Friday, April 17, 2009

Is God Necessary for Morality? William Lane Craig Debates Shelly Kagan MP3 Audio

"Can we really be good apart from God?” Yale philosopher Dr. Shelly Kagan defends the idea of morality without God in a debate with Dr. William Lane Craig, who questions the common assumption that the existence of God is not necessary for morality. Q&A session with the audience follows the debate.

Full MP3 Audio here.

Original media at Veritas.org.

WL Craig also debated Louise Antony on this topic here.

Enjoy.

20 comments :

Leslie said...

I don't get why it's so hard to understand that the ultimate trumps the temporary. It seems to me that Shelly basically admits that ultimately nothing matters, but suggests that we should just ignore it because it matters to us in the here and now. That just doesn't work, because the ultimate still breaks through that type pretense.

It's interesting to me that he keeps appealing to rationality. Firstly, because as a naturalist he has absolutely no reason to trust his rationality. But secondly, because it seems to me on a rational level, if ultimately nothing matters, than my emotions are irrelevant. Sure, I might feel like it's significant to help someone, but coming back to a purely rational thought process, I recognize that it's not actually significant. If you want to talk about acting rational under a naturalistic worldview, then you are left with the cloud of meaninglessness hanging over every single action.

I don't feel like Dr. Craig really did that well in this debate, but Shelly is still wrong.

Lee said...

Excellent, another WLC debate – can’t get enough of them.

To answer the question “Is God Necessary for Morality?”

First we need a definition of morality that can be agreed on – without that, the debate could be going around in circles with people talking about different things.

I have a feeling that WLC be arguing that we need an absolute reference point for our morals and this reference point in God.

So, how WLC defines his morality, he is right... the only problem is the lack of evidence for any such morality in the real world.

How I define morality is along the lines of a “standards of conduct that are generally accepted as right or proper”. They are fluid yes, they can change a little bit – however some have been ‘set’ by billion of years of evolution and so are seen/felt/known by most. Those that do not know them are to be found in hospitals where they are well looked after.

So I am tipping WLC will assert this absolute standard, without evidence just special pleading – Shelly will no doubt show how morals can be agreed upon to live a better life.

Lee

Lee said...

Hi Leslie,

I don't get why it's so hard to understand that the ultimate trumps the temporary.If the ‘ultimate’ can be shown :-)

This is why it is hard to understand - it hasn't not been shown, only wished for.

It seems to me that Shelly basically admits that ultimately nothing matters, but suggests that we should just ignore it because it matters to us in the here and now.Yes – ultimately the Sun is going to be a red giant and engulf the Earth before becoming a white dwarf. Life in this solar system is doomed.

However that is billions of years away and I very much doubt you or I worry about what will be happening to the Earth in a 1,000 years time.

I live for the moment and the future of my children... hopefully grandchildren, maybe great-grandchildren.

After that, I’ve done my personal bit and can die a happy man IF I left this Earth a little better than how I came into it.

I don’t understand what is wrong with that?

That just doesn't work, because the ultimate still breaks through that type pretense.Ah, so are you saying that if I don’t believe in a supernatural being my life is meaningless?

If I don’t believe that I am, ultimately, immortal and will live in heaven (or Hell) forever and a day THIS life on Earth is meaningless?

Such a model doesn’t work for me... it is as if someone is saying that my ‘3 score years and 10’ (if I be so lucky) on this planet is meaningless since what is 70 years compared to infinity?

So tell me Leslie – what is the point of our life on Earth in your view?

I would like to known since it seems you are passing on all the responsibility and reason onto something/someone else and I don’t understand that.

Lee

Dante said...

What a coincidence. I've just been pondering about this question. If there is such a thing as objective moral laws, how can we come to a knowledge of them? How can we know that they truly exist?

ChristianJR4 said...

Professor Kagan did well I thought. I'm glad that he at least understood the issue at hand here, unlike previous opponents of Dr. Craig (ie. Paul Kurtz). He was also a good speaker, which is refreshing, since not many of them are (at least those of who Craig has debated).

As for Craig, I thought his opening speech was perfect and spot on and great delivery, as is always with his presentations.

When it got to the cross-examination, I thought Craig could have done a little better with his responses. For example, Dr. Kagan claimed that rationality was a measure for morality and since humans have it, therefore we can have objective morality. I remember in Craig's debate with Louise Antony, she also made the same point. A very big problem with this kind of answer is that it totally can't explain what to do with the mentally challenged who lack, either mostly or completely, rationality. On this view, people in vegitative states, or born with such a severe mental condition that precluded any hope of normal human rationality could therefore be plausibly killed or done away with, as we commonly do with animals all the time. I don't see how he could possibly respond to that given his view. Dr. Kagan said later on that we should be vegitarians but if rationality is the measure of morality, then why are we obligated to be so? Or does he mean that since we possess the rationality that we ought to be moral to animals (and not the other way around). But if that's the case then we have to go all out on this. We not only couldn't eat meat, but we couldn't use them for other gains such as forcing them to work for us (as that could be seen as immoral). We even couldn't kill mosquitoes or other insects, if we take this philosophy seriously and be consistent with it. I don't think that's what Kagan would affirm, but if he doesn't then it must be the other view which has the problems I already pointed out with it. All in all good debate, I just wish Craig brought up these points, because they would really show an obvious hole in his position.

Matthew said...

Craig's opening statement was flawless, but Kagan was also a good speaker. I was disappointed that during the cross-examination, Craig didn't say that much, most of the time it was Kagan who talked.

I have problems understanding the rationality-argument.

Kagan seemed to argue that what is moral is what is rational. This came close to a tautology.

apologetics-wiki.com said...

I thought for once that Craig didn't win hands down. This debate was at least much more even, with both sides understanding the other's position and making genuine points.

Kagan did a good job. I thought the problems that I would have with his position were touched on but not examined: How you can have that morality without free will. Or why the cost function was what he said it was. For example, who is to say - like the Nazis did - that future generations don't count, and so it would be "moral" to kill off weaker people of the species. Choosing a particular cost function is still arbitrary and who is to say that one cost function is 'better' than another? What standard do you base that 'better' on?

In any case, I don't have a particular problem with either of these men, and I feel that both of their views fits better into an theistic framework than an atheistic one.

dvd said...

I would call this one a draw or close to one.

Michael Head said...

I can't think of the last time I saw William Lane Craig at a loss for words.

bossmanham said...

The reason Craig wasn't as "on fire" in this debate as in others is because the Veritas forum asked him to not push for a win, but to simply have a discussion about the issue to encourage discussion, which I think is silly. Craig addresses it here.

Anonymous said...

No one here seems to have any clue.

> I don't get why it's so hard to understand that the ultimate trumps the temporary.

How about I put it this way. Say you're a naturalist and I held a gun to your head and robbed you of your wallet. Are you telling me that as a naturalist you would not find this TEMPORARY predicament undesireable because you realise that in the end ULTIMATELY you will die and end up as star dust?

> as a naturalist he has absolutely no reason to trust his rationality

Are you saying that rational thought is not a product of nature? Are you saying that rational thought has no value? Are you saying that all of humanity's greatest achievements (medicine, technology...) could have been obtained by a process other than rational thought? How can anyone NOT rely on rational thought when dealing with the world? Indeed it's the only thing proven to be trustworthy and for obvious reasons.

> First we need a definition of morality that can be agreed on

If you are a being capable of perceiving the consequences of your actions on the suffering of others then you immediately are bound by the concept of morality whether you like it or not. If I took 100 Nazis and 100 jews, gave them temporary amnesia such that they had no knowledge of whether they were either, and asked them if it was ok for Nazis to kill Jews what would they all say? Even if everyone on earth was a Nazi the answer would still be the same. So you see there is nothing to agree on. Everyone on this planet already agrees that they themselves don't like to suffer.

Furthermore, commandments are not morals, whether they are endorsed by an unproven universal creator or not. If such a creator would say it was your duty to kill heretics then it still would not be considered moral to do so. What would happen here is that the creator's wish would be classified as IMMORAL. Notice the true independence between the concept of morality and the creator's wishes. Even if I submitted the creator to the above experiment you can guess what his/her answer would be.

Craig states that humans would be more likely to follow commandments instructing us not to harm others because of inherent psychological penalties for transgression. This may or may not be true. Regardless, he argues erroneously that therefore the existence of such commandments is more likely to be true. But then this could apply to any religion. Why Christianity? Well it's supposedly because Christianity's commandments are more likely to be in harmony with innate human empathy - say compared with Islam. Hey you can't have it both ways!

Anonymous said...

> A very big problem with this kind of answer ... people in vegitative states ... could therefore be plausibly killed or done away with, as we commonly do with animals all the time.

You need to explain yourself. One thing does not follow the other.

>We even couldn't kill mosquitoes or other insects, if we take this philosophy seriously...

