God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

Tomorrow (Friday) is the big day: the debate with William Lane Craig at the Greer-Heard Forum, as I previously mentioned. And of course the event continues Saturday, with contributions from Tim Maudlin, Alex Rosenberg, Robin Collins, and James Sinclair.

I know what you’re asking: will it be live-streamed? Yes indeed!

[Update: Here is the video.]

Fun starts at 8pm Eastern, 5pm Pacific. (Corrected from earlier goof.) The format is an opening 20-minute speech by WLC and me (in that order), followed by 12-minute rebuttals, and then 8-minute closing statements, and concluding with 40 minutes of audience questions. Official Twitter hashtag is #GreerHeard14, which I believe you can use to submit questions for the Q&A. I wouldn’t lie to you: I think this will be worth watching.

You can find some of WLC’s thoughts on the upcoming event at his Reasonable Faith website. One important correction I would make to what you will read there: Craig and his interlocutor Kevin Harris interpret my statement that “my goal here is not to win the debate” as a strategy to avoid dealing with WLC’s arguments, or as “a way to lower expectations.” Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.

Feel free to organize viewing parties, celebrations, discussion groups, what have you. There should definitely be a drinking game involved (it’ll be happy hour on the West Coast, you lightweights), but I’ll leave the details to you. Suggested starting points: drink every time WLC uses a syllogism, or every time I show an equation. But be sure to have something to eat, first.

If it seems worthwhile, I will follow-up with thoughts after the debate, and try to answer questions. Let’s have some fun.

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167 Responses to God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

  1. Jake Maier says:

    Biological moral values are only objective descriptively.

    Lucy, first thanks for the link to re-connect. Was very helpful.
    Doesn’t your statement mean the description is objective but still not the value?

  2. Lucy Harris says:

    @Jake Maier. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Apologists like Craig like to claim that the values are objective as fact (the only foundation being it makes them sad to think of a world without objective values), and then argue that objective morality is only possible under theism. The premise is unfounded and the conclusion is invalid since there’s no reason there couldn’t be objective morality without a god (see the Euthyphro dilemma).

  3. Jake Maier says:

    values are only objective descriptively (Lucy Harris)
    the description is objective but not the value (Jake Maier)
    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. … there’s no reason there couldn’t be objective morality without a god (Lucy Harris)

    Lucy, your “yes” now confuses me. I think we are in agreement about the poor foundation of the objectivity measure of ‘god’ given values. But at least in your statement, you do not say anything about objective values, only of objective descriptions of values, with emphasis on description.
    I think values are never? objective. Some of my values always will be differ from yours, and dammit my own values change all the time.
    How could – with or without god – values be objective. I’m not sure if the Euthyphro dilemma will help me in this regard.
    Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  4. Jake Maier says:

    One afterthought.
    I could imagine that it is an objective fact that value systems evolve in all societies, possibly on all earths, but the individual values cannot be objective.?

  5. Hayden says:

    @ Lucy

    I just wanted to respond to what you said, because I think your criticisms may be incorrect or at least misaimed at something Craig never claims.

    “KCA fails because it’s fundamentally circular. We never see anything begin to exist from absolute nothingness, which is what the argument requires.”

    I think this misunderstands the motivation for accepting premise 1. Craig does not appeal to empirical evidence for premise 1 (which could never be observed if there were any, as you point out, for we could never observe a state of nothingness). Instead, he points to metaphysical intuitions about why things that begin to exist have a cause. He lists three (motivating, I think) reasons in his final speech if you missed that.

    “If the universe began from another from of natural reality, then nothing outside nature required. And Carroll showed there are cosmological models that are eternal and others that have a beginning and self-contained. Even the ones that have a beginning boundary aren’t beginning from absolute nothing.”

    This is true, granted. There are indeed such models that restore a past infinite. But I think Craig tried to explain that these models are usually wrought with metaphysical problems. And so the most plausible model is the standard Big Bang model, which lends support to premise 2 of the Kalam. It doesn’t give premise 2 absolute certainty – there are always ways to draft a model to avoid a beginning of the universe – but it makes it more likely than not that the universe began to exist. That’s a pretty conservative conclusion, don’t you think?

    “Kalam and all the other classical god arguments are all just vacuous post hoc reassurances for believers, who didn’t come to theism because they were convinced by a god arguments, but for cultural and emotional reasons. Then they blindly cling to these arguments to assuage any doubts.”

