William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report

Tonight, Biola University hosted a debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens on the question “Does God Exist?” The debate was moderated by Hugh Hewitt and seen live by several thousand in attendance at Biola and many more at remote locations in 30 states and several countries.

I’ve just returned home from the event and will record a number of my observations as a first report from the front lines.

  1. This event was no mere spectacle, but a legitimate debate that addressed substantive arguments.
  2. Everybody behaved themselves, including members of the audience.
  3. Bill Craig made two claims in his opening argument: (A) There are no good arguments for atheism, and (B) there are several good arguments for the existence of God (theism). The balance of his opening argument was devoted to four carefully delineated arguments and a fifth thesis about the role of experience in grounding belief in God. This organization of the case for God’s existence has been used by Bill Craig time and again. The first argument is a cosmological argument, based on the origin of the universe. The second was a version of the teleological argument that emphasizes the improbability of the existence of a universe inhabited by human beings, given the evidence of both physics and biology. Third, he argued that the best explanation for the existence of objective moral facts is the existence of God. Fourth, he stated three sets of historical facts that are uniformly accepted by New Testament scholars, which together provide ample evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, implying the occurrence of an important miracle and hence the existence of God. Each argument was constructed as a valid deductive argument, so that rational denial of the conclusion would require a direct challenge to one or more of the premises in each argument. His fifth point was that belief in God can as well be grounded in direct experience of God, though this is not to be confused with an argument for the existence of God. He ended with a challenge to Christopher Hitchens to show how these arguments err, and also argue that God does not exist.
  4. Bill Craig made the interesting point that believers in God should not be so distracted by arguments for the existence of God that they miss the experience of God.
  5. In his opening argument, Christopher Hitchens argued first that Bill Craig is not a consistent evidentialist, and that, to the extent that Craig is an evidentialist, he is, like any evidentialist Christian, a “retrospective evidentialist” who appeals to evidence now that no theist could have centuries ago. Further to this point, Hitchens suggested that contemporary (Christian) theists have, in the face of scientific evidence for evolution, “retreated” from their earlier strategies by claiming that evolution is evidence for theism, or is at least compatible with theism. Next he argued that even if God did exist (by which I think he meant the God mentioned in the conclusion of Craig’s arguments), no reason has been given to believe that this God cares, while there are reasons to think this God is indifferent. (I think, consistent with his practice in his book god Is Not Great, Hitchens would use the word “god” without caps.) His third point was that Craig is obligated to “prove to a certainty” that God exists, while atheists like himself rightly value the role of doubt in the absence of evidence and intellectual humility. This led directly to disclaimers about Craig’s definition of the term “atheism”—Hitchens regards himself as an “a-theist” in the sense that he believes no good reasons exist for believing God exists and so he does not believe that God does exist. Thus, he does not claim to know that God does not exist; therefore, he has no obligation to argue that God does not exist. He concluded with a direct response to the teleological, or fine-tuning argument, for theism. First he said that most physicists acknowledge that “we hardly know what we don’t know” about the origin of the universe and its early history. This looks more like an objection to Craig’s cosmological argument, so Hitchens may have mispoken. He then said there were three “layman’s reasons” for rejecting the fine-tuning argument. I was only able to distinguish two, since they were not enumerated clearly. First, he asked whether prior to the beginning of the universe there was pre-existing matter, as a step toward the question, “Who designed the Designer?” Second, he asked whether theists have considered the “nothingness that is coming,” his point being that the universe will eventually fade into oblivion and that therefore the so-called “Designer” seems to have designed poorly.
  6. The two opening speeches differed dramatically. Bill Craig laid out a case in straightforward manner, with numbered premises and his conclusion. (A complete outline of his cumulative case was included on one sheet of the program that was printed for the occasion.) Christopher Hitchens adopted more of a narrative style that was more loosely argued and less linear in its progression. Both were articulate and engaging.
  7. In the rebuttal, cross-examination, and response portions of the debate that followed, Bill Craig pressed Christopher Hitchens on his conception of atheism, his reasons for being an atheist, and his responses to the arguments presented in Craig’s opening speech. In this respect, Craig was in greater control of themes in the debate. This was helped immensely by the clear progression, crisp identification, and repetition of his original arguments. Hitchens resisted Craig’s efforts to extract a more precise definition of Hitchens’s atheism than his simple denial that there is adequate evidence for theism. Hitchens claimed that if you believe the universe is designed, then you also have to believe the designer is short on the excellence attributed by theists to God. There is a tension between there being a god who is completely indifferent to human suffering, or a god who provides a bizarre remedy in the form of having “someone tortured to death during the Bronze Age” and Roman rule, a god who demands conformity to his requirements in order to be saved from damnation, and, in any case, who leaves countless individuals without opportunity to hear about and accept this remedy.
  8. The most noteworthy difference between these debaters consists in this: preparation. One may agree or disagree with Bill Craig’s claims, but there can be no question that he was thoroughly prepared for every aspect of the debate and never faltered in his response to objections by Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, dropped several of Craig’s opening arguments, and seriously misunderstood or distorted the moral argument, the argument from the resurrection of Jesus, and Craig’s appeal to experience. I think Craig was most successful in demonstrating the error in Hitchens’s discombobulated rendition of Craig’s moral argument. Whether the audience followed the competing interpretations of N. T. Wright’s historical argument concerning the probability of the resurrection is another matter. But I can vouch for Craig’s construal of Wright’s argument, and, for that matter, for Hitchens’s confusion on the point. As for the appeal to experience of God (and the witness of the Holy Spirit), I might have put the point differently than Craig did and treat it as a kind of evidence that serves the subject of the experience without the need for argument. But Bill Craig and I may have a different view of the epistemology of such experience.
  9. Christopher Hitchens made a couple of odd points in his rebuttal, as if to answer arguments or objections that Bill Craig had not given. For example, he asserted that he believes in free will, and went on about it as if Craig had pressed him directly on this point. This was a strategic mistake, if only because it wasted valuable time that should have been devoted to what was already on the table. Worse, Craig could have challenged Hitchens’s claim to believe in free will, given his naturalism. I gather that Hitchens sensed this, saw its relevance to the question of moral conduct, and attempted to pre-empt Craig on the point. But Hitchens’s complete failure to understand the moral argument presented by Craig landed him in enough serious trouble as it was. Hitchens also digressed about the embarrassing canonization of Mother Theresa by the Roman Catholic Church. I suppose he couldn’t resist, since he had written a whole book on the subject. (See this link for the crass title of that book.)
  10. The only thing that surprised me about Bill Craig’s strategy in the debate was his determination to get Hitchens to specify more precisely his self-identification as an atheist. Much of Craig’s cross-examination time was taken up with this question. That is due in part to Hitchens’s bobbing and weaving on the point. I understand Craig’s rationale for tasking Hitchens with clarification of his position. I’ve encountered the same maneuver in my debates with Michael Shermer and Greg Cavin, for example. As I see it, regardless of the standards of formal debate, both parties to a debate of such existential significance should be clear about their own positions and be prepared to present good reasons for them. (While this is a burden of proof issue, the term “burden of proof” never came up, if I remember correctly.) Christopher Hitchens has a worldview. It is thoroughly naturalistic and scientistic, and indeed materialistic. It hardly matters what he means by “atheism” in application to himself, since this is clearly his positive stance. And he made no attempt to argue that his worldview is true. Bill Craig is right about this.
  11. Christopher Hitchens’s attempt to distinguish between the hubris of the argumentative theist (my term) and the intellectual humility of his kind of atheist was totally unconvincing. Hitchens’s tone in the debate, consistent with his hallmark practice, belied his disclaimers about claims to knowledge. Once, in his closing argument, Bill Craig drew attention to this point, and did so dramatically but graciously. He pointed out that Hitchens made his own truth claims on behalf of atheism, that he did so without supporting argument, and that “you’ve got to come to a debate prepared with arguments.” While Hitchens did make arguments, they were largely unfocused, sometimes disconnected, and often irrelevant.
  12. The second half of cross-examination must have been interesting to the predominantly evangelical audience. Christopher Hitchens asked Bill Craig directly whether he believes that there are devils, that Jesus was born of a virgin, that some nonChristian religions are false, and that some Christian denominations entertain false beliefs. Craig answered each, respectively: yes, yes, yes, and yes. But he added (a) that the existence or non-existence of demons has no bearing on his argument from the resurrection for theism, (b) that while he did not think the virgin birth could be proved, whether it happened is also irrelevant to his case for theism, (c) that Islam is among the false religions, and (d) that while there are differences among Christian brethren (Craig is not a Calvinist but more of a Wesleyan, for example), their differences are on less substantive points. While Craig may not have expected this line of questioning, he answered well. It was a sign of Hitchens’s lack of preparation, I believe, that his cross-examination of Craig was unproductive. (One further indication of this is that Craig’s answers were never brought up for special criticism.)
  13. The main development of the cross-examination period is that Hitchens allowed that morality could be “purely evolutionary and functional.” Given his comments on morality throughout the evening, I don’t see how they could be anything else than that on his view. Thus, he is, Craig would argue, caught in a contradiction if he also claims that morality is objective in the sense Craig defined. And Hitchens had made such a claim. Note: Hitchens could hardly have denied this and remained consistent with his condemnation of religion in his book.
  14. Speaking of Hitchens’s condemnation of religion, I think he found the balance that was needed if he was to remain faithful to the spirit and tone of his book without completely alienating his audience. His diatribes in god Is Not Great are mean and visceral in the extreme. During tonight’s debate, he was more cautious in his declamations. He did say “I’ll be damned” if I don’t say what I really think of religion and Christianity. But this was mild in comparison with what Hitchen is capable of. The problem is—and he knew this—his off-the-cuff remarks were not germane to the debate. Someone reading his book for the first time after seeing this debate may be surprised by the venom they find, but they probably will not be shocked. I say this because I do think it was a delicate balancing act for him to be more measured while still acting in character.
  15. Christopher Hitchens attempted to drag Old Testament accounts of “genocide” and other divine sanctions of dubious moral character into the debate. This was predictable. Bill Craig rightly noted that these complaints concern the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, and are not salient to his case for theism. Some in the audience may have wondered how Craig could avoid these issues and also invoke the New Testament in describing the grandeur of God’s plan of salvation. As it happens, Hitchens didn’t raise the point. But it also happens that there is no inconsistency in Craig’s view of the bearing of Scripture on aspects of the debate.
  16. Another comparison of interest to me has to do with the existential appeal of their respective points of view. Bill Craig seemed actually to be enjoying the dialogue (as one of my daughters noted). Certainly he was unapologetic about his Christian faith. He spoke convincingly of the transformation of his life after believing in Christ. And he explained the basis Christians have for hope in this life and the next. He even urged Christopher Hitchens to become a Christian, since Hitchens wants to say that there are objective moral values but can’t account for them in his worldview. Craig said this without seeming the least bit supercilious. I thought Craig struck an excellent balance in describing the future hope of Christians and its bearing on the endurance of suffering now, and a Christian activism on behalf of those who are oppressed or even deprived of life. For his part, Hitchens explained that he finds meaning in life by seeking liberty for himself and for others, and that, since so much violence against humanity is done in the name of religion, he is constrained to combat religion publicly.
  17. I’ve already mentioned how Christopher Hitchens responded to Bill Craig’s moral argument for theism. It struck me that this argument was the most widely discussed of them all. The irony is that for all that he had to say in response, Hitchens actually “dropped” the argument. (To say that he “dropped” the argument is to say, in debate-speak, that he didn’t actually address the argument.) In his response to Craig’s argument, Hitchens recast the argument as an argument that atheists can neither know what is morally right nor do the morally right thing unless they believe in God. That is not the argument at all. It baffles me that so many atheist, agnostic, and skeptical debaters distort this argument so consistently. The question is how to ground the objectivity of moral truths without reference to God, not whether moral truths can be known without believing in God or whether it’s possible to behave morally without believing in God. The point is neither epistemic nor behavioral, but ontological. My preferred formulation of the moral argument is a little different than Craig’s, but my experience has been the same as his. Debate opponents miss the point.
  18. Returning, finally, to something I mentioned previously, this debate exposed a difference in preparation on the part of these two debaters. This is far more significant than it might seem at first. William Lane Craig has debated this topic dozens of times, without wavering from the same basic pattern of argument. He presents the same arguments in the same form, and presses his opponents in the same way for arguments in defense of their own worldviews. He’s consistent. He’s predictable. One might think that this is a liability, that it’s too risky to face a new opponent who has so much opportunity to review Craig’s specific strategy. But tonight’s debate proves otherwise. Hitchens can have no excuse for dropping arguments when he knows—or should know—exactly what to expect. Suppose one replies that William Craig is a more experienced debater and a trained philosopher, while Christopher Hitchens is a journalist working outside the Academy. That simply won’t do as a defense of Hitchens. First, Hitchens is no stranger to debate. Second, he is clearly a skillful polemicist. Third—and most important—Hitchens published a book, god Is Not Great, in which he makes bold claims against religion in general and Christianity in particular. With his book, he threw down the challenge. To his credit, he rose to meet a skillful challenger. But did he rise to the occasion? Did he acquit himself well? At one point he acknowledged that some of his objections to the designer argument were “layman’s” objections. His book, I believe, is also the work of a layman. It appears to have been written for popular consumption and without concern for accountability to Christians whose lives are dedicated to the defense of the Gospel.

Much more can be said about the debate. I’m confident that it will elicit much discussion worldwide. Viewers and listeners will draw their own conclusions. But after tonight, there is reason to think—as Bill Craig suggested—that we may soon witness a great renaissance of Christianity.

Recommended Reading:

For details on the 2010 debate between Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Matt Ridley on the atheist side, and William Lane Craig, Doug Geivett, and David Wolpe on the theist side, go here.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking.

