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. Steve says:

    I can’t even describe accurately how excited I am for this debate.

    “What are you doing Friday night, Steve?”

    “Oh nothing…just watching the most highly anticipated debate of the year between a Christian apologist and a cosmologist.”

  2. Matt says:

    Beware the Gish Gallop, a frequent debate tactic among creationists:


  3. “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.”

    I honestly want that to be true. I am not saying your case will be weak, on the contrary, I think you will make a very strong case. But I would not expect to work on every theist on the audience… that remembered me one great quote from Gregory House (Tv character): “rational arguments don’t usually work with religious people; otherwise there would be no religious people.”

  4. Jon W says:

    The debate starts at 7 EST? I thought it was 7 CST (8 EST)?

  5. Jshobe says:

    I’m makin’ popcorn and setting the kids down to watch dad’s laptop.

  6. Jon W says:

    Ok, your second paragraph has got me pumped. I cannot wait to see this debate!

    Craig’s tactics survive by placing God at the extremities of our knowledge and understanding, where most of us have never been. It will be satisfying to watch you clear things up for him.

  7. Brett says:

    “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.”


  8. Joel Rice says:

    When it comes to Design versus Designer I am with Design, but it is awfully strange that the universe contains pattern recognizers, minds and civilizations, as well as patterns as of the Standard Model. If there are mindlike aspects then the Designer idea has some intuitive appeal, at least if one strips away the anthropomorphic attention getting imagery. Physicists and Cosmologists are still stuck with trying to make sense of why there are any Physicists and Cosmologists in the universe. Is pattern recognition optional or necessary in the universe – is it part of the Design ? If the universe makes mathematical sense – which side of math does one take – the pattern or recognizer ?

  9. Daniel says:

    “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.”


    Have you listened to WLC’s podcasts where you are the subject? He has addressed some of your arguments before. Will you be addressing his response?

    I know that I shouldn’t even be concerned since I am not involved. But I am worried that the debate will trail off into too many subjects and nothing will be resolved. I have seen too many debates where the speaker throws out there canned case and hardly defends it when it is attacked.

    It would be nice if you both responded to each other in full, but time will probably not allow it. Rather you should keep the issues to as few a number of things as possible. That way, everything can be addressed.

  10. Sean Carroll says:

    Crap, I’ve been putting New Orleans on Eastern time by mistake. Thanks Jon W for the correction.

  11. Mike says:

    Please be civil! Craig is NOT a creationist, nor is he allied with the ID movement!! You both could probably find large areas of agreement, first-cause not withstanding.

    Also, I hope everyone stays on topic! When people leave the topic in order to attack their opponent (looking at you, Krauss) it only mocks the forum of debate itself.

  12. Jared Guthrie says:

    I bought my tickets. See you tomorrow night!

  13. Frederick says:

    @Joel Rice… My pattern recognition machinery is telling me that your STATEments, though surely well intentioned, fall into the category of somewhat “dubious, or rather ill-conceived” [*See Edit.]… while your questions are pretty good. Logical deduction from perceived pattern: Keep asking those questions! ;-)

    I hope you are able to hear Sean in action throughout the course of the debate Friday night. I also hope that it will turn out to BE a fun experience: the low ethical standards routinely employed by these vocal theistic apologists — due to a sense of special entitlement, perhaps? — so often sullies the experience for me, personally. Sean, of course, has a glittering track record for integrity of argument, irrespective of whether one ultimately agrees or not. Hmm… perhaps that’s telling us something more universal, as well.

    [Edit:] I can see that I was thrown off a bit by the distinction you made between “Design versus Designer” up front, probably due to the conventional implication that goes with that choice of capitalization! So I should soften up the critique a bit (apologies) and ask for more clarification of what you meant, should you care to comment, Joel. Thanks.

  14. phil h says:

    drink every time WLC says “as such and such an authority figure says….”
    BTw its very late here in England to watch, will it be put online afterwards?

  15. DEL says:

    Sean, I’m with you 100%. But you clearly do not belong to the culture that maintains “He who straps on his sword for battle should not congratulate himself as he who takes it off.” [1st Kings, 20:11, my translation.]

    I’ll be watching, Sat. 2am Jerusalem time, probably under the influence, hopefully sober enough to be critical, as is my nature.

  16. Frederick says:

    @Mike… I might offer the opinion that W.L. Craig, and other self-styled “rational Theists”, or even less vocal “moderates”, are indeed effective apologists for Creationists and other theistic extremists, if only by EGREGIOUS omission! If not, why were ID-promoting legal actions burdening the justice system in 26 states (!) at the time of the Dover, PA decision; despite the (prior?) broad political support given by Evangelicals for the legal authority of Republican Justice John E. Jones III — who noted with crushing finality that the ID (“…by whomever/whatever”) case was one of “breathtaking inanity”?

  17. C.Takacs says:

    Mocking someone before you debate them is not wise. I think the biggest problem you are going to need to contend with won’t be your arguments so much as your own hubris. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  18. Frederick says:

    …And BTW, Mike: Sean, in public forums, exhibits NOTHING like Lawrence Krause’s current proclivities and simplistic, off-topic biases — ever, so far as I can tell.

  19. David Park says:

    I admire your work Sean and wish you success. But please don’t get so overconfident! Your discussion with Hans Halvorson was not that impressive. I hope that you can contrast the epistemology of naturalism with that of religion and make no compromises.

  20. Mike says:

    I see what you are saying (the wounds of Dover are still fresh) but you really can’t implicate people solely on the grounds of not being actively against it. If that were the case, then plenty of atheists who were silent on the matter (apart from head-shaking) should be admonished. In fairness, I’m not sure a lot of people (theists or otherwise) really cared about it. Sure, it got brought up in my circle of Ars Technica-reading geeks, but it was invisible outside of that. Ah memories…….

  21. Mike says:

    ….and BTW, I agree %100 that Sean isn’t Krauss, and that’s a good thing. My main point being: I didn’t think even eccentric Krauss would fly that far off topic. It was disappointing that we didn’t get to hear his thoughts on the topic at hand.

  22. David Park says:

    I believe that a possible weak point in your position, Sean, is that science or naturalism has nothing to say about moral values. I don’t think that this is completely true. Is it moral to employ procedures that are known to fail when successful procedures are known?

    Or if it is a moral choice, then you could point out that we choose this life, the welfare of ourselves and fellow humans, and the future of humanity on this earth – which we know and see and have abundant evidence for; religion distains all that (take no thought for the morrow) and chooses a future life, which we don’t see and have no evidence for. So take your choice.

  23. Bob F. says:

    I’m certainly going to watch this. Sounds like a lot of fun. And maybe you should wear a bow tie. It works for Bill Nye, and after all, bow ties are cool.

  24. Evan says:

    Oh no. Why did you let them dictate format? You said it will be “opening 20-minute speech[es] by WLC and me (in that order).” That’s such a disappointment, and will likely lead to this being the usual mess that these sorts of things are. He will do his usual gallop, and you will be left to either address his falsehoods and thus never cover things of interest, or you will have to ignore them, giving the impression of incompetence.

  25. Frederick says:

    @David Park… Cognitive psychology research has quite a bit that’s interesting — and scientifically valid — to say these days concerning the nature of our moral feelings… and it is important to note that “feelings” are crucial in typical, predictable, and, of course, characteristically specious theistic arguments against naturalism as being sterile of any source (or even acknowledgment!) of morality.

