Mind Neuroscience

Great debates: William Lane Craig versus Sam Harris tomorrow night

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Topic: Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?

(Thursday, April 7 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm Eastern time)

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Live webcast: www.ndtv.net

One viewer commented

… the atheist damage control machine is going full throttle! Craig absolutely wiped the floor with Krauss. It might be the worst debate performance ever versus Craig,


Check out the “damage control” comments from Lawrence Krauss that Richard Dawkins posted on his website!

Krauss on Dawkins’s site

PZ Myers added his usual shower of roses too…

Other views of the Krauss-Craig debate:

Wintery Knight’s summary

Possible Worlds

Always have a reason

Letters to Nature

13 Replies to “Great debates: William Lane Craig versus Sam Harris tomorrow night

  1. 1
    tragic mishap says:


    The equation, in words said that if the probability, given the data, gave one a greater than 50% likelihood for God’s existence, then this was evidence. He even presented this as a pseudo- Bayesian Argument.

    I didn’t watch the whole thing, but this is NOT what Craig argued. Craig argued that evidence is something that increases the probability of belief in something. In other words, without evidence the chances of belief for that thing are lower, and this is the definition of “evidence.” Try again Krauss.

  2. 2
    Charlie says:

    I wish to exhort any Christians here to pray for Dr. Craig for this evening’s debate if it hasn’t crossed your mind yet.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    To those looking forward to the Craig/Harris debate tonight, here is an inside look;

    The God Debate II: An Inside Look

  4. 4
    Bantay says:

    I’ve checked out some popular atheist forums. They’re already distancing themselves from Harris, already making excuses for why Harris will not prevail.

  5. 5
    Bantay says:

    I’ve pretty much stirred a hornet’s nest over at rationalskepticism.org



  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is the audio of the Craig – Harris debate;


  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Audio and summary of Craig – Harris debate – This is funny



    This summary is not AS SNARKY as the Lawrence Krauss summary or the Christopher Hitchens summary.

    Dr. Craig’s opening speech:


    Harris and Craig agree on objective morality
    What is the foundation of morality?
    What makes certain actions right or wrong?

    Two claims

    if God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties
    if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties

    1) Theism grounds morality

    Objective moral values

    Theism provides sound foundation for objective moral values
    – objective moral values are grounded in God
    – God is the locus and paradigm of moral value
    – God is, by nature, the standard for what is right and wrong

    Objective moral duties

    Theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral duties
    – God’s nature is expressed as commands for us
    – God’s commands for us are not arbitrary
    – they must be consistent with his own nature
    – and they reflect his moral character
    – the essence of morality in theism is to love God and also to love your neighbor

    2) Atheism does not ground morality

    Objective moral values

    What is the basis for objective moral values on atheism?
    – on atheism, human beings are accidental products of evolution
    – on atheism, there is no reason to believe that human well-being is any more important than the well-being of any other animal
    – Harris denies that the objective moral value is from Platonic forms
    – Harris wants to ground moral values in nature
    – but nature is morally neutral
    – the “morality” of humans is just a set of evolved customs that help them to survive and reproduce
    – this morality is just a set of conventions, it doesn’t refer to anything that has an objective existence
    – quotes Michael Ruse: “morality is just an aid to survival, and any deeper meaning is illusory”
    – if we were to rewind evolution and start it again, another set of conventions might have evolved
    – to say that morality is about human well-being is to commit “speciesism”
    – quotes Richard Dawkins: “there is no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference”

    What does Harris say:
    – Harris redefines the word “good” to mean the well-being of humans
    – Harris “solves” the problem of moral value by just asserting that HUMAN well-being is the good
    – Harris isn’t talking about what is good and evil
    – Harris only talks about what is conducive to human “flourishing”

    Objective moral duties

    What is the basis of objective moral duties on atheism?
    – first, natural science tells us only what is, not what ought to be
    – quotes Jerry Fodor: “science cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions to increase human flourishing”
    – on the naturalistic worldview, humans are animals – and there are no OBJECTIVE moral duties
    – where do moral obligations come from on atheism?
    – they are just conventions that are ingrained into us by social evolution
    – as human societies evolve, certain actions are unfashionable
    – people who act “immorally” against their society’s conventions are just being unfashionable
    – bad actions like rape and murder happen all the time in the animal kingdom
    – second, Harris believes that there is no free will – all human actions are causally determined
    – if there is no free will, then there is no moral responsibility
    – no one is responsible for the things they do, on atheism
    – on atheism, humans have no control over the actions they take, and cannot make moral choices, or be morally responsible

    – Harris and I mostly agree on practical ethics, but only theists have a foundation for objective moral values and duties