311 Responses to William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report

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  7. samson says:

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  9. Dr. Panopticon says:

    At risk of being as poorly prepared as Hitchens apparently was, I am commenting on the debate and report, rather than any reading of the comments already provided by others.
    I would hope that the “fact” of a victory for Craig within the debate would not be seen as providing any force to either of the arguments presented. A truth is not won or lost through argument alone. I do, however, wonder why Hitchens would give the appearance of “dropping” so many fairly straightforward points, and I wonder if perhaps he was ignoring matters which he considered so self-evidently true or untrue that they did not warrant debate, and made the mistake of not giving notice of this to those around him. Apart from his habit of cherrypicking doctrinal inconsistencies and biblical indiscretions, it’s hard for me to accept that Hitchens does not, as a self-professed atheist and sceptic, know full well that the main arguments against Craig are both simply put and consistent with the tenets of scientific philosophy.
    First, the absence of moral objectivity (for that is, indeed, the reality of the situation) does not lend evidence to the existence of a God as the Monotheistic religions conceive of one. Indeed, the very problem of developing or encouraging moral cohesion among the desert tribes was reason enough to imagine and solicit a superior moral authority. The notion that Hitchens believes in an objective moral truth is bizarre; more bizarre than the notion that he simply took this point for granted and was sidetracked by Craig into a hypothetical discussion which, for want of an outright declaration to the contrary, gave the impression to some that Hitchens had conceded the point to Craig. Of the two, the latter seems far more likely.
    The teleological argument would have failed in the face of a competent defense by experts in the fields of biology or mathematics, and could certainly be badly wounded by a logician. I don’t think Hitchens is an expert in any of these fields so perhaps Dawkins might have done better. There is simply no need to appeal to teleological arguments for the existence of any law or phenomena. It is more honest to admit that one finds the implied void at the centre of one’s infinite regressions intolerable and wishes to plug it with a comforting object. Ironically, the better prepared we are to design a fitting object, the more astonishing perfect the object will seem matched to the hole we perceive, which is exactly the irony the argument falls upon. If your base conception of a Creator is, indeed a God of the Gap, then it only has to plug the whole…a barest outline. Nothing more can be said abouts its duration, essence, nature, intent or relationship to our lives…it is the infinitely interchangeable cipher, no one version or unit of exhange having greater claim to truth than any other. Goden becomes a token of the void, A Zahir.
    The cosmological argument does not stand up to even the most cursory logical challenge. 1.Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2.The Universe began to exist. 3.Therefore, the Universe had a cause. The first premise encompasses and states the second and the conclusion! A redundant expansion of a single declaration does not an argument make. By definition the “whatever” of the first premise is a subset of “the Universe”, so we appear to be going backwards already, as well as rendering 3. a redundant tautology. If we said: WW2 began for a reason, all Wars begin, therefore there is a reason for Wars, wouldn’t we then say: so what? What have we really said? And all this before we even get to the matter of whether the Universe can be said to have a beginning at all, something which an awful lot of thinkers are either not decided on (for reasons of an almost insoluble lack of evidence) or deny entirely (on fairly straightforward logical grounds). Put another way, there is no compelling reason to assume a cause without cause (an ultimate beginning to things), yet there are compelling reasons to allow that cause proceeds ad inifinitum.
    The limits to our knowledge are evidence that, indeed, we are finite enquirers within the boundelss abyss of an infinite mystery, it is not an excuse to assume or imagine something as improbable as a prima causa that, itself, lacks no cause. Whatever Creation demands, it surely deserves better from us than an oxymoronic substitute for intellectual persistence and restlessness. Do not send a God to fill the space in a man.
    And I think Hitchens knows all this and would agree with me. Perhaps more preparation might ave helped, but Hitchens himself admits that he plays an interminable game of avoidance against his own boredom, that he deliberately faces these challenges without rehearsal, so that spontaneity may take precedence over the mundane scoreboarding of the rhetorical technocrat. How curious, then, that an atheist should be the one who chooses to play liberally in the sunshine of free thought, as if it were a gift to be spent for the good of one’s spirit and for the example of others, while the Christian philosopher pours over points, despatching opponents with the precision and confidence that comes from fencing with a practise foil, only to have gained the whole debate, and forgotten his own soul.
    I look foward to your response, should you deem one appropriate.
    Yours,

  10. Doug Geivett says:

    I’ve approved the recent comment from “Anonymous” for one reason — so you can see, once again, how knee-jerk reactions to an unwelcome claim on behalf of theism reflect fallacious reasoning expressed with no sense of decorum.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “The question is how to ground the objectivity of moral truths without reference to God, not whether moral truths can be known without believing in God or whether it’s possible to behave morally without believing in God.”
    That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever said by a human being on this planet – ever. Sarah Palin and George W. Bush had some doozies, but this one takes the cake.
    If you don’t believe in god, how can you “ground the objectivity of moral truths” by referencing him/her/it?

  12. ianam says:

    “The most noteworthy difference between these debaters consists in this: preparation.” yes, because William Craig has nothing better to do with his life than to hone his skill in arguing for the existence of something that almost surely does not exist and the existence or non-existence of which (as opposed to belief about it) is irrelevant to human endeavor.

  13. Doug Geivett says:

    Dear Weary,

    So what specific bias can you identify?

  14. Weary says:

    Thanks for that gushing non-biased review. I notice you gave this one to Craig. I also notice you post up pictures of yourself and Craig, taken whilst attending one of his thoroughly constructive and life-changing workshops. Again, thanks for the non-biased review (cough cough nudge). And I bet your mommy’s the bestest cook in the whole wide entire world, no foolin’!

  15. Thank you for taking the time to recap this debate, you did an excellent job!

  16. Jimbo says:

    Dear Monkey Brains

    The Gospels and indeed any ‘history’ of the ancient world would not pass the test of what we would call history today. However may I put it to you that they weren’t designed to be histories in the strictest sense. They were originally written with specific audiences in mind and were not aimed at a 21st century audience. They answer different questions to the ones that we would be asking. The closest to an actual history that the Gospels get is in Luke/Acts where the author is at great pains to name years and rulers, places and people as references. Luke has his theological barrow to push but is concerned to obviously reconcile this with events. So then if you mean that the Gospels are not historical fact in that they are not written as a modern historian would write, then you are right. If you however are saying that they aren’t nested in events that actually happened, then you are decidedly wrong. They are chiefly theological texts using narrative to reveal the important theological motifs of the writers. However that is not to say that the miracles, teachings, and major events didn’t actually take place. This question of the historicity of the Gospels has been done to death over the last few hundred years. The overwhelming consensus of New Testament Scholars, both Christian and other is that the accounts are nested in history if not specifically written as history. Where scholars tend to differ for the most part is on the miraculous accounts. This is the sort of thing which Dr Craig has well covered and I needn’t go into that here.

    As for the issue of the resurgence of the Christian faith, may I direct you to a Chinese government source from their PSB, 2006 that estimates approximately 130 million Chinese believers. That is by far the highest estimate I have heard. The lowest recent estimate from other sources is around 80 million. China is particularly hard to work out numbers as in many provinces it is illegal to share ones faith and Christians are seen as subversive of the system. Throughout asia the middle east and africa there is huge growth in the church. In Iran the number of muslims converting has become such a problem that last year they introduced a law that made the death penalty for apostasy mandatory. I put it to you that in the west with its shrinking and aging populations traditional churches are for the most part in decline. However the evangelical and pentecostal strands are growing rapidly. I can’t speak for the Roman Catholic faith. Meanwhile in the rest of the world with their large birth rates Christianity is definitely on the increase. So yes, Christianity is in resurgence. Africa, the middle east and asia are now sending missionaries to the first world. Their experiences are much closer to that of the Church of the first few centuries (pre Constantine) and I would expect that their input will be mostly but not entirely beneficial.

  17. john says:

    Ironic comment, Monk, particularly in light of the times we live in. It just so happens that there is a significant “resurgence” of people coming to Christ and we are indeed at the doorstep of Christ’s return!

    It would behoove you to do a little reading on the events of our time in light of biblical indicators (which God, in His mercy has provided so that men would see, perceive and be prepared in heart) — particularly the “internet age” as it pertains to global communication, the increase of knowledge flow, the capacity for real-time observance of events, the new controls in the global financial system, the emerging world order, the cashless technologies coupled with the imminent collapse of viable world currencies. The list goes on and on. It’s easy to spout blather without having the internal fortitude to actually look at the topic — easy but not wise.

    Matthew 24:32-33 (NASB95)
    “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

    1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 (NASB95)
    For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day.

  18. Warrick Walker says:

    I’m always amazed (on second thought I’m not) how people like monkey brains can talk so much and yet never actually say anything!

    Assertion #1:You’re just as likely to witness a resurgence of christianity as you are the return of Jesus.

    Assertion # 2#: The twisted logic of believing the gospels are historical fact destroys all of your credibility forever.

    Brilliant interrogative #1: Who cares about this crap anymore?

    Irrelevant statement #1:This is the age of the Internet

    Intolerant ad hominem #1: your kind are seeing the other side and are being exposed to other -more realistic- views at a young age.

    Unsubstantiated conclusion:You’re done.

    I love a cogent,insightful well crafted argument,don’t you?

  19. Monkey Brains says:

    You’re just as likely to witness a resurgence of christianity as you are the return of Jesus. The twisted logic of believing the gospels are historical fact destroys all of your credibility forever. Who cares about this crap anymore? This is the age of the Internet; your kind are seeing the other side and are being exposed to other -more realistic- views at a young age. You’re done.

  20. Ron A. Zajac says:

    Doug,

    I note your general observation that Craig was ready to rumble–in debate terms–and Hitchens wasn’t.

    Three observation re this:

    1) Who gets to set the terms of these debates? Your complaint that Hitchens fails to live up to a postulated strict debate format is possibly well-intentioned, but you should refect on the ways that this doesn’t only “hit” Mr. Hitchens, but also has negative implications for Dr.(?) Craig. In fact, it’s arguable that Hitchens’ comportment under this format is the most laudable; he has the self-respect to give himself room to breathe. And, strange to think, I think that the more Hitchens puts himself in the vanguard of public advocacy, the more we’re seeing something vital and essential at work that argues his case: He’s a man, and he is free.

    2) I allude to a “hit” that Craig also takes. So often Hitchens’ questions and tacks and turns may elude people who have their lots thrown in on the theistic side, but if you back off and take in the picture, you can see the point.

    So, for example, when Hitchens asks Craig for his response to a short laundry list of doctrinal points (e.g., the ressurection), you seem a littl bewildered; where’s that coming from? What’s he about? What he’s about is that he’s attempting to make sure all the salient data is present. And when it comes to the allegation that Hitchens’ fails to accept the “givens” of the debate format, Hitchens is just making sure we understand that, by (presumably) adhering to that format, Craig hoists himself by his own petard. There is *no way* you can adhere to a strictly rational, point-for-point, argumentative format and let it slide that your theology just-so-happens to include elements that contain belief in supernatural events, not to mention a fundamental grounding in personal experience. In the end, Craig cites personal experience. If it’s good enough for Craig, it’s good enough for Hitchens.

    3) Hitchens, I think, understands where the game really lies, and that’s where he takes it.

    I just came up with a terribly clever way to describe it: Hope you like it! He’s a master of the “Ecce Homo” moment; he really is. When called upon to account for himself, he finds the loftiest perch, jumps up on it, and sings his song; and what a song it is! And–an important point–this is not to say he merely grandstands or preens for our entertainment. The genuine, warm laughter of the gracious audience attests to what we all know: That Hitchens has lived these issues, and has a true gift for sharing his broad and kindly humanity with wit, passion, and–not forgetting the venue–keeping his eye on the real prize. As expressed above, some of his seemingly obscure approaches are, when you stop and consider them carefully, actually pitched to shine a light on all that has gone before.

    Put another way: Craig supposes that he sews everything up tidily when he claims the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And one correspondingly supposes that the evangelically-minded in their seats are breathing silent “Amens” to that. But Hitchens expresses his own version of this larger sentiment in another way, and at length. How can you tell? You can tell because the people in the seats are ***laughing***, and laughing from the deepest, sweetest place. Hitchens is no mere wag. He is a man. An no one–least of all the religious–will move him from that beautiful humanity. The closest I’ve ever seen of a case where religion may have informed that kind of warm humanity is Garrison Keillor; and even then, part of the charm rests in the sense that this warmth was cultivated in the struggle against the stultifying influences of orthodoxy.

    If you want to be sure to get to heaven, go with religion. If you want to *be* in heaven, go with the humanists.

  21. Jacob says:

    Warrick Walker -

    First, I obviously don’t have time to read the entire thread and figure out how arguments were started. But, besides the fact that the court scenario requires a certain set of assumptions, I’m saying that it’s irrelevant because the evidence we do have does not fulfill the standard by which something of this magnitude is proven anyway. Once again, your 9/11 example supposes that information comes down because it survived the ravages of time. But we are talking about a perfect librarian, as it were, a God who can preserve any information he so chooses. And I don’t think that the strange and seemingly contradictory texts meet that standard.

    Second, the Bible’s historical veracity can be often questioned. The exodus still does not have a comfortable place within history, as it does not totally seem to fit anywhere. There are also a lot of questions about Daniel and the facts within that book. Of course, inerrancy is a word that gives the kind of cover that allows one to speak with confidence about that which is often debatable or questionable. There is no question that the Bible is based on a lot of history, but so are many myths. Writers could easily insert, say, the events of Daniel into the particulars of that historical context, and if done right it would be nearly impossible to disprove because it’s building upon history, not contradicting it. But because the Bible is its own arbiter of truth, people believe it. Many of the individual events and people cannot be corroborated down to their details. We may know that certain Israelite kings existed, for instance, but we cannot corroborate the details in the Bible.

    Furthermore, when problems do occur, there is some rationalization, for example, that we simply haven’t unearthed the evidence yet. We can argue about something like, say, Darius the Mede, but my point is that it’s a huge unanswered question. I would say that there are many things that don’t align with Biblical accounts and seem to run counter to them (especially when it comes to physical facts about the natural universe), but Christians always seem to have an “explanation”. However, I generally find the standards of evidence lacking. Someone once made up a story about how scientists proved that there were “missing days” that lined up exactly with the story of Joshua stopping the sun in the sky. This would be incredible if true. But if God is omnipotent, then why couldn’t this be true? Why shouldn’t it be so obvious that it’s irrefutable by all standards of measure? People often tell me that there must be room for faith, so why are Christians so quick to champion every single fact they find? Sure, skeptics have been proven wrong, too (some of this might be healthy skepticism, some might be denial), such as when an undiscovered tribe mentioned in the Bible was discovered, but Christians are all too often ready to give certain kinds of evidence the benefit of the doubt, even if they prove untrue.

    Third, who said that there was anybody there at the parting of the Red Sea? Who says that it really happened? You don’t have thousands of signed affidavits from the people of that time. It’s difficult to prove when Exodus was written. You might as well ask why any myth is believed. Is there any proof that Exodus was written close to the event? I don’t know how true this is, but I read an article stating that many laws set down by the Pentateuch weren’t followed in later books, proving a later authorship, and that Exodus actually refers to places and things that only a later author could have known. You’re, of course, assuming that there was an alternate explanation for the events that would be passed down. But that is seldom how tradition works. It’s not difficult to imagine that a mythical event would be accepted unquestioningly as tradition.

    The accounts of Jesus’s life are a little different since the accounts were only recorded 30 or 40 years later. In the case of the water to wine miracle, it was probably written about even later than that, since it appears in the Gospel of John. The account does mention the town, at least, but conveniently it doesn’t mention many facts that can be disproven. One could possibly have went to the town and done extensive research, but this is unlikely, and the story is just vague enough so that it’s impossible to know who would have known about the miracle. Of course, one must also realize that we’re not talking about the Twitter age. What are the chances that someone 500 miles away in Ephesus is going to care what happened in Galilee decades earlier? Refutations are unlikely. People simply had their side of events. It doesn’t take any sort of conspiracy. It just takes a small sect of people who are credulous about a vague event that is very difficult to trace.

    I know that comments are supposed to be short, but this topic is so unwieldy and long anyway that it’s probably not that important anymore.

  22. Jacob says:

    Jimbo -

    First off, at the risk of delineating into theodicy, I often find that Christians want it both ways: they want a God who acts clearly and decisively in the world, but when evil comes around, that is sort of contravened by the argument that God acts mysteriously, which makes it incredibly difficult to judge where he does supposedly act. Christians most of the time can’t agree with each other here.

    Second, you need to substantiate what you mean by non-random. How do you know that New Agers or Muslims or Hindu don’t also see miracles? I assume that all of us live in a predominantly Christian world and culture, which means that the Christian is far more impressionable of those who share his or her beliefs and the nonbeliever is likely to hear the Christian perspective. The Christian is also more likely to attribute something to God, especially if something happens at a felicitous time. Some places even keep track of miracles, like Lourdes, which claims five million visitors a year and yet has staggering few actual miracles to account for (I believe 67 in 150 years). Of course, those are only the miracles that pass through their rigorous standards, so there are likely to be more miracles than that, but that’s the exact reason why medical miracles are so dubious. What actually counts as a physical impossibility? Unless our understanding of the universe is wrong, the laws of physics are pretty immutable. But biology is a very strange thing. It’s hard to tell what an organism is incapable of.

