Monday, December 5, 2011

Dawkins vs. Dawkins (Updated)

During my Catholic Answers Live interview last Monday, I noted that Richard Dawkins refuses to debate philosopher William Lane Craig.  Dawkins’ representative Sean Faircloth, who was also on the show, did not contradict this.  On the contrary, Faircloth defended Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig.  Still, after the interview, Patrick Coffin, the host of the show, received the following email from Dawkins:

Dear Mr Coffin

Contrary to what was repeatedly said on your show, I HAVE debated William Lane Craig, in a nationally televised debate in Mexico in 2010, and he was DEEPLY unimpressive.  I hope you will correct the record in your next show.

Richard Dawkins

Now, I certainly want the record to be correct.  But if it isn’t true that Dawkins refuses to debate Craig, where could anyone have gotten the idea that he does refuse?  Well, for starters, from the fact that Dawkins published an article in the Guardian just this past October with the title “Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig” -- an article reprinted on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and widely discussed online.  That does rather give the impression that Dawkins refuses to debate Craig, no?  So, perhaps Dawkins should send himself an email demanding a correction.  And if, in future, he doesn’t want people to get the idea that he refuses to debate with William Lane Craig, he might consider not saying -- loudly, publicly, online and in print -- things like “I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig.”

The reader of Dawkins’ weeks-old Guardian article will also notice that after recounting Craig’s repeated challenges to debate him, Dawkins does not say “I HAVE debated Craig, in Mexico in 2010, and found him DEEPLY unimpressive!”  No, not a peep about that.  Instead he explicitly affirms that “I would rather leave an empty chair than share a platform with him.”  (This just repeats a policy he had earlier expressed in some now famous remarks you can view on YouTube.)

But then, what is all this “Mexico in 2010” stuff Dawkins made no reference to in his Guardian article but now cites in his email to Coffin as evidence that what I said in the interview needs “correction”?  Dawkins is referring here, not to any one-on-one matchup between Craig and himself, but rather to a six-person panel exchange in which both he and Craig participated.  And from Craig’s own account of the episode, it seems that the participants didn’t necessarily know, before the fact, who the other participants would be; certainly Craig himself says that he found out only after he arrived, and to his surprise, that Dawkins would be there -- which raises the question of whether Dawkins even knew in advance that Craig would be there.  Moreover, Craig reports that when he conveyed to Dawkins that he was surprised by his participation, given Dawkins’ longstanding refusal to debate him, Dawkins replied: “I don’t consider this to be a debate with you.  The Mexicans invited me to participate, and I accepted.”

So, two years ago Dawkins insisted that his encounter with Craig in Mexico was not a debate; and only weeks ago he loudly and publicly acknowledged that he refuses to debate Craig.  Yet, in response to my statement on the air that he refuses to debate Craig, Dawkins now insists that this is “contrary” to the truth and needs to be “corrected,” citing the 2010 non-debate encounter as evidence.  What is going on here?  

What’s going on, I suspect, is a farcical attempt at damage control.  Dawkins’ recent Guardian article received much criticism, some of it from people Dawkins cannot easily dismiss.  In a response to Dawkins published in the Guardian, philosopher Daniel Came writes that though he “tend[s] to agree with Dawkins's conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism,” he also regards Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig as “cynical and anti-intellectualist.”  Oxford historian Tim Stanley judges Dawkins “either a fool or a coward.”  Paul Vallely notes that Craig is widely acknowledged to be a formidable debater even by prominent New Atheists like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, and is also acknowledged even by atheists to have bested Hitchens in debate -- the implication being that Dawkins is afraid to debate Craig and is desperately seeking an excuse for not doing so.   Perhaps the criticisms and accusations of cowardice have gotten to Dawkins.  I conjecture that, finding that the “Craig defends genocide!” shtick isn’t working as an excuse for not debating him, Dawkins has now decided to shift gears and try a different excuse, viz. “Oh, it’s not that I refuse to debate Craig.  It’s that I’ve already debated him and won, and there’s no need to do so again!”  Unfortunately, he’s forgotten -- or at least hopes that others have forgotten -- what he said to Craig two years ago and what he said in the Guardian only weeks ago.

In short, whether or not Dawkins will ever debate Craig, he certainly now seems keen on debating himself.  The Dawkins of 2010 and October 2011 versus the Dawkins of December 2011.  “Never mind what I said before!  We are at war with Eastasia.  We have always been at war with Eastasia!”  Come to think of it, it all sounds very familiar…

[Note: Patrick Coffin has replied to Dawkins with an invitation.] 

UPDATE 12/6: Patrick Coffin discussed the Dawkins debacle (and his still-unanswered invitation to Dawkins) during the first few minutes of yesterday’s show.  You can listen to the podcast here.

167 comments:

Daniel Smith said...

Let the Dawkins-fanboi/gnu-troll onslaught begin!

Mateus said...

Excellent post, Mr. Feser, specially the end!

Ana said...

Very good and spot-on analysis.

"perhaps Dawkins should send himself an email demanding a correction."

And this is a highly amusing line.(I almost wish Patrick Coffin would have incorporated it or something very similar into his email. But I think the recipient will be infuriated enough as it is.)

I agree that Dawkins' evasions have proved themselves to severely intellectually dishonest (if we can even use the intellectual qualifier) but I still question whether it's worth pursuing him. I think that where it turns merely into a craving for contest and trophy -- such as it seemed to be treated by some who were eager for a Craig-Dawkins debate -- we should be very careful.

I realize he's the most prominent of atheists, but, there are high ranking candidates to consider -- like Christopher Hitchens (if his condition and/or other commitments do not impede him).

Syphax said...

Glad to see this publicly pointed out.

I do have a question for the philosopher types that read Feser's column. A comment on that radio interview made me wonder. It was basically that Craig's God ("theistic personalism" as Feser says) and Feser's God ("classical theism") are actually different Gods, and therefore, why should Feser care if Craig whoops Dawkins in a debate? I've read Feser's posts about the differences between the two conceptions of God. But bear with me, I'm not a philosopher, I'm a grad student of psychology. Are Craig's and Feser's Gods really so mutually incompatible that arguments for one don't strengthen the other even in a vague way?

Bobcat said...

Craig v. Feser. Let's make it happen!

Ana said...

*On the issue of Dawkins' dishonesty -- or at the very least, questionable justification for not debating Craig -- watch this (warning: unnecessary and overly dramatic music in the background) ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEEyBw_giC0

(In short, it shows that Dawkins has know about Craig's defense of God killing the Canaanites, for over three years. In contrast, how long has he been citing that defense as a reason to not debate Craig?)

TimL said...

William Lane Craig commented in an audio interview about his meeting with Dawkins in Mexico where Craig said to Dawkins "I didn't think you would be here for this debate" to which Dawkins replied to Craig, "This is not a debate. It is merely a discussion."

Wrong again, Dawkins

N.J.P.B. said...

Ohh for the good old days of Copleston and Russell, I just finished listening to their radio discussion. Speaking of those days, Dr. Feser, who do you consider to have one that debate,and what do you make of Russell's assertion that it does not make sense to ask for a cause of the world?

BenYachov said...

We all bag on Stephen Law's response to Feser on the Evil God Challenge.

But at least he stepped up and faced Craig and did well for himself.

Dawkins is a wuss.

Iapetus said...

Dr. Feser,
Please forgive me for just posting this out of the blue, but I was curious. I’m a college student nearing graduation. In my first couple years as a student I had the pleasure of taking a couple introductory courses in Philosophy. Though I did not do well in them (I was very irresponsible at the time. Missed far too many classes.), the little Philosophy I was exposed to left me eager to learn more. I did retake those classes, but these retaken classes weren’t nearly as engrossing or informative as the earlier ones (serves me right, I suppose). I didn’t take any Philosophy classes after those, but I still harbored a desire to learn more about it. Now I’d like to try to sate that desire by learning more on my own. If you’re feeling generous, would you and your readers mind suggesting a few books I could learn from (the more and the more detailed your suggestions, the better)?

On an unrelated note, if all goes well I’ll be joining the Catholic Church this coming spring. My family is Protestant from head to toe, and though my immediate family seem okay (if wary) about my conversion, I suspect I’ll have to do some apologetic work once my extended family finds out. Could you also suggest useful apologetic books for Roman Catholicism (suggested apologetic books against atheism would also be appreciated, but that’s less urgent, and no, I don't mind if you suggest some of your own books)? I've already asked questions like these before on John C. Wright's blog, but I figured I'd do well to get as many answers as I could."There is safety where there is much counsel", and all that.

I understand you’re under no obligation to give me suggestions, and I thank you for at least considering my request.

Many Blessings,
Iapetus

Anonymous said...

"If you’re feeling generous, would you and your readers mind suggesting a few books I could learn from (the more and the more detailed your suggestions, the better)?"


Well, Doc Feser's The Last Superstition fits the bill quite nicely, as does his Aquinas, although it's more advanced than TLS.

A great introduction to modern philosophy I recently read is Roger Scruton's A Short History of Western Philosophy:From Descartes to Wittgenstein.

http://www.amazon.com/Short-History-Modern-Philosophy-Wittgenstein/dp/0415267633/


The book is in free pdf format here, if the pdf format suffices for your tastes:

http://doverknoll.com/books/Academic%20books/Theology,%20philosophy%20and%20the%20history%20of%20ideas/Scruton%20-%20Short%20History%20of%20Modern%20Philosophy.pdf

Ana said...

lapetus,

I have an excellent resource website to recommend to you, managed by former Reformed Protestants who journeyed home to the Catholic Church.

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/

Clicking on their "Library" section, brings up a drop-down menu, and among the options to select is "Suggested Readings".

I hope that -- should you choose material from the list they provide -- that it may be of help to you, as a supplement to the formal catechesis your are receiving, and in your private apologetic studies.

I will pray for your family situation.

God be with you,
Ana

Brian said...

CALLED TO COMMUNION! WOOT! Excellent website. What we need is a "CALLED TO COMMUNION" site, but for atheism.

Anonymous said...

That site is very nice.

I have dialogued with Protestants quite a bit, and it is my opinion that the Reformed/Calvinist/OPC lot is the most intellectual. Although their ecclesiology is diametrically opposite to ours, they have a pretty good grasp of philosophy, the history of ideas and apologetics (Plantinga and Van Til are big names there).

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2011/12/edward-feser-on-dawkins-refusal-to.html

Steven Carr said...

Dawkins had simply forgotten who Craig was and Craigs views on the necessity of killing children when he debated him in Mexico.

Anonymous said...

"Dawkins had simply forgotten who Craig was and Craigs views on the necessity of killing children when he debated him in Mexico."

Carr, you don't believe that, and no one else does either. Dawkins is afraid of getting his ass handed to him by Craig. As for killing children, Dawkins is a self-claimed fan of Peter Singer's views on ethics.

The fact that Dawkins is STILL changing his story just confirms what everyone knows, including Dawkins: Craig would cream him. Just like Lennox creamed him, only worse. Just like Plantinga would cream him, or any other competent, to say nothing of very good, philosopher/thinker.

Steven Carr said...

I see.

So you simply accuse Dawkins of lying.

I repeat Craig's views , channeling the late Osama bin Laden, that murder is morally obligatory and not even murder when done in the name of Craig's god.

Why should Osama bin Laden-a-like's be debated?

Isn't it enough just to lift the stone and see what is underneath?

CRAIG
Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.

The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

CARR
There you have Craig's own words.

Sin , up to and including murder and genocide, is morally obligatory if commanded by Allah.

Steven Carr said...

'Dawkins’ recent Guardian article received much criticism, some of it from people Dawkins cannot easily dismiss.'

Those people should ask themselves how they found themselves on the side of people defending genocide.

CRAIG
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

CARR
The UK tour was a public relations disaster for Craig, as his views have now been made public.

His clique got to see him and applaud him, but Craig managed to get free publicity in the Guardian - a national newspaper which will simply refuse to print Craig's side of the story - the one where he points out the positive aspects of genocide that Dawkins has overlooked.

Felix said...

"I see.

So you simply accuse Dawkins of lying."

We probably won't even have to. Not if contradictions like those mentioned above keeps popping up as he continue to dig his own hole deeper. Then the possibility that he is lying might soon turn to be an irrefutable fact base on clear evidence rather than just mere accusations.

What I find amusing is that Dawkins' supporters are now using the whole "Craig is an immoral person" defence when in fact their so called champion has debated many Christian as the likes of McGrath and Lennox et al, who sees no problem with what the Jews did in the Bible. Where was THAT excuse then? Surely a consistent Dawkins would have stayed away from debating ALL belivers?

The truth is, as an Anonymous commenter already said, Dawkins is afraid. He simply can't stand up to an expert who will tell him that he doesn't know what he's talking about. He can't face the hard truth that EVEN IF atheism is at the end of the day correct, he'll still have embrassed himself!

