Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review of Craig vs. Krauss Debate

Disclaimer: I am biased towards Dr. Craig, but I will attempt to be fair-minded in my critique. Also, I am going on the basis of a two-and-a-half hour debate and Q & A section, so the chances of my getting something slightly incorrect are good.

The much-hyped debate between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss did not disappoint. The topic was not the usual “Does God exist?” but rather the variant “Is there evidence for God?” This was a very charitable (and ultimately interesting) move by Craig since Krauss did not have to provide a single argument for atheism. Rather, all he had to do was dismantle the arguments of the former. The debate format was the standard opening statements, first and second rebuttals, and then a closing argument, followed by a Q&A format.

Krauss is not a philosopher (indeed, he made his dislike of philosophy known throughout the debate [though not in an uncharitable way]), but rather a scientist. As such, I found his discourses into quantum mechanics quite fascinating.[1] However, he seemed hopelessly mired in contradiction when he repeatedly mentioned things like “the universe is not logical,” or “quantum mechanics…are not logical” in the opening speech.

The opening arguments by Craig were the same (Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, Kalam Cosmological Argument, Fine-Tuning Argument, Moral Argument, and the Resurrection Hypothesis), however his methodology differed from past debates I have seen. Instead of a brief introductory statement followed by the formal argument, Craig developed the argument conversationally yet with precision; only after explaining the argument in this way did he render it formally. I think this approach actually works better by appealing to the intuitive or reasonable nature of the arguments without causing the audience to focus on the premises themselves (that is, they can pay attention better).

I have never before seen Krauss debate, but the physicist opened up explaining he did not particularly like them. I was shocked to discover that Krauss’ entire opening statement revolved around criticizing Craig’s well-known arguments as “God-of-the-gaps.” He also mentioned that quantum mechanics demonstrates that physics does not conform to the laws of logic (thus, in my view, demonstrating a fundamental equivocal misunderstanding of the term “logic.” It does not mean, as Krauss here seems to suggest, “common sense” or “what we would expect.” This is the most charitable view as the only other sense he could mean is that it is reasonable to assume reason does not apply to physics, while also giving us a reason, which is self-contradictory.).  He also suggested God cannot be the grounds of objective morality since God can’t will evil things to be good.

In the first rebuttal, as Craig does, he reiterated the frame of the debate: “My goal is to show the modest claim that God’s existence is more probable given the evidence than it would be without these claims.” He then proceeded to point out nearly every one of Krauss’ contentions as fallacious. I don’t think he necessarily needed to do that. For whatever reason, Craig came off as rushed at this time and misspoke at least twice.[2] However, it’s worth noting that he absolutely did demolish every one of Krauss’ objections, following up with the argument from the Resurrection which was entirely untouched.

In Krauss’ rebuttal, he did mention David Hume’s argument against miracles, whereby he suggested the eyewitness testimony to miracles should only be accepted were its negation to imply a more miraculous event than to believe the testimony itself! This was as close to a genuine philosophical argument that Krauss ever got. It was well-timed and on-target, in that if his assertion was true, Craig’s “three minimal facts” argument wouldn’t even get off the ground.[3] Krauss also went on to assert that, in contradistinction to Craig’s argument from probability, that probability was not evidence. However, this seems to misunderstand that probability just is the epistemic relevance of a hypothesis to the background knowledge and evidence! Krauss seemed very uncomfortable with any actual philosophical discourse, but visibly perked up whenever he could discuss quantum tunneling, quantum mechanics, or the vacuum, from which the universe emerged.

In Craig’s second rebuttal he again focused the debate topic. Craig does this to show both what he has argued and to show that the rebuttal was not at all relevant to the topic at hand. I wished he had discussed more cosmology and why inflationary models require an absolute beginning, but he at least mentioned these rebuttals. He completely tore apart the Humean argument against miracles by pointing out that he did not have the probability calculus back in that time. Craig seemed perfectly comfortable by this point and not at all rushed; however he had fewer points to argue against as Krauss was defaulting to “desire” as a motivator over scientific evidence.

By the time of Krauss’ second rebuttal, he was struggling for words. He seemed to have run out of things relevant to say. He did eventually get going, but made such contradictory statements as “there is no purpose in the universe.” As Ryan Hedrich said to me during the debate, “There’s no meaning, no purpose, and yet there he is, arguing away for God only knows what reason (literally).”

In the final statements, as he always does, Craig closes by framing the debate’s point, his evidences for that point, the fact that the evidences are not shown to be implausible or contradictory, and that as long as one agrees that each individual premise is plausibly true, then one ought to believe it is plausible that God exists.

In Krauss’ final statement, he made bizarre assertions that said “contingent beings must exist” (in response to the question of why something exists rather than nothing) given an infinite number of universes; but in terms of possible worlds, this necessity demands an answer to the question of the beings themselves: contingent upon what? He also reiterated his point of view that science answers all questions as to the origins of the universe, which amounted to “there’s no explanation of the universe, except for gravity and other such natural forces.” But what about these forces themselves? At the end, Krauss framed the debate in terms of Craig’s wanting theism to be true coupled with the argument “if we can’t explain it, then God must exist” to show that Craig had not demonstrated any evidence for God’s existence.