    And if you really want to talk about non-random, it would truly be impressive if God healed those who obviated medical care and had faith in his ability to heal. That would, of course, be the ultimate sign, since it is the ultimate act of belief. But those stories end in tragedy most of the time. These need to be accounted for too.

    Once again, I find it very unlikely that a God is acting within the world. Events are far too random, too prosaic…too natural. If miracles do ever happen, then they’re more likely to be a glitch in the matrix (facetiously) or a near-impossible but not impossible occurrence.

  23. Warrick Walker says:

    Luis et all:
    I generally agree with you re miracles. A supernatural explanation should be the last possibility considered. I would need solid evidence before believing the miracle occurred. In Jimbo’s case, the name of the Drs. Involved before and after would be a good starting point. An examination of records, x-rays, photos, etc. would pretty much seal the deal. Unfortunately, in most so called “healings” by mainly televangelists (the ridiculous Benny Hinn and the like) this type of evidence is universally lacking. Let me qualify this by saying that I do believe miracles can occur and often did in the Bible, though I won’t enumerate my reasons for holding this position here due to space considerations. In context of modern “healings”, motive would be a good starting point from which to investigate.

    Luis, I also think you are defining “miracle” in terms that are neither historically valid nor, I suspect, held by most Christians. I know of no Christian who defines a miracle as something that is “very improbable”. In simplest term a miracle is something that defies any materialistic explanation. In Jimbo’s case, if an eye really was healed spontaneously, I would be at a loss to explain it in naturalistic terms; hence it would be justified to call it a miracle.

    One huge problem in questioning biblical miracles is that it assumes some of the largest conspiracies ever concocted. Literally thousands of people were present at the parting of the red sea, yet in all of Jewish history there is not even a hint of repudiation. How easy it would have been to say” hey, my family was there and it never happened”. The same can be said for the parting of the river Jordan and other miracles up to and including Jesus’ turning water into wine and feeding the five thousand. It stretches credulity to the breaking point to hold that not one person denied any of these miracles; if in fact they were hoaxes.

    With regard to” this excludes third party “testimonials” of miracles that happened 2000 years ago” you still need to answer not only my question re the 911 scenario but also all the points I brought up re inconsistent methodology. In typical atheist fashion, you seem to want to answer questions with other questions instead of dealing with them head on.

    Jacob, regarding your comment about “court of law” please understand that the charge of not being able to stand up in a court of law is brought by the atheist side. I believe I have more than adequately addressed this as it seems no one on this thread wishes to challenge my position.
    And, yes, anecdotal evidence is way down the list of proofs. I encourage you to read Luke’s gospel and pay particular attention to the language he uses, partly in anticipation of your very concern. My question still stands: what good reason is there to not believe the Bible when it has been proven accurate time and again historically, archaeologically, etc.?

    Lastly, I believe in the fulfillment of prophecy and am confident it can be easily defended once we know how to properly interpret the Bible. I also concede that people who have not made a sincere effort to understand the Bible will find many passages difficult. As has been well said, reading the Bible is both an art and a science. An art in that the more we apply ourselves the better we become at exegeting it properly. A science in that there are specific rules and principles that need to be applied if we are to understand it in the sense it was intended. In other words, let’s treat it in the same way we treat any other ancient literature. God bless!

  24. Luis Dias says:

    Hi Jimbo.

    It might be a confirmation bias, yes, and I derive this conclusion by watching how you make completely unsupported assumptions as if they were true from the get go, such as miracles “not happening while freethinkers and rationalists” meet, or to suggest that these miracles, “scientifically speaking” there is “no good reason” to believe that they are the result of natural forces. This is utter rubbish, my friend, and it’s not because people are liars. It’s simply because people inclined to believe in miracles do happen to report fortunate events as such, and people not inclined to believe in miracles do not report fortunate events as such, even despite the very phenomenon they witness, the facts at hand, may be entirely the same. It’s also true that the least scientific educated will mesmerize themselves with very little, while more educated people will see such phenomena for what it is, natural forces combining to good fortune.

    Your sentence that states there is no good reason to believe these things are the result of natural forces being a “scientific speak” is monstruous drivel, since science does not postulate anything else but the empirical. And it has been shown again and again by unbiased and rigorous statistical analysis that prayer-induced miracles do not happen, period. You are basing your beliefs in the notion that “everything is possible”, but then you make the unsupported jump that if “everything’s possible”, and because “we don’t know everything” and “science can’t explain everything”, then it’s “probable”, and why not, even “necessary”. Yablo Conceivability and stuff.

    You claim that you’ve seen “impossible” things, and you jump to the conclusion that they are supernatural before you even try the idea of being natural phenomena. Well, they might look impossible to you. To jump to supernatural explanations is unwarranted. I’ll just link to a very good cartoon about this:
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1763

  25. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Jimbo

    Let me come straight out and say I found your last post fascinating. I have about a thousand questions but I’ll limit myself to just a few.

    1) Do you view these miracles as rewards of some kind? In other words, do you think believers in the supernatural are sometimes rewarded by the object of their belief?

    2) Do you believe the same supernatural entity is responsible for all perceived miracles? And if so, have you arrived at any conclusions concerning the identity of said entity?

    3) Do you believe that embracing a supernatural worldview, as you put it, enables one to be the recipient of supernatural events like faith healing? In other words, do you believe that believing in the supernatural is a necessary condition for the occurence of miracles?

    4) Do you also believe that this supernatural entity can also use its powers in destructive ways? And if so, do you think it is equally selective when doing so?

  26. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Doug

    Interesting answer, Doug and well said. Personally I believe there are several phenomena that, simply put, deserve an explanation. One is the belief in miracles of the kind described by Jimbo but there are others including: alien abductions, demonic possessions and exorcisms, hauntings, etc. Now, please don’t think I am trying to insult you by saying this because I genuinely respected the honesty of your response, but for my money the answers to a great many mysteries will be found as we further understand the workings of the brain.

  27. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Paul,

    I can’t speak for Bill Craig on the subject of specific contemporary miracle claims. Speaking for myself, I must say that, yes, miracles continue to be possible, and that a badly damaged human eye could be instantaneously and inexplicably restored during a Christian prayer meeting. I also think this could happen under other circumstances, as well.

    As for the evidential value of claims to this effect, I’m less confident. Suppose this is precisely what happened, and suppose that God did indeed miraculously heal the person’s eyes. It wouldn’t follow that the event constitutes, without qualification, good evidence that a miracle has happened. God could have reasons for healing that have little to do with providing evidence for non-believers (or believers for that matter). It would be neither here not there whether people concluded that a miracle had occurred.

    The evidence that’s been presented to me for events of this kind has never seemed strong enough to convince me that a particular contemporary miracle claim is true. I’ve heard reports of this happening. I know many people who believe it has happened on a large scale and with some regularity in certain parts of the world. I know some people who believe this simply because some figure they respect believes it. Many of these figures report what they’ve heard from someone else. I’ve heard their arguments. And so on. But I think that adequate evidence for this must be greater than is generally presented, if those of us who are not first-hand witnesses are to believe. Of course, if a miracle has occurred, there may be people close to the situation who are positioned epistemically to have adequate evidence. But I do not have the evidence they have, nor, I suspect do many who believe typical reports of contemporary miracles. My theology is unquestionable orthodox, but it does not require belief that particular contemporary miracle claims are true. My belief in the supernatural hardly depends on such evidence, and the evidence I have would, I think, still be more dependable than evidence for a contemporary miracle in most cases. I doubt that I’ve been in the vicinity of a miracle that could be called that with real conviction by me.

  28. Jacob says:

    The existence of miracles is wholly different from the source of miracles. You could argue that a miracle during a Christian prayer session is clear evidence for the Christian God, but a Christian anecdote about a miracle has as much of an impact on me as a similar Muslim anecdote. Every religion makes the exact same claims and probably has similar evidence. But I file it all in the same place as those who claim to see ghosts or have factual evidence for pseudoscience.

    And the prevalence of miracles is absolutely a necessary question. This is the same God, after all, who supposedly stopped the sun in the sky and parted a sea and allowed believers to heal the sick in front of thousands. I’ve never personally seen anything that would qualify as a miracle. When I evaluate the Bible, it doesn’t seem to have any particularly impressive predictive power (and in some cases it just gets things wrong). I certainly don’t think that people are communicating with an omniscient deity (on the other hand, I find that everybody is equally limited in knowledge until acquiring that knowledge through totally conventional and natural means). I don’t think that my standard of evidence is too unreasonable, but I don’t think that any religion can meet it.

    Lastly, Craig is obviously quite knowledgeable in certain subjects, but I personally think that one can question his interpretations of that knowledge, as long as one is being fair about it.

  29. Luis Dias says:

    One common subtlety I find people missing, and it is an easy one to miss is the difference between ontology and epistemology.

    Oh I missed this gem. So please enlighten us about this subtlety, if you will, and show us how we have been “missing” it. This thread may interestingly decay unto a realistic/anti-realistic debate, which would be funny in itself, although I am prepared to take the byte. Yes, there is a difference between what one postulates as existent in our own personal list of existents, and the methodology which we use to create / write / manage / check our list of existents.

    How on earth this “subtle” difference has been missed is a mystery to me.

  30. Jimbo says:

    Hi Luis

    It might be an example of confirmation bias as to the supernatural explanation of the miracle. I am sure that in meetings of Atheists an equivalent number of miracles of the same magnitude or greater are also regularly reported… or are they? In my experience, and I suspect yours miraculous instantaneous healings of eyes or some other blatantly obvious, unknown to medical science, healing aren’t normally associated with meetings of freethinkers and rationalists. One would think that if these miracles were just random that they might be expected to occur in those meetings at least in the same ballpark of figure that they happen in religious gatherings.

    Now a great way to get around this little statistical anomoly might be to say that miracles don’t occur at all. That would be an answer… but not a good one given the experience of an awful lot of people around the world who have witnessed or been the recipients of miraculous instantaneous healings of a non trivial nature. You could call them liars, intentional or otherwise I suppose. Being a bit of a skeptic myself naturally I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to claims of the miraculous I have seen what I have seen. It would appear to me that given the seemingly non-random nature of these instantaneous healing miracles that it is likely that there is some intelligence directing it. I would jump to that conclusion before I would jump to a naturalist one given that the best scientific understandings of physics, chemistry, biology or the medical sciences cannot even begin to postulate how such a thing could happen. Scientifically speaking there is no good reason to believe that such a healing is the result of natural forces. Indeed it would appear that if one were to be consistent in ones methodology, given the fact that these miracles are exclusively tied to groups devoted to a worldview that embraces and appeals to a supernatural element and given that in every other regard they are representative of the spectrum of humanity, it is almost certain that there is a supernatural factor responsible.

  31. Luis Dias says:

    That experience sorted it for me simply because the difference was immediately obvious.

    The plain definition of Confirmation Bias, if there was ever one. Sorry, but your anecdotal evidence is not enough to confirm the existence of “miracles”, although, strictly speaking, miracles do happen everyday (and your own example may have been just one), but I am referring to the difference between a supernaturalistically explained “miracle” and the usual definition of “miracle”, which is “something very unprobable”. Well, very unlikely things are always happening.

  32. Luis Dias says:

    On a different note, one issue I have with a naturalistic bias against supernatural evidence is that it ignores something which Arthur C. Clarke once said

    I would just like to comment on this particular point.

    Yes, it’s true that in a hundred years time, we will probably laugh at the silly beliefs we once had in the begginings of the 21st century. But this human condition is not an argument for any particular knowledge, only against our knowledge. That is, it reinforces the notion that we still have a lot to learn.

    And while this humility is important, we should note that the supernaturalists aren’t the humble ones. They are not saying that supernaturalism is “possible”, they are saying it is “True”. Clearly, we should be more demanding of those who claim that something is true than those who merely claim that something is possible.

    My own atheism is an empirical conclusion that I arrive after seeing tons of evidence, that any supernaturalistic claim has either been exposed as fraud or assimilated as naturalistic phenomena (science). Clearly, any supernaturalistic claim still holds some miniscule percentage of probability of being “true”, but I don’t want to waste my precious life pondering about leprechauns and unicorns any more. Likewise, I’ll be veeery skeptical about supernatural claims, and I will demand extraordinary evidence for it before I accept it.

    Of course, this excludes third party “testimonials” of miracles that happened 2000 years ago, despite all the indignation that this moderated rigor seems to cause to some believers in this comment roll…

  33. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi All,

    On the point of credentials I can only say that it is highly debatable that the subject of God is a topic reserved only for those with letters in front of their names. Leaving that aside for a moment however, credentials are hardly immunity from bad or biased thinking. It should not take anyone very long to think of a perfectly good example of an educated man fostering a provably insane belief.

    Now let me be clear on this issue. WLC has a strong resume. If he did not his opponents over the years would never have agreed to share a platform with him. I am well aware of his credentials but unlike others I do not give them much weight when a topic like religion is in play. Why not? Simple. Because I have learned time and time again that when core beliefs are in question even the best tend to dig in their heels in a manner often approaching irrational. WLC, by the way, does not give credentials much weight either. I have seen him go after giants like Stephen Hawking in the field of cosmology when it is only too obvious Craig has little or no idea what he is talking about.

    My argument initially was that WLC is all too willing to make enormous leaps of logic when they help him get to a point he seems to want to make. Or maybe better said, when he is dismissing a counter argument he seems perfectly capable of spotting flawed reasoning. When he is defending his own arguments he seems to me to suddenly not practice the same rigorous thinking. I gave examples and reasons for my statements. The only replies to date have been a vague accusation of character assassination which I never attempted to commit. All of this talk of credentials and whatnot is interesting but I would much rather see a reply which actually relates to something I said.

    So, yes WLC is considered an expert on the resurrection and yes he carries more weight when discussing the topic. Unfortunately, there are also people with lofty credentials that will claim to be scholars of the Book of Mormon or the Q’ran. At the end of the day they can’t all be right and try as he might WLC cannot overcome this simple point. In fact, he doesn’t even try.

    On the subject of history, one incredibly important point that theists often gloss over is the sheer number of deities that have come and gone over the centuries. Another is that science evolves into stronger science leading to more and more accurate theories. Yet another is that every time a religion admits it is wrong (a rare occurence indeed) it immediately goes back to being infallible all over again. History is hardly a strong argument for theism. At best it is simply evidence of a long-standing stalemate between two world views.

    “Given our knowledge of history one should be cautious about dismissing evidence on the basis of “science cannot currently explain it.” Therefore miraculous healings and even resurrection are not beyond the realms of possibility assuming a science which is light years ahead of our own.”

    We should also be extremely cautious about attempting to fill in the gaps with speculation. Science has learned not to. I propose that religion learn the same lesson.

    “One common subtlety I find people missing, and it is an easy one to miss is the difference between ontology and epistemology. Another issue is the understanding of what constitutes proof.”

    Do you have a specific example of something we’ve missed?

    “But what I am saying is that miracles are conceivable as the actions of an intelligence which is far lower than that which may be attributed to an omniscient God.”

