Pharyngula

Cafe Scientifique, or Lewis Wolpert

You are going to have to make a choice about tonight’s educational experience. You could come out to the Common Cup Coffeehouse in Morris, Minnesota at 6:00 to attend our Cafe Scientifique, in which Arne Kildegaard will make the electricity industry and current renewable energy policy fascinating, OR if you happen to be in London at 7:30, you could listen to Lewis Wolpert debate William Lane Craig on “Is God a delusion?” There is a six hour time difference between London and Morris, but I don’t think it’s possible to both attend the debate and fly across the Atlantic in 4½ hours, so you should just face the fact that you’re going to have to pick one or the other.

Sorry about that. We should have consulted each other before scheduling these events.

Comments

  1. #1 AbsolutelyNoFaith
    February 27, 2007

    I had not heard of Craig before and just checked out his web site. My, oh my. Such shallow, easily refuted crap. So much of it is just mental gymnastics twirling and whirling around the central issue. His section on Existence of God is almost all arguing from the gaps, with the only real gap being the origin of all matter and existence. That’s it? The fact that we have no idea how space and time came into being, it must be God? Give me a break.

    The rest is just the same word games that philosophers like to play all based upon the foundation that Christianity is true, without any actual evidence that it is.

    He also likes to discuss other authors mostly in order to show, by contrast, that he is more “rational”, and he throws in lots of scientific-sounding buzzwords to lend credence to his claim of rationality and reason being the center of his arguments for the truth of Christianity.

    To give an example, this is from his article On the Alleged Metaphysical Superiority of Timelessness

    “Brian Leftow argues that timeless beings are metaphysically superior to temporal beings in view of their truer presence and unity. Leftow’s argument that a timeless being has truer presence is based on a systematic misconstruction of tensed vs. tenseless theories of time, which invalidates his argument. Leftow’s argument that temporal beings have less unity is based on a misunderstanding and reductionistic interpretation of the Special Theory of Relativity. Whether one adopts a presentist or non-presentist ontology, Leftow’s further claim that temporal beings do not have their existence all at once is erroneous.”

    That should give you an idea of the level of discourse to be expected. No matter how polished, anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the standard arguments and logical fallacies commonly found in such debates, and a merely good ability to debate would wipe the floor with him. The trick is to not be dazzled by the light show and just relentlessly yank open the curtain and show the emptiness behind it.

    Now, this guy against Dawkins or Dennet or Harris, or lots of others would be worth seeing. I’m sorry to hear that his opponent in this debate may not be up to the job. That may be why he’s debating him. Check out the transcript to this debate to get an idea of the levels of his arguments. (we don’t know how the universe came into being, so therefore God exists; the universe is complex, so therefore God exists; the “facts” of Jesus’ life show his Godhood (facts like the empty tomb, his return, etc… i.e. facts without any actual historical evidence beyond the bible), so therefore God exists; God can be immediately known and experienced, so therefore God exists; and the best of all, no one’s proven he doesn’t exist, so therefore God exists.)

    Give me a break. Sigh.

    I appreciate all of the work biologists and geologists have done to show the silliness of YEC and the IDC crowd. For once, though, I’d like to see an anthropologist or archaeologist get into the mix and bring up the evidence that religion is a completely human-created artifact. This becomes even more obvious when you point to a more modern religion like Christianity. Even Judaism is fairly modern (1500 BCE at the oldest). What religions do we find the earliest evidence of? They sure aren’t of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic family of religions.

    Even if you believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, where’s the evidence of the religion outside of stories handed down from the late bronze-age? Where’s the archaeological evidence for this particular God’s worship from earlier time? There isn’t any. Even within a very narrow and relatively modern time frame, the modern forms of religion are obviously human inventions, and not even very old ones at that. The earliest evidence for some type of religious practices seems to indicate very naturalistic beliefs with a great deal of sympathetic magic involved and spirits of the natural world the prime movers. Even the god of the Bible is most likely the evolution from an earlier sky god of the nomadic herders of south-west Asia.

    Anyway, too bad I won’t be able to be at either event. Geography and reality keep me away.

    ANF
    Off on his high horse this morning.

  2. #2 Steve Watson
    February 27, 2007

    Was Dawkins not available, or something? The “God [is a] Delusion” trope is his, anyway.

  3. #3 David Wilford
    February 27, 2007

    I scanned through Wolpert’s new book on the subject of religion, “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast” (2006) and wasn’t taken by it as I was by his marvelous “The Unnatural Nature of Science” (1991), which I bought at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s bookstore back in 1991. (Sadly, the SMM’s bookstore has declined in the number and quality of books they now sell as well, in favor of stuff that makes a quick buck, plus at one time a magnet that was a rip off one of my wife’s works of art, but we won’t talk about _that_.)

    Wolpert is much better at defending science from religion than he is at understanding and therefore explaining religion. (Which is odd, given Wolpert’s own Jewish upbringing.) So for my money, Richard Dawkins is by far the better representative of the rationalist side in any no-holds-barred debate with the sort of rhetorical tricksters that are fellow travellers of the Discovery Institute. Indeed, it’s indicative that when H. Allen Orr reviewed three books on the subject of science and religion, he devoted one paragraph to Wolpert and almost all the rest of his review to Dawkins. Yes, Orr was critical of Dawkins, but he at least knew what was most worth critisizing.

  4. #4 Steven Carr
    February 27, 2007

    Richard Dawkins has a long-standing policy of not debating creationists.

    And Craig is a creationist, and an inerrantist to boot.

    Craig will be debating Mike Begon, who I don’t think has written any books on atheism and naturalism , unlike the people Craig refuses to debate against (Lowder and Kreuger)

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Even the god of the Bible is most likely the evolution from an earlier sky god of the nomadic herders of south-west Asia.

    There’s a “biography” out there that says it started with a “mountain and weather god of Moabite shepherds” after which came the tradition of worshipping the war god alone after a victory. Unfortunately I haven’t read that book. And I bet you’ll find apologists that will claim this as stepwise revelation of The Truth«. (Strangely enough, few of them will be Muslims, but I digress.)

    Incidentally, “mountain and weather god” reminds me of the Hittite chief god, who is a generic Indo-European one who sits on a mountain above the clouds, throws lightning bolts and makes thunder. The last Hittites are mentioned several times in the Bible. Would be interesting to see if the book (I don’t remember the reference) claims in the end that YHWH is the same as Zeus and Thor. Theogony becoming phylogeny…

    Does it ever stop raining in London?

    Sure. About 10 times a day on average, I think. :-P

    in an infinite history of the solar system

    Now that is lame. It is obvious that the solar system is not as old as the universe.

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?
    February 28, 2007

    Even the god of the Bible is most likely the evolution from an earlier sky god of the nomadic herders of south-west Asia.

    There’s a “biography” out there that says it started with a “mountain and weather god of Moabite shepherds” after which came the tradition of worshipping the war god alone after a victory. Unfortunately I haven’t read that book. And I bet you’ll find apologists that will claim this as stepwise revelation of The Truth«. (Strangely enough, few of them will be Muslims, but I digress.)

    Incidentally, “mountain and weather god” reminds me of the Hittite chief god, who is a generic Indo-European one who sits on a mountain above the clouds, throws lightning bolts and makes thunder. The last Hittites are mentioned several times in the Bible. Would be interesting to see if the book (I don’t remember the reference) claims in the end that YHWH is the same as Zeus and Thor. Theogony becoming phylogeny…

    Does it ever stop raining in London?

    Sure. About 10 times a day on average, I think. :-P

    in an infinite history of the solar system

    Now that is lame. It is obvious that the solar system is not as old as the universe.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.