    Naturally, Sean is correct that it is ultimately up to us to define the terms of our moral rules and sensibilities. I’m not so sure that Sean has outlined his objections to notions that science can offer up some fairly concrete set of moral values in sufficient detail to effectively counter the opinions of Sam Harris, et.al.; and the undeniable evidence (at least in the light of empiricism) that “Enlightenment values” and the deconstruction of political theistic authority have broadly and profoundly expanded the “moral sphere”. The likes of W.L. Craig have made all manner of attempts to deny this, or to confuse the issue; but facts are facts — a matter of history and public record.

    My apologies if I have missed something more extensive in scope on the topic here on site (I’m thinking particularly of Sean’s observations viewable on YouTube). I, for one, would encourage Sean to address this topic in more depth here, or in some other appropriate forum.

  26. Rohit K says:

    As a grad student, I have already got my best seat right here in Library ! It will be a lot of fun to watch live coverage of this debate while sipping on Dark Chocolate Turtle Mocha ! Good luck, Dr.Carroll.

  27. Frederick says:

    Hey, Mike, thanks for the courteous and considered comments. But, in fact, I DO agree that head-shaking, but otherwise passive and noncommittal non-theists share some culpability here.

    And I must state unequivocally that I CAN more broadly “implicate”, if that’s your choice of words, pretty much anyone effectively acting as an enabler for the perpetuation of America’s provincial backwardness in this matter… and the resulting broad-based and institutionalized educational censorship it promotes. Richard Dawkins is entirely correct that this disgrace effectively amounts to child abuse — children are not chattle or possessions of the “head of the house” (like oxen and wives), or of any other in loco parentis education authority. They are full citizens with rightly independent minds, and endowed with the inherent human moral authority to think for themselves!

    I should know. I was valedictorian of a high school class of 700+, had eclectic curiosity and loved science all my life — but was denied a proper science education in secondary school, in one of the two academically leading high schools in a large, non-Bible belt Ohio county; despite taking all the “honors” or “advanced placement” courses in math and science on offer. This was solely due to de facto censorship by theists, including (most especially) the “silent majority”.

    Not even an Ivy League education could really put me back on track for the kind of scientific career I might have envisioned for myself. I finally “got” the immense creative possibilities available in a “hard science” like physics, sitting on a cold beach on Nantucket in early June… because of a book by atheist Carl Sagan in collaboration with a Soviet astrophysicist (two bad things there, by conventional wisdom) — a full year after my graduation from college with a B.Sci. degree. A little late to be well on with my Nobel Prize winning work in theoretical physics by the age of, oh… say, 26.

    That’s my opinion. It’s a moral thing.

  28. Allan says:

    I look forward to this question being finally resolved.

  29. Frederick says:

    @Allan… LOL!

  30. It might help if you simplify the debate. You can use a folk definition of “belief” as “anything goes” or you can use a logical one of “hypothesis from knowledge to better knowledge”.

    Using the logical one, which is scientific, you can say there are no known bases to found the hypothesis of God’s existence. You can just use Parsimony to reject any “bases” outside what is known.

    Obviously, a hypothesis is to get knowledge and is not “known”, but it must be based on knowledge using Popper or any logical methodology to become knowledge after testing. God doesn’t get to the first step and so there is no hypothesis and therefore there is nothing at all – just ideas.

    Logically, you cannot hypothesize that God does NOT exist, because there is nothing either way to say so, and one usually has some humility about the accumulation of knowledge to leave open present unknowns. But you don’t leap to them until a “miracle” actually happens to found the hypothesis.

    So, logically in our accumulation of knowledge we cannot say we presently “know all”. We cannot hypothesize that God cannot exist as hypothesized by Craig or anyone in their ideas – there is no hypothesis there to work with or against. But we can say that if evidence of God arises, let me know, and until them enjoy your own ideas about this and that.

  31. Joel Rice, there is an open issue of distinguishing measurer and measured at all times, and patterns clearly exist in nature although not currently “believed” to be directed or to pre-set potentials for patterns in the laws of nature. Have a read of my free book at my site (click my name) if you have time, as it deals with those issues directly.

  32. Peter Ozzie Jones says:

    Sean, your claim makes me picture
    a bolt of lightning that strikes down during the debate
    together with a booming voice from above saying:
    “Damn, missed the blighter!”

    And I know that you can tear WLC’s use of real science to support his pseudo-science to little quarks.

  33. Ben says:

    Good luck man! You are going to need it. But you have the advantage (compared to other of Craig’s opponents) that you are trained both in cosmology and philosophy. So with a little luck, I think you will do well.

  34. It’s probably too late for this analysis to help since it’s not really a good idea to cram new information the night before a debate, but here it is anyway. One of Craig’s favorite arguments is that humans would be “just animals” under atheism, and since non-human animals “have no moral obligations to each other” neither would humans. His trick is to ignore what it means to be a moral agent. Humans are moral agents because we have the requisite faculties of language, reason, and self-awareness. That’s why we can do things like calculus, poetry, astrophysics, and moral philosophy. Other animals don’t have those faculties. Our difference from other animals has nothing to do with theism or atheism. His argument would be valid only if we couldn’t have those faculties under atheism, which would be a ridiculous assertion, of course. I explain this error in some detail in my article Why Most Animals are Not Philosophers: Fatal Flaws in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument for God. Shelly Kagan corrected Craig on this point, but he didn’t seem to get it.
    Also of interest: I have developed an axiomatic natural theory of morality based on the scientific definitions of objectivity and symmetry as outlined by Robert Nozick in his book Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World. I begin with a review of the historical trajectory of physics towards unified theories based on symmetry principles. See The Logic of Love: A Natural Theory of Morality

  35. One other quick note: If Craig brings up fine tuning, remind the audience that the only reason we have any confidence in our theories is because they have been tested by experiment. We don’t have access to the alternate universes with different physical constants so there is no way for us to confirm any of the “predictions” of the fine tuning theories.

  36. Mike D says:

    Dammit. I was really hoping the format would allow you and Craig to sort of cross-examine each other, like he did with Shelly Kagan. Then again Kagan schooled Craig pretty hard, so maybe that’s why Craig likes to stick to gish-gallop-friendly formats.

    My biggest frustration with the 20/12/8 format is that the audience has the burden of tracking all these different little arguments and counter-arguments. You can cram a lot of stuff into 40 uninterrupted minutes.

    Ah well. I have no doubt that you’ll at least be a delight to listen to. Have fun!

  37. Ahab says:

    Debating WLC is a futile enterprise, especially when the debater’s a scientist, and the perceived benefits to the audience are little more than an illusion.
    Add to this the fact that out of all WLC’s debates with scientists -the ones I watched, at least- the only scientist who managed to emerge victorious (by a debate’s standards) was Victor Stenger, and even that was only in their first debate (WLC savaged him in the second).
    All of this doesn’t bode well for the upcoming debate.
    Needless to say, “hope springs eternal”.

  38. Joe in CO says:

    Egads (Ye Quantum Fields?).. the topic of the debate is “God and Cosmology” and I hope it sticks to that and does not wander over every argument about theism vs. atheism.

    And as for morality (which I would consider off-topic if I were moderating this debate) — why must a naturalistic morality be one that is rationally deduced from general principles or from neuroscience? Isn’t it sufficient to posit that morality is created by humans? There is no need for God. Sure many of these humans believed that their morality came from God, or a god, or many gods, but that doesn’t mean these deities exist.

