Why are the British Atheists so intimidated?

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{ 98 comments… add one }

  • Peter September 3, 2011, 10:58 pm

    Funny how Christians make a big deal about someone not debating William Lane Craig, but they are all quiet that William Lane Craig refuses to debate John W. Loftus.

  • Glenn September 3, 2011, 11:15 pm

    Peter, complaining that Bill Craig doesn’t debate John Loftus is like complaining that the head of NASA won’t debate a man living under a bridge with a new theory on how there’s no moon. BY all accounts that I know of, Loftus did very poorly in his debate with Dinesh D’Souza, and yet Bill Craig is clearly a more scholarly figure.

    By contrast, the people in question in this case are talking about someone whose qualifications in the subject at hand clearly outweigh their own, and yet they hold themselves out as the bastions of respectable rational thinking on that very subject.

  • Warren Hicks September 3, 2011, 11:33 pm

    Sometimes we can give people more credibility than they deserve by debating in public with them. I happen to think Dawkins and Hitchens fall into this category as well. Maybe its time we stopped giving them an audience.

  • Glenn September 3, 2011, 11:50 pm

    Warren: It’s true that when looking at the quality of his arguments, someone like Dawkins doesn’t really deserve a lot of public attention over the God question. If that were the end of it, then I wouldn’t think there would be a reason for anyone to debate him. I share you view there I think.

    The trouble, however, is twofold. Firstly, whether he deserves it or not, Dawkins gets a lot of public attention for his views on God. It’s sort of a “bleed-through” effect. Dawkins is an expert in one area and has come to be seen as a person who is a smart guy as a result. In his own mind his expertise in one area just bleeds through into every area where he has a strong opinion, and many of his fans see him as… just an expert in general, so his views on philosophy and religion, in spite of his having no credentials or real credibility either (the two are, of course, not the same), are treated with a public respect that far outweighs what they deserve. It’s the fact that his works – and the cult that has come to surround the man – has become so popular that warrants the public debate. The second factor is the ruse perpetuated by Dawkins that he is a man of reason who is willing to engage others on the subject and his publicly stated conviction that he will “win the argument.” It looks like he’s not actually willing to have that argument, let alone win it.

  • Leonhard September 4, 2011, 11:29 am

    As much as I’d love to disagree with Glenn’s main point, I can’t. Richard Dawkins, and in fact most of the new atheist movement may have been a boon to atheists, but they’re not exactly the best defenders of their views. They’ve managed to mobilize atheists politically, make the topic much more public instead of academic or fringe. However beyond their claim that there isn’t much evidence for the existence of God -which I think they inadequately defend- and their attacks on evolution denialism which is rampant in the evangelical church -which is perfectly well deserved and defended- there’s not much substance.

    I think Richard Dawkins can be fairly criticized for not being able to properly deal with his critics. If he said he’d debate anyone anywhere (did he?), and he can’t then sure, he deserves public shame for not being able to do that. Saying that the reason that he doesn’t want to debate William Craig Lane is because he’s a creationist, doesn’t really cut it, because whether or not Craig is he seldom argues for ID, and probably wouldn’t debate Dawkins on this. Personally the worst part was Dawkins criticism of some philosophical arguments in which he gave simple straw man counterarguments to. I guess its fair to say that it was misleading on his part. Lets not talk about the argument from improbability, other than its a good argument against the existence of a God… given Naturalism.

    I’m not sure though that you need to be a scholar of Christian philosophy, debate tactics, biblical hermeneutics and history in order to be an atheist who argues for the truth of his worldview. Or likewise to be a Christian expounding on her beliefs. It’d be a pretty sad world if only you Glenn was authorized to say anything for your worldview by virtue of being a scholar of it.

    And I can respect not dealing with people who’ve been trained for years in the art of deductive arguments for Christendom. Heck I’ve read some philosophy and I’m still not sure how to properly defend that the Ontological argument is bunk, but there are still Christians out there defending it. I’m sure there are Christians studying at Biola right now who knows the history of the Ontological argument, and have wriggly, contortionist word puzzle counterarguments to any criticism I could give of it. They’ve deconstructed Kant’s criticisms and found ways around them, and can shroud their concepts in modal logic and other strange constructions to make them virtually unintelligible. I’m more likely to look like a blinkering idiot if I tried going against a person like that. However the ontological argument, unless its severely different than what I’ve heard, is arguably bunk. I base that on the understanding I have of some versions of the argument and the counterarguments against them, plus the fact that the majority of philosophers in the world agree that its bunk. Your recent opinion is part of that. I’m not sure it’d be further productive of me to put in thousands of man hours to seek out all those twirly semantic puzzles, and figure them out. If someone asks me what the strongest argument for Christendom is I find I’m perfectly justified in saying ‘Not the ontological argument, but I know some other interesting ones’. I could even state this in a public lecture on ‘Why I’m an atheist’, or would that be wrong of me? Sure I can’t give expert testimony because I don’t have a phd in the subject. However should I just shrug my shoulders and go ‘I dunno’ to any question I’m not a qualified expert in? You’re not a neurologist, but you’ve drawn from certain lessons about neurological cases for your arguments for physicalism.

    I guess I’m trying to ask you Glenn is what you consider the fair principles for people who wish to be public about their beliefs? What should Dawkins have done? He believed that because evolution was true that therefore atheism was most likely to be true, and he wanted to bring atheism to the talking table, that religion has a lot of bad issues, and its possible to live without religion and we’d be better off without it. What do you think is the fair and proper way of doing things, and what in your opinion should he have done differently?

  • Ilíon September 4, 2011, 11:57 am

    Why are the British Atheists so intimidated [by William Lane Craig]?

    It all comes down to accent.

    Like so many in their pommish/toffish circles, WLC goes by Three Names — his only weaknesses in this regard is that his given name is not a surname and his surname is not double-barrelled (*) — so it’s hard for them to put him down on account of his name or “class”.

    BUT, then, they all use these silly little toff ‘received’ accents, kind of like Valley Girl with Official Approval, whereas Lane uses a manly American accent … and doesn’t come off as a toff playing dress-up, as they surely would if they tried to talk like men (women as appropriate) and adults.

    (*) imagine WLC as “Williamson Lane Craig-Smythe”.

  • Eric September 4, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I found Dawkins’s remarks on his ‘debate’ with Craig in Mexico (which, it seems, wasn’t a debate when it suits Dawkins, and was a debate when it suits Dawkins) simply farcical:

    Dawkins: “…the only time I have been in a debate with [Craig] (in Mexico) I found him pedantic and surprisingly unimpressive. He seemed to think he had scored points of logic when, to anyone of any intelligence, he obviously had done nothing of the kind.”

    Amazing! It’s just *so clear* that Craig *did* score many ‘points of logic’ in that debate (which, prior to the event, Dawkins said that he *didn’t* consider it to be a debate with Craig), *especially* against Dawkins! I mean, Dawkins manifestly didn’t even *understand* Craig’s arguments. Dawkins isn’t stupid, and I don’t take him to be a liar, so perhaps the explanation is psychological (as commenter Untenured has suggested on Ed Feser’s blog): Many of the New Atheist types are *so* certain that they are right, and so certain that they both understand and have demolished all the arguments for god’s existence etc. that whenever they discuss the issue with someone, they filter everything their opponent says through a bad argument converter. Honestly, that’s the best explanation I’ve seen for some of this stuff, and the Dawkins comment above seems to support it. (It’s not just me, right? It really is just obvious that Craig scored point after logical point in that mini-debate with Dawkins, isn’t is?)

