bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Principles of Justice

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
I have argued for sixty different objections against Clay Jones’s moral justification of Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  You can read a summary of those sixty objections in a previous post.
Even that summary, however, is a bit long for most people to read through, so I’m going to boil my objections down further here, with a focus on the principles of justice that Jehovah violated (or that Jehovah encouraged the Israelites to violate), based on Clay Jones’s “defense” of Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).
If one becomes familiarized with the following twenty-one principles of justice, one can generate most of the sixty objections that I came up with, just by closely examining the laws of Jehovah (found in the following books ascribed to Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that relate to the list of alleged sins or crimes of the Canaanites that Clay Jones uses as a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 1-20:

(POJ1) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

(POJ2) It is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).

(POJ3) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.

(POJ4) It is unjust to impose the death penalty for a sin or crime that is significantly less serious than the sin or crime of premeditated murder.

(POJ5)  It is unjust to impose a more severe punishment on a particular sin or crime than the punishment that one imposes for greater sins or crimes.

(POJ6) It is unjust to impose a severe punishment on a person on the basis of an alleged “law” which has not been published and clearly communicated to the people in the area in which that person lives.

(POJ7) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a sin or crime without first charging that person with a particular sin or crime and having a public trial to determine whether that person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

(POJ8) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a particular sin or crime without first providing powerful evidence (to a judge or jury) that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 21-28:

(POJ9) When one tribe or nation has settled in a certain geographic area and has been living on that land for a century (or for a number of centuries), it is unjust for another tribe or nation to take that land away from the tribe or nation that had previously settled there. 

(POJ10) It is unjust to wage a war of aggression for the purpose of expanding the territory or dominion of one tribe or nation.

(POJ11)  It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) to people for certain crimes based on their geographic location.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S.   Different states have widely divergent policies and practices concerning the death penalty.  In some states there is no death penalty at all; in some states the death penalty is used only rarely; and in other states the death penalty is used quite often:

  • GEOGRAPHIC ARBITRARINESS: Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 82% of all executions have taken place in the South. The Northeast accounts for less than 1% of executions.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-arbitrariness

(POJ12) It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their racial or ethnic group.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S. :

  • A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.
  • A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. 

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-race
(POJ13) It is unjust to punish some people with the death penalty for certain sins or crimes when one does NOT apply the same severe punishment to certain other people whom one likes or favors.

(POJ14) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against women (e.g. where men are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over women in the law concerning violations of that law).

(POJ15)  It is unjust for a person accused of a capital crime to be condemned to death by a judge or jury who have an obvious and significant vested interest in the accused person being found to be guilty.

(POJ16) It is unjust to encourage a tribe or nation to engage in SOCIOCENTRIC thinking, blaming the victim, and dehumanizing the enemy, and to fail to try to discourage such thinking by a tribe or nation when one has a close connection to that tribe or nation (and thus the potential to influence the thinking of people in that tribe or nation).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 29-60:

Most of the remaining objections are based on principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  But there are a few exceptions.  So, I will first specify the principles of justice that are involved in the exceptions, and then will specify the principles of justice that derive from “Void for Vagueness”.
Objections 39 and 45 are based on (POJ14).
Objection 41 is based on a similar principle, but where the sexism in the law is a bias against men:
(POJ17) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on men for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against men (e.g. where women are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over men in the law concerning violations of that law).
Objection 50 is based on this principle:
(POJ18)  It is unjust to engage in child sacrifice as a means for punishing the sin or crime of child sacrifice.
Objection 51 is based on (POJ13).
VOID FOR VAGUENESS
The twenty-seven remaining objections are all based on few principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  See the Wikipedia article called Vagueness Doctrine.
(POJ19)  It is unjust to inflict a punishment on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that punishment as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that severe punishment (e.g. the death penalty) as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
(POJ20) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

(POJ21) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.  It is also a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when the law appears to specify the scope of people to whom that law applies, and the person in question falls outside of that scope.

bookmark_borderGuest Post by Angra Mainyu: Determinism and Compatibilism: A Reply to Jerry Coyne

Note: The following post is a guest post by SO commenter Angra Mainyu.
In this post, Jerry Coyne made a some ethical and metaethical claims, as well as some claims about compatibilists. In this post, I would like to address some of his claims about compatibilists.

I think the failure of many compatibilists to give explicit definitions of the term is that so doing would would expose the intellectual vacuity of their arguments. You’ll look in vain in Dennett’s piece for his definition of free will.

First, Coyne has provided no good reason to think that the arguments of compatibilist philosophers are generally intellectually vacuous, let alone that they know that.
Second, compatibilists who don’t provide a definition of “free will” may simply not have one that approaches the common meaning of the term “free will” enough for the purposes of philosophical discussion, or alternatively don’t find it necessary in the context in which they’re making their points. Why would that be a problem?
For example, a philosopher may reflect on the expression “free will” – as it’s usually used -, and reckon that free will does not require indeterminism, without ever defining “free will”, just as – say -, a philosopher may reflect on the expression “morally good” (or “kind”, for example), and reckon that moral goodness (or kindness) does not require the existence of God, without ever defining “morally good” (or “kind”), etc.
Why would that be a problem in the case of free will?
Coyne does not say. But let us turn to Coyne’s comparison between compatibilism and sophisticated theology, and the charges he raises against compatibilists therein:

Both redefine old notions (Biblical literalism or contracausal free will) and claim nobody believes in them any more. Like scripture is for Sophisticated Theologians™, so is free will for compatibilists: both have become metaphors for more recent notions.

First, it is not the case that compatibilists generally claim that nobody believes in contracausal free will anymore.
I don’t know if some compatibilists have that belief, but it certainly isn’t a common one. In fact, Coyne has not provided any evidence that a single compatibilist philosopher – let alone most, not to mention all – claims that there has been a significant shift in commonly held beliefs about free will among the public, from having belief in contracausal free will to not having such belief.
Second, Coyne provides no good reason to believe that compatibilist philosophers redefine a notion of free will.
One of the most common disagreements between compatibilists and incompatibilists is about the meaning of the expression “free will”, in its usual sense. Compatibilists generally hold that the expression “free will”, in its usual sense, does not mean contra-causal free will and does not entail indeterminism, and so – for example -, a statement such as “Coyne wrote the post of his own free will” does not attribute contra-causal free will to Coyne.

The definitions of free will, like that of Sophisticated Gods, are concocted post facto, after compatibilists have decided in advance that their task is not to find the truth, but to buttress a conclusion they want to reach (i.e., we have free will)

First, Coyne provides once again no good reason to even suspect that his claim about compatibilists might be true.
Second, compatibilist philosophers usually have already worked on the task of finding the truth about whether the expression “free will” is such that attributing free will to an agent involves making a claim about some contra-causal entities (or properties, things, etc.), indeterminism, etc., and have concluded that it does not involve any of that that.
Granted, incompatibilist philosophers disagree, and the debate goes on. But that does not remotely suggest that the charge might be true.

Both set humans aside as special—different from other animals (soul or free will)

It’s not clear to me why Coyne believes compatibilism is committed to setting humans aside, but he is mistaken.
In fact, while different compatibilist philosophers may hold different views, a compatibilist may well hold that change between species was gradual, and also that different animals (humans or not) have different degrees of freedom.
Incidentally, while Coyne rejects moral responsibility, immorality, and so on, he holds that there is bad behavior.
What if someone were to charge him with setting aside humans – or humans and all other animals he believes are capable of bad behavior – as “special-different from other animals”?
Granted, he might give an answer along the lines of ‘organisms that can engage in bad behavior gradually evolved from organisms that can’t’ (what else might he reply?), but that is similar to a compatibilist replying that organisms that have free will gradually evolved from organisms that do not have free will.

In both cases academic doyens (theologians or philosophers) feel that it’s dangerous for the public to know the truth (about God or about determinism).

