bookmark_borderThe Object of Moral Concern Problem for Divine Command Theory

Suppose that I steal your laptop on Friday afternoon. As the weekend sets in, I begin to be plagued by guilt. Initially, taking your laptop seemed like a great idea. I need a new computer, and yours is much nicer than mine. It is newer, has a faster processor, more memory, a bigger screen, etc. I had imagined with great anticipation how much better life would be with a nice, new, up-to-date laptop. But now–now that I must live with having committed the theft–every time I open the computer, every time I so much as look at it, I am overcome by intense feelings of remorse. After a few days of this agony, on Monday morning I decide that I cannot live with myself unless I admit my wrongdoing and try to make amends. What should I do?
Presumably one of the things that I ought to do is apologize. For the purposes of this thought experiment, let’s grant that an apology is a verbal expression of sorrow that consists of three elements: (1) an acknowledgement that I (the apologizer) have done wrong; (2) an attempt (by me) to make amends (i.e., an offer to compensate or make up for, if possible, the wrong that I have done); (3) my promising to avoid engaging in such wrongdoing in the future. [Perhaps you disagree with this account of apology. Perhaps you have your own preferred account, which you believe is superior in some way. No matter. The point I am making depends not at all on my getting the concept of apology correct. All that matters, with respect to the point I want to make, is that there are instances in which a person might decide to do (1), (2), and (3) and that in some such instances, doing (1), (2), and (3) is morally appropriate.]
So, to whom do I apologize? For what do I apologize? And, how should I offer to make amends?
I contend that divine command theory (DCT)  gets the answer to these questions wrong. The answers surely depend upon the answers to two other questions: First, whom did I wrong? And second, what makes it the case that what I did was wrong? That is, since I ought to apologize to the person that I wronged, the question of to whom I should apologize depends on whom I wronged. Further, since I ought to apologize for that which I did in virtue of which what I did was wrong, what I should apologize for depends on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong. And, since my offer to make amends ought to consist of an offer to compensate for the wrongdoing that I have done, how I ought to offer amends depends, again, on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong.
On divine command theory, what makes it the case that any instance of wrong-doing is wrong is the fact that it is a violation of divine command. So, on DCT, the answer to the second question (for what do I apologize?) is: I should apologize for doing something that violates a divine command. And the answer to the first question seems to be: God. I should apologize to God because it is his command that I violated and it is in violating his command that my wrongdoing consists. How we should answer the third question is less clear. It is not clear how I can compensate God for the wrongdoing that consists of my violating his commands. However, it is clear what I ought to do to find out what, if anything, I can do to make amends: I should ask God. I should say, “God, I have violated your command and for that I am truly sorry. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make it up to you.” Further, since God is the wronged party, if I offer a sincere promise to refrain from so-acting in the future, the person to whom that promise is directed ought to be God.
Let’s say that the person to whom we should offer apology when we have engaged in wrongdoing is the object of our moral concern. On DCT, it seems clear that the object of my moral concern, with respect to the wrongdoing consisting of my stealing your laptop, is God.
That is the wrong answer. When I have stolen your laptop, the proper object of my moral concern is you. You are the person I have wronged and it is to you that I owe an apology. What I should apologize for is taking something that belongs to you without your consent. Furthermore, the person to whom I should offer amends is you. I ought to return your laptop to you and ask if there is anything else I can do to make it up to you. And it is to you that I should offer my promise to never again engage in such wrongdoing. Therefore, DCT misidentifies the object of moral concern.
A defender of DCT may respond to the above argument thusly: It is true that, on DCT, God is an object of moral concern. On DCT, every time that a person engages in wrongdoing, that person owes an apology to God. But this does not imply that God is the only object of moral concern on DCT. Nothing prevents the divine command theorist from saying that, in addition to God, the person from whom you stole the laptop has also being wronged, and is therefore, an additional object of moral concern.