A full 40 minutes or so of Q & A followed, in which questioners were near-universally well-behaved and thoughtfully concise rather than argumentative (even if you could tell the question was designed as an argument against either debater). An exception was a gentleman who asked Dr. Krauss about the issue of God’s cause. If everything has an explanation, what is God’s explanation? Krauss concurred that the question “who made God?” is applicable, and thus presumably either God does not exist or we should reject the Principle of Sufficient Reason (neither the questioner nor Krauss made either explicit).[4] When Craig was able to respond he pointed out that God would find his explanation in the necessity of his own nature. At this conclusion, the questioner retorted (as he was already instructed not to do), “I was just trying to point out the circular reasoning you just used.” Quite odd.

The next question was nearly identical, but for Dr. Craig. So he mentioned God was postulated here as the metaphysically-ultimate explanation. I wish very much he had also made explicit what he hinted at in his answer, which is that to question God’s explanatory power further (beyond positing incoherence) is really just to presuppose that God is not the metaphysically-ultimate explanation after all. The lack of making this explicit allowed Dr. Krauss to make one of the better comments he had made all evening: that he postulated the multiverse as a metaphysically-ultimate explanation. Dr. Craig was not able, in the format, to respond, but doubtless he would have pointed out that the metaphysical necessity of the universe cannot possibly be true even in the event of the multiverse, because even the multiverse does not escape the laws of causality or needing an absolute beginning (though in fairness, he mentioned this much earlier).

Both debaters were very courteous, and Krauss said nothing rude at any point. One of the best points of the night was made by Craig when he remarked, speaking against the idea that physics can account for the origin of the universe from nothing, “Physics is inherently applicable to being; it is impossible for there to be physics of non-being.” To me, this was the death blow to science being an ultimate metaphysical explanation of the universe’s origin.

In summary, it was a wonderfully-done debate with charitable discourse all-around (except, perhaps, when Krauss said something about Craig being “intellectually lazy”), with Craig clearly coming out on top. While we do not know the results (or the ideological makeup) of the audience yet, I would be shocked if Craig was not declared the winner, by a landslide.

                [1] For example, his discussion on why we cannot measure if another universe is exerting any forces upon our universe were the multiverse to exist was a particular example showcasing the level of comfort he has within his field.

                [2] Craig, in rebutting Krauss’ “2+2=5” argument against logic, correctly stated that the right answer follows from standard axioms of mathematics, but repeated the incorrect answer as correct.

                [3] This is to stand in stark contrast to his other objections, which were entirely either self-contradictory or off-topic.

                [4] It’s also worth noting that, in all seriousness, it did not appear Krauss understood very many of the philosophical arguments proffered, and he likely was unfamiliar with the term “Principle of Sufficient Reason” before the debate.

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  1. Hey Randy. I'm linking to your blog over at mine. Hope you don't mind.

  2. Regarding your [1] note: this is pure speculation on the order I would argue of a fairy tale. None of this is verifiable, or falsifiable or has one iota of evidence for it so the "comfort" of which you speak could just as easily been held by a particularly imaginative 5-year-old.
    Not that I can PROVE it, however. I just believe in one less Universe than Krauss. ;)

  3. Thanks for your fair review of the debate. I can't say that I am surprised that Craig demolished Krauss. A few months ago, when I first heard about this debate, I emailed Krauss, warning him that Craig was not just some nutcase fundamentalist... but was very smart, and very clever debater. I also warned him that Craig has the easiest time with scientists, since they don't know jack about philosophy. I told Krauss that Craig would attack Krauss's use of "nothing" as philosophically naive, and then linked a bunch of Craig's debates, as well as relevant articles and books that would help him understand Craig's arguments, hoping Krauss would read them. Cause really, Craig uses the same arguments every time, and it is no surprise at all what he is going to say.

    Krauss wrote back, saying thanks for the concern, but he wasn't going to "waste much time on this." And with that, I thought "ok, your funeral." So while, as an atheist, I am a little disappointed that Krauss seems to have done so poorly, I am also a little amused, since "I told ya so, Krauss!"

  4. Thanks Bossman, I don't mind at all! :)

  5. Hi Fred, thanks for commenting! Indeed, I believe in an infinite number less universes than does Krauss. ;)

  6. Hi Zachary thanks for commenting! I greatly appreciate your candor, and find your story to be somewhat amusing as well. I wasn't sure if Krauss knew anything about philosophy before this debate. I am glad they did the debate this way, however, since it was about as "easy" as it could have been. Personally, I think opponents such as Austin Dacey and Doug Jesseph have been far better.

  7. This is an excellent summary, and I have linked to it and excerpted it in my 2 PM post. I'm glad you covered the Q&A too!

    But I think your readers should be aware of the more humorous snarky summary that I wrote here:

    Mine is less serious.

  8. Thanks for the kind words, and the link to your review! I read it myself earlier today and I laughed, but mostly because it was so true. That's what makes for good humor after all! :)

  9. A nice summary, but i disagree that Craig won the debate. I believe that there is no proof of god (regardless of whether i believe that there is one or not.) Craig's arguments were classic logical fallacies; He said that the fact the jesus's tomb was empty proves that God exists. That is a ridiculous assumption. Craig also said that without god there would be no objective morality, which is completely unfalsifiable. Craig has better debating technique than Krauss does, but his evidence is totally off-base. It's a shame people can be influenced to believe claims like Craig's that are not even based in science or history. Craig also repeatedly attempted to argue physics with a man who is a physics PhD in physics. While Krauss is a bad debater, at least his claims were based on empirical, factual evidence. Craig constantly argued logical fallacies, a failed understanding of probability, and an obvious misunderstanding of the criteria that can qualify something as evidence. Just adding another viewpoint :)

    1. Chris,
      It's clear that you don't know what empirical evidence is. The multiverse is not based on empirical evidence - it's based on certain hypothesis' which certain theories predict. Yes, theories need evidence and must make predictions, but that doesn't mean that the prediction is itself empirical. Leonard Susskind has pointed out himself that there is no evidence for a multiverse, and that the best physicists have is good "theoretical reason" (which is distinct from evidence). That said, your assertion is refuted.

