A Critique of William Lane Craig's Version of Objective Morality


This morning I read a blog entry written by William Lane Craig and shuddered. [http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767 ]


According to Craig, his god is not required to follow "objective" moral laws.  At the same time this god is defined as perfectly good.  If it is perfectly good not to follow objective moral laws then there is no reason why humans should do so, either.  Shouldn't we follow the example given by someone who is perfectly good?


I also have a problem with Craig's logical statement:


1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.


The first premise (1) is problematic.


If some objective moral laws do exist in some societies then evolutionary socialization could account for their development.  This function is not confined to humans. Animals have been observed to behave in ways that indicate a primitive moral code that fosters cohesion of the group and the protection of young and helpless members of that group. 


If there are objective moral laws that have been manufactured by a god, then which of the various gods worshiped by humans is primarily responsible for them?  There does not seem to be a good reason why these rules need to have been issued by any one god or by the god or gods that are favored by the proposer of the argument. 


If there was a god, or several gods, that provided "objective" moral laws then what evidence is there that this god is consistent and follows its own rules?  There appears to be nothing but hypothetical conjecture and bald assertion provided to "prove" that any particular god must be consistently perfectly good or superlatively moral.  What tools do humans have to measure this purported perfection if we are not ourselves perfect or not capable of understanding the supposedly superior mind of a god?


The second premise (2) is also problematic. 

There does not seem to be much agreement among anyone about which laws are "objective" across time, place and culture.  So what do we define as “moral laws” and why choose these particular ones?  If it is a purely subjective choice then what right do we have to call them “objective”?



Since both of the premises are problematic the argument that follows is invalid.  It amounts to saying that objective moral laws exist if and only if my version of god exists and since they do exist therefore my version of god also exists.  The truth of the premise is based on the truth of the conclusion. 


If we reverse this triad we get this:


1. My version of god exists.

2. There are objective moral laws.

3. My version of god invented objective moral laws and therefore he exists.


The fallacy is a little more obvious this way around. You cannot prove the existence of something which is conjectured to have certain properties by merely pointing to the existence of these properties.  You must first prove that your entity exists and then you must prove that your entity has these properties, 


Let’s try it without using the emotionally laden God of the West as an example

1a. My version of Ra makes the sun move across the sky in his chariot.

1b. If Ra does not exist then the sun does not move across the sky.

2. The sun moves across the sky.

3. Therefore my version of Ra exists.


What is illogical is the assertion made in 1b.  It is not self-evident.    In Craig’s version the assumption of the existence of properties of his version of god are implied in the first assertion, but hidden by not being explicitly stated. 


The logical version would go like this:


1a. My version of Ra makes the sun move across the sky in his chariot.
1b. If the sun does not ever move across the sky then my version of Ra does not exist.
2.   The sun moves across the sky every day.
3.   Therefore my version of Ra might exist, if there is no other explanation to explain the sun's movements.


The Craig Christian version would read:


1a. My version of god invented objective moral values.
1b. If there are no objective moral values then my version of god does not exist.
2.   There are objective moral values.
3.   Therefore my version of god might exist, if there is no other explanation to explain the existence of these objective values.


All that can be proved with absolute certainty is that a god with the claimed properties does not exist.  Proving that it does exist is not possible by these logical means.


This kind of error really should be obvious to someone with a high level of training in philosophy.  If this is doctoral level philosophy, and I can see the flaw without doctoral level training in this area, then something is wrong.  Which university granted this man a PhD?   Is there something wrong with the university or did it exclude Craig’s points of incompetence in its examination of his work?  If not, why not?


Perhaps there is a pecuniary problem here.

Perhaps Craig's philosophical objectivity is disturbed by the necessity to support the claim of biblical in-errancy or lose his job.  His appointment to the academic position he currently holds was dependent on his signing a paper that states that he agrees with the theological position of the university.  This necessarily restricts academic freedom to areas which support the institution’s faith claims.  


If that is the case then this man is following an expedient rather than an objective approach to the application of morality to intellectual rigor and integrity.   That makes him subjectively moral in the service of his version of god.  This fact creates a looping conundrum over the meaning of moral truth that cannot be solved without copious use of sophistry and semantic somersaults.


If Craig is dishonest in the service of his god then does he view this dishonesty as equivalent to the "objective" law of honesty?  If he and his version of god condone relative dishonesty than can either of them be trusted to tell the objective truth?   Of course, the question of how one defines what is meant by "honesty" and "dishonesty" is a mine-field all on its own. If a person has convinced themselves that what they are saying is true when the statements they make are false, then can they be said to be lying?  If they are capable of telling untruths while not lying then how can we define objective truth without recourse to the scientific method?  If something cannot be clearly defined and measured then can it ever be treated as “truth”?   


I think the bottom line is that Craig just cannot be trusted to be logical and truthful in any real sense when he is promoting his version of god.  Nor can we be certain that he and his like-minded theists are utilizing “objective” moral values when these values are subjectively dependent on what Craig and his fellow theists consider are the wishes of their particular version of “god”.