This response is devastating for DCT. Once we acknowledge that, in some instance of wrongdoing, there is someone other than God that has been wronged, it becomes untenable to claim that what makes any instance of wrongdoing wrong is the fact that it violates divine command. Presumably, if what makes you a proper object of my moral concern is the fact that I have wronged you, then it is possible for me to have wronged you even if I have not also wronged God by violating his command(s). But if it is possible to wrong a person without wronging God by violating his command(s), then it cannot be that what makes each and every action wrong is the fact that it violates God’s command(s).
Think again about the above questions: to whom do I apologize? for what do I apologize? how should I offer to make amends? If I have wronged you, then I ought to apologize to you. But for what should I apologize? The answer to this question depends on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong. Again, on DCT, what makes it wrong is that it violated God’s command. But does violating God’s command wrong you? And is that what I should apologize to you for? Should I say,
“I sincerely apologize for taking your laptop. I know that in doing so I violated God’s command and for that I am truly sorry.”
No. This gets the nature of the wrong wrong. I might have, in some sense, wronged you by violating God’s command. But that is not the proper locus of my doing wrong to you. Rather, what I have done to you is taken a piece of your property without your consent. That is what makes my taking your laptop wrong; the failure to respect your autonomy by seeking your consent before I took your laptop. The wrong-making feature here is something that I have done to you, not something that I have done to God. If this is the correct analysis of the nature of the wrong that I have committed, then it is clear that it is possible to commit wrongdoings even in the absence of divine commands. This is because there are wrong-making features that have nothing to do with violations of divine command. It cannot be, then, that, for all wrongdoings, what makes the action wrong is that it is contrary to the commands of God.
Furthermore, my offer to make amends is misplaced if it is an offer to God to make up for violating his commands. To make amends for the wrong I have done (the wrong consisting of the taking of your property without your consent), I must make an offer to you. The obvious offer to make is to return the laptop (and/or purchase a new one to replace it) and to compensate you for the time, effort, and worry that you experienced during your stressful efforts to deal with the theft of your laptop. Offering to compensate God cannot compensate you; my offer of compensation must be to the wronged party.
Notice that, to make sense of the idea that you are an object of my moral concern and to properly identify both that which I need to apologize for and how I ought to go about attempting to make amends, we need to allow that what makes my action wrong has to do with harms that I have inflicted on you. What makes my theft wrong has everything to do with violating your autonomy and has nothing to do with violating God’s commands. Even if I had not violated any divine command (because, e.g., there are no divine commands), I still would have done something wrong because I still would have done something that has a wrong-making feature (namely, the feature of being an action that violates your autonomy).  Let me be as clear as possible: I am not denying that, in stealing your laptop, I have wronged God. What I am saying is that this cannot be the only wrong that I have committed. I have also wronged you. And this wrong (the wrong to you) has nothing to do with having violated God’s commands. Therefore, if the divine command theorist acknowledges that you are a proper object of my moral concern, this is a tacit admission that there are wrong-making features other than the feature of being contrary to the commands of God. Accordingly, DCT is false.