  • Dicky P September 4, 2011, 4:32 pm

    I’m an atheist, but I’m not British, so I’ll take you all on. Whose keen to be destroyed first? You up to it, Glenno?

  • Ronnie September 4, 2011, 8:21 pm

    “Whose”

    I stopped reading there.

  • Peter September 4, 2011, 10:43 pm

    Glenn,

    Typical Christian charitable apologist approach to call their man “head of NASA” and the opponent “a man living under a bridge with a new theory on how there’s no moon”. Like Jesus said “poison the opponents well with ad hominem” (Mark 19:12)

    Dinesh D’Souza and David Wood were ok to debate Loftus. Graig said that people like Loftus would be most difficult to debate. Is Graig afraid of Loftus?

    Funny how Christians make a big deal about Dawkins not debating William Lane Craig, but they are all quiet when Dawkins called out bishops and the pope. Why don’t they make videos to mock their bishops to debate Dawkins? Was it “Do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you”? (Matthew 7:12)

    I like the “Like or Dislike” buttons. Only four tumbs down and comments opposing Glenn’s view become hidden, and Christians don’t need to see opposing ideas. So, quickly people I need four tumbs down to activate the non-Christian thought shield.

  • Glenn September 4, 2011, 10:56 pm

    Peter –

    1) Bishops and the Pope (correct me if I am wrong) have not written books / spoken publicly claiming that they are willing to debate anyone, only to back out when responded to. But again, correct me if I am wrong. Show me a Bishop where the reverse is true – where he has claimed to be willing to debate any atheist, only to decline an invitation from Dawkins.

    2) No doubt you think Loftus is a wonderful, sufficiently informed and skilled defender of his view. I don’t, and I think my comparison is apt. You might not know what poisoning the well is, but simply saying that someone is a poor representative of a point of view (whether using an unpleasant metaphor or not) is not poisoning the well. I wouldn’t say that Dawkins is under obligation to debate anyone and everyone, no matter how poor the opponent may be. Likewise, Bill Craig has no such obligation. But William Lane Craig, whether Dawkins likes it or not, is one of the most active and qualified apologists for the Christian faith. It is therefore, as other atheists admit, a glaring omission on his own CV that in spite of his claim to be willing to debate all comers, he avoids Bill Craig like death itself.

    As for the Like/dislike feature, paranoia aside, I can assure you that they work for non-Christian and Christian alike. It beats censorship – I’m merely allowing the market to decide. Plus, you can still choose to view unpopular posts. Nobody is stopping anyone. :)

  • Peter September 4, 2011, 11:57 pm

    Glenn,

    I thought the world is full of bishops who write against atheists and are active in debate circles. I don’t know about NZ but in Australia archbishops Pell and Jensen for example would fit the bill; both have debated atheists and regularly write about new atheists. In the UK the Church of England even told their people to take on the new atheists. Google “Clergy told to take on the new atheists”

    You think Loftus is not sufficiently informed and skilled to debate philosophy and existence of God and should not debate Graig. You also think Dawkins is not sufficiently informed and skilled to debate philosophy and existence of God and should debate Graig. Strange…

    No problem with Like/dislike function. Your blog, your rules. I do have to give you props for publishing all comments. So many Christian blogs don’t publish or only selectively publish non-Christian comments.

  • John September 5, 2011, 5:39 am

    I think the debate format doesn’t help anyone. What I’d like to see is armchair discussions where the speakers are free to discuss the issues and not just talk past each other. We all know that whoever we agree with will ‘win’ the debate in our minds as is obvious from all of the blogging about previous debates so why can’t be get away from the winning or loosing and just get into the discussion and see where it leads us.

  • Glenn September 5, 2011, 6:28 am

    Peter, show me a bishop who has written a book against atheism, claimed that he will debate all comers, and yet refused Dawkins’ personal invitation.

    As for comments not being published – I know what you mean. A number of anti-Christian blogs I’ve commented on have simply not published my comments at all. Keeping their flock safe I suppose.

  • Peter September 5, 2011, 11:08 pm

    Glenn,

    I don’t know or keep track of what bishops say. Dawkins was happy to debate any of them, so why aren’t Christians calling their bishops out if they want to see Dawkins in a debate?

  • Cal September 6, 2011, 3:20 am

    Peter,

    A debate requires two apt and willing opponents. Some people (such as myself) have weak constitutions for debates, some just don’t have the time. A bishop is not necessarily in the role to going around country to country to debate anyone who wants a word (as is the case with most folks).

    Glenn’s point is 1) Dawkins is willing to debate any Christian/theist on the existence of God 2) Craig is willing 3) Dawkins will not debate Craig. Why? There only seems to be a chain of ad hominem attacks about his mannerisms etc.

    According to Craig’s opinion, as seen here, he doesn’t think Loftus has any real place to stand with an argument. He has ‘lost’ debates with others before, those that are considered under Craig’s caliber. Yet you would think that someone like Dawkins, who sort of fancies himself the pope of humanism, would take down the rising star of Christian apologetics. Granted, if I were Craig I’d debate Loftus and be done with it, but there are a lot of people who write books and debate out there. Maybe it’s the can of worms sort of thing.

    Peace,
    Cal

  • Basil Wellington September 6, 2011, 8:40 am

    Hasn’t Loftus also reneged on debating any christian? Our very own Dr Peoples comes to mind…

  • Glenn September 6, 2011, 6:55 pm

    Peter, why doesn’t he give one of them a call? preferably one who – like Dawkins – has said they will debate anyone?

  • Peter September 6, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Cal, you wrote:
    “Glenn’s point is 1) Dawkins is willing to debate any Christian/theist on the existence of God”

    And Glenn is wrong. Dawkins said:
    “I’ve always said when invited to do a debate that I would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop. Indeed, I have done both. But that I don’t take on creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters. They’ve got to have something more than that. I’m busy.”

    You said:
    “According to Craig’s opinion, as seen here, he doesn’t think Loftus has any real place to stand with an argument. He has ‘lost’ debates with others before, those that are considered under Craig’s caliber.”

    So what are you and Christians complaining? This goes both ways…

    According to Dawkins’s opinion, he doesn’t think Graig has any real place to stand with an argument. Graig has ‘lost’ debates with others before, those that are considered under Dawkins’ caliber.

  • Peter September 6, 2011, 9:40 pm

    Glenn,

    I don’t know if Dawkins has personally called them or not. Maybe he has and they declined. Christians seem to be so eager to see him debate so why don’t they publish a youtube video calling their bishops out. That seem to be the standard Christian way.

  • Glenn September 6, 2011, 11:30 pm

    Peter, watch the video before commenting, please. Dawkins limited his scope to clergy only was after it was pointed out to him that even though he had said he would debate anyone, he was avoiding debating Bill Craig. In other words, he got scared and changed his tune to a more timid one. You are quoting the more timid one.

    Glenn was not wrong, because Dawkins did indeed say this.