  39. And as for morality (which I would consider off-topic if I were moderating this debate) — why must a naturalistic morality be one that is rationally deduced from general principles or from neuroscience? Isn’t it sufficient to posit that morality is created by humans? There is no need for God. Sure many of these humans believed that their morality came from God, or a god, or many gods, but that doesn’t mean these deities exist.

    I agree it is off-topic, but it’s such a favorite “argument” of Craig’s that I’d be surprised if he didn’t bring it up.

    As for morality being “created by humans” – sure, but that doesn’t mean that there are not universal principles like “fairness” (which is a symmetry principle) at the root of it all. That’s what my theory is about. I think it’s important to clarify since so many people are confused and think that morality would be impossible without a god.

  40. Kagan schooled Craig pretty hard

    He sure did. I made an annotated video of the lesson.

  41. LW says:

    For those of us in the cocktail timezone, I’ve started putting together some God & Cosmology Buzzword Bingo Cards. (Not because I don’t think the debate will have substance, but only because I’m not sure all my happy hour guests will be as utterly fascinated by it as I know I will be.)

    Anyway, the bingo cards are world-viewable so anyone who wants to add a little competitive fun to their debate-watching experience can print them out. Or you can copy the template and make your own cards. (If you do make your own, post links so we can print them, too! The more the merrier!)

    And Sean, knock ‘em dead!

  42. Allan says:

    Sean, Craig is very good but he has one debilitating burden. He’s defending superstition and nonsense.

  43. Brett says:

    I think what people really want is for Sean and Craig to battle it out s’ghetti wrestling. Let’s make that happen.

  44. Brett says:

    If you do get roped into the morality argument, then I would say that morality is a parameter used to refine the mechanics of our most amazing tool; civilization. Look at all the modern technology we have from a relatively efficient civilization; and that’s a civilization loaded with problems that we all acknowledge and are working on. We sharpened stones and sticks to cut through flesh and hunt better than with blunt objects; morals are no different. You can see refinement in progress when we argue about politics, capitalism vs socialism, economics, etc. Utopian society is the goal, whether or not it is feasible, we don’t know yet, but that’s why we refine our morals as we see what works and what doesn’t work. It will be interesting to see what happens if/when we reach our maximum allowable population density.

    For any argument stating that this is a trait unique to humans, it should be noted that chimpanzees and other animals use sticks and various rudamentary “tools” all the time. That’s exactly how we started out.

  45. Wayne says:

    I’m very much looking forward to this dabate. After reading preceding comments here, it doesn’t *appear* that any are from women. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but seems a bit lopsided.

  46. Sean Carroll says:

    Love the Bingo cards, LW.

    And thanks for the good wishes, everybody!

  47. Wallace Marshall says:

    What absurd bluster. Given the miserable showing you atheists usually make in these debates, we’ll be happy if you just bring some real arguments to the table.

  48. Pingback: Get the popcorn: Sean Carroll goes at it hammer and tongs with William Lane Craig—livestreamed tonight! « Why Evolution Is True

  49. Sean (different one) says:

    “Mike says:

    February 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Please be civil! Craig is NOT a creationist, nor is he allied with the ID movement!!”

    This is simply untrue. Here is the Discovery Institute’s ‘Center for Science and Culture’ fellows. Note the seventh name on the list of fellows. (Not “senior fellows”.) You can’t get much more allied with the ID movement than that.

  50. Pingback: Grab yer popcorn - creationism/evolutionism debate - Page 25 - Pelican Parts Technical BBS

  51. Pingback: Debates about Science, Creationism, Accommodationism | Views from Medina Road

  52. Bob F. says:

    The live streaming is already failing. It’s cutting in and out, more out than in. Reminds me of the Jon Stewart – Bill O’Reilly debate. Hopefully this will be archived so I can watch it later.

  53. David says:

    Tried several times but could not access the debate

  54. Michael Rodriguez says:

    I can’t get the stream to play, either. :(

    Hope it’ll be uploaded to YouTube really soon?

  55. Michael says:

    Very poor opening from Doctor Carroll. No details just rants. I’m a atheist but this is just bad.

  56. Michael says:

    Whoops ‘an atheist’

  57. Peter Ozzie Jones says:

    Just heard the live stream of the opening talks, WLC and then Sean.
    WOW, Sean, that was an awesome tour of naturalism.
    I am, as they say in England, totally gobsmacked!

  58. Michael says:

    Craig is correcting Carroll on Hawking’s cosmology. Craig is right. Points out that plausible models for the universe are past incomplete, and there is no plausible classical model that is past infinite. This is great, writing this is distracting.

  59. Michael says:

    I do not believe this – Carroll has gone back to the argument in his first talk with have nothing to do with the title of the debate. Craig is running away with this debate.

  60. Michael says:

    Sean please some details.

  61. Michael says:

    Come on Sean you can do better than this.

  62. Michael says:

    Sean is claiming Craig ignored his fine turning argument. Craig did not.

  63. Dave Hooke says:

    Oh. Marshall McLuhan moment!

  64. Michael says:

    If anyone else is reading how did you feel this went?

  65. Michael says:

    Come on guys someone must have an opinion. Whoops question time.

  66. Michael says:

    Whoops not question time just third talk.

  67. Humanity Akbar says:

    It is to bad that I can’t seem to be able to view this talk right now. Ah well.

    I do hope that both are having a good time, enjoying each other’s discussions, sharing in the common human experience and avoiding trying to win, to see the other as some kind of opponent to be beaten…

  68. Michael says:

    Third talk from Sean. Going off topic. Talking about the Bible. Seems to given up talking about cosmology. Pop psychology. Cannot believe that a cosmologist gave up talking about cosmology.

  69. Michael says:

    Humanity Akbar this talk was very interesting I think, I read that it will be placed on youtube in the next couple of days. I must admit I was very impressed by Craig.

  70. Michael says:

    Sean is again claiming that the universe is somehow different from what is in it – gives no explanation.

  71. Michael says:

    Craig is so polite. No matter what you think about his arguments – he is class.

  72. Paul M says:

    SC and WLC are speaking in two different languages. I guess being an engineer for 37 years has affected my thinking processes, but WLC’s dialog strikes me as noncoherent. He really needed a top down structure that would organize his thoughts for the audience. Much of his time, WLC knit picked interpretations of SC’s models with esoteric points that ran the clock down but really avoided his job of building the God argument. And for ‘heavens’ sake, if you’re going to throw Boltzmann’s brains out there, you do need to indulge the listening masses with a decent definition first. It seemed to me WLC’s main tact was “see, we can’t explain it – and that is more affirmative proof “.

  73. Michael says:

    “It seemed to me WLC’s main tact was “see, we can’t explain it – and that is more affirmative proof”. I have no idea what you are on about it is Carroll who is falling back on ‘very iffy’ cosmology. In the 20’s and 30’s it was bouncing universes, in the 50’s – mid 60’s The Steady State, 70’s to the 90’s Quantum models (see WLC, Q. Smith – Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology), All have failed as I believe Carroll’s cosmology will as well. If you find Craig difficult to understand perhaps it has something to do with your cognitive limitations.

  74. Michael says:

    Flipping heck – why do I get two thumbs down for saying that Craig is polite?