bookmark_borderProfessor Craig on Theistic Hypotheses

In 2018 I posted on SO a review of Tim Crane’s book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View:
Crane argues that atheists have largely misunderstood religion by regarding it as a sort of cosmological hypothesis, one that makes insupportable claims about the creation of the universe via the supernatural acts of a divine agent. By thus construing religion as a sort of spurious proto-scientific cosmology, atheists justify relegating it to the bin of irrelevance and irrationality. However, says Crane, religion should not be seen as any sort of hypothesis, but rather as consisting of the “religious impulse” and “identification.” The religious impulse is the drive to recognize a transcendent order that is both factual and normative. God is posited as real and his will is taken as defining right and wrong. “Identification” is the desire to belong to a community that defines itself in terms of a set of beliefs and practices and which understands the world in terms of those beliefs and practices. What unites these two elements is a shared experience of the sacred, which promotes a strong sense of identity. Atheists miss these points by dismissing religion as a crackpot cosmology and religious believers as superstitious.
In my comments on Crane’s claims, I note that if atheists are mistaken in regarding theism as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, this is not a gratuitous error, but is due to the fact that leading religious apologists defend theism as such a hypothesis. Defenders of “intelligent design” theory such as William Dembski and Michael Behe present their concepts of “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” as scientifically legitimate concepts. In The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne employs Bayesian confirmation theory in defense of his theistic hypothesis and appeals largely to the criterion of simplicity, which, of course, is a standard of theory choice in the natural sciences. William Lane Craig’s Kalaam cosmological argument is developed and defended in the context of physical cosmology. These considerations seem to justify the characterization of the theistic hypothesis as “proto” or “quasi” scientific.
However, such a designation is not really important. The important point is that theism is defended as a hypothesis. Whether that hypothesis is classified as “scientific,” “quasi-scientific,” or “metaphysical” is not of primary importance. In my review I make the point that, as John Hick argues in An Interpretation of Religion, the reasoning underlying religious  belief is primarily interpretive and not hypothetical. Hick says that the universe is religiously ambiguous in the sense that there are no facts that compel a religious or a naturalistic interpretation. The arguments for and against the existence of God are not compelling, and their conclusions may be reasonably rejected. Perfectly reasonable people may therefore disagree about the existence of God.
If Hick is right, what follows? Perhaps both atheists and religious apologists should cease their efforts to devise polemical weapons to bludgeon the other side into submission since we should know by now that this will not work. We should instead seek a more nuanced and informed view of belief and unbelief. We might actually learn something from each other!
In a 2018 podcast of “Reasonable Faith,” Kevin Harris interviews Professor Craig about Crane’s book and my review of it:
Jeff Lowder drew my attention to this just recently, and I would like to respond to it here.
Professor Craig argues that, while theistic hypotheses are explanatory, it is “tendentious and inaccurate” to characterize them in general as “semi-scientific” or “proto-scientific.” Craig does admit that the ID theorists regard their hypothesis as scientific. However, they claim that their arguments for intelligent design are religiously neutral, so I err in identifying this hypothesis as a specifically religious or theistic hypothesis.
ID theory is religiously neutral? How can that be when it was developed and promoted explicitly as part of an aggressive apologetic program? Well, to avoid church/state entanglements, ID theorists note that the designer could be something other than the God of Christian theism–something like Plato’s Demiurge, or the “Q” Continuum from Star Trek, maybe. This lawyerly ruse has no bearing on the philosophical issue, however. Could the designer be God? Of course. The most charitable reading of ID is therefore that it is an argument for a disjunction of mutually exclusive and exhaustive designer hypotheses, including the theistic hypothesis as one disjunct.
As for Swinburne’s and his own hypothesis, Craig says that they are not scientific or quasi-scientific because they posit a personal cause rather than a naturalistic one. Scientific explanations are in terms of natural laws and initial conditions, but theistic hypotheses posit a personal agent who creates by acts of volition. However, it certainly seems that, in principle, there could be scientific confirmation of a personal cause. Suppose, for instance, that the famous Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula—the “pillars of creation”—were accompanied by glowing gas in the form of Hebrew letters, light years wide, proclaiming “I, Yahweh, did this.” In this case, we would have outstanding scientific evidence of a personal cause. So, as a general demarcation criterion, the personal/impersonal distinction does not work.
Craig and Harris then have this exchange:
KEVIN HARRIS: Just to be more specific, when he [me] mentions you here, again, he says, “Craig’s Kalaam argument is specifically and explicitly a cosmological claim presented within the context of physical cosmology.”
CRAIG:Right. And it doesn’t appeal to a theistic cosmology or an alternative to contemporary cosmology. It appeals to the normal cosmological model that is affirmed by secular scientists. So it is not in any way positing God as a scientific or quasi-scientific hypothesis.
Craig’s statement here is a non sequitur. A scientific theory need not be an alternative to another theory, but could subsume it. Theory T2 subsumes theory T1 when T2 provides a deeper and more inclusive explanatory framework that accounts for T1’s empirical success within its domain while locating that domain within a larger one that T2 covers. Advances in science often occur when a new theory does not just replace an old one, but places the old theory in a broader and deeper explanatory context. Thus, Carnot’s theories were subsumed by the thermodynamics of Kelvin and Clausius. Craig’s theistic hypothesis appears intended to provide a deeper and more inclusive explanation than physical cosmology. Physical cosmology is not falsified by Craig’s theistic hypothesis, but rather is subsumed by it. Craig’s theistic cosmology aims to go beyond physical cosmology and tell us why there is a universe at all. So, the fact that Craig does not present his hypothesis as an alternative to physical cosmology, but intends to provide a deeper context for it, does not disqualify it as “quasi-scientific.”
However, since nothing much really turns on it, let’s concede the point for the sake of argument and say that Craig’s hypothesis is a “metaphysical” hypothesis rather than a “scientific” or “quasi-scientific” one. The real problem identified by Crane is that religious belief is identified as any kind of hypothesis. Crane implies and Hick argues that the reasoning underlying religious belief is interpretive rather than hypothetical. That is, the reasoning supporting a religious worldview is more like understanding a text than confirming a hypothesis. We do not understand a text by confirming piecemeal hypotheses about its meaning. Rather, we seek a reading that will give us the most coherent understanding of the text as a whole. Likewise, for religious people, their faith is what, for them, makes the most coherent and comprehensive sense of their total experience. Nothing compels such a judgment; it is inevitably personal and subjective, but not unreasonable. Similarly for atheists. Nothing compelled me to become an atheist. Rather, a naturalistic worldview is the honest and authentic articulation of my total experience and knowledge.
Craig objects that if Crane is right, then he, Swinburne, Steve Meyer, William Dembski and other defenders of religious hypotheses must misunderstand religion, which he regards as implausible.
Craig does not reply to Hick’s view directly, but chiefly expresses surprise that I have supposedly so softened my view of theism that I am now willing to endorse Hick’s view that religious belief can be as rational as naturalism. (n.b., Actually, I have always regarded some religious belief as rational and some definitely not.) What, then, do I have against the apologetic enterprise that he represents? Why do I harshly characterize it as an attempt to “bludgeon” opponents into submission? After all, he is only trying to show that his belief is rational and not to show that atheists are irrational. Why do I persist in seeing the apologetic enterprise as coercive, i.e. as an effort to show not just that their belief is justified, but that mine is not? That is not his aim at all.
I honestly do not know what to make of Craig’s claim here. Does he regard his Kalaam argument as a refutation of atheism? I cannot read his presentation and defense of that argument in any other way. In this case, the argument is not a modest claim about what he is justified in believing, but the much stronger and more aggressive claim that atheism is demonstrably false and groundless. In other words, he seems to be arguing that he is right and that atheists are dead wrong. Atheists, of course, have often argued that they are right and that Craig is wrong. The debate between apologists and atheists therefore does appear to have an oppositional and aggressive character; it is not about what one may believe but what others must believe. However, if I have been misreading Craig all these years, and his aim all along has only been to affirm the rationality of his view and not to debunk mine, then I would suggest that Hick’s position provides a much better basis for such a softer and gentler apologetic.
Finally, Craig invites listeners to look at my debate with him on the existence of God to see if I did indeed effectively criticize his theistic arguments. I also would like to extend that invitation. (I think that Craig is referring to our debate at Indiana University in February 2002, not the earlier one at Prestonwood Baptist Church.).