    And why would anyone call the bishops out? To my knowledge, none of them has ever pretended that they wanted to debate all comers, only to change their mind when a well known comer actually accepted the challenge.

    I’m interested, Peter, since you keep trying to take the focus away from Dawkins. I’d like you to directly state what you think of Dawkins saying that he’d debate anyone and win the argument, and then avoiding debating William Lane Craig. What do you make of that?

  • John September 7, 2011, 12:44 am

    Craig is a philosopher and christian apologist.
    Dawkins in an evolutionary biologist.

    What do the two have in common to talk about really?

    I’m sick of hearing Dawkins claim that religion flys people into buildings when it’s obvious that the situation was alot more complex – stick to biology.

    I’m sick of hearing Craig discuss quantum physics like he knows what he’s talking about – stick to philosophy and religion.

    If they do get together, I’d like to see an armchair discussion. But of course they hate each others guts, so that’s not going to happen.

  • matt September 7, 2011, 1:24 am

    I think Craig probably does know at least a little bit about Quantum Physics, since he has done most of his real academic work in philosophical issues that greatly depend on a good understanding of theoretical physics (that is, cosmology and philosophy of time).

    As far as the whole Loftus thing goes, it is my understanding that Craig has stated that he does not want to debate former students of his, of whom Loftus is one. I would also imagine that debating someone who you had invested time into, who now derided the things most near and dear to you would be a difficult and emotional affair. I’d at least sympathize with Craig (he was not a Vulcan, last time I checked).

    Dawkins, on the other hand, has not given any understandable personal reason for avoiding debate, and has contented himself with hurling insults from the safety of his own online oasis of free thought. At the very least, I hope this does bring great shame to him and he either repents or becomes known as the Oxford Zoologist who wrote the Selfish Gene and then went crazy some time later.

  • John September 7, 2011, 4:42 am

    I thought it was rather obvious that Craig does not do his own quantum physics and while he may claim to have a philosophical understanding, it is not a working (mathematical) understanding. It was painfully obvious in his recent debate with a physicist that there was some basic math he was missing. He really should stick to his specialty which does not encompass working theories of the origin of the universe.

    Either way, the fact that someone will or will not debate some one or whether they win a debate with someone, does not decide the truth of a matter.

    Why is everyone so concerned with who will and who will not debate whom? Given a person’s reluctance to debate another, it does not follow that that person has a weak position.

    No-one here will de-convert if Dawkins wins a debate or convert if Craig does so what’s the point?

  • Matthew Flannagan September 7, 2011, 4:27 pm

    John, Actually Craig in fact is a leading philosopher of time, so physics is something he is familar with, he has several peer reviewed works analysising different theories of time. He also has numerous peer reviewed works discussing the theological implications of big bang cosmology which is probably something he one of the worlds leading experts on. So I don’t think the “he is not a physicist” issue will wash.

  • Glenn September 7, 2011, 6:36 pm

    Craig is a philosopher and christian apologist.
    Dawkins in an evolutionary biologist.

    What do the two have in common to talk about really?

    John, in light of this observation of yours, I suppose what’s most interesting is that Dawkins is as notorious as he is primarily because of his forays into philosophy, theology and his attacks on religious apologetics.

    That said, the mere fact that he has done so, I think, gives them enough in common that they could have a meaningful debate.

  • john September 7, 2011, 8:00 pm

    It’s true. They both stray outside their field Glen – into each others. Maybe that means they should sit down for a chat but that doesn’t mean that it will be constructive or add anything to our understanding. It would be entertaining but nothing more. @ matt – philosophers may have plenty to add to the origins discussion , but it doesn’t make him a physicist. He will comment on the theories developed but is not in a position to do the math to put forward his own. Neither am I! We can only speculate.

  • Glenn September 7, 2011, 9:09 pm

    John, while you are certainly correct that Dawkins does stray into Craig’s field – philosophy and theology, I just don’t see anywhere where Craig wanders into Dawkins’ field, namely zoology and claims to be an expert. I’m willing to be corrected however, and I will look at any examples people can point to.

    As for Craig not putting forward “his own theories,” this seems to go a bridge too far. Very few people who have studied time and big bang cosmology actually put forward their own theories, so this seems like an unreasonable criterion to judge Craig on. He has invested a great deal of study into big bang cosmology and theories of time. Is he a physicist? No, but’s not really important is it? After all, we’re only looking at one issue in physics/astronomy.

  • Grayson September 7, 2011, 11:04 pm

    John

    I don’t really see how whether or not Dr. William Lane Craig is a physicist is exactly relevant to him having a good knowledge of the material involved or being able to debate the issues with those who are physicists. The parallel with Dawkins only goes so far. If Dawkins were in fact a very good philosopher of religion, I don’t think it would matter at all whether he is technically a philosopher or not. But the difference between him and Craig is that Dawkins is a terrible philosopher of religion, whereas Craig (as both Dr. Flannagan and Dr. Peoples have noted) is very well-read on the subjects of cosmology and physics and the like.

    Glenn

    I used to keep up with Dr. Craig’s work on his Reasonable Faith website quite regularly, so I’m pretty familiar with the positions he takes and the issues he addresses. The only thing that I think could be considered as Craig wandering into Dawkins’ field would be the little amount of work he’s done defending Intelligent Design as a possibility (he has been or is currently a member of the Discovery Institute). He does not attack evolution (he readily admits to be agnostic on the subject), but claims to have not yet been persuaded by its evidence. I don’t believe he has done anything else on the subject aside from a couple of podcasts and his debate with Francisco Ayala on ID theory.

  • Tom Gilson September 8, 2011, 1:58 am

    How skillful a debater is Loftus, anyway? When he debated David Wood on “Does God Exist,” he conceded that God exists. He conceded the same again online (there’s a nice pithy commentary on that here). Someone, apparently an atheist, added this to that conversation:

    Do you religious guys have a return policy for apostates like Loftus? I want our credibility back. This guy’s a lemon nickle and diming away our claim to reason.

    Dawkins is arguably running from Craig. His own atheist colleague at Oxford, Professor Came, has said it appears that way. Craig is not arguably running from Loftus. The parallel between the two circumstances fails at that point.

  • Tom Gilson September 8, 2011, 2:06 am

    As for straying into each others’ fields, Craig has not written a book called “The Evolution Delusion.” He has not produced a television series calling evolution (or zoology) the root of all evil. To my knowledge he has not even affirmed that because Christianity is true, evolution is false (naturalistic evolution is false, yes, but not evolution in any other sense). He supports Intelligent Design but again, to my knowledge, he does not build any arguments on biological approaches to ID. Because of his philosophical specialty area, he’s considerably more qualified to discuss cosmology and its implications than Dawkins is as a zoologist.

    Craig’s beef with Dawkins is not evolution per se, but evolution understood philosophically, and of course also religion. This is Craig’s turf.

  • Ilíon September 8, 2011, 4:44 am

    You know, the recent posts here, coming from whichever position, are invoking what we might call “the Fallacy of the Expert”, which is the erroneous view that only “the experts” — those persons “properly” credentialed by an “appropriate” institution of “higher learning” — may validly express arguments and opinions about certain topics.