Actually, Dennett and some other compatibilist philosophers believe it would be negative if the public at large were to hold the false belief that there is no free will. But Coyne’s expression seems to suggest that compatibilists believe something like ‘It would be dangerous for the public to know the truth about determinism’, which is false of course.
Still, perhaps Coyne didn’t mean that, but rather, he meant something along the lines of:
a. Theologians believe that it’s dangerous for the public to believe that God does not exist, but it is true that God does not exist (regardless of whether those theologians believe that God exists)
b. Compatibilist philosophers believe it’s dangerous for the public to believe that there is no free will, no moral responsibility, no immoral behavior, etc., even though it is true that there is n free will, no moral responsibility, no immoral behavior, etc. (regardless of what those compatibilist philosophers believe that there is free will, moral responsibility, immoral behavior, etc.)
However, if he meant that, there are at least two difficulties:
The first one is that he made a misleading statement, and is likely to be misinterpreted by many readers.
The second and bigger one is that he failed to show that there is no free will, no moral responsibility, and/or no immoral behavior. Furthermore, he’s not provided any good arguments in support of those views.

To get there, both camps simply redefine terms, so that both “God” and “free will” become notions that don’t correspond at all to how they’ve been understood through history. Compatibilists will say this is okay, but to me it’s like saying, “Jerry Coyne loves dogs—if you redefine dogs as ‘members of the Felidae’.”

Coyne appears to be implying that compatibilists are deliberately redefining terms.
Anyone mildly familiar with the debates between compatibilist and incompatibilist philosophers ought to realize that the implication is false.

Both dismiss science as either irrelevant or inferior to philosophy for solving the Big Question at hand (free will or the existence of God).

Some compatibilist philosophers correctly point out that experiments intended to shed light on how the brain works, and in particular, how it makes choices, are not relevant to answering questions such as whether the usual expression “free will” is such that attributing free will to an agent entails the claim that her actions or choices are not determined by previous events, states, etc.
Those are matters of conceptual analysis.
This is not to say that experiments may not shed light on such matters. But those would have to be experiments designed to assess how people use the words.
In fact, some experimental philsophers are working on that, including compatibilists – like Eddie Nahmias -, and incompatibilists – like Joshua Knobe.
At this point, the results of the experiments vary widely depending on how the questions are worded, but it may well be that in the future, such research will provide clear evidence in support of one of the sides – and, in my assessment, the answer will favor compatibilism.
Regardless, given context, it is clear that Coyne is implying that compatibilist philosophers are dismissing science – at least partially – in an improper fashion. But there is no indication of that.

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part4

In the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, there is an article by William Craig in which he presents some arguments for the existence of God.
One of the arguments Craig presents is the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA).  In this post I will examine that article to see whether it supports my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as opposed to the less specific conclusion: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Title
Craig’s article in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (hereafter: CCA) is titled “Theistic Critiques of Atheism”.  One obvious way to criticize atheism is to present arguments that support theism, arguments for the conclusion: GOD EXISTS.
Introduction
Craig talks about the “collapse of verificationism” in Anglo-American philosophy and a resulting “resurgence of metaphysics” as well as a “renaissance in Christian philosophy.” (CCA, p.69)  Then Craig quotes a comment by the atheist philosopher Quentin Smith about this change.  Here is a portion of that quote (emphasis added by me):
 …[I]n philosophy it became, almost overnight, “academically respectable” to ARGUE for THEISM…   (CCA, p.69)
Since “theism” is the view that GOD EXISTS, Smith is talking about philosophers returning to the effort to give arguments for the conclusion: GOD EXISTS.  The placement of this comment from Smith in the Introduction indicates that Craig will be presenting one or more arguments for the existence of God later in this article. KCA is one of the arguments that Craig will go on to present.
In the final paragraph of the Introduction Craig makes it clear that a significant portion of this article will disucuss arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
As vanguards of a new philosophical paradigm, theistic philosophers have freely issued various critiques of atheism. In so short a space as this chapter it is impossible to do little more than sketch a few of them.  These critiques could be grouped under two basic heads:  (1) There are no cogent arguments for atheism, and (2) There are cogent ARGUMENTS for THEISM.  (CCA, p.70)
The body of the article is indeed divided into two parts titled “NO COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM” (p.70-75) and “COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM” (p.75-84).  So the title of the second section further indicates that Craig will present multiple “ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM”, that is, more than one argument for the conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
The Section: COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM
The opening of the section of the article called COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM is a single sentence, that further confirms that Craig will be presenting arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
The renaissance of Christian philosophy over the last half-century has been accompanied by a new appreciation of the traditional ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  Space permits mention of only four. (CCA, p.75)
Presumably, Craig will present at leat four traditional arguments for the existence of God, in this section titled COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM.  It is no surprise, then, that this section is further divided into four subsections: Contingency Argument, Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, and Moral Argument.
Given the statement at the opening of this section, it is clear that Craig considers these four arguments, including the cosmological argument, to be “traditional ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.  Thus Craig believes that the cosmological argument is such an argument, and thus Craig believes that the conclusion of the cosmological argument is: GOD EXISTS.  Furthermore, since the kalam cosmological argument is, obviously, a cosmological argument, Craig believes the conclusion of KCA to be: GOD EXISTS.
Furthermore, the subsection called “Cosmological Argument” (p.76-79) presents only ONE version of cosmological argument, namely the kalam cosmological argument, so it is crystal clear that Craig believes that KCA is a traditional ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, and thus that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
While it is true that the bulk of the subsection on the cosmological argument is devoted to establishing that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, the final paragraph of Craig’s presentation of KCA goes beyond that simple claim (emphasis added by me):
It follows logically that the universe has a cause.  Conceptual analysis of which properties must be possessed by such an ultramundane cause enables us to recover a striking number of the TRADITIONAL DIVINE ATTRIBUTES, revealing that IF THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, THEN AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful. (CCA, p.79)
Craig does not here explicitly draw the conclusion that GOD EXISTS, but he clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and draws the more specific conclusion that AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS.  Furthermore, Craig claims that by means of “conceptual analysis” we can infer that this PERSONAL CREATOR has “a striking number of the traditional divine attributes”.  So, Craig is strongly suggesting that this PERSONAL CREATOR can reasonably be identified as GOD.  Since Craig has concluded that A PERSONAL CREATOR with several traditional divine attributes exists, he is just one small step away from the drawing the ultimate conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
Given that Craig has clearly implied that the cosmological argument is a traditional ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, and given that at the end of the section where Craig presents KCA he draws a conclusion that is much more specific than the simple claim that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and given that the much more specific conclusion is clearly just one small step away from the claim that: GOD EXISTS, it is very likely that Craig believes that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS, even though he does not explicitly state this conclusion at the end of the section on KCA.
In any case, the view that the conclusion of KCA is merely that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is very improbable, given that Craig clearly draws the much more specific conclusion that AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS who has several traditional divine attributes.
The Title and Introduction of this article provide evidence for my view of KCA.  The title of the section COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM also supports my view (since KCA is one of four arguments presented in that section).  The opening of that section supports my view of KCA. Finally, the subsection on Cosmological Argument supports my view, in part because Craig implies that the cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of God, and in part because KCA is the only argument discussed in the subsection called “Cosmological Argument”.  The concluding paragraph of the subsection called “Cosmological Argument” also provides significant support for my view of KCA.
If William Craig’s article “Theistic Critiques of Atheism” was our ONLY source of information about KCA, then we would quite reasonably infer that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is only an intermediate conclusion on the path towards the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
 
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Connection between Moral Values and Moral Duties?

I found this in my notes. I’m sure the idea isn’t mine, but my notes don’t indicate where I got the idea from or if this a quotation or merely a paraphrase.

