William Lane Craig: God hears every Superbowl prayer

I recently posted about how roughly half of all American sports fans believe that supernatural powers intervene in contests, affecting their outcomes. And a healthy dose of Americans also think that God hears prayers for victories (especially in football), or that their teams are somehow “cursed”.

This is amusing, for nothing shows up the inanity of religion in America so much as thinking that Almighty God cares enough about sports to grant victory or defeat to various teams. It must embarrass a believer to be asked the question, “Do you really think that God cares about who wins a game—and cares enough to affect the outcome? Doesn’t He have better things to worry about”?  And surely no real theologian believes this tripe!

Wrong. There’s at least one: the slick but odious William Lane Craig. Friend and reader Peter Boghossian (author of the superb A Manual For Creating Atheists) sent me a link to an interview with Craig about prayer and sports published in Christianity Today.  It’s simply bizarre, and in fact seems self-contradictory. Here’s an excerpt; the upshot is that Craig thinks that God does hear prayers about football games, and is actually affected by those petitions. The interviewer is the appropriately named Kate Shellnutt.

What’s the value in praying for God’s will to be done for the outcome of a game if God’s will will be done whether we pray or not?

Now that’s a question about prayer in general. What good does it do to pray about anything if the outcome is not affected? I would say when God chooses which world to actualize, he takes into account the prayers that would be offered in that world. We shouldn’t think prayer is about changing the mind of God. He’s omniscient; he already knows the future, but prayer makes a difference in that it can affect what world God has chosen to create.

Peyton Manning is a Christian, but he says he doesn’t pray to win games. He said, “I pray to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability.” Is it wrong or should we feel bad for praying for a win?

No, I think it’s fine for Christian athletes to pray about those things so long as they understand, as I say, that the person on the other team is also praying, and that some of these prayers will go unanswered in the providence of God. Ultimately, one is submitting oneself to God’s providence, but I see nothing the matter with praying for the outcome of these things. They’re not a matter of indifference to God. God cares about these little things, so it’s appropriate.

I do want to say that there are far more appropriate things that the Christian athlete ought to be praying for. He should be praying for his own character and development, to be a person of integrity, fair play, good sportsmanship, self-discipline, civility toward the opponent, and so forth. Those are the really important moral qualities that I think God wants to develop in a Christian athlete.

Well, Craig tries to redeem himself in the last paragraph, but the damage is done.  First Craig admits that prayer is more than an exercise in self-expression and meditation: it is designed to influence God, and in fact does. (So much for the Sophisticated Theologians™!)

But unless I’m misinterpreting Craig, there’s some confusion here, which is unusual for him. (He may be deluded, but his delusions are usually consistent.)

So God knows the future perfectly because he’s omniscient. That means, at time X, he knows what the outcome Z is at some Y in the future.  But at time X + t, where t is the interval between God’s foreknowledge and the prayer for the Seahawks, God can be influenced, and change the outcome at time Y from Z to Z’  (“prayer makes a difference in that it can affect what world God has chosen to create”).

I’m not sure how this makes sense.  Does that mean that God knows that he’s going to be influenced one way or the other, and takes that into account in his knowledge of the future? And if that’s the case, then what does it mean for God to be “influenced”? Further, what does this say about religious libertarian free will in Craig’s scheme? If the petitioner chooses not to pray, and thereby affects God’s actions, did God know that in advance, too? How can one know the future perfectly and yet still be changed by someone’s prayer?

And most importantly, how does Craig know this stuff? There’s nothing in the Bible about it, and not much about how God does or does not deal with prayers, so the readers who have explained Craig’s position below might surmise how he’d explain his knowledge of how God acts.

Now I’m sure that rhetorical eels like Craig have an answer that sounds good, but we secular Jews call this kind of reasoning bubbe-meise.

And even if Craig can explain this, the notion that God gives a rat’s patootie about sports contests, and can affect their outcome, should embarrass any believer. Craig, however, has repeatedly proved himself incapable of being embarrassed.

229 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Lane says, “God chooses which world to actualize”. Seems like he’s a proponent of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. :/

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I think Craig is referring to possible worlds in modal logic rather than in physics. Craig is saying that god, in his omniscience, looks at all logically possible worlds whose progression he knows absolutely (due to his omniscience) and chooses the one to actualize that maximizes his worship index. Essentially, then he wants a world in which he has maximum prestige. So prayer then is useful in that it tips God’s hand as to which possible world he will select.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        Except that he’s already gotta know just how the prayers are gonna go…

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          …and which way the winds will blow; will it rain or will it snow?

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

            You don’t need a weatherman…

  2. eveysolara
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    i think he means that before the world was created, he saw all possible worlds. Since he knows the future, he could foresee what sort of prayers would be offered up in each possible world. And he chose to actualize that world where the prayers most influenced him.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      If I decide to pray tomorrow to affect something, then God already knew not only that but how he was going to “react” to my prayer. And he has known both of these things infinitely; i.e. there was never a time when he did not know what my prayer would be and what his reaction to that prayer was.

      So the notion that we are affecting God’s “choices” through prayer is a non-starter to me.

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Not necessarily. Your prayer tomorrow, could be one of the reasons that God chose the logically possible world he did choose, rather than some other one. So in that case your prayer tomorrow will have an effect on the future of the universe.

        • H.H.
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but if God already knows, for example, you will say a prayer tomorrow at noon (and that this one of the reasons he actualized this particular world), then you aren’t really making a choice. Your prayer tomorrow is a predetermined fact. You can’t not pray tomorrow at noon.

          So in that case your prayer tomorrow will have an effect on the future of the universe.

          No, not on the future of the Universe. Your prayer must affect God’s decisions in the past.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            Since God is outside of time there isn’t a future or past in his viewpoint. God is looking at a cartesian x/y/z/t view of the universe. Your prayer “tomorrow” is just an event in this schematic – but it is a causal event, in that it has consequences for other events that happen further down the t axis.

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

              If god is outside time then he is also outside of and irrelevant to causation, as causation is a temporal concept. Thus, such a being could not have caused the Universe to be.

              Decision-making or gathering of knowledge also seem to be completely foreign to such a being.

              Playing the outside of time card only digs a deeper hole.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

                Not only that, “outside time” can only mean, “utterly disconnected from the Einsteinian spacetime of the observable Universe.” You can no more be “outside time” and be part of the Universe than a line segment could be “off the page” and yet still part of the geometry of the figures drawn upon it.

                Really, it’s as incoherent and childish a turn of phrase as “infinity plus one!” is an answer in the game of, “name the biggest number.”

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

            • H.H.
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

              Since God is outside of time…

              I have often seen this alleged, but I have no idea what it could mean to exist “outside” of time, let alone how such a thing could be determined. Time is necessary for change. Any being outside of time would necessarily be an unchanging, inert thing incapable of thought or action.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

                ….and if we are generous and assume the asserter is really saying that god exists outside of nature or even outside our universe, then god would not be able to interact with our universe. At least the laws of physics don’t allow it and there has been no evidence that these laws have been violated.

                But of course, there are ways to weasel out of that too – all with more unsubstantiated suppositions.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

                At least the laws of physics dont allow it and there has been no evidence that these laws have been violated.

                The case is actually a lot stronger than your correct statement implies.

                Observations have been made at all scales which would have revealed, at the very least, the minutest echoes of even the slightest forms of divine intervention contrary to the laws of physics. The search has been exhaustive, comparable to sweeping a blinding searchlight across every inch of the bare floor of a room in your house — with nothing found other than that of which we’re currently aware of.

                The theological position is that there’s an angry elephant running amok in the room amongst us, yet we’ve even ruled out the possibility of any dazed fleas. Never mind, of course, that the room isn’t anywhere big enough for an elephant to fit, even if you tried to coax it through the door with peanuts.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

                In fact, that is one of the data which leads to the Bunge hypothesis, namely what is real is changable (= possesses energy).

            • gbjames
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              Oh, for cryce’ sakes. Why does religious conversation inevitably end up in completely meaningless phrases like “outside time”. What on earth do such phrases mean? Absolutely nothing.

              I swear, 90% of theology is just bad use of language. People think that if they put words into strings that look like grammatical sentences, they must mean something. Drives me insane.

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

                Couldn’t agree more.

              • H.H.
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

                Traditionally, God was conceived as being eternal, existing for all time. This idea became untenable when time was discovered to be relative and have a discreet beginning. The only way to rescue the god hypothesis was to place him “outside” of time, whatever that is supposed to mean. Such is the way theology “advances.”

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

                Yes, was god not then, now and forever or something like that? It’s a nice thing to use when people bring up the old testament god as not being “their god” because of Jesus.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

                Bingo.

            • paxton
              Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

              Roqoco, How do we know that god is not using spherical or cylindrical coordinates to see the world?

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            And since God knows his own choices as he knows yours and mine, it would seem that His choices are also predetermined fact.

            God has no freewill either!

            • Bruce Gregory
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

              I came to the same conclusion. There is no free will in a world with an omniscient God. And God has no freedom. Freedom only exists in time and God is outside time.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

            “Your prayer tomorrow is a predetermined fact. You can’t not pray tomorrow at noon”

            Agreed, and this would also seem to apply to God’s knowledge of his own thoughts and choices. He has no freewill either.

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          “Your prayer tomorrow, could be one of the reasons that God chose the logically possible world he did choose, rather than some other one.”

          If he is truly all-knowing, then he has always known the following:

          1.) Every “decision” I will make now and thereafter

          2.) His “reaction” to any of my “decisions”

          I put “decision” in scarequotes because I can’t possibly do anything other than what God has always known with 100% accuracy what I will do. Free will for me is out of the question here, as there is no possibility of doing something that deviates from God’s perfect future predictions of my activity.

          I put “reaction” in scarequotes because it is also a meaningless word to use in the context of a perfect, all-knowing God. It’s not like God is deliberating over how to react to my future “decisions” – there is no gap in time b/t his knowledge of my actions and how he is going to react to that.

          It seems ludicrous to consider my future prayer as an input to the past process that actualized this one world out of many, when my prayer was a 100% determined from infinity.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            A computer plays chess by generating a tree of possible moves, which it then weights according to certain criteria (such as material and mobility). But, although a computer needs time to generate a tree from a particular position, the move tree isn’t something that inherently has any dependency on time (except time as a direction). So you can draw the move tree, for any position, on a (large) piece of paper. And this is the view that a god outside of time would have of all the events in the universe (and it’s also one way of interpreting relativity). But in this viewpoint you only need an arrow indicating the direction of time to say that any event is causal with respect to other (later) events, you don’t need the concept of the flow of time, which may be illusory.

            • Scientifik
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              “But in this viewpoint you only need an arrow indicating the direction of time to say that any event is causal with respect to other (later) events, you don’t need the concept of the flow of time, which may be illusory.”

              Discrete events do require the concept of the flow of time.

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

              God’s being outside time (not that that’s even a coherent idea, as others have pointed out), looking at an x/y/z/t coordinate system is irrelevant.

              Or, it is relevant only in the sense that if god can see everything and everywhen all at once, no prayer can emerge to which god will react. He can’t react. He will have to have done everything all at once.

  3. Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I hate to be the one to explain Craig, but of all things the explanation of his veiws makes it sound all the more crazy. His explanation here is consistent with his “sophisticated theology” of molinism.

    Basically Craig is saying that these prayers affected god, before he even created the material universe. He holds that people have libertarian free will, but that god knows what each of us will do in any given “possible world” that god could or could not actualize by creating it.

    This is how he tries to split the difference between omniscience and free will.

    Effectively, Yahweh knows everything we will do in any of the infinitely many possible worlds out there. Craig is saying god knows what we’ll pray for in each of these worlds and then in turn is affected by that request in his decision to create the material universe in which one team or the other wins the Super Bowl.

    This seems really out there, but that’s his view.

    • eveysolara
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      So our prayers matter retroactively lol

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Remember that God exists outside of time: “A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone”.

        • Scientifik
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          Remember that there’s not a shred of evidence for God’s existence.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            The “sophisticated” theological POV is that since there isn’t nothing there is necessarily something (which is “in” itself in Spinoza’s terminology or cause of itself) and they then call that something a “necessary being” or god.

            I reckon the argument that there is necessarily something is a compelling one, since otherwise we would have to say that the origin of the universe was random. The problem for theists though is that it is a very big stretch from the idea of some necessary substance to the idea of a necessary substance with a son called Jesus.

            • Sastra
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

              No, the problem for theists is that it is a very big stretch from the idea of some necessary substance to the idea of a necessary substance which is something like a mind. Then there’s an additional stretch to the son called Jesus if you’re also a Christian.

              Theist =/= Christian.

            • Scientifik
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

              “I reckon the argument that there is necessarily something is a compelling one, since otherwise we would have to say that the origin of the universe was random.”

              How do you know there even was something like the origin of the universe in the first place?

              What if the universe is eternal?

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

                If the universe was eternal, then there would necessarily be some fundamental substance/s that are eternal.

