William Lane Craig defeated - Moral Argument

Yesterday, at NCU, William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss took it upon themselves to debate the possible evidence for God. Dr. Craig lists 5 premises which he believes points to the existence of a god, with #5 pointing to the existence of his particular god.  These premises are:

1. The existence of contingent beings.

2. The origin if the universe.

3. Objective moral values and duties in the world.

4. The fine tuning of the universe.
5. The historical "facts" of Jesus' resurrection.



For this post, I am concentrating on number 3, although I would like to mention that Dr. Krauss is wise enough to admit that science does not understand the beginning or the cause of the universe, just that it did begin, and it began with a bang, and he claims that using god as explanation for that which we do not understand is "intellectually lazy"--which I fully agree with.  I myself do not claim to understand how the universe came into existence.

This is Dr. Craig's argument for morality in the world:



P1.  If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.

P2.  Objective moral values and duties do exist.

C.   Therefore, god exists.



This argument is based on the fallacy of necessity as it assumes that objective moral values are contingent on a god existing, when this is not necessarily so.  No gods or goddesses for that matter are required for morality to exist, as ethics and morals in reality come from Normative Ethical Theories such as Utilitiarianism--which means doing what is right for the overall good.

Once can make any wild claim as Dr. Craig does in his argument.  Let me make a substitution in Dr. Craig's argument to illustrate:



P1.  If humans do not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.

P2.  Objective moral values and duties do exist.

C.   Therefore, humans exist.


Just like William Craig's argument, there is no proof for P1.  The argument is valid, but whether it is sound or not is questionable.  In the case of Craig's argument, as I have already shown, we have another viable option for objective moral values, and that is the use of Normative Ethical Theories.

On another note, my argument is valid, but is contingent on humans existing, so it too fails to the fallacy of necessity, as we have no way of knowing whether or not morality and duty is dependent on the existence of humans.  Many animals have exhibited moral behaviors, so it is not necessarily so that morality only exists in the realm of humanity. 

For the sake of argument, let's assume his argument works.  Dr. Craig himself admits that this argument alone does not prove the Christian god. The reason for this is that every non-Christian culture, has/had their own standards and moral guidelines that they follow, and therefore their morals and duties are not contingent on the christian god Yahweh existing.   Hindu's have a moral code.  Sumerians had a moral code. The Native Americans had moral codes long before the White Christians came along, and many Christian missionaries made note of the fact the Indians had "no sin. " Orthodox Buddhists do not even posit a god, but they too have a moral code/standard etc. William Lane Craig uses premise #5 as being the "best" explanation for the Christian god being the one true god.--I will refute this below.

As I already mentioned, we use Normative Ethical Theories (NET's), which are devices used to produce specific moral judgments.  One of these NET's is the Divine Command Theory, whih  in ethics states that whatever god says is right is right.  This seems to be the NET that Craig says is necessary for objectivity and morality.  As I have already shown, this is not the case as we have many competing NET's.  In fact, the Divine Command Theory is one of the weakest NET's because it has an epistemological problem as we have no way of knowing what a god has said, if he has said anything at all.  For example, in the case of Hinduism, Manu was given the Dhama which was given to him by the god Vishnu, and it gives instructions which uphold private and public life, and establishes social, moral, and religious order.  So who are we to believe; Moses or Manu?  How do we know whether a god told Moses, or a god told Manu, or a god told any other human anything at all for that matter?  The answer is that we do not; hence we have an epistemological problem.

Dr. Craig provides premise 5 to distinguish his god as the one true god as opposed to all the others. Number 5 however, also fails, as there are multiple gods who are claimed to have been resurrected from the dead.  IN fact, numerous gods such as Bacchus, Hercules, and Quetzalcoatl are just a few of them, and in fact, in Hinduism EVERYONE is resurrected--so premise 5 does not provide sufficient evidence for the Christian god, as opposed to any other gods or goddesses.  The fact that the bible CLAIMS there were "eyewitness" accounts is no more proof of the fact than the claims made by other non-Christian sources for their gods and goddesses.  The other religions could also "cherry pick" their scriptures in a similar fashion.