    I don’t see the relevance of this. Please elaborate.

    I would also like to hear more about this miracle you describe. And before you answer, let me simply throw out a curveball. When faith healers of other religions perform miracles does that validate their beliefs? And if so, how would one go about tallying things up to see which religion is the most conducive to miracles?

    How about you Doug? Do you believe a human eye can go from badly damaged to perfectly normal immediately following a Christian prayer meeting? What do you think WLC would say on the subject?

  34. Jimbo says:

    Hi Doug

    Concerning this

    “What would count as journalistic authority, and why would it trump logic? One vital function of philosophy is to examine the use of reason in whatever domain.”

    I would agree entirely that journalistic authority (which I assume is just darn good evidence hunting) would get trumped as long as it failed to find reasonable evidence and construct a well reasoned case for viewing the evidence in a certain light (for example on the subject of the resurrection. I guess I was reasoning that if Chris were making some comment on some event which he had done the work on that I would need to be far more careful before calling him on it. However seeing as he wasn’t an eyewitness to the resurrection, the creation of the universe, various miracles, and in fact refuses to even acknowledge the most reliable accounts and research by others I feel justified in thinking that WLC owns him on this. Specifically considering that WLC has actually done the sort of work that a good journalist actually would do in researching the sources of the Resurrection account and looking for the evidence for and against it and then coming up with a very reasonable picture of what actually happened. In that respect he trumps Hitchens at his own game as well as nailing Hitchens philosophically speaking :) And I suppose that also means, in response to Paul’s comment on humility being required towards Hitchens in this debate, that Hitchens deserves no less respect than anyone else who doesn’t do their homework in a debate with WLC and chooses to make very bold assertions while doing so.

  35. Doug Geivett says:

    Jimbo,

    What would count as journalistic authority, and why would it trump logic? One vital function of philosophy is to examine the use of reason in whatever domain.

  36. Jimbo says:

    Hi Paul

    In response to your comments

    “Would you say that many of the statements aimed at Hitchens in this blog are equally in need of humility?”

    If Hitchens were commenting on something which his journalist credentials would immediately apply to I would be appropriately humble and force myself to do some actual research, preferably from a number of angles and from a number of good sources, not all of which might agree with me. Then and only then would I feel confident enough to humbly submit a refutation of one of his points. Of course this assumes that I had not been convinced through my research that his Journalism was spot on.

    On your second point

    “And on a slightly different note, if you feel that subtleties are being missed please feel free to chime in. You might find that the view from an ivory tower is slightly different at ground level.”

    One common subtlety I find people missing, and it is an easy one to miss is the difference between ontology and epistemology. Another issue is the understanding of what constitutes proof. Strictly speaking, outside of math you don’t really find such things as proof. Evidence pointing to the best (not necessarily the simplest) answer is about as good as you get. Of course you then have issues over what constitutes evidence.

    On a different note, one issue I have with a naturalistic bias against supernatural evidence is that it ignores something which Arthur C. Clarke once said

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    The reason I feel that this is relevant is that saying that something is not real because we can’t explain it TODAY in strict scientific terms seems to me to hold an awful lot of confidence in what we know. What we “know” is something that I believe would be laughed at in 100 or so years just like we now laugh at some of what the Victorians “knew” about their universe. If history shows us anything it shows us that what we “know” from science is in the habit of changing, often radically, as people who choose not to accept the religiously adhered to scientific status quo take risks and push the boundaries. Given our knowledge of history one should be cautious about dismissing evidence on the basis of “science cannot currently explain it.” Therefore miraculous healings and even resurrection are not beyond the realms of possibility assuming a science which is light years ahead of our own. I am not trying to make a case for little green men by the way. But what I am saying is that miracles are conceivable as the actions of an intelligence which is far lower than that which may be attributed to an omniscient God. I myself can say that I have witnessed at least 1 verifiable miracle of a blind eye, seriously damaged and with stitches on it, being fully healed immediately following a Christian prayer session at which I was present. It has been medically verified by a Doctor who is not a believer. My witnessing of the event happened at a time when I was seriously beginning to question whether miracles happened that simply couldn’t be explained away as hype and or hysteria. That experience sorted it for me simply because the difference was immediately obvious. Bad backs are one thing but blind eyes with holes in them don’t get better instantly, leaving no scars, from just random chance. Seeing as the guys name isn’t Wolverine I assume that the healing was God’s work. This is not the only thing I have seen of miraculous healing but it is certainly one that got my attention at the right time. A question that might follow is “Why doesn’t God always heal?” I think that might be a question for a different forum.

    I suppose that if one wants to do some serious God dodging that the above miracle could be attributed to aliens, or psychic powers, or the fact that my friend is an X-Man. Given the timing and venue I wouldn’t feel it was the strongest explanation ;)

  37. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hey Jimbo,

    Would you say that many of the statements aimed at Hitchens in this blog are equally in need of humility?

    And on a slightly different note, if you feel that subtleties are being missed please feel free to chime in. You might find that the view from an ivory tower is slightly different at ground level.

    Paul

  38. Warrick Walker says:

    Jimbo: Thanks for shining the light of clarity on this issue. While we on the theistic side of the aisle generally take Bill Craigs excellent credentials for granted, it is both informative and edifying to see them duly noted. I say edifying in the sense that other believers can take heart in knowing that our faith not only is evidentiary, but that we have intellects such as Craigs to put paid to the notion that faith is for the educationally challenged and uninformed. While I have read a number of Craigs books and was already familiar with his formidable curriculum vitae, I suspect that many others discovered this information for the first time.
    My wish would be to see someone (anyone) on the other side of the argument demonstrate a little humility and acknowledge that attacks on his abilities are mean spirited and unfounded.Personal attacks,however thinly veiled, are the polemical equivalent of surrender, so thanks again.

  39. Doug Geivett says:

    Jimbo,

    This is a valuable contribution to the discussion. Knowing Bill Craig well, I can say that he has always kept his scholarship fresh and thorough.

  40. Jimbo says:

    I have been reading this running argument for a few hours now. I just wish to make a comment on the qualifications of Dr Craig and how he is viewed by his peers. The man has two PhD’s from highly respected faculties at well respected universities. He got his 1st PhD under John Hick (google that) and his second under Wolfhart Pannenburg (and that). These guys are giants in their fields. That he could complete his 2nd PhD in a language not his own (German) and which he only picked up in a 4 month immersive course shows that the guy is both extremely bright and disciplined. The fact that he got his PhD’s in Philosophy and Theology also shows that his thinking is incredibly subtle. One of his Masters degrees was in Church History. That means that when he speaks on history and specifically Church History he speaks as an expert. Likewise his 2nd PhD was on evidence for the Resurrection so when he speaks on that subject he speaks as an expert and one vetted and accredited by other people (believers and otherwise) who have those valuable 3 letters after their names as well.

    Whatever you may think of WLC he is not stupid or ignorant. He works hard. He has brought the most rigorous methods of investigation and thought to the issues he addresses with the precision and thoroughness one would expect of a Dr of Philosophy in the discipline of Philosophy. Likewise in History and Theology.

    Therefore I am far more likely to believe that when Dr Craig speaks on matters of philosophy, history and theology that someone who hasn’t spent the time at that level of study bears the burden of proof for their bold counter statements.

    Much of the comments I have read here so far prove that the subtleties of WLC’s arguments are either ignored or simply not grasped. Likewise I think that the ignorance of leading edge New and Old Testament scholarship is woefully demonstrated in the assumptions being made by Dr. Craig’s critics. I imagine that this is due to a thorough disrespect for the depth and breadth of learning that Dr. Craig has accumulated AND ADDED TO. I also imagine that this is due to an ignorance of how little those critics actually testably know in comparison to Dr. Craig.

    This does not mean that one requires a PhD to argue. Rather that one should be cautious about isolated “facts” and anecdotes that one “knows” when dealing with someone who is an expert in that field. For example a Creationist layman with a 150+ I.Q. attempting to lock horns with Richard Dawkins over the evidence for evolution or with Stephen Hawking over cosmology. As smart as they may be, the layman just won’t have the specific tools and probably won’t understand the subtleties when the math comes up. That would require specific training. In addition he is predisposed not to listen to their counterarguments as he feels it personally threatens his worldview.

    Basically people, a little humility and self-examination please before commenting on the relevance or veracity of claims of an expert speaking within their area of expertise. :)

  41. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Doug,

    Then what is the point? I am aware of what Craig says and I see nothing more than a semantic difference between morality comes from God and without God there is no reason to assume morality is anything more than a bioevolutionary spinoff. Once again, Hitchens did not miss the point and neither do I. We simply see the argument for what it really is: yet another attempt to hijack morality and/or to show how an atheist is an immoral automaton. Or better put, it’s another way to try to ramrod God into the equation (just like the teleological or cosmological argument).

    Anyway, I’ve already covered this ground in some detail and I am confident that anyone who reads what I have written will see that I fully understand Craig’s moral argument.

  42. Search the Web on Snap.com says:

    Dear manicstreetpreacher: Let me make a few points in closing & then you can have the last word. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be much new being offered up so let’s just agree to disagree.

    1) I’m still waiting for someone, anyone, to give me evidence that things just pop into existence out of nothing. I mean, when is the last time you were present when it happened? If you are referring to vacuum particles in your post, this theory has already been discredited as being unable to explain why or how the universe exists( both questions which seem to be equally important).

    2) Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Hawking postulate “imaginary” time as the means to eliminate the singularity? Of course, imaginary time has no basis in fact as it is simply that, imaginary, and thus could have no impact on the physical world. By the way, Hawking has more recently published a “layman’s” version of his original book, now entitiled A Briefer History of Time (2005), where he allows that the big bang is the de facto reality around which his entire book is based. At NO point does he repudiate this almost universally accepted starting point. Strangely, he often talks in spiritual terms, as if in his heart of hearts he knows there is a God but just can’t bring himself to admit it. Hawking poignantly asks: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

    3) Asking what caused God (if something did) is irrelevant to the question of His existence. The point is, even if He was caused, He is still the best explanation for the universe around us.

    4) People keep saying that they know the KCA has been refuted, but they always seem to neglect to share the refutation with the rest of us.

    5) Not much more to say about Dawkins that hasn’t already been said.

    6) As I said before, I have lots of questions (perhaps even more than you!) to ask when I finally meet God face to face. Just because I don’t have all the answers to all the tough questions doesn’t detract from my faith. Rather, my faith informs me there are things that ONLY God has the answers to and He won’t be sharing them in this life.

    7) With regard to moral relativism, let me ask you a simple, but revealing question. How many parents do YOU know that can’t wait for their 3-year-old son to grow up and meet another nice boy so they can get married and live happily ever after? None, I suspect; and I doubt you are hoping for that for your son (if you have one) either. The reason? We know in the deepest part of us that it’s wrong, political correctness notwithstanding. Remember, passing a law doesn’t make something right. How I wish people would stop and reflect on just how they determine right and wrong in their lives. The results of such introspection would be startling. Instead, people continue as if by inertia, just going along with the flow.

    8) I suspect (though I don’t know) that many of the people in the organizations you mentioned are themselves people of faith. I’d still like to know why I don’t see groups of atheists protesting outside abortion clinics. Could it be that all their talk of being concerned for their fellow man’s rights is just that, talk? Instead of asking “why doesn’t God stop the suffering?” a better question might be, “why don’t we?”

    9) You say on the one hand “you are in favor of abortion” yet then you say you “believe in the concept of the unborn child and that every fetus should have a chance in life.” Then you say that women should have the choice but you personally would have to think long and hard about having an abortion. Seems to me your moral relativism is showing through again. I mean, you just can’t bring yourself to say it’s right or wrong, but rather taking an innocent life would depend on the circumstances!

    10) The taking of innocent lives either by so-called Christians bombing clinics or Muslim extremists crashing into the world trade centre is equally reprehensible and only differs in degree. Neither act is noble. They may have been sincere believers but they were sincerely wrong. Truth is not something we decide on the basis of how sincere we are. In conclusion, let me say that the best we can do as human beings is to try to make sense of the world around us. To me, the story of a creator God makes the most sense. I hope you will resist the urge to judge Christianity by the actions of some of its adherents. In other words, don’t throw the baby Jesus out with the bath water!

    Thanks for listening and God bless.

  43. Doug Geivett says:

    The point is not that morality “comes from God.”

  44. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hello

    It seems to me we’re dealing with a surprisingly limited number of options: either morality is objective or not; either it has a supernatural/divine origin or it doesn’t. Any combination seems to be possible but at the very least we can boil the discussion down to these simple variables.

    The first question, is morality objective or isn’t it? No matter what Craig meant I would expect some amount of time to be dedicated to why he feels it is. Unfortunately he does not do so in his debates or in any of his writings I have seen. This leaves the only and very brief premise he does offer in his public debates open to interpretation. I would much rather know what he thinks than get into interpretations.

    Leaving that aside, what Doug is describing sounds to me like part of an argument Kant or Ayn Rand might have made. In other words that morality can be objective without the supernatural component. I could be wrong but I would think Craig would want to leave that can of worms closed since it effectively offers yet another option to what he seems to be arguing.

    In the debate, Hitchens refers to this when he says “you have all your work still in front of you”. Admittedly a very brief argument but effective nonetheless. Simply put, even showing morality is objective you still have a gaping chasm to cross to show it comes from the Christian God or Allah or whatever.

  45. Doug Geivett says:

    Paul and Tim, I’ll jump in here just to clarify what I think is going on when Bill Craig speaks of what we know “in our heart of hearts.”

    This is lay or vernacular language for a faculty of moral knowledge we are thought by some philosophers to have. It involves a kind of intuitive “seeing.” It is a grasping of moral truths by direct awareness in consideration of the moral qualities of an act or the moral properties of an agent.

    Like our sense faculties, this faculty specially suited to moral knowledge is ours naturally. It’s not matter of special divine revelation, and it’s operation does not depend on belief in God.

    Some speak of this in relation to conscience. (See Paul Moser, for example, in his book The Elusive God. Your conscience makes you aware of the moral qualities of actions you contemplate or perform. Your conscience may work in evaluation of others’ actions if you can imagine yourself acting thus in similar conditions.

    Rational intuition of what is morally so is fallible, like all the rest of our faculties. But without it, we would not have the moral knowledge we do have.

  46. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Tim,

    Why all the talk about feelings?

    I think I am asking the same question of Craig. It seems to me he is using a strange mix of incomplete philosophy and blatant appeals, as you called them, to those who already believe what he is preaching (i.e. reasonable faith). Certainly his fifth point, the experience of God, can be nothing more than an appeal to Christians. What about the others?

    Well, the moral argument he actually did begin with a single premise: that morality is objective and in our hearts we all know it to be true. For his fourth argument, the resurrection, he simply states that testimonials of believers are to be taken over other kinds of evidence. There’s three out of five right there.

    As for the other two argument well I am ready to make a case that his version of the teleological argument and maybe even the KCA are nothing more than appeals to fallible human perception. There’s no real evidence in either of them and both are based on what can only be described as a poor understanding of cosmology and physics.

    So yes, what’s with all this feelings talk? My question exactly.

    As for your two consistent statements, yes it’s quite possible I misunderstood you. I can only say I see Craig building arguments on feelings and tearing down others because they are built on feelings. I don’t think he can have it both ways. Either what we feel is valid or it is not and in my opinion it is not. If science has done nothing else it has shown us with a sledgehammer that how we perceive the universe has virtually nothing to do with how it actually works. Craig, as an educated man, should know this. So why then does he continue to make appeals to something we know to be extremely fallible?