    Dr. Harris’ opening speech:

    God is not needed to ground moral values and moral duties

    Good means maximizing human well-being for the largest number of people
    Religion is not necessary for a “universal” morality
    Religion is a bad foundation for “universal” morality

    Facts and values:

    Moral values are the products of human evolution
    E.g. – Sexual jealousy is the result of biological evolution
    And then these ideas of right and wrong are enshrined in cultural institutions like marriage
    Religious people insert God in to explain values, when evolution is the real explanation

    Moral disagreements:

    I personal don’t agree with the ethics of the God of Abraham
    I have no basis for an objective moral standard, but the God of Abraham fails to meet my personal preferences
    Dr. Craig lies when he quotes me, half his quotes are of other people I quoted, not me
    But I’m not going to say which quote he lied about

    Goodness is what makes you feel happy:

    Questions of right and wrong depend upon brains
    Brains are natural entities
    Science can measure well-being in brain states
    States of affairs in which the majority of brains have high well-being

    I’m a good person because I don’t like the Taliban:

    The Taliban is bad because the majority of their brains don’t have high well-being
    I think throwing battery acid in women’s faces is bad
    The Taliban thinks that throwing battery acid in women’s faces is good
    What determines right and wrong is brain states of well-being

    Insults against religion = Dr. Craig:

    religion / Dr. Craig doesn’t value evidence
    religion / Dr. Craig doesn’t value logic
    religion / Dr. Craig doesn’t value intellectual honesty

    Dr. Craig’s first rebuttal:

    1) Theism is a good foundation for moral values and duties

    Harris says:
    – Craig thinks that if God doesn’t exist, then good and evil would have no meaning

    Craig says:
    – But Craig says that he is not saying that God is required for moral semantics
    – He is addressing the question of the ontological grounding

    Harris says:
    – The God of the Bible is mean

    Craig says:
    – divine command theory doesn’t require that the Bible be the set of commands
    – in any case, the old testament passages can be defended in Paul Copan’s book

    Harris says:
    – Religion isn’t needed for universal morality

    Craig says:
    – the issue isn’t universality, because the Nazis could have won, and put in a universal morality
    – the issue is if they had won, would there be any standard to condemn them

    Harris says:
    – Good and evil are related to the number of brain states of well-being

    Craig says:
    – Harris uses good and evil in non-moral ways
    – Harris isn’t talking about moral good and moral evil
    – Harris is talking about pleasure and misery
    – Harris is equating moral good and moral evil with feelings of pleasure and feelings of misery
    – Harris claims that the property of being good is identical with human flourishing
    – it is possible that the continuum of human well-being is not identical with the moral landscape
    – in order for them to be identical, there cannot be this possibility or it fails the law of identity
    – you could have psychopaths with happy brain states that represent a peak in the moral landscape

    Harris says:
    – If we have a moral duty to do anything, we have a duty to avoid feeling miserable”

    – moral obligations arise when there is an authority who can issue binding commands
    – on atheism, there is no authority who can issue binding commands
    – without free will, morality makes no sense since there is no free will
    – no free will means no moral duties, and no moral responsibilities

    Dr. Harris’ first rebuttal:

    I don’t like Hell and I don’t like suffering and I don’t like Christians:

    There is no evidence that Hell exists
    Think of the parents of the children of people who die in tsunamis
    If God allows people to suffer, then he doesn’t exist, because God’s job is to make us not suffer
    God can’t exist, because some people are born in the wrong culture, and never hear about Jesus
    Some people pray to the Monkey God, why don’t they go to heaven?
    What about the people in the Lord of the Rings, are they going to Hell?
    What about people who repent just before being executed, are they going to heaven?
    God is cruel and unjust because he lets innocent people suffer
    God is worse than a psychopath
    People who believe in God are evil
    People who believe in God are narcissists
    God commanded stuff that I don’t like, so he’s evil
    Suppose God were evil – then people would have to do evil things
    Religious people think that saying Latin phrases turn pancakes into the body of Elvis Presley
    The evidence for God is actually not very good, if you avoid read any Christian scholars
    Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice
    The people who wrote the Bible were really stupid
    Christians are psychopaths

    Dr. Craig’s second rebuttal:

    Sam Harris cannot make any judgments about moral values and moral duties on atheism
    On atheism, there is no foundation for making objective moral judgments

    Harris didn’t respond to anything Craig said

    Harris says that Christians only believe in God to avoid Hell

    Red herrings:

    Craig says that people who become Christians do it because God is the good
    Christians don’t pursue a relationship with God for fire insurance

    The problem of evil
    – not relevant to the debate topic

    The problem of the unevangelized
    – not relevant to the debate topic

    Evil actually proves that God exists
    – if evil exists, then there is an objective moral standard
    – if there is an objective moral standard, then God exists