If an act A is forbidden, then doing A is bad and not doing A is good.
If an act A is obligatory, then doing A is good and not doing A is bad.

This seems right to me. Notice, however, that doing an act can be good but not obligatory. In such a case, we would call the act supererogatory. So A’s goodness is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for A’s being obligatory. Likewise, A’s badness is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for A’s being forbidden.
So what are the sufficient conditions for A’s being forbidden, obligatory, or merely permitted? The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on one’s theory of moral ontology. For example, a Divine Command Theorist (DCTist) would say, “God’s commanding us to do A is a necessary and sufficient condition for being obligatory” and “God’s commanding us not to do A is a necessary and sufficient condition for being forbidden.”

bookmark_borderThe Irrelevance of Naturalistic Metaethics to Arguments from Evil Against God’s Existence

Consider the following exchange between Christi, a Christian, and Natty, a naturalist, on the problem of evil.

Natty: If God exists, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?
Christi: Well, if God exists, it’s logically possible that so much of the evil and suffering in the world is due to the free choices made by humans exercising their free will.

At this point, astute readers will notice that Christi has just invoked the Free Will Defense (FWD). Let’s continue:

Natty: Sure, I guess that’s logically possible. But I wasn’t asking if the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world is logically compatible with God’s existence. Let’s assume that it is compatible. Rather, my question is this. Is the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world strong evidence against God’s existence?
Christi: Why do you say that?
Natty: Let’s take the hypothesis of indifference (HI), which says that nothing in our universe is the result of good or evil supernatural beings acting from outside our universe. Either there are no supernatural beings or, if they do exist, they are indifferent to our suffering.
Christi: Why does HI explain facts about evil and suffering much better than theism does?
Natty: To be precise, HI doesn’t predict facts about evil and suffering, in part because HI doesn’t even predict the existence of conscious or sentient beings capable of suffering. But HI also doesn’t predict the non-existence of evil and suffering. That’s just the kind of hypothesis HI is.
In contrast, theism predicts the non-existence of at least certain kinds of evil and suffering. So you could say that HI ‘negative explains’ facts about those kinds of evil and suffering much better than theism, in the sense that theism predicts the non-existence of those facts whereas HI makes no such prediction at all.

Again, astute readers will notice that Natty has just clarified he is making an evidential argument from evil, one which claims that the hypothesis of indifference explains facts about evil and suffering much better than theism does.

Christi: I’m not so sure I would agree with you about what you call “facts about those kinds of evil and suffering,” but let’s ignore that for now. Your argument presupposes that evil and suffering are, well, evil. But you’re a naturalist. How can you call anything “evil”? And if you can’t call anything “evil,” then how could facts about evil and suffering be any evidence against God’s existence?

Christi is now using a “turnaround” argument, where she tries to turn the tables on Natty and argue that evil is actually evidence for God’s existence.

Natty: By itself, naturalism doesn’t say that certain things like rape, murder, and theft are evil. (Notice also, however, that it doesn’t say that those things are good.) That’s just not what naturalism is about. All naturalism says is that there are no supernatural beings.
Christi: Right, but then how can you, as a naturalist, consistently say that anything is evil? And if you can’t consistently say that anything is evil, how could evil in any way be evidence against God’s existence?
Natty: Let me give you an analogy. Naturalism says nothing about computer viruses and whether anti-virus software is an effective defense against them. It hardly follows that naturalists cannot consistently believe that anti-virus software is an effective defense against viruses. Naturalists can and do believe anti-virus software is an effective defense against viruses, but not because of their naturalism. They believe that for independent reasons, such as personal experience, the universal recommendations of computer security experts, and so forth.
Likewise, just because naturalism doesn’t say anything about evil, it doesn’t follow that naturalists can’t consistently say anything is evil. That would follow if and only if there were no good independent reasons–reasons consistent with naturalism–for saying something is evil.
Christi: Okay, but unlike your computer virus analogy, there is no universal consensus about whether naturalists can believe in objective moral good and evil. Plenty of naturalists don’t.
Natty: True, but the relevant issue is not whether a universal consensus exists, but (1) whether naturalists can consistently believe in objective moral good and evil, and (2) whether the answer to (1) even matters. I do believe there is objective moral good and evil and I think that’s consistent with my naturalism. It’s hard to see how a belief about morality could be logically inconsistent with another belief (naturalism) which says nothing about morality. But let that pass. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that naturalism entails there is no objective moral good and evil. Even then, you haven’t given a good reason to reject the argument from evil, since that argument compares theism and HI, not theism and naturalism. But to be charitable, let’s pretend that HI says there is no objective moral good or evil. (It doesn’t say that, but let’s pretend it does.)
Christi: Okay.
Natty: The argument from evil attempts to show that some fact about ‘evil’ (whether it be literal evil or some non-normative concept like pain or suffering) somehow undermines a theistic worldview. We’re assuming, for the sake of argument, that HI entails there is no objective moral good and evil (“nihilism”). How, then, is that supposed to affect the argument?
Christi: Consider the following examples of evil and suffering, such as suffering and death caused by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, fires, tornadoes, rape, starvation, torture, injury, and disease. Call this list “bad stuff.” We’re agreeing, for the sake of argument, that if HI is true, then “bad stuff” isn’t ‘really’ bad, i.e., “bad stuff” isn’t bad in an objective moral sense.
Natty: Agreed. But this isn’t relevant to evidential arguments from evil, since such arguments don’t require that “bad stuff” be bad in an objective moral sense. All such arguments require is that “bad stuff” happens, which it does. The upshot, then, is that even if HI did entail nihilism, that would do nothing to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We can show this more formally using probabilistic notation. Remember that the crucial premise of my evidential argument from evil is this:

(1) Pr(E | HI) >> Pr(E | T).

Let’s begin by defining a key term.

nihilism =df. The hypothesis that there is no objective moral good and evil.

We can treat your point about objective moral good and evil on HI as an auxiliary hypothesis, namely, that if HI is true, the auxiliary hypothesis nihilism is also true. Using the probability calculus, specifically the Theorem of Total Probability, we can measure the impact of nihilism on (1).

(2) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = Pr(nihilism | HI) x Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI) + Pr(~nihilism | HI) x Pr(bad stuff | HI & ~nihilism)

We’ve agreed for the sake of argument that HI entails there is no objective moral good and evil. So Pr(nihilism | HI) = 1 and Pr(~nihilism | HI) = 0. Then the above equation becomes:

(3) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = 1 x Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI) + 0 x Pr(bad stuff | HI & ~nihilism)

(4) Pr(bad stuff |HI) = Pr(bad stuff | nihilism & HI)

The crucial premise of my argument becomes:

(1′) Pr(bad stuff | HI & nihilism) >> Pr(bad stuff | T).

This shows that, even granting the controversial claim that HI entails nihilism, the first part of each conditional probability (“bad stuff”) is unchanged. The “HI=nihilism” presupposition does not decrease the value of the first conditional probability and does not increase the value of the second. It follows, therefore, that “HI=nihilism” presupposition does nothing to undermine the claim that the first conditional probability is much greater than the second.

 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part 3

I will now examine William Craig’s book Reasonable Faith, to see whether this book supports my view that the ultimate conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) is: GOD EXISTS (as opposed to the conclusion: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE).
Since Reasonable Faith is an updated and revised version of Craig’s earlier book Apologetics, most of the evidence that I previously pointed to in Apologetics in support of my view, appears again in Reasonable Faith.

