Saturday, October 19, 2019

Rationality Rules vs. Craig’s Causal Premise (p. 4)

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Rationality Rules vs. Craig’s Causal Premise
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Woodford’s replies relied heavily on fallacious and confused reasoning (the straw man fallacy in particular). Judging from the YouTube comments on Woodford’s video, many viewers didn’t notice that Woodford was attacking straw men. Granted, it’s understandable why they might not have known about Craig including both efficient and material causes for the “has a cause” notion because Woodford (for whatever reason) omitted mentioning that important fact. But even so, even if Craig had only the efficient cause in mind, Woodford’s attack on the first justification where Woodford concluded “This isn’t a distraction; it’s a refutation” would still be a distraction and not a refutation of any claim Craig actually made in the video clips. Woodford also accused Craig of a black-and-white fallacy Craig never made, and a fallacy of division Craig never made. Why did so many viewers not notice this?

Think of how clever politicians dodge a question; they give an answer that contains material closely related to the actual question but nonetheless doesn’t answer it. Red herrings and straw men have a greater chance of hoodwinking the audience when the material is closely related to the matter at hand while still being irrelevant. For example, given the context, the position “If something [like the universe] can come into being from nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything doesn’t come into being from nothing” is similar to the claim “If the universe (the whole) came into being uncaused, then some things within the universe (the parts) are uncaused.” The positions are so similar one could understand how they could be confused for being the same claim when they aren’t. I’m not saying Woodford was deliberately deceiving his audience. In fact I think he probably wasn’t and that he made sincere errors in his thinking. You can try to spot such errors yourself by asking the following questions when person B attacks the position of person A:
  • What is person A’s actual position?
  • What is person B’s objection, and does this objection actually attack A’s position?
  • Is there a gap between what is claimed and what is shown when B attacks A’s position?
If one asked these questions, they might have noticed that “creation and causation are not two sides of the same coin” doesn’t attack Craig’s actual claim of “Something cannot come into being from nothing” supporting premise 1’. Even if Woodford showed that “creation and causation are not two sides of the same coin” there’s a gap between this and refuting the idea of “Something cannot come into being from nothing” supporting premise 1’.

Straw men and red herrings are tragically common on the internet, and we should be careful about not only spotting such errors but being careful to avoid making them ourselves.

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