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                If the universe is eternal, there is no need for the creator/s.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                Who said there were creators? I just that said that the argument that there is necessarily something is a compelling one.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

                No, the argument that there is “necessarily something” is incoherent philosophy babble.

                We know that stuff exists. Whether or not you can convince yourself that you can imagine some sort of alternate reality in which stuff didn’t exist is meaningless. In reality, stuff actually does exist. Continuing the argument like that is as pointless as insisting that maybe we really should be using epicycles to plot the course of the planets across the copper dome of the firmament anyway. Or, perhaps, that there really is a Platonic ideal rabbit in some form of existence somewhere and that this model is somehow relevant to terrestrial evolution.

                It’s “not even worng.”

                It’s cut from the same cloth as astrology, theology, calorific, and all the rest of the discarded ideas that litter the history of the human quest for knowledge, and there’s no more justification in espousing the philosophical flavors of such meaningless fantasy in this day and age than there is in any of the others.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                But this isn’t an argument for god then.

              • colnago80
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

                Reqoco

                The concept of “nothing” is not the same today as it was during the 19th and 1st half of the 20th century. Originally, it was thought that the nothing consisted of the aether, which supported the propagation of electromagnetic radiation. Einstein showed that there was no need of the aether in his 1905 paper on Special
                Relativity. Later, the concept equated “nothing” with the quantum vacuum which was proposed and supported by relativistic quantum field theory, namely quantum electrodynamics.
                This theory was proposed by Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonoga and is the most successful theory ever proposed in terms of its agreement with observation some 10 significant digits for its calculation of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

                No, roqoco (below), if the universe is eternal, only an eternal sequence of processes need be. (This is what I hold, as it seems to be likely given what we know about these things from physics).

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

              I reckon the argument that there is necessarily something is a compelling one, since otherwise we would have to say that the origin of the universe was random.

              Stuff and nonsense, in the purest philosophical sense.

              First, every indication from actual empirical studies of cosmology is that the Big Bang was exactly the same type of quantum random event as is observed every day in physics labs, so objections that a random origin of the universe don’t even get out of the starting gate.

              But, beyond that, the philosophical concept of “absolute nothingness” with which the Universe is contrasted with is as incoherent as “North of the North Pole,” and so doesn’t even make it into the starting gate in the first place.

              Pro tip: if your profound insight is philosophical or theological in nature, unless you’ve got sound empirical evidence to back it up, chances are superlative that the fertile ground you’re romping through is purest bullshit.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                A quantum mechanical event is a particular type of event that follows particular rules, and we don’t yet know the underlying reason for these rules. But a set of rules is … a set of rules, it isn’t no set of rules, it isn’t nothing. Now it maybe that “absolute nothingness” is somehow ruled out by some fundamental principle, so that the rules of qunatum mechanics are necessary. But, if that is the case, we don’t know what that principle is. And if the concept of nothingness is philosophically “incoherent” then you need to explain why it is incoherent, that’s certainly not something that is so obvious that you can make unsubstantiated claims about it.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                I no more need to explain the incoherence of philosophical nothingness than I need explain the incoherence of fleebmakringnacks. The mere fact that no philosopher has ever offered a coherent definition of the term that’s even remotely consistent with empirical observations is all that’s necessary to sustain a charge of incoherence.

                Here in the real world, the only “nothingness” that’s actually real is the vacuum — and it’s the vacuum where you’ll find the exact same quantum fluctuations that most resemble the Big Bang. So, our actual observations tell us that, yes, “something” really does come from “nothing,” and that that’s the one-and-only known mechanism for de novo creation.

                That your philosophy and your theology thinks such reality is impossible or crude or inelegant or dirty or whatever is irrelevant. Reality is, whether you like it or not.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Sastra
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

                Here we go, arguing about Nothing again … ;)

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                Seems that’s what most arguments are actually about! Powerful and pervasive stuff, this Nothing….

                b&

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                Nothing is a perfectly coherent concept, it just means the absence of anything, as I think most people know. If you want to redefine that and call the vacuum “nothing” then that’s up to you, I suppose. But, the vacuum does, of course, have a particular configuration and behaviour that wouldn’t constitute “nothing” in the way that other people use the term. So, as I said, it seems quite compelling that there is necessarily some substance… or vacuum, if you like, rather than nothing (in the usual sense of the term).

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                There are two ways to interpret your “absence of anything” definition: locally and universally.

                Locally, “absence of anything” really does equate to the vacuum. But you reject that option, which can only mean that your definition is universal.

                Empirically, the “absence of anything at all anywhere anywhen” trivially demonstrated itself to be nonexistent. Even more surely than we know that the Luminiferous Aether does not exist, we know that your Universal Philosophical Nothing also does not exist. And arguing that we need to explain the absence of the Universal Philosophical Nothing is as senseless as arguing that we need to explain the absence of the Luminiferous Aether.

                So, if you can offer a compelling reason why we should get more excited about the nonexistence of your Nothing than the nonexistence of the Aether, I might be willing to pay attention further. But, as it stands, this truly is Much Ado About Nothing, except the poetry in this adaptation really sucks.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Marella
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                “Reality is, whether you like it or not.” I can never get over how hard it is to convince people of this simple truth.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

                Tell me about it!

                When it comes right down to it, that’s what sets science apart from everything else. Every time philosophy or theology or “common sense” or whatever goes off the rails, it stems from an insistence that reality somehow can’t be right.

                If only we could get people to acknowledge that reality doesn’t give a flying fuck what you want it to be or what you think it should be or what you think it must be, then we might finally be able to make some real progress.

                Evidence supporting the hypothesis stated in the previous paragraph: all progress to date has been made by the use and application of empiricism, and failures to adhere to empiricism account for all our failures to date.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                What you are actually claiming as being true, although you don’t seem to appreciate it, is exactly what I said was compelling. i.e. that there is a necessary substance or structure to the universe. You envisage that as being the quantum vacuum, which just happens to be the stage of regression we’ve got to in physics so far. I don’t think it is sensible to make such specific claims as to what reality fundamentally is, since it isn’t at all clear that we have got to the bottom or anywhere close to the bottom of the puzzles in fundamental physics.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

                What you are actually claiming as being true, although you dont seem to appreciate it, is exactly what I said was compelling. i.e. that there is a necessary substance or structure to the universe.

                No! We are not stating the same thing; our statements are, in fact, diametrically opposed.

                That there is substance and structure to the universe is trivially demonstrated true with the simplest of empirical observations.

                But when you add that unnecessary and superfluous word, “necessary,” to the statement, you transform it from a simple observation into some sort of bizarre fantasy that can only make sense in the context of juvenile faery tales focused on cosmic emperors dictating every aspect of reality.

                You’re looking for personalized “why” answers in an inhuman and impersonal universe. Is it any surprise that the answers you think you’re finding are as meaningless as division by zero?

                All that aside, the fact that we don’t know everything there is to know about physics is irrelevant. I don’t need to search every nanometer of my house with an electron microscope to conclude that there aren’t any elephants in the room with me, and physics is far more than complete enough to conclude that there are no gods.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

                Roqoco, do you suggest we should replace the quantum vacuum with the illusory God?

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

                @Ski I’m an atheist – in case you didn’t manage to work that out :).

                @BG – Ah, I see, you don’t understand what the term “necessary” means in this context, which is hardly surprising given your aversion to philosophy. A necessary substance can be loosely understood as a fundamental structure, that is the basis for other things which are “contingent”. It doesn’t imply any why questions, although we can ask if there is a reason as to why the universe is one way rather than another and it’s not at all clear whether that is answerable or not.

                You need to stop thinking about everything in relation to the absence of god.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

                If you’re using “necessary” and “contingent” in the Platonic sense, then that has as much to do with reality as the Four Elements theory from which it springs.

                Why are you so eager to resort to long-since-discredited pseudoscience in order to describe reality? What’s worng with simply describing reality with the very useful terms we already have and that the experts on reality regularly put to such good use?

                And what makes you think some philosophical Neverneverland lies behind the boundaries of the known universe? Do you also fear the monsters that’ll eat you if you fall off the edge of the Earth? If not, what on Earth makes you think the one is substantially different from the other?

                Cheers,

                b8

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                I explained the use of the term “necessary” at the top of this sub thread, and I think it is a good idea to at least read the subthread you are commenting on prior to commenting. The terms necessary and contingent have nothing to do with Plato’s theory of Forms so your other comments aren’t relevant. I’m sorry, but you just misunderstood the argument and throwing insults about positions I do not hold isn’t going to cover that up.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

                Frankly, whether your necessary contingency is from Plato or Pantinga doesn’t matter to me one whit — any more than I care if the invisible emperor’s robes are silk or satin.

                You’ll not find one theoretical physicist who even pauses to waste her time with contingent necessity; it’s only the priests and shamans who hope to razzledazzle the marks with such bafflegab.

                Answer me which particle / force carries necessitude or specify the field equation for congeniality and then we’ll talk. Until then, all this nonsense about them being more fundamental than known physics is all hattle and no cat.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

                roqoco,

                There’s no need for the wispy philosophical musings, when we have real science, physics, at our disposal. We don’t have to speculate, for example, about what makes the existence of everything (with mass) possible, it’s not god or any other untestable philosophical woo, it’s the Higgs boson.

        • H.H.
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          Long-lived ≠ “outside time”

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      He’s trying to have his cake and eat it, too. He can’t argue that god knows beforehand everything we’ll ever do, including what we’ll pray for, and retain libertarian free will.

      That is why it sounds so muddled. There sure is a contradiction in there.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        There sure is a contradiction in there.

        When I was a christian, we called it “a mystery”.

        No, that does not help.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          If I get this right – God knows that, in a few minutes, I will choose to go to the beach. (Whether through my ‘free will’ or just the influence of circumstances is irrelevant to the argument). So God has picked the universe (out of all the billions of possible ones) in which it is possible for me to go to the beach. So my ‘free will’ is apparently not infringed. Although I could not have chosen otherwise, in fact I didn’t try to choose otherwise, so I never found out my choice was forced.

          So there’s no way I can possibly tell that my ‘free will choice’ was dictated by God.

          Of course the whole thing gets impossibly complicated, especially when the wife chooses that we go shopping instead…

          I don’t think this will work, somehow…

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      “He holds that people have libertarian free will, but that god knows what each of us will do in any given “possible world” that god could or could not actualize by creating it”

      In order for God to have omniscience, or put another way, to have 100% accuracy in predicting any and all future events, then existence would have to be perfectly deterministic. If there was a completely random element to the Universe, then even God’s predictions would be wrong from time to time.

      In such a perfectly deterministic Universe, it would seem the case that the concept of “possible worlds” is meaningless. God has infinitely known what each and everyone of us will do at every millisecond of our lives; there is absolutely no room for us to change that or for any other “possible” worlds to ever come into existence.

    • Scientifik
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      “Basically Craig is saying that these prayers affected god, before he even created the material universe.”

      What evidence does he have to support his claim that these prayers affected god?

      • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        The old tradition of MSU is his evidence. (That this evidence is poor beyond imagining is another story.)

  4. Gareth Price
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I am going to repost a comment I remember someone making on here a long time back. She said (as best I remember it) “If god is really obsessed about the results of sporting events, that explains a lot about the state of the world”.

  5. Jeffery
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “… for nothing shows up the inanity of religion…”- how about, “nothing shows up the INSANITY of religion so much as…”?

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      c. All of the above.

  6. Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Since most xians believe that god answers prayers, it naturally follows that one should pray for victory. The typical out for such exercises is that god’s answer was no.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      ps – Go Broncos! :-)

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Go Sea Hawks! There, now we will see who God likes best!

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Game On :-) Your quarterback is much more evangelical than Manning, so it probably won’t even be close!

        • Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          Well, I think that the atheist count in Denver just went up, with a significant bump before half-time :-) However, I don’t think there was a counter trend in Seattle since the likely were not any atheists praying for a Sea Hawk win.

  7. AKS
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Shellnut? Yes, appropriately named. And reminds me of some others locally–when I used to read the letters by preachers to the editor in the local paper (now sadly gutted of reporters and real news) decrying the loss of religion that led to something having been reported on, I was struck by how appropriate some of their names were, and I cut out their signature lines and church affiliations. I don’t have them all before me now, but I remember the most notable of them, which was, “Christian Spoor.” No lie.

  8. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Hemant Mehta had a good article on this,

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/01/the-bible-tells-us-whos-going-to-win-the-super-bowl/

    • gbjames
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Yes! God wins either way!

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      It boggles the mind, boggles I tell you, that some people can look at that and see nothing amiss.

  9. Filippo
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    “. . . God chooses which world to actualize [create?] . . . takes into account the prayers that would be offered in that world . . . prayer is[n't] about changing the mind of God . . . he already knows the future, but prayer makes a difference["difference" == "change" = "re-choose"?] in that it can affect ["change"?] what world God has ["re-"?]chosen to create [actualize?].”

