Another god debate

GodAndCosmology_Slider

Apparently Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig went head to head this weekend on the question of “the existence of God in light of contemporary cosmology.”

Usually I think these sort of debates are a waste of time but am keen to see the video of this one – it will be on Youtube eventually. In previous debates Craig attempts to use cosmology to “prove” the existence of his god (I use the word “use” as meaning very opportunist use of motivated reasoning). In most debates his opponents are usually not completely familiar with modern cosmology and he gets away with murder in his misrepresentation of the science.

But Sean Carroll is a different proposition. Not only is Sean a researcher and teacher in cosmology he is also an excellent communicator of science. His recent bookThe Particle at the End of the Universe, won last year’s Royal Society Winton Prize for best science book (see The particle at the end of the universe’ wins Winton Prize).

Carroll

Nor is he intimidated by Craig’s acknowledged debating skills. He says in a blog post before the debate:

“You can find some of WLC’s thoughts on the upcoming event at his Reasonable Faith website. One important correction I would make to what you will read there: Craig and his interlocutor Kevin Harris interpret my statement that “my goal here is not to win the debate” as a strategy to avoid dealing with WLC’s arguments, or as “a way to lower expectations.” Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

I think his tongue was in his cheek with the last sentence.

His suggestion for viewers:

“Feel free to organize viewing parties, celebrations, discussion groups, what have you. There should definitely be a drinking game involved (it’ll be happy hour on the West Coast, you lightweights), but I’ll leave the details to you. Suggested starting points: drink every time WLC uses a syllogism, or every time I show an equation. But be sure to have something to eat, first.”

Thanks to God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

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31 responses to “Another god debate

  1. Thanks for posting on this. I’m in the process of watching or listening to as many debates like this as time will allow, if for nothing else but to get a ‘feel’ for the interlocutors’ argument styles. This is something to look forward to.

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  2. I listened to the live podcast.
    Craig spoke first, In his opening Carroll called out several of Craig’s misrepresentations of the science, labelling them as purely and simply ‘false’.
    Craig had earlier trundled out the fine-tuning bullshit. Listening to him reminded me of the schoolteacher’s voice in Charlie Brown film cartoons (for those who can remember) a relentless monotonous drone always verging on edge of using terminal bafflegab. I just couldn’t face listening to the replies etc.

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  3. Pingback: The Daily Blog Watch – 24/25 February 2014 « The Daily Blog

  4. Have you got a link to the podcast, Richard?

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  5. Unfortunately not, I used the link from Carroll’s site , the live stream has now gone dead but Carroll suggests it will be put on youtube before too long.

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  6. NZ apologetics website thinking matters claims that WLC was triumphant.
    Sean Carroll’s blog has a lot more sophisticated analysis, I didn’t follow closely but I think Carroll made some excellent technical points, they just went over WLC’s head (not enough to de-convert me tho :P )

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  7. Yes, thinking matters would, they always do and it is hardly intelligent. One reason I think the debate format is stupid. One should approach these situations as a scientific or philosophical exchange – not a gladiatorial game.

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  8. I wish theists would stop trying to prove the existence of God based on science. It’s a futile exercise, and it makes religion look silly to thinking, analytical people. I’ve examined a number of these so-called “proofs.” So far, none that I’ve looked at proves anything beyond their proponents’ belief in God. If it were possible to prove the existence of God through scientific means, I would seriously start to doubt the existence of God. Such proof would contradict the nature of God as I understand it.

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  9. What is the nature of god, Lee?

    …as you understand it, of course.

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  10. I would always be suspicious of anyone who starts with a conclusion, a strong belief, and then attempts to use “science” to support it. This is like a drunk using a lamppost – more for support than illumination. It happens a lot when people have strong ideological beliefs.

    However what about the situation where there is something about reality? This might be the existence of a specific particle, the Higg’s field for example, or it might be the existence of a specific god or gods.

    Surely as aspects of reality this is what science is all about – trying to understand reality and check out specific hypotheses. In the process we might find strong evidence for a hypothesis – eg the Higg’s field – or we may not. That will dictate what we consider as current accepted scientific knowledge.

    I can see no valid reason to exclude god hypotheses from scientific speculation, consideration or investigation. The only reason this is not happening is that there is, as yet, no valid well structure god hypothesis to test – as there was with the Higg’s field.

    Lee – do you doubt the existence of the Higg’s field just because we now have very strong informnation for its existence? Does this information somehow contradict the nature of the Higg’s field? Surely thinking, analytical people don’t out of hand think all the evidence for the Higg’s field makes it look silly?

    If not, what specifically is different about god hypotheses – except the vagueness and lack of specific support?

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  11. Hi Richard,

    I don’t want to hijack Ken’s blog to present my views of God. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to head over to my blog and hit the “All about God” link. The blog is not aimed at atheists, but you can probably get the general idea by reading a few of my posts.

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  12. Hi Ken,

    I would doubt the existence of the Higgs field if the information pointing to its existence came from spiritual sources such as religious scriptures or supernatural experiences. It’s the wrong kind of information. For the existence of physical phenomena, physical investigations are best.

    Similarly, if the information pointing to the existence of God came from material sources such as scientific study, that would be the wrong kind of information on which to base an acceptance of the reality of God, who is a non-material phenomenon.

    Beyond that, I believe that God constructed the material universe specifically to exclude the possibility of its providing definitive proof, or even overwhelming evidence, of the existence or specific nature of God. This would violate human freedom in spiritual matters.

    God didn’t have to do anything special to accomplish this. Just create the physical universe so that it operates by its own discoverable laws, and is internally consistent.

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  13. Hi Ken,

    In a sense, a hypothesis is a “conclusion” or a “strong belief” that a scientist starts out with. It’s just that the scientist (if s/he is a good scientist) is willing to have it disproven. The results of a theory being disproven can provide equally interesting information about the nature of physical reality.

    A similar approach can be used on spiritual subjects. However, per my previous comment, physical experiments and phenomena would not be a good method of supporting or disproving a spiritual hypothesis.

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  14. Please elaborate in here Lee, for all readers.

    Your comments throw the usual magical and slippery terms about; spiritual, god, supernatural etc (I’m waiting for “transcendental” to appear at any moment)

    And you make assertions in regard to them. All, of course, based on how you understand (or assert) them to be.

    Heck in another thread you even assert two types of reality, one the garden variety reality, the other a different “reality” which earns scare quotes, as if quotes somehow explain the nature of the thing you pull out of your hat.

    It won’t do.

    Why should anybody take seriously the stuff you invent to suit yourself?

    This has to be the ultimate self-serving non_argument regarding your personal fantasy, incapable of being supported by any evidence whatsoever – viola:

    “Beyond that, I believe that the God constructed the material universe specifically to exclude the possibility of its providing definitive proof, or even overwhelming evidence, of the existence or specific nature of God. ”

    that’s truly pathetic.

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  15. Hi Richard,

    If you have any serious (non-rhetorical) questions you wish to ask me on the topic at hand, I’ll do my best to respond. However, I have no interest in engaging in the usual fruitless theist/atheist rhetorical pissing contests. Civil discourse requires base-level respect for one’s interlocutors.

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  16. Civil discourse requires base-level respect for one’s interlocutors.

    What? because I called your statement/s pathetic?

    Some arguments merit respect some just derision. Your belief that a god created every thing but deliberately made sure it left no trace of its involvement in the said creation is a pure assertion. An assertion that in its attempt to be conveniently self-serving is instead totally self-defeating.

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  17. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for your opinion. It is duly noted.

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  18. Lee, I think your sematic games are self-serving. :-)

    Science is not restricted to the “physical.” The Higg’s field, for example, is not “physical.”

    I think most people who use the word “material” are doing so in an ancient mechanical way. To me “material” describes something that has an objective existence. Certainly, as far as I am concenred if gods exist they are “material” no matter how anyparticular hypothesis describes them.

    As for words like “spiritual” what the hell does that mean in this context? Are you not just trying to put your own twist on material (in the sense of existing) phenomenoa? Isn’t it wrong to define anything (especially in such a nebulous way) if you dont have infoirmation to base your definition on?

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  19. Hi Ken,

    What’s with the “self-serving” thing? Is it really necessary to attack someone’s motives in order to have a discussion on a point of disagreement?

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  20. Hi Ken,

    Now about the substance of your comment:

    If you mean that anything that exists must be made of some substance, I agree with you. An entity without some sort of substance that takes some sort of form is purely theoretical, and has no real existence.

    I am using the term “material” in the sense of the universe that is perceivable by the physical senses, including by extensions of the physical senses such as microscopes, telescopes, spacecraft, particle colliders, and so on. The Higgs field may not be material in the popular sense of solid, liquid, or gas, but it still exists as part of the physical, or material, universe.

    When I speak of “spiritual” I am speaking of a level of reality that is not perceivable by the physical senses, no matter what extensions we may use to enhance them. It is made of substance, but that substance is of a different order and exists on a different level of reality than material substance. For practical purposes here on earth, it is the level of the mind–although in itself it is not limited to that.

    To complete the picture as I see it, there is also divine substance, which is the substance of which God is made. It is the source of the other two general levels of reality–the spiritual and the material.

    In connection with spiritual reality, the word “objective” is a bit slippery. Spiritual reality is the level inhabited by the mind, and the mind is generally seen as subjective rather than objective. But spiritual reality still has real, independent existence. It is not simply a projection or creation of the mind. We do not literally “create our own reality” as many New Age gurus proclaim. (We are, however, perfectly capable of making ourselves miserable even in the most beautiful surroundings if we so desire. ;-) )

    It’s not that there’s no information about spiritual and divine substance and reality. It’s that the information about it does not come from scientific study. Science is not the only source of knowledge.

    My views may seem strange and irrational to you. However, to those not versed in modern physics, many of the things physicists speak of also seem strange and irrational. It requires a certain amount of time, study, and expansion of the mind beyond ordinary daily reality to grasp either one.

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  21. Christopher Atkinson

    Hi Lee,

    You said “But spiritual reality still has real, independent existence. It is not simply a projection or creation of the mind”

    How do you know, or why do you believe this? Where do you think it comes from then?

    Cheers

    Like

  22. Lee,

    What’s with the “self-serving” thing?

    (facepalm)

    You start with a conclusion and then invent explanation to suit.

    It’s in everything you’ve written here.

    ffs.

    Like

  23. My views may seem strange and irrational to you. However, to those not versed in modern physics, many of the things physicists speak of also seem strange and irrational.

    Oh how special. How wonderfully special. :)

    Here is a raving idiot. His views are strange and irrational. They certainly seem strange and irrational to you. However, those not versed in modern physics blah, blah, blah…

    “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Carl Sagan.

    Like

  24. “When I speak of “magic” I am speaking of a level of reality that is not perceivable by the physical senses, no matter what extensions we may use to enhance them. It is made of substance, but that substance is of a different order and exists on a different level of reality than material substance. For practical purposes here on earth, it is the level of the mind–although in itself it is not limited to that.

    To complete the picture as I see it, there is also higher substance, which is the substance of which The Force is made. It is the source of the other two general levels of reality–the magical and the material.

    In connection with magical reality, the word “objective” is a bit slippery. Magical reality is the level inhabited by the mind, and the mind is generally seen as subjective rather than objective. But magical reality still has real, independent existence. It is not simply a projection or creation of the mind. We do not literally “create our own reality” as many New Age gurus proclaim. (We are, however, perfectly capable of making ourselves miserable even in the most beautiful surroundings if we so desire. ;-) )

    It’s not that there’s no information about magic ,The Force and reality. It’s that the information about it does not come from scientific study. Science is not the only source of knowledge.”

    It never gets old. Never ever.

    Like

  25. Hi Christopher,

    To answer your second question first, spiritual reality, or the spiritual universe, comes from the same source as material reality, or the material world. That source is God.

    I do not believe in the traditional Christian doctrine of creation from nothing (ex nihilo). That idea is akin to the old, discredited notion of spontaneous generation.

    Rather, in relatively simple terms, all things that exist other than God are created by God putting boundaries on substances emitted from the being of God, thus rendering them finite and non-God. This is a multi-layered process of limiting and slowing down the infinite reality of God to create the various levels of non-God reality–the major levels being spiritual and physical reality. Within material reality, we can see an analog of this multi-leveled reality in the various fields and states of physical matter, from the various particle/energy fields right down to the ordinary gaseous, liquid, and solid states of matter.

    The result of this process is that each layer of reality, while existing in its own state with its own coherent rules, also expresses something of the nature of the next layer up, and also interacts with the other layers in various specific ways. Ultimately, all the layers of reality express something of the nature of God. For example, the universe operates in an orderly, lawful way because it reflects the orderly, lawful nature of God.

    Mind you, I’m not saying that the orderly nature of the universe proves that there is a God (the teleological argument). Only that in my view it expresses something of the nature of God on its own level.

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  26. Hi Christopher,

    In response to your first question, there are two basic ways we gain knowledge:

    1. Through direct personal experience
    2. Through being taught by others

    As individuals, we gain the vast majority of our knowledge from the second source. This includes scientific knowledge. There is a vast number of scientists who engage in first-hand exploration and experimentation to determine through direct personal experience the nature of the physical universe. The rest of us read their reports and their books, and watch various videos and movies containing the result of their explorations, thus learning about their discoveries second-hand. Because we trust the source and the scientific method, even though we have not actually experienced these things for ourselves, we have a high level of confidence that what we are learning from them can be trusted, and reflects the real nature of physical reality.

    That is also how I have gained most of my knowledge of the nature of spiritual reality and of God. It comes from a long history of a vast number of people experiencing the spiritual world and the presence of God for themselves, and reporting what they experienced and learned.

    Like

  27. Hi Richard,

    I understand that you think my reasoning is flawed because you believe it assumes the result, etc, etc. But why do you jump to the conclusion that my reasoning and beliefs are “self-serving”?

    “Self-serving” means that a person says and does things from motives that involve benefiting him- or herself in some way.

    Is it really necessary to impugn someone’s motives in order to argue against that person’s reasoning and conclusions? That’s an emotional argument, not a rational one.

    If you believe I am wrong, feel free to explain why you think so. But don’t presume to climb into my head and tell me that I believe the things I do out of selfish motives. My motives for believing what I do are irrelevant to the truth or falsity of those beliefs.

    Do the motives of scientists who engage in scientific research determine whether the results of their researches are true or false? If a scientist is a selfish, arrogant bastard, does that mean all of the results of his research are flawed and untrustworthy? If a scientist is working just to collect the paycheck at the end of the week, does that invalidate all the results of her work?

    Like

  28. Hi Cedric,

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much.

    Like

  29. “There is a vast number of scientists who engage in blah, blah, blah, blah etc.(…)That is also how I have gained most of my knowledge of the nature of magical reality and of The Force. It comes from a long history of a vast number of people experiencing the magical world and the presence of The Force for themselves, and reporting what they experienced and learned.”

    Oh happy me.

    Like

  30. Christopher Atkinson

    Thanks for answering Lee,

    So…you say you know what you know, and believe what you do because…

    “That is also how I have gained most of my knowledge of the nature of spiritual reality and of God. It comes from a long history of a vast number of people experiencing the spiritual world and the presence of God for themselves, and reporting what they experienced and learned”

    I know that Mars has two moons because it is accepted by scientific consensus, however I could verify this if I could source an appropriate telescope and educate myself on where to look for them.

    So given your claim that… “spiritual reality still has real, independent existence. It is not simply a projection or creation of the mind”…how can you verify this, other than by simply relying on other people just “experiencing” it saying that saying it is so?

    Like

  31. Pingback: Human consciousness is simply a state of matter, like a solid or liquid – but quantum | Tucson Pool Saz: Tech - Gaming - News

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