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The Happy-Clappies Believe

The clip is from BBC Radio 4 program Today. Lewis Wolpert and William Lane Craig have something to say about God, it is an introduction to the debate discussed here




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this guy uses hollywood's Matrix as supporting evidence?
That is rational?

You can't prove a negative (The Matrix): therefore God exists. And he's Christian.

What a nut.

Lewis Wolpert adopts what is almost the correct strategy in debating Craig here. What he should do, in my opinion, is set Craig up as the pedantic screwball he is. The best way to discredit him is to say something like, "Really! Let me ask our listeners out there, even those of you of faith, do these silly, dry-as-dust assertions about the universe being created 5 minutes ago strike you as the argument that a man with a solid case would make? Don't these kind of 'Psych 101' epistemelogical exercises remind you of 14th-century monks debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

Wolpert's biggest problem is that he's not only philosophically illiterate but gleefully so. When he is asked to answer a relatively simple philosophical question (with an interesting philosophical answer) he answers like a child.

Wolpert may be a fine scientist but he is not someone you want to put in an actual intellectual debate; he let's the side down when he doesn't need to. Craig got his ass kicked when he came to Cambridge.

Craig tries to use philosophical questions to discredit the scientific evidence, but will simply not allow science to be seen to discredit his religious beliefs.

Has anyone got a recording of the Cambridge debate?

Yeah, Wolpert really dropped the ball with his "Goodness gracious! 15 minutes ago?! My word! Preposterous! I say! Huff-Huff-Huff!" as though he had never heard this argument before. Dawkins or Harris would have handled this much better.

The fact that you can never prove anything 100% and that theres an infinite universe of possible caveats in no way makes the scientific process any less useful. Even in a world where you can never know anything for sure, science is still a better way to get to helpful knowledge than believing stuff sloppily transcribed in ancient times by superstitious people with ulterior motives.

If a Matrix type situation ever was true, the scientists would be far more likely to discover this truth through empirical scientific analysis than by purchasing scented candles and prayer rugs.

So is this Craig guy a patient at this Biola funny farm. He cant be a doctor....he's more retarded than I.

Ugh, save for the tone of voice, this show sounds like students in a dorm room at 3AM.

Don't these kind of 'Psych 101' epistemelogical exercises remind you of 14th-century monks debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Exactly. The show was taken up messing about with a completely pointless premise that would have been dismissed immediately by anyone with a passing familiarity with philosophy. The "Hah! You could be a brain in a jar and you wouldn't know it!" scenario is very old and tired (it has been around since before the turn of the 20th century if I recall).

If you go about day to day life thinking that your sensory input is lying about external reality... well, when Dawkins was faced with this one he said quite bluntly "that way madness lies".

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This philosopher has adopted viewpoints not because they are the logical but because they suit his argument, a common move of religious intellectuals. His philosophical arguments, especilly the anti-realism (Phenomenalism) one, are not widely held. I am only just beginning philosophy and realise anti-realism is rubbish.

I don't really think science is the best way to argue with religion anyway, the religious are picky as to what they accept about science. The best source of religion destroying information has always, and will always be the Bible.

The fact that you can never prove anything 100% and that theres an infinite universe of possible caveats in no way makes the scientific process any less useful. Even in a world where you can never know anything for sure, science is still a better way to get to helpful knowledge than believing stuff sloppily transcribed in ancient times by superstitious people with ulterior motives.

Exactly.

Absolutes describe a thing or concept that is unchanging, perfect, and complete. Humans can't really establish universal absolutes because humans are finite and error prone. Moreover, our thoughts, language, and mental concepts come in the form of abstractions. We do not perceive the world directly. Our brains interpret things through wetware (brains, senses, etc.). Errors can creep in from anywhere.

One cannot say that they are holding a phone, for example, with absolute certainty because there's a chance that they are hallucinating, mentally ill, or their belief of holding a phone is so strong that it overpowers rational thinking. You may call it a mind game if you wish but it still does not establish absolute certainty. It is a very common thing for people to believe in things that do not exist at all.