    Ergo, in already knowing the future, God already knows the future prayer of a football obsessive not born until several generations into the future, and already knows if and how He will respond?

    Whither the Free Will critical to the efficacy of Christian theology?

    I trust that Sean R. Carroll will avail himself of the substance of this interview in his upcoming debate with Mr. Craig.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The question of how a God who knows the future could be influenced by prayer was extensively addressed by C.S. Lewis in “Miracles”, but I slightly prefer some version of this answer to the paradoxes of time travel from Austin Powers. (You can start around :25. The whole thing is less than a minute.)

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Sorry didn’t mean to embed. One is supposed to cut of http to avoid that.

  11. mordacious1
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I used to have these arguments with my mother (who was by no means a sophisticated theologian) and she’d always have a pat answer ready. I’d say: This is testable. All we have to do is make a football team of the best atheists (at football) we can find and play them against a christian team made up of players with no more than one leg (no wheelchairs, etc. allowed). Then we have all the christians pray that their team wins.

    Her answers: Either, many christians would secretly pray for the atheists (they don’t want them to feel bad when they lose to people with physical challenges) or, (and most likely) god does not like to be tested and does not answer prayers when he knows you’re doing that.

    You can’t win with these people, you just can’t.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      LOL. That’s a great anecdote, I’ve had many similar conversations with theists.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      ” god does not like to be tested and does not answer prayers when he knows you’re doing that.”

      So god can test us all he wants (Job, Abraham, the existence of evil, etc.), but we’re not allowed to test him? Seems to me this relationship is a little one-sided.

    • Sastra
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The problem with this ‘test’ is that God might know that when the atheists win the game that this will set off a chain of events which ultimately causes more people to make a commitment to Christ than if the Christians had won.

      Remember, the goal is not to reward Christians; the goal is to create Christians.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      The first answer is outrageously dodging the question. That would really annoy me.

      The second answer, of course, is impossible to counter.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      In all these levantine religions, you would do well if you just assume god is a (human) king, your authoritative grandparent, or something similar.

      Egoistical, one sided, angry, jealous, sometimes (rarely) generous, sometimes smiling (very rarely) … a lot of curses and farts ..

      Unsophisticated Theologians.

  12. docbill1351
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, 2011.

    The last rivalry football game between the University of Texas and Texas A&M: Longhorns vs Aggies.

    It was the end of the fourth quarter, seconds on the clock. A&M was ahead by one point. The Longhorns had possession and had moved to within field goal distance.

    The teams lined up, the ball snapped and …

    Prior to this the camera panned across both teams. They were all on their knees praying for a win. Was God listening? Is God a Longhorn fan or an Aggie? The next few seconds would reveal all.

    … the kick was up and SCORE Texas! Longhorns defeated the Aggies 27-25.

    Clearly, God is a Longhorn. Or Texas was praying to win AND the Aggies were praying for Texas to win, too. That’s not likely. I think God is a Longhorn and the Aggies are cursed forever and doomed to the Lake of Fire. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      UT has a higher enrollment than A&M, so there were more fans praying, making a bigger noise in God’s virtual Siri, thus directing him to choose that possible universe

    • Cathy Newman
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      This year He was an Auburn fan :(

  13. Ray
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    As an omniscient being, god knows ahead of time who is going to win. After all he planned the whole thing. He even planned the prayers the players would pray, every word they would say. So the prayers are actually god talking to himself through the mouths of the players. God, as a perfect being, simply doesn’t get enough flattery so he makes it happen.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Since God is outside of time and omniscient, he knows everything simultaneously, including how every logically possible universe will unwind. He can see everything laid out in Minkowski space/time view (or “like a patient etherized upon a table” as Eliot put’s it). So he just has a one time choice to decide on the particular logical world he chooses. And considering his omni-benevolence and stature as the font of morality, that must be the best of all possible worlds.

      • Larry Tanner
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Can God surprise himself or do something he didn’t expect (like an improvisation)?

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          Nah, that would result in him disappearing into a philosopher’s pit where he would implode in a puff of logic.

          He can’t even create himself and thus he can’t be the creator of everything….unless he doesn’t exist, that is.

      • Scientifik
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        “And considering his omni-benevolence and stature as the font of morality, that must be the best of all possible worlds.”

        A world with:

        1. slavery (more than 30 million slaves world-wide) http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201310210900

        2. pedophilia (A child is raped every three minutes in South Africa) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24768817

        3. child prostitution (UNICEF estimates there are 250,000 children into prostitution in Brazil alone.)
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2492821/Child-prostitutes-Brazils-Highway-Hell-BR-116.html

        4. honor killings (There are estimated 5 thousand honor killings committed on women each year worldwide.) http://fuuse.net/banaz-a-love-story/

        5. Cancer, HIV/AIDS, genetic disorders…

        6. Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis…

        must be the best of all possible worlds???

        • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          Actually, all it takes is one tiny bit of evil that an intelligent 6 year old could have stopped had she been there.

        • Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          Maybe your irony detector could be a bit more finely attuned?

  14. bonetired
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I know that prayer doesn’t work: I was praying that the Frenchman would trip in the last few mins of the France v England match ….

  15. Mark Joseph
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I would say when God chooses which world to actualize, he takes into account the prayers that would be offered in that world. We shouldn’t think prayer is about changing the mind of God. He’s omniscient; he already knows the future, but prayer makes a difference in that it can affect what world God has chosen to create.

    Mr. Craig:

    How do you know any of that?

    Respectfully,

    Mark Joseph

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Golden plates and a klingon translation unit.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      And of course you’re echoing Jerry: “…most importantly, how does Craig know this stuff?”

      This is the question I’m always asking whenever anyone proclaims what God wants.

      Occurs to me that the answer is to go about proclaiming our own ideas about what God wants and daring anyone else to say it isn’t so.

      (God wants us all to grow up and put aside fairy tales.)

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. It’s a step even beyond, “Because I said so, that’s why!” as a technique to proclaim one’s self the victor in a discussion. God wants you to do the dishes, and who are you to disobey his command? And he also wants you to eat your broccoli and to give 15% of your gross earnings to the Bishop’s personal slush fund.

        b&

  16. boggy
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Every Engishman was praying that England would win the Ashes, and look what happened. Maybe the Aussies won because Ken Ham is an Australian.

  17. Gasper Sciacca
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Forty-one million people died in the wars of the 20th Century. Did prayer make any difference? Yet God listens to prayers to decide the outcome of a football game.

  18. Posted February 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I’d respect Craig’s last paragraph more if he weren’t the lead cheerleader for a god who orders mass murder and child rape.

    (For those who don’t know, Craig has publicly defended the atrocities in Numbers 31 by claiming that the victims deserved what they got, and the real tragedy was the mental anguish Moses’s soldiers suffered carrying out YHWH’s orders.)

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Sastra
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Here’s something interesting.

      If you take Craig’s entire response to “Is it wrong or should we feel bad for praying for a win?” and change both the question and the response so that every variation of “pray/prayer” turns into a variation of “hope” or “desire” — and you change every reference to “God” or “the Providence of God” to “fate” or “reality” and eliminate the crap which won’t fit that — then it makes sense. That is, it’s the sort of nice advice that anyone might give.

      Try it.

      “It’s okay to hope that you win, but others want to win too and not everyone gets what they want. Better than hoping to win a football game though is wanting to become a better person.”

      They have to make enough sense to fool themselves into thinking they’re making sense.

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        An excellent example of why religious “reasoning” is one of the most pernicious perversions I’ve ever encountered.

        b&

        • Dermot C
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          WLC is not a Biblical literalist. He recommends ‘fair-play’ and ‘civility toward the opponent’. If we go back to the oldest bit of the Bible – which WLC and Christianity foolishly, as Hitchens pointed out, accept as theologically binding – you’ll find that the Song of Deborah, from 11th century BCE, exults in the utter destruction of the opponent.

          I don’t have the Deborahic verse to hand but it thoroughly supports the demonization and destruction of the enemy when they are down.

          Contrast this with Greek culture. In Homer around 850 BCE, it is difficult to distinguish between the Greeks and the Trojans. Who are the heroes? Greek Odysseus or Trojan Hector? Or both? Or neither? Aeschylus, around 470 BCE, wrote a play about the Greco-Persian war 7 years after it happened: from the Persian perspective.

          In the OT you have the Deuteronomistic, nationalistic and unquestioning world-view: we are right, what does it matter about the ideas of others? In Greek thought you have at least the idea that the other might think differently from you, and that perhaps they have some things right: hence the genesis of proto-historical writing in Greece, Herodotus and especially Thucydides who treated some sources with scepticism. Unlike any Jew until the semi-Hellenised Josephus, 500 years later.

          ‘Fair-play’, contra WLC, is a Hellenistic concept: not a Judaistic or Christian one.

          Slaínte.

          • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

            To be fair, it’s impossible to be a Biblical literalist. The whole thing is riddled through with such incoherence and fantasy and so many contradictions that it’s not even possible in principle, save by practicing the most extreme imaginable form of Orwellian Doublethink.

            All Christians are salad-bar Christians. What’s telling is which dishes they put on their plate. Craig’s got an huge heaping of Numbers 31 on his, with an extra helping of both blame-the-victim sauce and think-of-the-poor-criminal spice poured on top. That’s more than enough to indict him as being unfit for civil discourse.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Dermot C
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

              Of course it’s impossible to be a Biblical literalist and I’ve pointed that out several times.

              It makes no sense to call oneself a literalist about an anthology of 66 books made up of erotic poetry, legal precepts, historical fiction, laments, wedding-songs, hymns of victory, echoes of law-suits, antiphonal songs, Psalms, theological dispute, epistles, apocalyptic prediction and the rest.

              Why should Christians make the claim for inerrancy? As far as I can see, the sole reference to it from the Bible occurs in St. Paul’s 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” Itself a forgery: Paul did not write it.

              An incoherent assertion authorized by a forgery: and that’s before you get to the theology. WLC, the self-proclaimed literalist, must know this: it can only be that he assumes that his flock won’t read the text.

              Slaínte.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

                WLC, the self-proclaimed literalist, must know this: it can only be that he assumes that his flock wont read the text.

                You need to re-read 1984. His hope isn’t that the flock isn’t reading the text, but that they’ll become as skilled in doublethink as he is. Jesus is the source of all that’s good and righteous, and he’s coming back “Real Soon Now™” to wreak havoc and destruction on the planet and torture all those who haven’t kissed his ass just right. Because that’s what ultimate goodness does.

                Cheers,

                b&

    • Posted February 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Hello again, Ben Goren.

      I agree with most of what you’ve said in this thread, except for your unfortunate decision to equate “philosophy” with “bad metaphysics” to the exclusion of its other traditional branches.

      Your comments on necessity remind me of Ayn Rand’s view that everything true is necessary. The argument is that a fact is necessary if it is true in virtue of the identities of the entities involved, and everything true is true in virtue of some aspect of the identities of the entities involved, so everything true is necessary. For example, my dog is black because its identity includes the property of being black; if it was not black, it would not be the dog it is. Therefore, my dog is necessarily black.

      Rand did acknowledge contingency in the distinct sense that some facts are the product of human decisions which could have been made differently, and some facts are necessary in the sense that they could not have been altered by human agency. But this is different from the sense of contingency that many modern philosophers use, which depends on intuition.

      I think you disagree with Rand’s politics, but it seems like you would largely agree with her on this point. Or have I misread you?

      • Posted February 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        When I’ve used the term, “necessary,” in these contexts, it’s generally been in the sense that, for example, Christians would agree that Jesus is nothing if he’s not very powerful as well as keenly passionate about human wellbeing. Since demonstrating that there are no entities that fit both those properties is trivial, it’s equally trivial to demonstrate that, whatever else one might say about Jesus, he must be nothing.

        I’m not aware of any Christian who would say that Jesus’s identity similarly depended on his hair or eye color. They might or might not have an opinion on the matter, but learning that Jesus’s physical appearance isn’t what they expected wouldn’t cause them to question his identity. However, learning that he’s either impotent or an heartless sonofabitch (or both, or fictional) would cause them to be certain that the individual in question, whomever he may be, certainly couldn’t be the Jesus they (think they) know and love.

        Hope that clears things up.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          If you see a ball on your lawn, then there is necessarily some mechanism (or child!?) that propelled it there. Unless, that is, you are of the opinion that balls materialize on your lawn at random (only adherents of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, perhaps, might find this to be a convincing explanation). But if you accept that the ball appeared on your lawn for a reason, then the ball’s appearance is *contingent* on the mechanism that caused it to land on your lawn and it is then *necessary* that there is some mechanism for propelling balls onto lawns, although you may not know which particular mechanism was responsible for your particular ball (the child hypothesis might be a good bet though). I hope this explanation is clear and isn’t going to cause you to freak out again about the uselessness of “philosophy”, since this is really just a precise and well tested way of using language to convey meaning unambiguously, although the terms differ slightly from their meaning in every day parlance.

          • Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

            The philosophical disconnect is in extrapolating human-scale finite intuitions outside their realm of applicability.

            It is reasonable to assume that some plausible chain of events is responsible for a ball winding up on your lawn.

            It is unreasonable — invalid, actually — to assume that some plausible chain of events is responsible for the appearance of an electron from a carbon-14 atom and the atom’s accompanying transmutation into nitrogen-14. It is equally unreasonable to make similar assumptions about the Big Bang and other cosmological-scale events…and, yet, philosophers just love doing so.

            We can see yet another example of that in today’s thread about the “magical” number -1/12. There are contexts in which it only makes sense to associate the sum of natural numbers with the rational fraction -1/12; there are other contexts in which that doesn’t make any sense at all. In my experience, that sort of ambiguity makes philosophers extremely itchy — at least, when they’re practicing philosophy.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Posted February 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

              I’m in agreement with you, that much of what passes as philosophy (apologetics, post modernism etc. etc.) is specious. But good (secular) philosophy *isn’t* wannabe science, it’s reasoning from assumed axioms (and how to reason precisely of course is a part of it). For instance, you might say that *if* you believe the teaching of Jesus in the bible, *then* you shouldn’t commit murder (or whatever). That argument doesn’t depend on whether Jesus existed or not (who knows anyway?) or whether if he did exist he was the son of god (unlikely IMOP :)), it’s just a logical progression from an axiom to a conclusion using reasoning (much like mathematical logic, but not so precise unfortunately). Although my particular example was pretty trivial most of the best moral philosophy, for instance, falls into this type of reasoning (Rawls, Spinoza, Locke, Mill etc.) and has been very influential (rational enlightenment, constitution of the US etc.)

              The reason that philosophy can sometimes cross over into science is that when you don’t know something, in order to formulate an hypothesis, you need to make a guess (i.e. Popper’s conjecture and refutation). And guessing is precisely the process of assuming that some particular axioms are true, so that you can then subject them to testing – provided that is you have some empirical data that is capable of falsifying your guess (or your theory can predict new data). So, many things that were once thought to be the province of philosophy, eventually become resolved into science. For instance, philosophy of quantum mechanics and philosophy of mind only really exist as subjects, because we don’t have the empirical data yet to turn them into science – but that doesn’t mean they can’t turn up interesting ideas that we can try and find a way to test.

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

                Once again, you’ve provided a most thorough example of why philosophy is so fractally worng. Permit me to break it down:

                Im in agreement with you, that much of what passes as philosophy (apologetics, post modernism etc. etc.) is specious. But good (secular) philosophy *isnt* wannabe science, its reasoning from assumed axioms (and how to reason precisely of course is a part of it).

                Right here, up front, we start off with the heart of the problem.

                Philosophy is utterly lacking in any means for deciding that one particular philosophy is any better than any other, save warm-n-fuzzy emotional appeals to some sense of aesthetics that’s as varied as philosophy itself. And that’s what lets you play the “No true philosophy” bagpipes with your opening statement.

                Close on its heels, with the second sentence, is another nasty habit of philosophy: it undeservedly takes credit for huge swaths of other fields because, way in the distant past, there’s some sort of historical ancestry. Sorry, but philosophy no more gets credit for formal logic (a field that’s now basically split into computer science and certain types of math) than astrology does for cosmology. You might note that, aside from water cooler humor, scientists don’t play those types of turf games; genetics certainly is an offshoot of biology, but biologists don’t claim credit for genetics the same way that philosophers claim credit for every form of intellectual endeavor.

                For instance, you might say that *if* you believe the teaching of Jesus in the bible, *then* you shouldnt commit murder (or whatever). That argument doesnt depend on whether Jesus existed or not (who knows anyway?) or whether if he did exist he was the son of god (unlikely IMOP :)), its just a logical progression from an axiom to a conclusion using reasoning (much like mathematical logic, but not so precise unfortunately).

                Claiming credit for basic, millennia-old logic like that is as impressive as claiming credit for simple arithmetic. Worse, philosophers get all hung up in the logical bits without — as you’ve just demonstrated perfectly here — giving a flying flip about the initial premises.

                You’re right in that a philosopher is going to be most concerned with figuring out if Jesus is in favor of murder based on a particular interpretation of a particular translation of the Bible. That’s the sort of thing that really gets philosophers excited.

                A scientist, on the other hand, is going to be much more interested in whether or not Jesus existed in the first place — a question that’s trivial to answer in the negative based on the readily-avaialble and more-than-ample empirical evidence — and to understand the origins of the myth and the religion. That last bit, again, is easy; early Christians were eager to document how they took everything about Jesus from the surrounding popular Pagan demigods of the day, and those claims are consistent. Some details are murky, but the basic outline is unmistrakable: Christianity is a syncretic pagan mystery cult with an archetypal mythical death / resurrection / salvation hero as its center of focus, in the same mold as the cults of Orpheus and Mithras and Dionysus and Osiris and Bacchus and the rest. And, at this point, the matter is clearly one for the sociologists and the anthropologists and the like, working in conjunction with the archaeologists and other “hands-on” scientists who gather and analyze the physical evidence.

                The contrast between your own offered philosophical approach and the scientific one couldn’t be more stark.

                The reason that philosophy can sometimes cross over into science is that when you dont know something, in order to formulate an hypothesis, you need to make a guess (i.e. Poppers conjecture and refutation).

                The problem with philosophy is that it starts and stops with the guess. Worse, its guesses are made by rank amateurs with no knowledge of the subject whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, those guesses turn out to be so completely irrelevant to the actual facts discovered by real scientists that it’s not even funny.

                If it were up to the philosophers, we’d still be debating whether the Universe is eternal or cyclic. We wouldn’t know about the Big Bang. Once we knew about the Big Bang we wouldn’t have known about inflation, and we wouldn’t have known that the expansion of the Universe is continuing to accelerate. Those’re all matters right up the philosophical alley, and philosophers were utterly useless in figuring any of that out. Same with questions about the nature and origins of life, about the nature of matter, and on and on and on and on.

                And all y’all still think you’ve got something to contribute?

                Please.

                For instance, philosophy of quantum mechanics and philosophy of mind only really exist as subjects, because we dont have the empirical data yet to turn them into science but that doesnt mean they cant turn up interesting ideas that we can try and find a way to test.

                You are so behind the times on this.

                Quantum Mechanics is waaaay past needing any help from philosophy. Especially with the LHC’s confirmation / discovery of the Higgs, the Standard Model is now complete, and physicists have for quite some time been focussing most of their attention not on Quantum Mechanics but on that which is going to come next. Whatever does come next is going to have to reduce to QM the same way that QM reduces to Newtonian Mechanics. It’s also going to have to reconcile QM with Relativity. I can assure you, no philosopher is even remotely qualified to go anywhere near that subject; it’s going to take a theoretical physicist with strong backgrounds in Quantum and Relativistic Mechanics as well as cosmology to answer that one — somebody like Sean Carroll or Lawrence Krauss, but likely one spending more time out of the public eye than either of them. And, even then…well, we’ve already got lots of ideas floating around; the real problem is going to be devising the experiments to test the new predictions of the new theory, and that’s going to require engineers much more creative than the ones employed even by Boeing.

                And you seriously think philosophy has something to contribute to that process?

                Same thing with cognition, except this time it’s neuropsychologists and computer scientists at the forefront, and it’s quite apparent that they’re as far ahead of the philosophers as the physicists. The “insurmountable problems” of these subjects that the philosophers are “wrestling” with are as irrelevant to reality and researchers as the Philosopher’s Stone is to an engineer at a nuclear power plant.

                So, yeah. Philosophy, by its very nature as confirmed time after time after time after time in practice, is worse than useless. Where science gives us ethical review boards that base policy decisions on patient outcome statistics and satisfaction surveys, philosophers are playing evil Nazi mad scientist games convincing people they must — must — throw that fat man off the bridge in front of the trolley. Where science discovers the Casimir Effect and virtual particle pair formation, philosophy is arguing over the meaning of “nothing.” Where science is homing in on the most likely chemical pathways of a prebiotic terrestrial environment that would lead to replicators that would eventually evolve RNA, philosophy is busy trying to figure out whether viruses are vital enough to be considered alive. And so on.

                Once again, thanks but no thanks. If you get your kicks with that sort of thing, by all means, have at it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking any of it is even vaguely relevant.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

                “No philosopher is qualified to go anywhere near that subject…”. This is where your viewpoint is so seriously screwed up. Roland Omnes’s, book Quantum Philosophy, which I happen to have in my library is a work of philosophy, Omnes, himself is a professor of theoretical physics. Similarly David Deutsch who is a British physicist and has done fundamental work in quantum computing is also a philosopher (I thoroughly recommend both “Fabric of Reality” and “Beginning of Infinity”, they are largely works of philosophy, in the first there is a brilliant exposition & extension of Popper’s ideas, for instance). There are many other examples in physics and philosophy of mind. And BTW, I’m not a “philosopher” either (computer science and physics FWIW). So yes, of course you can’t write sensibly about the underpinnings of complex scientific concepts if you don’t know any of the science!?

                So… You have just set up “philosophers” as a bunch of Panglossian straw men and are conflating philosophy with nonsense, so your own theory isn’t falsifiable, because immediately someone writes something that isn’t nonsense you are going to say it’s science… or whatever, couldn’t possible be philosophy!

                Can’t really deal with all your other stuff in one post, but perhaps might point out that mathematics is also axiomatic (and yes some philosophers are mathematicians too!), and Euclidean geometry is hardly useless, just because the parallel postulate doesn’t apply to relativistic space.

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                Roland Omness, book Quantum Philosophy, which I happen to have in my library is a work of philosophy, Omnes, himself is a professor of theoretical physics.

                So?

                Francis Collins and Ken Miller are devout Christians, and I’m sure they’d assure you that their work has some sort of profound theological significance. (Not to accuse either of inappropriate proselytizing; rather, I’m pretty sure they see what they do as revealing Jesus’s fingerprints or some such.) But that doesn’t mean that either is practicing theology when they’re doing science.

                Or, for that matter, what of all those Young-Earth Creationists the Hamster trotted out last night with all sorts of impressive sciency credentials?

                If you’re going to address anything I’ve written on the subject, the one-and-only part relevant to anything is the question of how results are judged in philosophy. In science, you can have the most loverly theory imaginable, and it doesn’t mean jack shit unless it’s supported by the observations. In philosophy, observations are irrelevant, and things are simply known because of some small still voice that informs the philosopher that it must be so.

                You can parade an exhausting list of famous philosophers through the room and effusively praise their fine raiments until the cows come home. I don’t give a damn.

                Show me the results, coupled with methodology and error bars and all the rest.

                Everything else, no matter the pedigree, is bafflegab.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                This is silly: Science is science already, so if results are judged in a scientific way you are just doing science!? Philosophy, involves reasoning, and you can judge arguments according to the errors in reasoning that they contain, just as you can in more formal systems such as mathematics. The proof of Fermat’s last theorem isn’t trivial, but given the theorem and the axioms of mathematics it follows from a priori reasoning; you don’t need “observations” to establish it. The axioms chosen in say moral philosophy aren’t random, they are established on the basis of agreement, for instance (to cut a long story short) the concept of justice has lead through social contract theory, Hobbes, Locke etc. to the enshrinement of the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution by Madison. Was that process really so useless? And you can’t test by science that this result was the “right” one, because there are no criteria to evaluate right or wrong using empirical tests, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.

                People like Francis Collins and Martin Nowak are hardly support for your position, quite the opposite – they are impeccable scientists, but thoroughly rotten at reasoning, in that their model of how the world works is completely borked. The fact that you can spend your life making impeccable measurements then fall into the idiocy of believing in Jesus due to chancing across a frozen waterfall, has got to suggest that there is something more to understanding than blind (!?) observation. And that something is *reason*.

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                For the last time (for now)…you’re not addressing the essential question, “How do you know that?”

                For all the useful examples you cite, the answer is that we have empirical evidence demonstrating the utility of the theory. For all the useless examples, the evidence isn’t there.

                That’s the bedrock of science. It’s not even on the list for philosophy.

                Philosophy has no reliable answer to the question, “How do you know that?” Sure, some philosophers get their hands dirty with empiricism and thereby produce useful work (or, as is common with theoretical physics, they divide the labor and work closely with people who work to validate theories). But huge swaths don’t, and their philosophy is every bit as philosophically (but not scientifically) valid as any other.

                When you and other philosophy apologists seriously address that question (“How do you know that?”), then you might expect to be taken seriously by the scientific community. But then, of course, you’d no longer be practicing philosophy, but science….

