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Talk:William Lane Craig

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This Christianity related article has been awarded BRONZE status for quality. It's getting there, but could be better with improvement. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.

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Quotation at beginning[edit]

The quotation at the beginning of this article is completely out of context. I understand that that is kind of the point, but it's not really that funny to quote someone while they are stating the views of their opposition. — Unsigned, by: Trmyers / talk / contribs 03:52, 18 January 2013

proposal about other debaters[edit]

Ahmet Deedat, Sam shamoun, Dawid wood, Shabir Ally comes into my mind. for me, Deedat and Shabir seem to be sincere honest debater rather than a showman trying to score a point in whatever way. They deserve to be written about. Sam and Dawid seem to be someone like Harun Yahya.

btw, it would be good to analyse Zakir Naik as well. Sometimes he acts like Sam and Dawid, sometimes his critics act like the 3. for example, Nabeel Qureshi accuses him of making 25 mistakes but I think less than 5 of them were mistake.— Unsigned, by: Sir artur / talk / contribs 11:52, 18 August 2016

Unarchived: Some thoughts on the article (sticky)[edit]

Start of reposted text:

This is an edited version of a response to ReverendBlackPercy regarding this article on my own talk page that I thought was important enough to put here as well, so, here goes.

I have long been worried that my extensive edits to the article have not been looked over by others and thus lacked the quality control of a second opinion. That said, I was not particularly thrilled with the Dawkins stuff about "who designed the designer?", especially the phrasing (which was why I removed what I regarded as superfluous exclamation marks).

I wholeheartedly agree with ReverendBlackPercy that we should definitely not be straw manning Craig, but I also worry that the revisions made since my last major overhaul of the article last year have mainly added to what is already an extremely long article, indeed one of the longest on RW(!), if I remember correctly. I'm conflicted about this, because, on the one hand, I like that we counter Craig's arguments in detail, but, on the other, the sheer length risks compromising the quality. I suspect that few editors will go through it from end to other, which will increase the likelihood that they will simply add new paragraphs on topics that may already have been covered elsewhere in the article, not to mention that such a long article is probably less reader friendly.

For instance, while I think the objections to Craig's apparently bizarre use of mathematics in the section on the number zero is probably relevant, I think it ought to fitted into the whichever debating section (i.e. Craig's arguments) it belongs to. Since Craig is mainly (in)famous for his debates and he generally sticks to the "5 arguments"- format (bar the resurrection debates, of course), I still think it makes sense to encompass the majority of the content within these sections. The number zero stuff thus probably belongs with the existing material on Craig's (mis)use of infinity in either the teleological or Kalam secion. The short paragraph on Craig and evolution is an exception as it falls somewhat outside the debate stuff (though Craig did discuss it in his debate with Lewis Wolpert), but is extremely relevant in relation to fundamentalist Christianity and apologetics (especially in the US).

As regards my own more substantial contributions (as in original text, rather than editing), I'm still a bit in two minds about the Wikipedia stuff in particular; should it be axed? My concern is that it might come off as too bitter/bitching/ranting even if I still consider that the core point (weaknesses in the Wikipedia approach exploited by Craig's fans) is valid.

I'm less conflicted about the debating tactics section, due to Craig's public reputation owing so much to his supporters touting his debating skills and "wins". However, we should take care to keep it as succinct as possible, which is why I tried to either combine several related fallacies and sleazy debating tricks in each paragraph or focus on Craig's most prominent tricks. That is why I'm not too thrilled about the additions regarding "decision card mentality " (it's not a fallacy we deal with elsewhere on RW) and "gibberish statements" (it seems to me that this is simply one specific example of Craig's general rhetorical shiftiness and penchant for bullshitting). By contrast, I think the addition of Craig's "false dichotomy between atheism and agnosticism" is highly pertinent not only to Craig's debating BS, but also because it dovetails nicely with more general issues surrounding straw man atheists.

So, what do the rest of you think? ScepticWombat (talk) 00:59, 5 August 2017 (UTC)

End of reposted text ScepticWombat (talk) 19:27, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