 Reasonable Faith (Crossway Books, Revised Edition, 1994)

The Preface
The contents of the Preface in Reasonable Faith have changed significantly from the Preface of Apologetics.  The passages I quoted from Apologetics are not repeated in Reasonable Faith.  In the Preface to Apologetics, Craig asserts that the issue of THE EXISTENCE OF GOD was one of the major issues of apologetics.  Craig does not repeat that claim in the Preface to Reasonable Faith.  However, we find a similar statement in Reasonable Faith, at the end of Chapter 3 (I will quote this later), so Craig has not changed his mind on this point.
Craig does indicate in the Preface that the book Reasonable Faith is basically a course in apologetics (emphasis added by me):
The course it [this book] offers represents my personal approach to APOLOGETICS. (Reasonable Faith, p.ix)
The Introduction 
Craig’s initial characterization of apologetics remains unchanged (emphasis added by me):
APOLOGETICS…is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for the TRUTH CLAIMS of the Christian faith.  (Reasonable Faith, p.xi)
Since the claim that GOD EXISTS is a basic claim of the Christian faith, and since Reasonable Faith is basically a course in apologetics,  we would expect to see some attempts by Craig in this book to provide “A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for the claim: GOD EXISTS.
Craig has added more material to his initial explanation of what apologetics consists of, and in this new material there is further evidence in support of my view of KCA (emphasis added by me):
Now the field of apologetics may be broadly divided into two sorts: offensive (or positive) apologetics and defensive (or negative) apologetics.  Offensive apologetics seeks to present A POSITIVE CASE for Christian TRUTH CLAIMS.  Defensive apologetics seeks to nullify objections to those claims.  Offensive apologetics tends to sub-divide into two categories: natural theology and Christian evidences.  The burden of natural theology is to PROVIDE ARGUMENTS AND EVIDENCE in support of THEISM, or THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  The ontological, COSMOLOGICAL, teleological, and moral ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD are classical examples of the project of natural theology.  (Reasonable Faith, p.xv)
On the next page, Craig states that this book “constitutes a course in offensive, rather than defensive, apologetics.”  So, based on the above characterization of offensive apologetics, we would expect that a significant portion of Reasonable Faith would be devoted to discussion of arguments for “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.
Note that in the quote above Craig clearly implies that cosmological arguments are “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.  Since KCA is a cosmological argument, Craig is implying here that KCA is an argument for “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.
The Contents
There was an Analytic Outline given in the early pages of the book Apologetics.  No such outline appears in Reasonable Faith.  However, there is a Contents page, which shows that there is an entire chapter (one out of eight chapters in the book) devoted to the topic: “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, namely Chapter 3.  This Chapter is the longest chapter in the book (it is 48 pages, and the average length of the other chapters is about 33 pages).  Given that the focus of Reasonable Faith is apologetics, we would expect this Chapter to include one or more attempts at “A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” of the claim: GOD EXISTS.
Although the Contents page does not give us any details about Chapter 3, if we glance through Chapter 3, we see it still has the same section called “HISTORICAL BACKGROUND” that was part of the section of Apologetics concerned with THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  This section of Chatper 3 in Reasonable Faith includes subsections on the ontological argument, cosmological argument, teleological argument, and moral argument, just as we saw in the earlier book Apologetics.
Chapter 3: The Existence of God
In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 3, Craig makes it clear that arguments for the existence of God will be discussed in Chapter 3 (emphasis added by me):
I think that there are GOOD REASONS for believing that GOD EXISTS.  Accordingly, we shall IN THIS CHAPTER examine various ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Reasonable Faith, p.77-78)
Craig gives an indication that he will discuss some traditional arguments for the existence of God in Chapter 3 (emphasis added by me):
…not too long ago Time carried a lengthy article on the renewed interest among philosophers in all the TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  …today some of the United States’ most esteemed philosophers are outspoken Christians and are bringing their faith to bear on their philosophical work.  This is an encouraging sign that the question of GOD’S EXISTENCE  will not be abandoned to the fidiests and the atheists. (Reasonable Faith, p.78)
In the next section of Chapter 3, called HISTORICAL BACKGROUND, Craig reviews various versions of ontological argument, cosmological argument, teleological argument, and moral argument, which are all generally considered to be traditional arguments for the existence of God.
It is clear that Craig himself views these various arguments as arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
 The ontological argument attempts to PROVE from the very concept of God that GOD EXISTS… (Reasonable Faith, p.81)
Perhaps the oldest and most popular of all the ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the teleological argument. (Reasonable Faith, p.83)
The moral ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD argues for the existence of a Being that is the embodiment of the ultimate Good…  (Reasonable Faith, p.88)
Recall that in the Introduction, Craig spoke of “COSMOLOGICAL…ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”  (Reasonable Faith, p.xv)
In Chapter 3 of Reasonable Faith, just as he did in the previous book Apologetics, Craig specifically characterizes the kalam cosmological argument as an argument for the existence of God (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
The KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT originated in the attempts of Christian thinkers to rebut Aristotle’s doctrine of the eternity of the universe and was developed by medieval Islamic theologians into an ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Reasonable Faith, p.80)
…I find the KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for a temporal first cause of the universe to be one of the most plausible ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  (Reasonable Faith, p.92)
We also find on page 92, a summary of KCA, which, on first appearance, seems to support the view that the conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE rather than the more specific conclusion that: GOD EXISTS:
The [kalam cosmological] argument may be formulated in three simple steps:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(Reasonable Faith, p.92)
However, the above summary in fact provides evidence in support of my view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
After discussing various traditional arguments for the existence of God, Craig devotes a section of Chapter 3 to ASSESSMENT.  But he has very little to say about any of the previously discussed arguments, except for KCA.  In fact, the section called ASSESSMENT is divided into three subsections, which correspond to the above “three simple steps”.  This is significant, because this indicates both that the focus of the ASSESSMENT section is on KCA, and that the subsection titled “Therefore, the Universe Has a Cause of Its Existence” (p.116-122) is also focused on KCA.  This supports my view of KCA, because in that third subsection of ASSESSMENT, Craig draws these conclusions:
…it is a personal being who created the universe. (Reasonable Faith, p.116)
…the cause of the beginning of the universe… [is] a personal creator. (Reasonable Faith, p.118)
…he [the Creator] must be immaterial….  …he must be enormously powerful, if not omnipotent. …he must be free and unimaginably intelligent, if not omniscient. …These properties constitute the central core of what theists mean by “God.” (Reasonable Faith, p.119)
Clearly, all of these conclusion go beyond the simple conclusion that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  Furthermore, because Craig clearly draws the conclusion that the universe was caused to exist by a personal Creator who is immaterial, enormously powerful, and unimaginably intelligent, it is easy to see that he has in mind the ultimate conclusion: GOD EXISTS.
Near the end of this third sub-section of the section called ASSESSMENT, Craig summarizes the argument given so far (emphasis added by me):
The beginning of the universe–declared by revelation, established by philosophy, confirmed by science–thus POINTS beyond itself to GOD, its PERSONAL CREATOR.  (Reasonable Faith, p.120)
Craig then has a brief discussion of various objections raised by Adolf Grunbaum against “inferring God as the Creator of the universe.” (Reasonable Faith, p.120).  This implies that in this third subsection, which is clearly focued on KCA, Craig has just inferred “God as the Creator of the universe.”  After responding to the various objections Craig makes this comment:
None of Grunbaum’s objections, therefore, seems to undermine the credibility of OUR ARGUMENT for GOD as THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.
Hence, amazing as it may seem, THE MOST PLAUSIBLE ANSWER to the question OF WHY SOMETHING EXISTS rather than nothing is that GOD EXISTS. (Reasonable Faith, p.121-122)
To what does Craig refer by the expression “OUR ARGUMENT”?  Since all three subsections of the section on ASSESSMENT deal with the “three simple steps” of KCA, it is clear that by “OUR ARGUMENT” Craig is referring to KCA.  Thus when Craig draws the conclusion that GOD is “THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE”  and that “GOD EXISTS”, he is drawing the ultimate conclusion of KCA: GOD EXISTS.
In the final section of Chapter 3 of Reasonable Faith, as in the analogous chapter of Apologetics, Craig tells stories about the use of KCA in evangelism, again implying that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS:
For example, my wife Jan, was once talking to a gal in the student union who said that she did not BELIEVE IN GOD.  Jan replied, “Well, what do you think of the argument for a first cause?”  “What’s that?” said the gal.  My wife explained, “Everything we see has a cause, and those causes have causes, and so on. But this can’t go back forever.  There had to be a beginning and a first cause which started the whole thing.  THIS IS GOD.”  Now that was obviously a very simple statement of THE ARGUMENT WE’VE BEEN DISCUSSING.  The young woman responded, “I guess GOD EXISTS after all.”  She was not ready to receive Christ at that point, but at least she had moved one step closer, AWAY FROM her ATHEISM.  (Reasonable Faith, p.122)
 …in Germany…we met a Polish physicist ….  As we chatted, she mentioned that physics had destroyed her BELIEF IN GOD and that life had become meaningless to her. …at that point, my wife volunteered, “Oh, you should read Bill’s doctoral dissertation!  He uses physics to PROVE GOD EXISTS.” So we lent him my dissertation on THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT to read.  (Reasonable Faith, p.122-123)
The only significant difference in this final section between Reasonable Faith and the earlier book Apologetics is that the physicist in the second story was a man in Apologetics, but is now a woman in Reasonable Faith!   (I don’t know whether the physicist was a very masculine-looking woman who Craig mistook for a man, or if Craig knew that the physicist was a woman, but he thought it would enhance the story in Apologetics to change the sex of the physicist to a man, or if Craig might have known the physicist was a man but wanted to enhance the story by changing the sex of the physicist to a woman in Reasonable Faith).
There is a new comment near the end of Chapter 3 of Reasonable Faith, that did not appear in Apologetics. This comment supports my view of KCA (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
I’m not claiming that I can prove God exists.  All I’m saying is that it is more probable than not that the universe began to exist AND THAT to the extent that this is probable, IT IS ALSO PROBABLE that GOD EXISTS.  (Reasonable Faith, p.124)
As in Apologetics, Chapter 3 of Reasonable Faith ends with a sentence that supports my view of KCA (emphasis added by me):
In an age of increasing atheism and agnosticism, we cannot afford to forgo AN APOLOGETIC FOR this most basic of all Christian beliefs: THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Reasonable Faith, p.125)
==============
Craig’s book Reasonable Faith provides significant evidence for the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and it provides significant evidence AGAINST the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.