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:13 am | Permalink

                Earlier you said that scientists aren’t any judge of the efficacy of philosophy using the example of Francis Collins and with the implication that the large number of scientists who take philosophy seriously, including those who are also philosophers, are wrong too. Now you say that the “scientific community” doesn’t take philosophy seriously, so it’s useless. You can’t have it both ways. And these broad brush generalisations are typical of your argumentation on this topic, with one stroke you brush out everyone who doesn’t agree with you on the basis of the beliefs of some mythical bunch of people “the scientific community”, that you have just made up. And on what basis? It certainly isn’t science, I don’t see any empirical evidence in your arguments. You are just using (bad) philosophical arguments amounting to extreme positivism, a position that is self refuting since it fails to meet it’s own criteria.

                Most (educated) scientists hold some kind of philosophical position and Hawking by all accounts comes close to being a positivist, whilst Deutsch, Penrose, Weinberg etc. would argue against that position. Here’s what Werner Heisenberg had to say about it: “The positivists have a simple solution: the world must be divided into that which we can say clearly and the rest, which we had better pass over in silence. But can any one conceive of a more pointless philosophy, seeing that what we can say clearly amounts to next to nothing? If we omitted all that is unclear we would probably be left with completely uninteresting and trivial tautologies.”

        • Posted February 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the response.

          Just so I’m clear on your position, would it be fair to say that you think necessity is a matter of linguistic convention? So, for example, something is necessarily a cat when we decide that it is a cat or when it meets our conventions for calling things cats?

          That’s what I take from your example involving Christian linguistic behavior – a person is necessarily Jesus just so long as he meets the criteria Christians use for applying the word “Jesus.” But it’s possible that I’ve misunderstood you.

          • Posted February 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

            I’d rather state that necessity is a matter of definition. However it is that you define something, that’s what determines necessity. If you define a swan as a large white bird, then C. atratus is necessarily not a swan. But if you use a biologist’s definition of what a swan is, then feather color is necessarily irrelevant.

            Does that help?

            b&

            • Dermot C
              Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

              @ Ben Goren
              Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:23 am

              Ben, again regarding the early Christianity question your characterization of the issue raises some points. Early Christians were NOT ‘eager to document how they took everything about Jesus from the surrounding popular Pagan demigods of the day’. Only St. Justin Martyr in the second century felt he had to: and perhaps Origen slightly later in his ‘Against Celsus’.

              If you want to know how the Romans thought of gods and your ‘demigods’ you need to know that they thought of supernatural beings in different categories: a deus (who had always had been immortal); a divus (a god who had once lived as a human), nymph or spirit; divinities inherent in abstract qualities like Iustitia or Fides who had no real personality or stories: their existence was accepted by nearly all but tales about all 3 were freely described as inventions of the poets.

              What you mean by these claims being consistent I do not know, but it is certainly the case that the very earliest Christian claims about the nature of Jesus are not consistent: ranging from Jesus in the extremely early 1st century Didache as the servant of God, to Jesus as The Pre-Existing Word. God-like, but subordinate to God, in John’s Gospel.

              Christianity, while being certainly syncretic, like all religions are, certainly does not primarily derive from Hellenistic mystery cults. All you have to do is to ask what the early mystery cults proposed about how to live the good life. Do you know what the followers of Mithras thought about the way to be? Of course you don’t. Contrast that with the myriad moral prescriptions of the early Christian movement. The two world-views are not remotely comparable.

              The early Christian movement, for a long time indistinguishable from their moralising Judaistic roots, emerged from the evolving Judaistic tradition; that the son of God nomenclature fortunately coincided with the Romans’ idea of, for instance, Julius Caesar, being a divus, a human son of God, they theologically and linguistically capitalized on.

              Slaínte.

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                Well, we really seem to be straying quite far afield, so I’ll be as brief as I can.

                When the early Christians were trying to convince the Pagans and the Jews, it was, most prominently, the two you cite who were equating Pagan demigods with Jesus who were doing the convincing.

                Your sophisticated Roman theology is irrelevant. Martyr unceremoniously (and inaccurately) lumped dozens of Pagan supernatural heroes under the rubric of, “Sons of Jupiter.” The point isn’t to translate some obscure theological concept in one religion with one in another; the point is that Jesus was born of a virgin because Perseus was, a point that Martyr (unwittingly) makes most emphatically.

                And, as your claim that Christianity is not Pagan in origin is utterly without merit. Every single “Son of Jupiter” Martyr cites is Pagan; the parallels he draws are incontrovertible; his prophetic demonic explanatory theory laughable; and there’s nothing left of Jesus once you take away all the Pagan elements. The same applies to Christian philosophy, for it is a wholesale ripoff of Philo’s, which, quite famously, was a transposition of Pagan philosophy into the Jewish framework.

                And that’s likely more than enough on this subject — at least, from me in this thread.

                Cheers,

                b&

  19. Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    “They’re not a matter of indifference to God. God cares about these little things, so it’s appropriate.”

    Great. Never mind the census FBI crime database.

  20. pancakesandwildhoney
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    In preface, I am not saying I agree with Craig. I just want that to be crystal clear.

    Now, I think Craig is operating under the belief that God is timeless. What that means is that everything, our entire lives, are presently known to God. We can’t have that in time. For instance, you don’t have your 2 year old self nor your 80 year old self at this moment. You only have the present, as we all do, even God. God’s present just happens to be everything. But God does not know the future qua future. God does not know things before they happen, but as they are happening in time, that is, some thing as it is present in time is at the same time as all of God’s eternity. Everything is now for God. So, I don’t think God knows what we are going to do because that is something like, as you point out, foreknowledge and would require God to be in time. I think everything is present for God. God doesn’t plan and God doesn’t remember. But God can connect with every instance of my life that is past and every instance that is future, that is, everything is present for God and he can interact with these instances always. So, we get a great deal of intimacy with God, if this is the case, which is a point I think Craig was trying to bring out, and, although God cannot change–God is a maximally great being, which, by necessity, means God’s nature cannot change–God can be responsive because God does what he does because of what I do or you do. And that does not require change across time. In other words, there is some possible world that I didn’t pray and I didn’t get what I didn’t pray for. In the actual world, I prayed and I got what I prayed for. So, all one needs for God to be responsive is change across possible worlds, which does not require God to change, because God does not the respond the same in all possible worlds.

    Now, just to express this change across possible worlds more perspicuously, I don’t think God’s nature is different in different possible worlds, but God responds to different things in different possible worlds. So, while God’s nature is unchanging, God’s responsiveness is different in different possible worlds, at least that is how I see it. And I think Craig may be trying to say something similar.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      You said a lot of things about God’s nature, and what I want to know is this: How do you KNOW any of that stuff?

      • pancakesandwildhoney
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I don’t in any definite way, of course lol. But I think reason is a pretty good guide and that modal logic is fairly trustworthy. Of course, I don’t know, without admitting of Moorian degrees of certainty, that I am not dreaming that I am writing this response now either lol.

        As for God’s nature, that is just what the logic dictates a necessary being’s nature be like.

        • Scientifik
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          “As for God’s nature, that is just what the logic dictates a necessary being’s nature be like.”

          Do you think it’s logical for God to influence the outcome of a sports game, and not save a child dying in agony in a hospital? Is that what logic dictates to God?

          • pancakesandwildhoney
            Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

            Hi Scientifik,

            What you are talking about is suffering, the suffering of a child, don’t forget that. And I don’t think the suffering of child should be brought up in such a trivial way, to score a rhetorical point on some comment thread. If you can’t show the appropriate amount of reverence for suffering, especially the suffering of a child, then I don’t think I anything left to say to you.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:40 am | Permalink

              Oooooohhh! Tone trolling if ever I saw it! You’ve just devoted a whole paragraph to pratting on about the suffering of a child in order to score a rhetorical point on some comment thread. Oops – isn’t that what you just accused Scientifik of? Well, well, well…

              • pancakesandwildhoney
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:08 am | Permalink

                Nothing substantial to contribute? Do you want to talk about the weather?

                Yes, my wanting us to not trivialize the suffering of children is tone trolling.

                The comment, in question, tried to relate some sporting event with the suffering of a child. Why? To score a rhetorical point. That is just inappropriate for something as serious and lamentable as children suffering.

                Furthermore, in what way was my comment about scoring a rhetorical point? And where did I trivialize children suffering?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:39 am | Permalink

                @pancakes

                You dodged answering Scientifik’s question. If your necessary god can influence a football game, why would logic lead him to he do nothing about suffering? The problem of theodicy, I think it’s called.

                As for scoring a rhetorical point, you said it. You used those very words. I’m buggered if I can see how your post was NOT about scoring a rhetorical point. And dodging Scientifik’s question with an exagerrated rant about suffering was entirely a rhetorical tactic. I don’t buy it.

              • pancakesandwildhoney
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:09 am | Permalink

                You don’t read much, do you? Dodged? I think I answered it down thread. (Whether you think it is a satisfactory answer is a different matter.) Where someone tried to treat the problem with the amount of reverence it deserves.

                Btw, a rhetorical question is not about producing an answer but an effect.

                The funny thing is I don’t care if you buy it. You are too concerned with confirming your own opinion than getting at truth. I know you’ll want the last word–you think it makes you the “winner” I’m sure–so take it.

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:08 am | Permalink

                Okay, pancakesandwild honey, you are getting obstreperous.

                Before you go further, you have to explain to us what you wrote on your website:

                Nevertheless, I think God is concrete in the sense that he is real, but not concrete in the sense that spatial extension does not apply to him. God is abstract in the sense that he exists in thought, but not abstract in the sense that he is real, that is, has existence. God does seem to be really similar to an abstract concept like love or beauty or infinity, but he does not seem to be an abstract concept in the sense that the properties of God have intrinsic maximums. God cannot be more beautiful; God cannot be more infinite (God is the highest possible number, so to speak, even though infinity is a concept, not a number, in mathematics.) and so on. Also, God being personal does not make him a Person. God is not a magnified human being, as many atheists like to think. God being personal is only intended, in my mind, to signify that God is at least personal, that whatever God may be beyond our conceiving, God is not less than personal, not a mere It, but always the higher and transcendent divine Thou. Which means I don’t think God being personal makes him concrete.

                How do you know that? You cannot say just that these are the characteristics of a “necessary being’ because other people could give other traits of necessary beings, and have. What you have done is in fact MADE UP the characteristic of a God that comport with the kind of God you like. Admit that there is not the slightest bit of evidence fo the paragraph you just wrote. It is just made-up stuff.

                I would claim, based on the evidence of what God allows to happen on earth, that a “necessary” god is either apathetic or, indeed, at times malicious.

            • Scientifik
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

              “If you can’t show the appropriate amount of reverence for suffering, especially the suffering of a child, then I don’t think I anything left to say to you.”

              It’s your imagined God, who fails to show the appropriate amount of reverence for the suffering of children, for he remains indifferent to their lot, yet cares about little things like the final score of a football game. Now, that is sick.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

                +1

            • gbjames
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

              “Reverence for suffering”?

              I’m sorry, but that’s some eff-ed up masochistic bull-pucky.

              One has empathy for the suffering. One does what one can to reduce or eliminate suffering.

              No decent person “reveres” suffering. That’s the domain of ethically crippled people like Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                ….or Mother Teresa!

              • gbjames
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

                “or”?
                ;)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

                Ha ha maybe XOR!

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          Logic doesn’t dictate anything in the world we live in, physics does.

          So it is another boring attempt at magicking. What else is “new”?

          • pancakesandwildhoney
            Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

            How does one do physics without logic? That surely would be magic.

            • Scientifik
              Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:25 am | Permalink

              That’s actually real science, which doesn’t care about what we think. Science reveals to us reality as it is. So for example, if the measurements of the structure of atom say to us that every material object, say steel, is 99,99% empty space, that’s how it is, although it may fly in the face of our perception or logic.

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          Your post is actually a perfect demonstration of the utter folly of philosophy.

          Philosophy is largely an effort in determining how the Universe must be, based upon a certain set of premises (for philosophers) or desires (for theologians). Which would be wonderful if the Universe actually worked that way.

          But it doesn’t.

          Once you give up on the childishness of philosophy and theology, you can get around to the serious business of observing the Universe as it actually is. And, when you do, you’ll soon discover that not only are you barking up the worng tree, what you’re doing isn’t even barking and that’s not a tree.

          Cheers,

          b&

          >

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            Ditto on your take on philosophy – at Colorado, their worthless work apparently gives them time to harass the few women in the field.

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

              I had no idea what you were referring to, so I did a bit of Googling. The Denver Post has the story:

              http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_25035043/cu-sexual-harassment-philosophy-department

              Most disgraceful, indeed.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

                Sorry Ben – should have given a link.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                No worries. Thanks to Google, those sorts of things aren’t hard to find out any more.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                What is it with philosophy departments? Their were rumours about my alma mater years ago as well.

              • Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

                I believe that this problem in the philosophy department is partially due to the nature of the discipline. It is generally based on argumentation, which naturally attracts more males than females :-) Also, supporting one’s position is often accompanied by disparaging any opposing position as well as anyone holding such a position. All of the few philosophers that I know fairly well are arrogant and self-centered, speaking down to everyone regardless of the topic at hand.

            • Diane G.
              Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

              Unfortunately, philosophy has no monopoly on that sort of institutional culture.

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                Very true, but the department here just got nailed for it – chairman removed, etc…..

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                “Very true, but…”

                Oh, yes, your observation was pertinent. And thanks to Ben for the link.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            Good points on what philosophy is based on (set of premises) and theology (inner “presumably holy” desires).

            I might add arts, based on beauty, which is much more interesting to behold.

            While actually the world is based on physics, chemistry, geology, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, complexity theories (naming parts of the all encompassing Science).

            That’s the crux of it.
            While some with accept reality as it is (and still felt awed, grateful and all those stuffs), others are not.
            A lot of people can not, will not, accept this truth, and they are free to do so.

            The biological imperative does not imply that all of us survivors need to be clever, true or intelligent, we just need to be able to procreate, generating genetic offsprings.

            Understanding of reality is a luxury for survival, it is not necessary (and literally it is still a luxury to most of human beings nowadays).

            howgh! :D

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

              Once again, I can’t agree that understanding and accepting reality for what it is is a luxury — quite the opposite.

              Especially if you’re impoverished, the only realistic chance you have to better your lot is by embracing reality and working to overcome the obstacles before you. Fleeing from reality such as by pretending that some loving all-father will one day come and rescue you is a sure path to destruction.

              Granted, you still might not have very good odds before you of escaping poverty even by embracing reality. But slim odds are better than none.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

                When I say literally luxury, I am not talking about voluntary avoidance of education. When it is not practically available.

                It is appaling to acknowledge that even nowadays, there are millions of children who have no chance at Reality (read – normal scientific education). Not valid education (improper religious madrassah), poverty, ignorant parents and backward / primitive societies.

                And when these kids grow up, they are at major disadvantages of making proper rational choices (more likely to be despots rather than statesmen).

                Definitely I fully agree (like buddha said ..) that ignorance is bad. Only that not all humans have equal chances.

                Also the muslims teach that niyat or intention is important, whether you do something by full intention, or you just forget, or you have no choice (murder one, murder two, manslaughter or wrongful negligence). I am talking about the latter.

                cheers.

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

                I think I understand what you’re trying to get at, but I don’t think, “luxury,” is the word you’re looking for — unless you’re using it in the same ironic way one might when referring to potable water and sanitation in the aftermath of disaster.

                b&

              • Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

                Luxury as something that might be good to have but non-essential to daily life.

                Not in the sense of potable water after disaster, more like latest gadget iPhone compared to cheap old feature-less mobile.

                And I am talking for common people mentality (non-academic ones).

                cheers.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

                Then I’m afraid we don’t agree.

                If you have faith that it’s safe to cross the river because Jesus won’t let the crocodiles eat you, you’re not going to survive long. If, instead, you don’t cross the river until you have empirical evidence that you’re not going to get eaten by a crocodile, you’ll probably live long enough to have children and to teach them how to cross the river safely.

                The same extends to where to get your drinking water, where to dig the latrines, how to cook your food, how to procure your food, and on and on and on and on.

                It might not be very sophisticated science, but it’s still science.

                Cheers,

                b&

          • pancakesandwildhoney
            Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

            So, philosophy is useless, then you proceed to do philosophy?

            • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

              I could only be said to be “doing” philosophy here in the same sense that theologians claim that all science is really theology because it’s all to the greater glory of some god of some sort.

              Unlike philosophy, my argument is all based on objective observation. Though informally presented, it is a scientific, not a philosophical, argument.

              Cheers,

              b&

      • Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        I know therefore I am a Sophisticated Theologian TM .. not common garden variety layman, or god forbid gnu-atheist heathen!
        :D

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      So, in your view, how does god decide which possible world to make into the actual one? Why is a logically possible world where someone dies of cancer, better than the nearby logically possible world where they recover? And surely there is a logically possible world where cancer (and natural evils such as earthquakes) doesn’t exist at all. So why didn’t God choose to instantiate a better actual world?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Ah. How are we to judge what’s best? God is all-knowing. We can’t possibly know all the information that He does. Are you trying to second-guess God?

        (Standard religious answer. Add more verbiage to taste…).

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          You could argue that god chooses the set of deterministic causal chains that results in the best possible universe and only he knows what they are. But accepting that god is constrained by cause and effect would be to deny the possibility of miracles. In the light of the miraculous, God is constrained by his omnipotence and omni-benevolence into creating the best *logically* possible universe. So arguments such as that the suffering of one person leads to a better overall result don’t really work, since an omnipotent god isn’t constrained to accept the result of anything.

          • Posted February 1, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            All of your hypotheses presumes some sort of mechanism by which this god of yours is picking and choosing universes to create, prune out of existence, manipulate, whatever.

            But, the thing is, unless you wish to posit some logical equivalent of a paranoid Matrix-style simulation conspiracy theory, we know all the ways that human-scale events could be influenced — and none of them permit divine intervention. That was the real breakthrough significance of the LHC team’s discovery of the Higgs Boson; it marked the completion of the Standard Model.

            Granted, we know that the Standard Model is incomplete; it does not, for example, explain quantum gravity. However, the Standard Model does encompass all human-scale phenomena and quite a bit more, in the same way that Newtonian Mechanics does. And, just as Quantum and Relativistic Mechanics reduce to Newtonian Mechanics at human scales, so, too, must any more-encompassing physics reduce to Quantum and Relativistic Mechanics and the Standard Model. Combine those restrictions with the dilution of post-Big-Bang Inflation, and the hypothetical influence of even a super-space-alien deistic god over human affairs is precisely diddly-squat.

            Or, in other words, while the philosophers and theologians have been busy arguing over whose imaginary friend can beat up whose imaginary enemy, scientists have been busy figuring out what the real world is like. And, surprise! The juvenile fantasies of the theologians and the philosophers don’t even bear the slightest resemblance to real reality.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

              Which god of mine? I’m an atheist. Another misunderstanding.

              Anyway, to put it more simply, the only way that theists can explain that a good god allows evil is that individual evil events (such as some animal dieing in pain) lead to a greater good in the long run. But that argument doesn’t work if god can do miracles that break the causal chains.

              Also you don’t need to explain the physics 101 bits in every post and I suspect that most people who regularly subscribe to a site called “Why Evolution Is True” don’t need to be convinced that science is somewhat useful.

      • pancakesandwildhoney
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        Good question, roqoco!

        I don’t know if there is a best possible world. It seems kind of incoherent to me, like the highest possible number. For any world that can be imagined with such and such happiness, goodness, virtue, and so on, a higher one can be imagined. I think that Divine excellences admit of upper limits or maxima that are not quantifiable in a serial fashion (for example, Divine omnipotence involves being able to do anything logically or metaphysically possible, but does not require actually doing the greatest number of acts or a series of acts of which there can be no more.)

        More to the point though, I think God would have good reasons for creating humans with significant moral freedom. If so, then it is hard to see how we can dismiss this same freedom as the cause of the moral evil that abounds in the world. Clearly, we live in a universe that exhibits order, an order expressed in the laws of nature described by the appropriate science. Moral freedom could not exist apart from such an orderly environment. If the world were totally unpredictable, if we could never know from one moment to the next, what to expect from nature, both science and meaningful moral conduct would be impossible. But if nature sets the stage for moral good, it does the same for moral evil. One reason people can be held accountable when they pull the trigger of a loaded gun is the predictability of what will follow that action. In other words, without the regularity in physical phenomena there could be no probability to guide us: no prediction, no prudence, no accumulation of ordered experience, no pursuit of premeditated ends, no formation of habit, no possibility of character or of culture. Our intellectual faculties could not have developed, and without rationality, morality is impossible.

        Just as a regular natural order is a necessary condition for moral good and moral evil, it also must function in any account of natural evil, evil that does not result from human action. The same water that sustains and refreshes can also drown; the same drug which relieves suffering can cause crippling psychological addiction; the same sun which gives light and life can parch fields and bring famine. Many complaints about the occurrence of specific natural evils such as floods, earthquakes and the like, does seem to be expressions of a desire that–at least in some specific instance–the natural order of things be suspended or different somehow. If it makes sense to believe that God created the universe with the kind of regularity and order that makes the formulation of laws of science possible, if it makes sense to think that this kind of orderly universe would be better overall than a chaotic and unpredictable universe, we might wish to think twice before cursing some particular outcome of that order. However, nothing I have said implies we must regard the present world as the best possible world. The point is simply that unless there is some natural order, important goods like moral freedom cannot exist. And there seems to be good reason to believe that without a world order like our present one, we could not have the good things so familiar to us. No matter what the laws of nature might have been, there would have been unpleasant side effects so long as they operated as laws.

        Moreover, in so far as one cannot rule out the possibility of an afterlife morally tied to our life, one cannot rule out the possibility that God brings some good out of cosmic ills. That is, suffering could be redeemed in some way. But I think we should not take our failure to see what reason God might have for allowing evil to count as grounds for thinking that there is no reason.

        Apologies for the length.

        • Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:39 am | Permalink

          You haven’t really thought this out to it’s logical conclusions. We don’t need to resort to human cruelty in order to see suffering in the world, since nature is itself extremely cruel: Imagine, for instance, the helpless struggles of a wildebeest caught by a pride of lions. It certainly shouldn’t be beyond the power of an omnipotent god who is also a nice guy to choose a possible world that doesn’t involve ruthless predators eating other animals that feel pain – and animals don’t even get to go to heaven. And as I said earlier, religions hold that god is capable of miracles and since he is also omnipotent that is an unrestricted licence to choose the best world (think minimise suffering!) he is capable of making – that is hardly going to be one with lots of starving lions wandering around.

          Because there isn’t any evidence for god, as a theist, you are compelled to use some version of the argument from design, along the lines of: “The universe appears to be designed in a good way, ergo god”. But, the problem is when you go and look at the universe it doesn’t appear to be designed by a powerful, loving god at all. The problem of natural evil exemplifies that.

        • Vaal
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          pancakesandwildhoney,

          When you can’t account for specifics, retreat to generalities. That is the common theist mode you have chosen in the above analysis.

          There is a MASSIVE gap between the general idea that “the universe would require some order for moral beings to operate” to “therefore, so long as this universe shows some order, who are we to complain and conclude some things could have been better?”

          That is precisely the gap you need to explain and it’s the one you left unaddressed.

          It’s using a generality like “Sometimes, children require some discipline.” Sure…true enough. But there is a massive gap between appealing to that principle to justify having a child put his ipad away for a day if he neglects his homework vs chaining that child to a hot pipe and torturing him with fire for the same “offense.” No decent person would consider the latter justified simply because it has been placed under the banner of “a child who required discipline.”

          Likewise, sure, the world may require some level or orderliness for us to proceed rationally within it. But does THAT general truth cover for the astounding levels of misery caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, predation, disease, etc? When someone is infected with rabies or Ebola, is the answer “well, of course that makes sense…the world needs orderliness and this is the result of an All Good God’s attempt to order the world.”

          Seriously? A world based on shifting tectonic plates that routinely crash together causing untold numbers of deaths, unstable weather systems, a world utterly suffuse with horrendous disease…we are to infer THAT looks like the best an All Loving, All Powerful God could do? I don’t even know what “Loving” or “All Powerful” would even MEAN in this context.

          There is one hell of lot of work to do, to warrant that leap and I see no such explanation from you (or anyone else) for it.

          Vaal

    • Sastra
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think Craig is trying to say something similar because Craig says that “God chooses which world to actualize … he already knows the future” and you said “God does not know the future qua future. He does not know things before they happen.” That’s a contradiction.

      Your explanation sounds like reality being like a book which has been completely written, with God as BOTH the author who knows all that can happen AND the reader who finds out what actually happens as he reads along.

      I don’t see that this works.

      As for “how you know” this stuff — my guess is that you’re clearly either sitting around figuring out analogies which have the fewest conceptual problems — or you’re working from other people who tried to do the same thing. I really hope you’re not hearing voices from God.

      • pancakesandwildhoney
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:15 am | Permalink

        Hi Sastra,

        Yes, God knows the future, but not qua future. That means, as I said above, “God does not know things before they happen, but as they are happening in time, that is, some thing as it is present in time is at the same time as all of God’s eternity. Everything is now for God. So, I don’t think God knows what we are going to do because that is something like, as you point out, foreknowledge and would require God to be in time. I think everything is present for God. God doesn’t plan and God doesn’t remember.”

        Yes, Sastra, that is kind of it. You are still putting God in time, though. She knows your future and your past, but she does not know those things as past or future. She only knows things as the present, which means, things that are present in time are at the same time as all of God’s eternity. It is not that God finds out what actually happens as you live your life, but that God does not know your past as your past or your future as your future. Everything is present for God. She knows your whole life, but she knows all of it as present, so there is no way for her, as she is outside of time, to distinguish between past events and future events. Am I getting a little clearer?

        I don’t hear voices from God, but I do study philosophy and math at university.

        • Sastra
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Everything is present for God. She knows your whole life, but she knows all of it as present, so there is no way for her, as she is outside of time, to distinguish between past events and future events. Am I getting a little clearer?

          Not really.

          Let’s continue with the book analogy. From our perspective, we are the main character who proceeds through the events in the story within the time-arrow of before and after: a beginning, then a middle, and then the end. Ok.

          But from God’s point of view, it knows the entire book only AS an entire book. Beginning, middle, and end are an undifferentiated blur and it exists only in terms of the ‘now.’ But the book’s plot is very well understood in that framework. Somehow.

          Furthermore, our story would now seem to have to be indistinguishable from the stories of other people. Humanity — heck, reality itself is an undifferentiated blur. But the focus is clear and sharp if you simply consider the entire thing at once. Assuming, of course, that I understand the analogy correctly.

          First, I have conceptual problems with this. If God isn’t going to be completely inert (a “timeless truth” like 1 + 1 = 2) then it has to be visualized as being in some second order or system of time in order to either ‘set up’ or ‘engage with’ the system. This confusing situation doesn’t really take God out of time qua time.

          Second, I still don’t see how God knowing at this moment of ‘now’ that I will die (do die) in a freak flower-arranging accident means that God doesn’t know the future qua future (the future acting in the character of the future, as opposed to the future in the capacity as …what, exactly?)

          How can one know a plot without distinguishing beginning from middle from end? To the extent that MY present is included in God’s present then my future is also included in God’s present. It knows the future of me. It knows the future in the same way that I know Tom Sawyer’s future, should Tom become aware of the reader at any point. If I am ALSO (in some obscure way) the author, then I knew Tom’s future before I wrote the story. But there can be no time “before” I wrote the story if I’m sitting motionless within a timeless zone without cause and effect. The story and I co-exist and always have.

          It just seems to get muddier the more I think about it.

    • Scientifik
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      “In other words, there is some possible world that I didn’t pray and I didn’t get what I didn’t pray for. In the actual world, I prayed and I got what I prayed for.”

      In the actual world you prayed, and got what would have happened anyway.

      • pancakesandwildhoney
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:16 am | Permalink

        You’re very clever.

        • Scientifik
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:38 am | Permalink

          Just telling like it is.

  21. Sastra
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I would say when God chooses which world to actualize, he takes into account the prayers that would be offered in that world. We shouldn’t think prayer is about changing the mind of God. He’s omniscient; he already knows the future, but prayer makes a difference in that it can affect what world God has chosen to create.

    The way to visualize this scenario (and make it consistent with free will) is as follows.

    Let’s imagine that a magic genii is going to grant you a wish and it involves your capacity to make a choice. You are going to have a child, a son. This is a given. But there are two different options. You can either choose: 1.) a son who will freely choose to ask you for a birthday present when he is 15 and thank you for it or 2.) a different son who will freely choose to NOT ask you for the present but will instead steal it from the store when he is 15.

    So you choose the first scenario because it is the best one.

    This is presumably something like what God does. He knows in advance that the first world is better than the second one, and therefore chooses to create a free-willed being who will choose to do the right thing. Neither child is a robot who MUST choose one way because they are different children who DO choose the way they do. The inevitability comes from the fact that only one child ends up existing.

    One of big problems with this (yes, yes, one of many) is that these worlds are two different worlds and there is bound to be collateral damage in choosing the first one over the other. Everything is connected — and there is this thing called the Butterfly Effect, where simple changes can lead to huge differences down the road. Many of the lovely things which would have happened in scenario #2 are simply not possible given the fact that that world was never instantiated. And there are going to be inescapable bad consequences in the first world which would have been avoided if you had just picked the son who was going to misbehave on his 15th birthday.

    But — it is apparently worth it because the scenario #1 was a GOOD son and scenario #2 was a BAD son. That was what motivated the choice — what each one would choose to do. Their choices made a difference to what was selected because it involved WHO was selected. In God’s world, that will eventually cash out into more saved than damned: the best possible world.

    But look. The “explanation for how and why prayer works” has now inevitably turned into a theodicy — an explanation for why bad things happen. And we’re stuck with the problem of collateral damage because of the billions and billions of prayer scenarios and saved vs. damned scenarios and ‘bad things happening to good people’ scenarios.

    Like most things in theology, simple ideas are being applied to very, very complicated situations. Craig’s reasoning fits in with the genii hypothetical — and only kinda sort “works” if you don’t think any further. It’s tunnel vision in a truncated imagination which focuses in on as few elements as possible.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      “…and therefore chooses to create a free-willed being who will choose to do the right thing.”

      But how does that work? Seems to me that’s the contradiction. We can say god created us with free will all day long, but if god knows what we’ll do, ie, what we do is foreordained, then there ain’t no free will involved. As Ray up at 13 wrote, an omniscient god who created and placed every thing has also planned every event.

      The only way out of this I see is to replace the omni/interventionist god with a deist god, and WLC is certainly not a deist.

      Another problem is that the traditional reason for god giving us free will is that it’s a method for testing us: will we choose the right? But again this makes no sense if one posits an omniscient god. Why run the experiment if you already have the results?

      I think it’s just a big contradictory mess and, really, the theist’s only way to deal with it is given in the Austin Powers clip above: don’t think about it.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        We can say god created us with free will all day long, but if god knows what we’ll do, ie, what we do is foreordained, then there ain’t no free will involved.

        One way the apologists try to get out of this is by claiming that God being “timeless” and “outside of time” makes the time arrow meaningless. If knowing what someone freely chose AFTER the fact wouldn’t negate the possibility of ‘free will,’ then knowing what someone will choose BEFORE the fact doesn’t negate it either. The “timeless” perspective makes the whole before-during-after distinction meaningless.

        I know. I hate these timey-wimey arguments, too.

        • Posted February 1, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          “Timey-wimey” is a good, flippant characterization of that argument because it seems to me it’s irrelevant.

          The fact (for argument’s sake) that god knows everything we’ll ever do is just a symptom of the fact (see above) that god put all the balls in motion, set all their angles, and therefore planned the path everything would take. If an omnipotent god can foresee the outcome of the interactions of his creations, then the outcomes we actually experience must be what he intended, ie, planned.

          I don’t think the arrow of time enters into it.

  22. Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Jerry wrote: “And most importantly, how does Craig know this stuff? ”

    I think I’ve found the perfect analogy. Any Big Bang Theory fans here?

    WLC is doing exactly the same thing as the women in the clip. He’s started with a made up world similar to the ones created for comic books. He believes this world is the true one. Thus, he is obligated to work within the rules created for that world and attempts to reason through any oddities. Of course, the central problem is the world-building. It’s faulty. If the basis for the world is faulty, the conclusions you make cannot make sense. Or, in WLC’s case, you simply make crap up so that it does make sense within the confines of that world.

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    God: “Yes I can hear you. I’M JUST IGNORING YOU. Now go away or I shall ignore you again.”

  24. Moarscienceplz
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Here’s how I interpret WLC’s claims:
    Everyone should pray as much as possible about anything, because the more you pray, the more likely you are to keep you butts in the pews and your bucks in the plates.

  25. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny to see how Craig doesn’t know why he is magicking. The outcome is not affected (as we know from prayer studies) but the outcome is affected (in Craig’s mind chosen).

    The only outcome that is consistent is that Craig is blabbing and Craig is blabbing.

    so long as they understand, as I say, that the person on the other team is also praying, and that some of these prayers will go unanswered in the providence of God.

    Since Craig has opted for any kind of universe, that isn’t what is going to happen. Everyone will get their wishes in some universe or other, as long as they can be chosen.

    Since Craig know nothing of the nature of his magic agent, there will be worlds where Craig isn’t religious. In fact, there will be worlds where no one is religious.

    Because Craig has blabbed it so. “In the beginning, and in Craig’s end, there was the Word…”

  26. kelskye
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how WLC knows any of this. I’m not sure what the difference is between him having some sort of divine insight and making stuff up.

    • kelskye
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      “Craig, however, has repeatedly proved himself incapable of being embarrassed.”
      Is sincerity the first step to legitimacy?

  27. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I smell the odor of horseshit that wafts off WLC statements like

    We shouldn’t think prayer is about changing the mind of God. He’s omniscient; he already knows the future, but prayer makes a difference in that it can affect what world God has chosen to create.

    I’m reminded of Katnip (for example, at 3:14): “Hmmm … That sounds logical!”

  28. gregfromcos
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    But this misses an equally large point.

    If the prayers of petitioners matter, shouldn’t the most godly states end up in the super bowl every time, rather than what we have.

    Especially this year with 2 teams coming from states that have legalized weed and allow if not same sex marriage, same sex unions.

  29. Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    In the end it is all boiled down to the facts that we are now (21st century) at the crossroad of understanding of reality.

    In the past (from beginning of mankind to about 100 years ago), knowledge of reality is so scarce and incomplete. On the other hand our brains demand complete explanations. Our minds already use the same trick of completing what our senses incompletely provide with additional guesses (like in our human vision).

    For millenia human makes these guesses, into theology, and religions for the masses.

    Those times, these are the best answers available to the incomplete pictures. Humans uses these religions to build societies (xtianity built roman empire, islam built empires etc), they need these religions to be political economical societal doctrines.

    They did and do great and evil things with and without religions because they just do.

    Now, 21st century, we are the first generations to start to have a glimpse of the Real Reality. We now know vast amount of information about nature, so that natural gods (gods of wind, thunder, cloud and farts) are no longer viable. Gods of animals is out. Only the god of the minds still persist for maybe few more decades (for mainstream xtian) or at most centuries (maybe for islam, the klingon effects).

    We are in the crossroad, no time in history we as human understand so much about so many things (and only in the last decade or so we have googles and wikis to empower us – any of us – to harness these knowledge).

    We might become smug (kelvin effects), condescending to the uninitiates (especially to those who so stubbornly clinging to their old foolshness ..). Or maybe we should not.

    We know a lot, we now have more knowledge than the gods (than the prophets, jesus or mo), but all of those are luxuries, our biological bodies can thrive without them, and our own code of conduct (human rights) guarantee that each of us can be whatever we personally choose.

    We are now in the crossroads, what a happy place to be!

    Imagine centuries from now, most of our current perplexing questions about Reality (god of gabs? black holes? dark matter? molecules of life?) are already primary school topics, how boring that will be? (the right to be irrational may be the only escape!)

    cheers! fellow travellers in knowledge ..

  30. tubby
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    It sounds a bit like WLC thinks God selects and then creates the future based on how much prayer he’s going to receive in that particular future. Which makes me wonder if he also thinks this world that was deliberately guided to be as it now is that ideally prayer-filled world.

    • Posted February 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Exactly — Jesus models the future universe on present prayer, but the present universe with its prayers was itself predicated by…something outside of Jesus’s control?

      Dude couldn’t think his way out of a wet paper bag in the middle of an hailstorm.

      b&

    • Sastra
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Technically speaking, God doesn’t give a hoot for how happy people are in the world. The only important outcome is the number of saved souls. If God answers your prayers with a ‘yes,’ then that was done to secure your commitment to God. If God says “no” or “answer unclear, try again” then THAT was done to secure your commitment to God. It better have worked or you might find yourself among the scrap-heap of plot devices, damned so that someone else will note this and therefore find God.

      The system is fail-proof because it’s completely circular.

      Absolutely anything and everything which DOES happen is what HAD to happen in order to allow people to choose God. It always works because only people can fail. In theory, a Christian should be able to look at a thermo-nuclear war with 99.999% casualties and consider it the ideal world. That is what it took to strengthen her conviction that God is always there and allows what needs to be allowed.

      ALL prayers are answered because all prayers exhibit faith — which is the goal. Not life; not happiness; not making sense. Believing in God’s love no matter what.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

        Anything that happens, happens.

        Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.

        Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.

        It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.

        - Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless.

        Makes at least as much sense as WLC and is much more fun to read.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

        The system is fail-proof because it’s completely circular.

        Yep. That’s the WLC answer to how prayer works – or how anything works. Note that is really his approach to ethics too. God is good, anything that God says is good.

        “But surely,” we object, “if a king orders his subject to kill his child without cause, the king is an evil megalomaniac.”

        “That’s right,” WLC responds.

        “Ah ha!” we declare with finality, “then God is an evil megalomaniac.”

        “Of course not,” WLC scolds, “Good is 100% Good.”

        “But, but…” we splutter, “you just agreed that he is acting like an evil megalomaniac.”

        “Silly you,” WLC confidently responds, “He’s acting like God – because he is God. And what God does is good.”

      • tubby
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        It’s horribly grotesque in how that kind of view makes suffering into a desirable outcome. Being ‘saved’ might not even matter because they only thing that does is how much prayer God can harvest from that future. Souls can simply be selected based on how much their prayer will please God in the future rather than the ‘traditional’ bar for saving. Happiness and well-being might be counter productive if war and disease will result in more prayers being offered.

      • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        What you’ve just describe is the omnimax ultimate mindfuck, from which a mind can not possibly get more twisted in knots.

        Quite the terrifying picture, especially because of its accuracy of portrayal.

        b&

  31. Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    This is the guy who said he would still be a Christian even if if witnessed the Resurrection not happen. Not making sense is what WLC does.

  32. Loudguitr
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe that anyone takes this guy seriously. He is an idiot. God hearing sports prayers? What freaking century are we in?

  33. pancakesandwildhoney
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Jerry, it’s your blog, but I think stifling dissent is not the way forward. This comment thread is not about what I wrote on my blog. I see, in fact, that you have deleted one of my comments and the rest are in moderation, nice. Freethinkers? About as free as Soviet Russia.

    Anyway, for your pleasure. Here:

    The abstract-concrete distinction fails with God. I mean, much of what we say about God presents God as an abstract-philosophical idea. God is Being-itself, not a being. What does the Ground of Being look like? I don’t know. I don’t have all of the answers, Jerry. You do apparently, though. I am just using reason, logic, philosophical evaluation, and empirical data about reality to try and arrive at a semi-accurate portrait of God if God exists. Does God exist? Maybe, I think it is more probable than its alternative, but I don’t know. But really I was just speculating about what category God would fit in based on what the logic appears to dictate to us about a necessary being, Jerry. I wasn’t peddling my speculations as fact, as you do so often on this blog. I know how little how know. In fact, since Gettier, maybe none of us know anything.

    • Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      The rules of this site are that if you come on professing religion, I ask that you give evidence for your beliefs BEFORE you proceed further. You didn’t do that so I didn’t put up your posts.

      As for your rude and snarky remarks about Soviet Russia and stifling dissent, that violates another rule. I allowed you to post, and it reached a point where I asked for evidence. You continued to try to post without answering it. And I did not delete any of your comments.

      Now, for your rudeness, you will apologize for your Soviet Russia crack or you’re out of here. And you will be polite to the other readers as well. Get it?

    • Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Why does there need to be a necessary “being”? Sure, some underlying structure is probably necessary in order for there to be anything at all, but there is no way you can get from there to specific beliefs in some kind of super person. The theistic intuition that complexity requires a complex cause is just wrong, complexity arises naturally in deterministic systems with the simplest rule sets. That’s the insight you are probably missing.

      • Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Your own post actually contradicts itself.

        To wit:

        some underlying structure is probably necessary in order for there to be anything at all

        contrasted with:

        complexity arises naturally

        Everywhere we look in nature, from the smallest scales to the largest, from the simplest to the most complex, complexity arises from simplicity. Complex organisms evolve from simpler ones, heavy elements are created in metal-poor supernovae, virtual particles spontaneously form from the quantum vacuum, and so on.

        Insisting that there must be some sort of complex underlying structure to explain the simplicity which arises from it is the exact same error that theists make when they insist that only an intelligent superpower could possibly be responsible for Life, the Universe, and Everything.

        Besides, it’s once again turtles all the way down. What supports the underlying structure? If such things are necessary, then they themselves must be similarly supported by even more fundamental structures.

        That’s not the way the Universe works, and we’ve known as much for a looooooong time, now. It’s just that the philosophers and the theologians aren’t reading the memos.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          Really, you make me wonder about your reading comprehension, you appear to have misread/ misunderstood/not read all my posts in this topic that you reply to. The whole point I was making in that last post is that complexity arises from simplicity – Something, you then go and repeat at much greater length, without adding anything at all!? And where did I say that there is some kind of *complex* underlying structure – the whole point is that the universe we live in doesn’t seem to require any such thing. Don’t assume you know what people are talking about – read their posts.

          • Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            When I find that people reliably misunderstood me, I personally tend to consider that it is my clarity of presentation at fault rather than their reading comprehension skills. Even when said skills are clearly deficient; that’s all the more reason to be even more clear.

            In the post I replied to, you quite clearly indicated both that complexity arises from simplicity, and you indicated that there is an underlying structure supporting the simplicity. However, the fact that complexity arises from simplicity is evidenced by the spontaneous generation of structure, not by the use of a pre-existing structure as scaffolding. (Of course, once such structures exist, they are generally employed to support further structures; the complexity of life is supported by the simpler complexity of organic chemistry which is supported by the simpler complexity of atomic theory which is supported by the simpler complexity of quantum mechanics and so on.)

            Either you misunderstand what’s happening or you’ve failed to communicate your true understanding to me.

            Cheers,

            b&

          • Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

            If it was someone else, I might consider that my clarity was at fault. But, since by your own admission (repeated ad nauseam over many threads (yawn)) you consider *all* philosophy to be nonsense, it isn’t entirely surprising that you might struggle with philosophical concepts and arguments, as evidenced by your earlier misunderstanding of the word “necessary”.

            You said earlier in this thread: “That there is substance and structure to the universe is trivially demonstrated true with the simplest of empirical observations.” Yes, although I’m not sure about the trivial demonstration part, and that’s all I too am claiming to be likely. But, I’m not as certain as you appear to be about concepts that are not yet understood scientifically; it’s very important to differentiate between theories such as relativity, TOE, quantum mechanics (but not quantum reality), about which we have a high degree of certainty and hypotheses on the cutting edge of physics, which are by no means settled.

            • Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              it isnt entirely surprising that you might struggle with philosophical concepts and arguments, as evidenced by your earlier misunderstanding of the word necessary.

              I’m not “struggling” with philosophical bullshit; I’m dismissing it. Philosophical “necessity” is as invented a necessity for existence as salvation is a theologically necessary answer to sin. In both cases, there’s no “there” there. Again, identify the particle / force that carries necessity or the field equation that describes contingency and I’ll gladly retract my dismissal.

              You said earlier in this thread: That there is substance and structure to the universe is trivially demonstrated true with the simplest of empirical observations. Yes, although Im not sure about the trivial demonstration part

              Clap your hands together; there’s your demonstration of substance. Were your hands insubstantial, they would pass through each other unimpeded. Now, feel the bones in your hand and how they provide your hands structure and support. Compare the bones in your hand with the bones in your feet, and with the bones in the hands and feet of other humans as well as other animals.

              If you don’t consider such a demonstration “trivial,” there’s no point in further discussion. And that you were unable to think of a demonstration so trivial strongly suggests that there may well be no point regardless.

              Lastly, I’ll note that you’re the one insisting on unevidenced philosophical foundations outside the boundaries of modern physics; I’m simply noting that there’s not only no evidence to support anything remotely like what you’re insisting must be there, but that it would run contrary to the repeated patterns we’ve already observed at every other scale and throughout the history of science.

              I know you’re wedded to the vital importance of philosophy, every bit as much as Christians are wedded to the vital importance of theology. The only problem is that both fields are equally disconnected from reality…but that, when one assumes the foundational tenets of either field, considering evidence other than in the light of those tenets tends to be extremely difficult, indeed.

              Stop assuming that philosophy is and must be right. Seek empirical evidence to support philosophical claims. When no such evidence presents itself, ditch the philosophy.

              That’s how science is done, after all.

              Cheers,

              b&

            • Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

              So now we are at the straw man stage – a standard development of your argumentation method judging by past performance. And no I don’t hold any of the straw positions you ascribe (as usual). If you started off your response to posts with a little humility rather than your usual bullying “Stuff and nonsense” type thing, you might find that discussions proceeded on a more equitable basis and didn’t end up going down the pan.

        • Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          As a third party reader, I can see clearly Ben is missing roqoco’s point here.

          Actually I think Ben agree with roqoco’s premise that complexity does not require complex being to begin with. Of course personal crankiness is another issue.. :D

          I might add that complexity is the crux for a lot of current issues with religions, with compato-free-will issues, mind theories, black holes, genomic protein expressions, plus the old classical weather of course.

          Like the murmuration of starlings, a lot of simple-things in swarm will exhibit new characteristics / expressions that is not exist within the individual atomic members.

          These expressions are the “creative force” that seemed to emanate from the complex system, the invisible-hands of economics, the mob-minds, the eugenics of ants .. and the minds-inside-brains.

          We still need a comprehensive theory here, which I personally sure will be coming within the next decade or so. For readings search “Santa Fe Institute” (sorry can’t embed).

          Cheers.

          • Scientifik
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:59 am | Permalink

            The problem is that roqoco has no point (no physical law, no equation, no nothing). Philosophy is useless in expanding our understanding of the physical structure of the universe.

            • Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:51 am | Permalink

              So chaos theory and it’s application to deterministic systems (and cellular automata theory) isn’t scientific enough for you right? Funny, cos I remember studying that in physics class. And yes it does: “expand our understanding of the physical structure of the universe” FWIW. Philosophy, though, is more about expanding the understanding of our brains, something that you and BG would most certainly benefit from, with the neanderthal understanding of what science consists of that pervades the comments in this thread. You don’t need to be a creationist to hold demonstrably crazy notions, it seems.

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:52 am | Permalink

                Every theory, law, etc that is supported by observation and evidence is scientific.

                Creationist and philosophical musings are not.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:04 am | Permalink

                Science is the only thing that is “scientific”, by definition. Really your points are extremely muddled and your narrow view of what constitutes knowledge is equally as ridiculous as creationism. Do you really imagine that the only way to gain knowledge is to don a white coat and go an look at bubbling test tubes?

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:28 am | Permalink

                Wrong. My points are very clear, what’s more, I am honest enough to not make any claims without supportive evidence. It is you who constantly muddles things and make claims without evidence.

                Whether you like it or not, science is our candle in the dark, and our only way to KNOW things.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 5:20 am | Permalink

                So how is the claim I am making in this subthread without supportive evidence? What is philosophical about it? As I pointed out chaos theory is a part of science and is well supported by evidence: so the idea that complexity can arise from simple rules is now a well established principle of science.

                The fact is that like BG, you’ve just made up a straw man position, which has no connection to what I wrote. And where is it exactly that I am questioning the efficacy of science?

                And no, science is not the only way you can “know” something. For instance I know what the french word “merde” means and how it relates to your arguments in this thread. No science needed.

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 3, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

                I already responded to you that every theory that is supported by evidence is science.

                As for your merde language argument, google linguistics.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

                So chaos theory and its application to deterministic systems (and cellular automata theory) isnt scientific enough for you right?

                It’s plenty scientific.

                It’s just that it’s a strawman, because it’s not philosophical.

                You are aware that we have empirical evidence of the utility of chaos theory, right? And that it played at least some sort of a role in the weather forecast you’ve likely already checked today?

                Indeed, that’s the only reason that the general public is familiar with chaos theory: because, as usual, it works, bitches.

                Of course, if you’re the type of philosopher who thinks that all thought is done for the greater glory of Jesus, then of course you’d think that science is really philosophy.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

                And who exactly was denying that science is the best away of arriving at theories from empirical data? That’s what science is for. The fact is that you are not arguing here against any claim that I made – you have just made up some imaginary nonsense that you imagine to be my position. And if you are going to reply to posts, read them first, the post you replied to had nothing to do with philosophy anyway.

            • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:51 am | Permalink

              You are right that the behaviour of large scale objects, such as people, can not be described in terms of the particle interactions of fundamental physics, but that doesn’t imply that our actions aren’t in principle reducible to particle interactions. You can get a good insight into this idea by playing around with cellular automata, such as Conway’s life (for which you can easily find the software on the net). Also Stephen Weinberg has some good discussions of reductionism in his book of essays: “Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries”. In any case there is no need to introduce any kind of mysticism into the explanation – complexity arises naturally from the laws of physics, just as it does in a computer simulation of a deterministic system, such as Life.

              • Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:53 am | Permalink

                OOPS wrong section: Intended as a reply to Pranata’s post above… Grr.

              • Scientifik
                Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:53 am | Permalink

                Why are you changing the subject?

  34. Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m a little late to the game here but I a had quite the interesting experience over Super Bowl weekend. I was in Colorado for the baptism of my niece at a Catholic Church.

    As has been discussed ad nauseum when Craig, Haught and others trot out this Ground of Being argument, it simply doesn’t play out in the real world. Having grown up drenched in Catholicism, it didn’t come as a complete surprise, but I was still rather bewildered when I saw a priest pull out blue and orange rosary beads in a show of support for the Broncos. It seemed to be partially in jest, because someone pointed out those “aren’t liturgically correct colors,” but there was certainly belief on some level that this would have an effect.

    This display was followed up by a blessing in honor of the Feast of Saint Blaze, the Patron Saint of Throats. He apparently saved someone from choking in the 4th century. Curious, I went forward to receive this blessing and I had two candles placed across my shoulders in the shape of a cross while the priest muttered some magical words something along the lines of “expecto petronum” to protect me from illnesses of the throat.

    Naturally, I sat next to a guy with a sinus infection on my flight back and since have come down with a nasty cold – featuring a sore throat. By my count, that makes the Ground of Being 0 for 2 this week, not so impressive for an omnipotent entity.


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