    Harris has no foundation for saying that Christian beliefs are morally bad
    Harris has no basis for making moral judgments

    Harris’ remark that theists are psychopathic
    – Harris’ remark is as stupid as it is insulting

    Harris says that the Old Testament promoted
    – first, there was no slavery in the Old Testament it was indentured servitude
    – second, that’s not relevant to the debate topic

    Harris mentions the Taliban
    – but the response to the Taliban is not to say that God doesn’t exist
    – the response to the Taliban is to say that they have the wrong God
    – the real God never commanded them to do those things

    Dr. Harris’ second rebuttal:

    I’m a scientist, Craig is stupid, I’ve meditated with wise yogis and lamas, I don’t like the Taliban:

    When I make a scientific case for morality, I didn’t really mean that it was scientific
    You just have to assume that misery is morally evil, and happiness is morally good, even if that can’t be proved scientifically
    I’m a scientist
    Science is great
    Dr. Craig is stupid
    Dr. Craig is not a scientist
    Science is better than religion
    You can ground an objective standard of morality and objective moral duties and moral responsibility on arbitrary brain states of accidentally evolved biologically determined monkeys
    Dr. Craig’s question for me about my unproven assumptions is a stupid question
    I prayed to the Monkey God in a cave and he told me about objective morality
    I have spent a lot of time studying meditation with wise yogis and lamas
    I consider some people to be spiritual Jesus
    I can imagine that Jesus was very spiritual and charismatic
    We don’t have to use logic and reason to debate about morality, we can meditate on the Monkey God
    i don’t like the Taliban

    Dr. Craig’s third rebuttal:

    Harris didn’t reply to anything I said

    Harris admitted that psychopaths can occupy the peaks of the moral landscape
    So on Harris’ view, you can commit unspeakable acts of cruelty and still have a brain state with well-being

    Dr. Harris’ third rebuttal:

    Dr. Craig is a Muslim, Dr. Craig is the Taliban, Dr. Craig is a Muslim Taliban Muslim Jihadi:

    How many of you in the audience are Muslims
    Muslims think that non-Muslims are going to Hell
    Christianity and Islam are identical
    Dr. Craig is a Muslim!
    Dr. Craig is the Taliban!
    Dr. Craig wants to jihad me!

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:


    Event: Dr Craig (a philosopher-theologian, with a focus on the cosmological argument and cosmological fine tuning) sweeps the floor yet again, this time twice in as many weeks.

    “Rationalist” Reaction: “Nothing to see there, let’s move on, fellow atheists . . . ”

    Maybe, we need to think again?

    GEM of TKI

  9. 9
    CannuckianYankee says:


    Good summary. Thanks.

    I listened to the entire debate, and was rather dismayed that Dr. Harris did not address the ought/is dichotomy even though Dr. Craig mentioned it several times.

    I know we’re going to be hounded for declaring Dr. Craig the winner here, but here’s two observations, which will make this obvious.

    1) Dr Craig actually addresses what Dr. Harris says in his book, that is directly related to the subject of the debate; while Harris goes off on several tangents that are not related – Such as his red herring regarding God and evil, and his other red herring regarding our problem avoiding hell if Islam is true.

    2) Craig keeps the debate on subject, and does not go into side issues. He even objected to two questions from the audience, because the questions were not directly related to the subject of the debate.

    Here’s the problem with these debates, which will always get the theists in trouble – because theirs is more an emotional appeal rather than a reasoned discourse – and Harris is a master of the emotional appeal:

    They all bring up the same red herrings, and they use them in rhetorical rather than in reasoned manners;

    Craig is prepared for all the red herrings because they are brought up in debate after debate.

    Harris tells the audience at the beginning that he was contacted by several colleagues prior to yesterday’s debate, telling him to watch himself with Craig. Sound advice, because Craig knows all the angles. However, Harris did not watch himself, and he got pounded.

    I wonder if Craig tires of these debates. It seems he has to keep addressing the same questions every time from the atheists.

    Craig’s the winner!

  10. 10
    CannuckianYankee says:

    “Here’s the problem with these debates, which will always get the theists in trouble”

    Should read: “always get the atheists in trouble.”

  11. 11
    CannuckianYankee says:


    “What about the people in the Lord of the Rings, are they going to Hell?”

    🙂 – Yes, he actually mentioned this.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    CY, I should give full credit where credit is due, winteryKnight is responsible for that excellent, and not too snarky 🙂 , summary.

  13. 13
    CannuckianYankee says:


    It appears you did give credit. I simply overlooked it – an error on my part.

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