  75. Brett says:

    for fuck’s sake Michael, we get it, you’re a fan of Craig and you want to brainwash everyone into thinking he is the 2nd coming. stop live blogging in the comments section of another blog. This isn’t fox news and the fox news model of brainwashing doesn’t work anyway.

    Sean is making great arguments with very rational explanations and Craig is veering off topic over and over again, repeatedly presenting straw man arguments and giving incorrect explanations of well known scientific theories. There is an irony in Craig’s repetitive theme, “cosmology is too incredible to believe”. Really?! but space god isn’t?

    You think Sean’s comments are irrational because you don’t have an elementary understanding of quantum mechanics, just like Craig. Craig doesn’t know the difference between classical mechanics and quantum mechanics. I understand that you think science is the devil, but you’re simply making an ass of yourself by showing your blatant bias. You get thumbs down for being a transparent a-hole on a site full of intelligent and civil people. Either you think we’re stupid enough for that tactic or you’re an extremely arrogant person, either way, it’s insulting and/or tiring.

    Sean and Craig were both rational and intelligent. Good job guys.

  76. Ben says:

    Wow, that was really good! I thought Carroll made Craig look pretty silly. But maybe that’s just because Craig is getting old. It seems he’s finally beginning to show his age. That’s too bad.

    But yeah, Carroll rocked. Very nice debate performance.

    I think what most impressed me was the scientific language in which he framed his objection to the first premise of the KCA. We really don’t have any reason to think that everything that begins to exist has a cause. But it was refreshing to hear this objection phrased in terms of scientific models. Once you have a self-contained scientific model which explains the observed data, why do you need more? Craig was unable to answer this in the same language.

  77. Dave Hooke says:

    Never seen Craig taken to the cleaners like that before.

    I suspected it might be the case, and I wonder why he took on a debate topic that was so skewed toward his opponent. Having said that, I thought Sean did a fine job all around, not just when he was correcting Craig’s misunderstandings of cosmology.

    Bringing in Alan Guth was a memorable move.

  78. David Park says:

    Good job Sean! Your explanations were simpler and more coherent than WLC’s logic chopping. I think you also did a good job of “reaching out”. Most religious people will just blank out on this level of discussion but I’ll wager that among those who listen any net shift will be in your direction.

  79. Michael says:

    “You think Sean’s comments are irrational because you don’t have an elementary understanding of quantum mechanics, just like Craig” I agree Craig does not have an elementary understanding of quantum mechanics – he has a very sophisticated understanding of QM, SR and GR. That is way he has authored books on the philosophy of time, and the philosophy of physics published by Springer, Kluwer and Routledge.

  80. Michael says:

    Where did Craig go of subject? It was Sean who brought in the Bible, and began to waste time on general (and very poor) arguments for atheism. Craig stayed on the subject at hand at all times. It was very telling that Sean offered no reply to Craig in his third talk.

  81. Sean — I think you dominated the debate tonight and I don’t make that statement lightly. Although I am an atheist, I am usually critical of the performances of Craig’s debate opponents. You should be very proud of your performance tonight.

  82. piledHighAndDeep says:

    big relief! Sean not pummeled, far from it. I feel Craig did not do as well as Sean, and leave it to Luke Barnes to explain how Craig won even this time. I now understand Sean’s comment of “not come here to win”. My frustration at this comment in the previous post was misplaced. Very well done, and especially the ending where Sean exposed Craig’s failure to respond to most of his major points and take the time to speak to theists directly, I think was a great ecumenical moment, a mantle that Craig can never claim.

    But Craig brought up one issue that I agree with and have previously thought about much. There may not be a cause of the universe (even if it had a beginning), but the whole goal of physics is to find a cause. Not knowing doesn’t imply that we give up, but we keep looking.

    About Guth holding ipad, that was a gimmick, but I think one very well done. Something from Vilenkin would have sealed the deal.

  83. Michael says:

    Sean exposed Craig’s failure to respond to most of his major points
    What point did Craig fail to respond to?

  84. beautox says:

    Well done Sean. I think you got your message across very well.

  85. Diana Goods says:

    I have watched more Craig debates than anyone sane would admit to and I have to say, this was one of the best. Right up there with the Kagan-Craig debate. Sean you did a fantastic job and were a great ambassador for science. Thanks

  86. LW says:

    Fantastic job, Sean! Big thumbs-up from the happy-hour bunch here!

  87. alfonse says:

    There’s no point in talking to someone who is looking for a fight on a website full of rational and educated people. You get down-rated because everyone already knows the waste of time it will be to talk to you. So please go away, old man (no offense to old men, I’m one myself.)

  88. Ricardo says:

    I couldn’t watch the debate live. I was streaming it a couple of hours after it happened and suddenly the video stops and YouTube says “This video is private. Sorry about that”. I wonder if the hosts were so embarrassed by the theists’ arguments that they pulled the video. Any alternative ways to watch it?

  89. piledHighAndDeep says:

    What was the subject that Craig was trying to debate? The best I can gather, his argument was something like this: big bang and value of cosmological constant give more credence to theism than if the established theory was say steady state theory and \Lambda = 0. This is a very low ball claim, and akin to arguing that presents under a Christmas tree give more credence to the existence of Santa, than if there were no presents.

    Also Craig refuted claims he has himself made in other debates that God is the best explanation for observed universe. Wasn’t that the topic of the debate with Kraus?

  90. David Park says:

    Sean, I liked that you used the idea: “This is not a dress rehearsal, this is the performance.” That line has a lot of resonance with people. I like to add: “And a performance well done can never be erased from existence.”

  91. piledHighAndDeep says:

    Craig failed to reconcile fine tuning with an omnipotent god, as was dismissed by Hans Halvorson (a theist) and Sean brought up. What Craig indirectly said in a different context is that god did it so as to provide evidence of its existence. Really!!! This is the same guy who has argued that god is hidden and mysterious and does not provide evidence for its existence because otherwise people will be forced to believe in god thus undermining free will.

    Also bicycles popping out of nothing was a meaningless argument. Since we live inside the universe we have no experience of nothing (since they have already rejected Kraus’s vacuum as a candidate for nothing), so can’t make any claims if bicycles are or are not popping out of nothing.

  92. Bob F. says:

    Glad that the stream got working again quickly. Well done, Doc.

  93. Ken Durden says:

    Sean — excellent job tonight! You and Sam Harris are the only WLC opponents who I (as an atheist) think succeeded in beating his arguments (and I’ve watched probably a dozen of his debates). You were very right to spend more time defending naturalism than refuting his complaints.

  94. Josh says:


    First off, fantastic job! I’ve always thought you caried yourself with the prudency, humility, and yet strong engagement due such debates. Here’s some highlights from my own thoughts if interested:

    1) Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking in clearer, more organized manner than Craig. Normally one would expect the scientists to be the ones tossing about the jargon, but I felt you took the consideration needed of your audience. Meanwhile, I could barely ascertain Craig’s main points or the rational of his rebuttals personally.

    2) I was worried you would get hung up in Craig trying to bait you to defend your own cosmoligical model, but I was exuberant to see you moved right along. That openness of other interpretations allowed you much more freedome of debate and shows some awesomeness on your part.

