Monday, 28 October 2013

William Lane Craig dishonest?

So if you don't know who William Lane Craig is (sometimes referred to as simply WLC), I will spare you having to sit through one of his rhetorical debates. He is the lead apologist for Christianity, which basically means he delights in arguing for the Christian viewpoint, and publishing books on his philosophy, one that attempts to proves God's existence, not just any God but the empty tomb God of the bible, with Jesus as his son. He is actually fairly intelligent, very well spoken and very well presented. He does however use faulty logic that has been cut down at every turn by atheists on youtube. He will of course sometimes dismiss their arguments with an appeal to authority, saying he is a published PHD, they are youtubers... yeah sorry that doesn't hold water, your argument must be sound.

If you really want to see his arguments or the beautiful take downs, have a look, I will recommend some videos at the end.

But the video I want to refute is here; is only 2 minutes, but I will give you a quick recap. Carl Sagan once said in his truly skeptical fashion "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". A good phrase to sum up a decent skeptical position to hold. If someone tells you they can fly, you may ask for a demonstration, if they say they can't demonstrate it now, then you are smart to withhold judgement and ask them when they can demonstrate this extraordinary ability. If they put some condition on it, you could attempt to still test them while fulfilling this condition, but if they refuse to be subject to testing then you would be wise to disbelieve them till some extraordinary evidence came in. Their say so is not enough, even a photo can be faked, you need some testable evidence.

WLC goes on to probability theory, and says that things that are unlikely to happen statistically should be questioned. Yes that is right, WLC then uses the lottery numbers that were picked as a highly improbable event that should be questioned. It is two improbabilities, surely someone of WLC's intelligence knows this. The likelihood of lottery numbers being picked on a night that they are picked is nearly 100%, the likelihood that a set of numbers a particular individual has chosen maybe 1 in 100 million. But once the numbers have been picked, like a quantum wave function the probability is collapsed to 100%. This is why they record it and have overseers to ensure that it is all legitimate and no cheating is performed.

The lotto numbers that were picked weren't picked due to some Divine hand, nor was the fact that they were picked an extraordinary claim. What would be an extraordinary claim is if one of the numbers picked contained a letter, but that claim would be satisfied with video evidence. If one of the numbers picked started talking then, maybe even a single source of video evidence may not be enough... if one of the numbers picked, talked (but only to certain people), and managed to create a universe and sentient beings in it, and send a lesser number that was somehow still the same to one of the planets in that created universe then no matter how many sources you had you may never have enough. A book written by ancients who witnessed this miraculous talking number would definitely not be enough evidence.

So try this on for size WLC, varied levels of claim require equivalent levels of evidence. If you claim a dice landed on 6, and it causes no cost to me, I would likely just believe you. If my house were riding on this dice roll, not only would I want to see the 6, but I would throw the dice myself a few times to ensure it wasn't rigged... if my life were riding on it... well I don't think I would gamble that, but I would spend all my effort to ensure the roll was fair even going so far as to not let another roll the dice.

He then goes on to try and tie in the bible saying you can offset that probability, one I have already dismissed by determining what is the probability that it would have been reported had it not occurred... Hmm papers and broadcast have misreported the lottery numbers several times, a quick google shows three in the first page of results, just for 2011 ( so there is a possibility that it was misreported.
The same thing can be applied to the bible and other texts, was Homers Odyssey misreported, or did Poseidon have it in for Odysseus, were the writings of Heracles (Hercules) misreported, or did Zeus really have an extra-marital affair with a human that ended in a mighty warrior half-god son? These stories are mutually exclusive, so it is best to refrain from judgement till one has evidence for or against. The bible and its stories and adherents are not evidence, any more than the now lost (presumed destroyed by early Christians) books of stories of the Cult of Heracles and his known followers are evidence for his existence. Anecdote and here say does not equal evidence.

Evidence has mounted against all of them, there are no Gods atop mount Olympus, none yet found in the seas, no signature for Yahweh the God of the bible, and some scholars including one who recently spoke for Sydney atheists are starting to questions Jesus' validity.
Reserving judgement, on all of these is the only honest approach. You can go one step further and dismiss all of the hypothesis till one has clear evidence in its favour. Dismissing hypothesis' such as Zeus, Woden (Odin), FSM and Yahweh (God, Jehova, Elohim, Adonai) .