One last thing, the theism vs atheism debate is more of a philosophical question rather than anything that can be settled by emperical evidence. You've shown that you've missed this very important point when you said: "Isn't it enough just to lift the stone and see what is underneath?"

TimL said...

Guess we know what Dawkins persona S.Carr is on the side with: "Make excuses so as to not be embarrassed in debate!!"

Steven Carr said...

'it looks like those dogmatic, vitriol spewing Dawkinites have made their way to this board.'

With their vicious habit of quoting Craig's words.

That's mean, that is.

Craig is for praising, not quoting.

CRAIG ON KILLING CHILDREN
'If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture. '

TimL said...

Carr,
Where does human life derive its value?

If human life has inherent value how did it obtain that?

If Craig's position is as you say (which it isn't) on what grounds do you argue against the killing of others?

Untenured said...

Dawkins's excuses for refusing to debate Craig are pathetic. Any theist could easily conjure up a similar reason for refusing to debate Dawkins. e.g. "Dawkins is a totalitarian who equates religious education with child abuse, therefore I won't appear on the same stage with him."

Or maybe: "Dawkins trivialized sexual molestation, therefore I won't be seen with the man!"

Or maybe they could take a page from the whole "skepchick" kerfuffle: "Dawkins is a chauvinist pig, therefore I won't debate him." And so on, and so forth.

Let's cut to the chase. We all know what this is really about. At the political level, Dawkins is a larger-than-life figure in the new Atheist movement. If he debates Craig, he will get slaughtered. And the New Atheists know that it would be a P.R. disaster if their poster boy got publically humiliated in the way that Hitchens did.

It is hard for us to imagine, but to those in the Dawkins cult, Dawkins seems like an invicible, god-like figure. For this reason, the NAs simply can't risk allowing this debate to happen.

To mix metaphors, if Craig is seen holding Dawkins's severed head aloft before the Colleseum throngs, the spell would be permanently broken. It would be psychologically devastating for the legions of Dawkins fans to watch their God get slain in public.

The debate won't happen.

TimL said...

Also Carr...
are you in favor of abortion?

TimL said...

It's funny how in this cold, uncaring universe (a sentiment echoed time and time again from Dawkins and the ilk) we find Carr here.... crying about the moral standard that has been violated with Craig's comments.

So which is it? Dawkins should have no problem at all. Humans killing other humans fits quite nicely in this cold, uncaring universe.


And, from Carr's views, why moan at the non-God? There's not someone actually behind the scenes that Craig is a follower of. Carr's and Dawkin's griping is merely directed at human thoughts. Since it was the organ that produces other thoughts that produced the notion of God. No different than griffins, elves, and angels.

Carr and Dawkins should be saying "the NERVE of some neurons producing certain thoughts!!!"... which are completely out of the range of willful behavior. But, didn't Dawkins tell us not to yell at Basil Faulty?

Why Carr... it's not Basil's fault... nor his car.

BenYachov said...

Steven Carr,

Doesn't Atheist philosopher (who was praised by Dawkins), Steve Pinker believe it is permissible for parents to Euthanize their newborn children a month after birth?

You bag on the OT but you and your Atheist buddies believe it's all stories anyway. It's like getting upset over the death of all the people on Alderran at the hands of Grand Morf Tarkin.

Pinker wants to kill real babies and Dawkins thinks he is the bee's knees.

Hypocrite much my Fundie Gnu friend?

Go back to the dangerous minds blog. You are too simple minded to post here.

Steven Carr said...

Tim L really shows the love Christians have.

He is now griping and sniping at people who show emotion , when they should be acting as good Christians and cheering and whooping every time Craig explains why the children had to die.

Of course, Tim is simply an atheist , pretending to be a Christian, and making Christianity look bad, by siding with somebody who claims murder is not murder if his god commands it.

Unless he is a Christian who doesn't put all too much effort into figuring out what sort of witness he is making for his religion.

The fact remains that you can't come to England, proclaim that children should be killed if they interfere with your god's plans, and they were better off dead anyway, and demand respect as though you were a decent human being.

TimL said...

Carr,
I'll try to be nicer:

Please answer if you think abortion is permissible.

Please answer where if you believe life has inherent value and if so where it derives that value from.

Please answer why you and Dawkins would blame the belief (God) and not the person. Or better yet, not the firing neurons. And then, please explain how some neurons fire better thoughts than other neurons and how we gage which neural firing is better than others.

Thanks buddy!!

TimL said...

I mean we don't blame the Fawlty car... right?
Because your views seem faulty, Carr.

John said...

How many excuses has Douchekins already made?

First it was about not wanting to tarnish his own CV. Then it's about not wanting to give credibility to creationism. Then it's about Craig's defense of biblical genocide.

Dawkins IS A JOKE. Seriously, he's a JOKE.

BenYachov said...

There are Pro-life Atheist & in my experience they are not shy about it.

Steve Carr is pro-abortion & I don't think he objects to Partial Birth Abortion either.

He wants to complain over Craig defending actions of a fictional god (from his perspective) from a fictional text(from his perspective) but he & Dawkins have no trouble supporting those who kill real babies.

Like I said hypocrite much?

Felix said...

"The fact remains that you can't come to England, proclaim that children should be killed if they interfere with your god's plans, and they were better off dead anyway, and demand respect as though you were a decent human being."

So what's your point? There are a lot of people who you would see to enspouse such views that actually LIVES in England. Some of who Dawkins have already debated, like McGrath and Lennox. So if Dawkins saw no problem in debating them, why the double standard with Craig?

By the by, this is not just a theist vs. atheism thing. Apprently, there are also some atheists like Daniel Came, you would label as a defender of genocide who also happens to live in England.

Steven Carr said...

FELIX
There are a lot of people who you would see to enspouse such views that actually LIVES in England. Some of who Dawkins have already debated, like McGrath and Lennox.

CARR
You are just joking when you claim Lennox and McGrath write articles claiming murder is not murder, but is morally obligatory, if their god commands it?

I think you are confusing Mr. Lennox with Osama bin Laden or William Lane Craig.

DNW said...

Steven Carr writes to TimL

"The fact remains that you can't come to England, proclaim that children should be killed if they interfere with your god's plans, and they were better off dead anyway, and demand respect as though you were a decent human being. "


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nUYuHTN0TI


Now Steve, why don't you try answering Tim's question as to whether say, Canaanite children, or British fetuses for that matter, have a right not to be killed; and if so, what it is that grounds that right. Is it social agreement, Stevie? The state of your digestion? The random direction of the "evolution" of a "society"? Mirror neurons?

[This is the point at which the Steve-kind typically moves to the "appeal to emotions and sentience" squares.]

John said...

"I think you are confusing Mr. Lennox with Osama bin Laden or William Lane Craig."

-- I think you don't understand what Dr. Craig said about the killing of the Canaanites. He's not saying genocide is all well and fine, he's saying the judgement of the Canaanites was morally justified given so on and so forth.

Reading comprehension a problem for you much?

Felix said...

Carr

So you want proof that Dawkins have debated people who have endorsed "genocide"? Here it is:

"Of course, many modern Jewish and non-Jewish readers find many parts of the Hebrew Scriptures puzzling, perhaps appalling, through their cultural distance from a long-past era. Historically, it is important to appreciate that these ancient texts arose within a people who were fighting to maintain their group and national identity in the face of onslaughts from all sides, who were make sense of their human situation in relation to a God about his nature their thinking became more and more developed in the millennium over which the material that makes up these Scriptures was being produced, orally and in writing." (Allister McGrath. The Dawkins Delusion pg. 89-90)

Whether or not his views are correct is irrevlavent. But it is very clear that McGrath endorses "genocide" (if you get into the shoes of Jews of the Old Testament). Now the question you still owe me an answer is if Dawkins have debated someone who has endorsed such views. Why the double standard with Craig?

By the by. McGrath, as you would be aware, lives in England.

Ray Ingles said...

TimL - "Where does human life derive its value?"

From the value it has to the individual human, as well as the value it has to other humans.

"If human life has inherent value..."

The concept of "inherent" or "objective" value strikes me as problematic.

A woodworker might trade you a chair for some of the corn you grew. Who came out better on the deal? You both did - you both have more value (by your personal estimates) than before. (Or else why did you trade at all?) Differential valuing is what makes economics possible. But think - if there's some kind of 'objective value', then at least one of you is wrong. Either the chair was worth 'objectively' more than the corn, in which case you cheated the carpenter - or else the corn was 'objectively' worth more than the chair, in which case the carpenter cheated you. (Or else they are 'objectively' equal, in which case you're both wrong about having more value than you did before.)

Value and greatness are relative, personal measures. My wife is probably worth a lot more to me than she is to you, and me to her, and our kids are more important yet. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't find them quite so amazing as your own spouse and children, though.

That said, though, there's a lot of commonality among humans. From the perspective of human beings, it's quite possible for humans in general to have value to humans in general. A hypothetical alien might or might not share that valuation, depending on how similar they were to humans.

Brian said...

In this case, I think an orthodox Catholic view would disagree strongly with Craig's interpretation of Scripture. Nevertheless, he is putting forth an argument that he thinks explains the "controversial" passages in a way consistent with morality and reason, so it does the atheist no good to simply beg the question against Craig's argument and hurl catcalls at him. And anyone who reads Steven Carr's comments will see that he is doing precisely that - begging the question against Craig's argument and slavishly repeating his catcalls to derail discussion. He is simply not a thinking person, and I am afraid he is representative of the "new" atheist variety of heathen.

It is so amusing, by the way, to see moral relativists and nihilists morally outraged.

Please do not have children, my dear gnus.

Proph said...

God, if He exists, can simply will the death of any person. What difference does it make if He acts through an intermediary? All lives would be His, anyway, and we would have no right to refuse Him them.

Ray Ingles said...

TimL - "are you in favor of abortion?"

You asked Steven Carr, but I can give you an answer.

I'm not in favor of abortion per se - that'd be like being in favor of elective surgery in general. On the other hand, I'm in favor of it being legal up to about 20 weeks.

Humans need a brain to be aware, and before about 20 weeks the developing brain isn't interconnected enough to support the awareness of something as basic as pain. There's no person there, yet. Fortunately, the vast majority of abortions happen before 20 weeks.

That doesn't mean that there's a person yet after 20 weeks, but so far as I can see it can't be affirmatively ruled out after that point, so we should be cautious.

I'm still in favor of allowing abortion after 20 weeks if there's a medical threat to the life of the mother - you can't force someone to risk their life for another. I'm also okay with aborting some fetuses after 20 weeks with certain medical conditions, e.g. anencephaly.

(In case it's not crystal clear, I'm one of many atheists who disagree with Peter Singer.)

John said...

@ Ray Ingles

Why stop at 20 weeks?

Is there any ontologically significant difference between a 20-week-old-baby and a new born infant?

E.H. Munro said...

With all due respect, Mr. Carr, I've never seen Dawkins refuse to appear with Christopher Hitchens, a genocidal maniac that wants to see a quarter of the planet put to the swird in the name of reason. Nor the despicable worm Sam Harris, who has advocated nuking Iran (I mean literally, proposing a preemptive nuclear strike) if they develop their own nuclear weapon, then tried to find some weasel way of avoiding the charge that he's little more than a new age nazi ("I just want to nuke the icky brown skinned people if they get the bomb!")

I don't find Dawkins' excuses very convincing. There's no way he doesn't know that he's sharing the stage with a pair of homicidal lunatics whenever he appears with them, and I've never seen him refuse an opportunity to appear at an atheist intellectual circle jerk with them.

DNW said...

"Humans need a brain to be aware, and ..."

You realize of course that you have just played the sentience card. The question that always follows given the question you were trying to respond to, is, "Why did you play it?".


Also your subjective theory of value works well for an analysis economic exchange relationships and the pricing of commodities when arguing against Marxist economics, but doesn't really bear on the question of inherent rights and entitlement to interpersonal respect and regard; which is what TimL's reference to intrinsic value is directed to.

This matter probably doesn't really need to be argued with you anyway since it's obvious that on your own interpretation of the term "intrinsic human value", no one you can conceive of, would have any such thing.


Joke of the day: If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?

DNW said...

"Value and greatness are relative, personal measures. My wife is probably worth a lot more to me than she is to you, and me to her, and our kids are more important yet. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't find them quite so amazing as your own spouse and children, though."


Their substantive (as opposed to legally conventional) right to life, is then is derived from your subjective need for, or appreciation of them?

Ray Ingles said...

John - "Is there any ontologically significant difference between a 20-week-old-baby and a new born infant?"

You seem to have left some context off your question. I'll assume you're asking something like, "Why allow abortion in the case of medical threat to the mother after 20 weeks, when you would object to killing the infant after birth?"

I already pointed out the difference - you can decide if it's ontological or not. A pregnancy can threaten the life of the mother, and in that case the mother must decide if she wants to risk her life for the sake of the one she's carrying.