    3) In your final statements, I’m glad you took the detour you did to “talk to the audience” so to speak. Craig’s rebuttals and closing were seemingly redundant, if not in the least caught up in a messy web of technical and picky counterpoints, so to indulge much further would have been an exercise in just “talking past eachother” which isn’t helpful for us listeners. The down-to-earth discussion you had at the end is a very useful rhetorical tool as well, allowing an otherwise differing audience to gain some empathy with your views. Throwing the audience the bone that religion has good things worth championing was also even further likely to garnish an open ear to your views.

    4) My only real critique is on the questioning at the end regarding whether or not the universe should need an initial cause. I thought your responses were logical and consitent, but they forgot the audience a bit. For your everyday person, and even myself, a universe without intelligible “first cause” can sound preposterous if not insane (regardless of what the truth is). I think this could have used a little bit more deliberation in trying to soften or explain the philosophical wackyness of what may be a philosophical necessity. I also think some credence could be given to the idea that, although the universe may not have an “initial explanation,” as scientists we do keep looking and refining. This might be a good moment to simply note that theism is content with giving up and presupposing that explaination.

    Thanks for an entertainingly intellectual night! I think you’ll have got some people thinking.

  95. nick says:

    To Michael: The debate consisted of a lot of one side saying “I think the science is like this” and the other side saying ‘no, I think the science is like this…” They flat out disagreed on many scientific claims. Who are we to believe about the scientific claims, the scientist or the philosopher? You might argue that WLC has written books on this stuff, but his books are irrelevant. Want to know how I know that? Because they don’t contain meaningful mathematics. If you can’t do serious math, you can’t do serious physics. That’s just the way it is. As a lay person, unfortunately, you have to just believe in one of the two speakers, and you’re better off believe in the one who understands mathematics. (I, however am not a lay person, I’m a mathematician with a physics background, which is why I claim to know this is true.)

    A simple example of WLC not understanding basic mathematics is when he complained that Carroll’s model had time pointing off in two directions, and interpreted that as two parallel universes, both evolving forward in time with a common beginning. This is laughable, and demonstrates quite clearly how mathematically challenged Craig is. The time parameter in that model ranges from negative infinity to positive infinity. Period. Drawing a double arrow for an infinite axis is common practice. Moreover, I think Carroll specifically drew it that way to show that entropy increased in both directions. That, however, is irrelevant to the fact that the model starts at past infinity and carries on to positive infinity. This is but one of countless examples of Craig’s incompetency with anything technical. The funniest, of course, is his claim that actual infinities are impossible.

  96. Joe in CO says:

    Damn — I missed it and the video is now “private”. From this and PZ’s liveblogging it sounds like Sean did a stellar job. I was not very satisfied with the Halvorsen conversation because he was barely a theist at all and would like to have seen Sean debate a red-blooded theist.

  97. David says:

    Can anyone provide a working link to the debate on YouTube? Thanks.

  98. Dan says:

    Sean was his usual entertaining, insightful self and didn’t speak above his audience, a skill more people in his field ought to learn when they want to be understood by the unwashed masses. WLC was predictable and predictably grating. I’m not sure he really understands what he’s trying to convince everyone else about. He seemed to either be rushing through his presentation or just filling it with as much “science sounding” stuff to fool the audience into thinking it was more credible than it was.

    For someone who wasn’t trying to win a debate, Sean, you did it anyway. It was the only thing you failed at.

  99. Sean — Can you please post your slides?

  100. Bill Bunting says:

    Will there be Youtube of the exchange?

  101. pastafar says:

    You are all weak atheists in panic. You should all admit the mystery that is going to be forever beyond the reach of human reason, science or math. This mystery is about the ultimate origin of our universe. So there is a gap there that can be filled by God, but it is such a gap that we can never fill in with our science, and it is not a small gap either: it is an infinitely large gap.

    When a Christian proposes God as a filler for that gap you should keep your calm and appreciate that it is just a proposal and it is rationally permissible. However, there is no logical entailment from the fact that the universe had a beginning in time and that we don’t know why, to the conclusion that therefore a God as described in the Bible or the Quran exists and is responsible for the universe. That should be the line of defence here: The lack of such a logical entailment. Or as philosophers say: God is a necessary condition for the existence of the Universe, but it is not a sufficient condition. It is a fine proposal in our speculation for the origin of the Universe. But it just speculation. And we will never get beyond speculation. Those of you who think that Science (with a capital S) is such a magical powerful and epistemologically privileged thing that it can resolve this question, are just clueless about what science is and what its limits are.

    Now, a few words for the person who posted a Shelly Kagan video here. Another weakness of atheist wannabe people who are in panic is this: William Lane Craig is right in accusing atheism of nihilism. Shelly Kagan was not being honest in that video. He refused to answer the real question WLC was trying to get at. Namely whether moral values have a Platonic existence (which cannot be the case if Naturalism is true) or not. If not, then they can be no more than cultural constructs. Kagan simply asserts that we are intelligent creatures and we can recognize those values. But that is not issue here. Are we recognizing norms and values we invented? Or are recognizing eternally existing Platonic values? That is the question WLC is asking.

    WLC is correct in his Kalam Cosmological Argument, and his Morality Argument. Both arguments are valid and sound, they prove their conclusions. The universe did have a beginning that requires an explanation, and an explanation that by definition cannot be natural. And on a materialistic worldview there is no room for Platonic moral values and duties, therefore an atheist has to admit that they are contingent conventions.

    If you can still be an atheist after this point is the real question here. Can you handle the fact that science is doomed to be forever incomplete and wondering why the world exists at all? Can you handle the fact that unlike an atheist a Christian has a true philosophical foundation for their ethics that warrants them to assert the truth (and not just the convenience or utility) of the moral norms and values they defend?

    If you cannot handle this, just give up and Please STOP WHINING. If you cannot take the heat get out of the kitchen. Stop ridiculing WLC because you don’t even know what you are talking about. He knows his stuff and you don’t. Jesus story may be preposterous to you, but that doesn’t mean that therefore Kalam argument or the Moral argument must be preposterous jokes too. Just shut up because you are embarassing yourselves.

    With love,
    An atheist who despises phoneys like you

    P.S. Maybe you should just admit you are nothing but a Christian who hates God for some reason. Don’t call yourself an atheist because you are not.

  102. Jake Maier says:

    I heard the moderator say at the very end that the discussion may be sold as CD or on the web. I hope this is not true. I very much would like to have friends and acquaintances see this important discussion without having to pay Southern Baptists for it.
    I think, despite what I read on the web after the Nye/Ham debate, these philosophical discussions are important, including Nye/Ham, especially with ignorant or misguided people. We in Maine have an embarrassment of a governor because there are too many ignorant and misguided folks.
    So, I hope Dr Carroll could make sure that the discussion is freely available.
    Thank you very much for an important public service.

  103. Dave Hooke says:


    Citations needed.

  104. Steve says:


    Your accusation of people on this thread “whining,” opps, I mean, “WHINING” or of people being “weak atheists in panic” is embarrassingly ironic given the general “whining” tone of your rant.

    With love,
    An atheist rolling his eyes.

    P.S. Your P.S. is a whopping non-sequitur.

  105. Stan says:

    I Just noticed that Michael’s Substantive posts have been removed. So much for the free flow of debates.

  106. Steve says:


    They have not been removed. They have been hidden due to a high number of internet users giving them a thumbs-down. You can still read them (should you want to) by clicking “Click here to see”

  107. Jake Maier says:

    Steve is right, and I want to add, that you and everybody can give a like or dislike or nothing at all. I think the magic number is 5 or 6 dislikes when the message will be hidden unless specifically selected and the message will be highlighted in yellow when 5 or 6 likes are given.

