Tuesday, May 3, 2011

God's Quality Control 6.9

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 listening to Harris' second rebuttal.

<clip (06) 0:56 No science is absolutely self-justifying>
<clip (06) 1:02 All sciences have axioms>
<clip (06) 1:10 Only one assumption required>
<clip (06) 1:34 What is scientific>

Harris uses some five-dollar words here, but don't be put off.

<clip (06) 2:17 Epistemological>
<clip (06) 3:06 Ontologically subjective>

You can still get his point even without having to know what these words mean. I sense that someone might want to shout something about a double-standard, whereby Craig is criticized for using big words while Harris is allowed to use them. My only response is this: listen to carefully to both speakers and ask yourself what each is hoping to accomplish with these words. For that matter, ask yourself what each speaker is hoping to accomplish with his entire presentation. I conclude that Harris, although he probably is making some good money and getting giant ego strokes with his books and appearances, is trying to make the world a better place, inviting us all to try this idea because it seems like it could work really well. I conclude that Craig is driven by no such vision for humanity. He does not care whether anyone in the audience has learned something, whether his efforts have any positive effect anywhere. I go even further with Craig: he knows that superstition could be our undoing, yet he doesn't care. His entire motivation is shortsighted self-interest. If you think I'm taking it too far, as some of you suggested when I made similar claims about Ray Comfort and pals, please do tell me your thoughts.

<clip (06) 3:50 Argument summary>
<clip (06) 4:45 Stupid question>
<clip (06) 5:00 Remarkable experiences (2:00)>
<clip (06) ???? Atheists can be spiritual>
<clip (06) 6:06 Jesus' effect on his disciples (2:12)>

I'm glad that Harris started off with the word if. I am ever confused when I hear people, even asuperstitionists, talk about what a great guy Jesus was. I'm not sure which Jesus they're talking about. The one depicted in the bible is one of the biggest jerks I've ever read about. I've never understood why his trifles are held in such awe. I would have been far more impressed with Jesus if he'd encouraged people to end slavery, or if he'd said a few words about the treatment of women and children, or if he'd broadened his criticisms beyond sniping about the hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers and the thick-headedness of the common people. Jesus is seriously oversold. I'm far more enriched by the six short videos by Alain De Botton called Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness than I ever was by years of bible study. I'll put a link to De Botton's videos in the love bar, in case you're interested. Well worth multiple viewings.

<clip (06) 7:12 21st-century conversation (2:29)>
<clip (06) 7:33 Please think (2:31)>

Exactly. Thinking is exactly what we need more of. Now we get to hear Craig's closing statement. I wonder whether he wants us actually to think about anything he's said in this debate.

<clip (06) 8:44 Greatest conceivable being (2:34)>

Remember back at the beginning when I mentioned that Craig's slippery use of the word "god" becomes important later? Here it is. If you ask me who my dad is, I can point to him or describe him in some way. He's a specific person. Similarly, if you ask who Yahweh is, although they can't point to it, its followers can describe it: you know, the monster that ordered the Israelis to murder Amalekite children out of revenge. In their minds, it's a specific person, with whom they are involved in a personal relationship. Say you ask me who my dad is, and rather than pointing to or describing a person, I say that he's the person who best embodies the essence of dad-ness. It's a nonsense answer. It refers to no one in particular. It means nothing to answer a "who" question with an abstract concept like this. You can't have a personal relationship with it. It can't be Craig's lawgiver. It can't be Craig's competent moral authority. Craig not only undermines his current argument with this greatest conceivable being garbage, he undermines everything he's ever said.

Further, greatest conceivable being according to what objective standard? According to its own objective standard, of course. Guess what: a concept can't have an objective standard. Finally, Yahweh could not possibly be the greatest conceivable being. Why? Because I can conceive of a greater being with one brain tied behind my back. A being that doesn't kill. That doesn't allow hell. That isn't fixated on our sex lives. Yahweh doesn't even occupy the same universe. It should try the universe where people seek the most repugnant conceivable being.

That's 6.9. Thanks for watching.

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