William Lane Craig lectures on the moral argument at Georgia Tech

Making sense of the meaning of atheism
Making sense of the meaning of atheism

This video has 3 parts, as well as questions and answers in individual clips.

For those who cannot watch the video, you can grab the MP3 file of the lecture, or read this essay by Dr. Craig which covers exactly the same ground as the video. The essay is for Christians already familiar with basic apologetics.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Here’s a quick couple of quotes from the essay for those who cannot watch:

If there is no God, then any ground for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. After all, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Some action, say, incest, may not be biologically or socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo; but there is on the atheistic view nothing really wrong about committing incest. If, as Kurtz states, “The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,”5 then the non-conformist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably.

The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism. But if man has no immaterial aspect to his being (call it soul or mind or what have you), then he is not qualitatively different from other animal species. For him to regard human morality as objective is to fall into the trap of specie-ism. On a materialistic anthropology there is no reason to think that human beings are objectively more valuable than rats. Secondly, if there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of our five senses and our genetic make-up. There is no personal agent who freely decides to do something. But without freedom, none of our choices is morally significant. They are like the jerks of a puppet’s limbs, controlled by the strings of sensory input and physical constitution. And what moral value does a puppet or its movements have?

[…]Moreover, if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one’s actions. Even if there were objective moral values and duties under naturalism, they are irrelevant because there is no moral accountability. If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as a Stalin or as a saint. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky rightly said: “If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.”

If you want to show this lecture and Q&A to your apologetics group, you can find the DVD here.

You can also read a debate transcript where Dr. Craig puts his ideas to the test, against Dr. Richard Taylor.

4 thoughts on “William Lane Craig lectures on the moral argument at Georgia Tech”

  1. Craig was magnificent! It left me wondering what has been, or would be, the best atheistic argument against it (though I cannot conceive of a winning argument against it). I skimmed the transcript of the Craig-Taylor debate on the subject to which you linked, but it seemed that Taylor was inadequately prepared and could muster no sustained rebuttal. Are you aware of anyone who might have the best counter to Craig’s moral argument?

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  2. Hi Wintery Knight,

    This helps me remember the key points. I use the acronym SPOIL and SCRAMM to recall WLC’s speech.

    This may S.P.O.I.L. some people’s understanding of morality, but we’re not talking about Social conventions or Personal preferences; rather, morality refers to Objective, Independent Laws.

    SPOIL = Social conventions & Personal preference vss. Objective, Independent Laws

    Also, the atheistic view tells morality to S.C.R.A.M.M. I use the following key words to recall Craig’s speech:
    Specieism (Video 1, 9:40-14:45;’ Video 2, 0:00-2:07
    Copernacanism (Video 2, 0:00-0:38)
    Reductionism (Video 2, 1:30-3:30)
    Accountability (No law higher than us- Video 2, 3:30-5:55; no judge over us- Video 2, 5:55-12:33)
    Mortality (Video 2, 0:00-0:038)
    Mutant Morality (Video 1, 7:08-10:10)

    True, not all those terms are in his speech, but the concepts behind the terms are present.

    MY SUMMARY:
    From the atheistic perspective, to think that our morality is higher than animal morality commits the “sin” of Specieism. To think we have value in the cosmos is to commit the “crime” of Copernacanism. To say we have free will is to go against “Reductionism;” the laws of physics purportedly explain our every move. Re. Accountability, there is no law above man made law, on the atheistic view, and there is no judge higher than ourselves, particularly in the afterlife. Given atheism, the Mortality of humanity also undermines mankind’s value. And, as Ruse argues, our understanding of morality is, like the emergence of hands and feet, namely, just the byproduct of biological evolution. Hence I call it Mutant Morality. These things argue against morality having a place within the atheistic worldview.

    However, morality does exist, and therefore God exists.

    By the way, mnemonics help me as a Christian memorize the main points, but it also can aid the discussion no matter what side you’re on. It seems to me the best debaters, after all, are the ones who know their opponents view well.

    Jim

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