If you say that you exist and feel (or believe) absolutely certain of it, how can you test it? Many brain experts suspect that the idea of self is an illusion. Some people's brains hold several personalities; in what sense do they exist? Have you not dreamed that you were somebody else only to wake up from a dream? How can you be absolutely certain of your existence when no one in the world knows what "you" or "I' really means? This is not nihilism but rather an acknowledgment that we don't know for certain. Nihilism is a belief that denies all existence or that nothing can be known or communicated. Things indeed can be known, but I have yet to see one piece of knowledge that has proven to be certain or perfect. It appears that the universe works statistically, not absolutely. Quantum mechanics and relativity, so far, best describes the subatomic and the universe, yet even here, they describe entropy systems, and statistics. Consider that you are made up of subatomic particles which depend (as far as we know) on the uncertainty principle for their very existence.

Absolutism isn't just a popular notion for existance of self, but also for morality. The concept of absolute morality comes mostly from the abstraction of religious belief. Religious people may believe in absolute morals but belief cannot not establish the factual nature of human beings, either morally or physically. Moreover, I have yet to see any group or individual practice absolute morality. Christians, for example, vary their morals depending on what they believe and as we all know, there are hundreds of denominations of Christianity with varying morals. They may believe they are practicing absolute morality but from the outside, it looks very much like moral relativism, the very thing that Christians claim to disown. The Iraq war gives a very good example of this. Many Christians think the war is morally wrong (usually liberal Christians), while many other Christians think it is morally ok (usually conservative Christians). I have yet to see any moral system that has not changed through time.

If a Matrix type situation ever was true, the scientists would be far more likely to discover this truth through empirical scientific analysis than by purchasing scented candles and prayer rugs.
-- Alex

Wahahahah! Nice one.

It seemed almost as if they were about to get into a proper debate for a moment there at the end... It's depressing to see the beeb cutting the debate off like that -- did they have to run off and cover a new development in the Anna Nicole Smith story, like American media?

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memri is hardly an unbiased source of infomation on the arab world. they have been known to "translate" arabic texts to fit their own pro- likud agenda. arabic protest poetry (mahmoud darwish, adonis and nizar kabbani are but three excellent examples) is very common and easy to access on the web. the saudi poem seems suspect. the accusations made in the poem are very similar to accusations made by israel. as for caring more about land than people, what would the israelis have the palestinians do cede all their land and homes in exchange for living in misery in israel? why shouldn't the palestinians and the arabs care about land? how can you separate caring about land and caring about people? indigenous people have the right to live on the land they were born on. palestinians have their homes destroyed and their land taken to build israeli settlements. lebanon's airspace is and was invaded on a daily basis before the war this summer. israel saw fit to invade and occupy lebanon for 20 years before it was chased out. the minute things go wrong in iraq it is ok to discuss partition. jordan is constantly being mentioned as a solution to the palestinian problem and a new palestinian state. why shouldn't they care about land since their countries are always under threat and their sovreignity is never respected.it seems to me that in american eyes, israel is the only country in the middle east that has the right to care about land and whose people are regarded as equals and not sub-human. it is a shame that you would dignify such a racist organisation as memri by printing its propaganda on your website without researching it first.

sharon chehade…"it is a shame that you would dignify such a racist organisation as memri by printing its propaganda on your website without researching it first."
My brain just burst out of the jar and fell on the floor

i think you missed craig's point. its not just that we can never know anything for sure, its more that there are certain things about the world that are assumed, and that this is rational. all reasoning goes back to base assumptions about the way the world is or works. these are axioms. i think craig is trying to say that for him god is just another one of these. it cant be proven, but it doesnt need to be. he agrees with you all that there is no need to prove that reality is real. the disagreement comes in when he applies the same thing to god. i think thats fairly ridiculous, i dont think the existence of god is self-evident, but its an interesting line of thought nonetheless.

the point isn't that axioms need to be self evident, only plausible - that God exists in a very weak sense that there is a reason for there to be something rather than nothing is that kind of axiom. the problem with Christianity is that it then adds on to this bare axiom all kinds of incoherent and inconsistent predicates. If you look at other theologies such as Vedanta (for you illiterates out there, this is a form of Indian thought) they don't run into the same problems -- different ones to be sure but not the sort that fuel this ridiculous science-religion debate.

the level of knowledge about how religions actually work which is on display here is pretty pathetic. before you dogmatic scientists weigh in further it might be a good idea to read some introductory text books in the philosophy of religion.

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