    2. Chris,
      It seems to me that you do not understand what empirical evidence is. Krauss argued against belief in God by use of the multiverse and by asserting that the laws of physics are "accidental". First of all, there is NO evidence for the existence of a multiverse. The multiverse is based on predictions made by certain theories. Granted, theories need evidence and must make predictions, but that doesn't mean that the predictions are themselves based on empirical evidence. Leonard Susskind, himself a proponent of the multiverse, has stated that there is no evidence for a multiverse, and that the best physicists have in assuming it exists is "good theoretical reason" (which is distinct from evidence). And so you know...a theory can make NUMEROUS predictions, so the multiverse is not the only prediction physical theories make.
      As to the "accidental laws"...that's entirely unfalsifiable, constituting as metaphysics, not science. Of all the ideas I've heard, an accidental universe sounds by far the most implausible and exists merely to fit nicely within a materialistic worldview (materialism is philosophy, btw).
      That said, your statement is refuted.

  10. Thanks for your viewpoint Chris. :) I ask upfront: did you watch the debate? Most of Krauss' relevant claims (that is, claims against Craig's arguments) were philosophical, rathern than scientific, in nature. Also, and I'm only trying to be fair here, but I believe you have mischaracterized Craig's argument in the form of a strawman (which is itself an informal fallacy). What Craig's argument from the Resurrection hypothesis is not is the following: "the fact the jesus's tomb was empty proves that God exists," but rather that the hypothesis that "God raised Jesus from the dead" is the most plausible explanation of the three minimal facts (only one of which is the empty tomb). This revolves entirely around historical claims. Also, Craig's claim is indeed falsifiable: all one has to do is show there are plausible grounds of objective morality in the absence of God's existence. There was actually very little discussion of physics in this debate, and they largely agreed on the scientific data. It was only on the philosophical application of that data where they parted ways. Ex: Krauss believed that quantum physics defies logic, while Craig believed that physics cannot explain non-being. This is why I was wondering if you actually watched or listened to the entire debate. Thanks for commenting! :)

  11. Chris,

    Reread the title of the debate. Craig was clear throughout the debate he was giving evidence - not proof - for God's existence. You are committing the exact same straw man fallacy Krauss did.

  12. Zachary,
    I'm not sure if you notice this or not, but it seems to me that even professional scientists as well as popular laymen think that philosophy in of itself has hardly any contribution or relevance to discussing scientific matters. It's like "There's philosophy, and there's science." As if both disciplines have little or no overlapping with each other. Does it come off that way to you?

  13. Randy,
    I think that - not every atheist buys into this - Krauss at some point gave the impression that if one is going to believe his position, then one has to ultimately sacrifice his intellect or sense of reason/rationality. And most remarkably, this is coming from his own lips! I had a similar encounter with an agnostic who seemed to equate the idea of something being logically contradictory with something being ironic. And then he shrugged his shoulders when I asked him if one has to give up the use of logic and reason to buy into his view. He didn't seem bothered at all. He even texted me afterwards saying," 2+2=5".

  14. Craig is a great debater. I don't believe in God or anything, but I would love for him to do some seminars on the more subtle intricacies of professional debating. He has mastered the science of debating fact questions. Most Lincoln Douglas debating is focused on questions of policy (e.g. Should Bush and Cheney be convicted of war crimes? Is Hugo Chavez a force for good in his country? etc). Debating questions of fact is EXTREMELY hard to do, considering there is basically no literature on how to do it!

  15. Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting! It is important to note, as you did, the extent of the debate. While it was easier for Krauss than it would be were the topic to be "does God exist?," it was also easier for Craig as well!

  16. Hi Ben. It is true that New Atheist scientists tend to think that rationality is at least subservient to empiricism. Most of these I have encountered don't want to say that logic doesn't apply to the universe, but rather that science, and not philosophy, is sufficient to explain all facts about the world. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that you couldn't even begin to make inferences about anything if one jettisons philosophy; we wouldn't even know the law of gravity. We'd just know things kept on falling. The moment we infer there is a pattern, we are using reason! On the flip side, rationality can encompass any forms of knowledge, including, if applicable, empirical truths.

  17. Psychadelic, thanks for commenting! Craig does mention this issue of debate here:

    In it he delineates the problem you mention, as well as refers to Luke's work over at Common Sense Atheism.

  18. You are dead wrong on your conclusion that Craig came out ahead. His fallacious arguments were demolished by Krauss. Craig is a highly degreed logical idiot.

  19. I'm going to dissect and analyze Randy's commentary in a series of comments. My is about these comments of his:

    Krauss is not a philosopher (indeed, he made his dislike of philosophy known throughout the debate [though not in an uncharitable way]), but rather a scientist. As such, I found his discourses into quantum mechanics quite fascinating.[1] However, he seemed hopelessly mired in contradiction when he repeatedly mentioned things like “the universe is not logical,” or “quantum mechanics…are not logical” in the opening speech.


    You are completely wrong in calling Krauss "hopelessly mired in contradiction" here. What you seem to be implying is that Krauss is saying that the quantum physics was not derived through a logical process. But that is NOT what he is saying.