bookmark_borderOpen Thread: What Does the “One Less God” Quote Mean?

A quotation attributed to Stephen Roberts goes like this:

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

I’ve seen this quote floating around the Internet for at least 20 years but I don’t remember reading anything by a professional philosopher specifically about it. One immediate question I have about this is how to interpret it. At the risk of “poisoning the well,” I’m going to mention some different ways this quote might be interpreted before turning it over to the audience to understand what other people think it means.
Interpretation #1: The “Lack of Evidence” Interpretation
According to this interpretation, theists dismiss all the other possible gods (such as Zeus, Thor, and so forth) because there is no evidence for the existence of such deities. Likewise, if Roberts defines “atheist” as a person who lacks belief in the existence of God or gods, then Roberts can be interpreted as saying that atheists are atheists because there is no evidence for the existence of any god, including the God (capital ‘G’) of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Interpretation #2: The “Evidence Against” Interpretation
According to this interpretation, theists dismiss the existence of gods (lowercase ‘g’) because there is evidence for their nonexistence. Likewise, according to this interpretation of Roberts, atheists are atheists because there is evidence for the nonexistence of God (capital ‘G’).
Interpretation #3: The “Plea for Epistemic Consistency” Interpretation
According to this interpretation, Roberts is simply expressing a plea for epistemic consistency. He’s asking theists to evaluate their belief in God using the same standards they apply to all of the lesser deities (gods with a lowercase ‘g’) which they do not believe in.
I don’t claim those three interpretations are the only ones possible; I’ve described them just as a way to get the conversation going. And note that, as I have defined them, they aren’t even mutually exclusive: 3 is compatible with both 1 and 2. With that said, I am most interested in understanding what everyone else thinks, including both theists and nontheists. One request: if you do decide to comment, please indicate in your comment how you self-identify (atheist, agnostic, mere theist, Christian, Jew, pantheist, etc.).

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 2: “Witnesses”

In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) the first three objections that Peter Kreeft raises against the Hallucination Theory are all about “witnesses”:

Objection #1:  There were too many witnesses(HCA, p.186, emphasis added)

Objection #2: The witnesses were qualified. (HCA, p. 187, emphasis added)

Objection #3: The five hundred [eyewitnesses] saw Christ together at the same time and place. (HCA, p.187 emphasis added)

Before we examine these three objections, I think it would be helpful to do something that Kreeft FAILED TO DO: get a clear idea of the meanings of the key terms “witnesses” and “eyewitnesses”.

Heinrich Buscher as a witness during the Nuremberg Trials.

Here is how my American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) defines “witness”:

1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
2. Something that serves as evidence; a sign.
3. Law a. One who is called on to testify before a court.
3b. One who is called on to attest to what takes place at a transaction.
3c. One who signs one’s name to a document to attest to its authenticity.
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.
5a. One who publically affirms religious faith.
5b. Witness A member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The first couple of definitions appear to be relevant, so I will keep those in mind.
Kreeft is clearly talking about people, so definition 2 (about “Something”) does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people who “testify before a court”.   However, people can “testify” in other less-formal circumstances too (e.g. to a police officer or detective who is investigating a crime, or to a group of people engaged in an inquiry that is not part of a legal or courtroom process.)  So, I will keep definition 3a for now, with the understanding that it could be stretched beyond a legal or courtroom setting.
The appearances of a risen Jesus are not “transactions”, so definition 3b does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people signing any documents, so definition 3c does not apply here.
Although “attestation” is not a person, it is something that people do, and such attestation seems relevant to what Kreeft is talking about here, so I will keep definition 4 in play.
Although a Christian believer who publically affirmed the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” would constitute a “witness” according to definition 5a, such a “witness” would provide no help to Kreeft’s case for the resurrection or against the Hallucination Theory UNLESS that person could also provide an account of having personally SEEN a risen Jesus.  So, simply affirming the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” does not count as the sort of “witness” that Kreeft is talking about in these first three objections.  Definition 5a does not apply here.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a modern religious phenomenon, and so definition 5b has nothing to do with the “witnesses” that Kreeft is talking about, who are all people who (allegedly) lived in the first century C.E.  We can toss aside definition 5b.
Here are the remaining definitions of “witness” that might help us clarify what Kreeft means by the term “witnesses”:

1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
3a. One who is called on to testify before a court [or to a person or group who is investigating something].
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.