    Sorry I am a bit rushed on this one.

  47. Hello Warrick Walker

    I originally posted a long reply to your comment on Doug’s blog, but it was not approved since it was a tad over the word limit set out in his comments policy.

    Accordingly, on my own blog I have posted your comment, together with my reply.

    Perhaps we could continue the discussion there?

    MSP

  48. Tim says:

    Paul,

    Not sure I follow your reply. Why all the talk about feelings?

    As for the point about the two consistent statements, I think you might’ve missed what I was doing. Perhaps I missed what you were doing.

    And as for your opinion versus Doug’s on this particular issue (of Craig being too soft on his [own] beliefs), there’s a straightforward way of knowing whether Craig is soft on his beliefs: see what his peers in the guild say about him. Sure, you’ll find almost anyone on the internet trashing someone else–Craig has his critics, too. As you rightly say, many of them are harsh. I’m not sure any of them are good at criticizing his arguments. The place to turn rather for proof is to the journals and academic presses in which his peers interact with him.

  49. Jacob says:

    To anyone who wants a discussion about the historicity of Jesus:

    I am responding to Warrick Walker’s post from November 10th at 5:55 AM. I think that, first of all, there is a problem in the entire notion that we should worry about what would stand in the court of law. We are talking about what is purported to be the ultimate truth here. If you are to use the analogy of people discovering the records of 9/11 centuries from now, then that is an argument that information is left to its own devices. So I am not trying to argue against the Bible merely because it’s an eye witness account. I am arguing against it because I hold greater truths to a higher standard. So what if we assume history? Are the exploits of Julius Caesar of eternal significance? In the end, there is a lower threshold of proof. But if you are to say that belief is over eternal life and death, then I expect more.

    Furthermore, the gospels (and most of the books of the NT) were not written for at least two or three decades after the fact. Sure, decades later, maybe they truly did believe in a bodily resurrection. But what did they think in the moment? This is important because it affects many of your questions. For instance, why didn’t the Romans produce the body of Jesus if they had it? I guess that depends upon who you ask. The writers had every reason to present their religion as important. I believe it’s The Rise of Christianity that presents the case that it probably started out as an incredibly small cult of people who were more interested in joining a new religion than anything factually motivated. It probably wasn’t even that organized, so it’s hard to tell what happened in those first few years. Of course, I think that they were interested in truth, but I don’t think that there was a concerted movement from the first day centered around a resurrected Christ to such a point that the Romans could destroy it with clear evidence.

    It’s interesting that Matthew tries to play up a story about a coverup that he notes has been circulated by Jews. It’s dubious that such a story would have ever gotten out. That right there tells you that they’re operating on hearsay. I’m also asking an honest question: why do the five or six post-resurrection stories never line up? Paul doesn’t even mention the women at the tomb. John has events that for some reason no one else mentions. In Matthew, the disciples were still doubting to the end, and it seems like there is just that one appearance in Galilee. But in Luke, Jesus apparently offered them total illumination during their first meeting in Jerusalem. How much can we trust them if their stories can’t even get along? Why they would make stories up is a different question, but it’s quite possible to be deluded and yet (relatively) rational.

    Conversion stories aren’t proof. There are countless examples throughout history of people who claim to have visions and then foment a new religion (while Paul was an important believer, he was not necessarily the founder). There needs to be something that distinguishes them.

    And just to go off on one tangent: the universe didn’t come from nothing, per se (although Lawrence Krauss has an interesting lecture called the universe from nothing). There was obviously some mechanism that triggered it. It’s important to understand what that is.

    Lastly, I’ll address something from the OP. While Hitchens’s performance sounds disappointing, his definition of atheism needs special attention. I don’t necessarily see the problem. When asked if God exists, I believe that he’d say that the evidence is pretty weak, and we need something more to make firm conclusions either way; if there is a God, then it’s not a personal one interacting in daily affairs, and at best there’s a weak form of deism. Therefore, there’s no good reason to think that God exists, and we should live as if God doesn’t exist.

  50. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Tim,

    The idea that you can know something because you feel it to be true is ridiculous and has been proven wrong thousands of times over. In fact, I think it’s safe to say any adult that is willing to offer it as evidence in an intelligent discussion can safely be ignored. Craig can try to split all the hairs he wants but in the end he’s saying that feeling the “presence of God” is evidence for God. He’s wrong and there are dozens of excellent reasons why.

    As for the two consistent statements you mentioned I would like to add a third: God does not exist. I feel it to be true and I can also construct a strong argument for my conclusion. Another consistent statement would be: God does exist. Yet another would be: the Qu’ran is the final and unalterable word of God.

    The moral argument, or at least Craig’s version of it, can only start by showing that morality is objective. Now Craig may or may not have other reasons but in the debate he named only one premise: objective morality does exist and in your hearts you know it to be true. False, in my heart I know it to be false. Unfortunately what we feel in our hearts is irrelevant. I know it and so should Craig. Credentials or not.

    As for your recommendation I don’t agree. You have no way of knowing, for any one of a dozen reasons, that Doug’s opinion is any more valid than my own. For my part, I recommend you spend some time reading what Craig’s many harsh critics have to say about him.

  51. jstainer says:

    Warrick Walker,

    Hey there, I have been following your conversation here and I think we may know each other from years ago! Send me an email (just click on my name at the top of this comment and you’ll find it in there). Until then, keep on keeping on everyone.

    Joel

  52. Tim says:

    Paul,

    The following two statements are consistent with one another.

    1. Objective moral values exist. (from his version of the Moral Argument)
    2. God permits instances of evil such that (a) he has reasons for permitting such evil to occur, and (b) human beings lack epistemic access to those reasons. (I think this paraphrases how he’d defend against the evidential POE).

    “The way we feel” is not used as a premise in either argument.
    His defense of (1) does consist in part of an appeal to one’s moral experience of the world. That is consistent with the claim that, for all we know, God has morally justifiable reasons for permitting inscrutable instances of evil.

    As for the “fifth argument,” Craig is clear not to portray it as an argument for the existence of God, but rather, as the claim (i.e., not an argument) that one can know that God exists via one’s own direct experience of God.

    I recommend taking Doug’s point to heart about Craig’s status among his peers. Whatever else you wish to say about the man, his peers do not think he is “too soft on his beliefs.” If he had wished to keep his views away from criticism, he would not have chosen a career as an academic philosopher.

  53. Doug Geivett says:

    There are comments in the queue right now that far exceed the word limit for comments on this blog.

    There are reasons for the limits:

    1. The space available of the server used for this blog is limited, and the blog is scheduled to continue indefinitely.

    2. I read every comment before approval and I have limited time for this.

    3. Long comments invite long replies, so the snowball grows.

    4. Shorter comments will be read by more people. I want to encourage readers to stick around and read more.

    5. I also want new readers to leave comments. Seeing over-long comments posted may discourage them, since they might think that they’re expected to comment as fully if they are to comment at all.

    6. When I can, I like to respond to comments. But lengthy comments require more of my time.

    On a separate note, using epithets like “stupid” to label people is a sure way to be censored. I always regret it when a worthy comment is submitted and it’s ruined by something as simple as that.

    Please review the guidelines-for-comments page, linked in the left column at the top of this blog. I have to be more consistent in enforcing the policy at this post.

  54. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Doug

    I disagree and I’ll tell you why. When Craig makes an argument concerning suffering in the world, for example, he adopts the stance that we simply cannot understand the mind of God. He puts it differently but essentially his argument is that God could have perfectly valid reasons for allowing meaningless suffering. In doing so he applies the rigorous type of thinking you describe. In our hearts we might feel there is something very wrong with a god allowing torture, war, natural disasters, etc. but in reality it is much more difficult to construct a logical argument against it. I can only help but agree.

    Unfortunately, Craig, earlier in the debate, began his moral argument with the statement “objective morality does exist and in your hearts you all know it”. Sorry, but it doesn’t go both ways. Either the way we feel is a valid premise for an argument or it is not.

    His fifth argument is for the experience of God. How could this be described as anything but based simply on fallible human perception? Obviously billions of people on the planet either experience something different or experience no supernatural presence. Are they all wrong? I’m sorry again but Craig, for all his rigour, is simply playing dirty pool here. I mean, laughably, he goes so far as to say that unless his opponents can show he is insane there is nothing they can say to show his fifth point is wrong. Please.

    In my opinion, and the opionion of many many others, there is no reason to extend the cosmological argument to an intelligent creative force let alone an intervening lone deity (whom many have gone so far as to describe physically). Craig himself has failed to present a good argument to show the connection and has been called on it many times. Yet he continues to make the enormous leap in logic required to get where he wants to go.

    My feeling is, credentials or not, Craig is far too soft on his own beliefs. He is certainly not alone in that sense, but since he is the one making the claims it falls to him to provide the evidence.

    As much as we might like to think there are human beings that are so intelligent as to be almost godlike we should know as adults that they do not exist. If Craig were without opponents it would be tempting to label him as a purely logical creature. Unfortunately he has many and they, very respected individuals themselves, have accused him of many things including all of the things you mentioned. It’s part of public life. I would think you would know this.

    Finally, unless you are planning to shine your spotlight on every contributor to this blog I see no reason to single anyone out for special attention. I am not the only one offering opinions and I am certainly not the only one that occasionally does so in a more assertive manor. The post before mine, for example, is certainly provocative. Might I suggest you make the comparison. I’m sure if any of the readers of this blog bother to do so they will see what I mean.

  55. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Paul,

    To keep my reply within reasonable limits, I’ll comment only on your first criticism of Bill Craig. It sounds like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you decry his sophistication as a philosopher. He is acknowledged to be a careful, circumspect, tough-minded intellectual by his peers. He is not accused in the manner of your accusation, which is a form of ad hominem argument, which you know to be a fallacy. Stenger knows it too, I should think.

    So you need to deploy better evidence to support your negative contention about Bill Craig’s rationality, intellectual respectability, logical prowess, and epistemic responsibility.

    It’s not enough to assert your opinion as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, especially when it hasn’t appeared obvious to people outside the little circle of neo-atheists. Even if you had demonstrated credentials to take your comments seriously, you would be expected to demonstrate your points rather than simply assert them.

    The first step toward establishing credibility, if you don’t have “official credentials,” is to practice fundamental principles of critical thinking, with humility proportionate to your actual skill, which cannot be assessed only by yourself.

  56. Paul MacGillivray says:

    To No One In Particular:

    When the arguments don’t change after many hundreds of years preparation isn’t very important. Hitchens simply argues in a very different way from Craig. Personally I like the way Hitchens puts together his ideas, but of course for some it’s not what they would like to see. To each their own I guess. In my opinion, Hitchens did very well considering the wall of mind-numbing pseudo-philosophy he was faced with.

    I think it’s important to remember when watching these debates to not become a cheerleader and to actually listen to what both sides are saying. Craig, for example, uses some very transparent tactics that are either intellectually dishonest or downright cheap. One of them is the old “there’s no logical reason why God can or cannot do whatever he wants” mixed with the even older “there’s no logical connection between premise x and premise y in my opponent’s argument”. A mindless Craig fan would simply nod his/her head while a thinking person would start to notice how ridiculously often he uses the same tools.

    The Stenger debate simply highlighted how horribly unlikely Craig is to come up with anything new even when faced with fresh ideas. Stenger dropkicked him into next week with his “how unlikely is it that Dr. Craig exists yet here he is” argument. Brilliant. Craig’s response? Silence.

    On the subject of modern cosmology, it seems to me that very few people offering opinions actually have taken the time to understand what today’s physicists are saying. The Big Bang Theory by definition cannot make predictions about what happened or existed before the universe began to expand. Scientists have offered several hypotheses, some with very interesting mathematical possibilities, but no one is claiming to know any answers. Without vastly superior technology we are unlikely to know much more for generations to come.

    In the meantime people are free to speculate all they want. There are literally countless possibilities and some of them, as unlikely as they seem, are even starting to appear plausible. It’s “stranger than fiction” stuff we can all definitely enjoy as brain food. When the idea of a reality composed of rippling dimensional waves colliding and throwing off universes like ocean spray is as unscientific or as scientific as uncaused effects or singularities it quickly becomes obvious we are in territory ripe for new ideas.

    Unfotunately there are those, as there always are, who seem to need to “know” the answers to everything. Nothing like them to make a perfectly harmless debate into an argument. Craig, for example, who continues to structure entire lines of reasoning on a subject, cosmology, he misunderstood twenty years ago and has not bothered to check on since then. At least Hitchens, like many atheists, has the good sense to simply admit defeat when faced with subjects far beyond their understanding.

    In fact Craig displays a similar weakness with his approach to the moral argument. The real question here is whether or not objective morality exists or whether it is something we have generated over millions of years of evolution. The real answer is the same as the answer to any of Bill’s arguments. We don’t know. Accept it and move on with your life. Throw out a few fanciful ideas, write some science fiction, meditate or do whatever it is you think will bring you closer to some sense of satisfaction. In the end your voice is no louder than anyone else’s no matter how strongly you feel it is.

    In any case, if some higher power did write morality into the fabric of the universe it certainly neglected to make it easy to understand. A decision which, by design or by accident, places us all squarely in the same boat: stumbling through life trying to figure out why we’re here and what it’s all about. Too bad more of us don’t realize it and find common ground in our own shared ignorance.

  57. Warrick Walker says:

    Dear manicstreetpreacher: Re your comment on the continuing debate. Were we listening to the same debates? Hitchens got crushed by Craig and justly so for A) lousy preparation and B) for often not grasping the fundamental question under discussion and going off on some irrelevant tangent. Stenger did somewhat better in that he was at least consistent throughout. Please tell me you aren’t putting your faith in “uncaused effects”. Not only does that border on the superstitious, it is at the very least unscientific. Does that mean you also believe in Santa clause and the Easter bunny? And they say people who believe in an invisible God are crazy! In light of the Big Bang and modern cosmology, it seems to me that “uncaused effects” is all that the atheist is left with. The real problem with the unbeliever’s position is that a finite mind cannot understand the infinite. We may not be able to comprehend God fully but we can at least apprehend the concept, as a friend of mine likes to say. Assuming God exists then, by definition, we have no grounds by which to criticize His creation or what He chooses to do with it. He’s God and we’re not. We may not like certain aspects (say the way morality plays out in history) but as the Maker He is free to do as He wills. “As the heavens are higher than the earths so are the Lord’s thoughts higher than our own” to paraphrase Isaiah. Or again,” does the clay say to the potter what are you making”? Anything else is simple human arrogance. Arguing that God doesn’t exist because you don’t like the way He operates (which seems to be the sticking point for most atheists) is not really addressing the question. If you really are a person of science you need to respect its findings. Namely, that time, space and matter had an actual beginning at some time in the past. In order for there to have been a natural or materialistic cause for the universe, natural or materialistic forces would first have had to exist. As science tells us they did not, that leaves only a supernatural explanation. It is possible at some time in the future that a naturalist explanation for everything will be found but until then the science compels us to believe in an external Supernatural cause. But look on the bright side. You can always change your mind if science ever finds an alternative explanation! Sorry to make it so simple, but there you have it.
    As regards the so called slander/libel, (Dawkins doesn’t even seem to know which he’s accusing Craig of) if Mr. Dawkins feels he has a case then simply bring it forward. That he hasn’t to date (to my knowledge) speaks volumes. While we are on the subject, doesn’t he have like a yellow pages or something? I mean, asking via television and the internet for legal advice doesn’t give me much confidence in this champion of the new atheism.
    Sadly, the atheist position leads to moral relativism, a sort of self serve salad bar approach to living. Christians have struggled (and still do) with many of the same questions as atheists, in particular the problem of evil and why bad things happen to good people, or in this case Victor Stengers child with leukemia example. As Mr. Stenger seems to be claiming the moral high ground, can I assume he is leading the charge against third world hunger and poverty, homelessness, the slaughter of millions via abortion, and all the other atrocities happening in our world instead of some hypothetical stump the scholar scenario? Practically wherever I look it is people of faith that are leading the charge against these horrors. Just once I’d like to pass an abortion clinic and see crowds of placard waving atheists demanding a stop to the massacre happening inside. The reason I don’t is because the atheist doesn’t believe in absolutes. Rather, we can all decide for ourselves. My heart also breaks when disaster strikes and innocent lives are lost. I can assure you, I will be at the head of the line when the time comes to ask God the answers to those and endless other questions that I can’t fully explain right now. Just as assuredly, I trust that God has the answers and when seen from His perspective (the perspective of eternity) the only comment I will be left with will be “Ah, now I see! How could I have missed it?”! I suspect Doug and Bill Craig would tell you the same thing. To believe that we should be able to answer every question about God in order to accept the existence of God is simply starting with a faulty premise.
    If Victor Stenger had refuted the KCA, atheist websites would have long since informed us. The fact that no one seems to cite their debate as a refutation speaks volumes, or as I like to say “the roar of silence is deafening”.
    Finally, I sincerely hope your reference to the “pious” Islamic extremists who executed the 911 attacks was an attempt at factitiousness as otherwise you have proven once again how bankrupt moral relativism really is. God bless.

