Thursday, May 30, 2013

William Lane Craig versus Rosenberg (part 8)

My series on the February 2013 debate between William Lane Craig and Alex Rosenberg:
  1. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
  2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument
  3. The Applicability of Mathematics to the Physical World
  4. The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life
  5. Intentional States of Consciousness in the World
  6. Objective Moral Values and Duties in the World
  7. God can be Personally Known and Experienced
  8. The Argument from Evil
  9. Wrap-Up


In February 2013 atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg debated Christian philosopher William Lane Craig over whether faith in God is reasonable (debate begins at around 17:14). I’ve mentioned before the reason why William Lane Craig wins debates, and since this debate is a good example of how not to debate William Lane Craig, I have been going through some of what Rosenberg did wrong and how he could have done a lot better. One happy benefit from this is that in so doing I’ll also be refuting William Lane Craig’s arguments. In this entry I’ll address Craig’s claim that God can be personally known and experienced.

God can be Personally Known and Experienced

At around 35:08, Craig claims that God can be personally known and experienced. By Craig’s own admission, this isn’t really an argument for God’s existence so much as a claim that God can known to exist wholly apart from evidence and arguments. In philosophy lingo, beliefs that one is justified in believing apart from evidence and arguments are called properly basic beliefs. One might think that belief in the reality of the past is a properly basic belief. Craig (as with many other Christian philosophers, e.g. Alvin Plantinga) holds to the view that belief in God is properly basic.

What Rosenberg did

Rosenberg didn’t address this at any point in the entire debate.

What Rosenberg should have done

I suppose it’s debatable whether Rosenberg should have ignored this, since as I said (and even by Craig’s own admission!) it’s not really an argument. That said I think it’s good to address the claim anyway. Is the existence of God a properly basic belief? On some conceptions of theism, a person can experience the presence of God and so can be rational in believing in his existence apart from evidence and arguments. I think such a theist would be rational in accepting theism if this conception of theism were true. But of course whether God exists is the very topic under discussion. So this claim (as Craig said, it’s not really an argument) that God can be personally known and experienced can be refuted simply by refuting theism. And for that, the argument from evil serves us nicely.