In essence, it's the "principle of double effect", where an action that would otherwise be disallowed (abortion) is permitted when it's the only way to accomplish another good (saving the mother's life). I admit I parse the situation differently from, say, the Catholic Church, but I think the reasoning should be recognizable.

Note that there's no obligation in our system of laws that mandates someone must risk their life to save another. A mother is not obligated to jump into a raging river to save a drowning infant, even her own.

Note, also, that this is hardly an atheist-only perspective; for example, it's long been the position of orthodox Judaism.

machinephilosophy said...

Steven Carr,

That sure proves it, especially when the whole question of what makes murder or genocide "wrong" in the first place (in any sense beyond mere personal preference) is ignored, even though it's a primary premise in arguing against theism or Christianity.

Stephen Law does the same thing in his adolescent article on the so-called evil-God "challenge", in simply declaring that "clearly" evil exists, without any argument whatsoever for the claim.

Can I do this with the same intellectual impunity? And could we have a list of all the assumptions that are similarly protected from criticism? Hopefully, someone from *Oxford will provide an official statement of permission to do so by the mere fact of their unquestioned academic prestige.

If so, I'm ready to start constructing analogous arguments using the same sheltered assumptions!

And to the fanboy of Oxford: Graduating from some place like Oxford apparently means little more than a guarantee that you'll never have to address your most basic assumptions because of the prestige of academic mutual-admiration societies. And then you can just go on writing articles and books as if there's no problem, and in the case of the childish problem of evil, even most theistic philosophers won't call your hand on it.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?"

No one has ever asked me that before in my entire life.

(Warning: The above statement contains trace amounts of sarcasm.)

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "Their substantive (as opposed to legally conventional) right to life, is then is derived from your subjective need for, or appreciation of them?"

In kind of the same way that 'blueness' is in how human eyes perceive certain frequency ranges of light. But that doesn't mean the light doesn't have that frequency range, or that perceiving that range isn't valuable to humans.

Remember the discussion you were in on here?

BenYachov said...

Ray,

Enough of the tangents. Dawkins advocates late term abortions where infants are conscious by your shifting standards.

Dawkins praises Atheists who advocate euthanizing infants up to a month after they are born.

He is a hypocrite pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget something important:

Dawkins, quite famously, does not believe that good and evil exist objectively. Ergo his moral indignation at Craig's supposed (and wholly artificial) defense of "genocide" is without foundation.

Anonymous said...

You can't logically trust moral relativists or people who do't believe there are objectively and intrinsically right or wrong, or good or bad actions. Dawkins is just another empirical data point for this obvious fact.

Pattsce said...

Ray,

What you describe is Not the principle/doctrine of double effect. The first requirement of the DDE is that the intentional action must be morally neutral or morally good. Abortion is neither of those things. Under the DDE, a forbidden act is never "allowable," regardless of the results. You are simply allowed to commit a neutral/good act, Even If such action will result in an unintended bad result.

The DDE is there simply to show why, while some acts may have bad results, the acts can still be justified if the results are unintended. It is not the opposite of this: a backdoor way of sneaking in utilitarianism. There is never a point where you can commit a Bad act (abortion) to attain a Good result (the saving of the mother). There are times, though, when you can commit a good act (a surgery to repair the mother's heart, for example) that will result in a good result (the saving of the mother's life) And a bad result (the death of the fetus). The first scenario would be forbidden, while the second would be allowed under the DDE.

Further, abortion in the case of the mother's life would not be "refusing to save" the child. It would be killing an innocent to save herself. This is a distinction that Judy Jarvis Thomson misunderstood in her "violinist experiment." A misunderstanding that Philippa Foot addressed:

"The case of abortion is of course completely different. The fetus is not in jeopardy because it is in its mother’s womb; it is merely dependent on her in the way children are dependent on their parents for food. An abortion, therefore, originates the sequence which ends in the death of the fetus, and the destruction comes about “through the agency” of the mother who seeks the abortion."

See these two articles by Philippa Foot:

http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ362/hallam/readings/footdoubleeffect.pdf

and note her distinction between killing/saving/letting die, etc. in her "Killing and Letting Die" if you get can get a hold of it. (You can get a lot of it on Google Books preview.) That is where the above quote comes from.

Birdieupon said...

I have made a number of videos covering Dawkins' cowardly and incoherent excuses:

This video is a detailed response to his Guardian article and lists 12 excuses in total, all of which are self-contradictory:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIbyAqDlq-c

A report from the night of the The Empty Chair, and even Private Eye Magazine weighs in:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49VNwdpSxEs

My blog also covers Dawkins' more recent tantrums and online trolling:

http://aatheism.blogspot.com/2011/11/richard-dawkins-i-am-ashamed-of-my.html

If you want more details for your next show (Dawkins continues to produce highly embarrassing gems) give me a shout!

Anonymous said...

Ray said: "Humans need a brain to be aware,..."

Why is it wrong in the new atheist view to kill someone if that someone's brain will stop functioning and he/she will not even realize they are dead? They will stop existing. It's not as if they will miss being alive.

Is it because killing them will hurt their loved ones? If so, what about people who are socially withdrawn and/or have no loved ones? What about those who are a nuisance and would not be missed?

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - "Enough of the tangents."

I was answering TimL's question. Feel free to ignore our discussion if you like.

Sam said...

Watching Dawkins go from one tactic to another to explain why he won't debate Craig is kind of like watching the Watchtower go from one tactic to another to explain why judgment day hasn't come yet. Trial and error. Whatever works.

Ray Ingles said...

Pattsce - "The first requirement of the DDE is that the intentional action must be morally neutral or morally good. Abortion is neither of those things."

Allowing a tubal ligation in the context of an ectopic pregnancy seems to be an extremely fine-split hair. A abortion by any other name is... an abortion.

As I said, "I parse the situation differently from, say, the Catholic Church, but I think the reasoning should be recognizable."

"The fetus is not in jeopardy because it is in its mother’s womb; it is merely dependent on her in the way children are dependent on their parents for food."

Except that it's at least very likely to kill the mother "because it is in its mother’s womb". As if the only way a child could get food were by strangling their parents. The link I pointed out notes that "Maimonides, notably, justified the requirement to abort a pregnancy that threatens the woman's life not because the fetus is less than a nefesh (human being), as the Talmud held, but rather through the principle of the rodef or pursuer, "pursuing her to kill her."

You don't have to agree with the reasoning, but that's not the same thing as saying it's prima facie mistaken.

Anonymous said...

windbags of Feez-land, brainfart on

PatrickH said...

Of course, if William Lane Craig has a view about genocide and infanticide exactly like the view attributed to him by the (unfortunately) recently returned troll, that isn’t a reason to avoid debate with him. It’s a reason to seek out debate. Dawkins should see Craig’s views as the very best of openings for him to launch a one-sided run-through of one of the most effective theist debaters around.

So have some fun, Dick! Don’t view Craig’s immoral defence of genocide as an obstacle. View it as an opportunity.

Fat chance. The problem isn't that Craig is immoral. It's that he's effective. And he has a set of balls. And whatever his other faults, so does Hitchens. Dawkins, nope. No yarbles at all on dickless Dick.

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "Their substantive (as opposed to legally conventional) right to life, is then is derived from your subjective need for, or appreciation of them?"

In kind of the same way that 'blueness' is in how human eyes perceive certain frequency ranges of light. But that doesn't mean the light doesn't have that frequency range, or that perceiving that range isn't valuable to humans."

I wasn't asking if you could get along without them, or if you really needed them, or if there was really an essential "them" there. I asked you to say where their rights came from.

Obviously you cannot or will not.

Pattsce said...

Ray,

You are incorrect in your use of "the doctrine of double effect." You can call it something else, but what you refer to is Not the DDE. There is a significant moral difference between intentionally killing and intentionally operating on a body part that results in a death. I recommend Elizabeth Anscombe's analysis on intention here.

"Except that it's at least very likely to kill the mother "because it is in its mother’s womb"." That has nothing to do with the point I addressed. Regardless of the danger to the mother, aborting it would not be "letting it die" or "choosing not to save it." You claim it as such because choosing not to save a person would be morally licit, while murdering a person would not be. But aborting a fetus is murdering a person---under all circumstances; it does not become an act of "not saving" just because the mother will die.

Pattsce said...

"There is a significant moral difference between intentionally killing and intentionally operating on a body part that results in a death."

"That results in an Unintended death," I meant to include.

DNW said...

"[Ray] 'Humans need a brain to be aware, and ...'

You realize of course that you have just played the sentience card. The question that always follows given the question you were trying to respond to, is, "Why did you play it?".

Also your subjective theory of value works well for an analysis economic exchange relationships and the pricing of commodities when arguing against Marxist economics, but doesn't really bear on the question of inherent rights and entitlement to interpersonal respect and regard; which is what TimL's reference to intrinsic value is directed to.

This matter probably doesn't really need to be argued with you anyway since it's obvious that on your own interpretation of the term "intrinsic human value", no one you can conceive of, would have any such thing.


Joke of the day: If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?"



[Ray]" DNW - 'If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?'

No one has ever asked me that before in my entire life."

"That"? What is "that" exactly? And did you have an interesting reply demonstrating that you do in fact have an objective and intrinsic right to life on some basis or another?

"(Warning: The above statement contains trace amounts of sarcasm.)"

Only fair, since the Joke of the day did too.

Nietzsche said...

Man does not strive for happiness; only the Ingles does.

Ray Ingles said...

Pattsce - "There is a significant moral difference between intentionally killing and intentionally operating on a body part that results in a death. I recommend Elizabeth Anscombe's analysis on intention here."

So just removing the placenta would be no big deal, right? It's not operating on the fetus itself, right?

Removing part of the fallopian tube of necessity kills the fetus. That result can't be called unintended.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "That"? What is "that" exactly?

That question, of course. I thought the meaning would be obvious. I mean, the phrasing was pretty plain. I said "No one has ever asked me that before" - I figured the word "question" was implied. Especially since I quoted the actual question itself.

What other meaning did you suspect? Did you think I meant "No one has ever asked me that restaurant before"?

(If you want to know how I answered, you could, y'know, click the link. That's what it's there for...)

Anonymous said...

Ray: "Removing part of the fallopian tube of necessity kills the fetus. That result can't be called unintended."

Ray, removing a malignant salivary gland tumour of the parotid gland damages the facial nerve and paralyses the face. It is never the intention of the surgeon to do that, but the nerve runs right through the cancer and so has to be sacrificed to remove every bit of the cancer. The paralysis is unintended.

It's the same with salphigectomy. The fetus' placenta is causing the tube to malfunction and bleed. The malfunctioning tube has to be removed to avoid death from rupture. The surgeon does not intend to kill the fetus, either.

Pattsce said...

"So just removing the placenta would be no big deal, right? It's not operating on the fetus itself, right?"

No, it would not be "no big deal." Because in that scenario, I'm assuming you're aborting the child as a Means of ensuring the safety of the mother. This is, of course, different than say, operating on a part of her body, giving chemotherapy, etc. as a Means of saving the mother. The means are entirely different.

In the first case, your scenario, the abortion is the means by which you are saving the mother. You are aborting In Order To save the mother. Without the abortion, the mother would die. (And by abortion, be clear in understanding I mean Intentionally Killing the child.) In my scenarios, it is the treatment that is the means of saving the mother. I am treating the mother, which unintentionally results in the death of the child, in order to save the mother.

Further, in my scenario, I want the child to live; it just can't. In your scenario, the child Must die in order to save the mother. So taking my above explanation, if the science were good enough in which a death wouldn't result out of treatment, my scenario would read, "I am treating the mother...in order to save the mother." While your scenario would read "...in order to save the mother." You don't have anything you're doing except killing the child. The killing (however you go about it) is simply your means of operation.

Put once again, in your scenario with the placenta, you are really saying "I am removing the placenta SO THAT THE CHILD WILL DIE, so that the mother will live." You don't have to go anywhere physically near the fetus or touch it actually, and that's really kind of an irrelevant point. You could take a pill that causes the heart to act a certain way that intentionally causes the death of the fetus in order to result in the saving of the mother. You have to simply look at what's impeding the saving. If it's the child impeding the saving, there's nothing you can do (to that child). If it's something else (say, cancer) there is something you can do. I can attack the cancer; I can never attack the child.

Brian said...

It has already been pointed out that Dawkins encourages the murder of babies with incurable diseases. He is also a close friend of Christopher Hitchens (who is a fierce defender of America’s atrocities in Iraq) and Sam Harris. Harris explicitly supports the use of judicial torture, the introduction of discriminatory measures against Muslims (e.g. ethnic profiling) and vigorously defends America’s foreign policy since 1945. I’d like to add the following quotes to all this:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, ''no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.'' Richard Dawkins in River Out Of Eden (p.155. Emphasis in blue added).