Let's assume however, that Yahweh exists and that we received moral values from this particular god.  Let's say for example that a father murders his children because he claims god told him to in order to save them from Satan.  Most christians would claim that Yahweh would never tell anyone to do such a heinous thing, and the man who killed his children is just crazy.  The reasoning that concludes that it was not Yahweh who told the man to kill his children allows another conclusion to be drawn.  This would be a moral test in which the conclusion that was drawn came from our own moral knowledge, and not from what a god said. Yahweh has, after all, according to the bible, spoken through others, ordering them to slaughter the innocents, so it would be inductively valid to assume that Yahweh ordered the man to murder his children. (Hosea 13:16) 


Are actions in any case right or wrong then because god says they are; or are they right or wrong because they are right or wrong?  The Divine Command theory in ethics states that whatever Yahweh says is right is right, which would mean the slaughter of innocent children, pregnant women and their unborn fetuses would be considered right.  If this is the case then, there is no standard for good, as murder would be considered "good."  Therefore, true morality cannot come from such a god.


Views: 676

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 31, 2011 at 6:37pm
Well, you sure put together a good argument and I'm glad that someone takes the time to unravel the convoluted arguments of someone like W.L. Craig. I just don't have the patience to deal with their legal finagling however.

For me, if you need a doctorate in spinning malarkey just to confuse enough people into thinking there exists the possibility of a paranormal monarchy, then the very concept is only accessible to people who devote their life to dreaming up such things. The rest of us - the dishwashers, plumbers, moms, bus drivers, etc - just don't fit into that model. This, however, is just not the message that seems to be going around about this Jesus fellow. That these super smart people can't see the contradiction in that is beyond me.
Comment by Cathy Cooper on March 31, 2011 at 6:55pm
Thank you.  I will be posting counter arguments to all of the above claims made by Dr. Craig in the near future.  I am hoping they help others argue against theism.
Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on March 31, 2011 at 10:26pm

Craig is explained here by Dan Dennett Not his best speech but worth a listen.


Comment by Albert Bakker on April 1, 2011 at 1:35am

It would seem to me that W.L.Craig is too skilled an apologetic to put forward some shaky deduction as proof of the existence of God, his God for sure. And from watching the video he didn't. These arguments are part of a pile of garbage called "evidence" (E in the formula) that needn't be true, there just need to be a lot of them, they need to sound marginally plausible and preferably must be set up so that it is difficult to prove the negative, counterpoints need to be excised wherever possible.

His "proof" is inductive, it is an attempt to defeat a Bayesian probability argument by deliberately tilting a factor in your favor, based on the work of the English apologetic Richard Swinburne.

In his formulation P(G|E&B) > P(G|B)  or in words the probability that God exists given evidence and background knowledge (what we know about the world) is greater than the probability that God exists given background knowledge.

So now with this in hand as a natural theologian you go around and collect as many pieces of evidence, no matter how wobbly, shaky and dubious they might be if taken by themselves, taken together they contribute to E and by default make the first term maybe a little greater than ,5 when you can't come up with anything at all and that then proves the existence of God.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on April 1, 2011 at 1:42am
Honestly, if belief in Jesus requires the ability to navigate this man's Rube Goldberg labyrinth of rhetorical gymnastics then I'm not surprised that the messiah himself expressed doubts on the cross.
Comment by Albert Bakker on April 1, 2011 at 11:00am
Heather, I'm going to want that on a t-shirt.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on April 1, 2011 at 11:50am
He he, put it on there with a pic of William Lane Craig beside Jesus, and have a thought bubble coming out of Jesus' head that says, "WTF!?"
Comment by Kevin Harris on April 1, 2011 at 1:28pm

First, let's make sure we get the premises right. Premise #1 is:

1). If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.


This premise is supported by the fact that unless there is an ultimate standard by which humans can gauge moral values and duties, then morality is just subjective. To objectively ground or justify ethics requires a meta-ethical consideration.