  58. Glad to see this debate is still ongoing 9 months after the event!

    Since providing my views on the Craig/Hitchens debate, I have since discovered Craig’s appalling take on the God-ordered massacres of the Old Testament which totally undermines his own “argument” from objective morality. No wonder he is careful to cordon off that topic from discussion in debates!

    I’ve also blogged on Richard Dawkins’ recent public refusal to debate Craig, which I think was a good call, as well an attempt by Craig to slander Dawkins’ views on religious child abuse.

    Finally, I’ve also provided a <a href="http://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/stenger-craig-debate/"<full analysis of Craig’s encounter with Victor Stenger at the University of Hawaii in 2003. Note Stenger’s comments in a recent public lecture that he refuted Craig’s cosmological argument at this debate and Craig is clearly “lying” to his scientifically ignorant audiences by continuing to use it.

    Vic has very kindly posted the link on his own website.

    MSP

  59. Warrick Walker says:

    Paul: Thanks for a lively discussion. Perhaps we’ll cross swords again sometime. Have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year. God Bless.

  60. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi erinleia,

    I don’t want your comment to slip through the cracks. Do you know about when you sent it?

    -Doug

  61. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Warrick,

    I’m sorry for the delay in approving your comment. It’s length does exceed the ideal limit, though I understand the desire to be thorough. Here’s the page with my Comments Policy.

  62. Warrick Walker says:

    Sorry but my name got excluded from previous comment.

  63. Search the Web on Snap.com says:

    Doug: I was wondering what happened to my last post. Have you stopped accepting comments re Craig/Hitchens? My post was awaiting moderation but now seems to have simply vanished! Blessings and Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

  64. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Also, in terms of distinctions, the difference between God is necessary for objective morals to exist and we need God to know what is moral is so small as to be virtually meaningless.

    In either case the effort, in my opinion, is an attempt to hijack morality. Hitchens sees right through it and treats it as the drivel it is. Rightly so, in my opinion. One can go through the trouble of tearing the moral argument apart, as I and others have already done, or one can simply say, as Hitchens does, you’re free to believe it if you want but here’s another take on the issue.

    I am not required to fully understand patently silly arguments. People tell me all the time a missile hit the Pentagon but I simply shut them off because I know they are wingnuts. I see the moral argument in the same way. In fact, what impresses me most is that otherwise intelligent people feel the need to respond to such an obvious red herring. I applauded Hitchens for having the moxy to simply ignore it. I wish I had the same intelligence. If I did I would have better used the twenty or so minutes it took me to write out the reasons I find the argument to be so blatantly ridiculous.

    By the way, that was a 911 analogy that actually holds water.

  65. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Warrick

    “I’m not sure why both you and Luis seem not to want to answer my question concerning my 911 scenario. It seems to me a decent parallel to what we find in the bible documents, at least with respect to whether eyewitness testimony should simply be ruled out as intrinsically untrustworthy. I hope you will address this in a future response.”

    Answered. Please refer to previous responses.

    “Also, I’m a little puzzled why people make a big deal out of the format that Craig uses. It seems to me, rather than take issue with his method people would be better advised to try and refute his ARGUMENTS.”

    I took the trouble to do this several months ago. I have yet to see an answer to any of my arguments either here or on Craig’s forum itself.

    “I am inclined to believe his real objection is to being held accountable to a Higher Power, rather than not believing in a First Cause.”

    Hitchens has said as much himself. In any case, his style is very different from what you and others seem to want. He knows full well most of the arguments posed by theists are unfalsifiable and therefore impossible to refute. He also knows full well they are futile for the same reason.

    This point has been covered a thousand times over. Hitchens does not waste time resoponding to arguments that are designed to bog the conversation down in pointless rhetoric.

    “I mean, his arguments were rather amateurish and unpolished. If he wants nothing to do with the Creator, I can accept that. I just think it’s time for him to man up and admit it.”

    I find his arguments to be excellent and persuasive. To each their own I guess.

    As far as admitting he wants nothing to do with a creator (whatever you mean by that) I think you must be talking about someone I am not familiar with. Hitchens has been nothing but forthright in his position. He wants nothing to do with a creator and has said so on many occasions.

    “The more I think about it, the more I realize the problem is often one of methodology. Rather, I should say, the problem is one of INCONSISTENT methodology. It’s a rigged game when we don’t use the same methodology we use for everything else when we consider biblical documentation.”

    I don’t agree for the reasons I have already stated.

    “Take the fine tuning argument.”

    I’ve already covered this ground in a previous post, but basically if you want to see a creator where science stops go right ahead. I do not. Our two views are equal in that they are opinions for the time being. Thankfully the vast majority of cosmologists and physicists take roughly the same view I do.

    A word of advice: you should actually read what those people you quote write. You would be surprised to find there are words on both sides of those quotations.

    “If we were talking about ANYTHING else but creation, you would not hesitate to accept probability as fact! Thus, inconsistent methodology rears its ugly head.”

    Exactly wrong. I don’t care what religion has to say on the subject. Religion isn’t qualified to offer an opinion. The fact that it thinks it does is what amazes me.

    I follow the scientific method and the work of scientists. Beyond that I am free to imagine my own solutions but I am not free to claim they are fact. This is where I differ from a theist.

    Let’s get this straight. I do not reject your ideas as false. I simply do not find them compelling enough to follow up on. Nor do I accept your arguments as evidence for anything. As opinions I recognize them as valid along with scores of other opinions. As much as you seem to want me to go further I cannot.

    “This can only be a result of a philosophical position i.e. I WON’T accept the fact of a God.”

    This conversation is over. Your assertion that my logic is based on some kind of childish refusal to see the facts is both insulting and unfounded. If I didn’t know Doug would jump all over me I would have something much nastier to say to you.

    “God bless you.”

    Clever. I see what you did there.

  66. Warrick Walker says:

    Luis: Defending your position by using one assertion (“but it is also, as it happens, to be the truth”) to defend another assertion (“eyewitness testimony is the worst kind of evidence”) only serves to reinforce my point. I find this to be a fairly common tactic used by atheists. This is second only to the other distraction of asking a question to answer a question. Of course, the granddaddy of all obfuscations is “so, if there’s a God, who created him?” as if that addresses the central issue. As to your specific points, let me start by saying that you seem to want to redefine evidence only as something which supports your position. Anything else, you seem to rule out automatically. My dictionary (ENCARTA) gives a number of meanings for the word “evidence” including “the oral or written statements of witnesses and other people involved in a trial or official inquiry”. I would refer you to my previous post so as to be able to get a better handle on what constitutes evidence as well as the criteria for its validity. Clearly, you have either ignored my comments or chosen to simply disregard them. In any event, you have not made a serious attempt to refute them, as “assertion making” does not an argument make. I encourage you again to reread my post and pay particular attention to the part concerning evidence. Perhaps a little research on your part may help you gain a clearer understanding of what constitutes evidence and it’s acceptance as such. At the risk of really beating a dead horse, I submit to you that eyewitness testimony is not intrinsically unreliable. It may be true OR false which is something our investigations should determine, not our personal biases or worldviews. DNA evidence is certainly a wonderful tool. However, it is not foolproof (I can imagine scenarios where the wrong person could be convicted) nor immune to inadvertent contamination or deliberate attempts at fraud. It is generally reliable and is often supplemented by other types of evidence so as to build a more complete case. The other tools you mention are also excellent sources of information. Unfortunately, none of these methods were available to the biblical writers or to any pre 20th century historian. I hope you aren’t suggesting that nothing that happened prior to our time is reliable, or our history departments are in big trouble! By the way, Christians (and others) would love to do DNA testing on the body of Jesus except for that annoying little thing called the empty tomb. Also, many people who claimed to see strange and interesting events not only were NOT pitied but often put to death by a roman court of law for not recanting. If it was me, I’d have no problem telling them I made it all up if I knew it to be a concocted story! You seem to have completely misunderstood my objection to your eyewitness premise. The common denominator of everything I have been arguing is that we ought to do our own investigation and follow the evidence where it leads. Let’s stop letting others (so called experts in the field) speak for us as if we are incapable. By all means give reasoned consideration to their positions but at the end of the day let’s come to our own conclusions. Your UFO question is an excellent case in point. We need to investigate the claims before coming to a conclusion, not just accept it on blind faith or dismiss it because we don’t think it could be possible. It’s also time to stop avoiding the issue and to come up with better explanations for the radically changed lives people experienced instead of simply dismissing it out of hand. Remember, Paul was a persecutor of the church. Glossing over his spiritual awakening is a bit like suggesting Adolph Hitler would be the lead contributor in a campaign to raise funds for a holocaust memorial! Do you seriously believe that you never rely on eyewitness testimony for anything you claim? Please send me your notes on all your discoveries in cosmology as well as … why almost every other field of scientific endeavor. Of course you rely on eyewitness testimony, just not in this case right? Out of respect to Doug, I won’t engage in a discussion of evolution here except to say that one need not be a theist to disagree with evolution. There are enough scientific objections to Darwinism that defending creationism is unnecessary. I presume you are referring to a logical tautology and not a rhetorical tautology as your comment at this point seemed open to either. In any case, you have misread the proposition. The question was not whether 911 happened, rather would our imaginary futuristic descendants be right to accept OR reject the event based SOLELY on eyewitness testimony. Remember we are in a position to know for sure, just as the apostles were. You need to produce compelling evidence to refute their testimony which, to this point, you have failed to do. Unfortunately, all of this discussion re the merits of eyewitness testimony, while interesting, has really served to detract from the main question i.e. Does God Exist? Until someone has a better explanation (which you seem to be inferring you do), I’m sticking with “In the beginning….” I look forward to your considered reply. May God richly bless you.

  67. Luis Dias says:

    Luis: Your assertion that eyewitness testimony is the worst type of evidence is simply that, an assertion.

    Dear Warwick, not only is an assertion, which it clearly is and I admire your ability to recognize it, but it is also, as it happens to be, the truth. A DNA sample puts an individual on the scene. A video recording will leave no doubts to what happened at the recorded time. Blood sample will inform us if a victim was poisoned or not. A witness of strange and amazing events is pitied, not taken to the court of law.

    Of course, possibilities abound, and it’s ironic for a theist to accuse me of making absolute statements, which I never do (hehe), I am basing my assertion on evidence, which could be false, such as every scientific “law” could also be. You seem to want to take this into the Induction’s problem, which is a pity. According to your logic, if I can not prove something to be the “worst tpe of evidence”, then it is not, therefore we can trust our loved ones when they say they saw a UFO. And then you backpedal and say, someone “saw” something. Well then, if that’s the claim, I’m not exactly skeptical of that. If you say, “people’s lives were changed”, I’m more skeptical, for it’s a less empirical or scientific assessment of things, after all, but I can well believe it, or accept it for the sake of argument.

    Then you also say these people became manifestly good people. Now you are making wild claims. But I could also accept it, “for the sake of argument”. It doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that certain social interactions made people behave in a way you approve better. It doesn’t tell us anything about the actual truth.

    Ask and you usually get the same answer: the life, death and resurrection of Christ have changed them from within.

    How nice. And others will claim it was Bhudda’s life. Or Mahomed. Or that crazy guy from the Mormons. And now we start to see the answer to these riddles. It’s not the “actual” life, death and resurrection of a man that “changed these people’s lifes”, but the telling of that narrative and all that encompasses it (the social nets, the rituals, the religion, etc.).

    Yet, eyewitness testimony is your only means of knowing about this event!

    Ah. Game over then. Sorry.

    Give me one good reason to believe YOUR eyewitness testimony of the debate

    Me? Wasn’t there. Not claiming any God, so I don’t need eyewitness for nothing I claim.

    My apologies for typing “the theory of atheism” instead of the theory of evolution

    Don’t know what to do with this. Do you mean if I have evidence that unicorns do not exist, or are you asking me evidence for evolution. As I said, eyewitness is the worst evidence. Fossils work oh so much better. And C14. And astronomy. And Geology. Etc. Do you really want to debate one of the most established sientific theories we have? And in here we see why religion poises everything: if it weren’t for it, you wouldn’t have any problem with Evolution, just as you don’t have with Relativity!

    Also, you have failed to tackle the question of eyewitness testimony in my so called 911 sci-fi story

    No I didn’t. It was a false analogy, because you start off with what we know now and ask me what if somebody in the 30th century (or so) told us exactly that. But that’s a tautology of course, you are telling a story from an omniscient point of view. It’s not exactly a working analogy. Anyways, there weren’t cameras in the 0th century, and still there are people in the 21st that think planes weren’t exactly planes, they were missiles. Imagine if someone would build a cult around that. Oh, they did? Imagine that.