There is evidence for my view of KCA in the Preface, the Introduction, and in the Contents page of Reasonable Faith.  There is evidence for my view in the title of Chapter 3: “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and more evidence in the opening paragraphs of Chapter 3 that describe the purpose of that chapter.

There is evidence for my view in the fact that Craig describes three of the categories of arguments discussed in HISTORICAL BACKGROUND as being “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and there is further evidence for my view in the fact that Craig specifically characterizes KCA as being an “ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”  and an “ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE”.

There is evidence for my view at the end of the section of Chapter 3 called ASSESSMENT, where Craig wraps up his presentation of KCA. There is also some evidence for my view in the section of Chapter 3 called PRACTICAL APPLICATION, where Craig tells stories about how KCA can be used to convince people to “BELIEVE IN GOD”.  And there is a bit more evidence for my view in the final sentence of Chapter 3.

If the book Reasonable Faith was our ONLY source for information about KCA, we would quite reasonably infer from this book that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.

bookmark_borderPlease Excuse me from the Francis-Frenzy

I was watching the NBC Evening News a couple of nights ago as it covered the arrival of Pope Francis I. The allegedly objective reporter referred to the Pope not as “The Pope” or as “Pope Francis,” but as “The Holy Father” and “His Holiness.” Is NBC now CBS–The Catholic Broadcasting System? Would any imam or even the Dalai Lama be shown such reverential deference? Of course, Francis does look cuddly compared to his predecessor, Grand Inquisitor Benedict XVI. J. Edgar Hoover would have looked cuddly next to Benedict. In the midst of the effusive adulation of Francis as “news” reporters vie to outdo each other in the generation of encomia, it is probably boorish to note that the Pope’s celebrated progressiveness only extends so far. Apparently, transgender people still merit censure:

Pope compares transgender people to nuclear weapons


Francis may be personally a very nice man. He certainly seems to be. When he talks about the poor and downtrodden, he exudes genuine warmth and empathy. Clearly and for obvious reasons, the Catholic Church would love for Francis to be the face of the Church. But even if Francis is the face, the body grew over 2000 years, and no pope, however charismatic, can perform a whole-body makeover.
But hasn’t the Church addressed its violent and oppressive past? Didn’t it apologize to Galileo (350 years after the event)? Hasn’t it apologized for the Holy Inquisition? Yes, they have apologized. Kind of. But apologies are easy. Apologies are cheap. In his outstanding book God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, Cullen Murphy reports the remarks of historian Carlo Ginzburg at a Vatican-sponsored conclave of scholars in the year 2000. Ginzburg addressed remarks made by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the opening of the archives of the Inquisition:
“What I didn’t hear the pope say today, and what I haven’t heard anybody in this discussion say, is that the Catholic Church is ashamed of what it did. Not sorry. Sorry is easy. I want to hear the Catholic Church–I want to hear the pope–say that he is ashamed.”
Francis needs to say what John Paul would not–that he is ashamed of the Church’s sins.
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part 2

