Friday, March 15, 2013

More On the Dishonesty of WLC

William Lane Craig never seems to appear in any venue without demonstrating his inordinate intellectual dishonesty.  Even when given an relatively short amount of time to work in, he still shows he can be as dishonest in a moment as he is throughout an hours-long debate.  This is nothing really new per se.  Apologists everywhere constantly change the rules of discourse just in order to give room to their propositions because they know they have no capacity to stand up to a strict rigor.  Of course, in any instance that the bullshit is exposed, they always change their story, and without exception, they distort the position of their opposition.

WLC does enough of this in the course of a debate that were he Pinocchio, his nose would grow long enough to circle the Earth.  But he's deft enough in doing so, that most of the time, his lies are difficult to refute on the spot, though they are easy to refute when you have unlimited time to look up sources.  When he does lie about the opposition, he does it somewhat more brazenly, and it is in an effort to goad a response so that his opponent spends more time defining his own position than in arguing back (since a debate has limited time for each side, this leaves less available time to really form an argument).

Nonetheless, it's always funny to see him go and just keep on demonstrating that he has no concept of intellectual honesty, and basically never will.  It's a wonder that he ever got anybody to debate him given his track record.

We can look back to, for instance, his debates with people like Sam Harris and Stephen Law, where he deliberately misrepresents the position of his opposition.  For instance, in his debate with Stephen Law, the debate topic related to the moral character of Craig's supposed god.  Law made it clear that he wouldn't bother to address the Kalam argument because it at best makes a case for a morally indistinct deistic entity, which made it, therefore, irrelevant to the topic at hand.  Craig of course, distorted this to mean that Law had accepted the Kalam argument, and that Law is therefore admitting the existence of a god.  Even after Law corrected him on the matter, and Craig tried to defend himself by saying that "in a debate, not refuting is the same as tacitly conceding," which is total bullshit.  In spite of it, Craig continued to use the same distortions after the fact in his postmortem.

In the case of the "animal suffering" argument, Craig repeatedly makes the claim animals don't suffer because they don't have a prefrontal cortex and therefore don't have self-awareness, and therefore don't suffer in the same way that we do.  For one, he's altering the definition of suffering to be inclusive of self-awareness.  Secondly, the notion that animals other than primates lack a prefrontal cortex is demonstrably false.  It definitely exists on pretty much all mammals, and some subset of it is present almost everywhere throughout the animal kingdom.  Also, dozens of actual neurologists chimed in to point out that any supposition that there is such a thing as a single neurological structure to which something as nebulous as "self-awareness" can be ascribed is patently absurd.  Furthermore, it is absurd to pretend that self-awareness is so rigidly defined that it is easy to say that other creatures don't have it simply because it doesn't express in an identical way to that of humans.  There are simply no people in the field of neuropsychology who would dare say something like that.  Indeed, Craig's source for it was never a scientist of any kind to begin with, but a theistic philosopher who, at best, misconstrued something he read somewhere.  Most likely, a study that only involved humans.  This, of course, was raised before WLC, who replied that he believed that a thorough survey of the scientific literature was made nonetheless.  He is, of course, dead wrong on that, but somehow he twisted that admonition to mean that atheists are somehow preferential to the idea of animal suffering than the idea of god's existence...  what?

Even from the very first time someone raised the most fundamental objection to the Kalam argument -- that there are no observable examples of creation ex nihilo from which the first premise can be assumed.  And in fact, the the cases of virtual particles flies in the face of that premise.  Craig's distortion of this is to interpret it as the statement that "nothing ever began to exist," which he tries to ridicule with the rhetorical "Did I never begin to exist?"  Of course, that was never the point, and he's been called out on it on numerous occasions, and in debates, people have been more specific, and he still sticks to the same distortion.  On at least one occasion, he had admitted that he was trying to get a response and the opponent didn't bite, but that pretty much illuminates his entire motivation -- he's more interested in the rhetorical victory than in any sort of establishment of fact or truth.  It's why he likes the debate format and why he always controls the parameters of any debate he enters (the topic, the timings, and demanding that he goes first).