    And, one of the amusing things about invoking “the Fallacy of the Expert” is that those persons invoking it never seem to quite realize that according to that fallacious logic, if *they* are not “an expert”, then *they* don’t have any standing at all to even have an opinion on the matter; neither to agree nor to disagree, at any level of analysis, with “the experts”.

  • john September 8, 2011, 5:38 am

    I agree with most of what’s being said here, and agree that non experts should still have a voice. Not being an expert means you may be able to contribute something quite different butthere is equally a large risk that you put a foot in it. Neither Dawkins or Craig are innocent of that and experts are often wrong.
    Going against the experts just increases the chances you’ll make an obvious mistake.
    Seems everyone wants to see a debate so fine. I still don’t see the point however. To me it seems like deciding the match on who has the best haka.
    Can someone tell me what intense desire for these debates springs from? Is it their evangelical potential?

  • Tom Gilson September 8, 2011, 5:47 am

    Ilion, could you clarify just how you see the Fallacy of the Expert playing out here? I don’t see anyone saying that only properly credentialed persons may validly express arguments. I see people discussing who is qualified to participate in public debates on certain topics. That’s different. Surely you don’t think expertise is a fallacious expectation for that?

    Obviously in any debate, including ones like this one here (to the extent that it is a debate) what matters is the quality of the arguments; and I think also the quality of the interaction (civility, listening well, staying on topic, etc.) matters as well. The desideratum for public debate is to have participants who are able to bring high quality arguments and interact with one another with appropriate pleasantness and civility.

    That’s my first question. My second question is, at what point do you see anyone here fallaciously playing the role of expert in having opinions about these topics. You were rather vague on that.

    Thank you.

  • Ilíon September 8, 2011, 5:13 pm

    It seems rather fitting that Mr Gilson would try to play the game he’s playing in post #34, a variation of the “Citation!” game. It’s kind of amusing, too, in that this is a short thread, and *anyone* looking back over the recent posts can see examples of what I was talking about.

  • Ilíon September 8, 2011, 5:24 pm

    Glenn @28:As for Craig not putting forward “his own theories,” this seems to go a bridge too far. …

    That’s a good point; the expressed view you were criticizing easily slides into the fallacious position that “unless you offer me a(n acceptable-to-me) ‘theory’ with which to replace the ‘theory’ I presently hold to, which you are attacking, then I can ignore any criticisms of it.”

  • Tom Gilson September 8, 2011, 9:44 pm

    Ilion, you’re still welcome to answer my question if you think it has one.

  • Glenn September 8, 2011, 10:15 pm

    You know, the recent posts here, coming from whichever position, are invoking what we might call “the Fallacy of the Expert”, which is the erroneous view that only “the experts” — those persons “properly” credentialed by an “appropriate” institution of “higher learning” — may validly express arguments and opinions about certain topics.

    Nobody has said that since Dawkins doesn’t have degrees in philosophy or theology he must therefore not know anything and should be quiet. Similarly, nobody, as far as I can see, has said that since Craig does not have a degree in cosmology he should not be talking about it.

    The issue is not the degree, but the expertise. People who don’t have the qualifications and the reputation of being a trustable source should, of course, draw on those with expertise to demonstrate that they’re not presuming expertise on everything themselves. Notably, this is just what Craig does on Cosmology – citing many many sources, and what Dawkins, as far as I can tell, does not do when it comes to philosophy of religion.

  • epi September 9, 2011, 4:25 am

    I think there is some credence to the assumption that Dawkins is particularly frightened of debating Craig. But that’s understandable.. who really isn’t?

    And my goodness, aren’t we tired of the standard Craig debate (SCD) by now? If you’ve watched a few, you can pretty much just skip his bits because you already know what he’s going to say. Of course, this does make it a head scratcher as to why so many of his proponents are woefully unprepared given that he uses the same arguments and mostly the same counter-arguments.

    But in any case, SCD’s are just dreadfully boring at this point. The interesting one’s are very few and far in between.

    I also think its fair to say that his cosmological argument doesn’t fare as well in written literature as it does in his public debates. Craig’s success with the latter is usually on account of his debate skills and the general lack of preparation (and debate ability) from his opponents.

    So what do they accomplish other than to give Craig notoriety for publicly flogging a debate opponent, and to give his arguments an arguably artificially inflated sense of strength?

    I’ve much more enjoyed the few occasions when Craig has departed from the debate format, and had frank discussions with other philosophers – one of my favorites, off the top of my head, is his morality “debate” with Shelly Kagan. We need more of those, though not sure Dawkins would be up for that either.

  • epi September 9, 2011, 5:59 am

    Err, “proponents” should be “opponents”

  • Peter September 11, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Glenn,

    (comment 21; late I know real life issues, sorry) Regarding Dawkins limiting his scope: So?

    I don’t know why he limits himself to bishops etc. Possible because they have a large theological following?

    I think Dawkins does not want to debate professional debaters. Graig is clearly a great debater and able to throw 30 arguments in 15mins openings (he likes to go first) and his opponents will never have time to address all of them. For example Harris knew this and side stepped Graig’s argument.

    Matthew Flannagan,

    So Craig in fact is “a leading philosopher of time” and “physics is something he is familar with”?
    Non-sense. He pushes A-theory of time even when physics experiments have supported B-theory of time. Physics has moved on and left Craig to be “a leading philosopher of time” of the wrong theory. No wonder Hawkins said philosophy is dead. Craig still pushes his Kalam even when Krauss pointed out that physics does not support it.

    Tom Gilson,

    If Craig is not arguably running from Loftus, is he just walking away from him?

  • Glenn September 11, 2011, 6:01 pm

    Peter, so do you think That Craig’s works, The Tensed Theory of Time (2000), The Tenseless Theory of Time (2000) and Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity (2001) fail to address the most important objections or to make a case for the A-Theory? If so, how?

    – I realise you won’t know the answers to this. I was asking a rhetorical question to prompt you to consider the possibility that your sweeping assessment was naive.
    FYI: Tenseless = B theory, tensed = A theory.

  • Tom Gilson September 11, 2011, 10:07 pm

    Walking away? Sure! Your point is?

  • Peter September 12, 2011, 1:10 am

    Glenn,

    I haven’t read Graig’s books, just listened his podcasts and lectures describing his view of the A and B theory of time. I assume his lectures summaries the main points of his books. I also have read several physics papers of real life experiments supporting B theory of time and showing that A theory can not be supported any more.

    So I don’t really want to spend too much time reading a philosopher pushing a theory which real scientists have tested and falsified. To me it sounds like still arguing for flat earth. Sorry, scientific experiments always win philosophical speculations. I understand that there are always some people who don’t believe in scientific results, but good thing about those is that they can be duplicated and are based on reality.

    Tom Gilson,

    Then also Dawkins is just walking away from the opportunity…

  • matt September 12, 2011, 11:28 am

    Ugh. A theory has not been falsified. I imagine some folks might like to make such proclamations, but the problem is philosophical. I think it very likely that anyone who declared the falsification of A theory on the basis of experimental findings has some hidden assumptions about the nature of numbers and such (that they are a platonist or something like that, and don’t believe that the science they are putting forward might be only providing a representation of reality, rather than describing .it as it is). It’s not so simple as plugging something into an experiment and voila, out come the results completely self explained. Science doesn’t reveal things to us, we use it to drag information out of the world that we can put together and give words to. Science is something we do, reality doesn’t sit down and chat it out with us.

