Craig/Law debate: Argument map

An exercise in argument mapping:


If Atheism, wither moral facts? (Or moral faculties?)

Part 9 in 20 Atheist answers to questions they supposedly can’t

12. How do we account for conscience?

13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?

Short answer: Evolutionary psychology for one, and naturalist can take moral realism or plump for anti-realist accounts and it’s no big deal.

Longer answer: Ethics and atheism are seldom considered natural bed-fellows, and morality is a common stick to beat atheists with. So how (and how much) is morality a problem for atheism? Continue reading “If Atheism, wither moral facts? (Or moral faculties?)”

If most people believe God exists, shouldn’t you?

Part 11 in 20 atheist answers to questions they supposedly can’t.

How do we account for the nearly universal belief in the supernatural?

Short answer: In a similar way one would account for the majority belief that Christianity is false: widespread error.

Longer answer: Atheism/agnosticism/’nones’ remain a minority of the population in the developed world (albeit one which is growing). If we look worldwide, and across history, we see that almost all people thought there was something supernatural. Is this evidence against naturalism? Continue reading “If most people believe God exists, shouldn’t you?”

Why believe our minds work, on atheism?

Part 6 in 20 atheist answers to questions they supposedly can’t

9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

Short answer: I’ll tell you once you’ve finished beating your wife. (Evolution selects for truth-directed faculties, so it is no surprise we get them on naturalism).

Longer answer: The argument here is twofold. Firstly, that atheism cannot account for our sense of having independent thought (and so this is evidence against it), and secondly that ‘independent thought’ is some pre-requisite for having justified beliefs, and naturalism undermines that. The first line of argument I’ll deal with consciousness and free will later. The second argument is a not-very-strong version of the evolutionary argument against naturalism. So let’s talk about that instead. Continue reading “Why believe our minds work, on atheism?”

What explains the fine tuning of the Universe?

Second in series 20 Atheist answers to questions they supposedly can’t.

2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

Short answer: There’s no rigorous way to define fine tuning that’s hospitable to a fine tuning argument. Even if there were, a multiverse ensemble would be about as good an explanation as Theism.[ref] Another move atheist could make is to ‘trump’ fine tuning with an argument from evil. For even if it is the case that a fine tuned universe alone would support theism, it might be that further knowledge (it is fine tuned but has lots of evil in) will support atheism, in a similar way that knowing the accused was in the house at the time of the murder is some evidence for his guilt, but finding out he was locked in the basement is evidence for his innocence. (cf. Draper’s work on this). [/ref]

Long answer: The fine tuning or teleological argument has had a long and august history, and it has a new lease of life due to modern scientific discovery. For a variety of parameters (the gravitational constant, the cosmological constant, and so on) any slight deviation from their actual values would, as far as we can work out, lead to a universe where intelligent life is impossible. So surely this is a cosmological watch for want of a watchmaker? Continue reading “What explains the fine tuning of the Universe?”

What caused the Universe?

First in series “20 Atheist answers to questions they supposedly can’t”

  1. What caused the universe to exist?

Short answer: Dunno. But God isn’t any better an explanation.

Longer answer: My understanding of early universe cosmology is limited, but we don’t have a fully tied up account of the early picoseconds of the universe. Perhaps one day we will, as well as an explanation of what ‘kicked off’ the big bang. However, that will just push the problem one step back: what caused the cause of the big bang? etc. Continue reading “What caused the Universe?”

Should the prior probability for gratuitous evil be high?


The discussion of the problem of evil has developed from a logical disproof, to an inductive argument, to a abductive inference. Here an even more modest approach to using evil is suggested: that evil shows that the prior probability of Theism must be very low, prior to any further investigation. This approach sidesteps the standard defences to the problem of evil, and thus indeed permits Atheist to adopt a more defensive strategy. All they need to do is show that the balance of arguments that may be offered do not shift this prior assignment. Here the field is briefly surveyed, the new approach is defended from two more obvious lines of attack. Continue reading “Should the prior probability for gratuitous evil be high?”