There is a non-overlapping and exhaustive distinction between ideas that are false or true about the real world (factual matters, in the broad sense) and ideas about what we ought to do – ''normative or moral ideas, for which the words ‘true’ and ‘false’ have no meaning.'' Richard Dawkins, ‘Afterword’ in John Brockman (ed.), What Is Your Dangerous Idea?, (London: Pocket Books, 2006), (p. 307)

We have here a man who claims that moral values are illusory, that words like ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have no meaning and that our lives have no purpose. Before proceeding, think carefully about what this entails. It entails that the murder of 100 million + human beings by the Communist governments of the 20th century cannot be condemned as evil (a meaningless term according to Dawkins) because the lives of these humans were worthless. Note that this is the same man who professes to find the Canaanite massacre to be morally repugnant. Often, when people believe contradictory propositions at the same time, we regard them as insane. In this case, I think most people will regard Dawkins with disgust. He knew about Craig’s views on the Cannanite’s for several years before deciding to use it as an excuse. A self professed moral nihilist using normative judgements to avoid a debate on a factual question!

I find it disturbing that Christians here are attempting to debate Steven Carr & Co on their personal views on ethics. This is precisely what they want you to do. It is painfully obvious that their god (Dawkins) would be destroyed in a debate with Craig. They would love to this into a debate about ethics of abortion or deontological v consequential ethics precisely because they are engaged in a farcical attempt at damage control on behalf of their Lord.

Think about it: If Christian philosophers were invited to debate Dawkins and refused what would people like Carr say to us? They’d probably say what Dawkins himself says. That a person’s views on ethics are irrelevant to the question of whether or not God exists, that Dawkins is justified in making these assertions because that is how the world actually is, that it is infantile to dodge the Big Question because your are ‘offended’ by what your critics think and so on. In short, do as I say but not as I do. Please don’t play their game. So long as they continue to throw out red herrings I recommend that their posts be ignored.

DNW said...

(If you want to know how I answered, you could, y'know, click the link. That's what it's there for...)

December 6, 2011 12:53 PM"


If you cannot summon the energy to respond to the actual question by typing out the answer, perhaps you could go into your archives and cut and paste it.

I'm sure you feel you have had many fine and satisfying Internet adventures, and that you are pleased with the answers you have provided to this or that question. But the way this is done among adults, is that if you have a substantive reply to a question, you respond to it by quoting it and placing your answer below; not by quoting something and insinuating that you have dealt with precisely the same question elsewhere.

That way things remain orderly and transparent, and logical issues are much more easily dealt with, than when you instead reply by waving your rhetorical hankie and murmuring, "Over there ...".

Untenured said...

DNW hits the nail right on the head:

"A self professed moral nihilist using normative judgments to avoid a debate on a factual question!"

This is why Dawkins is so repulsive. He is a moral nihilist who is addicted to using moralistic language when it suits him politically. He doesn't believe that moral predicates signify anything, but he has no problem using them when he thinks he can manipulate the moral sentiments of his audience.

For comparison, imagine someone who does not believe in God, but who realizes that the majority of people are swayed by theological sounding language. Thus, he regularly denounces people as "heretics" and "godless infidels" whenever he thinks it will enable him to score political and rhetorical points. Such a person would be nothing more than a manipulative demagogue.

Dawkins and the others are no better than our hypothetical Atheist. They know that a majority of people can be swayed by moralistic sounding rhetoric, and so they help themselves to it any time they can in order to manipulate people politically. It is profoundly dishonest and morally repulsive.

N.J.P.B. said...

Thought y'all might enjoy this.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-CYCkjEDwhkw/TotlbRU9OCI/AAAAAAAAHrc/tDtN4X-aTFQ/s1600/theres-probably-no-dawkins-bus-advert.jpg

Anonymous said...

Untenured, he might simply be believing both incompatible meta-ethical propositions, albeit each one at a different time from the other, and hence may be suffering from classic cognitive dissonance. That's my personal theory, since Dawkins strikes me as being an individual who has no real unity of self from one moment to the next, a unity which would be required for your "underhanded, manipulative bastard" theory. His remarks are just too pathetic for me to take that view seriously.

ketch22 said...

I have reposted this on my blog with all reference to you. If this is not in your best interest, please let me know and I will bring it down. Great article.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a case of Multiple Personality Disorder best describes his curious inconsistencies (though I admit this explanation might be too magnanimous).

Ana said...

"God, if He exists, can simply will the death of any person. What difference does it make if He acts through an intermediary?"

That is a point that needs emphasizing.

For some reason, God killing people though intermediary human agents outrages Dawkins and company, far more than God killing persons directly or through natural catastrophe.

It isn't often, if at all, that I see atheists up in arms -- on moral grounds -- about say, God sending the flood.

They might ridicule the Noah's Ark story by approaching it with very rigid biblical literalism and then juxtaposing it with modern geology. Or they may ridicule it on the basis that the Scripture uses anthropomorphic language to describe God, and argue that God is an incompetent creator if he "grieved that he had made man on the earth". But neither of those criticisms are morality based.

On another note, a few days ago I sent Patrick of Catholic Answers Live, a message wherein I pointed out the glaring disparity that exists between Dawkins refusing to share a stage with Craig, yet willing to converse with Peter Singer:

-------

"Seeing as to how Sean emphasized Craig's justification of infanticide, even though it has nothing whatsover to do with the question of whether atheism is a tenable view , I wanted to share something with you that may be useful in future in the event that another atheist wants to fixate on the “justifies infanticide” element, as the basis for deciding that Craig doesn't deserve to be debated.

* Richard Dawkins has himself expressed conditional moral support for infanticide in his interview with the controversial ethicist Peter Singer.*

Singer does not believe that humans have intrinsic value, and that therefore, humans do not have an intrinsic right to life. He goes instead with the distinction of “biographical (human) life” and “biological (human) life”, and would say that the former consists of sentience like self-awareness, emotion, will, ability to conceive of past, present, and future whereas the latter he sees as being, essentially a mechanically active human body. As I understand it, his view is that an individual who has both biographical and biological life, is a person, whereas an individual who has only biological life, is not a person. His definition of personhood, in addition to the factor of suffering/pain, is the criteria he uses to determine in which cases it is morally permissible to end a human life.

I don't know where Dawkins stands on the personhood concept, but in Dawkins' interview with Singer [available on youtube], which is mainly about the ethics of eating meat and comparing human characteristics with non-human animal characteristics, there's a segment wherein Dawkins considers slippery-slopes and says “suppose you take the argument in favor of abortion up until the baby was 1-year-old or 2-years old. If a baby was 1-year-old and turned out to have some horrible incurable disease that meant it was going to die in agony in later life, what about infanticide? Morally -- strictly morally -- I can see no objection to that at all. I would be in favor of infanticide.”

Bringing attention to Dawkins' moral agreement with infanticide could be bittersweet.

If in doing so, the qualification Dawkins made is left out, one would be accused of being dishonest.

(It is good and responsible afterall, to provide context when presenting a person's statement/ belief, especially in cases in which omitting the context would render the statement/ belief as misleading.)

Ana said...

(cont.)

"But here's the thing: if atheist critics of Craig oppose infanticide in principle, then Dawkins' qualification is completely irrelevant, and they should be as outraged at Dawkins as they are at Craig. Otherwise they would be guilty of a double-standard.

However, if they are not in principle opposed to infanticide, then quite frankly they have no business pulling the infanticide card as a reason for rejecting a Craig-Dawkins debate.

But it is far more absurd when Dawkins himself pulls that card, because for one, there's positive evidence against his claim that the infanticide issue is the reason for why he doesn't want to share a stage with Craig, and secondly, because he was perfectly ok with sharing a floor with Singer, despite Singer's views:

“Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents … although a normal newborn baby has no sense of the future, and therefore is not a person, that does not mean that it is all right to kill such a baby. It only means that the wrong done to the infant is not as great as the wrong that would be done to a person who was killed. But in our society there are many couples who would be very happy to love and care for that child. Hence even if the parents do not want their own child, it would be wrong to kill it.” [ http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html ]

Dawkins is fine with sharing a floor with a philosopher who maintains that humans deliberately killing innocent newborns is wrong only to the extent that it is contrary to the wishes of the parents, or to other potential caregivers. But he's not ok with sharing a floor with a philosopher who maintains that killing innocent infants is wrong only to the extent that it is contary to God's will."

Brian said...

God cannot directly will death. Just saying.

StoneTop said...

Dawkins is fine with sharing a floor with a philosopher who maintains that humans deliberately killing innocent newborns is wrong only to the extent that it is contrary to the wishes of the parents, or to other potential caregivers. But he's not ok with sharing a floor with a philosopher who maintains that killing innocent infants is wrong only to the extent that it is contary to God's will.

Sure... because those parents / caregivers can be shown to exist, while there is no evidence to support a deity (let alone its wishes regarding an infant's continued life).

Foobobble the Absurd said...

I'm by no means a fan of Richard Dawkins, but he should at least be given credit for publicly debating the Oxford mathematician John Lennox, who is a lightweight neither in philosophy nor theology.//I could be wrong, but my impression of Dawkins is that while he is bellicose in print he's more or less taciturn in temperament; if that's so I could understand why he'd want to avoid the boisterous atmosphere of a Craig debate.

Anonymous said...

Until WLC changes his position, and accepts that evidence for something, trumps personal prejudice and desire for the opposite, why would anyone even want to waste time even talking to WLC let alone debate him ?

[Posted anonymously because I cant be bothered to create an account].

TimLambert said...

Anonymous at 7:55 PM,

"Until WLC changes his position, and accepts that evidence for something, trumps personal prejudice and desire for the opposite, why would anyone even want to waste time even talking to WLC let alone debate him ?"


Well, can't everything you just said also be directed at Dawkins? Or hell, anyone who believes anything?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying - because the comment was kind of a nightmare to read.
So maybe you can flesh out what you're saying

Also, you don't need to create an account to enter a name, as should be obvious from the options immediately above where you clicked "anonymous".
It appears you don't dedicate alot of time to paying much attention to what you do: whether selecting options, drafting thoughts to print or understanding opposing opinions.

TimLambert said...

Foobobble the Absurd said:

"I could be wrong, but my impression of Dawkins is that while he is bellicose in print he's more or less taciturn in temperament; if that's so I could understand why he'd want to avoid the boisterous atmosphere of a Craig debate."

It would be a bad idea to be taciturn in a debate. If you're going to be, then why debate? Dawkins is just as sneering and bellicose (as you put it) when he does debate though. So I'd say you're incorrect about his temperament in person (in person obviously meaning 'in person while debating).

You say "boisterous atmosphere of a Craig debate".... what does that mean? That boisterous people follow Craig around? Or that Craig is boisterous during debates? Because if that would be a reason (to avoid ol' boisterous Craig and his minions) I'd have to say I have no clue what you're talking about.
If you're going to equate "striving to make a point and keeping the debate focused on the expressed purpose" with being boisterous.... then sure, Craig is a very boisterous debater.

Glenn said...

Why would Stephen Carr accuse Bill Craig of believing that "murder is morally obligatory and not even murder when done in the name of Craig's god."

Craig as never said that, and in fact Mr Carr then proceeds to quote Craig stating his position to be something quite different.

Or does Stephen see literally no difference between doing something in the name of God and actually being commanded by God to do something?

Or is it acceptable to just jumble all these ideas into one since mr Carr just knows that it's all nonsense anyway?

Steven Carr said...

'Craig as never said that, and in fact Mr Carr then proceeds to quote Craig stating his position to be something quite different.'

CARR
I shall simply repeat Craig's comments, so that people can see how Christians deny what is even in black and white for all to see.



Sorry, but Craig clearly states something is not murder if his God commands it, and is in fact morally obligatory, although it would be murder if his god had not commanded it.

Please feel free to deny reality. It only reinforces the stereotype of Christians as deluded.

CRAIG
God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.

The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

Steven Carr said...

It makes you wonder why Christians don't realise the damage they do to their image.

Just say that you are against killing whole tribes of men, women and children - even if your god commands it.

Can't any of you see how much better you will look if you did that?

Anonymous said...

http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/08/response-to-william-lane-craig%E2%80%99s-question-225-%E2%80%9Cthe-%E2%80%98slaughter%E2%80%99-of-the-canaanites-re-visited%E2%80%9D-part-ii.html

God didn't command genocide, and the Israelites couldn't have committed it, otherwise why would the same book of the Bible mention Cannaanites when earlier in the book they were supposedly wiped out to the very last man/woman/child? Clearly the book of Joshua is hyperbolic in its account of the command and skirmish with the Canaanites.

Refusing to debate Craig on the silly things he said about the book of Joshua is about as intelligent as refusing to debate Dawkins for his silly comments about paedophilia not being all that bad.

Canaanonymous

John said...

@Ray Ingles

"You seem to have left some context off your question. I'll assume you're asking something like, "Why allow abortion in the case of medical threat to the mother after 20 weeks, when you would object to killing the infant after birth?"

--I think I'm not necessarily against saving the mother by killing the baby in her womb. Those are prudential questions. I'm against abortion for convenience.

Untenured said...

