against Law's argument.

Many Craig devotees may disagree, but I would say this debate was an entertaining draw. Neither side managed to land a serious blow on the other.

Because Law's case involves a lot of negatives (we can't prove that there is not a god that is not good, yet we believe there is not a not-good god, so we should accept, given arguments of equal strength, that there is not a good god, which may imply that there is neither), I found myself frequently getting lost and thinking 'I no longer have any idea what they are talking about'. Indeed at some points I wondered whether the person speaking was entirely sure of what they were talking about - perhaps they were just blustering along trying to sound confident and hoping nobody could work out that what they were saying didn't make sense. This is unfamiliar territory for Craig, who is so comfortable with all the points and counterpoints of his usual battle ground.

Given that neither side is ever going to convince the diehards that mostly attend or listen to these debates, I think that a good outcome for the atheist side is one where the debater comes across as rational, civil and likeable (the civility point is one reason I think Christopher Hitchens is not a good debater, despite being a great solo speaker). It seemed to me that Dr Law ticked all those boxes so, from that point of view, although the debate seemed a technical draw to me, I surmise that it did more to further the cause of atheism being regarded as a worldview that reasonable, nice people can hold, than it did to further Dr Craig's cause of winning souls for Jesus.

What did others think?
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#2  Postby Mick » Oct 30, 2011 3:02 am

I'm a bit puzzled about what the debate topic is. Does 'God' within the resolution 'Is there a God?' refer to the Christian God or the God of the philosophers or just any generic god?

Craig's answer to the argument from animal suffering puzzles me. Even if current ecosystems require predation, it still seems like a rather morally indifferent process with little regard for the animal pain and suffering. Prima facie, if an atheistic universe with advanced biological ecosystems exist, then we'd expect those ecosystems to look a lot like our present day ecosystems: ridden with a morally indifferent predation, natural selection and death. In contrast, if God exists, then, prima facie, we wouldn't expect to see such callous ecosystems, since they would seem entirely unnecessary. Thus, here we have prima facie evidence for a non-God hypothesis in respects to our present day ecosystems.

No doubt Craig would answer with his argument that animals do not have that 3rd level consciousness of pain-they are not aware that they themselves are suffering and they do not suffer like humans do. But even if that's true, so what? This would not suggest that they do not suffer in some sense.

A preventative answer may be this: We have no reason to think that if God had a good reason for the above, then we'd know about it. I actually grant this as good measure to prevent any conclusive proof or argument for the non-existence of God. But I do think the PoE provides comfortable space for agnosticism in respect to the sort of God argued by Craig.
Last edited by Mick on Oct 30, 2011 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#3  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Oct 30, 2011 3:08 am

I was never going to bother listening to one of these again. But Andrew and Mick might have convinced me it offers some new material!

:popcorn:
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#4  Postby Mick » Oct 30, 2011 3:31 am

Any listener familiar with Craig can skip his opening speech. It's his usual stuff with the addition of this:

1. If objective moral values exist, then so does God.
2. If evil exists, then so do objective moral values.
3. evil exists.
C. God exists.


It's a valid argument (deductively speaking) aimed to counter-attack a PoE made from the external perspective from where 3 is proffered from the backgound of some moral system external to perfect-being theism ( i.e., ordinary utilitarianism).
Christ said, "I am the Truth"; he did not say "I am the custom." -- St. Toribio
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#5  Postby andrewk » Oct 30, 2011 3:35 am

Another interesting feature of the debate was that Dr Craig only presented three arguments for God rather than his usual five. He presented the kalam cosmological argument, the moral argument and the resurrection of Jesus, omitting his other two regulars: the arguments from design and from personal experience.

Dropping the design argument is understandable. The only thing it delivers that the kalam doesn't is a personal god, whereas the kalam doesn't get you past deism (Craig's addendum to the kalam argument, that asserts a personal god, is the weakest part of it, and always seems to me a very rushed and obvious last-minute bolt-on). If I were to choose one of the two I'd probably go with design for that reason, but Craig is so strongly associated with the kalam and knows it, and all the related issues, so well, that he probably preferred to choose that. He gets the personal-god bit from his moral argument anyway.

Dropping the argument from personal experience is more intriguing. Craig doubtless knows it's not going to carry any weight with anybody that's not already a believer, but that's not the point. I think the argument is a defensive measure to shore up believers, in case the opponent makes any telling points against the other arguments. Effectively he's saying to believers: “even if the other guy makes some good points, that shouldn't affect your faith, because you know Jesus personally, so the rest is really just academic”. I think that's a wise strategic move on his part, and I'm very curious to know the reason why he didn't include it on this occasion. Does it say something about what he thinks will resonate with a British audience compared to an American one, or is it an evolution in his thinking about the optimal debating tactics?

I don't think recordings of the “empty chair” debate with Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson are available yet but, when they are, that may cast further light on this issue.
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#6  Postby Oldskeptic » Oct 30, 2011 3:42 am

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8__EwAT8VM[/youtube]
There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher will not say it - Cicero.

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead - Stephen Hawking
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#7  Postby murshid » Oct 30, 2011 1:17 pm

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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#8  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Oct 30, 2011 4:29 pm

Listening now. Interesting speech from Stephen Law. Can't tell if WLC is being deliberately obtuse in his reply, he is so far off the mark.
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#9  Postby murshid » Oct 30, 2011 6:40 pm

I'll have to listen to this debate when I get some time. From what I've read about it here and elsewhere, it sounds like an interesting debate, at least as far as Stephen Law's arguments are concerned.

Does anyone have a link to the Craig and Peter Williams vs Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson debate?
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Re: Stephen Law vs WL Craig debate

#10  Postby murshid » Jul 01, 2017 9:08 am

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