Most individuals in Western Civilization overcome any difficulties with the number zero somewhere between preschool and first grade. The fact that Craig is on record as having denied its existence, in my opinion, deserves its own section, however minor it would be. I think that this shows Craig's modality, and perhaps, why he should not have been awarded a PhD in the first place.Jehanne (talk) 18:09, 25 October 2017 (UTC)Jehanne
Then I’d suggest a subsection with it’s own headline under the relevant argument in which Craig used this number zero stuff. I suspect it can incorporate or replace the existing material in the section on The applicability of mathematics which is currently very poorly sourced, may be covering the same topic (though I don’t know if it actually is), and certainly shouldn’t be a section of its own (either).
I think it’s more useful to put Craig’s zero antics in the context of his apologetics, rather than having it slapped on as a loose, separate section because the context will clearly indicate why Craig might be taking this approach (similar to how he is trying to prop up his Kalām by resorting to peddling the A-theory of time). Also, it will strengthen the point about Craig’s deceptivey simple list of 5 arguments actually being a “stealth Gish Gallop” due to the many hidden premises behind them and the additions Crags will slap on them during debates.
Indeed, the current zero section already overlaps with the Vilenkin and Neo-Lorentzian parts of the Kalām argument and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Craig use the Hilbert’s Hotel illustrations during his “infinities can’t exist in real life”-shtick, which is part of his attempt at preempting an eternal universe objection to his “began to exist” premise (leading to his absurd contortions in (re)defining God as “timeless”, an ad hoc term designed to avoid his preferred deity falling into the pit Craig has dug for the eternal universe). ScepticWombat (talk) 05:34, 27 October 2017 (UTC)
If you want to rework things, that is fine with me. The "applicability of mathematics" was raised by Craig during his (first, I think) debate with Dr. Daniel Came, an English philosopher, on the UK Unbelievable radio show.Jehanne (talk) 01:38, 29 October 2017 (UTC)Jehanne

Serious mistakes in begging the question section[edit]

This section claims that 'Craig presumes that the phrase "whatever begins to exist" is God.', but this is absolutely wrong. Not only is "whatever begins to exist" not supposed to be God, it is literally supposed to be everything *except* God. According to most theist, God has always existed (and therefore there is no point in which he began to exist. This whole passage needs to be fixed or else just deleted. — Unsigned, by: 72.208.64.67 / talk / contribs 00:34, 19 August 2018‎ (UTC)

if you read the rest of the article (in particular the Who created God? section) and/or have read/listened to Craig’s shtick, you’ll see that in his terminology, God is the only entrant into the “beginning to exist” category. Indeed, as stated clearly by Craig (and in this article), he explicitly disavows the notion of an eternal God in favour of a timeless one. As already pointed out in the Who created God? section, Craig claims that being eternal (as in having an infinite past) is impossible in reality. This is Craig’s attempt at preempting an eternal universe scenario as a counter to his Goddidit scenario, but this also means that he can’t define God as eternal, otherwise God could not, according to his own logic, actually exist in reality. Finally, it doesn’t matter how ”most theists” define these terms, because this article is about how Craig defines his concepts and frames his arguments. ScepticWombat (talk) 02:21, 19 August 2018 (UTC)
I think I mixed together two different lines of Craig’s BS in my initial answer; specifically his timelessness/eternity and beginning-to-exist shticks. I agree that’s the begging the question section was wrong or at least confusingly worded (I’m pretty sure I didn’t write this bit originally, btw), but the core is sound, as the first premise does indeed contains everything but God.
Thus, Craig’s argument can be restated as: “Everything needs a cause, apart from God”, which clearly writes God into the premise of the argument, as well as including the special pleading that God is conveniently exempt from the rules Craig asserts apply to everything else. This also begs the question of why only Craig’s preferred deity is free to evade the rules that Craig sets up. ScepticWombat (talk) 20:22, 2 September 2018 (UTC)
I think you've still got this wrong. The argument isn't supposed to prove God at all. The idea that it is God is a theistic extrapolation that is based on a variety of supporting arguments. All the Kalam argument is meant to prove is that there is an eternal uncaused entity from which all other things are derived. I believe that Craig goes into detail as to why he believes that the first cause must be a disembodied mind in his book on the Kalam Cosmological argument, but it is not a direct consequence of the KCA. — Unsigned, by: 213.205.241.109 / talk / contribs 20:02, 27 May 2019
That may be how Craig presents things in his books (not that I find such a vague “Oh, there are many good reasons why I’m right”-spiel from Craig persuasive in the least...), but he is best known for his debate appearances where he always presents the KCA as one of his key arguments for the existence of God (or a god or several gods; hard to know with Craig’s love of equivocation...); not merely as a sort of “minimal first cause” piece of waffling. But Craig being rather, eh, skimpy, when it comes to presenting his arguments “warts and all” in his debates would hardly be out of character... Anyway, Arif Ahmed (see note 6 in the article) has busted Craig’s reasons for the first cause being a disembodied mind (short version: Craig is relying on outdated Cartesian mind/body dualism; again, this kind of recycling being something of a trend with Craig, as seen in his use of outdated physics). ScepticWombat (talk) 14:48, 26 June 2019 (UTC)

Undefined vs. indeterminate[edit]

From the article:

In his debate with Professor Millican and elsewhere, Craig claims that "infinity minus infinity is undefined in transfinite arithmetic..." This claim is abjectly false -- in transfinite arithmetic, infinity minus infinity is indeterminate. A mathematical operation that is indeterminate has more than one solution, […]. […] This is fundamentally different than saying that something is undefined, which means that there is no solution to the problem.