    Don’t you think a claim like this is rather strong? Surely you couldn’t prove such a thing. Anyway, this kind of sociological evaluation of religious people makes no difference in determining whether or not the Kalam argument is actually sound.

  6. John says:

    Do you think someone could post when the youtube video is available? I planned on watching and got to watch 2/3rd of it but something came up and I missed the Q&A and other parts. Thanks!

    Also, from what I saw, Sean came out swinging and really did an awesome job. I knew he’d give WLC a good fight.

  7. Dave Hooke says:

    “metaphysical intuitions”

    Guesses. In Craig’s case, not informed by a genuine understanding of data.

  8. Bob Zannelli says:

    I didn’t get a chance to watch this debate, but a few members of Vic Stenger’s discussion group did. Based on their comments Carroll prevailed handily again Craig, and that Carroll shot Craig down nicely when he invoked the BGV theorem. I am waiting for this debate to come to U tube so I can watch it.

  9. Sean didn’t seem to heed my suggestion to simply dismiss any factual bases to spirituality founding belief in it, as the only facts they have are supposed gap fillers without foundation, or simply parsimonious extensions of reality.

    That said, in between the amusing commentary of Michael, I read about “infinities” and “something from nothing” mathematically expressed. I may misunderstand the reference by Nick, for example, but it appears that physical reality (particles and fields) can exist infinitely by mathematical description. Perhaps so – I hope so as it would be helpful for consistency if matter were neither created nor destroyed, but then we face Krause.

    In answer, it appears that Daniel C suggests Krause does not propose a beginning as such, rather a change to a state of pre-existing energy? In the same quantity as currently existing in the universe? Is this “something from nothing” framed by Krause to be consistent with expansion of (dynamic) Spacetime from a Singularity under General Relativity? Whether or not these issues are better explained in math, they need to be explained in plain language too.

    Before you all kick me to hell and back, I am agnostic, I promise.

  10. DEL says:

    Agnostic on promise: agnostic literally means he who knows not.

  11. DanielC says:

    @ Marcus Morgan

    I don’t entirely understand your question, I haven’t read Krauss’s book or any of his papers, so I’ll leave it to someone more qualified to me to explain his work (although he seems to think many of the people who have read his book have completely misunderstood him).

    What I was saying is Nothing comes from Nothing or as it’s sometimes more pompously put “ex nhilo nihlo fit” is a philosophical proposition, not an absolute truth or even empirically substantiated generalisation. Some like to suggest that if something can come from nothing then we should observe things “popping” into existence all the time and my point is that if the Quantum Vacuum is nothing then neither is the space in my living room which is nowhere near a Vacuum of any kind. Moreover Nothing (excuse the pun) is not to be found anywhere in our observable universe because space-time is not Nothing even when it’s devoid of any particles. Furthermore if Nothing is not in our observable universe then we currently have noway to observe it and if we cannot observe nothing then how can we tell what comes from nothing? As Hayden noted WLC doesn’t appeal to empirical evidence on this he instead appeals to his “metaphysical intuitions” which in my opinion is pointless. After all why should we have any intuitive understanding of Nothing or how it behaves? I certainly don’t have an intuitive understanding of how atoms work and Nothing appears to be more alien to us humans than atoms.

    Mathematically you can represent something coming from nothing as simply as 0=-1+1 (where 1 would be the value of of negative and positive energy in the universe) although I’m doubtful that the Universe is really that simple, our best measurements suggest that the cosmological constant is not 0 but 0.692 (+- 0.010).

    As for matter conservation I highly doubt matter is conserved in the universe as whole, the Steady state models had matter conservation but they seem untenable (despite Fred Hoyle’s best arguments to the contrary) in light of the evidence we have from Cosmological microwave background. More importantly Special Relativity ( E = mc^2) shows matter and energy are equivalent so energy conservation is more meaningful than matter conservation. However I’m not even sure Energy conserved for the universe as whole, it seems currently impossible to test but we do know Energy conservation is violated locally all the time when we account for the Space-Time dynamics of general relativity (Sean’s wrote some very eloquent articles on this blog about that), although I have very little knowledge or understanding of Quantum Cosmology and what the implies so I’ll again leave that to somebody else to talk about.