    What Krauss is saying is the quantum mechanics has shown us that the universe is stranger than pure classical, Aristotelian logic, in the absence of observation and experimentation, would lead us to believe. He offers as illustrations the famous "Double Slit" experiment, in which a single particle of light is found to pass through two slits in a physical barrier at the same time, and so causes a wave interference pattern with itself, which Krauss says is "crazy" but true; and Alan Guth's Inflation Theory, which predicts that an infinite number of universes emerge spontaneously and without cause out of a background "multiverse" which is infinite and eternal.

    In essence, what Krauss is saying is that the universe appears to confound classical logic. Therefore, one can't rely on purely formal logical arguments like the kind Craig uses to arrive at knowledge that God exists (or must exist).

  20. Randy said:

    I was shocked to discover that Krauss’ entire opening statement revolved around criticizing Craig’s well-known arguments as “God-of-the-gaps.”

    This statement is wrong. Krauss's opening statement framed more than one objection to Craig's opening statement. Here were Krauss's points:

    1) Craig's definition of evidence is wrong, because evidence for the existence of anything must be empirical and falsifiable. Therefore, Craig did not cite any real evidence for the existence of God.

    2) Purely formal logic is an insufficient basis for knowledge, but that is what Craig is relying upon for his argument for the existence of God.

    3) Craig misunderstands science and mathematics, and so draws the wrong conclusions from what he thinks he knows. This renders his argument incorrect insofar as it relies upon his understanding.

    4) Science has demonstrated that there is no need for a first cause to explain the existence of the material universe: what appears to be nothingness is unstable, and always results in a material univers, without cause.

    5) Contrary to what Craig insists, there may not be an objective basis for morality. But whether there is or isn't, as long as it is the result of the exercise of reason, no God is necessary for objective morality to exist.

    Randy: You have done your readers a major disservice by inaccurately characterizing Krauss' arguments, which demoish Craig's position. In fact, Craig never adequately addresses any of these points -- he merely restates them, as if they haven't even been attacked.

    More to follow.

  21. I left out a sixth point Krauss made in his opening argument:

    6) The universe is NOT fine-tuned for life. Krauss didn't go into detail, but said that Craig is absolutely wrong about this, and the scientific consensus is that he and all other Creationists are wrong about that. Later in the debate he goes into more detail, but one of his points is that we can't possibly say that the universe is uniquely fine-tuned for life because we don't know what other kinds of life there could be in different universes with different values for the constants.

  22. Hi Mark, I appreciate your comments! With regards to your first comment, I would suggest you (and by extension, Krauss) are committing the fallacy of equivocation on the word "logic." Krauss didn't want to say that no logic applies to the universe, as you mention, but then went on to infer just what you suggest: that logic cannot be applied to the universe. Otherwise it's tough to see the relevance. After all, which premise is this statement supposed to contradict in which of Craig's arguments? Is it supposed to tear down deduction itself? If the latter, then he is contradicting himself (or trading on the term "logic").

  23. It's worth noting I said all of his responses "revolved" around a science-of-the-gaps argument.
    #1 is self-defeating, as it is neither empirical nor falsifiable in the relevant sense.

    #2 seems to have no support behind it, in addition to being ambiguous.

    #3 is question-begging.

    #4 is an equivocation of the word "nothing."

    #5 doesn't avoid the material conditional. In order to say a material conditional is false, one must provide the truth of the antecedent and the falsity of the consequent. We heard nothing of Krauss as to what this would be.

    #6 is just irrelevant as it relates to our universe! That other universes could have been different does nothing to avoid the constants that just are in our universe itself!

    You may think Krauss' conclusions were right, but you can't honestly believe he came off well during the debate.

  24. Randy:

    You are completely and utterly wrong in charging Krauss with the fallacy of equivocation. He did not say logic cannot be applied to the universe. He said the universe itself is not necessarily logical. He said it can be strange, and confound our logical presuppositions.

    For example, it defies logic to say that one thing can be in two places at the same time. This is a violation of a corollary of one of the axioms of logic, that of identity. But because this experimental finding has been replicated time and again, we are forced to accept it. Quantum mechanics is what it is because scientists have applied logical thought to this finding.

    I fear the problem may lie in the fact that you are unfamiliar with quantum physics. There was absolutely NO AMBIGUITY in what Krauss said on this point.

  25. Randy:
    As to your responses to my points 1 through 6, it is clear that you are familiar with the names of logical fallacies, but are incapable of discerning them, and so just throw the terms around to give the appearance that you know what you're talking about when you really don't.

    In fact, I find it hard to discover any correspondence between your comments and mine.

    1) In what sense is Krauss's definition of evidence "self defeating, as it is neither empirical or falsifiable"? These are in fact his criteria for what evidence is.

    2) All of Krauss's opening statement lies behind his point that formal logic alone isn't sufficient for understanding the universe. If you miss this point, then you haven't understood a thing Krauss has said (which is what I suspect).

    3) It isn't "question-begging" to state that Craig doesn't understand the science and math he talks about. Krauss dismisses Craig's misunderstanding of infinities rather well, shows that Craig doesn't understand Guth's Inflation Theory, and doesn't understand the difference between probability and evidence for a statement of fact.

    4) Krauss isn't the least bit ambiguous about his use of the word "nothning." Craig falsely claims that Krauss says "nothing can cause something." That is not what Krauss says,however. He says that where there is nothing something can spontaneously appear without cause. That is one of the principles of quantum physics, and is a feature that scientists and engineers rely upon to create all the technology you rely upon every day.

    5) I can see no relevance whatsoever to your comments about the material conditional and Krauss's statement that there may not be an objective basis for morality.