Well, if κ is a transfinite cardinal, the equation κ + α = κ has infinitely many solutions for α. Craig did say: “There’s more than one solution to the equation.” But this is a reason to leave “κ − κ” undefined for transfinite cardinals κ. Another possibility would be to allow the expression while leaving unclear which of the solutions is meant exactly, this is not commonly done, however, for “0/0” (0/0 * 0 is still undefined for Wolfram|Alpha even though there are solutions to the equation 0x = 0 and any of them multiplied by 0 is 0).

So here is what Craig got backwards: He seems to think that while the multitude of solutions is not a problem for transfinite arithmetic in mathematics since a mathematician might simply avoid subtracting ℵ0 from ℵ0, it does imply that there cannot be (actually) infinitely many objects in the real world because if there were, nothing would stop you to take countably infinitely many objects away from countably infinitely many, by which you could get different quantities, which to Craig is contradictory. (“You can slap the hand of the mathematician who tries to subtract infinity from infinity, but you can’t stop someone from taking away a certain number of coins. And the contradiction is that you have identical quantities, you subtract identical quantities, and you come up with non-identical results.”)

First off, the contrast (on the one hand, logical consistency, on the other hand, metaphysical impossibility) is ridiculous. Even when you avoid the expression “ℵ0 − ℵ0”, it is still the case that there is more than one solution to the equation ℵ0 + α = ℵ0. Second, no contradiction has been demonstrated here. You arrive at different quantities by different ways of subtracting. Taking away all natural numbers greater than 1 from the set of natural numbers results in the set {0, 1} of cardinality 2, taking away all natural numbers greater than 0 from it results in the set {0} of cardinality 1.

|N ∖ N>1| = 2
|N ∖ N>0| = 1

N>1 has the same cardinality as N>0, but the sets are still different. -- Ivan (talk) 16:49, 11 March 2019 (UTC)

I understand the math of what you're trying to say, but I don't get your intent. Is there a part of the article you'd like us to change? The excerpt you've included doesn't contradict what you've said here. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 16:56, 11 March 2019 (UTC)
ikanreed, my point is that Craig is not wrong in using the word undefined instead of indeterminate. The expression “ℵ0 − ℵ0” can be left undefined precisely because there is more than one solution to the equation ℵ0 + α = ℵ0. The article, on the other hand, states: “[…] in transfinite arithmetic, infinity minus infinity is indeterminate. […] This is fundamentally different than saying that something is undefined, which means that there is no solution to the problem.” -- Ivan (talk) 17:04, 11 March 2019 (UTC)
I see. I guess it depends on the claims he's trying to make, whether the distinction we're making is relevant. Indeterminate is the more precise term, if he goes on to make allegations that anything is possible as an extrapolation of the rule, then yeah, this is an appropriate nitpick. But it could also be a pointless "well, actually". With the amount of context we have in the article, it's hard to say. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 17:25, 11 March 2019 (UTC)
Here is more context: “Dr Millican says that infinity minus infinity is not defined in transfinite arithmetic – there’s more than one solution to the equation. And that is precisely the problem when you try to translate this into the real world. You can slap the hand of the mathematician who tries to subtract infinity from infinity, but you can’t stop someone from taking away a certain number of coins. And the contradiction is that you have identical quantities, you subtract identical quantities, and you come up with non-identical results.”
So he says himself that there is more than one solution rather than no solution. “It’s indeterminate, not undefined!” is unnecessarily pedantic. But there is another problem with his argument: his assumption that it is contradictory to get different quantities. -- Ivan (talk) 17:51, 11 March 2019 (UTC)
That's a stupid metaphor on Craig's part, but we do seem to be mischaracterizing his statements given that. What do you propose we do? ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 18:11, 11 March 2019 (UTC)
Replacing the text by something like what I have written above; there is also a blog post by Reasonably Faithless on the topic: Infinity minus infinity. The articles also states: “[…] Craig treats the concept of infinite sets as being equinumerous, a view that was popular among mathematicians prior to the proofs of Georg Cantor, but which have [sic] been universally abandoned among all mathematicians.” But his book The Kalām Cosmological Argument covers several transfinite cardinals, he simply refers to ℵ0 as infinity sometimes. -- Ivan (talk) 18:53, 11 March 2019 (UTC)