    As you correctly read transfinite maths is all over physics, some philosophers argue this is only a matter of mathematical conventions and while possible infinite’s can exist actual infinities don’t. However I think this is flat out wrong for example it’s possible that space could be infinitely large it seem unlikely (again the Horizon problem makes it difficult to test) but I don’t know of any first principle reasons why it couldn’t be. Often the paradox’s of Hilbert’s hotel (or William Lane Craig’s library which is basically the same) are brought up as arguments against actual infinities existing in reality, I’m not sure whether they are decisive in showing that some actual infinities are impossible but they certainly don’t show all actual infinities are impossible. The difference between discreet values and continuous is key, I highly recommend reading Graeme Oppy’s paper “Time, Successive Addition, and Kalam Cosmological Arguments” as primer on that. You can read it here for free: http://infidels.org/library/modern/graham_oppy/gifford.html

  12. kashyap Vasavada says:

    This is to the readers on this blog arguing about whether something can come from nothing or not. I am a retired physics professor (admittedly not a prominent one!). I understand the basic argument of Krauss and other cosmologists that universe can arise from Energy=0 (so called vacuum). It is a consequence of freshman or even high school physics that gravitational energy is negative. So in principle matter with positive energy can arise and can be exactly compensated by negative gravitational energy so that the sum is still zero. One catch is that in order for this to happen via quantum fluctuations, you need existence of quantum fields in the vacuum, which is correct from the point of view of quantum mechanics. So one criticism is that this vacuum is not really nothing as understood by man (or woman) in the street! Now , whether this fact leads you to believe in the divine origin or not, that depends on your beliefs! Current physics stops at the point I indicated. If Sean corrects my argument, that would be perfectly fine with me.

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  14. Exactly DEL – I know not of God, because there is no factual knowledge upon which to base the “hypothesis” of God. QED

    Daniel C , if I read you correctly, I probably agree with you on most issues, but I would opt for a simplified view that mass-energy cannot be created or destroyed, and that formalisms like the equation 1 + -1 + 0 have mathematical but not physical reality. I realize that QM has difficulties with measurement, and I discussed this in a previous blog of Sean’s (briefly, the fact that different frames exist from position – space OR time units, and motion – Space AND time units, means we cannot freeze frame a position and measure motion at the same time, by definition. You can’t have frozen motion, just a smear, and this is interpreted as “anything goes” in the smear. Uncertainty is a fact of measurement, not a property of mass).

    The “idea” of Nothing being possible – with a cancellation of positive and negative energy appearing from Nothing and expanding is “fantastic”. Whether it is fantasy depends only on consistency with what exists today – which is very poorly understood generally (we have curved Spacetime expanding in Nothing, we need a Higgs Field supposedly for mass at this late stage, and obviously we cannot wind back to actually see a Big Bang. Add to that our limitations to measuring – too many holes to be confident of simple 1 + -1 = 0 equation and its philosophical implications).

    Thanks for the detail Daniel C. I tend to read physics and cosmology in particular as very much fledgling fields of study. It’s a pity funding is so difficult to get, just when the interesting issues are arising to be resolved. Too many holes, too many conveniences like that equation, but hopefully progress will be made.

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  16. Johannes van Zyl says:

    Carroll does not rule out a world where God exists but made a self contained universe (2:20:30). His objections against it (though) seems to be mere Occam’s Razor (!?) and philosophical..(!?) Carroll believes more evidence should exist of God in the physical universe if he indeed existed. But that’s wrong. The Christian God is not interested in leaving a visible footprint. He is interested in ONLY one thing concerning us, namely a loving, holy, everlasting relationship with a MORALLY FREE agent that freely choose him / the ultimate good. This “model” of God is as old as the bible and provides a fully coherent explanation of the universe that we observe (contrary Carroll). The existence of objective moral values, divine hiddenness, God’s revelation & redeeming sacrifice through Christ, man’s hard wired-ness to seek God, the existence of evil & suffering in the world, the Christian’s experience of God – is all consistent with this Judeo-Christian model of God which is as old as the faith itself. A “model” provided pre-philosophy and thousands of years back, yet still provides a modern philosophically coherence with the actual world. Remarkable

  17. Jake Maier says:

    how can someone be a “morally free agent that freely choose Him” if that ‘free’ agent will be tortured in hell for eternity if ze dares not to choose Him.