There is an interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  “One who can” give a firsthand account of X might, nevertheless, NOT give a firsthand account of X, just as “One who can” beat his elderly mother to death might NOT want to do so, and thus might well NOT beat his elderly mother to death.  The fact that person A can do X does not imply that person A has done X, nor does it imply that person A will do X.  Thus, someone who is a “witness” in accordance with definition 1a might not ever have given a firsthand account of the event in question.
Compare that definition with definition 1b.  One who “furnishes evidence” by giving an account of an event must necessarily give an account of the event.  So, if we are talking about someone “giving a firsthand account” of some event, then definition 1a includes people who CAN do this (including people who DO NOT actually do so), while definition 1b only includes people who ACTUALLY give a firsthand account of the event.  So, there is a BIG difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  Because Kreeft never bothers to clarify the meaning of the term “witnesses”, he FAILS to make it clear which of these two sorts of “witnesses” he is talking about.
Both definition 3a and definition 4 make reference to “testimony”.  Definition 3a speaks of someone being called on “to testify”, and definition 4 speaks of an “attestation”, and puts the word “testimony” forward as a synonym.  Also note that definition 3a has the same hypothetical character as definition 1a: someone “who is called on to testify” might, nevertheless, decide NOT to testify, or they could die or become mentally incapacitated before they get the chance to testify.  The fact that person A has been “called on to testify” on matter X does not imply that person A has in fact testified on matter X, nor does it imply that person A will testify on matter X.  Being “called on to testify” about some event does NOT mean that the person in question has or will ever testify about the event.
Compare that with definition 4 which talks about an “attestation to a fact, statement, or event”.  If there is “attestation” to an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.  If there is “testimony” about an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.
Thus, the contrast between definition 1a and definition 1b is similar to the contrast between definition 3a and definition 4.  In both cases, the difference is between potentially giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”) and actually giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”).
There is another interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  While definition 1a talks about a kind of ACTIVITY (i.e. giving a firsthand account of something), definition 1b talks about a PURPOSE for that activity (i.e. furnishing evidence–by giving a firsthand account of something).  So, both definitions leave something outDefinition 1a leaves out a specification of the PURPOSE of giving a firsthand account of some event, and definition 1b leaves out a specification of the sort of ACTIVITY by which the purpose of furnishing evidence is accomplished.
One could give a firsthand account of an event for the PURPOSE of entertaining people.  People like to tell stories about events they have personally experienced.  When one tells such a story, one is giving a firsthand account of the event, but the PURPOSE of giving that account is NOT to furnish evidence to the audience who is listening to that account.  But entertaining people with a story about an event that one personally experienced does NOT make one into a “witness”.  To be a witness, one must have a particular PURPOSE for giving a firsthand account, namely: furnishing evidence.  I, therefore, recommend that these two elements be combined to provide a fuller definition of “witness”:

6. One who furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something. 

But we must still keep in mind the important distinction between someone POTENTIALLY doing this, and someone ACTUALLY doing this, so I will divide my proposed definition into two alternative definitions:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

There is a third important distinction that is suggested by the definition 1a.  The phrase “a firsthand account” suggests that there could also be “a secondhand account” or a “thirdhand account” of an event.  In our legal system, there are significant constraints on “hearsay” testimony.  A person who is called on “to testify before a court” is usually a person who is believed to have been present during a relevant event and who observed or experienced that event.  Such a “witness” can furnish evidence by giving a “firsthand account” of that event.  But there are exceptions to this general rule, so in some instances, a “witness” can be called upon to provide “hearsay” testimony, an account of what someone else said about an event:

Hearsay evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from a witness under oath who is reciting an out-of-court statement, content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evidence is inadmissible (the “hearsay evidence rule”) unless an exception to the hearsay rule applies.