Debate between Craig and academic philosopher Kevin Scharp[edit]

Kevin Scharp vs. Craig video Kevin Scharp is highly respected (and sometimes feared) within the academic analytic philosophy. It's unfortunate that there is so far no content on the debate between Craig and Kevin Scharp. I was a graduate student at OSU (where he taught) and he sort of kicked Craig's ass. I am not kidding when I say Scharp is smart. We'd about piss ourselves when we talked with the guy, who (if I remember correctly) was also a speed reader with photographic memory. The problem is that the majority of the audience seemed too dumb to understand what Scharp was saying, so they just laughed at him while the intelligent ones remained civil. If you watch the debate on YouTube, you can see the same kind of bullshit in the YouTube comments as well. I don't have time to re-watch and write anything right now, but it'd be great if anyone wants to start. Repugnant Conclusion (talk) 16:41, 12 March 2019 (UTC)

Hi @Repugnant Conclusion. I really cannot bear slogging through more of Craig’s sophistry on video, so I’ll just link to the transcript of the debate on Craig’s website (the one thing I like about Craig is the number of detailed transcripts that make it easy to follow his recycled BS).
It would seem that Craig took a page from the presuppositionalist book (he’s usually more circumspect/sly/subtle about this) and outright claimed that the fact that maths can be used to describe physical phenomena is evidence of God’s existence... Jesus wept, Craig appears to be channeling such bottom feeders from the shallow “intellectualist” apologist barrel as Sye Ten Bruggencate:

”God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world. [...] Mathematics is the language of nature. But how is this to be explained? If mathematical objects are abstract entities causally isolated from the universe, then the applicability of mathematics to the physical world is, in the words of the philosopher of mathematics Mary Leng, “a happy coincidence.”

”On the other hand, if mathematical objects are just useful fictions, then how is it that nature is written in the language of these fictions? The naturalist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world. By contrast, the theist has a ready explanation. When God created the universe, he designed it on the mathematical structure which he had in mind.”

”We can summarize this argument as follows:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.

2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.

3. Therefore, God exists.”

Even for Craig, that’s a seriously silly argument, coupling the old Paley shtick with Bruggencate-like circular “I’m right ‘cause I’ve defined it so!”-nonsense.
I think that Scharp did well not getting sucked into Craig’s rhetorical shell games and instead highlighting a more nuanced (and accurate) picture of ”21st century atheism” than the tired old caricatures Craig loves to trot out.
It surprised me that Craig accepted to change his usual format to one where he and Scharp only had one “presentation round” each and then went onto a head-to-head dialogue format, since Craig always try to spend most of his time doing more or less pre-scripted rebuttals and tends not to sound as impressive when he has to think on his feet. The latter effect is clearly evident in the dialogue where his attempts to frame the debate generally fail and Scharp is able to avoid having to debate on Craig’s terms.
I also think that Scharp did well at the end by pointing out the following:
”I think that the existence of God is not a good explanation. It doesn’t predict anything, it doesn’t retrodict anything, it doesn’t explain anything. The existence of God doesn’t make the probability that there would be moral duties any higher.”
That objection pretty much applies to all Craig’s (and his fellow apologists’) “therefore God”-arguments. ScepticWombat (talk) 18:41, 22 March 2019 (UTC)
As for the audience, I’m not sure they were that much taken (in) by Craig (not that it matters one wit, anyway) and remember that the Veritas Forum that hosts these circuses are likely to supply a certain amount of the audience as well.
Also, I have a suspicion that a lot of the fawning commenters on Craig’s videos are either out and out groupies (from the Veritas Forum or the fundie schools he teaches at) or at least from the choir that Craig preaches to. If Craig was really that convincing and had such good arguments, I would expect a lot of conversions, concessions etc. among those who did not already agree with him. Also, note how many of the user names and icons are clearly from the kind of Christians (i.e. more or less literalist fundamentalists) that Craig appeals to.
I do have one criticism of Scharp, though, and that is his claim (one that gets echoed far too often and on which Craig has built his image) that Craig has ”got some great philosophical skills, he’s a talented system builder, which I admire, and he’s done a tremendous service to the atheist movement by trouncing most of our heroes and raising the bar on both sides.” Craig has done nothing of the sort. He has simply combined academic sounding artful obfuscation and aggressive high school debating tactics together to craft a more respectable and intellectual sounding apologetic sales pitch than we are used to among his kind of literalist fundamentalists. I really wish Craig’s opponents would stop including this ritual courtesy, because it’s the image Craig uses to sugarcoat all his underhand tactics and BS arguments and make his brand of regressive fundamentalism seem intellectually respectable. ScepticWombat (talk) 19:07, 22 March 2019 (UTC)