    6) You fail to see the point about "fine-tuning." Krauss's point is that what Creationists like Craig and you see as the product of design scientists see as an "accident." The constants that exist in our universe just happen to be such that permit life -- although, as Krauss points out, the fact that one of the constants is a negative entropy for the universe indicates that ours isn't the best possible universe, because it means our universe is going to end.

    Krauss's point is that there may be an infinite number of universes, some of which have constants with values that don't permit life to arise. The constants are random values.

    You and Craig alike do not appear well-versed in science, but are believers, so you are selective in what you draw from science and are selective in what you hear and understand when science is presented to you.

    Craig is definitely a polished debater. In high school and college I was a championship debater, so I know all of the tricks Craig deploys. But a debate is first and foremost about intellectual content, not style. Craig was the smoother presenter, but his positions were utterly demolished by Krauss.

  26. Mark, the law of identity is not that one thing can be in two places at the same time, nor did Krauss say that, nor is it a logical entailment of anything he did say. Besides, with modal considerations, it seems you are saying the universe is contingently logical. But then logic is not objective, but subjective. But if it is subjective, then it is not independently-binding upon the universe. However, this point itself is logical, and presumably binding upon the universe. What non-arbitrary logical rule is in play here? If all you mean is that the universe is not epistemically without mystery, what relevance does that have to the usage of logical argument? The only non-arbitrary rule is to say that logic doesn't apply to the beginning of the universe, which you say Krauss does not say. If he wasn't being contradictory, there was a great deal of ambiguity. It's telling that philosophers of all stripes are doing a facepalm, while scientists without philosophical training seem to think this is a good argument.

  27. Please read "cannot" instead of "can" in the first sentence.

  28. Mark, please adhere to the comments policy about posts disguised as insults. In the future, they may be deleted. His criteria cannot itself be proven by empiricism, which means other means are accessible to knowledge. You also keep saying "formal logic alone," as though somehow formal logic cannot involve as it premises things of a scientific nature (or of any other discipline, for that matter). Your #3 was just an assertion that he doesn't understand science or math, and therefore he is wrong. But since there was no evidence, it is in fact question-begging; i.e., it's true because it's true. If what you say about #4 is true, then Krauss' argument is entirely irrelevant with respect to the causal principle or the universe's beginning. As to #5, it seems you allow the moral argument to stand, as you haven't provided any reason to think the material conditional is false (and neither did Krauss). Finally, your last point both glosses over all of what I said in that it simply repeats the assertion of accident without accounting for the constants, and then attempts to poison the well. After all, an infinite number of universes doesn't make the constants in this particular one any more likely to occur.

  29. As an atheist, and a professor of philosophy and religion, your comment that Craig's,

    "approach actually works better by appealing to the intuitive or reasonable nature of the arguments without causing the audience to focus on the premises themselves"

    This is pure rhetoric on Craig's part. A TRUE philosopher concentrates on the premises of the argument, and the validity and soundness of the arguments. What you are saying constitutes to the fallacy of an "appeal to emotion."

    I, however, stick to the arguments, and I have begun posting refutations to Craig's arguments on my blog at

    Feel free to comment on my arguments.

  30. A is for Atheist: Your link is wrong - take away one "i" from "is." I got an error when I clicked on it and wanted to head others off at the pass in case they did the same thing.

  31. Hello, A. Thanks for the comment! I'm afraid you have misunderstood my comment. My remark was in relation to the format of the given arguments. He actually gave the arguments by arguing for each premise and drawing a logically valid conclusion; it's simply that he did not give the deductive syllogism until the end. I felt that was enabling the audience to pay attention, rather than simply looking at one statement and deciding they do or do not believe it. I'm glad you have watched the debate and are interacting with the arguments, but you must realize the difference between intuition and emotion! An emotionless being could, for instance, grant the causal principle on intuitive grounds alone. :)

  32. Some have asserted Dr. Krauss did not claim, nor did his claim entail, that logic does not apply to the universe. However, I have transcripted the exact wording, only using ellipses in places of repetition or stuttering, of Krauss' quote from his opening speech, right after Dr. Craig. Here it is:

    “The interesting thing about the universe is it’s not logical. At least it’s not classically logical….It’s [science] taught us that the universe is the way it is whether we like it or not….The point is if we continue to rely on our understanding of the universe on…classical logic…then we’d still be living in a world where heavier objects, we think, fall faster than light objects…instead of doing the experiment to check it out. We can’t rely on what we think to be sensible; we have to rely on what the universe tells us is sensible….The universe just simply isn’t sensible.”

  33. Randy:

    You fail to understand his point. Think of it this way: the universe does not act according to the laws of logic as we think the laws should apply. We can, however use logic to deal with the illogical data the universe gives us.

    Does this help? It's important for you to understand this difference.

  34. Hi Mark, thanks for trying to clarify. However, the problem is this view is also untenable, or it commits the fallacy of equivocation on "logic." What I think you're getting at is epistemic; that is, using the term "logic" to mean "common sense." In that case, Krauss simply did not understand the term "classical logic" correctly. He meant simply that the universe doesn't act according to our common sense. I would be understanding of his point, but only at the cost that he doesn't understand what is meant by "classical logic." However, he followed this quote with an illustration of particles acting as waves going through slits, attempting to show a contradiction. In context, it seems as though he insinuated the views are contradictory. In that sense, he would be logically incoherent (as it is to say data is itself illogical [that is, in violation of the laws of logic]). In any case, even being charitable and saying Krauss simply didn't understand what was meant by "classical logic," he still has the fallacy of equivocation to deal with alongside the issue of irrelevancy. Even if the universe doesn't behave as we expect, that's no reason to simply throw out any of the premises of any of the arguments proffered!

