Sam Harris vs William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is perhaps one of the few powerful debaters left on the side of zombie Jesus, so I strongly recommend you listen to what he has to say and determine for yourself how wrong he is about the concept of God being the superior objective moral standard.

My 2 cents? Is something good only because God determines it to be good? If there is a definite moral objectivity, how is unquestioning authority a solution to this? If he admits morality changes over time, then how does this reflect the image of a never changing God?

Let me just say that you need to watch this entire video series, or go here to download the show on your way to work this Monday!

Comments (11)

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    Hieronymus Fortesque Lickspittle

    Thanks for posting the audio, I really prefer to listen to these lengthy things while on the go. It should be enjoyable to listen to Sam Harris.

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    Fascinating debate, I’m always amazed at how calm people like Sam Harris can remain in the face of such absolute bollocks… though there were some telling smirks sneaking through at times.¬†

    I think that Craig’s argument hides well the fundamentally ridiculous and unsubstantiated premise on which it is based, and I have to admit that I was very impressed at the skill with which Craig avoided drawing attention to it.

    According to Craig, given a perfect moral authority external to the system, we can objectively judge what is moral using the moral proclamations of that … thing, and without such a perfect being it is impossible to objectively say what is moral.

    So all we need to accept to have his objective morality is the tiny, little, hardly-worth-mentioning, nothing of a presupposition that there is this perfect, perfectly moral entity external to the universe… who just so, incredibly, would you believe it, happens to be defined in exactly the same way that Christians define their own wondrous super-being… who’d’ve thunk it!

    But the problem with his position (even when, for the sake of argument, we allow him a god to invoke) is that the abstract God in his theist morality doesn’t necessarily have to be defined in the way that he chooses to define his abstract God, which is the same way that Christians define the properties of their God … well, I mean you don’t have to define a theist God in the way that Christians want their God to be defined, i.e. perfect and perfectly moral (rather than the monster he actually appears to be in his serialised autobiography).

    So all his attacks on atheist morality as simply subjective or cultural moral relativism, compared to the objective morality of a theistic moral system, are utter nonsense. His theist moral system is entirely dependent on the nature of the random deity you choose invoke to objectively oversee it – if you have a perfectly-perfect God then you get one moral system, but if you had a god who’s, well, a bit of a shit, then you get a shitty moral system… objectively that is ūüėČ

    At least in the atheist moral system we can improve things as we gain further and better understanding, unlike the Christians who, ironically, are stuck with a shitty deity, and shitty moral system after all.


    P.s I’m lucky enough to be attending a talk by Sam Harris in London on Monday, I think I might have to ask him about this debate.

  • avatar

    Bryan Elliott

    Holy schnikeys. You know, I got about 5 minutes into Craig’s first round before thinking “Dude, it doesn’t matter how big the circle you build is, it’s still a circular argument.”

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    Granted I love Sam Harris, but I’m a *little* bit disappointed here, he didn’t really respond to much of Craig’s criticism which made it seem like Craig had the upper hand. Craig is such a damn “good” debater too (as in: he’s good at making it seem like he’s winning an argument, not in the way that I agree with him). Sam’s better at conversation, imo. I wish they’d been sitting on stage, talking to each other instead of taking 20 minute turns to just give a speech. I think that’d been more interesting, and Sam’s arguments would’ve made more sense.

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    Richie P

    I agree with Rasmus’ analysis up until the end of the opening remarks, however after that I thought Sam’s ‘debate’ performance improved markedly as he took the time to take down quite a few of Craig’s silly arguments. In his opening statement, Sam was merely summing up the argument outlined in “The Moral Landacape” rather than responding to Craig proper. Personally, in retrospect, I thought it was quite a good strategy that worked well.

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    I think that while some of the criticism of Sam Harris’s approach is fair, you have to remember that in a debate format your opening statement is not meant to be immediate rubbutal of the other person’s opening statement.

    Having said that I don’t think Sam Harris drew enough attention to the fact that he was directly addressing some of Craig’s points, preferring it would seem to let people work rings out for himself, whereas Craig is excellent at framing his responses in the context of another’s argument. In the q&a session at the end Harris did go back to a couple of his earlier points and identify them as rebbutals, but I don’t think that was the best way to argue in a debate.

    And I guess in the end the above distinction between conversation and debate is a good one. I would much prefer an open conversation than the very stale and clinical format of a debate.

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    I want to know if WLC has ever been hit with Euthyphro’s Dilemma in these debates. It doesn’t appear that is the case, because I never hear him adjust his tactics. Now, I know pretty much no Christian apologist we see in these debates has adjusted their tactics, regardless of how roundly they get spanked. But you would think WLC would be smart enough to. Whatever the case, I’ve seen several WLC debates, so I may not watch this one entirely because these things sort of become like broken records after you watch 10-15 of them, and if you are very familiar with the players on both sides.

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    OK, I watched it anyways. Euthyphro was finally brought up (in a mispronounced aside), but only by Harris and only at the end when it wasn’t confrontational argumentatively. The whole debate had WLC pleading from Christianity’s position while vomiting the word “objective” repeatedly, as if he had a logical basis to use the word. He also accused Harris of redefining terms like good and evil by fiat, when he himself was defining the those terms in relation to his god alone. Oh, and he tried to get around Euthyphro by claiming everything necessarily stems from his god, and dodged the question of good by defining anything from his god as good intrinsically.

    Harris spent the whole time essentially asking the audience to consider the light of day, and what they see in their own lives, and why there’s most likely nothing supernatural. Harris didn’t look so well until the second half, where WLC fell apart through his overuse of his usual terminology and unending restatement of arguments. This allowed Harris to really highlight what he is getting at in his book, and to draw a distinction with real humanity versus the idealized version in terms of opportunity and placement offered by religion.

    Everyone should at least see part 7 of that recording though. Someone in the audience claimed hard, measured, scientific evidence that some miracle occurred in Portugal in the 20th century that involved a heart-beating eucharist with veins and type AB blood. WOW. The only real laugh from the whole event, but a big one it was. It appears PZ really did put a nail through Jesus’ heart.

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    A is for Atheist

    It seems every time I watch Craig debate someone, they end up talking past one another. Craig repeats his argument over and over again, and although his arguments are flawed, if not downright fallacious, he is a skilled debater, and makes it seem like he “won”??–when in fact he’s really just talking in circles.

    As a professor of religion and philosophy myself, I posted a counter to 2 of his favorite arguments on my blog.

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