  68. Warrick Walker says:

    Paul: Boy, where to begin! Let me get the easy stuff out of the way first. I’m not sure why both you and Luis seem not to want to answer my question concerning my 911 scenario. It seems to me a decent parallel to what we find in the bible documents, at least with respect to whether eyewitness testimony should simply be ruled out as intrinsically untrustworthy. I hope you will address this in a future response. Also, I’m a little puzzled why people make a big deal out of the format that Craig uses. It seems to me, rather than take issue with his method people would be better advised to try and refute his ARGUMENTS. His Kalam Cosmological argument, in particular, is simply a more sophisticated way of asking the question: Do you believe that things just pop into existence out of nothing? My own feeling is that Craig uses the “no good reason to believe atheism is true” to bait his opponents. To me it would be almost suicidal to try to disprove theism while at the same time trying to prove atheism. When I hear Hitchens say things like “celestial dictator”, I just want to free people” and “we only have free will because the BOSS says so” I am inclined to believe his real objection is to being held accountable to a Higher Power, rather than not believing in a First Cause. I mean, his arguments were rather amateurish and unpolished. If he wants nothing to do with the Creator, I can accept that. I just think it’s time for him to man up and admit it. The more I think about it, the more I realize the problem is often one of methodology. Rather, I should say, the problem is one of INCONSISTENT methodology. It’s a rigged game when we don’t use the same methodology we use for everything else when we consider biblical documentation. Let me give you some examples. Take the fine tuning argument. There are now dozens of so called parameters that need to have values that are just so. These include such diverse things as gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, decay rate of protons, the ratio of protons to electrons, etc. The ranges of these values are so precise that the probability of them happening by CHANCE is considered mathematically impossible. This has caused astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle (who is no supporter of Christianity) to remark that” a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology”. Paul Davies has gone from promoting atheism to acknowledging that “the impression of design is overwhelming”. As an example, just look at the incredible precision required with respect to the value of space energy density. This has been calculated at one part in 10 to the 120th power! Lawrence Krauss (an atheist) remarks in The Astrophysical Journal (501) 1998: “this is the most extreme fine-tuning problem known in physics”. Now, multiply this example by many other dozens of parameters and you begin to get a sense of just how exquisite the universe is. The point of all of this is simple. If we were talking about ANYTHING else but creation, you would not hesitate to accept probability as fact! Thus, inconsistent methodology rears its ugly head. This can only be a result of a philosophical position i.e. I WON’T accept the fact of a God. Again, let’s look at archaeology and history. Text books are full of documented archaeological finds that have put meat on the bones of history, as it were. Evidence for these discoveries takes many forms, notably inscriptions, coins, census and financial records etc. There was a time when the bible story was seriously questioned on the basis of historical/archaeological insufficiency. For example, King Solomon’s stables have been unearthed( they were formerly dismissed as myth), the existence of writing in the time of Moses has been established, Belshazzar king of Babylon (book of Daniel) has been rediscovered, virtually every town, city and important person in the book of Acts has been located and verified, an “altar to the unknown god” ( Paul’s Mars hill address) has been discovered…. Many more examples could be given but I think you get the point. Why is it that books (the old and new testaments) that have been proven historically reliable over and over again are not given the same value as other ancient documents and texts when discussing transcendent things? The answer: inconsistent methodology driven by a commitment to deny a God no matter what. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if the historical reliability of, say, the cult of Diana were at issue. You could simply say:” but they found miniature statues of her in various Grecian cities” (described by Luke in Acts, by the way). Why would writers who have been accurate in every other detail abandon their integrity to make up fanciful stories of a resurrection? You really need to consider this carefully and come up with a reasonable alternative as it simply flies in the face of history. Or, in the words of Dr. Nelson Glueck, one of the foremost authorities on Palestinian archaeology who has ever lived: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference”! Let’s quickly look at one other discipline, namely rules of evidence. It has often been said that the biblical documents would never hold up in a court of law using modern evidentiary rules. Yet, as I noted previously, no less an authority than Simon Greenleaf, Royal Professor of Law at Harvard, contends that the gospels are, in fact, trustworthy. His writings on the subject are well worth tracking down as they show a keen intellect admirably demonstrating the tools of his trade. His book A Treatise on the Law of Evidence is still considered one of the most influential treatments of legal evidence. There is an interesting note in his Testimony of the Evangelists which is worth quoting in full: “If the witnesses were supposed to be biased, this would not destroy their testimony to matters of fact; it would only detract from the weight of their judgment in matters of opinion”. He continues “The rule of law on this subject has been thus stated by Dr. Lushington: “When you examine the testimony of witnesses nearly connected with the parties, and there is nothing very peculiar tending to destroy their credit, when they depose to mere facts, their testimony is to be believed; when they depose as to matters of opinion, it is to be received with suspicion” see Dillon v. Dillon, 3 Curteis, Eccl. Rep., pp.96, 102. I suspect that you would accept this kind of expert testimony on virtually any subject with the exception of the one under debate! Perhaps you have a specific reason to destroy their character that no one else seems to have thought of? Once again, there’s that pesky methodology. In sum, it is simply unreasonable to apply 21st century expectations to 1st century witnesses. We must allow them the freedom to record things as they saw fit, and not in the fashion we THINK they should have done. Sadly, the invention of the camcorder came about 2000 years too late, or they would have videoed the whole thing! I’m sorry if the records we do have aren’t “perfect”, but nothing is. I’m glad we both agree that no one knows for a certainty the makeup of nature. In this life the best we can do is rate our beliefs based on the level of confidence we have in a given subject based on our investigations. When it comes to creation, I have a very high level of confidence indeed. By the way, it is irrelevant if we know the nature etc. of the (in your view) theoretical 1st cause. That is not the subject of the debate. Rather, no one has offered an alternative explanation of equal or better persuasion that would make me reconsider my position. Remember, the best we can do is come up with the MOST LIKELY explanation given the facts. It’s either that or things start popping into existence out of nothing again. I’m also glad you are entertaining the POSSIBILITY of a creator, just as I accept I could be wrong about everything. The real test is going to be when we die. Now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see clearly, to borrow from Paul. By the way, it’s not that you don’t “understand such a simple concept”. I just feel you are not giving it the weight it deserves. I know of no one who believes the Bible must be true due to success on the part of Christianity, although that is one factor among many. Christians generally will tell you there is an accumulation of different evidences that gives them confidence in the reliability of the Bible. If I am making assumptions about what you actually believe, please let me know where we differ as I, also, do not want to put words in anyone’s mouth. Also, feel free to enlighten me on the” compelling evidence” you mention. Even liberal scholar John Dominic Crossan admits” that Jesus was crucified is as sure as anything historical can be”. Neither does textual critic /agnostic Bart Ehrman question the historicity of this event. The reason? The FOUR gospels. A quick perusal of these books will leave no doubt that the writers talk from the perspective of actually being there or having been informed by someone who was. Let me take the opportunity to correct your blanket statement about historians not accepting the “facts”. If you meant to write that only a FRINGE group of historians don’t accept these minimal facts, you would be right, as even liberal scholars have gotten past this and now usually focus on an alternative explanation for the resurrection. In conclusion, let me just say that it is incumbent on all thinking people to consider their origins. As has been well said, how one views their origins will determine how one lives their life. God bless you.

  69. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Warrick

    Craig rarely ever changes the content or format of his arguments. Essentially he starts by stating two contentions, often slightly reworded to match the theme of the evening but always something similar to: there are good reasons to believe theism is true and there are no good reasons to believe atheism is true. The Hitchens debate was no exception.

    Craig never volunteers arguments for or against atheism so we can safely forget about his second contention. In the Hitchens debate he propped up his usual five points (which he often wrongly refers to as evidence) in favour of his first contention. He does not specify which theism he is referring to but I think it is safe to assume he means the Christian variety. If there is any doubt it can be swept away by simply asking Craig his opinion of Islam or any other monotheism (false on all counts). Certainly the bedrock of his argumentation is his fourth point for the resurrection of Christ which clearly can only be said to be in favour of Christianity.

    So, regardless of the title of the debate Craig, according to his own stated contentions, is arguing in favour of Christian theism. Or better put, he is arguing that the creator of the universe is the same being responsible for the miracles in the Bible. He does not say as much but it is the only logical conclusion I can draw from the order of the points he presents.

    On your first cause argument, I am sorry but you do not know with any certainty what the basic nature of reality is. Take heart however. No one else knows either. In any case, even if there were a first cause there is no good reason to assume you know what it was, its nature, its intentions, its personality or its desires (or even that it is an “it” for that matter). You certainly cannot claim to know that the first cause was indeed the being mentioned in the New Testament.

    At no point did I say a resurrection was impossible. What I am saying is that without convincing evidence I see no reason to think a resurrection ever happened. For me, the mention of onlookers to events described in an uncorroborated text written well after the fact by people who quite possibly never met Jesus (a man who may or may not have existed) is not convincing.

    Your other points concerning my reasons for believing in some historical events and not others is misplaced. Events like the Battle of Waterloo are found painfully detailed in a huge number of independant sources including several dozen direct eyewitness reports written by participants. Of course, generally speaking the farther back one goes the harder it is to find reliable sources. Much of what we are taught about history is based on best guesses and opinions. That is simply the nature of the beast. I see no reason for you to assume I do not understand such a simple concept.

    Historically speaking, religions come and go. Christianity will most likely, if history is any kind of a teacher, one day fade away and be replaced by something else. As will Islam and every other religion we currently hold to be true. Why will it happen? I have no idea. To me, the phenomena appears to be hopelessly random. Mormonism, for example, is demonstrably false but its followers don’t seem to mind. Maybe if Mormonism survives another two thousand years it will not be demonstably false and will evolve into something much harder to debate.

    There is one thing I do believe quite strongly on the subject: the notion that the Bible must be true simply because Christianity has enjoyed some success is laughably silly.

    On your other points I can only say you are making several assumptions about what I may or may not think. As a blanket response to all of them I will simply say you are wrong. My beliefs are in fact quite different.

    Oh and there is compelling evidence to suggest Paul is the only biblical figure who may have known Jesus. The other gospels are widely believed to have been written well after the events they describe by people who played no role in the proceedings. None of what you state as fact (the apostles, the brother of Jesus, etc.) is accepted by historians as such.

  70. Warrick Walker says:

    Ryan: Not only does Doug seem to believe that Craig got the best of the debate, but so do most polls including those on atheist sites ,which is really quite extraordinary. As to Craigs line of reasoning: did it not occur to you that he uses this argument not only because it has been successful but also that it is impossible to logically refute? You seem to be suggesting that he not try to win the debate by using his best reasoned approach. Why would he do that?

  71. Warrick Walker says:

    Paul: Great to see you back on this post. I have enjoyed reading all of your previous contributions and look forward to a productive give and take. Firstly, let me remind you that the debate was “does God exist?” and not “is Christianity true?” so your reference to Craig’s not using points related to Christianity is not really germane to the discussion. Also, let me be clear that, had Jesus not lived, there would still have to be a FIRST CAUSE of the universe we can observe around us. Even Mary Poppins knew that “nothing ever came from nothing, and nothing ever could”! The reason the resurrection is at issue, aside from the obvious spiritual ramifications, is simply as a segue into the validity of eyewitness testimony. I fear you have a priori ruled out the POSSIBILITY of a resurrection which has thus caused you to craft your argument something like this: a resurrection is impossible, therefore the eyewitness testimony is unreliable and the eyewitness testimony is unreliable so the resurrection couldn’t have happened. Circular reasoning indeed! My point is that unless you are in a position to KNOW authoritatively that supernatural events are impossible, you have to at least acknowledge the possibility. Subsequent to this, you need to be able to have good reasons for believing in some testimony (for instance the historical reality of, say Buddha or Hannibal) as opposed to not accepting the testimony of the resurrection story. In fact, virtually everything you (or I for that matter) have learned in school, college, university, etc. has usually been from someone relating eyewitness testimony. Testimony, I might add, that you do not seem to have trouble accepting. For example, you have never seen a black hole yet they are accepted as fact. You weren’t present during the holocaust, yet we accept this as historically reliable. The battle at Waterloo? Couldn’t have possibly happened, right? I mean, you weren’t there! Indeed, I challenge you to know FOR SURE anything that happened prior to, say, your birth. Unless you accept eyewitness testimony you can’t know for certain. It takes investigation to draw a reasonable conclusion, as NONE of us were ever there! And not being there means you can’t know 100% that it didn’t happen. I do wish you had addressed some of the points I raised with Luis. Instead, I ask you the same question: Would you disbelieve my 911 scenario based solely on the eyewitness testimony? Remember, you are in a position to know for a certainty that it did indeed occur. One of the biggest drawbacks to this whole debate is the willingness of both sides to allow “experts” and “hired guns” to do the thinking for them, as if the rest of us aren’t capable of drawing reasonable conclusions. The bottom line is this: if you REALLY believe that things pop into existence out of nothing (for which we have no evidence and which is something outside of anyone’s experience) you will always have a fall back position to deny the reality of a Creator. I would ask you to seriously consider if believing in uncaused effects is a reasonable position to maintain. Again, if testimony IS second or third hand, it cannot automatically be discarded. It could possibly be true. Anything else is simply personal bias not based on evidence but rather a philosophical presupposition. By the way, neither the apostles Peter, John, or Paul nor James the brother of Jesus could, in all fairness, be considered anything but first hand witnesses. Thanks for listening and God bless.

  72. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hello Warrick

    In response to yours and other’s comments: why are even talking about eyewitness testimony as if what the Bible gives us were even remotely in the same ballpark as someone taking the stand?

    The Bible is not based on legal documents, was not written by someone in legal standing at the time or even after, is hardly impartial in any sense of the word and contains no statements made by alleged witnesses. In short it is not valid in any modern sense as a reliable document.

    Of course this fact alone does not disqualify the NT but it does mean we would need other independant sources in order to make a decent judgement of its merits. Unfortunately no such sources exist and as such the Bible remains a dubious source.

    It is one of the great shames of Christianity that no independant corroborating sources have ever been discovered. The early Christians tried very hard to find them to be sure but came up empty-handed. Does this mean we should throw the Bible out? No, but it does mean much of the Bible’s content is essentially in limbo historically speaking.

    On your point about 911 Luis is quite correct in his assessment of it. What if the only available version of 911 were one written by a conspiracy nut? Would it then become history that the government fired a missile into the Pentagon or knocked down the Twin Towers with controlled demolitions? No, because historians would want independant sources to help them make decisions.

    On your other points, have you considered conversion to Islam? By your logic I think you would find it extremely interesting and worthy of further study.

  73. Doug Geivett says:

    A discussion of evolutionary theory and its merits has unfolded here. I prefer to keep comments focused on the specific topics of my post. There are other venues for debating naturalistic evolution. So please do keep to the original themes. Thanks!

  74. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hello Warrick

    Sorry I almost forgot to add that the assertion that evolution is not testable is simply wrong. It is testable in exactly the same way that any other idea is: predictions matching results. You don’t need any more faith to believe in evolution than you do to believe in neutrinos or space-time or any number of invisible phenomena.

    I have to ask you to present something in the way of clarification for your assertions here. What should a theory have that evolution does not? What is the connection between atheism and evolution?

  75. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hello Doug and Warrick

    I have to point out there is an obvious difference between eyewitness testimony and the simple statement that there were eyewitnesses present at an event. In the case of the New Testament we are dealing with second or third hand narratives which mention the presence of onlookers. Something similar to a person who claims to have heard about a car accident from someone else who heard that there were people present at the event itself.

    Like I have said before, almost any other religion would be able to make similar if not superior claims. Therefore Craig has done nothing to advance Christianity more than indirectly assert that according to Christian scholars the NT is somehow more credible than other similar texts. He may be right but it’s a separate debate few people would even be qualified to contribute to.

    Warrick, let’s not forget that out of the five points raised by Craig only one, the resurrection, was related to Christianity itself. The rest were just window dressing. There may indeed be many reasons for belief in Christianity but Craig only seems to use one of them. At some point he may adopt others tactics but until then I will not put words in his mouth.

    Anything else I might add has already been written by Luis who, as usual, beat me to the punch.

