Monday, February 04, 2013

When a win is never a win

Jeffery Jay Lowder

Also, if Rosenberg has the kind of performance that is typical for WLC's ivory tower opponents--viz., an awful one--I predict that Christians will trumpet Craig's amazing victory as if it were some sort of substantive accomplishment, rather than a rhetorical victory.

The fact of the matter is that no atheist philosopher who specializes in the philosophy of religion advocates scientism, so the fact that an atheistic "scientism-ist" lost a debate on God's existence--assuming Rosenberg did lose--is about as interesting as a theistic young earth creationist losing a debate on evolution vs. creationism.

Just to be clear: I don't have any problem with WLC debating Rosenberg. It's just that Rosenberg's position is not representative of what atheist philosophers of religion argue.

It’s typical of atheists to lowball Craig’s debate performances.

i) In order to diminish Craig’s performance, Lowder must diminish Rosenberg. Yet Rosenberg is a well-credentialed philosopher.

Moreover, so what if Rosenberg is unrepresentative? To begin with, has Lowder actually read Rosenberg’s recent book? Would Lowder care to explain why Rosenberg’s understanding of atheism is seriously askew?

ii) In addition, Craig doesn’t just debate garden-variety philosophers. He also debates biologists (Ayala, Wolpert), physicists (Lawrence Krauss, Quentin Smith), chemists (Peter Atkins), cosmologists (Kari Enqvist), as well as philosophers of science (Parsons, Pigliucci).

Considering the fact that those are very technical, specialized fields, and Craig has no advanced degrees in the relevant fields, he’s going into those debates at a tremendous disadvantage. The fact that he can more than hold his own despite that handicap can’t be conveniently chalked up to his superior competence. When amateurs debate experts, and the experts lose, what does that tell you?



    1. Sorry, Jeff, but I don't see the point of your argument. In your analogy, you have an expert trouncing a non-specialist in the expert's area of specialization. Sure, that doesn't prove anything. That's what we'd expect. My example is just the opposite: Craig beating experts in fields outside his own area of specialization.

    2. My original comment was solely about Rosenberg, who is not a specialist in the philosophy of religion. I never said anything about his other debates with other experts in fields outside his own area of expertise. So your (ii) is irrelevant to what I wrote. As for your first point (i), your reply basically concedes my point: "an expert trouncing a non-specialist in the expert's area of specialization... doesn't prove anything. That's what we'd expect." Exactly!

    3. Craig and Rosenberg had a wide-ranging debate, so I don't concede your point that Craig was the expert while Rosenberg was the amateur. They covered many topics.

    4. According to Wintery Knight, Craig used eight (8) arguments for God's existence:

      (1) Contingency argument: God – a transcendent, personal being – is the explanation of why a contingent universe exists.
      (2) Cosmological argument: God is the cause of the beginning of the universe, which is attested by physics and cosmology.
      (3) Applicability of mathematics to nature: God is the best explanation for the applicability of mathematics to nature.
      (4) Fine-tuning argument: God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe to permit life.
      (5) Intentionality of conscious states: God is the best explanation of the intentionality of our mental states.
      (6) The moral argument: God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and duties.
      (7) The resurrection of Jesus: God is the best explanation for the core of historical facts accepted by most ancient historians across the ideological spectrum.
      (8) Religious experience: God is the best explanation of our immediate experience and knowledge of his existence.

      None of those arguments are within Rosenberg's area of specialization, whereas they are in Craig's area of specialization (as arguments within the philosophy of religion).

      WK says that Rosenberg only presented one or two arguments for God's nonexistence: one or two versions of the argument from evil. Again, the argument from evil is not within his area of specialization.

      So I don't understand why you deny that "Craig was the expert while Rosenberg was the amateur" (regarding philosophy of religion). Because if WK's summary is accurate, it appears that that is the case.

    5. According to WK's summary, which you yourself reference, Rosenberg discussed metaethics, metaphysical naturalism, philosophy of mind, quantum mechanics, the multiverse, evolutionary ethics, utilitarianism, social contract theory, astrobiology, biological determinism, non-Euclidean geometry, and the principle of sufficient reason. What makes you think one has to be a philosopher of religion to expertly discuss some or all these issues?

    6. One has to be a philosopher of religion in order to expertly discuss the relationship between the issues you list and God's existence (or nonexistence).

    7. Jeff, you're guilty of special pleading. The argument cuts both ways. You might as well say one has to be a cosmologist in order to expertly discuss the relationship between cosmology and God's existence. If you counter that a cosmologist is not an expert on God's existence, I'd counter that a philosopher of religion is not an expert on cosmology. So it's a wash. These are interdisciplinary debates, Jeff. Both sides have professional areas of strength and weakness.

    8. You've committed the "fallacy" fallacy, falsely accusing someone of committing a fallacy when they have not. There is no special pleading here. Here is how Rosenberg himself describes his academic area of specialization:

      "My interests focus on problems in metaphysics, mainly surrounding causality, the philosophy of social sciences, especially economics, and most of all, the philosophy of biology, in particular the relationship between molecular, functional and evolutionary biology."

      So let's say that his focus on "metaphysics, mainly surrounding causality" makes him an expert on cosmological arguments. To the best of my knowledge, he does not have the publication history Craig has on cosmological arguments. If that's true, he's at best a lesser expert on cosmological arguments.

      Now look at his other areas of focus: philosophy of social sciences and philosophy of biology. It's hard to see the relevance of either to what they actually discussed in the debate. (To be clear: I think expertise in the philosophy of biology could be relevant if biological design arguments had been brought up in the debate. But it appears they were not. So his expertise in the philosophy of biology doesn't seem to be relevant to the specific issues discussed.)

      My original point stands. The debate was obviously in Craig's area of expertise, but not in Rosenberg's.

  2. Rosenberg was SO rude. An audience member sincerely and humbly asked a serious question and Rosenberg answered venomously. I qued it up HERE.

    1. I really was surprised by his demeanour, not at all a pleasant fellow.

  3. Related post by Steve. It was posted in response to the Craig/Harris Debate.

    Craig's conundrum