  35. No, no, no, Randy. You've got it all wrong. I really think you're getting all tanlged up in your philosophical underwear here.

    This is Krauss's basic point: the contradictions Craig sees in infinities, which seem to Craig to mean that the universal can't be eternal, are not contradictions that matter to reality. It is quite possible for someone to say that the logical contradictions posed by some analysis of infinities means that the universe CAN'T have existed for all time, and still the universe may have in fact existed for all time. This is Krauss's point -- that formal logical or mathematical projections of the universe SHOULD be like can be confounded by the reality of the universe, math or logic be damned!

    So Krauss is not engaging in any fallacy of equivocation, and his remarks are precisely on point and relevant to the points Craig makes. In fact, it destroys Craig's argument that the universe cannot have existed in the eternal past. He wants to say that that is impossible, because one of his arguments for the existence of God is that the universe had a beginning. And while the universe we inhabit apparently had a beginning in the Big Bang, the greater multiverse may well be eternal, past and future. for God rests on

  36. Mark, you're simply mistaken here. All that follows, at most, from that analysis is that the argument is wrong, not that "classical logic" is wrong or does not apply to the universe. Otherwise it is incoherent or a fallacy of equivocation is happening here, in which case you and Krauss simply do not understand what is meant by "classical logic." Either logic does or does not apply to the universe; if it does, then fine, if it does not, then it does, since we can apply the law of noncontradiction to this truth about the universe. If Krauss did not mean "classical logic," then he does not understand what it is and really only means "what we would expect." Again, the last sentence of your first paragraph is literally nonsensical logically.

  37. Randy:

    Let's drop the word logic. Does it make "common sense" to you that a photon can be in two places at the same time? Does it make sense to you that particles can slip in and out of existence spontaneously without cause?

    These discoveries defied "common sense." Yet they are now accepted facts of the universe.

    To say that by formal mathematical analysis the universe cannot be eternal is presumptuous. We don't know whether it is or it isn't. It takes empirical evidence.

    Similarly, we don't know if there is an objective standard for morality. I don't think there is, nor do I think there has to be. Krauss's point is that Craig wants the universe to be a certain way, when it may not be that way in fact.

    This my last attempt to make you understand.

  38. Mark, then you must acknowledge that Krauss doesn't know what classical logic is, or applied it inappropriately, thus committing a fallacy of equivocation. Next, you commit the fallacy of "argument from ignorance," whereby you don't rebut any of the premises of any argument, but merely state that they are not true. The problem is that certain premises are necessarily true (such as premises which exhaust all options in a disjunct, for example) so that to argue from ignorance not only is fallacious on its own, but logically incoherent. That's two fallacies, if we're counting. Further, you've smuggled "common sense" back into the analysis of the beginning of the universe from philosophical considerations, which are not necessarily "common sense;" but even if they entailed common sense nonetheless do not rely on sheer intuition but philosophical arguments. It won't do to say you're not talking about philosophy and then conclude something along the lines of "therefore, philosophical arguments should not be held." Finally, you seem to espouse empiricism, which is untenable without philosophical considerations. Philosophy can be done without science, but science cannot be done without philosophy.

    Have a good day! :)

  39. You are wrong in every one of your arguments.

    I have not committed a single fallacy, and it is you who don't make any sense.

    Logic is a formal system that is independent of the universe. It is a kind of language.

    You are running completely amok, my friend. Again, you just sling your "philosophical" jargon around without precision or clarity.

    We haven't even discussed the premises of any argument, but we could. Given that we haven't, you are just asserting with no basis that I am arguing from ignorance. What I did at the beginning was to outline Krauss's points, not engaging in a debate. If you want to discuss premises, let's pick an argument and do so. What premises would you like to discuss?

    By the way, I studied philosophy at Princeton, and so far you are only demonstrating that you are in way over your head.

  40. See this, people? This is an example of "grandstanding." He doesn't actually refute a single statement, but merely engages in a "no; you're wrong!" diatribe. Somehow I doubt he studied at Princeton, but it's of no consequence. It's a typical New Atheist line to claim they are experts and the Christian or theist just doesn't know what they're talking about. Also notice how he attempted to move on to another argument without conceding? These are all textbook moves to avoid the actual issue which Mark chose to discuss. Let this be a lesson to all of us! :)

  41. Krauss posted a follow-up to the debate, if anyone is interested. It is here on Pharyngula:

  42. I posted this as one perfect example of the violation of the comments policy. Mark has sent me a number of abusive comments. Let's all try to be civil! Posting is a privilege, not a right. Have a good day all! :)

  43. Re the comment posted by "A is for Atheist". Randy posted some good replies at her/his website and it seems to me that A is for Atheist does not come across as having substantial philosophy training. Nevertheless, the exchange is illuminating.


  44. What's odd is, as far as a brief Google search goes, this person appears to be Cathy Cooper, and everywhere she goes she takes pains to mention she is a professor of philosophy. I can't for the life of me though find where a professor of philosophy, or religion, is listed under the name of Cathy or Catherine Cooper (though I can find faculty of this name, it is either an MD or a degree in psychology). I'm not saying it's definitely not true, but if it is true, I am a little disconcerted that the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (with the well-known Principle of Sufficient Reason), was given as "whatever exists has an explanation of its existence, whether in its nature or a cause," instead of the "necessity of its own nature." Some of her counterarguments take on totally different ontological considerations when we add the term "necessary" to them!