In the previous post on this topic, I argued that William Craig’s book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979) provides a good deal of evidence supporting my view that the ultimate conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) is: GOD EXISTS, and that book also provides evidence AGAINST the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Now I will examine Craig’s book Apologetics to see whether it also supports my view about the conclusion of KCA.
Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984)
In the Preface of Apologetics, Craig points to two central issues of apologetics (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
…I recommend that the student read my two books, The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe…and The Son Rises…as background for the sections on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD and the resurrection of Jesus respectively…
The course [embodied in this book Apologetics] is designed to provide background and critical discussion pertaining to the basic issues of A POSITIVE CASE FOR Christianity.  I consider the two “hinge” issues to be THE EXISTENCE OF GOD and the resurrection of Jesus.  (Apologetics,  p.x)
Thus, Craig believes that a central issue of apologetics is “Does God Exist?”.   Note that Craig suggests students read his book on the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) called The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe as background for the section in Apologetics concerning THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  This is further confirmation that KCA is an argument for the existence of God, and thus that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT the claim: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
The opening sentences of the Introduction (of  Apologetics), tell us the focus or purpose of the discipline of apologetics (emphasis added by me):
Apologetics is primarily a theoretical discipline, though it has practical application.  That is to say, apologetics is that branch of theology that seeks to provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for the TRUTH CLAIMS of the Christian faith. (Apologetics, p. xi)
Since the purpose of apologetics is to “provide  A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for Christian truth claims, and since Craig believes that one of the most important issues in apologetics is “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” (i.e. Does God exist?), one would expect that this book would include one or more attempts to “provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for the Christian claim that GOD EXISTS.  Looking over the “Analytic Outline” of  Apologetics (presented immediately after the Introduction), we see that there is an entire section of the book that appears to be devoted to this topic:
3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Given what Craig says in the Preface and Introduction, one would expect to find one or more arguments for the existence of God in this section of the book.  In one of the subsections of 3.1, it appears that Craig will discuss different versions of some traditional arguments for the existence of God:
3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
3.121 ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1211 Anselm of Canterbury
3.122 COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1221 Al-Ghazali
3.1222 Thomas Aquinas
3.1223 G.W. F. Leibniz
3.123 TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1231 Plato and Aristotle
3.1232 Thomas Aquinas
3.1233 William Paley
3.124 MORAL ARGUMENT
3.1241 Thomas Aquinas
3.1242 William R. Sorley
Thus it appears that the contents of this book, and especially the content of section 3.1 on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, will indeed line up with the expectations that Craig creates in the Preface and Introduction to Apologetics.  Specifically, it appears that Craig will present and discuss arguments for the Christian claim that GOD EXISTS in section 3.1 of Apologetics.
In the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, Craig indicates that this section will indeed cover arguments for God’s existence (emphasis added by me):
I think there are GOOD REASONS for believing that GOD EXISTS.  Accordingly we shall in this locus [i.e. in section 3.1] examine various ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p.58)
At the end of this opening for section 3.1, Craig also gives and indication that he will cover some traditional arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
…not long ago Time carried a lengthy article on the renewed interest among philosophers in all the TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  That is an ecouraging sign that the question of GOD’S EXISTENCE will not be abandoned to the fideists and the atheists.  (Apologetics, p.58)
As we saw in the Analytical Outline of section 3.1, Craig plans to discuss the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the moral argument. To those familiar with the philosophy of religion, these are all recognizable names or categories of “TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.”  So, this confirms my view that when Craig discusses versions of the cosmological argument (in 3.122), he takes himself to be discussing various arguments “for GOD’S EXISTENCE”.
The view that Craig takes the various arguments discussed in section 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGOUND to be “ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE” is further confirmed by comments Craig makes at the beginning of the sections on ontological, teleological, and moral arguments (emphasis added by me):
The ontological argument ATTEMPTS TO PROVE from the very concept of God that GOD EXISTS: if God is conceivable, then He must actually exist. (Apologetics, p.61)
Perhaps the oldest and most popular of all the ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the teleological argument. (Apologetics, p.66)
The moral ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD argues for the existence of a Being that is the embodiment of the ultimate Good, which is the source of the objective moral values we experience in the world.  (Apologetics, p.70)
Given that the Preface and Introduction create the expectation that Craig will discuss arguments for the existence of God, and given that the Analytic Outline and the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 indicate that Craig will discuss arguments for the existence of God in section 3.1, and given that three out of the four categories of arguments discussed in section 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND are explicitly stated to be “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and given that in the field of philosophy of religion “Cosmological Arguments” are generally considered to be arguments for the existence of God, it is more than reasonable to infer that the section 3.122 COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is also concerned with various versions of “ARGUMENTS for the EXISTENCE OF GOD” in Craig’s view.  Since one of the cosmological arguments covered by Craig in section 3.122 is the kalam cosmological argument (i.e. the cosmological argument by Al-Ghazali is KCA), it is reasonable to conclude that Craig is representing KCA as an “ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.
Furthermore, Craig explicitly characterizes KCA as being such an argument (emphasis added by me):
The KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT originated in the attempts of Christian thinkers to rebut Aristotle’s doctrine of the eternity of the universe and was developed by medieval Islamic theologians into an ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p. 62)
For my part, however, I find the KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for a temporal first cause of the universe to be the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  I have defended THIS ARGUMENT in two books, The Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe.  (Apologetics, p.73)
Note that Craig here states that his book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe was a presentation of KCA, and in the previous discussion about that book, we saw that the conclusion of the argument presented in that book is: GOD EXISTS.
Because Craig believes KCA to be “the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE” this is the only argument that he discusses in 3.13 ASSESSMENT, a subsection of 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  At the end of this subsection, Craig works his way toward the ultimate conclusion of the argument (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
From what we have already said this cause [of the universe] would have to be uncaused, eternal, changeless, timeless, and immaterial.  Moreover, I would argue, IT MUST ALSO BE PERSONAL. …a temporal effect may be caused by AN ETERNALLY EXISTING AGENT.  In fact, the agent may have purposed eternally to do some act in time.  Thus the Bible speaks of the eternal plan, hidden for ages in GOD WHO CREATED ALL THINGS, which GOD has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:11).  THEREFORE, we are brought, not merely to a First Cause of the universe, but to THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.  (Apologetics, p.93)
The explicit conclusion here is that there exists a being who is “THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE” (who is also uncaused, eternal, and immaterial).  Clearly, Craig believes that such a being is a close match with the concept of “God” as this concept is understood in the Christian faith, and he believes it is reasonable to draw the ultimate conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
While it is true that Craig does not explicitly state the conclusion that GOD EXISTS here in the final paragraph about KCA, given the clear context that he is discussing “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” and that Craig considers KCA to be  “the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE”, it is very reasonable to infer that Craig sees the ultimate conclusion of KCA to be: GOD EXISTS. Furthermore, the explicit conclusion that there is a being who is “THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE” clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
This iterpretation of the final paragraph of the subsection about KCA is confirmed by comments that Craig makes in the very next section 3.14 PRACTICAL APPLICATION, which is the final subsection of 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
In this final subsection, Craig relates some stories about using arguments for the existence of God in evangelism.  The first story clearly implies that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.   The story is about an occasion when Craig’s wife used KCA to persuade someone to believe in God (emphasis added by me):
For example, my wife Jan, was once talking to a girl in the student union and this girl said that she did not BELIEVE IN GOD.  Jan replied, “Well, what do you think of the argument for a first cause?”  “What’s that?” said the girl.  My wife explained, “Everything we see has a cause, and those causes have causes, and so on. But this can’t go back forever.  There had to be a beginning and a first cause which started the whole thing.  THIS IS GOD.”  Now that was obviously a very simple statement of THE ARGUMENT WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING.  The girl responded, “I guess GOD EXISTS after all.”  She was not ready to receive Christ at that point, but at least she had moved one step closer, AWAY FROM her ATHEISM. (Apologetics, p.94)
Clearly, Jan was presenting a simple version of KCA to this girl, and clearly when Jan asserted “THIS IS GOD” at the end of her brief statement of KCA, she implied the conclusion of her argument to be: GOD EXISTS.  Craig does not correct his wife here.  For example, he does not say, “Jan was ignorant of the fact that the kalam cosmological argument only shows that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE not that GOD EXISTS.”  Craig sees it as completely appropriate for the girl to give up her atheism and to instead “BELIEVE IN GOD” on the basis of Jan’s presentation of KCA.
Craig tells another story about his wife’s evangelism, involving the use of KCA to persuade a physicist to believe in God (emphasis added by me):
 …in West Germany we met a physicist from behind the Iron Curtain.  As we chatted, he mentioned that physics had destroyed his BELIEF IN GOD and that life had become meaningless to him. …at that point, my wife popped, “Oh, you should read Bill’s doctoral dissertation!  He uses physics to PROVE GOD EXISTS.” So we lent him my dissertation on THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT to read. (Apologetics, p.94)
After reading Craig’s dissertation on KCA, the physicist comes to believe in God and he converts to Christianity.  Again, Craig makes no comment correcting his wife. So, we are left with the impression that Craig agrees that the presentation of KCA in his dissertation leads to the conclusion that: “GOD EXISTS”.
The very last sentence in section 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD provides additional confirmation that this section was concerned with providing one or more good arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
In an age of increasing atheism and agnosticism, we cannot afford to forgo AN APOLOGETIC FOR this most basic of all Christian beliefs: THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p. 95)
Since Craig has focused primarily on KCA in section 3.1, and only briefly touched on other arguments, and since the purpose of apologetics is to “provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for the TRUTH CLAIMS of the Christian faith” (Apologetics, p.xi), this final comment strongly suggests that KCA provides such a “RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for the claim that: GOD EXISTS.
Craig’s book Apologetics provides significant evidence for the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and it provides significant evidence AGAINST the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
There is evidence in the Preface for my view, and in the Introduction, and in the Analytic Outline of Apologetics.  There is evidence for my view in the title of section 3.1 : “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and more evidence in the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 that describe the purpose of that section.
There is evidence for my view in the fact that Craig describes three of the categories of arguments discussed in 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND as being “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and there is further evidence for my view in the fact that Craig specifically characterizes KCA as being an “ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” (Apologetics, p. 62) and an “ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE” (Apologetics, p.73).
There is evidence for my view at the end of section 3.13 ASSESSMENT, where Craig wraps up his presentation of KCA. There is also some evidence for my view in section 3.14 PRACTICAL APPLICATION, where Craig tells stories about how KCA can be used to convince people to “BELIEVE IN GOD”.  And there is a bit more evidence for my view in the final sentence of section 3.1.
If the book Apologetics was our ONLY source for information about KCA, we would quite reasonably infer from this book that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

