Review of Boghossian’s ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig has given his response to Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists and some of his comments from online lectures. 

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You can listen to it here at Reasonable Faith.

  • Craig firstly takes issue with Boghossian’s contention that ‘faith’ is some kind of epistemology for the Christian. Since Boghossian gets his definition of faith incorrect and falsely suggests his definition is the Christian way of doing epistemology his entire attack is a straw man.

I am pleased to say this is something I have already noted at length. See ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ Part 3.1: Faith and ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ Part 3.2: Hebrews 11:1.

  • Craig also noted how disingenuous Boghossian is about his intentions. A clip is played of Boghossian saying he does not intend to create atheists but more about creating reliable epistemologies. But then what about the title of his book?!
  • Craig also wishes to ask Boghossian whether a theist can possibly have a rational epistemology. He then lists several top Christian philosophers and asks whether Boghossian would make the claim that they are all epistemologically at fault. This is not answered in Boghossian’s book because Boghossian does not interact with the academic writings of modern theistic philosophers. (At least as far as I have currently got to that has not taken place.) Like the vast majority of the New Atheists, Boghossian has no interest in the slightest in engaging with top-level Christian philosophers. He almost completely ignores their existence and their arguments.

“Now he said there a person can have a faulty epistemology and believe in God or a person can have a faulty epistemology and be an atheist. But will he allow that a person can have a sound epistemology and belief in God? That’s the question. Can you be a critical thinker and believe in God? Or is he really prepared to say that people like Peter van Inwagen, Robert Adams, Alvin Plantinga, and so on and so on, are all irrational? That these men are not critical thinkers? That’s what he is saying, if he thinks that you can’t have a sound epistemology and be a theist.”

  • Craig also complains about how condescending his tone and language is. Does Boghossian think that top level Christian philosophers don’t belong at the ‘adult table’?
  • He also notes that Boghossian does appear to be attacking people rather than ideas. Boghossian does appear to be suggesting that people’s way of knowing is fallacious and that they are not sincere in their beliefs and claims. This is quite damaging to Boghossian’s method because he often claims he is more interested in critiquing ideas rather than attacking people and yet he does appear to do the latter.

It’s well worth a listen and raises some serious problems for Boghossian. The problem is that, at least so far, Boghossian does not appear to be interacting very much with his critics. Perhaps he’s too busy looking for people at his local supermarket to talk to?

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About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Atheist apologists, Faith, New Atheism, Street Epistemology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Review of Boghossian’s ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ by William Lane Craig

  1. labreuer says:

    Craig also noted how disingenuous Boghossian is about his intentions. A clip is played of Boghossian saying he does not intend to create atheists but more about creating reliable epistemologies. But then what about the title of his book?!

    This is really important. This pattern showed up with Lawrence Krauss, as Massimo Pigliucci analyzed in Lawrence Krauss: another physicist with an anti-philosophy complex. Krauss wrote A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, but equivocates on “nothing”. See Krauss’ answer to the following question posed in this Atlantic interview:

    It sounds like you’re arguing that ‘nothing’ is really a quantum vacuum, and that a quantum vacuum is unstable in such a way as to make the production of matter and space inevitable. But a quantum vacuum has properties. For one, it is subject to the equations of quantum field theory. Why should we think of it as nothing?

    Or just look at the last interchange:

    But let me bring that back full circle. You opened this conversation talking about seduction. You’re not giving an account of seduction right now.

    Krauss: That’s true, but let me take it back full circle to Hitchens. What Christopher had was charm, humor, wit and culture as weapons against nonsense, and in my own small way what I try and do in my books is exactly that. I try and infuse them with humor and culture and that’s the seduction part. And in this case the seduction might be causing people to ask, “How can he say that? How can he have the temerity to suggest that it’s possible to get something from nothing? Let me see what’s wrong with these arguments.” If I’d just titled the book “A Marvelous Universe,” not as many people would have been attracted to it. But it’s hard to know. I’m acutely aware of this seduction problem, and my hope is that what I can do is get people to listen long enough to where I can show some of what’s going on, and at the same time make them laugh.

    Earlier in the interview, Krauss said that being technically correct was important, lest you mislead the lay public. And here, he says it’s ok to use deceptive titles. My response? Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language Abuse of Power, with more here.

  2. Bob Squibs says:

    I think Craig did a fine job in the 20 minutes he had, and I’m pleased that Tom Gilson got a mention. Still, despite the obvious positives there was no mention of aremonstranssambilings.wordpress.com! Outrageous.

    Is there any evidence that Boghossian has in any substantive way engaged with the many critiques of his book?

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Hahaha. Not an outrage at all but it was funny for you to say it! There is no evidence that I am aware of of Boghossian engaging in any substantive fashion with his critics. Certainly not in writing. I believe he is aware of some of my blog posts but he has never made me aware of any reply. It appears he prefers the radio show format. That can be okay but, as his discussion with Phil Vischer demonstrates, it can be pretty superficial and virtually a waste of time. I wish he would!

      • I too find it hard to get atheists to actually engage in a dialogue. I have been posting comments and responses on this philosophy teachers blog:
        http://www.provingthenegative.com/2014/04/three-lectures-on-plantingas-reformed.html
        and pretty much the only response I ever got is “I explain that in my book.” But he won’t even say what chapter.

        It is interesting because this professor states that he lost his faith because a Pastor could not answer the questions that he put to him. He makes it sound like he faults that Pastor for that. Yet he does the same thing on his blog. He posts his views but when those views are questioned/challenged he ignores them.

        Why have a comment section at all?

        If you don’t want to engage people who question your ideas that’s ok. But really don’t claim your view is the only rational one, and certainly don’t attack the other side for dodging the issues.

        I am not interested in videos where people give their soundbites. I am also tired of talking to a wall. If there are any good atheists blogs (that means they have some handle on the philosophical issues and don’t just post one picture and soundbite after another) that are willing to engage people on these issues I am interested. But really it seems the more educated the atheist is on the philosophical issues the less willing he is to actually engage with believers.

        The fact is Boghossian does not want your blog to get any attention. Because his book is not intended for people who will actually think critically about what he says. It’s a money thing.

        • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

          Yes that’s not uncommon. There is still quite a divide between the professionals and the laity certainly in theology and philosophy. It is largely the case that they tend not to interact and that’s a shame. I have been rather fortunate myself and managed to find some professional philosophers who don’t mind getting into lengthy discussions on a regular basis and I know I have benefited from that greatly.

          If someone lost their faith because a Pastor could not answer their questions I think that is terribly lame. That would be like giving up believing in evolution because your secondary school teacher cannot answer all the questions you have about it. Even atheists who are professors rarely engage with the elite thinkers and when they do they often misrepresent them.

          I don’t know what Boghossian’s agenda is. Personally I think there’s a battle for who gets to replace Hitch and I think several atheists are currently auditioning for the part. But Boghossian does not bring anything new to this discussion really. Most of his stuff is just rehashed from Harris and Dawkins and all he’s then done is added a little educational jargon into the mix to make it sound new. I have now watched all his online lectures and his message is a complete and utter mess. Personally I’m not sure I should be giving him any more of my time because his arguments are, frankly, far easier to answer than the arguments my students raise on a daily basis.

          Still. I do know he’s going to be on the ‘Unbelievable’ programme in a few weeks time and, while the Christian he’s up against has not yet been publically named, I do know he’s in for one heck of a grilling. I would not want to go up against the guy he will be going up against! It’s not going to be pretty. 🙂

  3. labreuer says:

    Wow, WLC was fantastic. If I may summarize:

    faith : morality :: reason : reality

    Or, to use the language of the is–ought problem:

    faith : ought :: reason : is

    It would appear that Boghossian somehow wants to derive ought from is—although maybe I’m wrong, as I actually don’t know what Boghossian believes in this realm. Is he even clear about it?

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