    Craig makes his case for A theory, as a nominalist with respect to abstract objects, on the basis that the leading spacetime models are empirically equivalent from which he takes up a defense of a Neo-Lorentzian model. He has a response to critics on his website, under scolarly articles on divine eternity which you might find interesting. I think something that might also be distantly related to this issue is Glenns article on Hoyle’s assessment of orbits after relativity. It is important to note that science is often more pragmatic than even scientists acknowledge at times.

  • Glenn September 12, 2011, 5:32 pm

    Peter: “I also have read several physics papers of real life experiments supporting B theory of time and showing that A theory can not be supported any more.”

    What did their critics say?

    See, it’s a very bad practice to read a couple of papers and decide that this is the last word. I know nothing about philosophy of time, but the methodological red flags alone here make me say: I think you’re rather too eager for the issue to be a dead one.

    Given that the distinction between tensed and tenseless time is really more philosophical than anything else, I am extremely sceptical that a couple of science papers have “falsified” the A theory. That’s more than a little dismissive and naive.

    A further comment is that if you’re going to maintain unshakable confidence that Craig’s scholarly arguments in philosophy of time fail, it may be better to base that assessment on a reading of his scholarly books on that subject. It just looks like your passion for opposing Christian apologists may be getting the better of your better judgement.

  • geoff September 12, 2011, 6:38 pm

    sounds like the scientist who claims building 7 of the twin towers was dropped by incendiaries. He says “i wrote a peer reviewed paper and no one had a problem with anything I say”. They asked someone else, and he said “well, no one has peer reviewed it, and no one is likely to, we have better things to do”.

  • John September 12, 2011, 7:44 pm

    Peter, you have to be careful before criticizing Dr Craig here =).

    I don’t know if he’s right with his theories of time or not based on my own knowledge of the subject but maybe those here that are could enlighten me on something. What is the prevailing opinion among astrophysicists? Do they agree with Craig or not? Is there general debate on the issues Craig has raised in the physics community?

    The reason I ask must be obvious. In my own field I am reasonably widely read and on some topics there is allot of debate before the evidence is found to support one or other opinion. However, there are plenty of outlying papers that either miss the mark or are irreverent to the discussion that are not really even noticed, referenced or given more of a glance.

    Where does Craig’s work lie within the physics community?

    A quick flick through Google scholar shows some citing of the Kalam argument but mainly by christian apologists and philosophers.

  • Glenn September 12, 2011, 7:48 pm

    “A quick flick through Google scholar shows some citing of the Kalam argument but mainly by christian apologists and philosophers”

    That’s the kalaam argument. Peter’s confident claims were about Craig’s works on the tensed and the tenseless theory of time.

  • Peter September 12, 2011, 11:29 pm

    Matt,

    Flat earhters also claim that flat earth theory has not been falsified, but the problem is philosophical.
    They probably also claim that anyone who declared the falsification of flat earth on the basis of experimental findings has some hidden assumptions about the nature of numbers and such.

    You claim that “I think it very likely that anyone who declared the falsification of A theory on the basis of experimental findings has some hidden assumptions about the nature of numbers and such”
    Do you have any evidence of this? Have studied any papers of experiments supporting B theory of time?

    So what do you do with the real experiments showing B theory of time is valid?

  • Peter September 12, 2011, 11:38 pm

    Glenn,

    You asked:
    “What did their critics say? See, it’s a very bad practice to read a couple of papers and decide that this is the last word… the methodological red flags alone here make me say: I think you’re rather too eager for the issue to be a dead one.

    You don’t seem to realize it is not “couple of papers” and “the methodological red flags alone here”. One of the famous experiments was proposed 30 years ago, first done 10 years ago, peer reviews, redone and redone with variations. Now it is accepted as a fact.

    Funny how you already calling for “red flags” to justify your position without even knowing the facts. You seem to try to rationalize this for yourself before understanding the subject.

    Your comment also tells me that you are unaware of the critics’ arguments against Craig’s position.

    You said:
    “A further comment is that if you’re going to maintain unshakable confidence that Craig’s scholarly arguments in philosophy of time fail, it may be better to base that assessment on a reading of his scholarly books on that subject.”

    Let’s make it clear. Craig has no background in physics and is unable to write scholarly books on physics related issues. I don’t tend to read “scholarly books” about theories like flat earth, which have been experimentally shown to be incorrect.

    You said:
    “It just looks like your passion for opposing Christian apologists may be getting the better of your better judgement.”
    Funny how I understand the claims and evidence from the both sides. And you don’t.
    Would it be that your passion for supporting Christian apologists (even without knowing about the subject) may be getting the better of your better judgment?

  • Glenn September 12, 2011, 11:44 pm

    “Your comment also tells me that you are unaware of the critics’ arguments against Craig’s position.”

    Peter: If my comment told you that, then you are simply reading things into my comments that are not there.

    What my comment should have told you is that I couldn’t possibly be impressed by a quick, sweeping comment about having read a couple of Craig’s articles without ever having read any of his several books on time, and yet nonetheless being immovably certain that he did not offer any cogent responses to the claims you allude to – and cringeworthily call “accepted as fact,” as though there is today no disagreement over the two theories of time!

    The absolute, rock solid, confidence you have over this is actually pretty striking. It’s like you think legitimate philosophy of time has now simply dried up.

    What’s more – I hardly think those atheists in the UK who are backpaddling away from discussions with Bill Craig are doing so out of contempt for his view on time.

    As for the remarkable hubris in your comment that Craig is “unable to write scholarly books on physics related issues.” And you preface this with “let’s be clear,” after already admitting that you’ve never even read any of his books on the subject. How, precisely, do you know what they’re like? Honestly, this ridiculous over the top rhetoric of him being unable to even write a scholarly book just leaves you sounding like a screaming loon. You’ve essentially just told me that there’s nothing useful we can talk about, so I guess this is it.

  • Peter September 12, 2011, 11:52 pm

    John,

    Physics community does not know Craig because he is not a physicist. He’s work does not lie within the physics community, because he is a philosopher.

    Craig has not proposed any cosmological or big bang theories, but he normally cites atheists physicists’ works in his debate. To be notable in cosmology you have to be a math genius.

    Physicists don’t by Craigs A theory of time and Kalaam’s premises one is not accepted by physicist as Krauss mentioned in their debate.

  • John September 13, 2011, 1:39 am

    @Peter, yes the Krauss debate was rather telling. Craig is definitely on a tangent from the entire physics community and if they don’t even bother with his works around physics I don’t think I have the time.

  • matt September 13, 2011, 2:11 am

    Peter, as I understand it, the problem is actually philosophical and not remotely like flat earth theory. I lean toward B theory myself, simply because it seems a bit tidier, but I am not aware of how this issue could be settled by science. It seems to me that one could have a good model of spacetime that favored B theory and was scientifically productive and A theory could still be true. Much in the same way that methodological naturalism might be a more useful light by which to do science, but naturalism could still be false. Perhaps, though, you might like to tell us doubters where exactly to find these papers you speak of?

