Friday, March 14, 2014

Analysis of William Lane Craig versus Sean Carroll February 2014 Debate


Philosopher William Lane Craig and Physicist Sean Carroll debated the subject of God and Cosmology on February 21 in New Orleans.  Out of all the debates of Dr. Craig's that I have seen (which are many), this one was definitely one of the best.  Both debaters carried themselves professionally, made a reasonable effort to respond to each other's arguments, and managed to keep the debate both informative and entertaining.

I will confess at the outset that I generally find Dr. Craig's arguments to be sharp and persuasive, though I do not sympathize with his Christianity.  Although I do end up mostly defending Dr. Craig's position and criticizing Dr. Carroll's position in this analysis, I attempted to do so fairly and with attention to arguments.  I believe this is in alignment with the spirit of debate and also makes for an enjoyable exercise of philosophy.

Given the debate structure and my interests in the topics discussed, I've divided this analysis into three main parts: Dr. Carroll's positive case, Dr. Craig's Positive Case, and Dr. Carroll's Negative Case.  The positive cases comprise each debater's arguments in favor of their preferred world views: naturalism and theism, respectively.  Those who are familiar with Dr. Craig's debates may wish to skip my discussion of his positive case because they are likely familiar with it.  Dr. Carroll's Negative Case comprises his arguments against Craig's theistic arguments.  I finish the article with a few concluding remarks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (Amazon Review)

In a 2012 debate entitled The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion, physicist Sean Carroll made a rather bold claim in his opening remarks (at about the 12:30 mark):
"The argument is finished.  The debate is over.  We've come to a conclusion.  Naturalism has won. If you go to any university physics department, listen to the talks they give or the papers they write--go to any biology department, go to any neuroscience department, any philosophy department, people whose professional job it is to explain the world, to come up with explanatory frameworks that match what we see--no one mentions God.  There's never an appeal to a supernatural realm by people whose job it is to explain what happens in the world.  Everyone knows that the naturalist explanations are the ones that work."
Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland is essentially a direct challenge to Carroll's claim.  The book is a collection of essays by academic philosophers in university departments that do not "know that naturalist explanations are the ones that work."  They instead level a host of ontological, epistemological, ethical, and theological arguments against the veracity of naturalist explanations.  In this review I will attempt to explain what some of those arguments are.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 5)

This is part 5 of my series of essays on Naturalism: A Critical Analysis. This essay will focus on Stuart Goetz's chapter, which discusses the implications of libertarian free will on naturalism.  You can follow the following links for the other essays in the series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

Chapter 7: Naturalism and Libertarian Agency
by Stuart Goetz 

Goetz's primary argument against naturalism is that libertarian free will falsifies naturalism.  If free will exists, then naturalism is false.  Formally, we can put the argument like this:
(1) If libertarian free will exists, then naturalism is false
(2) Libertarian free will exists
Therefore (3) Naturalism is false
I will clarify a few terms then discuss the argument.

Libertarian Free Will
 
Libertarian free will is the idea that choices are not predetermined or fully coerced by law-like forces.  Libertarian free will (or libertarianism for short) entails that those who have free will are agents--they are self-directing entities who make choices for reasons.  In Goetz's words, "According to libertarianism, a choice is an undetermined mental action which is explained teleologically in terms of a purpose or goal of its agent" (157).

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review of Naturalism: a Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 4)

This is part 4 in my series of essays on Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland.

Chapter 6: Naturalism and the Mind
by Charles Taliaferro

Charles Taliaferro is tasked with stirring up trouble for naturalism with respect to mental states and events.  Insofar as one takes the existence of first-person mental states as evidence for an immaterial spirit or soul, naturalism is threatened because it depends on the rejection of all things "supernatural."  Surely, such entities as immaterial spirits or souls tread uncomfortably close to the supernatural; so, if Taliaferro's project is successful, it presents yet another deadly attack on the naturalist's stronghold.

