Friday, April 29, 2011

God's Quality Control 6.6

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. We've heard both Craig's and Harris' introductory remarks. Now we move on to Craig's first rebuttal.

<clip Flowery words>

This reminds me of a point that I wish I had made earlier. Let's go back to the conclusion of Craig's first non-argument.

<clip Earlier flowery words>

It seems to me that another one of Craig's tricks is to toss around some words that will tug on the hearts of his listeners, distracting them from the content of the discussion, or perhaps I should say, distracting them from the lack of content. I want to go one step further and say that there is something even more devious going on. I have often been absolutely baffled by the assumptions that superstitionists make about asuperstitionists. They seem to think that lacking any superstitions leads one to be a Hitler-style monster with absolutely no human feeling whatsoever. I think that at least part of the reason for this comes from here: a guy like Craig presents a speech that is devoid of any meaning, provoking the ire of people who care about truth. He concludes his speech with some words and opinions that all people, even his opponents, agree with. People who care about truth jump up indignantly and point out that his argument is garbage. Those who have fallen under the spell misunderstand us. They think that we are objecting to the obvious points, like love being good and oppression being bad. It might seem like a stretch, but given the blatant disregard for honesty rampant among prominent superstitionists, I would not be surprised at all to discover that this is a deliberate tactic, designed to cause the audience to have a bad feeling about asuperstitionists. You guys let me know if I'm going off the deep end.

<clip (03) 14:21 Ontology/semantics>

Be suspicious of anyone who brings up technical details unnecessarily. What Craig is saying here is interesting for geeks like me, but for non-geeks, it's not going to mean much, except perhaps that Craig must be really smart in order to discuss concepts like these, and because he seems smarter than I am, he must know better. Basing our morality on the well-being of creatures that can suffer is a simple, everyday concept, just like going for a walk with a friend. One need not be a mechanical engineer to appreciate going for a walk, and one need not be a trained philosopher to know how to behave. If you're trying to dig into a subject, by all means let people load you up with as much jargon and complexity as you can take. Yes, it's good to know what words like ontology and semantics mean, just because one's life is enriched by the knowledge. But it is not necessary to know what these words mean in order to understand any part of this conversation. I think this must be yet another tool in the art of persuading people without referring to truth. Perhaps one can give the impression of being an authority simply by virtue of talking over the heads of the audience. Perhaps I'm just recognizing another flaw in the debate format. It seems that open, honest conversation can take us so much further.

<clip (04) 1:09 Book plug>

Sounds like good material for another Quality Control series. Anyone have a copy they can lend me for a few weeks? I'm serious. If you have a copy you're willing to lend, send me a PM.

<clip (04) 1:29 No objections to theistic grounding>

We haven't heard any arguments in favor of a theistic grounding for ethics. Besides the fact that Harris is here to invite everyone to think about morality in a new way, Craig simply hasn't said anything of any value, nothing worth disagreeing, or even agreeing, with.

<clip (04) 1:49 Nazi comment>

Glad he pointed this out. I was afraid that Harris was going to get away with his nefarious plan to introduce Nazism to our great nation.

<clip (04) 4:18 Pleasure/misery, good/evil>

Really? Why? Why can't we all just agree that pleasure is good and misery is bad, and see where it takes us? Why must we pretend that without the leprechauns in the back yard, we're completely adrift? And before any superstitionists start claiming that I'm advocating the pleasure of child molesters, let's not forget that we're not talking about hedonistic pleasure; we're talking about flourishing and well-being. It's a misrepresentation for Craig to use the word pleasure here; it leaves too much room for, or perhaps even invites, misunderstanding.

That's 6.6. Thanks for watching.

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