    And John, the majority theory is B theory. A theory still has plenty of proponents though, atheist and theist. And I’m not quite sure the physics community need be the authority on the metaphysics of time just yet…. Which IS what these theories are about.

  • epi September 13, 2011, 2:18 am

    Can we all agree that, at this point, the Kalam rests upon some highly controversial and, as of yet, undemonstrated, empirical claims about the nature of the universe, among them being the nature of time?

    Physicists may lean towards B-theory at the moment, but I would guess this is still largely a hypothesis that does not rise to a level where we should believe it with confidence…. same goes for A-theory.

    With that in mind, the Kalam can only be as strong as its weakest links. So at the end of the day, we have an interesting and perhaps even somewhat plausible theory in the Kalam – but its not one that should rationally persuade anyone to believe it with confidence.

    That’s one issue I have with Craig debates… I think his skill might lead others to believe his ideas with a false sense of confidence..

  • CPE Gaebler September 13, 2011, 2:21 pm

    Is there any way one could conceivably perform an experiment to distinguish between A-theory and B-theory? I’m somewhat new to the philosophy-of-time brouhaha.

    Also, does Craig’s A-theory-promoting bleed into his other works? I can’t quite comprehend how the nature of time could be THAT relevant to apologetics.

  • Ilíon September 13, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Glenn Peoples @38:… The issue is not the degree, but the expertise. …

    Oh! pardon me. That’s a horse of a different color, isn’t it?

    *rolls eyes*

  • Ilíon September 13, 2011, 3:11 pm

    CPE Graebler:Is there any way one could conceivably perform an experiment to distinguish between A-theory and B-theory?

    The sort of questions that can be answered by experimentation are generally not very important questions. Persons who insist otherwise are “science” fetishists (the scare-quotes are necessary, as it is not actual science, which is, after all, quite a modest thing, of which such persons construct a fetish).

    CPE Graebler:I’m somewhat new to the philosophy-of-time brouhaha.

    So am I. Keeping that in mind, it seems to me that *both* theories are false. For (as best I understand them), both theories assume there is an actually existing thing called “the future”. However, there is no such thing; with respect to time, only “the present” exists.

  • matt September 13, 2011, 5:38 pm

    That would make you an A theorist, Ilion. Or perhaps you are suggesting we eschew the vulgar concept of time, and rather focus on time as it relates to Dasein… Or something like that. I joke.

  • Glenn September 13, 2011, 7:34 pm

    Ilion of course it’s a different. Expertise just means knowing the subject. Clearly a person who doesn’t know about a subject is not going to be a reliable source on that subject, right?

    So it’s not having the degree that matters, it’s having the expertise (knowledge) about that subject.

  • Ilíon September 13, 2011, 10:49 pm

    Matt:That would make you an A theorist, Ilion.

    I could, of course, be failing to understand either or both of the theories, but I’m pretty sure that I’m denying that either is true.

    I am not (as McTaggart) denying that time is real, but I am denying that there exists any such thing as “the future”; rather, there are a vast multiplicity of potential events and state-changes which may, or may not, come to pass or occur.

  • Ilíon September 13, 2011, 10:57 pm

    So it’s not having the degree that matters …

    That you are not making much effort to understand what I originally wrote is not my problem.

    … it’s having the expertise (knowledge) about that subject.

    And who is the judge that So-and-So has this expertise? Can I, who do not claim to me one of the experts, judge that So-and-So, who does claim to be an expert, either really is or really is not? Or, must I take his word for it? Or, must I take yet another alleged expert’s word for it that the first alleged expert really is? What about when alleged expert B denies that alleged expert A really is?

  • Glenn September 13, 2011, 11:51 pm

    “That you are not making much effort to understand what I originally wrote is not my problem.”

    Is there really the need to be so overtly caustic so often?

    Earlier you appeared to be complaining about “the the erroneous view that only “the experts” — those persons “properly” credentialed by an “appropriate” institution of “higher learning” — may validly express arguments and opinions about certain topics.” Those were your words.

    If you meant something different then surely you’ll forgive me for not realising that. You explained that by expert you meant specifically ‘those persons “properly” credentialed by an “appropriate” institution of “higher learning” ‘

    Don’t rake me over the coals for simply thinking that this is what you meant. It’s what you said. By all means, correct yourself and point out that really you wanted to say something slightly different, but I certainly did carefully read you.

    As for the rest – there really is a difference between having knowledge and experience and having none. Who is the judge of whether or not a person has expertise? Well it’s up to them to demonstrate that they do have expertise in a way that conveys that fact, and it’s up to all of us to exercise discernment.

  • epi September 14, 2011, 12:46 am

    @CPE Gaebler:

    Craig, at least, believes that if B-Theory of time were true, it would refute the Kalam, since all moments present , past and future are equally real, making the premise “the universe began to exist” a false one.

    So its at least relevant to the Kalam, if nothing else.

  • Glenn September 14, 2011, 12:48 am

    Epi – true, if the B theory is true then nothing ever begins.

  • Peter September 14, 2011, 1:17 am

    Glenn,

    You said:
    “If my comment told you that [Glenn is unaware of the critics’ arguments against Craig’s position], then you are simply reading things into my comments that are not there.”
    That is non-sense. You claimed there are “the methodological red flags” in studies you haven’t even read.

    I think legitimate philosophy of time is drying up, just like aether philosophy, of flat earth philosophy dried up a while ago. The avenue left is to philosophy what B theory of time means to us as we experience time as per A theory. Quantum mechanics and cosmology is so complex that in that area philosophy has been left behind to Newtonian thinking. Kalaam is another example of that as Krauss pointed out.

    I agree that those atheists in the UK who are backpaddling away from discussions with Bill Craig are not doing so out of contempt for his view on time. They don’t care or know about his view of time.

    You asked:
    “How, precisely, do you know what [Craig’s books] are like?
    Craig is a philosopher, maybe he can write a scholarly book on philosophy. Graig has no formal PhD+ level training in math and physics. I’ve read scholarly physics books. There is no way that anyone without advance math and physics study can write a scholarly books on physics. Craig’s debate with physicists Krauss and Stenger showed that when confronted with physics question Craig gives a philosophical answer.

    You also made a bizarre statement:
    “As for the rest – there really is a difference between having knowledge and experience and having none. Who is the judge of whether or not a person has expertise? Well it’s up to them to demonstrate that they do have expertise in a way that conveys that fact, and it’s up to all of us to exercise discernment.”

    You don’t have skills to know who is a physics expert and who is not. Only peers can judge who the expert and who the fake is. Otherwise atheists will decide that Dawkins is a theology and philosophy expert capable of writing scholarly books on systematic theology (= God Delusion book).

  • Peter September 14, 2011, 1:19 am

    matt,

    You can show that B theory of time is correct if “time” moves both direction. So by creating an experiment where current event affects the past you can show that time does not have a uniform past, present and future.

    I don’t think some of the doubters here believe the evidence so post here an email address or contact link I can send you stuff.

  • matt September 14, 2011, 2:30 am

    peter. You will not post links or cite articles in public because of what people here may or may not believe. That is giving me the red flags. It does SOUND like you are simply banking on everybody believing you’ve read articles that prove your point.