In order to understand an argument, one must FIRST understand what the CONCLUSION of the argument asserts.
Since Jeff Lowder and I disagree about what the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) asserts, we also disagree about the specific content of KCA.  I’m going to present my reasons for believing that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as well as my reasons for rejecting Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
It is amazing that two people with significant knowledge and background in the philosophy of religion would have such divergent views as to what the conclusion of a well-known argument in the philosophy of religion asserts.  This in itself is an argument for the view that Craig’s presentations of KCA are less than ideal in terms of clarity, which is the main point I wish to make, anyway.
It is also amazing that Jeff Lowder holds the view that Craig has mischaracterized the conclusion of his own argument on more than one occassion.  This is certainly a real possibility, but to entertain this possibility seriously is to doubt the clarity of Craig’s understanding of his own argument, which again supports my basic point about there being a problem of clarity with Craig’s presentation of KCA.  If Craig is himself confused about what the conclusion of KCA asserts, then it should be no surprise that others would also be confused and disagree about what the conclusion of KCA asserts.
If it turns out that my position that the conclusion of KCA is GOD EXISTS is a plausible one (and I have plenty of evidence to back up my view), and if Jeff Lowder’s position that the conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is also a plausible one (I suspect that Jeff Lowder will be able to provide evidence to support his view), then that means that Craig has done a poor job of presenting KCA in a way that makes the content of this argument clear.
I’m going to present evidence for my view of KCA in chronological order, based on publication dates of the books or articles that I examine. I plan to examine at least eight different publications/articles/lectures by Craig between 1979 and 2015.
The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979)
In Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984), William Craig tells us that:
I have defended this argument [the kalam cosmological argument] in two books, the Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. (Apologetics, p.73)
So, one important source for understanding the contents and conclusion of KCA is The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (hereafter: EOG&BOU).  The title alone provides significant support for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  One of Craig’s first books about KCA contains the phrase “The Existence of God” in its title!
The Preface of EOG&BOU confirms my view that this book is a presentation of KCA for a general audience:
Those who wish to pursue more deeply some of the issues I discuss [here in EOG&BOU] should consult my technical study, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (London: Macmillan, 1979; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979).
Assuming, then that EOG&BOU is a presentation of KCA for a general audience, the preface provides evidence for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  Here are the opening sentences of EOG&BOU (emphasis added by me):
This is a book for those who DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD.  It is my hope that this work will be the means by which some person seeking to know the truth about the universe will COME TO KNOW ITS CREATOR.
Several years of philosophical and scientific research have convinced me that BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the most intellectually respectable position available to a person today.  In this work I have tried to marshal briefly and convincingly some of the evidence IN SUPPORT OF THE THESIS THAT GOD EXISTS.  (EOG&BOU, p.9)
So, based on the Preface of EOG&BOU, one would reasonably infer that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
The content of EOG&BOU also goes against Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  There are three chapters in EOG&BOU that present a unified line of reasoning: II, III, and IV.  Just the titles of these chapters alone provides significant evidence for my view of KCA and against Jeff Lowder’s view (from the table of contents, emphasis added by me):
 II. An Argument FOR GOD’s EXISTENCE (1): 
Philosophical Proof of the Beginning of the Universe
III. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (2):
Scientific Confirmation of the Beginning of the Universe
IV. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (3):
The Personal Creator of the Universe 
First, note that the titles of these chapters provide support for my view of KCA, because each chapter title begins “An Argument for God’s Existence…” So, the titles of three key chapters of a book that lays out KCA speak of an argument for God’s existence, implying that KCA is an argument for God’s existence. If KCA is an argument for God’s existence, then it follows that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that “The universe has a cause” is NOT the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
Second, note that these three chapters do NOT present three separate arguments for the existence of God. The first two chapters present arguments for the claim that the universe began to exist. Chapter IV is the third of the three chapters, and in that chapter, Craig argues that IF the universe began to exist, THEN God exists (my summary). Thus, all three chapters work together to form an argument for the claim: GOD EXISTS.
Third, note the claim implied by the title of Chapter IV: “The personal Creator of the Universe”; this suggests that KCA supports the conclusion that there exists exactly one personal Creator of the Universe; such a claim clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  So, if Chapter IV represents part of KCA, then the conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of KCA, then KCA can be summarized this way:
1. The universe began to exist. (Chapters II & III)
2. If the universe began to exist, then God exists. (Chapter IV)
Therefore:
3. God exists. (end of Chapter IV)
Another indication that these three chapters of EOG&BOU work together to form a single argument is that in the opening pages of Chapter II, we find a diagram that summarizes the logic of these three chapters and how they work together  (EOG&BOU, p.38):
Diagram from EOG&BOU
If we assume that contents of these three chapters of EOG&BOU represent the contents of KCA, then it would be reasonable to interpret the diagram on page 38 as a representation of the logic of KCA.  But in that case it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  The ultimate conclusion of KCA must (at least) be something like the conclusion mentioned immediately following the diagram (emphasis added by me):
By proceeding through these alternatives, I think I can demonstrate how reasonable it is to believe that the universe is not eternal but had a beginning and was caused by a personal being; therefore A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS.   (EOG&BOU, p.38)
Such a conclusion clearly goes beyond the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Chapter IV can be divided into two main sections corresponding to the last two sets of alternatives in the above diagram. Pages 83-85 correspond to the choice between the alternatives of “caused” or “not caused”.   About 2/3 down the page on page 85 Craig concludes the discussion of those alternatives:
Any unprejudiced inquirer ought to agree with me, at this point, that the universe was caused to exist. (EOG&BOU, p.85)
At the bottom of that same page, Craig begins his discussion of the choice between the third set of alternatives:
Now let’s turn to our third set of alternatives, and I will explain why I think the cause of the universe is personal rather than impersonal. (EOG&BOU, p.85-86)
So, the discussion of the third set of alternatives occurs for the remainder of Chapter IV, on pages 85-89.
If we look at the very last paragraph of Chapter IV, we find further confirmation of my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS (emphasis added by me):
Thus we reach our conclusion: A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS, changeless and timeless prior to creation and in time subsequent to creation.  This is the central idea of what theists mean by “GOD.” (EOG&BOU, p.89)
Craig is here spelling out the final step in this argument for the existence of God.  Although he does not use the words “God exists,” it is clear that what Craig has in mind is the following inference:
A personal creator of the universe exists.
Therefore:
God exists.
Furthermore, even if I’m wrong that “God exists” is the ultimate conclusion of the argument in EOG&BOU, it is clear that the explicit conclusion that “a personal creator of the universe exists” (EOG&BOU, p.89) goes beyond the simple conclusion that “the universe was caused to exist.”(EOG&BOU, p.85).
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of the kalam cosmological argument, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise just from reading this book, then it seem abundantly clear to me that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the  ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT the simple claim that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
This view of KCA is supported by (a) the title of the book, (b) the statement of the purpose of the book in the Preface, (c) the titles of the chapters, (d) the logical structure of the argument presented in Chapters II, III, and IV, (e) the structure of the diagram of logical alternatives given on page 38, (f) the correspondence between the apparent logical structure of the overall argument with the logical structure represented in the diagram of logical alternatives on page 38 and (g) the explicit statement of the conclusion at the end of Chapter IV.
NOTE:
In Debating Christian Theism (Oxford University Press, 2013), Craig has an article titled “The Kalam Argument”.  In that article Craig lays out a systematic argument that follows the exact same structure (the three sets of logical alternatives) that we have seen above in EOG&BOU.  So, some 34 years after the publication of EOG&BOU, Craig is still presenting KCA in a form that closely matches the logical structure of the argument found in EOG&BOU.  I will go into the details of this more recent article when I work my way up to the year 2013 for publications by Craig about KCA.
===============================
Next, I will take a look at:
Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984)