For example, to prove that Tom was in town, a witness testifies, “Susan told me that Tom was in town.” Since the witness’s evidence relies on an out-of-court statement that Susan made, if Susan is unavailable for cross-examination, the answer is hearsay. A justification for the objection is that the person who made the statement is not in court and thus is insulated from cross-examination.  (from the article Hearsay in Wikipedia)

Although there may be some exceptions to the general rejection of hearsay evidence from a witness, hearsay evidence is a weak and substandard sort of evidence.  There can be a “witness” who furnishes evidence by giving a SECONDHAND account of something; however, such witnesses will not help Kreeft make his case for the resurrection of Jesus, because in order to show that a miracle has occurred, one needs to provide strong and solid evidence, and a witness who gives only a SECONDHAND or THIRDHAND account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus will not be furnishing the strong and solid kind of evidence that is required to prove a miracle.  Although the term “witness” can in some cases be applied to a person who gives a SECONHAND account of an event, this use of the term “witness” does not apply to Kreeft’s attempt to prove the resurrection of Jesus.  Therefore, we can use definition 6a and definition 6b as potential interpretations of Kreeft’s use of the term “witness” even though those definitions exclude people who give only a SECONDHAND account of an event.
What about definition 3a and definition 4?  Both of those definitions focus on testimony.   Definition 3a talks about testifying “before a court”, but I pointed out that less formal and even non-legal situations can involve a “witness” who “testifies” about his or her experience of an event.  So, being a “witness” in a court trial is a paradigm case of a “witness” who “testifies” about an event, but these words are used beyond that particular sort of situation.  Definition 4 is very close to definition 3a, but definition 3a talks about “One” who is called to testify, whereas definition 4 talks about “testimony” which is basically the content or information provided by a “witness” who “testifies” either in a courtroom or in a more informal setting.  Because the term “witness” as used by Kreeft refers primarily to PEOPLE, definition 3a is better than definition 4 for interpreting what Kreeft means, and since definition 3a captures the idea of “testimony” in terms of the action “to testify”, it is reasonable to set definition 4 aside.
I think we may also set aside definition 3a, because the action “to testify” is already captured in my proposed definitions.  To “furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something” is “to testify”.  So, definition 3a is redundant in relation to definition 6a and definition 6b.  So, it seems to me that we have two clear and useful definitions of “witness” that are sufficient to help us clarify the key concept of “witness” in Kreeft’s first three objections:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

According to my American Heritage Dictionary, an “eyewitness” is:

A person who has seen someone or something and can bear witness to the fact.

This seems a bit too narrow.  A blind person, for example, can be an “eyewitness”, even though a blind person cannot SEE someone or SEE something.  A blind person can HEAR someone or HEAR something, and can “bear witness to the fact” about what he or she heard.  Although seeing someone or something might provide more detailed information than hearing that someone or hearing that something, sometimes the words a person says or the sounds a person makes on a particular occasion are very important information for a criminal trial, and a blind person can have firsthand knowledge or information about such sounds.
The point here is that seeing someone or something is a kind of firsthand experience that provides a good amount of detailed information about that person or thing at the time when they were being seen.  But there are other senses besides vision that can provide firsthand experiences of people, things, and events.  So, I suggest revising this definition to make it a bit broader:

A person who has on a particular occasion seen, or had some firsthand sensory experience of, someone or something and can bear witness to what he or she experienced on that occasion.

Given that this is a clear and accurate definition of the term “eyewitness”,  the term “eyewitness” means basically the same as “witness” in the senses that I have defined above.   Remember, definition 6a and definition 6b both require that a “witness” give (or be able to give) a “firsthand account of something”, so in order to be a “witness” in the senses I have defined, one MUST be an “eyewitness”, one MUST be able to give a “firsthand account” of something.
As we examine Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory, it will probably be useful to keep in mind the following two alternative definitions of the term “witness”:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

bookmark_borderCraig’s Dismissive Attitude Towards Arguments from Evil

On Twitter, user @BissetteHunter tweeted this fifteen second video clip of William Lane Craig discussing arguments from evil:

In the case the link doesn’t work, here is the transcript:

“Therefore, this problem of evil, I think, though emotionally powerful–I grant it is emotionally powerful–philosophically it is very difficult to  run any kind of successful argument against God based on the evil and suffering in the world.

Commenting on this clip, user @ChristourLord1 tweeted the following:

There are several points I want to make regarding the statements from both Craig and @ChristourLord1.
(1) Craig’s statement is pure bluster. Consider: what does it mean for an argument–any argument–to be successful?
(a) Coerciveness. Well, one standard might be coerciveness. One might say that an argument is coercive if anyone who understands the argument believes the conclusion to be true. While a coercive argument would indeed seem to qualify as a “successful” argument, the standard of coercion seems much too high; we need a more modest standard.
(b) Soundness. Another standard might be soundness. A deductive argument is valid if the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises; a sound argument is a valid argument in which all of the premises are true. While soundness might be sufficient to render an argument “successful,” it is hardly necessary. There are many inductive argument patterns regarded as successful, but which are invalid. So soundness cannot be the only way for an argument to achieve “success.”
(c) Strength. Another standard might be strength. An inductive argument is strong if the premises are true and the premises make it probable (but not certain) that the conclusion is true. Inductively strong arguments are successful.
I don’t claim the above three standards constitute an exhaustive list; there may very well be other standards of argument “success” besides those I’ve listed here. But even if that is the case, it would still be true that soundness is a sufficient condition for a successful deductive argument and strength is a sufficient condition for a successful inductive argument.
But are any arguments from evil or suffering successful in either sense?
Consider Paul Draper’s evidential argument from pain and pleasure.
(1) E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
(2) T is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(|T|) is not much greater than Pr(|N|).
(3) E is much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true, i.e., Pr(EN & B) >> Pr(E | T & B).
(4) Other evidence held equal, T is probably false, i.e., Pr(T | B & E) < 0.5.
Although classified as an “evidential” argument (for reasons which are not important here), Draper’s argument is a deductive argument and thus should be assessed using the soundness standard described above. So… is Draper’s argument sound? It is clearly valid: (4) follows from (1), (2), and (3) based on the pattern of probability relations specified by Bayes’s theorem. And, contrary to Craig’s attempts to suggest otherwise, the premises are true. It follows that Draper’s argument is sound, which, in turn, entails that it is a “successful” argument in that sense.
(2) References to ‘the problem of evil’ obscure the fact that there is a robust family of arguments against theism based on known facts about evil, suffering, and imperfection. In my experience, when theistic apologists refer to ‘the problem of evil,’ they almost always proceed to divide the problem into (at least) two types: the so-called “emotional” or “pastoral” problem of evil and the “intellectual problem of evil,” which is a kind of umbrella category for all philosophical arguments against theism based on evil and suffering. @ChristourLord1, however, takes this tendency to the next level. He denies that there is an intellectual problem of evil at all. He accomplishes this amazing philosophical feat–why didn’t any theistic philosopher in the last 4000 years think of it?–by collapsing ‘the intellectual problem of evil’ into ‘the emotional problem of evil.’ Here, again, is the tweet:

What @ChristourLord1 claims is not only nonsense, but dismissive nonsense. It is one thing to claim, as Craig incorrectly does, that there is no successful argument from evil and suffering against God. It is entirely another thing to claim, as @ChristourLord1 does, that there are no “intellectual” arguments from evil and suffering against God. In order to get the point across to ignorant theists like @ChristourLord1, I am half-tempted to propose that atheists stop dignifying theistic arguments as “arguments” and instead refer to them as “problems” and specifically as “emotional problems.” For example: instead of the “moral argument,” we have the “emotional problem of morality without God.” We then declare, by fiat, that there is no intellectual problem of morality without God, only an emotional problem, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.
When theists understand why that is is a ludicrous reason to dismiss moral arguments for theism, they will understand why it is equally ludicrous to dismiss arguments against theism from evil, suffering, and imperfection as mere “emotional problems.”

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 1: Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection

I recently examined Josh McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF), and I showed that each one of the seven objections that McDowell raised against this skeptical theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
The Hallucination Theory is the view that one or more of the disciples of Jesus had a hallucination (or dream or some sort of false or distorted experience) that seemed to be an experience of a physical living Jesus, an experience that took place sometime after Jesus had died on the cross.  This theory also asserts that this experience had by one or more disciples led to the mistaken but sincere conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to the preaching of this belief by some of Jesus’ disciples in the first century, not long after Jesus was crucified.
In the most recent version of his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017, co-authored with his son Sean; hereafter: EDV), McDowell appears to largely abandon his previous case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points us to Peter Kreeft’s case against this theory (see EDV pages 291-292).
However, Kreeft’s case in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994; hereafter: HCA) has thirteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, many of which seem very similar to McDowell’s seven objections in The Resurrection Factor.  Since the first publication of TRF was in 1981 and HCA was published in 1994, it seems likely that McDowell’s objections in TRF strongly influenced Kreeft’s objections in HCA.  McDowell also presented a similar list of six objections against the Hallucination Theory in an early version of EDV, which was published in 1979 (see EDV pages 247-255).  Since Kreeft appears to have borrowed heavily from McDowell on this subject, Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory is probably not much different than McDowell’s case against it.
The logic of Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is given in Chapter 8 of HCA.

Dr. Peter Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Hallucination Theory is one of those theories:

In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), Peter Kreeft attempts to disprove the Hallucination Theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead:

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are only five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.


Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected.