  45. Can that work? I want to be a professor of philosophy! It's way "sexier" than my real profession. From this point forward, consider me a Professor Emeritus. Randy, feel free to address me with some sort of honorific in future discussions.

  46. I'm curious why the two-slit experiment doesn't defy logic. I don't think Krauss meant "not what we expect" when he pointed this out, I think he actually meant that it cannot be a fact that a single particle could be in two places at t=whatever. This is what the observation shows, and it would seem you either reject the observation, or admit a logical contradiction in reality. But perhaps, as before, I'm just missing something integral! I have looked around for an answer to this, and have only seen what you said.



  47. Hi Lee! I suppose I just don't see the logical problem in saying a certain particle can be in two places at once. A contradiction is saying "a" and "not-a" at the same time and in the same sense, and a logical impossibility is either a contradiction or or a proposition or state of affairs incompatible with a logically necessary truth.

    That said, does this particle fulfill either definition? It is not readily apparent that it does. First, the contradictory aspect is not necessarily fulfilled, for the experiment is not that particle 1 is in spot A at time T and not-A at time T, but that P1 is in A and B at T (please view not-A strictly as the negation of A, not simply at any point that is not identical to A). Now as to the second condition, Krauss never even attempted to argue why we should think this is logically necessary. Chances are it never occurred to him precisely because he's not a philosopher. That is not meant to be rude or condescending, but rather a fact.

    In any case, it certainly seems physically impossible for such an experiment to take place. But as we know, there is no reason why physical impossibility entails logical impossibility.

  48. I appreciate the clarification. I can certainly agree that physical impossibility does not imply logical impossibility in all cases, but surely some must adhere. What if you tried to count the single particle at that crucial moment? Is it 1, or 2? It seems to me it would have to be 2 particles, yet since it is a single particle in two places, this comes out as 1=2. Another way to look at it is to ask the same question, but instead of particles, use people. If it is logically impossible for me to be in two places at once (for I could only be one of them), I don't see how particles are any different. It seems reasonable to view this state of affairs as conceivable, but not possible in the logical sense.

  49. Hi Lee. I both appreciate and concede the difference between conceivability (as it relates to the imagination, for instance) and possibility in the logical sense. However, I don't see anything inherently logically contradictory about one person being in two places at once; of course if we assume they are two people we are also assuming what we are trying to prove! Now perhaps you mean bodies in general, but again I don't see the logical problem, though I do well see the physical problem. In any case, consider that if the law of noncontradiction does not apply to the universe, then it does. For I can say that it does, and if it does not, there is no principle by which we may refute that statement. In fact, every statement about the universe is true. Even if you bring the strongest evidence to the contrary, you must rely on the principle that the evidence says what it does and not what I say it does. I have an extended defense of the law of noncontradiction elsewhere on this site, but suffice it to say I could deny gravity or anything else extremely obviously true without the law. "Well that's preposterous!" you might say, and you'd be right. But in that case, it's so much the worse for logical impossibilities!

  50. "I don't see anything inherently logically contradictory about one person being in two places at once"

    I presume you believe in souls? If you, Randy Everest, were in two places at the same time, which of you is occupied by the soul? If only one has it(because only one can), my point is valid. If both have it, what if one dies? Is Randy Everest then both alive and not alive? If the dead soul goes to heaven, is Randy Everest both in heaven, and not in heaven? When the second Randy Everest dies, did Randy Everest both die on Tuesday(arbitrarily chosen day), and not on Tuesday?

    I can belabor this point only insofar as it doesn't try both our patience, but suffice it to say if you don't see the contradiction, you don't see the contradiction. I submit that there is one, it is demonstrable (and indeed has been, by far better men than I), and I feel like you aren't being very honest about this. We both know gravity, or any other scientific theory, is not on the same philosophical footing as identity, so I don't find this appeal compelling (and neither should you). You can deny gravity with the law of non-contradiction intact.

    Moreover, I am not implying that this law would no longer apply to the universe as a whole. That is not what Krauss argued, and it is not what I have argued. The thought, at least to my mind, is that if a logical contradiction is demonstrated at the quantum level, then, as you say, the law both does not apply, and does. You are essentially saying that a contradiction can't exist, because it would be a contradiction, which is to assume your conclusion. I don't like it, it's beyond counter-intuitive, but just as the newtonian physics doesn't apply in areas where relativity is salient, it seems the laws of logic may be thwarted at the most fundamental level of existence(perhaps awaiting a better explanatory model), irrespective of our protestations and intuitions. All we can do is observe the results of the tests, and this has been tested into the equine cemetery, to degrees of accuracy that eliminate anything but philosophical skepticism about the event itself.

  51. Lee, suffice it to say, if you're right, you're wrong! But in any case, it's not very charitable to assume I am being dishonest, now! :)

    Quickly, I would say this: when you ask "which of 'you'...", you're assuming there are two, not one, which is the argument.

    The appeal to gravity is merely to say that if there is no law of noncontradiction, then gravity can exist and I can say it doesn't, and it doesn't. And even that's not right to the exclusion of its opposite. And that. And so on ad infinitum. For any contradictory rule not so objective applied becomes arbitrary. At that point, it's just one's opinion versus mine, and the difference is epistemological, not ontological. And that preceding sentence can be taken to mean "pink elephants are bargling on the moon," for there is no objectively correct meaning not compatible with any other.

    Yes, I concede the laws of logic, being foundational, are circular, though not viciously so. They are transcendental in a Kantian sense. Try to deny them and you'll use them. That is exactly the point. Most philosophers do not believe logic does not apply to the universe.