bookmark_borderDivine Commands and Informative Identity

Last week I had an exchange with Matthew Flannagan on divine command theory (DCT) in the comments section of the post “Does William Lane Craig Actually Believe in Evil?” I raised some standard Euthyphro-type objections and asked for his response. He graciously replied even though he has treated the topic in much greater depth and detail elsewhere, particularly in his book, coauthored with Paul Copan, Did God Really Command Genocide? (Baker Books, 2014), and in his article “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,” in Philo Vol 15, #1. I hope to respond at much greater length to his full treatment. In the meantime, I cannot resist making a few preliminary points in reply to his challenging comments in defense of DCT.
In my comments I offered the following statement of the “arbitrariness” horn of the dilemma:

“…it certainly seems intuitive for very many that moral goodness is not something that can be established by fiat, not even the command of an all-powerful being. Neither a consequentialist nor deontologist metaethic would countenance the possibility that sheer assertion can make an action morally worthy or unworthy. That bearing false witness, e.g., is wicked is not something that can be established by naked proscription, not even the proscriptive utterance of Jehovah on Mt. Sinai. For any such command to have authority, it must have the backing of some creditable axiological basis (e.g. The Categorical Imperative; The Principle of Utility). To deny that commands need such a basis would seem to have the disastrous consequence of making might equal right, that is, the rules we must follow become the ones arbitrarily imposed by those with the power to punish.”

Matt, replies that I have construed DCT as a theory of moral goodness, whereas he intends it as a theory of moral obligation. Actually, I am not sure that these topics are easily separable. Surely, it is necessary that an act be morally good for it to be obligatory. Of course, the moral goodness of an act is not sufficient for it to be obligatory, since the act could be one of supererogation rather than obligation. However, that an act is morally obligatory does appear to entail that it is morally good, and so nothing, not even a divine command, can make an act obligatory if it is not morally good. Therefore, God’s command per se cannot make an act morally obligatory unless, in addition to and independently of that act of command, the act has the quality of moral goodness. So, divine command alone seemingly cannot be the whole story of moral obligation, but let’s see the rest of Matt’s arguments.
Matt is willing to allow my objection to be rephrased so that it addresses the claim that the DCT is a theory of moral obligation. He quotes Wes Morriston’s statement of the arbitrariness dilemma, a statement which I endorse:

“Either God has good reasons for his commands or he does not. If he does, then those reasons (and not God’s commands) are the ultimate ground of moral obligation. If he does not have good reasons, then his commands are completely arbitrary and may be disregarded. Either way, the divine command theory is false.”

Matt comments:

“I agree the second horn of this dilemma that if God lacks good reasons for commanding as he does they are completely arbitrary. The real bone of contention is the first Horn, and I just think this horn is false.”

So, Matt apparently accepts (second horn) that if God does not have good reasons for his commands, then his commands are arbitrary. Put simply, the moral authority of a command, even God’s, cannot issue from the command itself. Rather, the command’s prescriptions or proscriptions must be just, fair, equitable, or evince some other right-making quality. If, on the other hand, the command lacks such a right-making quality, then it has no moral authority, however august or powerful the commanding agent might be. Thus, the Jim Crow laws of the State of Mississippi fifty years ago, though backed by duly constituted legal authority, had no moral authority since they contravened fundamental principles of justice, arbitrarily reducing nearly half the state’s population to second-class citizen status.
He expresses the first horn of the dilemma, the one with which he disagrees, as follows:

“COND: If God has reasons for commanding as he does, then those reasons (and not God’s commands) are the ultimate ground of moral obligation.”

However, Matt sees the phrase “ultimate ground of moral obligation” as ambiguous and suggests two possible interpretations:

“…’ground of moral obligation’ as I see it this can have several different meanings. Sometimes when we talk of one thing being the ‘ground’ of a moral obligation, we refer to some property, distinct from the property of being morally obligatory, which stands in an asymmetric dependence relationship to this latter property, so that the existence of the latter depends on the former. This is often what people mean when they talk of a right making property. A second use of the phrase ‘ground of moral obligation’ refers to what Mark Murphy calls an explanation in terms of informative identification, such as when ‘we explain the nature of water by identifying it with H2O, or explain the nature of heat by identifying it with molecular motion.’” (emphasis in original)

On the first interpretation of “ground of moral obligation,” an act A can be morally obligatory only if A possesses some property, distinct from being morally obligatory, which, as Matt says, stands in an “asymmetric dependence relation” with the property of being morally obligatory. It is the former property that people normally refer to as the “right-making property.”
Matt says that he accepts that moral obligation must have grounding in the first of the above senses Matt therefore appears willing to accept each of the following propositions:
(1) If God’s commands have moral authority, then God has morally good reasons for his commands.
(2) “…if God has reasons for commanding as he does, then there is a property distinct from the property of being obligatory that is such that moral requirements exist because this property does.”
Matt is willing to accept these propositions because he holds that they are compatible with the claim that moral obligation is also grounded in the second sense of grounding, which he takes as the core claim of DCT. In that second sense, to say that moral obligation is grounded in divine commands is to offer an explanation of moral obligation in terms of informative identification, as we do when we say that water is H2O or that heat is molecular motion. Matt puts it like this:

“DCT doesn’t deny that there can be properties distinct from the property of being obligatory, which ground that latter property in this sense. What a DCT typically claims, or at least in the form advocated by Adams, Craig, Alston and Evan, is that God’s commands ground moral obligations in the sense that moral obligations are informatively identified with Gods commands.”

From (1) and (2) it follows by hypothetical syllogism:
(3) If God’s commands have moral authority, then “…there is a property distinct from the property of being morally obligatory that is such that moral requirements exist because this property does.”
And what might that property be? It cannot be God’s act of command itself. As Matt admits, being commanded, per se, cannot explain moral obligation. An arbitrary or immoral command has no moral authority, and so can impart no moral obligation. Rather, a command has moral authority only if its imperatives are just, fair, equitable, or evince some other right-making property. In that case, it is not the command, per se that accounts for the obligatory nature of the imperative, but some other property that authorizes the command. If God’s commands have moral authority, then something other than God’s commands must account for that authority.
The upshot that the DCT as Matt construes it is false. What makes an “informative identification” informative? It is that such an identification plays an explanatory role. Identifying water as H2O permits us to explain the observed properties of water, such as the fact that it expands when it freezes, in terms of the nature of the water molecule, its atomic constituents and the bonds that form between them. Likewise, the phenomena of heat are explained by the identification of heat with rapid molecular motion. Similarly, the apparitions of the Morning Star are explained with reference to the constitution and orbit of Venus.
However, identifying moral obligation with divine commands tells us nothing at all unless we are further assured that all of the commands will possess some right-making property (e.g. they will be just, fair, righteous, equitable, etc.). In that case, what does the informing is the adduced right-making property, not the fact of command. When you are told that water is H2O, you have been told everything you need to know to understand the physical properties of water. When you are told that a morally obligatory act is commanded, that alone tells you nothing about why the act is morally obligatory. You must in addition be told what morally authorizes the command.
It appears, therefore, that “The morally obligatory is what is commanded by God” is not an informative identification like “H2O is water,” or “heat is rapid molecular motion.” Therefore, DCT as Matt construes it must be false.