Monday, May 30, 2011

The King of Bullshit: Part Deux


Back in October of 2010, I wrote a polemical called William Lane Craig = King of Bullshit. I still stand by that observation. Even so, it is a hotly contested observation, because there are many many Craig fans out there. Even though I am a detractor of William Lane Craig, I suppose one would have to be a type of fan before one would be willing to bother rebutting WLC in the first place. In that sense, I too am a fan, but I happen to be willing to do what most WLC fans aren’t capable of doing—being critical of WLC.

Regardless of how one engages in due criticism, I was recently criticized for offering “far more delusional bullshit” than anything WLC ever said.  In a recent attack on my article, I was informed that

This post is unintentionally ironic, for it contains far more delusional bullshit than anything I've ever heard Craig say. I won't go as far as claiming you're 'lying,' for as an advocate of "science, reason and intellectual integrity," I won't make the silly mistake of claiming far more than I can justify.

To which I replied:

Actually, I was using bullshit in the technical sense. Craig often
spews unfounded and unproved claims as a matter of fact, often falling
for his own rhetoric--and that is what a bullshitter technically is.

You're using 'bullshit' in the colloquial sense as an ad hominem, most
probably because you've confused the burden of proof.

Besides, I never claimed I I can prove a negative. All I am saying is
that Craig's positive claims are fallacy ridden, without evidence, and
unverified--therefore amount to little more than BS. I refer you to
Graham Oppy's 'Arguing about Gods' for some reasons why what Craig
claims is a matter of fact is, in fact, not.

Now this is where things got interesting. Because my reader felt I was misusing the term “bullshit.” He stated:

That's not quite right. Bullshit in the Frankfurtian sense denotes an utter disregard for the truth or falsity of a claim. If, as you say, Craig “spews unfounded and unproved claims as a matter of fact” (which is itself a false claim, but let’s put that aside for the moment), and often falls “for his own rhetoric,” then it seems that the best we can conclude is that Craig is confused or delusional, and not Bullshitting. 

Savvy readers will recall that I was, in fact, stating that Craig often exhibits an utter disregard for the truth or falsity of a claim. Indeed, I quoted him saying that very exact thing! In his book Reasonable Faith Craig affirms:

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.  (Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994, p. 36.)

By Craig’s own admission that he would gladly disregard beliefs based on evidence and sound arguments if it should conflict with his face! By the Frankfurtian sense, then, this qualifies as pure bullshit. Luckily, however, I wasn’t speaking in the Frankfurtian sense, but rather, I was specifically using the George Carlin sense of the word. However, in my opinion, if you need to have someone get a dictionary out to explain bullshit to them, either they’re dumber than you thought they were, or it’s probably not they who have the problem in recognizing bullshit when they see it (just an FYI).

He went on to add:

But there’s a further problem. You accuse Craig of lying in your post, which you seem to think is follows from being a Bullshitter. But being a Bulshitter is distinct from being a liar (as Frankfurt makes clear). The Bullshitter misrepresents, but he does not lie. So which is it -- is Craig a Bullshitter or a liar? Or is he a Bullshitter some of the time, and a liar at other times?

Exactly! The latter part that is. Admittedly, amid my rhetorical parrying, I may have engaged in some question begging. Indeed, I didn’t make the distinction between a WLC Lie and a WLC pile of BS.  I didn’t think such a distinction was necessary. But apparently I was mistaken.

A WLC pile of BS is like the above example where he claims that a little magical man lives inside him, and that this little magical man is more right than anything in the world, and therefore is real world evidence and logic should disagree with the little magical man—then Craig confesses he’s going to side with the little magic man and not the valid, factual, evidence.

So when Craig claims that he knows what he knows because of the little magic man inside him, we know we are dealing with a case of WLC BS.

A WLC Lie, on the other hand, is something quite different (my commenter was right to point out the fact that there is a distinction). A WLC lie goes something like this: Craig will often state a truth claim—such as God exists, or that the universe is caused, etc. The problem here is this, with regard to the universe even our best scientists, cosmologists, and theoretical physicists do not know exactly how the universe came about. They have theories, based off evidence and observation, which is more than Craig can claim (his argument is that God caused the universe and that we can know this because of the properties of the universe distinctly happen to reveal a Creator—never mind this is a horrible case of circular reasoning).