What a waste of a good intellect.

Views: 462

Comment by Doubting Thomas on July 23, 2011 at 4:38pm

Well done, Craig's repeated attempts disguise logically invalid apologetics in academic language wouldn't be so irritating if he didn't carry himself as so superior. I think the word for it is narcissism, he reeks of it.

Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 23, 2011 at 4:45pm


Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 23, 2011 at 5:10pm

Craig's narcissism is disguised in a way that is acceptable to most evangelicals.  The sense of superiority is like a drug:  it gives one an addictive high. 

To those outside the "select" Craig comes across as a well-educated self-aggrandizing prick whose warped sense of morality does not exclude using underhand tactics to dismiss and put down others if it will improve his rating among blinded followers. 

I am normally a fairly tolerant person but Craig managed to get my hackles up when I heard him interviewed on a Christian radio station.  He consistenly belittled his opponents.  The comment that made me maddest was when he turned Christopher Hitchen's social politeness (thanking his hosts) back on him to imply that he (Hitchen's) was astounded by the socially appropriate behavior of his Christian hosts. 

Comment by Doubting Thomas on July 23, 2011 at 5:29pm

he's also no stranger to name calling either"

"I wonder is [sic] something culturally significant is going on here. Several years ago, I asked the Warden at Tyndale House in Cambridge why it is that British society is so secular when Britain has such a rich legacy of great Christian scholars. He replied, "Oh, Christianity is not underrepresented among the intelligentsia. It's the working classes which are so secular." He explained that these folks are never exposed to Christian scholarship because of their lack of education. As a result there is a sort of pervasive, uninformed, village atheism among them."

He has a great deal of growing up to do too it seems

Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 23, 2011 at 10:17pm

I guess that's an attempted counter to the findings that atheists tend to be better educated in religion, and in general, than most religious folks.  It is deeply deceitful, though.  I find it hard to believe that Craig really does not know that what he is implying is false in which case he is consciously lying.  I wouldn't want to trust him with a barge pole with anything that he felt might threaten the (evangelical christian) public's perception of his elite status. 

Comment by Dustin on July 23, 2011 at 10:51pm

I have never even finished reading an entire philosophical work ... nor  have I studied logic.  But it was blatantly obvious to me when I first heard Craigs argument for objective morality.  


He defines God the way he wants ... points to something that he claims to exist ... uses cute little phrases like 'You all know deep down that raping little girls is wrong , therefore we all have objective morality' ... then he makes a ridiculous 'logical' argument that doesn't take into account objective morality without God.  Nor does he prove how he KNOWS objective morality would not exist without a God.  Nor does he prove objective morality exists.  


I love the RA logical argument.  You can do that with anything , really.  


1.)  If God does not exist , then objective morality would not exist.

2.)  Little girls are raped and murdered periodically across different culture.  This clearly proves objective morality does not exist.

3.)  Therefore , if objective morality does not exist , God does not exist.  


Craig just asserts a bunch of random bs , then tries to argue to our 'common sense' ... which most people who already believe will feel is sound argument.  'You know deep in your hearts that raping little girls is wrong' 


Then why the fuck do people do it!?  



Comment by Dustin on July 23, 2011 at 10:56pm

Oh , by the way , Rosemary ... just so you know , if you didn't ... Craig doesn't assert that his objective morality argument proves the Christian God.  He likes to do this thing where he thinks it makes him look intelligent and philosophical by saying all his argument together point to the Christian God ... So his other arguments , the Kalam argument , argument from evidential historicity for the resurrection  , etc all point to the Christian God.  


He has 5 I think he uses over and over and over ... and each one is pathetically easy to refute.


Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 23, 2011 at 11:25pm


I am familiar with Craig's style of argument.  Although his five favorite arguments are easy to refute out of the debate environment it is virtually impossible to defeat Craig in a debate conducted under his own terms, and usually on his own turf.  He wins by devious rhetorical means, not by using good logic and indisputable facts.  That is lost on his followers who either do not have the means of evaluating his technique and arguments and/or have a strong emotional bias that prevents them from doing so.  It's sad, but inevitable - unless non-believers who debate this man have moral values that allow them to use the same type of dirty tricks. 

Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on July 23, 2011 at 11:31pm

BTW, Craig's version of the Kalam argument also does nothing but assume deism.  It has the same major flaw as the one I have just reviewed:  the existence of that which is to be proved is implied in the initial premises. 

Comment by Frank Hamilton on July 24, 2011 at 9:48am

Whose "morality" is he talking about?  It's very vague.  it's reminiscent of the Aquinas argument for the existence of god.  Morality is continuously being equated with the notion of god but historical evidence shows that this "morality" has resulted in human atrocities.


Evolutionary psychologists are finding out that "objective morality" may exist in our DNA and not in some god-related false construct.  As a species, if we are to survive, we have to have some morality to govern our mutual existence.  This has nothing to do with a religious construct or any notion of a god.


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