    I’m not sure what happens if there are 5 or 6 likes and also as many dislikes. Maybe the hidden message is highlighted. :)

    I think it is a very democratic way to quickly show what the readers think of the message. I often click a hidden message to see if I agree or not. It’s not censorship

  108. Jon Rockoford says:

    Where’s the video? What was the point if nobody can watch it now? I thought the era of only live TV ended with the invention of the VHS and now we can’t watch a video unless we watch it live?

    I do wish that smart people who acquiesce to debate the religious and the deranged insist on some ground rules that should definitely include allowing anyone at any time to watch the damn video of the debate!

  109. Derek says:

    Sean – you were fantastic! Enjoyed everything, especially the closing. I regret not making the trip to NOLA…

  110. nick says:

    To pastafar: I’ll repeat what I posted above in response to Micheal, the ranter.

    Many times in the debate, Craig would say things of the form “the science is like this or like that” and Carroll would respond with “no, actually you don’t understand, it’s like this, not like that…” Now, which one do we trust to accurately understand cosmology? Here’s a hint: cosmology requires lots and lots of complex mathematics.

    Craig will always misunderstand and misrepresent the physics that he talks about simply because he can’t do real math. I’m not faulting him, he just didn’t choose to study math, and unfortunately, there is no layman route to understanding cosmology. You simply need the math. (I’m speaking as a mathematician)

    So, when you claim that Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument is ‘correct’, implying that he is somehow correct in his assertion that the universe had a beginning, you have to recognize that he’s making this claim, in the face of an expert who disagrees, with little to no understanding of the details of what he’s saying.

    Of course, Craig can make a philosophical argument for the beginning of the universe, but then we get into a whole new area of embarrassing misunderstandings.

  111. Lucy Harris says:

    The forum is going on right now and is being streamed still.

  112. Lucy Harris says:

    Haha, Tim Maudlin calling out Craig on his game playing rhetoric.

  113. Jake Maier says:

    The streaming is set to private again :( hopefully only for the break

  114. Lucy Harris says:

    @Jake Maier, to get the youtube line, use this link http://www.tacticalfaith.com/live-stream/

    The youtube link changes between speakers.

  115. MichaelB says:

    So I missed the debate live last night.
    Is it available yet to re-watch? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I can get the live stream of todays events, but where is last night’s debate?

  116. sjn says:

    I think it’s interesting that Craig claims to be a Christian and therefore presumably accepts the standard Christian dogma (e.g., the doctrine of original sin, the virgin birth, Christ’s resurrection, etc.). Or is it possible to be “Christian” without buying the Christian story? That I don’t know. However, if Craig is sophisticated enough to invoke the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem in an argument for the existence of God and yet believes in, say, the virgin birth, this is testament to the human ability to compartmentalize. To be fair, I don’t know whether Craig takes this stuff literally.

    I thought the debate was great. As Sean pointed out, having an eternal, transcendent God, existing outside of space and time, who creates it all really has no explanatory value. If you wonder where the universe (or the laws of physics) came from, then replacing that with a bigger mystery doesn’t help.

  117. aarrgghh says:

    piledHighAndDeep @ 7:56 pm:

    “But Craig brought up one issue that I agree with and have previously thought about much. There may not be a cause of the universe (even if it had a beginning), but the whole goal of physics is to find a cause. Not knowing doesn’t imply that we give up, but we keep looking.”

    whoa, hold on there!

    who says physicists — or anyone else on the nontheist side of the debate — are implying that we give up looking for a cause (much less directly arguing for giving up or in fact have already given up looking)?

    isn’t that the theistic conclusion? “god did it! we’re done here … in fact we’ve been done for millennia — it’s all in this handy little book!”

    simply put, the nontheist argument is that it’s ok to admit not knowing the answer to a question. not knowing is all the more reason to keep looking — rather than conjuring magical loving superbeings to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

    there is no other way to find out if there is a cause than to keep looking.

  118. aarrgghh says:

    one more thing:

    missed debate. want video.

  119. Clark Griswold says:

    So far, I haven’t seen the video posted on YouTube, but hopefully it will be there soon. In searching for the video, I did find this gem from Dr. Carroll… http://youtu.be/Eh8Z3fhaBdM in which he “responds” to the first premise of the KLA with “how do you know,” while the video ends with “Wah, Wah.” Really, now? I suppose when Carroll is with his college-age (mental or emotional) Internet infidel groupies that kind of shallow, sophomoric, sarcastic “response” passes. And obviously the producer of that video segment believed it to be a knock-down argument. I hope Carroll didn’t present more of that in the debate, because it would be simply embarrassing.

    Further, it is truly odd that a naturalist would ask “how do you know?” For how does a naturalist -know- anything? I mean, on naturalism, one has -no- reason to believe he/she can know anything at all, including that naturalism is true! Carl Sagan himself once admitted as much, when he said that even his observations (let alone his assessments) cannot be assumed as truth. If naturalism is true, you simply have no reason to believe you have a mind that can know anything at all. The naturalistic mind is only evolved to successfully propagate, nothing more, something that is not necessarily consistent with knowing anything at all.

    The naturalist, therefore, has at the very core of his/her system of rationalizing observation a number of beliefs that he simply cannot know, but can only believe. I point out this is one of the characteristics atheists use to describe what they refer to as “religion.” Naturalism is a religious belief just like theism and Carroll is at least as religious as Craig or any other theist. There is simply this point at which Carroll, Dawkins, and others cease to be doing science and start doing religion without telling anyone when they crossed over. I doubt whether they realize it themselves.

  120. Lucy Harris says:

    @Clark Griswold, the answer was “maybe it doesn’t, how do you know?” Which is all that is needed to reject the premise since it’s a naked assertion. That which is asserted without evidence, may be dismissed without evidence.

    I guess you didn’t understand that because you’re not as smart as a lowly internet infidel.

  121. Lucy Harris says:

    And the rest of your comment has also long been PRATTed. zzzzzz.

  122. DEL says:

    pastafar, Richard Amiel McGough: You and other commentators here, and especially Sean, in the debate, seem oblivious of the fact that morality as an evolutionary adaptation is an active and successful topic of empirical research in ethology. Some forms of morality-related behaviors—altruism, restraint of lethal force, empathy—do exist in animals other than humans, even quite primitive, and are well explained as adaptations that support the particular life styles of the corresponding species.

    As to humans, their consciously-held right/wrong values are clearly variable and politically-biased: even the Holy See has by now expressed some tolerance of homosexuality (who would have believed?!) In contrast, not too long ago, genocide did count in some countries as a commendable patriotic duty, and not too many centuries ago, burning a person for denial would be characterised as an auto da fe (“act of faith.”) The only true human moral invariants are those reactions that arise from our unconsciousness, from our gut feelings, from our uncontrollable emotions; things like the pinch we feel in our hearts when watching the suffering of others, our impulse to protect the young of even remotely related species, our feeling good upon giving to charity, etc. And behaviors indicatory of feelings like these are exhibited in non-human species as well, and in humans they are so wonderfully adapted to succeeding in our tough social-selective environment that we do not have to look for speculative supernatural or humanistic causes to understand them.

