Friday, January 8, 2010

Shelly Kagan Debates WL Craig

It seems to me that the days of William Lane Craig having such an easy time of it debating non-theists may be over. In the past it seemed that the people he debated were so frequently just not prepared. To some degree it's sort of understandable. One would expect Craig to have a lot of success. Debating is his full time job and he's been doing it for years. His opponents will never be able to match his preparation and experience.

On top of a natural disadvantage I think in some cases his opponents may not have known enough about him to debate him well. I'm thinking of maybe John Dominic Crossan or Peter Atkins.

These days though one debate after the other we're seeing quite good performances from the non-theist side. I thought Bart Ehrman was good. Robert Price was good, but not great. Richard Carrier was good. You might give Craig the edge in these, but it's not a blow out.

In addition to these closer debates I think Craig is losing debates with greater frequency. There was Eddie Tabash. There was Paul Draper. And now Shelly Kagan. Another superb performance from the skeptic. You can listen to it here.

The topic is whether God is necessary for morality. Kagan gets in a few virtually unanswered slams. Craig argues that if there is no meaning in the cosmic sense, with the impending heat death of the universe, then there is no meaning in any sense. Kelly pounces on this point and drills home that he needs to justify this leap, which he never does. On the question of the treatment of animals Craig attempts to argue that Christian ethics is a firm basis for humane treatment of animals, to which Kagan replies something to the effect of "Apparently your treatment of animals does not preclude you from eating them or wearing them as clothing then?" There's no come back for that.


Anonymous said...

I have not listened to the debate.

"The topic is whether God is necessary for morality."

I take morality to mean about what one ought to do.

I take "meaning" in this context to be analogous to purpose.

There seems to be a equivocation of morality and meaning. I agree there can be a loose relationship between these two things but one doesn't seem necessarily contingent on the other. Maybe I am wrong.

On the following

"Craig argues that if there is no meaning in the cosmic sense, with the impending heat death of the universe, then there is no meaning in any sense."

The conclusion is a non-sequitur. But beyond that even it it were a reasonable conclusion is this suppose to somehow refute the claim that god is not required for morality? Seems like a non-starter. The absence of meaning is not the absence of morality.


Jon said...

I think what Craig would say is that if the world is meaningless than in the end saying torturing babies for fun is in no meaningful way different from helping the poor. This then renders morality a meaningless concept absent God.

Anonymous said...

Jon -

I think that cosmically there is no meaning - from a human point of view. Or rather better put I think that from a "cosmic sense" we have no more purpose than that of space dust. I hold that any meaning/purpose that exist are a consequence of our desires.

Anyway back on point.

Torturing a baby involves an act of intentionally causing harm and suffering. That is significantly different from helping (or not) the poor.

I think I can make such a statement w/o invoking purpose or meaning whatsoever.


Steven Carr said...

So what is meaningful from God's point of view about the Eagles playing the Cowboys?

As God can't care less who wins the games, why do the Earthlings even bother turning up and throwing a ball around?

DagoodS said...

Thanks for the tip. Interesting debate.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if a transcript of this debate exists and where I could find it?