I have commented before on the limitations of deductive logic – see “Other ways of knowing” – some sense at last). And how easily people manipulate logic by faulty reasoning and by assuming shonky premises. Very tempting for someone with a predetermined conclusion they wish to “prove.”
This brings to mind William Lane Craig who relies on such manipulation of logic for his debating prowess. This became an issue in his recent debate with Lawrence Krauss on evidence for existence of gods. Krauss describes how Craig “systematically distorted” facts in his “continual effort to demonstrate how high school syllogisms apparently demonstrated definitive evidence for God.” (see Lawrence Krauss vs. William Lane Craig @ Pharyngula).
It is this distortion of logic which really puts me off any debate in which Craig participates. And I don’t think debates are useful anyway as a way of conveying information anyway. So I am not tempted to waste time viewing the video.
However, I did find the comments made after the debate by Krauss, and by Craig and one of his avid supporters, interesting.
Typically Craig provides a self-congratulatory analysis after each of his debates, declaring how clever he is and how silly was his opponent. In this case (see A brief post-mortem) Craig claimed Krauss’s understanding of cosmology was “superficial” and declared himself “frankly flabbergasted by Krauss’s opening salvo attacking logic and the probability calculus.”
One of Craig’s avid supporters attributed to Krauss the claims that “logic doesn’t work,” “2+2=5, and we don’t know anything.” This Fan’s conclusion: “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!”
I have often noted that religious apologists have a problem with honesty!
However, to get back to the issue of logic and its limitations. Here is how Lawrence Krauss puts it in his comments on the debate:
“Classical human reason, defined in terms of common sense notions following from our own myopic experience of reality is not sufficient to discern the workings of the Universe. If time begins at the big bang, then we will have to re-explore what we mean by causality, just as the fact that electrons can be in two places at the same time doing two different things at the same time as long as we are not measuring them is completely nonsensical, but true, and has required rethinking what we mean by particles. Similar arguments by the way imply that we often need to rethink what we actually mean by ‘nothing’, from empty space, to the absence of space itself.”
Krauss the author
Krauss is a great populariser of science and has written a number of popular science books. His latest one, out last month, is Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science . I am looking forward to reading this – especially after Chris Mooney‘s recent interview of Krauss on a Point of Inquiry podcast (see Lawrence Krauss – Quantum Man Mar 28, 2011). The author’s enthusiasm for his subject is obvious.
And talking of books – this last comment from Lawrence Krauss in his report on the debate looks interesting:
“I have taken great effort to describe our actual understanding of the Universe and its implications for understanding how it might be possible for something to come from nothing, i.e. non-existence, in my new book, which will come out in January of 2012.”
Looking forward to that book.
See also: This video of a talk by Krauss is relevant: