Limits of logic

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:

‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009.

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8 responses to “Limits of logic

  1. Lawrence Krauss should have read Luke Muehlhauser’s post You aren’t qualified to debate William Lane Craig and taken it to heart. Nobody ever “wins” a debate on the beauty and subtlety of their logic. They “win” by scoring fast emotional hits. WLC is a master at this, Krauss not so much.

    WLC employed his usual boring arguments delivered in a triumphant and flippant manner (some say it is confidence I say it is annoying), Krauss actually seemed to apply some thought and engagement to the topics and his points were not based on the abstractions and word play employed by WLC.

    Craig may have “won” the rhetorical battle but to me Krauss wins for being interesting and original and fact based.


  2. Ropata – Yes, I find Craig not worth watching. He repeats the same arguments each tiome, is impervious to evidence, and his arrogance is very off putting.

    You would no doubt be amused by this recent twitter timeline – (1) Twitter / Search – #goddebateII on the debate with Sam Harris. A couple of earnest fundies (including people from “Thinking Matters NZ”) acting like emotional fans at a boxing match.

    Obviously they check their brains in at the door.


  3. Nobody ever “wins” a debate on the beauty and subtlety of their logic. They “win” by scoring fast emotional hits. WLC is a master at this, Krauss not so much.
    WLC employed his usual boring arguments delivered in a triumphant and flippant manner (some say it is confidence I say it is annoying),

    (…double take…)

    Who are you and what have you done with the real ropata?


  4. It’s weird when I agree with some of the stuff in here, I am confused as well 😉


  5. ropata, it was a very short time ago that you were actively touting Craig.
    Now you are trashing him completely.
    As far as I know, Craig has not changed his dog and pony show since forever so the switch in attitude must be from your end.
    I have to ask, what happened?
    Why this very real and (dare I say it) fundamental shift? You do sound like a very different person and not just with the Craig issue. I don’t mean to pry but…no, actually I DO mean to pry…I’m as curious as hell. Reveal all.


  6. Had my doubts about Craig for quite a while. Disaffected from the culture of conservative evangelicalism and its foibles for a long time, as I personally find it unliveable and ungracious. Had a few disagreements with the guys at “thinking matters” over theories of hell and salvation. Also living in a different city, listening to some reggae, thinking a bit more liberally.


  7. Ah reggae, it’s been the ruin of many a young man.


  8. And not so young! Maiden and Accadacca are also on the playlist


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