The lie here is implicit—Craig is saying that he is right, but then (as we have seen) makes the habit of admitting he prefers not to rely on evidence when it should contradict his heartfelt convictions (eh-hem… I mean the little magic man inside him), and this wouldn’t be such a problem if we were dealing with a crazy person. But WLC is (supposedly) a well respected philosopher. Yet the problem is two-fold, because here we have a theologian making a scientific statement which flies in the face of the entire scientific community. In other words, Craig is affirming that his science is more correct than all the scientists in the world combined—and whether or not the cosmos has a cause is beside the point—Craig is deliberately lying about what he knows (or thinks he knows). Of course he doesn’t know better than any of the *actual bona fide scientists, cosmologists, and theoretical physicists. It’s just a bald faced WLC lie.

Now, I’m sure any WLC fan could just as easily pad their defense of Craig by saying that, perhaps, Craig really believes he does know better than most of the Earth’s scientists about something he holds no special training in, and that instead of actually telling a lie—the argument could be made—that Craig is actually delusional. Well, I admit, this is a strong possibility—but what is a delusion is not a lie we tell to ourselves?

Furthermore, Craig may believe what he does based on bad evidence, just as there are Climate change and Holocaust deniers, but in the case of the former vs. the latter, I give Craig the benefit of the doubt—because I don’t take him to be a complete moron. Which means that he’s most likely under a healthy delusion—but many religious people are. In fact, most religious people say that very exact thing about people in other religions—something Craig has done numerous times. In fact, Craig often decries atheism calling it downright absurd.

My commenter then asked:

How can you tell when someone knows the truth and tries to perpetrate a falsehood (lying), and when someone simply doesn’t care about the truth (Bullshitting)?

Well, in the case of Craig, that was fairly easy, because he explicitly admitted that he doesn’t care about the truth—since his personal faith-based convictions trump any possible truth that doesn’t conform to his “reasonable faith.” But usually we can tell someone is practicing a deliberate falsehood when they slip up, make a few mistakes, let us in on their tells, and that’s when a pattern of unreliability forms. Craig is guilty of both, since he’s claimed to know more than he possibly could and he has concocted a strange fantasy about being tuned into some sort of God-hotline via the little man living inside him, so I really don’t think it’s necessary to nitpick the details here. I could cite more examples, but that would only serve to strengthen my case.

The philosopher Matt McCormick has summed up the problem with WLC nicely:

It’s a mistake for serious philosophical atheists to devote too much time and energy to dealing with Craig because he’s a person in this field who seems to be shouting the loudest and the most.  Craig’s arguments have been dealt with at length and with devastating consequences by many people, including myself.  Craig is rarely deterred by any of these critiques, and he is not prone to acknowledge any objection or weakness no matter how clearly it has been illustrated.  But we shouldn’t mistake his pit-bull persistence and rhetorical skill in defending Christianity for something other than what it is.  The unassailability of Christianity in his mind bestows a weird kind of pointlessness to his debates.  As he and his followers see it, debates can only serve to corroborate what they already know is true—Jesus is lord.  If Craig “wins,” which he often does given his skill, then that just vindicates Christian belief once again, if he doesn’t (and few of his supporters would acknowledge that this ever happens), it doesn’t matter because he would never change his mind, and the private, magical, Holy Spirit knowledge he has in his mind makes any consideration of arguments or the evidence irrelevant.  At this point, given what he’s said about the indefeasibilty of Christian belief, I’m not inclined to take anything that Craig or his followers say seriously until I’m convinced that they are playing the same game with the same rules of rationality that the rest of us are.  An essential principle of rationality, as I see it, is that all beliefs are defeasible, and subject to the tribunal of reason. 

Next, I chose to respond to his attack on my person—mainly the allegation that what I said contained far more delusional bullshit than anything WLC has ever said. You will have to pardon me for finding that hard to believe. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, nothing I stated could even be remotely misconstrued as BS. Thus, I felt compelled to inform my commenter that he was guilty of throwing out an ad hominem, by basically calling my argument delusional bullshit, which to my dismay he actually defended.

Given your patent confusion concerning lies and Bullshit, I think that my reading was justified.

Confusion does not a bullshitter make. Indeed, we must ask ourselves, if I am unclear on something I have spent a long time thinking about, it is probably because it hasn’t been clearly relayed, or else I am missing vital information, or I am a complete moron. Either which way, that doesn’t make me “more delusional” or more of a “bullshitter” despite any misunderstandings I may have. For example, if I’m driving to a party with my wife, and we come to an intersection, and she asks me “Which way do we turn?” If I can’t remember the precise directions, I may take a guess, and say “left,” or perhaps change my mind, “No, wait, right!”