For those familiar with the history of the philosophy of mind, Taliaferro's essay will not add anything terribly new to the field; however, in a book poking as many holes in naturalism as possible, the argument from the mind has an important place.  Taliaferro does a fine job summarizing the various naturalist strategies for avoiding the threats associated with "substantiating" the mind (i.e. awarding the mind the status of a "substance"--something that exists independently of the physical).  Taliaferro basically outlines three broad naturalist strategies for dealing with the mental, offers objections to each of them, then proposes that the mental fits much better within a theistic framework than within a naturalist framework.  I will discuss the three naturalist strategies and Talifierro's responses to them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 3)

This is part three of a series of articles on the book Naturalism: A Critical Analysis.  You can find part one and part two in my blog archive.

Chapter 3: The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism
by Robert C. Koons

Robert Koons continues the book's assault on naturalism by arguing against the compatibility of naturalism and scientific realism.  Scientific realism is simply the position that the methods and findings of science uncover objective information about really existing entities in the world.  The reason a telescope displays a bright patch of light when pointed in a certain direction in space, for example, is because there's a ball of burning energy out there causing the telescope to display what it does.  Many naturalists, as far as I can tell, are strongly motivated toward naturalism precisely because they think scientific realism is the correct view of reality, and they think naturalism bears the strongest commitment to such realism out of all positions on offer.  Thus, Koons' thesis is extremely provocative as it targets one of naturalism's primary virtues.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 2)

This is part two in a series of essays exploring the 2000 book Naturalism: A Critical Analsysis by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland.  You can find part 1 here.  This essay will explore the second chapter of the book.

Chapter 2: Knowledge and Naturalism
by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard's project is to argue that certain varieties of naturalism cannot accommodate knowledge or knowing in the world.  Given the limited physical resources of a naturalist world, too many ingredients of knowledge are missing from such a world to account for our coming to possess knowledge.  Willard states his thesis thus in his fourth paragraph:
"I will try to explain why narrower Naturalism or unqualified Physicalism cannot find a place for knowledge, and specifically for three of its essential components: truth, logical relations and noetic unity" (p.24).
Notice that he qualifies naturalism with "narrower."  He does this because naturalism has not historically been a unified position.  Willard distinguishes "narrower" naturalism from "generous" naturalism in the essay.  The former only permits physical entities into existence whereas the latter is not necessarily limited to only physical entities.  Narrower naturalism, therefore, is stronger (or bolder) than generous naturalism.  While Willard argues in the above quotation that narrower naturalism cannot find a place for knowledge, Willard argues elsewhere in the essay that generous naturalism also fails to accommodate knowledge because the position is imprecisely defined and winds up being vacuous.  We will look at this last claim first.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 1)

William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland edited a volume in 2000 entitled Naturalism: A Critical Analysis.  The work is a collection of ten essays by different philosophers who each, in turn, criticizes different dimensions of the naturalist worldview.  I aim to do a short series of reviews of select essays from the book because, first of all, the book is extremely interesting.  Second, naturalism has maintained its popularity in the decade since this book's publication, but the criticisms leveled in this work remain, as best as I can tell, unresolved; I wish to discuss the arguments against naturalism that I find most compelling.  I will begin with chapter one.

Chapter 1: Farewell to Philosophical Naturalism
by Paul K. Moser and David Yandell

In their essay, Moser and Yandell argue that although the methods and resources of the empirical sciences reliably track the truth in certain domains, there is insufficient justification for extending those methods and resources to such a degree that the empirical sciences have a monopoly over all domains of inquiry.  Put another way, since some knowledge comes to us by way of physical sense experience of an externally existing material world, it does not follow that all knowledge comes to us by way of physical sense experience and that all existing entities are material.  Moser and Yandell write:
"A basic question is whether there is a legitimate form of philosophical procedure, often called 'first philosophy,' that has ontological authority but employs methods 'prior to' or at least not based on sense experience or the empirical sciences. In particular, can a philosopher operating without reliance on sensation or the empirical sciences legitimately engage in inquiry that posits real objects or at least yields genuine truths? Naturalists say no; antinaturalists, yes" (p.3-4).