There is a rational limit to one's empathy. If an animal/insect is a threat to the well being of a human than there is nothing immoral about the human acting in a manner that protects him/herself.

> Kagan seemed to argue that what is moral is what is rational. This came close to a tautology.

Morals don't come from books; they come from the minds of rational human beings when thinking about the real world.

> I thought for once that Craig didn't win hands down.

You could tell from Craig's face that he bit off more than he could chew by taking on Kagan. There is nothing particularly scholarly or scientific about Craig's ideas. It would be like me trying to argue rationally from the foundation of my irrational belief in the tooth fairy. Do you think Craig will be up for a no-holes barred re-match? I don't think so. Notice how silent the Veritas audience went, after clapping for Craig, when Kagan non-chalantly shot down Craig's argument with a lovely explanation that no sane/rational mind in the room could refute.

People of all religions need to pull their heads out of the sand and divorce themselves from bankrupt prehistoric concepts like faith. They need to realise that hope, love, kindness, and charity are human attributes that continue to exist even outside the framework of dogma.

Russell said...

"People of all religions need to pull their heads out of the sand and divorce themselves from bankrupt prehistoric concepts like faith. They need to realise that hope, love, kindness, and charity are human attributes that continue to exist even outside the framework of dogma."

This is such a ridiculous statement. What is all this hope, love, kindness, and charity grounded in? You can't just say that these things exist and are objectively true without basing them in anything.

Anonymous said...

Russell, go watch the video.

Mike F. said...

@ChristianJR4 "On this view, people in vegitative states, or born with such a severe mental condition that precluded any hope of normal human rationality could therefore be plausibly killed or done away with, as we commonly do with animals all the time."

This is complete nonsense. Saying rational beings are obligated to act morally is in no way equivalent to saying those who can't think rationally can be done away with. How did you get the latter from the former? If anything, Kagan makes a point that we should treat animals with compassion because as rational creatures we can understand they are harmed and caused to suffer by our actions. Kagan is saying we can identify reasons not to harm so we shouldn't. The end of this line of reasoning in no way concludes that those who can't identify the reasons should themselves be harmed.

Drew said...

What does "basing them in anything" even mean when talking about hope and charity? Either you value the life of a fellow human being or not. If you do not, having a God around to yell at you isn't going to make you actually value other people. And of you do, how was God required, regardless of how ultimate or morally superior the God might be?

Russell said...

Drew,

What difference does it make if you value the life of a fellow human being if there is no God? If morality is just a result of evolution and society then why should anyone feel obligated to adhere? If the goal is to propagate DNA then why follow some moral code that just gets in the way?

Brad said...

Other than Mike F and anonymous, everyone in these forums would recieve D's (maybe even F's)if these arguments were collegiately graded.
They are filled with very poorly thought out inferences (Completely non-sequiturian).
When it comes to many theists, there's a sort of arrogance they give off that makes them believe that fallicous modes of argumentation is a virtuous thing, so long as it proves their point that God exists. Taking another person's argument out of context and butchering it beyond recognition doesn't make your beliefs a true assertion. The fact is, believing in God is simply a statement of belief. Many philosophers debate over why such a conclusion might be drawn, what it presupposes, how it effects society and the minds of the individuals who believe in it,the intentsions for believing it etc etc, but there is nothing about the belief of it in itself that can be proven. In other words, it's like saying, "I believe that astrology exists and is true." Well, whether or not astrology exists and it's claims are true has nothing to do with the fact that it is true that you believe it's true. Beliefs are not arguments, for it can only be true that you have that belief or that you don't. But to take it a step further and claim that your belief (or that which you claim to believe) is saying something true about the state of the things in the world, that God really does exist out there, then you've begun moving past the simple conclusion that God exists to an argument which is the idea that something, in fact, proves that God does exist and that He's truly out there. And for this, you have to present evidence which finally brings me to my point. You can not just take assertions that demonstrate the utter falsity of your claim, reinterpret them as to commit them to fallacies of presumption, and then to go on to claim that's proof they're leaving out the key ingredient, that it forms the basis for everything, that God exists. That is a form of cheating, but it goes unrecognized since the ones committing to it believe it's for a "good cause." But ultimately, it's arrogant.

Alexander said...

". Firstly, because as a naturalist he has absolutely no reason to trust his rationality."

lulz

It's comments like this that make it hard for me to engage in these types of debates.

lordgriggs2 said...

" Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.' Inquiring Lynn
That is the real ultimate instead of pie in the sky!
WLC and Francisco Jose Ayala can whine all they want, but their sort of ultimate meaning lacks meaning!

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