Sunday, May 1, 2011

God's Quality Control 6.7

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're still slogging our way through Craig's first rebuttal.

<clip (04) 4:33 Good = flourishing>

Here he's just pulling out the same straw man that he's been pulling out the whole time, saying that Harris is attempting to claim that morality has to do with the flourishing of creatures that can suffer. I'd ignore it, but Craig spends a while developing what he calls a "knock-down argument" against this, and I want to make sure that no one is fooled by Craig's shenanigans. So we've started with Craig misrepresenting Harris' position; let's see where he goes next:

<clip (04) 4:46 Identity claim>
<clip (04) 4:53 Technicalities>

Some pseudo-intellectual sounds that will hopefully scare the audience into tuning him out while he drones on.

<clip (04) 5:27 Psychos>

Let's not forget that this entire section of his speech is an argument against an imaginary claim, something that Harris has neither said nor implied. So for those who hear what he is really saying, he is simply blowing hot air, wasting our time, arguing against something that was not said. For his victims who can't keep up with him, he's working hard: why bring up psychotics in particular? To make it appear that Harris is suggesting that it would be ok if we ended up enabling psychotic fantasies for the purpose of helping psychotics to flourish. Harris again has neither said nor implied anything like this. In fact, the point in Harris' book that Craig has hijacked here is Harris' attempt to address his critics who might suggest this as a flaw in his argument. He says that if rapists, liars, and thieves could be shown to be as psychically healthy as the rest of us, then his landscape would no longer be especially moral, meaning that it wouldn't be good or right in any sense that we can recognize. But then in the following paragraph, which Craig seems to have conveniently missed, Harris responds: we are human beings, and we're far more similar than we are different. No one with any understanding of humans in general would think that a psychotic's well-being is increased by allowing him to harm others.

<clip (04) 6:04 Identity>

Back to the pseudo-intellectual stuff, just to shake off anyone who is attempting to keep up with what he's saying. He goes on in this vein for a while and yet again claims that he has reinforced his original claim:

<clip (04) 6:58 Original claim supported>

He wastes yet more time by pretending that there is some difference in his so-called arguments concerning moral values and moral obligations.

<clip (04) 7:44 Competent authority>
<clip (04) 8:28 Not obligated>

We've all asked it before, but it seems worth asking again here: isn't he very clearly saying that it's only due to the commands of his god that he behaves well?

Harris seems to have finished promoting his ideas and moves on to discuss just how immoral Craig's god is and how preposterous the superstitionists' beliefs concerning that god.

<clip (04) 13:45 Lord of The Rings>

I just have to point out that Harris stole this idea from me, but I'll forgive him because the rest of his speech is awesome. He points out that Craig's god has deliberately engineered history such that over a billion people in India (and that's just those who are alive today), even those who are very decent people, will spend eternity in torment, while any kind of foul person, even a child molester, can accept Jesus on his deathbed and go to heaven.

<clip (04) 14:43 Moral accountability>

Exactly, and yet somehow, superstitionists convince themselves that what they mistakenly perceive in our arguments as a lack of moral accountability is a fatal flaw.

<clip (05) 0:25 Human understanding of goodness>

Yeah, he stole that one from me too, but I'll forgive him again because of the point he makes about the superstitionist view that when you get a pay raise at your job, it's because your god is good, but when millions of kids die every year it's because your god is mysterious.

<clip (05) 1:02 Morally reprehensible>

Awesome. That's 6.7. Thanks for watching.

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