The Music and the Mirror from A Chorus Line
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
William Lane Craig is not plagued by any hobgoblins when he is presented the opportunity to score cheap rhetorical points. In an August 2002 debate, Craig attacked Peter Slezak for suggesting that the lack of evidence for God's existence might be some reason to think God might not exist. Craig insisted that the lack of evidence was not a concern as long as you did not expect too much.
We need to ask what is the evidence for atheism. And here Dr. Slezak says that the only evidence against God’s existence is the absence of evidence for God’s existence. Now this admission is highly significant because it means that he tacitly agrees that all of the traditional arguments for atheism like the problem of evil and the incoherence of the concept of God, all of these arguments fail. The only argument for atheism is the absence of evidence for God. But the problem here is that the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence....
So when then does the absence of evidence count as evidence that something does not exist? Well theorists of knowledge agree that the lack of evidence for some entity X counts as positive evidence against X’s existence only in the case that if X did exist then we should expect to see more evidence of X’s existence than what we do see....
Now apply that then to the case of God, the absence of evidence for God’s existence counts as evidence against God’s existence only in the case that if God did exist, then we should see more evidence of his existence than we do in fact see. In practical terms what that means is this: if God exists should we expect to see more evidence of his being than the origin of the universe out of nothing; the exquisite fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life; the apprehension of a realm of moral an aesthetic values; the radical claims and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead; and the immediate experience of fellowship with God? Well I think the answer is obviously not.
So to carry his argument, Dr. Slezak has to prove that it is highly probable that if God exists we should have more evidence of his existence than what we do in fact have, and that I think is sheer speculation. And thus in the case of God, I do not think that the absence of evidence is at all a positive argumenthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-5PFRc2FIA
against the existence of God and yet that is all he’s had to offer you tonight on behalf of atheism, so I don’t think that we have seen any good reason to think that atheism is true.
It seems to me that Craig is saying that by lowering our expectations for the less evidence that we expect there to be for God, we lower the probability that atheism is true. By this logic, we should not reject the existence of leprechauns since we don’t expect there to be any evidence for them in the first place.
As strange as Craig's argument against Slezak might be, he was not plagued by any foolish consistency in February 2005 when Austin Dacey tried to make the very argument that Craig said Slezak failed to make. When Dacey argued that we should expect to see more evidence of God's existence, Craig insisted that the only evidence we should ever expect to see is whatever evidence we actually do see.
Now in this speech I would like to examine Dr. Dacey's arguments on behalf of atheism to see whether they pass philosophical muster.
All five of his arguments share the same basic form: Step one is to say that if God existed, we should expect to find "blank," and you fill in the blank, step two is “but we do not find blank” and therefore one concludes that God does not exist.
Now I want to make two general comments about this style of argumentation: First of all, its enormously presumptuous. Basically, what Dr. Dacey is saying is that if God doesn’t fulfill our expectations, then we should conclude that He doesn’t exist. But who says that God has to fulfill our expectations? How can we predict with any confidence what God would do if He existed? If we find that our expectations aren’t met, then isn’t it the better part of discretion and humility to reexamine and perhaps revise those expectations? We’re simply not in a position to dictate to God that He has to act in accordance with our expectations
Woohoo!!!!! Brilliant!!!! We should adjust our expectations to whatever evidence we find for God’s existence. Then, since the evidence always perfectly meets our expectations, we can never conclude that God doesn’t exist. What bullshit.
BTW, I don't cruise YouTube looking for Craig videos. These were both cited by bloggers in the last few days as examples of Craig's brilliance.