William Lane Craig’s blather about Ryan Bell

So I was thinking about what William Lane Craig (I know, I know) had to say about Ryan Bell and the his “year without God”. Spoiler alert: Ryan Bell now identifies as an atheist and we’re quite happy to have him. Shortly after Bell originally announced his experiment about a year ago, Craig had this drivel:

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually. But I wonder how he is going to live? A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning. I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church? Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

But let’s unpack this.

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually.

Oh of course! Honest and open inquiry is just no good at all. I’m confused though. We keep hearing about how obvious it is that a god exists, and that Christianity is obviously true. So why should this sort of thing be a problem? Why are the concepts of god and Christianity so frail as to fall apart given simple and honest questioning?

A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning.

I’m constantly amazed that apologists and their kind seem so intent on telling atheists what we should believe. Not only is it insulting, it’s just plain wrong, and it makes him look incredibly ignorant.

I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church?

Now here’s where the mega-eye-roll starts, and this is sort of my main point. Among former believers who are now atheists, I know of no one who fits what Craig is saying. I know of no one who decided to care less about social justice after deconverting. Most former believers I’ve talked to care far more about those issues now (myself included). Realizing that we’re on our own, and have a responsibility for each other, and that there’s no sky daddy watching out for us, is a big realization.

Many atheists actually have a far better sense of social justice that includes, oh you know, LGBT rights and equality.

And is he actually serious about the treatment of women? That seems like a very poor choice for an example, given what the Bible has to say about treatment of women. I think we’ll stick with our non-biblical treatment of women as equal human beings, not property. I’d go into it but wow would this be a long article. But let’s see… here’s a short version and a long version.

Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

And we come full circle, back to the appeal to consequence. This is such a ridiculous and fallacious argument. Even if it were true that atheism leads to moral nihilism and utter despair and kicking puppies, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Why Craig constantly insists on this argument is just baffling. It’s literally logic 101.

Now, a couple things. Yes, I realize that there are atheists who are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people. I don’t personally know any, but yes, they exist. There are people who think that atheism means they can do whatever they want and that nothing matters. Again though, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Those people are wrong, and if they harm others, we can correctly take action against them.

I also realize my tone toward Craig may be a little aggressive in this article, but wilful ignorance just really bothers me. I know some other atheists will disagree with me here, but William Lane Craig is a very intelligent man. I know it’s popular to talk about what a blithering idiot he is, but it’s simply not true. He’s very intelligent and accomplished, but that makes it all the more frustrating that he uses such obviously wrong arguments, and that he continues to use them after being told why they are wrong, based on facts and/or logic.

All in all, I think Ryan Bell had a pretty good year. I saw no disaster.

No faith, no presuppositions

Since the Bill Nye debate with Ken Ham, we are yet again confronted with the idea that atheists have faith too. Ham loves to trot out this tired old argument that our faith is in the “religion” of naturalism, and his followers happily parrot it at us whenever they can. Of course, all Ham has is tired old arguments. It’s not like there’s anything new coming from the Bible. It is funny though that essentially what Ham is trying to do is to drag science down to the level of his religion so we’re on equal footing, then it’s just a matter of opinion or interpretation right?

This is what they have to resort to when all their arguments have failed and all available evidence is against them. Ham attacks reality itself, redefines words, and classifies as religion a position that involves reliance on reason and evidence and excludes things we cannot demonstrate to be correct. This is quite a strange usage of the word “religion”, and sometimes I think people like Ham do it just to annoy us. Trusting in what can be observed, tested, and/or demonstrated is what rational beings should be doing, but to Ham that’s a wild idea.

Presuppositionalism is related to this, and others like Matt Slick like to try to use it to claim that atheists presuppose their god doesn’t exist. We don’t (or at least shouldn’t) and we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Atheists have no faith and no presuppositions, (or at least shouldn’t). We all start off as blank slates. As babies we have no knowledge or understanding, just instinct. As we start to gain understanding of the world in which we find ourselves, we are presented with claims. “That burner is hot.” “If you knock that cup over the water will spill.” We test some of these claims, observe the evidence, and confirm they are correct. We find that there are trustworthy sources of reliable information, like our parents. It is not their authority that makes them trustworthy; if they provided us with bad information that lead to unreliable results, we would not see them as reliable sources of information.

So at some point we are presented with the god claim. Here’s how that exchange should go:

“Some god exists.”

“Cool, what reliable evidence is there for that?”

“Um…..”

“Okay, movin’ on.”

No presupposition involved. The claim was evaluated and rejected based on lack of evidence. Of course some bad evidence may be presented in place of “Um…..”, but that shouldn’t change the result.

We build knowledge of the universe around us built on previous knowledge, experience, and observation, including those of others. We build trustworthy sources of information, even when we may not fully understand some of the information presented.

I’m a trustworthy source of information for my kids because I’ve told them a lot of things they have confirmed to be correct. If I tell them something like “if you run out in front of a car it may hit you”, they don’t need to test that. Based on previous experience, they know they can trust me because I have demonstrated that I am a reliable source of information. Even if they don’t fully understand what being hit by a car means, they still trust what I tell them. Likewise, we know we can trust the scientific community based on previous experience that the scientific community has provided us with accurate information based on empirical evidence that we could also test or observe to verify. Even if we don’t fully understand what’s presented, we can still trust based on previous experience.

I don’t fully understand nuclear physics, but I understand that it works. I can see that it works. We have nuclear reactors and weapons and the like. I can understand the very basics and I could go to school for a long time to learn how to fully understand it, but I don’t want or need to because there are scientists who do understand and apply it. Based on their scientific credibility, I can see they are reliable sources of information even if it’s a field I don’t fully understand.

Do I understand evolution? Well I have a good grasp of the overall theory. Do I fully understand every part of it? No, that’s essentially impossible as it covers many different sciences including genetics, biology, anthropology, physics, paleontology, and many more. Are there scientists who do understand their parts of it who have demonstrated they are reliable sources of information? Yes, there are scientists in every field related to evolution who spend entire careers working on their small part of their particular field. We can trust based on previous experience.

Evolution is the best model for the evidence that we have. It is supported by all available evidence and contradicted by none. If there is ever reason to reject it and support another model, that will be based on evidence, and it will be scientists doing actual scientific work who will discover it. It won’t be discovered by intellectual vandals like Ken Ham trying to just tear down the hard fought discoveries of modern science, thinking that will prop up their failed ideas.

So again: no faith, no presuppositions. Can creationists and apologists stop saying it now? Yeah I know… no.