    Human morality is neither godly nor humanistic—it’s basically an evolutionary adaptation under the influence of the prevailing culture and political correctness. And the fact that many an atheist do not recognize this, and imply, as Sean, a humanistic origin for it, only serves to show that a naturalist world view based on cosmology alone, without the essential support of biology, cannot be self-sufficient.

  123. Jared Guthrie says:


    You did a phenomenal job last night. It was one of VERY few debates I seen Craig handled in such fashion. Craig looked flustered and out of sorts at times while you were cool, calm and collected. Your points came across VERY clear and you connected with the audience. Let’s face it, we were severely out numbered last night. I had some theist behind be who said that you made the better points and made more sense. We can only hope that is the way most felt. Thanks for the picture.

  124. Lucy Harris says:

    @DEL, moral behavior is only empirical descriptively. You’re missing the point that normative values are not empirically demonstrable.

  125. Clark Griswold says:

    Lucy Harris, thanks for filling in the blank! Yeah, that “maybe it was” was the part I must have missed, the one that made Carroll’s response the slam-dunk that it was. Thanks! :-^

    Craig’s premise 1 is a logical assertion that requires more than, “maybe not” to refute.

    That still leaves the nasty problem of the religious nature of naturalism. It’s founded on things you cannot know but can only believe.

  126. Hayden says:

    Thank you, Sean, for being a respectful, clear, and challenging debater. You stuck to actual arguments and didn’t turn it into a flame-fest like some other atheists Craig has debated. Many times, Craig wins not because of his own merit, but because his opponents are morons, frankly. But you held your own and did very well!

    If I imagine myself as a nonpartisan agnostic, last night’s debate would have left me very confused. Lots of webs to untangle. Lots of philosophical nuance. I imagine it went over most people’s heads. But when I look at the meat of what was said, I [i]think[/i] (and please don’t thumbs-down me for having a divergent opinion, infidels! ;) ), I [i]think[/i] Craig squeaked ahead. His case was more cogent and came together as a single unit. I think his contention was much more modest than you might have thought (that the key premises of the Kalam and Fine-tuning argument are [i]probably[/i] true but not necessarily with scientific [i]certitude[/i]). I think he defended himself well when he pointed out that while there are cosmological models which restore an eternal past and thereby undercut the Kalam, those models have other metaphysical problems. (I wish he went into that a little more, though.)

    BUT, at the end of the day I think there are a lot of loose ends. This is really the best kind of debate, because it encourages future inquiry and discussion. Thanks Dr. Carroll!

  127. pastafar says:

    DEL, you are right. Morality is a biological adaptation. But that still doesn’t make it objectively binding. So WLC is still right. He does quote Micheal Ruse to say morality is seen as a biological adaptation in naturalism anyway.

    19th century “blank slate” philosophers were the ones who decided that if morality is not Platonic then it must be cultural. It never occured to them that it could be genetic. But that doesn’t change the fact of nihilism. WLC is right. And Kagan was not honest.

  128. pastafar says:


    Ok, point taken. Let’s say then that it is possible for the universe to exist without a beginning in time. Or that it can exist with a beginning that has no cause. If therefore the Kalam argument fails there is always the other Kalam argument, namely the argument from contingency. If the universe exists eternally yet contingently, then it still needs an explanation.

  129. Jake Maier says:

    You may be absolutely right, your comments may have been deleted and removed and your IP address blocked. It’s hard to really check this for obvious reasons, but I sure believe you now.
    After reading the comment policy of this blog, I was looking for a reason why you got blocked and your comments removed. Looking through all the previous comment again, I came to all the hidden comments of a particular Michael, which nearly all had low rating so bad I did not see that before. And not only one or two, but series of 10 and more comments in a row. And I know I put negative comments on myself because frankly it was a waste of time to read any of them and it was just getting obnoxious.
    I really think it is appropriate to block commentators like you, because otherwise, just one, two, or 3 of your caliber, can shut down a block completely by filling it with empty words and obnoxious statements as you did.
    So I admit you were right in your last post that you got blocked, but looking at the reason for your blockage I find the ‘gods’ of this block acted absolutely correctly, within the rules, and with very good reason.

  130. Stan says:

    Post that said that this forum has blocked Michael’s IP from posting has been removed.

  131. Owlmirror says:

    I, too, am sorry that I missed the debate.

    I see that Griswold’s complaint has been downvoted, but it did get me thinking about responding, so I may as well post my thoughts here.

    As I understand Carroll’s views, naturalism is the correct conclusion given that the laws of physics of common experience are completely understood. That is, we know how mass, charge, magnetism, and energy interact with each other over time and in space, at the energy levels that are common on Earth.

    That does not mean that we know everything that follows from those laws of physics. For example, despite knowing that life is a chemical reaction, we do not know exactly how that chemical reaction arose, even though that reaction must follow from the laws of physics.

    But it does mean that there is no way for certain things posited by supernaturalism (or anti-naturalism, or unnaturalism, or whatever you want to call it) to physically exist. There is nothing for a putative immortal immaterial soul to be made from such that it would interact in a meaningful way with our bodies and brains. The same goes for a putative eternal immaterial person; a “God”.

    A theist might argue that a putative eternal immaterial person can exist and make immortal immaterial souls exist without interacting with bodies and brains, because it is in the God’s nature to exist, and in addition, this God has the power and will to make souls exist without any interaction.

    But this ultimately concedes the naturalist argument: The naturalist believes based on reason and evidence, and parsimoniously rejects the ad-hoc supernaturalist presuppositionalist conjecture of the theist. The principle of parsimony should be part of everyone’s reasoning; the theist in my example above rejects parsimony for no good reason — presumably because it conflicts with their presuppositions.

    Griswold’s problem with naturalist epistemology is ultimately self-defeating. Naturalism is provisional because humans are fallible and all empirical conclusions are open to being changed with new evidence. So if a putative eternal immaterial person demonstrated its own existence empirically, naturalists would have to change their minds. But this does not make supernaturalism better, because up until such a demonstration was made, the putative God would have gone to great lengths to lie by omission; to hide from the natural world and to leave the world looking natural. A God that deliberately obscures its existence cannot be a reliable source for epistemic justification.

    The complaint that naturalism is a “religion” is merely fatuous. While religion is not necessarily easy to define, defining it so broadly that it can apply to any set of ideas or preferences at all means that anything can be a religion, such that “posting fatuous claims about naturalism” is itself a “religion”. Given the downvoting, I am confident that Griswold’s “religion” is not well liked, here — perhaps not even by other theists.

  132. Owlmirror says:

    Modulators again removing Michael’s posts.

    Do you mean Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulators?

    The posts are probably obstructing the view of Venus.

  133. Stan says:

    I just check the hidden short statements. Where are the obnoxious statements? I can’t find any. Please an example.

  134. Jayden says:

    @ Clark Griswold

    The Youtube video you found in which Carroll says ‘How do you know,’ was created by a person who took Carroll’s statements from another lecture out of context.

  135. Lucy Harris says:

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

  136. The Thinker says:

    I wish you had pressed the B-theory of time a bit further in the debate because it is a knock-down argument against the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

  137. Lucy Harris says:

    @Jayden, no the clip was not taken out of context. There’s nothing wrong with the answer. The original video is here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcqd3Q7X_1A#t=74m25s

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  139. Ahab says:

    That was a really good debate- as good a debate as one with WLC can be. Sean did a great job, and held his own in the face of that snake oil salesman.
    What was unusual about this debate, and a crucial factor in its outcome, was the focus on cosmology related arguments. That way it didn’t descend into the usual mess that is the usual fate of WLC’s debates, and which he – a veteran expert in smoke and mirrors- is accustomed to taking advantage of.