If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

(HCA, p.182)

If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it, then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
Because Kreeft’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are very similar to the objections raised by McDowell, I strongly suspect that all thirteen of these objections will FAIL, just like all seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAILED.  But Kreeft’s objections are not identical to the seven objections raised by McDowell, and McDowell apparently believes that Kreeft has done a better job of making a case against the Hallucination Theory than he had previously done, so perhaps some of Kreeft’s objections are strong and solid, in spite of their being inspired by McDowell’s pathetic objections.
It is not merely the fact that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory seems to be based largely on McDowell’s FAILED case against that skeptical theory that leads me to believe Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL.  I suspect that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL, because Kreeft’s case against the Swoon Theory FAILED completely and because Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory FAILED completely.   Kreeft has already demonstrated that he has no intellectual ability to distinguish between a strong and solid objection to a theory and a weak and faulty objection and that he is capable of presenting collections of several objections all of which are weak or illogical or dubious.
Furthermore, a brief glance at Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory reveals that it suffers from the same basic problems as McDowell’s case. First, it is ridiculously short.  Kreeft presents his thirteen objections in less than two (full) pages of text (see HCA, p.186-188).  This results in two major intellectual problems:

(1) empirical claims about the nature of hallucinations are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate scientific evidence and scientific reasoning, and

(2) historical claims about Jesus and his disciples are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate historical evidence and historical reasoning

McDowell and Kreeft both generally make many factual claims and assumptions, and they almost never back them up with appropriate evidence and reasoning, even when those claims are crucial to their case.
Kreeft actually presents fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory (although his own numbering of the objections ends at Objection #13).  I have divided those objections into five groups, based on key problems or aspects of the objections:

I. The “Witnesses” Objections (Objection #1, #2, and #3)

II.  The Equivocation Objections  (Objection #4 and #5)

III. The Dubious-Hallucination-Principles Objections (Objection #6, #8, #9, and #10)

IV. The Self-Defeating Objections (Objection #7 and #14)

V. The Empty-Tomb Objections (Objection #11, #12, and #13)

Having examined these fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, I am now convinced that they all FAIL to refute that skeptical theory, and that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  For the remaining posts in this series I will work my way through the five groups of objections, and will argue that each of the fourteen objections FAILS.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 13: False Claims and Assumptions in Leviticus

One important reason for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is that this book contains several FALSE claims and assumptions.  I have already argued that Leviticus contains FALSE historical claims and assumptions and that it also contains logical contradictions, so I have already shown that Leviticus contains FALSE claims and assumptions:

  • In Part 8 of this series, I presented some general points in support of my fourth reason for doubting the inspiration and authority of the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

  • In Part 9 of this series, I presented a number of examples of contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to provide additional evidence in support of this fourth reason.  There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah.  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.  If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for the moral condemnation of homosexual sex.
  • In Part 10 of this series, I gave examples of internal contradictions in the book of Leviticus, which shows that half of those claims or assumptions are FALSE.

The book of Genesis contains several scientific errors.  It is a book that discusses the origins of the universe, the sun and the moon, the planet Earth, plant and animal life on Earth, human life, and the origin of human languages, the origin of death, and the origin of rainbows.  This is all bullshit invented by ignorant pre-scientific goat herders a few thousand years ago.  But Leviticus does not discuss the origins of anything (except the origin of the nation of Israel, and what it says about that are FALSE historical claims).
Leviticus is primarily a book of laws, rules, commands, and instructions for the performance of various religious rituals.  So, there is not much in the way of scientific claims or assumptions in the book of Leviticus. Nevertheless, in addition to making FALSE historical claims and assumptions, and in addition to asserting some logical contradictions, the book of Leviticus does contain a few scientific errors in Chapter 11, and these scientific errors provide further evidence that Leviticus was NOT inspired by an all-knowing and perfectly truthful deity:
1. Rock Badgers Chew The Cud (FALSE).

5 The rock badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:5, NRSV)

2. Hares Chew The Cud (FALSE).

6 The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:6, NRSV)

“chews the cud” means that the animal regurgitates food from its stomach back into its mouth and then chews on that food some more before swallowing it again. See this post: “On Rabbits and Rumination – A Response to Christian Interpretations of Leviticus 11:5-6“. Rock badgers and hares do NOT regurgitate food from their stomachs and then chew on that food some more before swallowing it again.

Young Hare, a watercolour, 1502, by Albrecht Dürer

3. Bats are Birds (FALSE).

13 These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey,  14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind;  15 every raven of any kind;  16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind;  17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  18 the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture,  19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:13-19, NRSV)

An all-knowing deity would know that bats are mammals and that birds are NOT mammals, and thus would know that bats are NOT birds.
4. Some Insects have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

20 All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:20 & 23, NRSV)

5. Locusts, Crickets, and Grasshoppers have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

21 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.  (Leviticus 11:21-23, NRSV)

Insects, including locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers have three pairs of legs.

My Reason #7 for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is this:

7. Leviticus contains false information.

I have shown that Leviticus makes FALSE historical claims or assumptions and that it contains some logical contradictions (implying that half of those claims are FALSE), and that it also contains a few scientific errors or FALSE scientific claims or assumptions.  Therefore, we have good reason to believe that Reason #7 is TRUE and that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.