Steven Carr, you are what those in the journalistic profession like to call "a one note hack".

Your behavior, and the behavior of people like Sean Faircloth, suggest to me that that the Dawkins cult is now operating on a political focus group model.

Stay on message. Repeat the talking points. Use lots of repetition. Saturate the media. Answer the question you want them to ask, not the question they actually asked.

Am I getting warm?

Martin Lagerwey said...

Are we criticising Dawkins for his personality (Wuzz, bellicose, dishonest). If you cannot criticise his ideas, try ad hominem. How smart is that?

Anonymous said...

Are we criticising Dawkins for his personality (Wuzz, bellicose, dishonest). If you cannot criticise his ideas, try ad hominem. How smart is that?

Another one who does not understand what ad hominem means. Nobody is making an ad hominem argument here.

Let's go back to Phil 101:

This is not an ad hominem: "Dawkins is an idiot."
This is an ad hominem: "Dawkins is wrong because he is an idiot."

See the difference?

Untenured said...

Martin, Dawkins's "ideas" have already been refuted many times over. If you haven't caught on to this yet, then you really need to get out more.

If you want to know why we aren't discussing Dawkins's feeble "arguments" against Theism, try browsing through the archives here or even doing a google search. Or, if you won't take it from us, read Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel's review of _God Delusion_. If that doesn't set you straight, then maybe critical reasoning isn't your strong suit.

And, by the way, these aren't "ad hominem" arguments. They are accurate descriptions of Dawkins's character. They would be ad hominem arguments if we were reasoning as follows: "Dawkins is a bellicose, dishonest wuss, therefore his arguments fail." But we aren't saying that. Dawkins's arguments fail because they don't establish their intended conclusions, not because Dawkins is a bellicose wuss.

Tony said...

The funniest thing about this whole problem of Dawkins is that Craig is only a so-so debater. I have been listening to mp3 talks and debates during my commute for the past few months, including several by Craig against X, and Craig doesn't hit home runs very regularly. Yes, he does have some good shots, but he also flubs some arguments pretty noticeably, and you can rattle him without unfair debate tactics. His biggest problem is relying on a personalist God and the limits that puts on his morality arguments.

Given all that, Dawkins' fear of debating Craig is funny: he won't take on someone who has known gaps, problems, and weaknesses. I leave it to the reader to deduce how weak that indicates Dawkins is himself.

Tony said...

Brian: God cannot directly will death. Just saying.

Brian, what do you do with the Israelites that were trying to worship God using their own imagined rite, after Moses warned them? God opened the earth and it swallowed them up, killing them. Traditional perspective is that God directly willed them dead: even if God's action was not, strictly, a miracle, (he could have organized the entire history of the Earth to prepare for that particular earthquake / sinkhole naturally), it is still the case that God DIRECTLY willed them to die for their sin.

BenYachov said...

>Just say that you are against killing whole tribes of men, women and children - even if your god commands it.

Yet you believe the Bible is fiction?
That's like saying we are against blowing up planets with Death Star space stations.

But yet hypocrites like yourself & Dawkins still don't denounce Partal Birth Abortion or Atheist "Ethicists" who advocate euthanasia against handicapped children and infants?

As the Father of three mentally handicapped children I say you are a sociopath, a coward and a hypocrite Carr!

DNW said...

So, as I mentioned before, we were milling around the doorway of the classroom with the professor after having finished the numerous readings and discussions of Language Truth and Logic, when she said, "Well, I'm really not sure what, on the assumption of an emotive theory of ethics, you could say [with the intention of changing their mind as to the "wrongness" of it] to someone who asserted that they did not feel it was wrong to kill annoying people. "

Of course we all recognize now, as we students did then, that you could threaten them with consequences. You could also try to use politics gain enough control over life chances and their "social" distribution, so as to enable you to engage in a subtle program of selective breeding and herd management, and let the question of whose affects are "really better" go hang. And eventually, if you were successful in reducing sexual dimorphism, and creating a race of tame hive dwelling pan-sexual hedonists operating under expert direction, satisfy yourself with the answer that your programmatic triumph provided its own evolutionary justification.

And folks, that is basically where we are at, as Sean Faircloth exemplifies. And that is why you cannot debate Dawkins in any way that you would find meaningful. Different frameworks.

Arthur said...

"I could understand why he'd want to avoid the boisterous atmosphere of a Craig debate."

Phew. Once "boisterous atmosphere" is a good reason to avoid debating someone we really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Dawkins could do without a "defence" like that, I think.

DNW said...

Untenured said...

DNW hits the nail right on the head:

"A self professed moral nihilist using normative judgments to avoid a debate on a factual question!"

This is why Dawkins is so repulsive. He is a moral nihilist who is addicted to using moralistic language when it suits him politically. He doesn't believe that moral predicates signify anything, but he has no problem using them when he thinks he can manipulate the moral sentiments of his audience."


Thanks for the credit, but I don't believe that I wrote that. It expresses my views as well, and represents the gist of what I - and many others - have generally said before. But I'd have probably been a lot more wordy and indirect. LOL

The Deuce said...

You almost have to feel sorry for the Stephen Carrs out there, the folks who's self-identity is so wrapped up in the belief that Dawkins is some sort of atheist messiah, and not the intellectually lightweight coward that he so clearly is, that they will desperately cling to any excuse he gives them and defend it as gospel truth. Honestly, does the "I can't debate a genocide-defender!" excuse even pass the laugh test with anybody who's worldview isn't deeply invested in hero worship of the man? There's no point in even trying to dissuade them of such an almost self-evident absurdity. If they'll believe that, they'll believe anything Dawkins tells them to believe.

Proph said...

@Steven Carr:


Sorry, but Craig clearly states something is not murder if his God commands it, and is in fact morally obligatory, although it would be murder if his god had not commanded it.


OK. What's wrong with this?

If I am commanded by the state to execute a criminal, it would not be murder. This is simply the case whether you support the death penalty on principle or not.

Likewise, if I'm a soldier in a war and my commanding officer orders me to return fire, I have not murdered anyone I shot. Again, this is simply the case whether you support war in principle or not.

Murder is murder because it is ILLEGITIMATE killing: it is a usurpation of authority.

Who has more authority than God, if He exists?

Seriously, what's even difficult about this to comprehend?

Anonymous said...

Proph, I can only assume that new atheists are terrified that non-atheists will use God as an excuse to murder millions of people, the way Communist atheists have used secular ideologies to excuse the murder of millions of people.

Devlin said...

Here’s a bet:

Heads-Dawkins claims that Dr Feser is homophobic and refuses to debate him for this reason.

Tails-Dawkins refuses to reply to Coffin’s invitation.

Either way, Dawkins loses!

Anonymous said...

I can’t believe you guys are feeding these trolls. Steven & Co desperately want to drag you all into a debate about divine command theory or utilitarianism because they don’t want commentators to focus on Dawkins’s dishonesty. Better to ignore their posts (or rub their noses in the filth of Dawkins’s indefensible cowardice) than play their game.

Proph said...

@Anonymous:

I can’t believe you guys are feeding these trolls. Steven & Co desperately want to drag you all into a debate about divine command theory or utilitarianism because they don’t want commentators to focus on Dawkins’s dishonesty. Better to ignore their posts (or rub their noses in the filth of Dawkins’s indefensible cowardice) than play their game.

Probably true. It's the standard parousiastic/gnostic prohibition of questioning at play: Dawkins can never debate anyone who calls his metaphysical system into question because the mere act of questioning it exposes its falsehood and stupidity.

Nonetheless, it'd be more effective as such if Dawkins wasn't clearly a meritless cupcake of a "man" widely mocked (outside his narrow little echo chamber, anyway) for his remorseless cowardice.

Alyosha said...

Proph,

Your comment on at 7:15 AM was excellent.

Another point I would make along those lines is that there are actually two questions involved here: 1) God's commandment and whether or not it is morally just. 2) Human activity and whether or not it is morally justified.

The atheist cannot just assume a negative answer to the former without begging the question. But that is precisely the assumption made in their dispute with Craig. If God is in fact good and just, then not only would following the order to kill not be murder (the second issue), it would be morally justified (the first issue).

Craig's explanation of why it is not murder given a divine command is an attempt to answer the second question, and your example of this point at 7:15 was very helpful.

DNW said...

Perhaps those who have been basing their versions of a "right to life" on the quality of sentience, can demonstrate logically how the condition of sentience logically implies the right of, or to, sentience.

"A" is aware of its surroundings ...

Therefore?

Alyosha said...

DNW,

But that would require metaphysical analysis. And we know where that leads...

Some roads are best left untraveled!

Proph said...

Aloysha, thanks for the kind words. We must never forget that the prohibition on murder is very real and it arises from our natures, but we should also never forget that our natures were ordained by God and so are simply a form of unspoken "divine commandment." The logical analogy is that while the state forbids killing, there are circumstances under which the state can licitly command me to kill, i.e., to execute a criminal or defend my nation against an invading army. Likewise, God has generally forbade killing by virtue of our natures, but He may command us to kill in pursuit of some good which is greater than our natures. (This also means there's an asymmetry between God forbidding and command murder: He must explicitly command murder, but he need not explicitly forbid it, since we can deduce that prohibition rationally).

DNW, you will have a hard time extracting from the average leftist/materialist/atheist a coherent conception of what a "right" is, as most leftists deny all the metaphysical bases from which "rights" can be thought to derive. I actually blogged about this:

http://collapsetheblog.typepad.com/blog/2011/10/whence-rights.html

Fogey said...

Dawkins won't debate Craig,so you assume Craig would win the debate. Craig won't debate John Loftus so can we can assume Loftus, who is an atheist and an ex-student of Craig, would cream Craig?

Chris Hitchens and Stephen Fry thrashed Anne Widdecombe and some Archbishop in a debate about whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in 2009. The audience decided it wasn't. What does that prove?

Foobobble the Absurd said...

@Tim Lambert:

Hi Tim, thanks for your response.

I just meant that these debates are boisterous in general, not that Craig and/or his followers are boisterous in particular. If one is thick-skinned and gregarious it’s a fine environment (Hitchens or D’Souza for instance), but if one is thin-skinned and introverted then the atmosphere could easily unnerve one, and I wouldn’t blame someone like that for not entering into such a format. The fact that they declined would not in and of itself be a reason to call their integrity into question. This may or may not be the case with Dawkins, just an off-the-cuff observation on my part.

Alyosha said...

Fogey,

You misunderstand. We do not infer from Dawkins refusing to debate Craig that Craig would win the debate. We infer from the fact that Dawkins is an incompetent commentor on religion and the fact that Bill Craig is not that Craig would win the debate. From this and the numerous times Dawkins has provided transparent excuses for refusing to debate Craig we infer that Dawkins understands this as well as would rather not be exposed in a public debate.

Richard said...

P.Z. Myers has said that Craig would more than likely demolish Dawkins in a debate. Of course, he then went on to say that it shows that public debate is a terrible way to settle questiona about truth, which I don't totally disagree with. Sigh. I HATE agreeing with that man.

Anonymous said...

Broken clocks are right twice a day, Richard. Cut POZ Myers some slack.

(sarcastic post)

Parsifal said...

As has been said before, the issue at hand is Dawkins' dissembling excuses for refusal to debate rather than tangential issues concerning competing moral theories etc. He has flip-flopped and contradicted himself on this matter with a nigh on unbeatable frenzy of inconsistency. First he knew about Craig's Caananite argument in 2008. Then he didn't know about it in 2010. Then in May 2011 he remembered he'd forgotten it in 2010 but was more concerned about not giving Craig the oxygen of publicity rather than his apologia for "genocide". Then in October he claimed the Caananite issue was the primary reason for refusal.

Leaving aside the blatant hypocrisy of his criticisms of Craig's ethical stance (he defends Singer on infanticide; has defended James Watson aginst criticism of his statements concerning the "inferior" IQ of Africans etc; and actually doesn't really believe in objective good or evil in the first place anyway!), it is this shifting base for his refusal which is so telling.

Craig himself has said that he has on good authority heard that the real reason that Dawkins will not debate him is that he found his experience debating Lennox a humbling one - something he has no wish to repeat...

BenYachov said...

>Of course, he then went on to say that it shows that public debate is a terrible way to settle questiona about truth.

Luke over at Commonsense Atheist says similar but he also says Craig wins virtually all his debates (at best there are 5 or 6 when his opponent makes a respectible showing).

But if Craig had lost most of his debates by Luke's standard I wonder of Atheists would still hold that opinion?

BTW PZ Myers debated an "Incompetent Canadian Creationist" and lost according to VOXDAY.

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2009/01/why-fowl-atheist-ran-away.html

Ana said...

Hi StoneTop,

"Sure... because those parents / caregivers can be shown to exist, while there is no evidence to support a deity (let alone its wishes regarding an infant's continued life)."

Dawkins does not refuse to debate Craig on the basis that "there is no evidence to support a deity". He refuses to debate Craig on the basis (or so he claims) that Craig morally justifies an event of mass killing, presented in Scripture.