Because I have taken a blind guess, in my confusion, does not make me a bullshitter. After all, I have a 50/50 chance of being right, and more importantly, if I am wrong I can simply correct myself. Let’s not confuse the issue. God’s existence is not 50/50 odds. At least when I took a guess I was dealing with actual tangible realities—i.e., left and right exist. We know what they mean. Craig is dealing with a hypothetical. It would be strange, I feel, to accuse me of being delusional because I didn’t apply equal chances to a hypothetical without a referent in reality. I could very well inform you about all the imaginary directions I didn’t take, such as negative infinity right, instead of normal ordinary right, but that doesn’t by default mean that negative infinity right has a 50/50 chance of being correct because we all know that the needle on a compass can point East or West.

I don’t see how adding that I am a delusional bullshitter helps his case prove that Craig is not. I mean, it seems to me that this is an attack on my argument and reasoning, but it is mainly irrelevant for the reasons I just discussed. About the ad hominem remark he responded:

The ad hominem fallacy is, well, a fallacy. As such, it can only be applied to arguments. In my initial post, I didn’t make an argument, but an observation. Since observations are not arguments, they cannot be fallacious, and hence cannot be instances of the ad hominem fallacy.

Actually, if we recall, when my commenter mentioned the validity of my arguments and the soundness of my reasoning he was making an argument of sorts—he argued that my arguments and reasoning contained more delusional bullshit than anything Craig ever said. Although, what ‘delusional bullshit’ would that be exactly? That Craig lies? We’ve caught him doing just that. That he is delusional? Yes, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the little magic man living inside of him, and which speaks to him, to confirm.

In actuality, it was I who was making the observation, and since observations are not arguments, well, they cannot be fallacious. Therefore, to unjustly call my criticism of WLC “delusional bullshit” is, in point of fact, an ad hominem.

I presumed he threw out the ad hominem to imply that I was full of it, unlike Craig. I mean, one can only presume, after all. As such, I reminded him that the burden of proof is not on me to prove any of Craig’s truth claims. After all, we are specifically talking about justifying our claims. All I have done is point out that Craig’s claims are unjustified—and he is either lying to bolster his faith, or lying to convince himself the lie is actually a truth. I gave an example of each. If Craig’s claims were supported by evidence, and panned out, then I could say—maybe there is something to this God hypothesis of his. But since that’s not the case, it’s not my burden to disprove God simply to defend my position that Craig’s God hypothesis is all BS. I mention this, precisely because nobody would claim that my argument against Craig’s position was total BS unless they already bought into Craig’s position and didn’t believe my examples (which would be hard to do considering they come right from the mouth of WLC). So what would I be BS-ing exactly, the fact that Craig is undeniably right, and I just can’t deal with it except by calling him delusional and a liar? If so, then we better start taking Craig awfully serious when he says he knows more than all of the world’s scientists or when he claims to be in communication with the little magic man who lives inside him. If not, then I have nothing to lose by calling BS.

I have no idea whatsoever how you managed to come up with a burden of proof reference there.

Now you do. And by proxy, we should see how it is relevant. If Craig didn’t believe that God was actually real, he probably wouldn’t be bullshitting others about strange things, such as the little magic man that lives within his mind or the fact that he’s smarter than Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, and Stephen Hawking combined. This revelation alone should cause us pause, because what it really means is that Craig isn’t willing to change his mind when his beliefs fail to hold up to scrutiny (hence the relevancy of the referenced Reasonable Faith quote) which proves just how delusional he really is.

As for my statement that Craig's positive claims are fallacy ridden, without evidence, and unverified—therefore amount to little more than BS, my commenter responded by trying to correct me, yet again (granted I may have been unclear about the connection the first time—I just figured everyone would see the obvious—but I don’t mind breaking it down—it’s all part of the fun of exposing the BS). The way I see it is the depth of Craig’s delusions directly feed into the level of the BS. Granted my commenter is right, they aren’t always mutually related, but in this instance I think it’s safe to say they are.

Again, these are not sufficient conditions of Bullshit. (They’re also demonstrably false, but again, that’s another issue).