But these are all older examples.  You don't have to go back that far.  In a relatively recent podcast, he took to town the common point about morally reprehensible behaviors of the god of the Bible which he worships.  Craig's response is a variation of the "out of context" argument -- the only change is that he makes a feeble attempt to actually provide the context.
I think it’s just dishonest when people like Richard Dawkins portray Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, as this moral monster. These highly singular commands need to be read against the background of the whole of the Old Testament which includes the great moral law that is given by God which is head and shoulders above other ancient near eastern moral and legal codes …. It’s against the backdrop of the prophets which explain God’s compassion for the poor and the oppressed and the orphans and widows.
So your god is graded on a curve now? What happened to your god's moral commands being objective moral truths?  Surely, if they were objective universal values and duties, then no amount of context should make a difference.  Now all of a sudden, we should look at it in terms of improvement relative to the zeitgeist of the Middle East a few thousand years back?

But even if I were to grant that proposition that , it doesn't change the fact that we are not currently mired in that same context today.  Trying to pull us back to that era is nothing more than changing the subject.  And we're dishonest for NOT doing so?  We are not in the middle of a world where people have their hands cut off for stealing a piece of fruit.  We are not in a world where it is acceptable to consider one's children as pieces of property.  We do not in this day and age (unless we're Republican) consider it okay to blame women for being raped.  We are not in a time period where we don't know a hell of a lot better about what is or is not safe to eat.  We are not in a time period where someone would get the death penalty for throwing logs in his fireplace on a Saturday.  Anything you have to say about it being better than all that is meaningless because it still would be monstrous by our standards.  The possibility of someone else being worse than the god of Judeo-Christian myth doesn't make that god any less of a monster.  We, the human beings of this age are morally superior to your god.  End of story.

If it is only correct to judge those moral commands by the background from whence they came and not against our current age, then that only indicates that the same edicts have no relevance to the current age...  and likewise, are not "objective" moral values.  Now, if it were any other apologist, he'd probably respond to this by giving examples of "Thou shalt not murder", "Thou shalt not bear false witness"...  how about owning slaves from neighboring nations?  How about the laws which command you to kill anyone who is of a different religion?  How about the tales where God cursed a king for sparing people he was not commanded by God to kill just then because those spared were also not Jews.  But William Lane Craig is more dishonest than that, and he's dishonest in just the way necessary to be effective in debates -- i.e. he'll babble endlessly without ever actually saying anything valid.  What I would expect him to do is to change the meaning of the word "objective."  The one that he normally uses is to say that "objective" means something is true irrespective of any individual evaluation thereof.  But that's not really the meaning of objectivity in the first place -- it's a corollary of its meaning, but not the meaning itself.  He uses this particular corollary in place of the actual definition because that leaves him room to say certain people's evaluations are invalid and dismiss them out of hand.

Alternatively, there's a chance he might go towards impugning that attitude as "moral relativism", but I doubt it as it would leave him open to the counterpoint that he too is comparing one set of values against those of a certain era of his choosing.  That, too, even if you could make that argument, the fact that there is such a thing as a set of mores that are indisputably superior to those of the law he repeatedly calls "great" and "perfect" only shows it not to be so great, which is ultimately the point being made.  If he did take this tack, though, I can be sure he'll define "moral relativism" in just such a way that it only applies to retroactive rather than retrospective evaluation.  And somewhere, somehow, he'll just tell you that it's the correct definition according to something he heard or read somewhere.

This too, is typical WLC.  Whether he has an argument of his own or not, he has a tendency to name-drop and reference some other work and claim that it provided.  The purpose of him doing so is not so much to save time within the debate format, but really just to pretend he doesn't have to respond to something.  By making a vague reference to some previous work, which can't really be checked on the spot, he acts as if the point is rebutted without actually rebutting it himself so that he can go on to make invalid claims.  To an audience of spectators this seems good enough and makes him sound well-read.  As if he's completely forgotten that he's the one debating, not the dead writers to whom he feigns reference.  He has gotten caught flat out lying on these sorts of things (the self-awareness example being only the most recent), but he's an artful enough of a dodger that he is only ever caught after the fact.  By that time, it never really matters because no one is going to look up how wrong he is.

Maybe it's because he sees Yahweh's morals as great that he has no problem with being as intellectually dishonest as he is.  You have to see it against the background of the far worse dishonesty of his predecessors and all the other apologists out there!  Then maybe he'll look like slightly less of an insufferable bullshit artist.