So a human by his own initiave, killing certain innocent infants (defective ones)is morally justifiable to Dawkins.

But, God directing the killing of certain innocent infants (Canaanites) in Scripture, is not. Again, according to Dawkins.

Untenured said...

@BY:

"BTW PZ Myers debated an "Incompetent Canadian Creationist" and lost according to VOXDAY."

I don't doubt it. I honestly think that P.Z. Myers's mental decline of late has a physiological explanation. While Myers has never struck me as particularly incisive or intelligent, he used to at least write well and manage a pithy quip or two.

A while back he posted that he had cardiovascular issues. And it is well known that poor cardiac function is associated with diminished cognitive performance. Read P.Z. from 2004 or 2005, and compare it to some of his more recent dribblings. These are the writings of a man with an atrophied intelligence.

Martin S. said...

I'm not philosophically trained, in metaphysics, natural philosophy or jurisprudence so I was surprised that I could follow the conversation on the radio.

My conclusion, was ...... are you kidding? This guy is an atheist elite? I cringed. What on earth is drawing people to Dawkins? Whatever it is . it is ugly.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "But the way this is done among adults, is that if you have a substantive reply to a question, you respond to it by quoting it and placing your answer below"

You should let Feser know that when when he links to prior posts, he's not behaving like an adult.

I thought I was saving time, but oh well.

BenYachov said...

>You should let Feser know that when when he links to prior posts, he's not behaving like an adult.

In each one of those posts Feser gives an extensive explanation of the topic he is discussing & of course links to previous posts on related topics. Plus he is linking Blog posts not comments in a comments box.
One doesn't have to plow threw dozens of posts to try to piece together what his replies are they are stated plainly.

I don't see where he gives a short paragraph & a link where he says just read here & try & figure out what I am talking about by piecing together a dozen comments?

You are so full of it Ray.

Ray Ingles said...

John - "I think I'm not necessarily against saving the mother by killing the baby in her womb. Those are prudential questions. I'm against abortion for convenience."

That does help clarify your question.

Before 22 weeks, based on what we know of neurology, it's not possible for the fetus to be aware of even something as basic as pain. (I linked to a summary before.) I'm not thrilled about abortion before that point, but I don't see any way it could legitimately be banned, even if it were just for convenience.

After 22 weeks, it's still not clear that awareness is present... but it can no longer be ruled out, and therefore we should be cautious and restrict abortion after that point, just on the off chance awareness is present even that early. I think it's also prudent to add a two-week safety margin in, too, since development rates vary - hence 20 weeks. (I'm not an obstetrician or neurologist, though, so more fine-tuning of the safety margin may be possible with more knowledge.)

In sum, I don't know if there's a relevant ontological difference between a 20-week-old-baby and a new born infant. But it seems clear there's an ontological difference between a 19-week-old fetus and a newborn infant.

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - "You are so full of it Ray."

Don't worry, I'll be explaining things in rather more detail in a little while. Considering we had to rush my son to the emergency room two days ago, and I was attending his surgery yesterday... I'm afraid this discussion hasn't been a high priority.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "If you cannot summon the energy to respond to the actual question by typing out the answer, perhaps you could go into your archives and cut and paste it."

Okay, then. Why is it wrong to kill someone when they are unconscious?

Awareness is greatly reduced when people are sleeping, but it’s not zero. When people sleep, there’s always some processing ticking along. Dreams happen even in non-REM sleep, and in several stages of non-REM sleep people can be awoken and they will say they were not unconscious, merely dozing.

Memory works differently when people are dreaming; people usually don’t remember dreams, but when we test, we find that they do, in fact, dream.

I may have a different perspective since I spent some time back in college learning how to lucid dream. Having four kids and being awoken at random times of the night gives you some extra insight into your sleep schedule, too. :)

There's a significant difference between a sleeping adult and a fetus with a developing but not interconnected nervous system. When all the wiring in a house is working, you can turn on the lights with the flick of a switch. In a house with the circuit breakers triggered, you have to go (for example) down in the basement to flip them, then head upstairs and turn on the lights.

In a house where the wiring hasn’t been installed yet, you have to install the wiring, hook it up to the power lines, test and flip the circuit breakers, install light bulbs, and then turn the lights on.

Does the difference between an unwired house and a house with the breakers cut really only amount to ‘it takes longer to turn on the lights in the unwired house’?

In other words, neurons with reduced or inhibited activity are different from neurons that don’t exist yet, surely!

Another analogy. In a semiconductor gate, a voltage is applied across the gate. Another voltage applied to the third input changes the semiconductor’s bias, and allows current to flow. The gate is open at that point, the switch is on.

Now, even when the switch is ‘off’, a little current flows anyway, the ‘leakage current’. It’s not enough to trigger another gate, but believe me, circuit designers have to take it into account, especially when talking about battery life.

A turned-off gate is still very different from a gate that doesn’t exist yet. And a sleeping person is different from a fetus with an incomplete nervous system.

Ray Ingles said...

Prohp - "What's wrong with this? If I am commanded by the state to execute a criminal, it would not be murder."

Criminals and soldiers are one thing.

Noncombatant women, children, and infants are something else.

I'm afraid that doesn't seem hard to comprehend, either.

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "But the way this is done among adults, is that if you have a substantive reply to a question, you respond to it by quoting it and placing your answer below"

You should let Feser know that when when he links to prior posts, he's not behaving like an adult.

I thought I was saving time, but oh well.
December 8, 2011 6:28 AM "


No you didn't. And it's now taken you more time and energy to fabricate the false parallel with Feser, behind which which you now hope to shelter, than it would have done for you to simply and directly answer any questions with a mere cut and paste.

If that is, your cut and paste would have addressed the precise issue mooted.

Seems you are determined to sidestep the issue you raised.

A couple more of these stunts and you will get yourself labeled as a troll.

Steven Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Carr said...

PROHP
Prohp - "What's wrong with this? If I am commanded by the state to execute a criminal, it would not be murder."

CARR
Gosh, all those Jews killed by the Nazi state....

That was not murder, say Christians. They were only obeying orders.

But perhaps they were innocent. Christians don't like innocent people being killed.

Happily, they regard everybody as sinners, not innocent people.

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

" DNW - 'If you cannot summon the energy to respond to the actual question by typing out the answer, perhaps you could go into your archives and cut and paste it.'

Okay, then. Why is it wrong to kill someone when they are unconscious?

Awareness is greatly reduced when people are sleeping, but it’s not zero. When people sleep..."



Ok, So now it should be clear to everyone who didn't follow your link, why you wanted to link to a supposed answer, rather than answer directly.

But since it might still elude some, let me re-quote my "Joke of the day" which apparently precipitated this exchange, and the introduction to your response.


[DNW] "Joke of the day: If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?"


[Ray] "Awareness is greatly reduced when people are sleeping ..."


So, instead of engaging in a game of misdirection Ray, why don't we cut to the chase here, and have you explain how it is that consciousness logically entails a right to continued consciousness. If that is your argument, that is.

And if consciousness does entail a such a right, what kind of right is it?

BenYachov said...

>Considering we had to rush my son to the emergency room two days ago, and I was attending his surgery yesterday... I'm afraid this discussion hasn't been a high priority.

I hope your son is OK. I have three mentally handicap children myself. Parents are doomed to worry for the rest of their lives. It sucks but it is part of the job.

But I am still going to call you out if I think your full of it.

Get used to it.

Peace be with you.

Proph said...

@Ray Ingles & Stephen Carr both--

"Criminals and soldiers are one thing.

Noncombatant women, children, and infants are something else.

I'm afraid that doesn't seem hard to comprehend, either."

(I'm responding to Mr. Ingles' comment specifically but it cuts to what Mr. Carr is saying as well).

Yes, there is an asymmetry between the act as identified in my examples and the genocide of the Canaanites. But there is also an asymmetry between the nature of the commanding authority in those examples and the authority of God.

My point was to show that when a proper authority commands killing in an appropriate circumstance (i.e., the state for reasons of criminal justice, the military officer in combat situations), the killing ceases to be murder -- it is made legitimate by the FACT that it was commanded authoritatively. And what is authority except the quality by which men may be commanded, and expected (indeed, obligated) to obey?

But God is not merely a state or a military officer; His authority is infinitely higher. If He exists, He is the supremest authority there is -- and rightly so, since He is all that sustains all being in every moment of its existence. He could easily cause any person to die merely by willing it (actually, merely by ceasing to will his continued existence). It is, in fact, RIGHT for him to kill by virtue of the fact that it is PROPER for him to kill. "Murder" is improper killing -- that killing which is NOT legitimate because it lacks propriety.

Re: the example of Nazis, I'm afraid that just falls short. There is an order or hierarchy of laws, and positive/civil/human law falls at the bottom of it: man can only obey positive law insofar as it does not conflict with natural law (hence why the Catholic Church actually opposes the death penalty except in very limited circumstances, even though this is routinely commanded by God throughout the Bible). And man can only obey natural law insofar as it does not conflict with divine/eternal law: i.e., he cannot claim, when commanded by God to kill some person, that he must not because it is contrary to his nature. This would be stupid: God MADE his nature. It is only contrary to his nature because God willed it: and now he is willing something quite different.

A useful example: if I place a pot of water over a fire, it will eventually boil. It's in the nature of fire to heat things, after all, although the fire only operates because God wills it, so in a sense God is the primary cause and the fire the secondary cause. Now if God wills it, he can cause the water to become cold instead of hot when it is placed over the fire -- but if this happens, it will only be because God willed it (i.e., because He is the primary cause), not because He willed that the fire would cool it (i.e. because he changed the nature of the secondary cause). Follow? He cannot counteract the nature of a thing, but He can command that the obligatory quality of the thing's nature be suspended.

Proph said...

@Ray, just to echo Ben, I too hope your son recovers and will be praying for as much.

DNW said...

To kind of wrap this up, from my perspective.

Alyosha said ... regarding the challenge to the physicalist/materialist/atheist to logically demonstrate his derivation of a right to consciousness from the attribute of consciousness.

"DNW,

But that would require metaphysical analysis. And we know where that leads...

Some roads are best left untraveled!"

and

Proph said...

" DNW, you will have a hard time extracting from the average leftist/materialist/atheist a coherent conception of what a "right" is, as most leftists deny all the metaphysical bases from which "rights" can be thought to derive. I actually blogged about this: http://collapsetheblog.typepad.com/blog/2011/10/whence-rights.html"


Yes you are both right I think, and I suspect that everyone else either senses it, or can formulate it just as you have done.

Grant then, that we all know it.

What remains of interest in this regard?

From my point of view it's the fact that in my many exchanges with conventionalists and relativists and emotivists etc., I have never gotten one them to explicitly state that they themselves have no natural or intrinsic right to life that anyone is bound to respect.

Their premisses imply it. The conclusion is inescapable. But getting them to say, "I have no natural or intrinsic right to life that anyone is bound to acknowledge or respect" is virtually impossible.

In fact they tend to rail at the suggestion. In a lengthy and rather unedifying series of Internet exchanges I had with a politically progressive nominalist-materialist, he insisted that while natural rights did not exist, and could not be formulated as a coherent concept; nonetheless, if I had them, then he had them too.

Thus I have never have succeeded - despite their proclamations of denials in categorical terms which would (with the exclusion of the nominalist) include them - in getting one to admit that *he personally* had no natural or intrinsic right to life which anyone was bound to respect.


Perhaps Ray will be the first to do so.

Alyosha said...

CARR
Gosh, all those Jews killed by the Nazi state....

That was not murder, say Christians. They were only obeying orders.


And here, the question begging assumption raises its head again. As I said before, there are two questions here. 1) whether the order itself is just, 2) whether obeying the order is just.

Carr and others simply cannot refrain from assuming a negative answer to the former, and so can see no sense in a positive answer to the latter.

This is a waste of time boys.

Proph said...

DNW, you may be interested in Lawrence Auster's idea of the "unprincipled exception," which he describes as "a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that liberals use to escape the suicidal consequences of their own liberalism without questioning liberalism itself." You can swap out liberal/liberalism with positivist/positivism or materialist/materialism or atheist/atheism if you care to; to me they are all children of the same pneumopathological genesis.

I think the clearest example of this can be found in the simultaneous belief, common to many on the left, that sex is a meaningless recreation with no intrinsic value but at best mere conventional value, no more innately meaningful than a handshake -- and yet that rape is the most horrible thing imaginable, to be stamped out regardless of the cost. How can rape be horrible, though, if sex is meaningless? Forcibly shaking someone's hand may be rude but it's hardly an evil, yet sex, we're told, is really no more meaningful than shaking someone's hand.

(The answer, of course, is that the prohibition on rape is not really a leftist principle but an unprincipled exception to leftism. And this unprincipled exception arises from probably-unconscious recognition that a world filled with rapists is exactly what a world run on their relativist, consequentialist principles would look like. This, by the way, is not to say that leftists are secretly supportive of rape. It's merely to say that they haven't thought through the logical consequences of their belief, or else find ways to avoid confronting those consequences).