    Ilion, since no point in time exists simultaneously with another on A theory, and thus past and future do not exist except in memory or speculation, methinks thou art an A theorist scrambling for profundity by denying something and affirming it… Sounds like apophatic theory of time.

  • matt September 14, 2011, 2:34 am

    Also, peter, I’m pretty sure time travel is impossible, even on b theory. It also sounds like you believe that somebody created an experiment in which it happened.

  • Ilíon September 14, 2011, 4:25 am

    … methinks thou art an A theorist scrambling for profundity by denying something and affirming it …

    You wound me! I do, after all, do my best to leave attempts at profundity to those who are educated-beyond-their-means.

    Earlier today, after you had expressed your opinion, I checked (yet again) the Stanford Ency. of Phil. entry (*), just to make sure.

    (*) Gack! It’s full of that damnable “gender inclusive” leftist perversion of the English language which the educated-beyond-their-means of academia are so fond of using.

  • Glenn September 14, 2011, 7:40 am

    ‘ You claimed there are “the methodological red flags” in studies you haven’t even read.’

    No I didn’t. I said that there were such red flags in your blog comments, which I have indeed read. I wouldn’t know if there are such red flags in the studies, because I have not read them.

    It is you who continues to assert that Bill Craig cannot even write a scholarly book on any physics related issue, in spite of the fact that he has written three and in spite of you admitting to never having read any of them. That is how I know it doesn’t really matter what you think of what Bill Craig has to say.

  • Peter September 14, 2011, 11:58 am

    matt,

    I understand. Just keep on reading popular science magazines and you’ll stumble across related articles.

    The question is about the basic structure of the universe so it is irrelevant if time travel is possible or not. Like I said before you would need to create an experiment where current event affects the past, not to travel to the past (or future).

  • matt September 14, 2011, 4:55 pm

    I really can’t see how a current event could be created that would affect the past in any way that would avoid a paradox, unless the event happened in such a way that it appeared to do so, relative to the observer’s point of view (in which case, we would still be without any compelling evidence in the absence of arguments one way or the other). There have been such cases in which subatomic particles appeared to arrive sooner than the left, but the causal chain remains intact, in any event.

    Illion, if I read the SEP article correctly, you are advocating for something like presentism?

  • Glenn September 14, 2011, 6:43 pm

    “I checked (yet again) the Stanford Ency. of Phil. entry (*), just to make sure.”

    What?? You deferred to people with expertise AND a degree? ;)

    Fallacy of the expert!

  • Ilíon September 14, 2011, 8:11 pm

    Glenn:What?? You deferred to people with expertise AND a degree? ;)

    That’s exactly the sort of comment I’ve come to expect of Glenn when he has taken himself out on a limb and declines to back off. Or, switching metaphors, he has dug himself into a hole, and he just keeps digging.

  • Kenneth September 14, 2011, 8:23 pm

    Ilion, what the hell is wrong with you?

  • CPE Gaebler September 15, 2011, 11:37 am

    “Epi – true, if the B theory is true then nothing ever begins.”

    I have a HUGE HUGE problem with that, namely, that is ONLY true if you use the A-theory definition of “beginning.” The word “beginning” was around before either theory of time. Saying B-theory implies that nothing begins seems to me literally every bit as absurd as saying that since the Earth is round nothing ever falls down, or that the Hebrews were wrong in classifying bats in with birds because bats are mammals, not birds.

    Nobody says “things don’t move down, they move radially towards the center of the Earth.” It is understood that our experience of things moving “down” when we drop them is equated with the physical reality that gravity pulls things towards the center of the earth.

    Similarly, we experience things having “beginnings,” like when a chicken hatches from an egg. (Or, more accurately, when an egg is fertilized, but whatever.) We, as beings in time, look at an egg and see no chicken, then we look again and voila! A chicken! And we say the chicken had a beginning. First it did not exist, and then it began existing, and now it exists where it did not.

    It is horribly muddling to say that B-theory disallows the use of any of these phrases. Under B-theory, the physical reality of those phrases is nonintuitive to most people, just as it appears obvious to some that of course if two objects are moving relative to a third object, to get one object’s speed from the other object’s point of view you just subtract the speeds, or that the Earth is pretty much flat.

    We experience things having a beginning; under B-theory, the physical reality of this is that an object has a point on the timeline, call it a “beginning,” where there is no earlier point on the timeline with the object in it. We think of objects existing or not existing at certain points in time; under B-theory, the physical reality is that we are referring to whether an object appears or does not appear in a cross-section of the timeline, rather analogous to whether or not one’s heart appears or does not appear on a given slice of a CT scan of your body. Most likely, your heart does exist in your body as a whole, but it may or may not appear on any given cross-section. A chicken may be on the timeline as a whole, but a 3-d slice of the 4-d object may or may not exist on any particular cross-section of the timeline.

    And so on.

    Overall, I really find it impossible to believe that B-theory falsifies Kalaam. Things with beginnings still have causes (that chicken was STILL caused by the egg being fertilized), the universe still had a beginning. Even if B-theorists HAVE been silly enough to say things like “things don’t have beginnings,” then all we need to do is define a new word for what we thought were “beginnings.” That chicken didn’t begin but it “shmegan” because it had a point in time, or “shmeginning,” where there was no prior slice with the chicken in it. In which case, everything with a “shmeginning” had a cause, and the universe had a “shmeginning,” ta-da.

    Sigh. Why is it that when the subject of temporal mechanics is broached our sparing human intellects instantly assume the most ingratiating posture of surrender imaginable.

  • Glenn September 15, 2011, 8:30 pm

    “It is horribly muddling to say that B-theory disallows the use of any of these phrases.”

    Indeed it would be. But nobody said that. I was talking to someone who appeared sympathetic to the B theory (epi), and using the word “begins” in the same way that he had just used it in the previous post. I was pointing out that what he was saying, on B Theory, cannot apply only to the universe and nothing else. It must apply to everything.

  • CPE Gaebler September 16, 2011, 6:48 am

    Ah, thank you. That makes sense. Huzzah for the ambiguities of language!

    Me, I’m used to time theory being the sort of thing that most people can’t wrap their head around. It’s a paradigm shift every bit as weird as relativity or quantum mechanics, I think. Although if one is already comfortable with those, as I am, B-theory really needn’t be a problem – in fact, my studies of physics are what made B-theory so appealing, as it fits quite nicely with a certain view of how things work.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 2:12 pm

    in fact, my studies of physics are what made B-theory so appealing

    It’s strange, isn’t it? ‘B theory’ (at least as I understand the treatments of the two I’ve read) is the more appealing, and sensible, to me. Yet, since I’ve denying that either theory is correct, I *must* be an A theorist.

  • CPE Gaebler September 16, 2011, 5:25 pm

    Ilion:

    Earlier you said that “For (as best I understand them), both theories assume there is an actually existing thing called “the future”. However, there is no such thing; with respect to time, only “the present” exists.”

    As far as I can tell, presentism is consistent with A-theory, if not defining of A-theory.

  • Glenn September 16, 2011, 5:38 pm

    I’m no philosopher of time, but the idea that there is a future that actually “exists” (i.e. it is real right now) strikes me as a denial of A-Theory.

