Friday, February 11, 2011

Craig & Dennett on God's Existence

Craig, Dennett, & Alister McGrath
I just listened to the exchange between William Lane Craig and Daniel Dennett. Craig calls his presentation "In Defense of Theistic Arguments for the Existence of God." Those familiar with Bill's presentations will find little that is new here.

As for Dennett's response, I have these comments.

  • Dennett graciously called Bill's presentation a "stunning, virtuoso job" in presenting "dautingly difficult" issues.
  • He then added (to audience laughter) "Ironically, though, I think it proves my point."
  • Bill gave the statistically mind-boggling odds against philosophical naturalism being the best explanation for our fine-tuned universe (given multiverse theory). Dennett's response is: "Whatever the truth is, it is 'mind-boggling'. We know this in advance. The truth will be "jaw-droppingly improbable and counter-intuitive... So you can't use 'mind-bogglingness' as your litmus test."
  • My immediate response to this is: Bill is not simply using "mind-bogglingness" as a litmus test. For example, Penrose's example of the "100 sharpshooters" obviates this. That 100 sharpshooters missed you on the explanation that they randomly did so would be mind-boggling. But it would not be mind-boggling on the explanation that it was planned (designed) that they miss you. So I think Dennett does not understand the argument.
  • Dennett goes on to say, "Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the cosmological argument does favor the conclusion that the cause of the universe is a timeless, changeless, abstract, immaterial 'whatever.' At that point we have no idea what that might be, Maybe it's the idea of an apple? Maybe it's the square root of 7? But no, Craig says, because abstract things don't cause things. But who says that abstract things can't cause things? My favorite example of abstract things causing things is the principle of triangulation so that when you want to keep your house from going down you create a triangular structure to keep it up. It seems causal. This is an abstract principle of Euclidean geometry being invoked in a causal way."
  • Whether or not this is the kind of causality Bill is talking about is questionable. I am now guessing that Dennett equivocates on the term 'causality.'
  • Further, "the problem with a changeless God is that 'it' is changeless. Don't bother praying to it. Don't expect 'it,' in time, to hear your prayers and respond.
  • But here Bill has written much about God's relation to time as: without creation, God is timeless; in relation to creation God is temporal. It's complex. Go here to begin.