Basically, the problem comes down to this: ethical systems can furnish for us a conception of the good, but they cannot endow themselves with the character of moral obligation. The quality of goodness is a feature of "horizontal" life, of the immanent; the quality of duty a feature of "vertical" life, that is, participation in the transcendent. So the obligatory character of ethical injunctions is derived solely by reference to the divine; indeed, morality is simply the intersection of the immanent and transcendent: the fact of goodness joined to the requirement to act in accordance with it. Liberal consequentialism/utilitarianism, by contrast, may be able to say that X is good; but it knows of no way to say that we must therefore do X. And really, it can't, without refuting itself.

Proph said...

On rereading my last post, I should clarify that I don't mean that goodness is not solely immanent or horizontal; goodness is convertible with being, after all, and being has its ground in the transcendent (i.e., God, who is Pure Being). Rather I mean to say that the quality of goodness is most clearly manifested to us in the immanent: I don't need to believe in the divine to recognize X is good. But I do need that belief to recognize that X is mandatory, at least in order to be consistent with my own principles.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - you asked, "If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?"

First I linked to an answer, and this morning I cut-and-pasted-and-edited the comments there into the kind of answer you were prepared to accept - 'Even sleeping people have some degree of consciousness.' So if a right to life derives from consciousness, then the presence of a degree of consciousness even in a sleeping person still gets them a right to life. The conclusion follows from the premises.

Apparently you call that 'misdirection', but okay. Your followup question is, "what kind of right is it?"

I linked back once before to this discussion - and since you actually participated in that discussion, I don't think that link is verboten.

But we can talk a little here, too. "Rights" of necessity have to do with the relationships between conscious entities. (If a wall falls on someone, the wall hasn't violated their rights.) "Rights" have to do with what you can expect from other persons, and what you should offer to others.

The whole 'strategic rule' model I brought up then supports rights as things everyone should be granted by everyone else, because that's in everyone's best interest. Since I can suffer harm, I'm willing to forego harming others in exchange for them not harming me.

Consciousness, awareness, is critical. Something aware, an agent, can be harmed; an unaware object can merely be damaged.

DNW said...

"Proph said...

DNW, you may be interested in Lawrence Auster's idea of the "unprincipled exception," which he describes as "a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that liberals use to escape the suicidal consequences of their own liberalism without questioning liberalism itself." You can swap out liberal/liberalism with positivist/positivism or materialist/materialism or atheist/atheism if you care to; to me they are all children of the same pneumopathological genesis."


"Suicidal". Reminds me of an image I have used before. Margaret Mead stands at the podium yammering on about South Seas Lotharios, coy hoydens, the social construction of morals, and the lack of an objective or universal standard of right and wrong.

Some inspired jock at the back of the room, who dislikes squat aging professors anyway, grabs a billiard ball from his letter jacket and hurls it, smacking her in the face and killing her.

Now, obviously if he's in the U.S., he's probably violated some legislative statute or another, probably school policy as well, and no doubt a cultural tabu recognized by some percentage of the "culture's" population. But other than that, did he really do anything bad according to her own meta-standard of evaluation?

I mean, is he morally obligated to adopt the cultural stance of the society in which he finds himself? And if so, based on what principle?

Ray Ingles said...

Proph - he cannot claim, when commanded by God to kill some person, that he must not because it is contrary to his nature. This would be stupid: God MADE his nature. It is only contrary to his nature because God willed it: and now he is willing something quite different."

Could God will a Euclidean triangle to have more than 180 degrees? Or are some natures more natural than others?

Proph said...

"Could God will a Euclidean triangle to have more than 180 degrees? Or are some natures more natural than others?"

You may as well ask me if God can create a round circle. That's a linguistic deformation; it has no meaning. So no, God could not do it.

He could certainly will a thing that has a perfectly triangular shape to assume some other shape. But He would do this by affecting change in that particular instantiation of triangularity, not by affecting change in triangularity itself.

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

" DNW - you asked, "If an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, why is it wrong to kill one while it is unconscious?"

First I linked to an answer, and this morning I cut-and-pasted-and-edited the comments there into the kind of answer you were prepared to accept - 'Even sleeping people have some degree of consciousness.' "

Ray, I really don't know what you are attempting to do here by suggesting that your response to Mary's question, "Are sleeping humans people by this definition?" answers whether an atheist derives its right to life from its consciousness, and if so if it is wrong to kill one while it is unconscious.

The question isn't whether typologically or genetically human atheists remain human while they are asleep, but where if from anywhere, they derive a right to life: and if from consciousness then what of the case where they are unconscious.

Also the text you provide above in single inverted commas, nowhere appears, in the exchange you linked to. I do wish that you would stop the rhetorical trimming and the misdirecting allusions. Not honest.

Perhaps what you wished to argue is that atheists are never truly unconscious?



[Ray] "So if a right to life derives from consciousness, then the presence of a degree of consciousness even in a sleeping person still gets them a right to life. The conclusion follows from the premises."


It's called a conditional. It could be formulated as a modus ponens. But unfortunately your conditional assumes and then asserts that a right to life is conditional upon a conscious state, rather than demonstrating how a state of consciousness logically implies the obligatory recognition by others of your right to remain conscious ... or alive.


[Ray] "The whole 'strategic rule' model I brought up then supports rights as things everyone should be granted by everyone else, because that's in everyone's best interest. "

1. You admit then, that the right to life you assert is not intrinsic, but granted by convention.

2. You admit that this grant is the product of a conditional "if in everyone's best interest" (whatever that is supposed to mean) then ... And it's not really based on a claim of or to consciousness per se.

3. You imply that if the treaty is not in everyone's best interest, then your conditional fails.


I guess you need to prove a universally distributive best interest ...

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

Ray Ingles

From reading your blog post and the thread at First Things I must say you seem a kindly and intelligent person (I almost said soul, but that would no doubt antagonize you!). However you also seem to have convinced yourself of a great number of things that just ain’t so.

Starting with your assertion that “[h]umans need a brain to be aware”, studies of consciousness in congenitally decorticate children would suggest that humans don’t need as much interconnected hardware as you seem to think. In fact, the British neurologist Professor John Lorber, published a paper in the 80s wondering, “Is your brain really necessary?” due to the relative preponderance of such cases. (Hat tip to TheOFloinn)

Of course the question you never really answer is, aware of what? Sometimes you hint it’s awareness of “something as basic as pain” and then in some of your combox replies you intimate it’s awareness of self that counts. But a person could lose awareness of both these somethings and we’d still be wrong to declare open hunting season. Every time one of your interlocuters talks about an unconscious person, or one who loses consciousness, you assume/pretend they’re talking about “sleep.” But a left cross from Tyson, the effect of general anaesthetic, or a diabetic’s hypoglycaemic coma (among others) are more than just sleeping – these people can’t be said to be aware of anything (and certainly not pain or self). Indeed with general anaesthesia that’s the point.

But then you shift ground again – ah, yes,you might say, but they have some minimal brain activity; as if brainwaves or electrical activity are convertible with awareness (of pain or self). They aren’t, and you know it, but pretending otherwise enables you to privilege matter (in the shape of a brain) to deny rights to a foetus that doesn’t have that same matter yet. Which is odd, because in the thread you asked us to read your own position seems to be that a person is less a “substance” than a “’pattern’ or ‘process’”. It’s all a very post hoc rationalization of your decision to deny the humanity of the very young foetus. Not to mention narrowly construed (sleeping is not the only lack of awareness) and empirically questionable (if a 1st class honor student of math can have an IQ of 126 and be socially normal with only a millimetre thickness of cortical surface, just how much “interconnected”ness is needed for your most basic nebulous awareness?)

And as others have pointed out, awareness doesn’t entail continued awareness. Even your “strategic rule” model doesn’t entail rights, much less ground them. And not all conscious beings have rights – rights properly belong in the sphere of the rational; and animals, while being conscious, don’t have rights even though many of them might actually be executing on some variant of your "strategic rule" that leaves them with nature red in tooth and claw, *not* peace through mutually assured destruction or rights-based cooperation.

The thing you refuse to admit is that it’s rationality and, more properly, the radical capacity for rationality that makes a person a person, whether that capacity is accidentally frustrated or simply yet to develop. I’m amazed that even though you conceive of a person as a “’process’” you see nothing wrong with prematurely ending that process because of your prior commitment to a heartless idea.

And Ray, I send you every good wish and hope for the full and fast recovery of your boy.

Anonymous said...

Likewise, Ray, sorry to hear your son is unwell. Hope he recovers quickly and completely. God bless you and your family.

Alan Fox said...

In the first comment
Daniel Smith said...
Let the Dawkins-fanboi/gnu-troll onslaught begin!


Seems your prediction was off the mark, Dan! :)

Daniel Smith said...

Alan Fox: "Seems your prediction was off the mark, Dan! :)"

Yes it was Alan. I've been pleasantly surprised by the lack of gnu-atheist trolls on this thread. It's unusual - they usually show up in droves when Dicky D. is criticized! Perhaps even they are too embarrassed to rush to his aid this time around?

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps even they are too embarrassed to rush to his aid this time around?"

Between the fact that it's really hard to pretend Dawkins isn't trying to avoid WLC given the evidence and the additional fact that Dawkins is losing some currency among atheists (look at the debacle over the elevator) maybe we shouldn't be surprised.

Also, what makes awareness and ability to experience pain the condition of personhood? Let's say tomorrow for one hour a man will have neither, so from 1am to 2am he lacks all awareness and the ability to experience pain, but at the first second of 2:00am he will be aware and able to experience pain all over again? Is it open season on him for an hour?

Finally, what is often forgotten in these conversations: science does not deal in certainties, and brain science is in its (pun intended) infancy. Even for someone who asserts that personhood depends on awareness and the ability to feel pain, this has to be kept in mind: the only possible ways for scientists to determine "awareness" or "consciousness" is through third person measures. Poke the fetus. Does it seem to respond to the poking? No? Then it's not conscious.

That's the best we can do. We neither demonstrate a definitive lack of awareness, or a lack of an ability to feel pain, by such investigations - nor can we. And for someone who believes that awareness and pain-experience are what determines whether or not we should kill humans* or not, erring on the side of caution is in order.

(* The fetus is a human from conception. We know this with far more certainty than any question of awareness or pain.)

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "Also the text you provide above in single inverted commas, nowhere appears, in the exchange you linked to."

I put it in single-quotes because it wasn't a direct quote, more a summary. (It's like you want me to be arguing in bad faith. Could you at least do me the credit of assuming I'm an ignorant fool instead of a malicious deceiver?)

"Perhaps what you wished to argue is that atheists are never truly unconscious?"

Er... yeah, because (living) humans are never at zero consciousness.

More in my response to Mr. Bodie.

Ray Ingles said...

(Thanks, BTW, for the well-wishes. It looks like my son will be fine in time, though he'll have a couple interesting - happily not disfiguring - scars.)

Anonymous said...

consciousness
[kon′shəsnes]
a clear state of awareness of self and the environment in which attention is focused on immediate matters, as distinguished from mental activity of an unconscious or subconscious nature.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

Ray Ingles said...

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie - "(I almost said soul, but that would no doubt antagonize you!)"

Soul's just a word. Heliocentrists can still use the word 'sunrise' even if they have a rather different understanding of the phenomenon than geocentrists. :)

Gonna have to break up the response a bit. First, some relatively simpler points.

"Starting with your assertion that “[h]umans need a brain to be aware”, studies of consciousness in congenitally decorticate children would suggest that humans don’t need as much interconnected hardware as you seem to think."

The fact that the brain can reorganize radically in the face of disruption doesn't mean that there isn't a typical and heavily-researched organization. People can retrain their brain to regain skills after a stroke. That doesn't mean people don't lose abilities after a stroke.

Brains don't 'bootstrap' up in development the way one might think. They form in separate regions that slowly grow together and form interconnections. Radically different interconnections obviously can form in extraordinary circumstances... but they still have to form.

"I’m amazed that even though you conceive of a person as a “’process’” you see nothing wrong with prematurely ending that process because of your prior commitment to a heartless idea."

For a tornado to form, you need a supercell. But not all supercells form tornadoes, and if the supercell is disrupted before the tornado forms, then there won't be a tornado. Embryological development is a process, too, and can be disrupted before consciousness forms/initiates/manifests.

(Sometimes tornadoes form in the winter, or in unlikely circumstances - not unlike the consciousness seen in surprisingly-heavily-disrupted brains. That doesn't mean we can't identify some circumstances where tornadoes won't or haven't formed.)

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "Also the text you provide above in single inverted commas, nowhere appears, in the exchange you linked to."

I put it in single-quotes because it wasn't a direct quote, more a summary. (It's like you want me to be arguing in bad faith. Could you at least do me the credit of assuming I'm an ignorant fool instead of a malicious deceiver?)