  76. Warrick Walker says:

    Luis: Your assertion that eyewitness testimony is the worst type of evidence is simply that, an assertion. Surely, you recognize the POSSIBILITY that eyewitness testimony could POSSIBLY be reliable? Otherwise, you are making an authoritative claim to know beyond any doubt that your statement is valid. Of course, you can only make a claim like that if you have knowledge of ALL eyewitness testimony ever given by anyone at anytime. You would also need to be able to prove said testimony was in error. Surely you are not claiming this level of knowledge are you? The relative position in terms of importance that Dr. Craig assigns to this kind of evidence is irrelevant. Eyewitness testimony stands or falls based on the level of confidence we can have in it. We establish this confidence level by investigating the testimony, a point I made in my last post that seems to have escaped you as you have not addressed it. There are things that we could probably agree do not require such investigation, but it really comes down to an individuals own perspective, worldview and even closeness of relationship. For instance, if your wife comes home and gives her eyewitness testimony about the car accident at the corner she just witnessed, you probably believe her! She might get the color or model of the vehicles mixed up but you never doubt for an instant that she really did see an accident. Like you, I would be skeptical of someone seeing a UFO based simply on there word. If, however, numerous people reported the same experience I would be a bit more receptive to their story. My confidence level would probably go up another notch if some of the witnesses were highly respected, say a police officer or air traffic controller. I would be even more impressed if I was able to rule out ulterior motives such as financial gain or publicity. There are other lines of investigation that could be pursued but I would feel pretty confident that they had witnessed SOMETHING. That’s why we investigate and, hopefully, come up with an answer that makes sense. As to your dismissal of changed lives meaning anything, I believe you are selling people short. Even more important than the FACT of change is the WAY in which lives are changed. People who have done truly despicable things suddenly do an about shift and live exemplary and generous lives. This is something no amount of psychotherapy is ever going to produce! Ask and you usually get the same answer: the life, death and resurrection of Christ have changed them from within. This is a reality that should be of critical importance and interest to anyone who is concerned for our world and the state it is in. Curiously, you feel Craig failed to make his case even though you maintain eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Yet, eyewitness testimony is your only means of knowing about this event! Give me one good reason to believe YOUR eyewitness testimony of the debate. My apologies for typing “the theory of atheism” instead of the theory of evolution. This was a slip of the hand, not the mind! However, the rest of my post should have left no doubt I was talking about evolution. Again, you have simply chosen to dismiss the criticism instead of engaging it. By the way, if atheism is true shouldn’t you be able to prove it? Most Christians (and Jews and Muslims for that matter) would say that God HAS shown up in an unambiguous fashion. Also, you have failed to tackle the question of eyewitness testimony in my so called 911 sci-fi story. It is not uncommon to use an analogy (as I have done) to illustrate a point. You need to answer the question that was asked namely” should we dismiss or believe the story outright based solely on the eyewitness testimony”? Avoiding this question makes your case look weak. By the way, Christians generally don’t claim to know 100% about God’s existence. We do claim, however, that God is the BEST explanation given what we know. There is ALWAYS the chance we are wrong. I believe my trust in the bible story is well placed indeed. I look forward to your further insights. God bless.

  77. Doug Geivett says:

    On the contrary, Hitchens should have been better prepared, given the ease of researching Craig’s strategy.

  78. Ryan Bishop says:

    You seem to miss a very obvious evidence which is known to anyone who has studied William Lane Craig. He ALWAYS uses the EXACT SAME argument when debating the existance of God. Your article is OBVIOUSLY baised in the fact that u believe WLC to be the victor in this debate. To make this claim, u point out that WLC seemed very prepared in his arguments and very “in charge”. Well OBVIOUSLY. Hes used the EXACT SAME argument EVERY SINGLE TIME for the last 20 years! (and so it is hardly impressive) It is called the Kalam Argument and quite a familiar fact (as i said ) to anyone familiar with this area of Philosophy. I think that credit should be given to Christopher Hitchens for creating a well structed argument against this age-old argument of WLC.

  79. Luis Dias says:

    Eyewitness is the worst of evidences. That Craig puts it above any other kind of evidence (as illustrated by Hitchens quotation of WLC in the referred debate) tells me more about the rigor that WLC has in life than anything else.

    Now if someone states that he “saw” an alien ship, are we able to dismiss it without further comment or not? Should we take this testimony seriously? If they state they saw werewolves? Or vampires? Or people ressurecting? The fact that there are other mammalian human beings who “declare” that such testimonies are “strong” do not make it so, IMHO. Notably, such human beings are also christians (obviously). Color me unimpressed by said evidence.

    Now other kind of questions arise, “why would a skeptic become a believer?” as if this is “evidence” of some kind. It isn’t, it’s merely another utterance of an event that happened 2000 years ago. There are all kinds of reasons why doubting people stop doubting, there are all kinds of stories of supposedly skeptics becoming believers of anything. It’s a common story that we hear a lot from vendors: “Yes, my father (or my brother or my neighbour or I) was also skeptical about this, until I realised blah blah blah”. It’s marketing rhetoric.

    And “how do we explain changed lifes”? Seriously? People’s lifes are constantly changing, it’s hardly “miraculous”.

    “The lines of investigation are almost endlessly irrelevant“. There, corrected for you. We need extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. WLC failed to produce such. Therefore, his case is flawed.

    Further, to say that atheism, which is the skepticism of theism, is not a “testable theory” is a category error of the worst sort. It is not a theory, thus it is not a testable theory. Obviously. But the worst part is that although it is not a theory, it is falsifiable. If God simply showed up in an unambiguous fashion, atheism would be falsified. So you’re wrong on two accounts.

    Your own sci-fi novel about 911 in the furthest future is also only that, a sci fi story. If you want we can debate that. Your line of reasoning is not correct.

    Regards.

  80. Warrick Walker says:

    Paul: I believe you are missing the point. I know of no Christian who believes in the risen Christ based solely on eyewitness testimony (certainly not Dr. Craig). Assume you were eyewitness to the events of September 11th (perhaps you were?).You related the details of this terrible incident to your 20 year old son who then told the same story to HIS children. Dozens of other eyewitnesses told the same story to their friends and relatives. Some of these people even thought it important enough to write down the details for posterity. Now fast forward to the distant future. A dealer in ancient artifacts stumbles across some of these documents. Amazingly, some are still legible even though some of the pages have obviously been lost or aged badly. No video footage or pictures of any kind remain that would give credence to this event. The only record is the treasure trove of manuscripts that have been found. Unfortunately, nobody believes this incredible story! Should we dismiss the story outright BECAUSE it is based on eyewitness testimony? No. And neither should we BELIEVE it based solely on the eyewitness accounts. This is simply a starting point for further investigation. Christians (at least the thoughtful ones) have historically considered all the lines of evidence before embracing such a bold belief. There are so many other arguments in favor of the resurrection that, when taken in totality, the Christian explanation is the best explanation. Why would James (a skeptic before the crucifixion) suddenly become a believer? Why would Paul, an enemy of the faith, do such an about face that suddenly he is the evangelist par excellence? Why didn’t the Roman or Jewish authorities stop the movement in its tracks by simply producing the body? Why make up a story of the body being stolen by the disciples if it was still in the tomb? Why die for a movement you knew was false unless you actually did witness something? Most importantly, how do we explain all the changed lives? The lines of investigation are almost endless. While you may dismiss the eyewitnesses as unreliable, you can only do so if you are predisposed philosophically to not allow for the POSSIBILITY of a resurrection. Many other historical figures were written about hundreds of years after they lived, yet historians consider their stories to be accurate for the most part. The gospels were arguably written less than a decade after the events they relate! To sum up, while eyewitness testimony CAN be misleading, it is not intrinsically so. Some details may differ, but the main storyline remains consistent. As far as the “religion of atheism” is concerned, many people question whether evolution is a scientific theory as it lacks many (if not all) of the characteristics of a good theory. Most grievously, it is not a TESTABLE theory and is often defended based on subjective interpretation rather than hard evidence. To use a cliché, I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution! I look forward to your further comments. God bless.

  81. Doug Geivett says:

    Eyewitness testimony is, it has to be agreed, fallible. So is every other source of knowledge. And yes, eyewitness testimony is a source of knowledge—a crucial one at that. Our court system, the rendering of justice when crimes are committed, the very practice of history, and so on, all depend on acknowledging testimony as a source of knowledge. For that matter, whatever scientific knowledge Paul has, insofar as it lies outside his own power to confirm by direct observation, depends on testimony. I wouldn’t have much to go on in my beliefs about the physical structure of the cosmos if I couldn’t trust “witnesses” to its structure.

    So you can’t depose the value of testimony with a blanket dismissal. Everything depends on the quality of testimony, and the grounds for judging it to be of sufficient quality. As it happens, historians of the New Testament widely agree that the testimony of alleged eyewitnesses to the resurrected Lord is strong—that the early Christians did in fact believe that Jesus literally rose bodily from the grave, and that they did so on the basis of eyewitness testimony. This is precisely the sort of evidence that attracts the attention of historians of the ancient world. And it’s one reason why the debate over the evidence lingers among historians. Only a prejudgment in favor of metaphysical naturalism can explain complete dismissal of the evidence and its potential significance.

    Having said that, it doesn’t follow that all testimony is equally valuable. That would be nonsense. It doesn’t even follow that good historical evidence for the resurrection settles the question of God’s existence. But at the very least, the evidence warrants further inquiry into the possibility that God does exist, and that should lead to investigation of other evidence, as well.

    Why should that rankle? If God exists and has busted into human history in the way described in the New Testament, that would be good news, indeed.

  82. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Jsoulliere:

    Does Sean really need to post studies to validate as basic a point as the unreliability of eyewitness accounts? I certainly hope not. I mean where are you headed with this? Eyewitness reports are always accurate? The mere mention of eyewitnesses validates any document as historically significant? Eyewitnesses to events in the New Testament are more credible than eyewitnesses to events in other books? Is there a counterargument to be had or are we simply going to challenge Sean to produce evidence for a point any historian would readily agree to?

    Please remember before you answer that there were also numerous witnesses to events in the Qu’ran. A book which is, as I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone, the final and unchangeable word of God.

    Now on to more interesting territory: Would you explain why evolution, when compared to any other scientific theory, merits the title “religion of”? Would you be willing to grant the same title to other phenomena like gravity or magnetism? How about photosynthesis? The tides? Ultraviolet light? Microwave radiation?

  83. jsoulliere says:

    Sean:

    I have a few thoughts about your post.

    You stated, “…confirm the results of earlier studies that suggest eye-witness testimony can be notoriously unreliable.” In order to avoid the pitfalls of a second or third-hand account, please cite your “studies,” particularly if they pertain to the Jewish disciplines surrounding written and oral tradition.

    “Occam’s razor tells us that the elaborate nature of theology is suspect because there is no supporting evidence.” I don’t believe the good friar, Ockham, ever stated what you are claiming. To the contrary, he stated that experience was a valid source for explanation of phenomena. Numerous witnesses of the New Testament experienced the man, Jesus, as well as the risen Christ. The question is not, therefore, the validity of their testimonies, rather, the evidence of who they were and “if” they were. If John, Peter and James were indeed present with Jesus, their witness should be honored under the law of simplicity and succinctness. It is first hand. Don’t overcomplicate the simplicity of the eye witness’ testimonies.

    “In a modern court … setting, such evidence would be labelled (not my spelling) anecdotal or hearsay…” Please read “The case for Christ” by Lee Strobel for a presentation of facts from the perspective of a courtroom.

    Finally, it appears that you have accurately described some of the problems with the religion of evolution and its subsets, i.e. origins, etc.

    Regards, Jsoulliere

  84. Warrick Walker says:

    Sean: You have made some wide sweeping claims not only concerning Dr. Craig but also with regard to modern theologians. Unfortunately, you have not presented much in the way of argument as to why you think you are correct. What facets(plural) of the argument do you believe Dr. Craig does not understand? Most people generally believe his evidentiary arguements are quite sound, if not compelling.How was his argument ineffectual, given that most observers feel that he won the debate? In fact, Occam’s razor (or the principle of the simplest answer is generally correct) would seem to support a creation viewpoint. What could be simpler than an all powerful creator bringing his creation into existence? Conversely, science not only makes a good case for creation (all of those finely tuned parameters necessary for existence can’t be just coincidence) but science has no viable explanation for the beginning of everything. Indeed, no theory is even on the horizon. As to your assertion that the case for the resurrection wouldn’t stand up in court, let me just mention that no less an authority than Harvard’s Simon Greenleaf is on the record as saying that the gospel accounts are credible when examined in the light of the rules of modern evidence. If you would like to explore this angle more thoroughly, check out his Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice published( I believe) in 1984 by Baker of Grand Rapids. A quick Google of his name should convince you of his credentials. Indeed, even liberal scholars largely accept that the tomb was (and is) empty. Their efforts have largely focused on coming up with another explanation for the resurrection. To date, all of their alternate theories have been overturned. Finally, thanks for posting. Only in an honest exchange of ideas can we hope to arrive at the truth. God bless.

  85. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello Sean, and welcome to this blog. Thanks for leaving your comment.

    What literature would you recommend on the nature and value of testimonial evidence for historical events? Also, what studies of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus have you examined?

    -Doug

  86. Sean Og says:

    I am wondering if the observations posted do not confirm the results ofearlier studies that suggest eye-witness testimony can be notoriously unreliable. William Craig maintained a line of ineffectual argument and clearly has difficulty understanding some of the arguments major facets. Notably that the onus is always on the positive claimant to present evidence in support of their argument. Occam’s razor tells us that the elaborate nature of theology is suspect because there is no supporting evidence, in contrast the evidence for the existence of a universe beyond theology’s limits are manifest.
    As made clear earlier, arguing that there’s historical evidence for a factual ressurection based on the second and third-hand new testament accounts is difficult. In a modern court, nevermind an academic setting, such evidence would be labelled anecdotal or hearsay, that the doyen of modern theologians is prepared to use the argument regardless is telling.

  87. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Warrick,

    I’m very glad to have a new visitor who will return to this blog on a regular basis. Welcome!

    You’re point about the existential significance of the choice between theism and atheism (or naturalism) is spot on. Some naturalists concur very publicly. A recent example is Professor Arif Ahmed, who debated William Lane Craig at Cambridge University on the question, “Is It Reasonable to Believe in God?” In his opening statement, which can be found in audio on the internet, he declared that the question of God’s existence is supremely important, and that, if he changed his mind about the existence of God he would have to change the way he lives his life.

    What about “unless you love the truth, you cannot know it”? Blaise Pascal, or Francis Schaeffer? This is something you can imagine hearing from both of them, and many other Christian intellectuals. Pascal did say that the Christian’s challenge is to help them wish that Christianity is true, then help them see that it is.

    Again, welcome to this site. And please let your wife know that I understand whereof she speaks. I, too, have a loving (hence patient) wife. As someone else once said, “A man’s gotta’ know his limits.”

    -Doug

  88. Warrick Walker says:

    I just found this site so here are some comments from a newbie. Thanks for a wonderful report on the Craig vs. Hitchens debate. I found it to be balanced and informative. I actually stayed up into the wee hours reading every post, much to my wife’s chagrin! One point that seems to standout is that a naturalist explanation for creation is not even on the horizon. Invoking bizarre theories such as the multiverse only pushes the same problem off on another universe or universes. Indeed, it seems it would be doubly hard to account for multiple realities. I believe that the underlying objection to God existing has nothing to do with the fact of his existing. