XFiles: WL Craig on “Objective Moral Duties”

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 6: “Can We Be Good Without God?”)

Last week, Dr. Craig ended on an exceptionally misanthropic note, declaring that if we take away God, humanity is nothing more than “an apelike creature on a speck of solar dust beset with delusions of moral grandeur.” Our intrinsic moral value—the value we have in and of ourselves, with or without 3rd parties like God—simply does not exist, in Dr. Craig’s view. (Wow.) Having settled that question, he moves on to moral duties.

Traditionally our moral duties were thought to spring from God’s commandments, such as the Ten Commandments. But if there is no God, what basis remains for objective moral duties? On the atheistic view, human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligations to one another.

Already he has “forgotten” what he himself wrote on the preceding page of his book:

Just as a troop of baboons exhibit cooperative and even self-sacrificial behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousins Homo sapiens exhibit similar behavior for the same reason. As a result of sociobiological pressures there has evolved among Homo sapiens a sort of “herd morality,” which functions well in the perpetuation of our species.

He originally conceded this point only because he thought it would be useful to him in dehumanizing mankind so that he could claim we have no “moral grandeur” without God. Now that he wants to talk about duty, however, he forgets all about this fact, even though it applies much more directly to moral behavior (i.e. “duties”) than it does to moral values. There’s a very clear sociobiological basis for the kinds of behavior we perceive as “duties,” and even though Dr. Craig himself alluded to it just one page ago, he now claims that no such thing exists.

Looks like we’re off to a good start, eh?

Read the rest of this entry »

XFiles: Objective moral values

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 6: “Can We Be Good Without God?”)

We’re up to Chapter 6 already? Cool! And it looks like Dr. Craig is all fired up and ready to serve us a heaping helping of his Argument from Morality. Here it is, as a syllogism.

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

As we’ve seen before, Dr. Craig is hopelessly confused about what objective values are. By failing to recognize that moral values are a combination of subjective preferences and real-world constraints, he convinces himself that there exists, in some spiritual dimension, a Platonic absolute ideal morality from which all human moral values are derived. No doubt you’ll be shocked to discover that—by total coincidence—this absolute moral standard just happens to be identical to traditional Judeo-Christian teachings on morality.

That, however, is not Dr. Craig’s main point in this chapter. As summarized by the syllogism above, the point he’s trying to make is that because we say that some things are good and other things are bad, therefore God exists. Hoo boy.

Read the rest of this entry »

XFiles: Musical Gods

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 5: “Why is the universe fine-tuned for life?”)

Dr. Craig closes Chapter 5 with an attempt to debunk The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Specifically, he goes after Dawkins’ famous “Ultimate Boeing 747” argument, in an attempt to show that it does not disprove the “design” argument he makes for a “fine-tuned” universe. But before we dig in, I want to make just a quick observation about the difference between “design” and mere “function”.

In brief, the difference between design and function is simply the presence or absence of intention. Outwardly, design and function are indistinguishable: all you can see is that a certain set of causes work to produce a specific result. If this result was an intended outcome, then we say it was produced by design; if not, then it is merely functional. If a squirrel climbs a tree one one side of a stream, and runs across interwoven branches to reach a tree on the other side, then the branches function as a bridge. This does not mean, however, that the trees were designed as a bridge unless someone specifically intended for the trees to have that function.

Scientifically, all we can observe is the function. The evidence cited by ID creationists does not consist of actual, verifiable intention, it consists merely of specific instances of function. To turn this into design, we must assume the presence of actual intention which is not present in the evidence itself. In other words, what ID creationists are doing is making the assumption that observed functions were intended by some Creator, and then using this assumption to interpret the evidence in a way that leads to the conclusion that the functions were intended by some Creator. Or more briefly, they’re just being superstitious.

Now then, on to Craig v. Dawkins.

Read the rest of this entry »

XFiles: Constant superstition

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 5: “Why is the universe fine-tuned for life?”)

Chapter 5 starts the “Intelligent Design” portion of Dr. Craig’s apologetic, though he does not call it that. In fact, he puts in a sidebar that explicitly points out that “fine-tuned” does not mean designed. Fine tuning, he explains, “just means that the range of life-permitting values for the constants and quantities is extremely narrow.” But don’t let that mislead you, this is his ID argument, which he presents in the form of another syllogism.

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore it is due to design.

There are several significant flaws in this argument. First of all, as we saw last week, time itself has its origin, along with the rest of the universe, at the Big Bang. That means there has never been a time when the physical constants of the universe did not exist with their current values, which prevents any Designer from having the opportunity to design them. They’re already here, they already have the correct values, and the Designer himself could not have existed prior to the constants (since time itself does not go back that far), so we can eliminate design right off the bat.

Read the rest of this entry »

XFiles: Beginning vs. origin

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 4: “Why did the universe begin?”)

We’re in for a treat this week: the latter part of Chapter 4 is really quite good, and is an excellent overview of modern cosmology suitable for introducing Christian laymen to some of the subtleties of Big Bang theory. It’s not without its flaws and inaccuracies, and of course he’s writing with the intention of proving that God had to create the Big Bang. Fortunately, that conclusion doesn’t show up until the very end of the chapter, and a lot of the material in between is not bad at all, for a lay author.

Ironically, Dr. Craig seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that this effectively rules out the possibility of a divine Creator behind the Big Bang. Lucky for us, because there’s some good material here that we can share with creationists. And since it’s written by a leading Christian apologist, they can’t complain that it’s biased against God and the Bible. (Well, hell, they’re creationists, of course they can, but still.)

Read the rest of this entry »