All attempts to adequately justify and ground objective moral values and duties in mere human conventions have failed. And trying to ground it in a superior alien race just moves the problem back a step.

So a standard beyond any contingent persons (human or "alien") is required to adequately ground objective moral values and duties.

So it seems that there are only three options when it comes to grounding objective moral values and duties:

1). Reasoning to human (or alien) social conventions based on past experience and present observations as to what is "better" for the flourishing of persons.

2). Genetic survival mechanisms that have been selected to motivate altruistic behavior.

3). God is ontologically ultimate so the standard for objective moral values and duties derives necessarily from God's nature.

(This is not the Fallacy of Necessity. That fallacy merely determines what is necessary or not necessary in a proposition. It only seeks to not go beyond what is necessary and that there are other valid options, some of which could be superior).

It is extremely important, as Dr. Craig points out, to realize that non-theists can be highly moral without belief in God. People of all persuasions can and do recognize moral values and duties and act accordingly.

However, the question is not whether belief in God is required for ethical behavior, but whether objective moral values and duties could exist apart from God. I think that since #'s 1 and 2 above fail, #3 is correct.

#1 still falls to subjectivity. Social conventions can still be morally wrong even if an entire society somehow starts to believe it is right. And because something is utilitarian does not mean it is right. Utilitarians have suggested things like the elimination of the elderly at a certain age. That would prevent the burden on the family's "flourishing" and strengthen the economy, etc. And it would be "better" for society if women could NOT enjoy sex, so their vaginas are mutilated.

Notice that one cannot have "better" without a best. "Better" implies progress toward something.

#2 fails because it amounts to a placebo effect. Morality is an illusion derived from genetic manipulation. But why ought I obey my genetics? Why ought I preserve the herd if it would bring me pleasure or gain in my very short life to kill the herd? Once the placebo is revealed, it is no longer effective. (If one get's caught killing, one goes to prison which would further diminish one's very short life. So it behooves one not to do it. But that implies that if one could get away with it, there is no real personal moral transgression).

So #3 is superior but leads instantly to Euthyphro's Dilemma: is something moral because God declares it as such or is something moral because God recognizes it as such. The former leads to potentially arbitrary commands like God declaring rape and hate as moral, but that flies in the face of every moral intuition. The latter means (as Strauss said) we could eliminate the "middle man" (God). It would mean there is something to which God is subject which is beyond God. But that eliminates the concept of God, i.e. there is nothing more ultimate than God.

The third option which splits the horns of the dilemma is one that Plato recognized. The standard for moral values and duties derives from God's very nature. Being ontologically ultimate, the objective standard is within God's nature. This does not mean that God is "subject" to his nature, but that he is merely self-consistent. He is in keeping with his own nature and self-consistency. And God expresses his moral nature via various command and duties and I think has endowed us with moral intuitions that recognizes moral facts beyond us (ethicists call this "incumbency").

So if something is actually ultimately morally wrong, it requires an actually ultimate moral standard, and that requires that God exists. Consider:

1). If it is actually ultimately morally wrong to physically torture young children merely for fun or pleasure, then God exists.

2). It is actually ultimately morally wrong to physically torture young children merely for fun or pleasure.

3). Therefore, God exists.

If you bite the bullet and deny #2, you are deluded! You'll find that you can give lip-service to the denial, but that it's actually unlivable. This means that a person cannot or will not actually live as if #2 was false without moral repercussions and irrationality. If something is morally unlivable, that is strong evidence against it.  It also means that if any negations or potential defeaters of #2 are inferior to the principle itself one is irrational to deny it.I think any critical, rational person would admit that any negation of #2 is vastly inferior.


Comment by Cathy Cooper on April 1, 2011 at 2:13pm
Jacob--I don't think you read my entire post.  The argument is Craig's--I just refuted it. I also point out the morality that has been observed in the animal kingdom.
Comment by Jacob LeMaster on April 1, 2011 at 2:18pm
Oops forgot to put @Kevin


You need to be a member of Think Atheist to add comments!

Join Think Atheist

© 2021   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service