    Again, why should we believe the law of noncontradiction arbitrarily applies? Any reason you give must either default to the law itself or reduce to one's own opinion. For suppose we say, "we can reason it out." But then what is to say that this reasoning is not both correct and incorrect? Well, it just is. Or perhaps we further go and say, "our experience confirms this is a general truth, but it doesn't always apply." What makes that true? You can't be sure the law applies to your situation at all, for you must use it in order to judge that it does apply and does not not apply. What the law of noncontradiction may reduce to are simply physical laws. But then we have a problem, as inference itself is non-physical (as a distinct property; it is an abstraction).

    This is why Krauss is taking such a ribbing out there. Not because he is one of the best philosophers known to man; but because he is one of the worst!

  52. What about time travel? You could go back in time to a time when you still existed. The objection there could be that it's not really the "same person" since one of you would be younger.

    Although, with that objection, you could then say of two exact copies in the same time of the same age that there is still something different. I'm reminded of philosophy of language. At the semantic level of sentences, there are a variety of things denoting context. So, two people uttering prima facie contradictory statements, like "It is raining now" and "It is not raining now" can be resolved because at the semantic level, you see one person is in San Francisco and the other is in New York. Location of the speaker, along with time of utterance, and other factors are captured. Just soemthing to consider.

  53. "Quickly, I would say this: when you ask "which of 'you'...", you're assuming there are two, not one, which is the argument."

    I take this to mean you don't accept the observations in the two-slit experiment? I don't see any other way to interpret this repeat of your previous sentence. If you say you don't see a contradiction, and then call the fact that there are two an "assumption", we're not going to get very far. Yes, it is assumed that if Randy Everest is in two places at the same time, there are two things. The question is whether this is possible. Its a thought experiment, not an argument.

    As for the rest: once again, not the universe as a whole, but all of this language you are using is represented by the experimental data of quantum mechanics. All of the implications of the law of non-contradiction being ignored seem to be in keeping with the observations (even down to who is observing, and the observation itself). Again, not the universe as a whole, but the fabric of space-time itself.

  54. I wasn't meaning to say you were lying, it just felt to me like the point was obvious enough that it seemed you were ignoring a pretty basic rule in logic to disagree. A thing being in one place logically entails that it is not in any other, otherwise it is in the other place, rather than the first. It can't be in both places. That is why the two-slit experiment defies logic.

  55. Yet why should I take the data as true? What reason is there to say that the collection and interpretation of data is both true and false? Pragmatism won't work, for why should I accept pragmatism? Indeed, why can I not just say it both is and is not pragmatic? As to your second comment, the rule you are looking for is the law of noncontradiction. If it does not apply, you cannot correct my understand of it. If it does, the observation is wrong. I'm afraid at this point we're going around and around in circles, saying pretty much identical things. But I do appreciate the discussion!

  56. It was an interesting one, thank you for engaging!

  57. Dr.Craig squeezes many already-debunked arguments in his lectures, in order to ensure that some of them remain answered in the first segment, so he can repeat them over and over again in the other segments. Those arguments have been individuality refuted, but they can be easily abused as firepower in a debate that is confined by time limits. The spin doctor didn't come out on the top. He only appeased the biased, added the doubt of the in-between, and made us atheists laugh at this ineptitude and deception. His debating strategies are cheap, evasive and lowly. After reading Russell's debates, watching his debates is like watching a charlatan, not a professional debater. He is a living proof that intelligent design is false. Sorry if I popped your bubble, but that Gish Gallop deserves no respect or admiration, especially after the public humiliation he felt after this particular debate.

  58. Hello Hooded. I'm afraid much of your critique is simply posturing, as it interacts with no specifics of the debate and has one relevant a priori consideration. That one relevant consideration is Craig's usage of too many arguments for too short of a timeperiod. I think this is at least partially the fault of his opponents. Craig does mostly the same core of arguments over and over, and if they believe they cannot discuss adequately all of them (which I do not blame them because of the voluminous material), they should negotiate "three arguments per side" or something.

    But know that not being able to refute all of the arguments at once is no excuse for not being able to refute any of them (see atheist philosopher Peter Millican for a brief strategy on debating WLC if you don't think you can cover all the material).

    If you even watched the debate (somewhat unlikely, given you don't interact with any of it), I hope you didn't laugh. That would evince a misunderstanding of the debate topic. "Is there evidence for God?" is a virtual auto-win for the theist. Something counts as evidence for a proposition just in case the proposition is more probable given some fact than it would have been had that fact not been present (see my recent article here on "Definition and Role of Evidence"). In that case, there is evidence for God (fine tuning being just one).

    The rest of your comment is just rhetoric, and not particularly good rhetoric at that. It shows a misunderstanding of intelligent design (it doesn't follow from intelligent design that all of the designed objects are intelligent, just that they are the product of intelligent design). No one thinks a craftsman's table wasn't designed because it won't pass a calculus exam.

  59. Regarding Mark's link to Dr. Krauss's follow-up, is there a way to find if it was indeed posted by Dr. Krauss? I ask because the author of the post is PZ Meyers, and there is no explicit mention of Meyers's relationship to Dr. Krauss nor the source of this statement.
    I have sent Dr. Krauss an email through his website and await a response.

    I will also say that I appreciate the interchanges concerning the validity of Dr. Craig's arguments, it definitely shines light on the need to be critical. Thank you for posting this, Randy, and for responding to these posts!

    1. Thanks man, I definitely appreciate your comments!


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