Again, I’m going to agree that this is usually the case, but stick with my prior comment that, in this instance, the depth of the delusion is feeding the level of the BS we are hearing from Craig. How could it not? Craig believes in Christianity, and all of the strange theological beliefs which come packaged with his particular version of the faith. It would be incorrect to assume that none of this plays to his delusion, and that this conviction that his delusion is the truth does not, on occasion, compel him to tell lies about what he thinks he knows. In fact, Craig pretends to know a lot. He knows how the universe began, he knows where morality comes from, he knows everyone who disagrees with him will go to an imaginary place called hell, he knows that everyone who thinks different is just being absurd, and he knows that he can never be proved wrong because he has the permission to deny all evidence which would serve to disprove everything he thinks he knows. I’m sorry, but this is just WLC being unreasonable on top of everything else.

I referred my commenter to read Graham Oppy's Arguing about Gods which reveals further the reasons that the majority of what Craig claims is malarkey. My reader defensively submitted:

Yet again, this is not a sufficient condition of Bullshit. If you have any specific examples in mind, I’d be interested to see them (your charges are noticeably lacking examples and support).

I gave two knock down examples, 1) a WLC lie, and 2) a WLC pile of BS. I suggested Graham Oppy’s book because it reveals the philosophical faultiness of many of the theistic arguments which Craig employs, and which would help inform the reader as to the critical method of detecting BS when happened upon. I wasn’t arguing a conditional prerequisite for BS, I was suggesting a means of better understanding why the arguments Craig relies on to form his belief system amount to little more than fallacies mixed in with BS—just think of the fallacies as little specks of corn contained in all that BS. Yet my reader wanted an example, so here's one. 


On his website Reasonable Faith Craig takes issue with a criticism of the Kalam where a commenter said it doesn’t differentiate between monotheism and polytheism (which it technically doesn’t). Craig’s response was mind numbingly retarded:

The kalam argument is clearly not consistent with there being a group of deities cavorting with one another prior to the world’s creation, since the argument takes us back to a changeless state which is, I think, timeless. To imagine a group of timeless, unembodied minds somehow acting wholly in concert to create the world brings one awfully close to the doctrine of the Trinity. A Trinitarian (or Unitarian) concept of God seems much more plausible than polytheism’s many gods all independently existing timelessly and acting in concert to create the universe.

I hope you can see what just happened here. Craig claimed that the Kalam argument, as he knows it, is incompatible with a polytheistic outlook (although he offers no support for this claim). He immediately states that a Trinitarian view (one which believes in a Trinity) is, however, compatible. Wait a minute… what? It makes one wonder that, what if the polytheism only consisted of three deities and no more? Still a polytheism by any other definition. Or what if the polytheism was a single entity which embodied all other deities, sort of like the Dashavatar of Vishnu in Hinduism? Sounds an awful lot like the Christian concept of the Trinity, if you ask me. Yet since there is virtually no doctrinal support for the Trinity, the very notion that Craig takes it upon himself to define what the Trinity is and isn’t compatible with is amusing. I personally have always found the Mono-theism comprised of a Trinity to be problematic. Even if one is arguing that it’s one entity with various facets, the same could be said about other entities, such as Vishnu and the aforementioned Avatars. My only question is, how is Craig so certain that One Jehova x Jewish Son x Holy Ghost more (or less) plausible than Vishnu x Jewish Avatar x Ghostly Avatar? It all basically sounds the same to me, but that’s beside the point, because my position is that without a way to test Craig’s claims—he is literally BS-ing you.

As for other examples and support? Do I really need them? I mean, do I need to give more examples of Craig claiming he knows more than the entire scientific community at large, or that he has a magic man living in him feeding him communicates directly from the mind of God from beyond the outer limits of space and time, or that he can’t seem to tell the difference between the number 1 and the number 3? Really? Personally, I think that would be a better use of a theologians time. But like Thomas Paine, I believe that theology is essentially the study of nothing, so I’m not going to waste my time poking holes in Craig’s theological considerations any more than necessary to get the point across. Natural theology, as far as I’m concerned, is exactly like my fellow SCEPTIC Mike D. states, “Natural theology overestimates the value of our intuitions, which are often mistaken, but it commits its greatest folly simply by erroneously presuming that our understanding of metaphysics can be used to make inferences about the supernatural…. Since the supernatural, by definition, is not bound by our metaphysical rules, we can't assume that things that hold true for us – intuitive or not – hold true beyond us.”

In the meantime, however, we should all feel free to call William Lane Craig on his BS—and point out when he’s talking nonsense or else fabricating entire fantasies and passing them off as universal truths.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist