Monday, February 4, 2013

Craig/Rosenberg Debate

A pair of philosophers who couldn't be more different met Friday night at Purdue University to debate the question whether faith in God was reasonable. The combatants were William Lane Craig a Christian philosopher who has written, debated, and lectured extensively on theism and Alex Rosenberg, the philosophy department chairman at Duke and a widely published advocate of atheism.

If you'd like to watch all or part of the debate you can view it here. The introductions begin about four minutes in.
Rosenberg offered, in my opinion, a number of weak arguments and one fairly good one. I think he's right to point to human suffering as counting against the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God, but that argument by itself is not enough to make belief in God unreasonable. His best argument, however, was implicit in his question as to why God didn't create a world in which everyone had free will but always chose to do right. I thought Craig's dismissal of this was premature. Surely that world is a logically possible world and thus one which God could create, so why didn't he?

I thought Rosenberg was disingenuous when he sought to deflect the force of Craig's attack on the views he advocates in his book in which he endorses moral as well as other forms of nihilism. Craig points out that by Rosenberg's own admission atheism produces nihilism. Rosenberg replied - unconvincingly, I thought - that nihilism does not follow from atheism but that both of them follow from science. Thus, Rosenberg argued, if one wishes to embrace science, which all thinking people should, one should be an atheist as well as a nihilist.

I think this view is mistaken. Science does not entail either atheism or nihilism. Science is simply the search for empirical truth. Taken straight, unencumbered by the philosophical presuppositions of some of its practitioners, it has nothing to say about the existence of a God. Atheism, however, certainly does entail nihilism, both moral and epistemological.

Craig, for his part, made a number of arguments which, though they're not proofs that God exists, can rationally be accepted and thus together make belief that there's a God a reasonable epistemic position which was, after all, the topic of the debate.

For what it's worth the auditorium audience voted 1390 to 303 in favor of Craig as the winner. Online viewers voted 734 to 59 for Craig, and the judges voted for Craig 4 to 2. I'm frankly not sure what those two judges who voted for Rosenberg saw that I didn't.

Evolution and Altruism

An article in Science Daily on altruistic behavior in plants, of all things, quotes a Harvard evolutionary biology professor named William Friedman:
"One of the most fundamental laws of nature is that if you are going to be an altruist, give it up to your closest relatives," said Friedman. "Altruism only evolves if the benefactor is a close relative of the beneficiary."
Either Friedman doesn't consider humans the product of evolution, which would be an odd stance for an evolutionary biologist to take, or he's never heard of Mother Teresa.

Why We Need the 2nd Amendment

One of the types of firearms that some folks would like to ban from public use are semi-automatic weapons - The very type of weapon that saved a Texas woman and her son from a trio of thugs recently. Watch the video here, and then ask yourself why lawmakers should be allowed to disarm people like this mother. If semi-automatic handguns are banned - which a law against semi-automatic "assault" weapons would probably do - this woman might not have had a means of self-defense at her disposal but the thugs who broke into her home surely would have.

For more examples of how possession of a firearm saved innocent lives, go here.