"Perhaps what you wished to argue is that atheists are never truly unconscious?"

Er... yeah, because (living) humans are never at zero consciousness.

More in my response to Mr. Bodie."


1 The "summary" you provided was of course misleading, since you tried to convert my reference to unconsciousness into sleep. Your jabber on that other site about "lucid dreaming" is dispositive of absolutely nothing.

These observations are among the reasons I maneuvered you into reproducing some of what you had actually written there, here; and why I repeatedly kept placing back into the exchange the text you claimed to be addressing, while cutting it out when you thought you could gain some advantage by doing so.

But you knew all that. And you knew where it would lead: to a refutation of your claim to have addressed the unconsciousness matter before.

But you just couldn't help yourself, and that is why we find ourselves at this point.

2. I don't want you to be arguing in bad faith, but you are. And your constant equivocations, trimming, and tactical editing clearly demonstrate it.


Finally,


A. I guess you aren't willing after all to be the first atheist materialist I've run across to admit that you personally have no objective or intrinsic right to life that anyone is morally bound to respect, and

B. You don't intend to engage in a logical demonstration how the fact of consciousness entails that any given consciousness derives from that consciousness a right to continue to be conscious or to exist.


Can't say that I blame you for fleeing your task though. Since trying to argue your proposition rather than merely assert it, would back you into natural law territory, the derivation of values from facts, and quite possibly force you accept Feser's scholastic doctrine of the at least provisional convertibility of the terms "being" and "good".

So, no Ray, I don't think you are arguing in good faith, and I believe that I have sufficiently demonstrated it through highlighting your own actions.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

consciousness
[kon′shəsnes]
a clear state of awareness of self and the environment in which attention is focused on immediate matters, as distinguished from mental activity of an unconscious or subconscious nature.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

December 9, 2011 6:40 AM"


That is a useful contribution, and medicine certainly provides practical insights into what most people mean by consciousness.


I don't however trust that those who try to found interpersonal moral obligations on the phenomena of consciousness, or sentience, really have a clear and distinct idea what it is that they supposedly mean.

It's just a "move" they are engaging in. An attempt to abstract away from human life, to "something" that appears sufficiently universal as to provoke a respect reflex in a hearer, and which will provide both the freedom from condemnation and the personal protection that the player seeks for himself.

The ploy of pretending that no human with a brain and short of dead is capable of actually being unconscious, is just silly. We all have had high school and college level biology classes and are aware that many homeostatic and metabolic functions are directed by the "brain", yet normally operate completely independently of the conscious will, and continue to do so with no willing or attentiveness at all.

BenYachov said...

Things You Can't Do as a Moral Relativist:

1. Relativists Can’t Accuse Others of Wrong-Doing
2. Relativists Can’t Complain About the Problem of Evil
3. Relativists Can’t Place Blame or Accept Praise
4. Relativists Can’t Claim Anything Is Unfair or Unjust
5. Relativists Can’t Improve Their Morality
6. Relativists Can’t Hold Meaningful Moral Discussions
7. Relativists Can’t Promote the Obligation of Toleranc

8. The relativist can't complain about being mistreated.

TimLambert said...

Alan:
"In the first comment
Daniel Smith said...
Let the Dawkins-fanboi/gnu-troll onslaught begin!

Seems your prediction was off the mark, Dan! :)"

Daniel:
"Yes it was Alan. I've been pleasantly surprised by the lack of gnu-atheist trolls on this thread. It's unusual - they usually show up in droves when Dicky D. is criticized! Perhaps even they are too embarrassed to rush to his aid this time around?"

010101:
"fuck the ancient theo-chitchat

actions are louder than words: lets have one of the salesmen for Jeesus such as Craig produce a real miracle, in a public setting."

TimLambert:
"Excellent"

Ray Ingles said...

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie - "Of course the question you never really answer is, aware of what? Sometimes you hint it’s awareness of “something as basic as pain” and then in some of your combox replies you intimate it’s awareness of self that counts."

Now that's a critical question! My answer actually echoes something you said:

"The thing you refuse to admit is that it’s rationality and, more properly, the radical capacity for rationality that makes a person a person, whether that capacity is accidentally frustrated or simply yet to develop."

Rationality is, indeed, a defining factor in being a human person. But 'rationality' isn't a binary value, either present or absent. It's analog, shading in varying degrees. Drawing sharp distinctions is... difficult. Likewise, it's very hard to come up with a sharp dividing line between 'day' and 'night', even though they're very different states and some circumstances are definitely 'day' and others definitely 'night'.

Now, because the boundaries aren't clear, I figure we should be as cautious as possible. I have a hard time thinking that a 20-week-old fetus has much in the way of awareness of anything... but as I've said before in this very thread, "so far as I can see it can't be affirmatively ruled out after that point, so we should be cautious."

That being said... no way does a blastula have any kind of consciousness. Even when the cortex starts forming at ~30 days... well, like I said, it doesn't interconnect with everything else for a long time after that.

Monty Python made fun of Catholic notions of 'life issues' with Every Sperm Is Sacred, and I've even seen the mocking slogan "life begins at erection". But given Catholic premises, there's a legitimate difference between a fertilized and unfertilized egg.

However, given different premises - for example, that subjectivity and agency are determining factors (again, a subject can be harmed, an object can only be damaged), then there can be a principled difference between a fetus that definitely cannot support consciousness (yet) and one that just might.

More when I get a chance. I know I haven't addressed all your points yet.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ray,

I hope I'm not too late to join in this discussion. I recently wrote an online essay called "Embryo and Einstein: Why They're Equal", which you might want to read. The address is http://www.angelfire.com/linux/
vjtorley/prolife.html and it is written especially for atheists. It's meant to show that even if you don't believe in God, the pro-life position is still a logical one.

I've been corresponding with Richard Carrier about the arguments I put forward. As you can imagine, Dr. Carrier has made several good points in reply. I'll be appending a special response to his arguments in the next week or so.

By the way, I'm the guy who first drew the world's attention to the fact that Professor Richard Dawkins was fully aware of William Lane Craig's views on genocide three years ago, back in early 2008. My online reply to Dawkins, which addresses the slaughter of the Canaanites, is available online at http://www.angelfire.com/linux/
vjtorley/dawkins.html ("Liar, liar, pants on fire?" Ten tough questions for Professor Dawkins).

I'm glad to hear your son is getting better.

Ray Ingles said...

Well, I don't have time to tackle much more today, and I'm leaving tonight on a weekend campout with another of my sons. Should be able to resume this Monday. A few quick points:

"But a left cross from Tyson, the effect of general anaesthetic, or a diabetic’s hypoglycaemic coma (among others) are more than just sleeping – these people can’t be said to be aware of anything (and certainly not pain or self). Indeed with general anaesthesia that’s the point."

If you can point to corner cases, so can I. :)

Data from 19,575 patients are presented. A total of 25 awareness cases were identified (0.13% incidence). These occurred at a rate of 1–2 cases per 1000 patients at each site. Awareness was associated with increased ASA physical status (odds ratio, 2.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.04–5.60 for ASA status III–V compared with ASA status I–II). Age and sex did not influence the incidence of awareness. There were 46 additional cases (0.24%) of possible awareness and 1183 cases (6.04%) of possible intraoperative dreaming.

Anesthesia doesn't stop brain activity, even in cases where it does successfully block the perception and recall of pain. The existence of implicit memory during even successful anesthesia indicates some level of awareness, even if pain and memory are suppressed.

But even if we go all the way to, I dunno, reversible cryogenic suspension someday, with complete cessation of all awareness on any level for a period of time... well, as I said, "A turned-off [transistor] gate is still very different from a gate that doesn’t exist yet." And so is a gate with no voltage at all supplied.

DNW - "I guess you aren't willing after all to be the first atheist materialist I've run across to admit that you personally have no objective or intrinsic right to life that anyone is morally bound to respect"

I judge this to be what you are most concerned about. And I answer... yes and no. As has been noted, "What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries."

Rights of necessity deal with rational persons, and the only rational persons we have clear evidence of these days is humans. But humans have a nature, and from that nature share a great deal of perspective and goals. From the perspective of human goals, other humans are important, and this gives rise to rights.

A Hannibal Lecter - assuming an irredeemable person with an innate need to harm others actually exists - might not share that perspective or recognize that obligation. Kind of like someone who doesn't know the rules of chess won't recognize that sacrificing your queen early is a bad idea. That doesn't mean that a strategic rule like that is an 'illusion', though.

Daniel Smith said...

Ray Ingles: "Embryological development is a process, too, and can be disrupted before consciousness forms/initiates/manifests."

Genetically, human life begins at conception - when a unique individual is formed. If no disruptive action is taken (barring natural circumstances) the process begun at conception will continue to develop along a natural pathway. This process continues outside the womb. Humans will (barring natural circumstances or disruptive action) continue to develop physically, mentally, spititually, etc. until they die a natural death.

When someone acts to disrupt that process outside the womb, we generally call it murder (unless justified.) You have to show that there's something extra special about acting "before consciousness forms/initiates/manifests" that somehow justifies one human stepping in and stopping another individual's nature from running its course.

Anonymous said...

Ray, while I agree with Daniel Smith and DNW, your own definition consciousness is incorrect and disagrees with the established scientific/medical definition of the term.

Proph said...

Ray, I'd be interested in your thoughts re: my post at December 8 at 10:10 AM.

Specifically: it appears that the ethical system you are trying to articulate and defend isn't really an ethical system at all, as it lacks an injunctive character. What you are describing is basically a method for arriving at the good -- but this method itself doesn't furnish any grounds for saying that we MUST do good and avoid evil, and as you apparently deny transcendence, I don't see where else you would be deriving this obligatory quality from.

Dark Passenger said...

Steven Carr said:

"I repeat Craig's views , channeling the late Osama bin Laden, that murder is morally obligatory and not even murder when done in the name of Craig's god."

Murder is obligatory and not even murder when done in the name of god? Craig said nothing like this.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see where else you would be deriving this obligatory quality from."

What's being described isn't a moral system, despite what it keeps being called. It's just an arbitrary system that can be accepted or rejected at a whim, and which trades heavily on assumptions about what people desire and how to fulfill their desires. It falls apart even on its own terms in the usual cases (Can you get away with it versus would it benefit everyone optimally?), and outside of those terms is just another way of saying, "If there's something you really want, whether or not you 'should' really want it, maybe there are worse, better and best routes to it."

It's all arbitrary, but the arbitrary nature of it is masked by pointing at an arbitrary rule usually custom fit to the situation. (Look at the consciousness talk.)

Ray Ingles said...

Proph - "What you are describing is basically a method for arriving at the good -- but this method itself doesn't furnish any grounds for saying that we MUST do good and avoid evil"

Is there a difference between a 'duty' and a 'commitment'? Some obligations are actively assumed (e.g. enlistment into the armed forces) and some are passively assumed (e.g. citizenship, by not emigrating).

I'm not clear on exactly how - by what mechanism - the 'transcendent' would impose a moral obligation on someone, irrespective of their agreement.

Whereas, if one can point to something that's good (from their perspective), and why (from that perspective), that doesn't 'impose' an obligation as such... but neither is such an obligation necessary.

Feser himself doesn't mind science-fiction references, including to Larry Niven, so I give you the Protectors. Niven posits aliens with a life cycle that includes three stages: infant, breeder, and protector. Protectors are hyperintelligent and have only one urge - to protect and provide for their descendants. Because of these two traits, protectors have almost no free will.

Why is that? Because they are superhumanly smart, and have only one imperative. So, they nearly always see what the optimal course of action is for meeting their goal. Effectively, for them, everything is a puzzle with one right answer. Why would they choose anything but what was clearly the best available choice?

If something really is the best choice - or at least, the best long-term bet - why choose something else? By definition, it's less likely to lead to outcomes you want.

Ray Ingles said...

Daniel Smith - Is shutting off the life support for a brain-dead patient murder, or at least manslaughter?

Anonymous said...

"If something really is the best choice - or at least, the best long-term bet - why choose something else? By definition, it's less likely to lead to outcomes you want."

Unless I care more about the short term than long term. Or if I'm more sure of the short term than the long term. Or...

The list goes on.

Ray Ingles said...

"Unless I care more about the short term than long term."

If you don't care about the long term, then by definition there can't be a 'best in the long term'. If, on the other hand, there are things you care about over time, then 'long term' takes on importance.

"Or if I'm more sure of the short term than the long term."

Which violates the condition that it's "really" the best long-term choice.

Chucky said...

Dawkins can make all the excuses (and accusations about Craig's character) that he likes, and it is irrelevant.

But for me, having read what they both write, in my mind Craig has clearly explained why Dawkin's central argument doesn't follow. Similarly Dr. Feser, and others, have clearly articulated different, and I think more damning holes.

If Dr Dawkins does or doesn't debate his critics, it is irrelevant. He's in the position of offering invalid arguments, and not providing a reasonable response.