All of this I watched, only a few weeks after I saw WLC debate Lawrence Krauss in Sydney were he goes on here to say he is an agnostic, this seems a little dishonest, maybe he isn't convinced by his own water tight arguments? Well small steps Craig, you'll get there eventually.
Of course I make this rather large claim and have some video evidence to back it up, of course WLC can back peddle all he likes but here it is, shortly after Lawrence Krauss states the position that he doesn't claim certainty, as any good scientist should:

WLC take downs;
Theortetical Bullshit's awesome takedown
Contingent argument takedown/Morality This is the same as the age old logical fallacy, some doctors are men, some doctors are tall. Does that mean some men are tall?
You can't actually answer yes with only those two pieces of information, the tall doctors could be all females and all the men in this hypothetical world could be short.
And of course the Awesome skydive Phil, who seems to knock WLC's argument down again and again, yet he continues to use them.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

New atheists

I have had this post mulling around in my head for a while and I need to get it out.

New atheists, oh how I hate that phrase. Most new atheists as they are described by theists, are basing their thought processes on the Socratic method and "new" philosophers like Voltaire and Denis Diderot. These are not new ideas, atheism is not new. What is new is the success that has been attained by these books, success that is well deserved due to hard work and due to timing, nothing more.
Socrates is over 2000 years old... I suppose that makes them New atheists in the same sense that Christianity is a new religion, continuing on from Socrates we had Epicurus, you'll know of him and from his problem of evil;

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent (evil)
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

Interestingly Epicurus' was taught and influenced by the teachings of Democritus (father of the aptly named Democracy), who was friends with Hippocrates (where the Hippocratic oath gets its name, and thus modern medicine its founding precepts). So this "New" atheism has some 2000 year old ideas.
I like to respond to the claim that we are just blindly following these new idols with ironically a paraphrase from Richard Dawkins, the first atheist came into existence when the first conman met the first skeptic. Think about it, some guy comes down from a mountain into your village and says he saw a god atop the mountain that controls its occasional eruptions, and this god requires your devotion and donations of food, this conman will ensure is made pleasing to this god, as he eats it in his hut.

So, unless you fandangle New Atheists to simply be a definition for the current successful atheists and their books, and those that are effected by them, then you are creating a definition that does not equal the words you have chosen. Most atheists I know from Sydney atheists were atheists before they read a single book of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris, Krauss, Stenger or any of the others. Myself inclusive. Sure there are plenty that where on the fence when they read one of these authors books, and then quickly fell off into non-belief, but most where either there and not out, or already there and out but not in fashion.
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” - Isaac Asimov, obviously Asimov is another New atheist... considering this is taken from one of the many thousands of letters that he wrote in his 72 year life (died 1992), compiled into the book "Yours, Isaac Asimov" in 1996, well before any of the New atheists where on the scene. The letter according to the annotation by his brother was written on Feb. 22, 1966, quoted again in 2006 by Janet Asimov in her book "Notes for a Memoir" Pg58. Sorry to labour this Isaac Asimov quote but I have found some contention on Christian blogs as to whether it is legitimate, seeing it in two different sources, as well as the times he criticises the bible in his other works, convinces me of its legitimacy.

The aforementioned authors, I would say are also quick to attribute their thoughts and success to those that came before them, standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants such as Newton, Kant, Darwin, Kelvin, Faraday, Jefferson, Paine, Bertrand Russell, and many, many others who have contributed to the body of science and thought that makes up modern day atheism.

So stop calling it new atheism, or I am going to call you Christians, a New Jew, and anything newer than 1700ad flash in the pan, eg flash in the pan Mormon, flash in the pan Scientoligist. Let the temporary nature of your belief system sink in for a bit.

Gnu atheists
Yeah I have no problem with this term, as it is a mock of the "New atheists" term, and I am sure Richard Stallman (Of GNU/Linux) would be proud.

Some references; search forthe words "potent force", in quotes. Raphael is a friend from Sydney atheists, and much more learned and scholoarly than I, in fact a discussion with him on facebook re-inspired me to finish this post off.