    Oh, and one more thing: Set the video free!

  140. Pingback: Another god debate | Open Parachute

  141. James says:

    So I too watched the debate and a few things. First off if you are going to talk hypothetical science that is to say, “well classical science works up to this point and then we’ll just throw all that out and start with metaphysics.” How then is it any more absurd that the universe can exist with out a cause then a God or gods can exist. Notice how criag never said in the debate the God or Jesus, he said a god or gods.

    Secondly something is just never born from nothing. If the universe was then what is there to stop a building from just coming into existence or a whale to coming into being right in your living room.

    Thirdly you can say, “well science isn’t there yet but we will have the answers someday” but that right there is putting a faith in science, which is no different then from putting faith in a god or gods. You don’t know when science will find said answer but you are holding out on faith that it will.

    ***whoops phone hit enter too soon on the last post

  142. DEL says:

    pastafar & Lucy Harris: Not being of the philosophers’ persuation, I probably don’t understand what Lucy means by “moral behavior is only empirical descriptively … normative values are not empirical[ly?] demonstrable.” (This reminds me of Copernicus’ introduction to his cosmology, in which, in a failed attempt to pacify the Church, he asserts that his ideas are only descriptive and not necessarily true.) and what pastafar means by “… that still doesn’t make it objectively binding” and “…that doesn’t change the fact of nihilism.
    What does all that have to to with the religious claim, and the falsification thereof, that human morality stems from obeying God’s commandments, without which we are just immoral brutes? Or, alternatively, that it takes God to instill in us those unconscious moral drives that couldn’t arise naturally and which allegedly distinguish us from those brutes?

    A person’s moral binding stems, in my view, from one or more of the following: 1) naturally occuring emotions and feelings; 2) effective self-enforcement of adopted values, from whatever source; 3) fear of social implications; 4) fear of law enforcement; 5) fear of deities. Only the first of these has some objectivity and constancy—the rest are all socially and politically feeble. And, as a biological adaptation, the first doesn’t entail a god either.

    My comment was addressed also to Sean, because in the debate he had exposed a weak flank in his naturalism: he doesn’t recognize objective moral values (but biologically evolved values are objective, thus he must be unaware of this option) and he does believe in free will, which is inconsistent with naturalism even as an emergent phenomenon. The belief that moral values are voluntary personal undertakings arising from free will is a humanistic position and, in my view, naturalistically worse that claiming a divine origin for them—it is just as supernatural and, in addition, also anthropo-chauvinistic. No wonder WLC beat him on that.

  143. Zwirko says:

    I don’t undertstand WLC’s fascination with cosmology, time and thermodynamics. All of it seems to be rather pointless as soon as he starts talking about a disembodied mind that exists outside of time and space. I can’t see how such an entity can be squared with any of his views.

  144. DanielC says:

    James you ask; if things can pop into being out of nothing then why don’t we just see objects like a whale or a bicycle pop into existence in the middle of a living room?

    Well obviously because the space in my living room is not nothing. When Lawrence Krauss said virtual particles pop into existence out of nothing, people in my opinion correctly pointed out that the Quantum Vacuum is not the same as nothing. Yet many of the same people seem to think it’s a valid objection to the notion that something can come from nothing that we don’t observe things coming into being out of nothing around us. Space-time even when there are no particles is not nothing; It appears to have energy (the cosmological constant) and general relativity shows its geometry is dynamic. So the reason why we don’t see things popping into nothing is because we’re already in a region of space-time, everything we observe around us in the universe is in our spacial-temporal continuum and space-time is not nothing.

    Edit: You also say expecting the science of the future to solve some of the problems we have now is a form of faith. I may be willing to grant that since I don’t have an default disagreement with faith but I will point out there is huge historical precedent for science advancing and solving previously unsolved problems thus providing us with better and more powerful explanations of phenomena and I don’t think there’s a similar historical precedent for religious explanations.

    Zwirko: I couldn’t agree more. Going from the observation that we have problems explaining conciousness to theorising that minds can exist independent of a body (and on Craig’s rendition independent of space and time which seems even more unbelievable) seems to me an absurd and unwarranted jump.

    I’m looking forward to getting a chance to watch the debate, the glowing reviews and thus far lacklustre criticism of Sean’s performance have me hopeful he may have greatly outdone my rather pessimistic expectations.

  145. Dorfl says:

    Secondly something is just never born from nothing. If the universe was then what is there to stop a building from just coming into existence or a whale to coming into being right in your living room.

    Energy convervation. A building or a whale does not a have zero total energy. As far as we can tell, the universe does.

  146. David Edwards says:

    Several interested posters over at the Rational Skepticism forum are still waiting for the full video to make an appearance. Any chances of providing a copy yourself?

    Relevant thread here.

    Meanwhile, any chance of allowing line break tags to format posts? I know we can use empty blockquote tags as a workaround, but it’s tedious, not to mention bad HTML.

  147. Dr. Mehltau says:

    At least the Q & A is on youtube now.


    You´re welcome.

  148. Robert Vroom says:

    One of the sites that was taping the event will be posting the debate on youtube tonight. You should be able to find it at http://www.youtube.com/tacticalfaith

  149. mb says:

    Really enjoyed what I was able to see of this “debate.” A couple of comments:

    The theist speaker who was focused on fine-tuning and writing a 2 volume (!) book on the subject appeared to have a singular talent for approaching every argument from the wrong end. Plus his entire argument undermines the idea that god is omnipotent and the creator of all things (two things I assume he believes) since apparently god was constrained by existing laws of physics that he had no control over. Why couldn’t he make the conditions that allowed for the combustion of wood whatever he wanted them to be?

    Secondly, the question of where morality comes from screamed out for the inclusion of a primatologist. Or any other zoologist specializing in social animals. We are not the only species capable of empathy or the only species with social rules as WLC seemed to suggest. Maybe god gave the great apes their own moral code and we just haven’t found the monkey Moses yet. I’m skeptical.

  150. Lucy Harris says:

    My comment was addressed also to Sean, because in the debate he had exposed a weak flank in his naturalism: he doesn’t recognize objective moral values (but biologically evolved values are objective, thus he must be unaware of this option) and he does believe in free will, which is inconsistent with naturalism even as an emergent phenomenon.

    Biological moral values are only objective descriptively. We can observe what morals humans and other animals have, but those observations don’t tell us which morals are true as values. It’s the is-ought problem. Our observations don’t tell us which morals we should follow. Science can just tell us which morals people have at a given time and place, not whether the shoulds of a morality are true objectively.

    Most people including atheists like to believe their moral beliefs are objectively true in their normative or prescriptive sense (that we should do X, not just that we do X). However, nobody can or has proven that morals are objective facts in that way.

  151. 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?

  152. 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).

  153. 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.

  154. 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.?

  155. 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.

  156. 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.

  157. Dave Hooke says:

    “metaphysical intuitions”

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

  158. 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.

  159. 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.

  160. DEL says:

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

  161. 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

  162. 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.

  163. Pingback: Post-Debate Reflections | Sean Carroll

  164. 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.

  165. Pingback: Carroll v. Craig – a telling comment | Evolving Thoughts

  166. 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

  167. 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.