  • Jeremy September 16, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Well i will put my two cents worth in. A theory rules, Presentism as a fundamental definition of A theory. I will go as far to say that the B theory objections dont even exist for humans. However i will accept that time is fundamentally different depending whether you are subject to it or it is subject to you. Time may be tenseless to God but practically it is always tensed to us. Therefore a challenge, can anyone provide a real example of tenseless time that a human could experience.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 9:44 pm

    I don’t think we actually experience time as tensed; rather, I think we conceive it as tensed.

    We think of time as being line a line, that is, as a one-dimensional thing, with ‘the present’ being the zero-point, and ‘the past’ and “the future” being respectively the line-segments to either side of the zero-point. However (and continuing the analogy), what we experience is only that zero-point; for we cannot relocate our experience (or consciousness) to either ‘the past’ or “the future”. Moreover, given the contingency of “the future”, and especially given the agent freedom we possess (which adds an even stronger contingency than contained in the mere mechanical working-out of “life, the universe and everything”), then “the future” is not like a line, but more like a bush of lines … which recognition rather messes up the original analogy.

    Keeping in mind that I am using metaphorical language, as there is no other way for us to talk abot such things, I think time is more like a three-dimensional thing, than a one-dimensional thing, and that God, being “outside” time, being unbounded by time, can view it that way, in its entirety — God sees and knows *all* the potential futures. We, on the other hand, being “inside” time, being bounded by time, know only the fixed (and to the degree it is remembered) past and the existing instant of ‘the present’ … and then we incorrectly project that fixedness onto the potential futures, and so imagine that all those potentials are reduced to a single actually-existing thing that we call “the future”.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 9:50 pm

    Therefore a challenge, can anyone provide a real example of tenseless time that a human could experience.

    You life, and everyone else’s.

    All our experience is tenseless. We do not experience ‘the past’, we recall it. We do no experience “the future” (which doesn’t even exist, in any event), we anticipate, and very inexactly, a small fraction of the potential futures that may come to pass.

    That we *think of* our experience as being tensed does not make it so.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 10:11 pm

    Glenn:I’m no philosopher of time, …

    And this matter, how?

    You wasted days of your life trying to bait me over my attempt to caution everyone participating in (or reading) this thread against falling for the fallacy exemplified by “the cult of the expert” (and to which fallacy and cult academics are especially drawn, and frequently have a vested interest in promoting), and denying that anyone participating in the thread was falling for it, and then (once again) you (you, personally!) invoke the fallacy.

    True, this is a mild invocation, but it is an invocation nonetheless. Thus, my question: how does it matter that you are no philospoher of time?
    IF it matters, THEN you have no business having *any* opinion on the matter, neither to agree with nor to disagree with any actual philosopher of time.
    IF it matters not, THEN you have no business invoking the fallacy, and thereby implying that you (and we!) have no business trying to build an informed opinion about the matter.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 10:28 pm

    Mattt:Illion, if I read the SEP article correctly, you are advocating for something like presentism?

    That mat be a minor (as seems to me) implication of what I’ve said, but it isn’t my thrust and I’m not intentionally advocating either it or its denial. What I am advocation is that we all commonly speak of, and thus think of, time incorrectly. We speak of, and think of, “the future”, as though it were an actually existing thing (*) , and thus we blind ourselves to the truth of the matter, which is that “the future” rationally can refer only to a myriad of potential events and states.

    (*) Moreover, the endless and useless squabbling over whether determinism is true is predicated on this false belief that “the future” exists, in the first place, and that it has a fixedness to it, analogous to that of “the past”.

  • geoff September 16, 2011, 10:32 pm

    why does God _have_ to see all of time? So he can know the future?

    Even temporal human beings can predict the future with a degree of certainty, so why cant God just “know”? Being in or out of time is actually irrelevant to God’s ability to be omniscient. I suspect time affects other things though, such as omnipresence (if you are some when, you cant be everywhere – I think that’s how Paul Helm wrote it).

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 10:33 pm

    … or, to look at it another way: I’m trying to help you see that the whole debate, such as it is, is messed up, being founded on faulty premises, and thus is a waste of time and thought, leading nowhere. And you all keep trying to drag me back into the only debate you want to have (the one which I am trying to help you see is pointless).

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 10:35 pm

    Kenneth:Ilion, what the hell is wrong with you?

    Clearly — from your odd point of view — not nearly enough.

  • Ilíon September 16, 2011, 10:39 pm

    Ilíon (to Glenn):… my attempt to caution everyone participating in (or reading) this thread against falling for the fallacy exemplified by “the cult of the expert” …

    Hmmm. That was a different thread than this one, but the point remains.

  • Glenn September 16, 2011, 10:56 pm

    Illion, it is not a fallacy to suggest that since I have no background in philosophy of time I might not understand it all that well. Experience in thinking and reading about a subject does actually have a point. It bestows understanding when it is done well, and I have not done it very much on the topic of philosophy of time. Far from being a fallacy, it is only appropriate to have that sort of humility when addressing a subject one is not already familiar with.

    That fallacy misdiagnosis aside, there is no point in you continually trying to drag a discussion about time into the territory of whether or not experience and the accumulation of knowledge in a subject count for anything. Go and write a blog on that if it fascinates you so much. Othwerise it’s merely off topic trolling.

  • matt September 17, 2011, 3:29 am

    Well, illion, I give up. You’re clearly the expert on your own view of time.

  • matt September 17, 2011, 3:31 am

    I’m writing this in my last comment’s future.

  • Ilíon September 17, 2011, 5:40 pm

    matttWell, illion, I give up. You’re clearly the expert on your own view of time.

    matttI’m writing this in my last comment’s future.

    Well, mattt, I think I finally see what is at issue.

    Having written the first quoted snarky post, apparently for the purpose of demonstrating to all and sundry that you are happy to join GP in behaving just like an ‘atheist’ on a liberal/leftist does when encountering an idea which is crosswise to his worldview commitments, you were fully determined, by the mexhanical working-out of material cause-and-effect, to write the second.

    And, of course, the first quoted post is *also* “in the future” of some other past action you have commited; as are all your actions, barring you first action, which is “in the future” of some other event which precedes you.

    So, here is where things stand:
    1) by the first snarky post, you demonstrate that you have no interest in understanding what I have said;
    2) by the second snarky post, you demonstrate that however much you claim otherwise, you are a determinist, and you deny that you are an agent, you deny the reality of freedom.

  • matt September 17, 2011, 6:25 pm

    Twas a poor attempt at humor, no doubt. I imagine it wouldn’t be too off the mark to say that your exegesis of my comments would’ve made Derrida proud. A truly post-modern approach!

    I kid, though.

    If I may be precise, you have not yet advocated for anything that does not sound like some idiosynchratic subcategory or version or something of A theory. What my second post was meant to snarkily refer to was the fact that only things that have come to pass, temporally, can be in the future of some other thing. If something has not yet happened, it is not the future, (or in the future) it is nothing. This would be the sort of statement that an A theorist could endorse, but not, to my knowledge, a B theorist.

  • matt September 18, 2011, 5:30 am

    Although, per CPE’S comment above, I do wonder if a b theorist could suppose that “time” could be extending to the right, or forward, or continually later so that the timeline would grow and new sections of “later” could exist, or, because of the extension of spacetime, make room for new events.

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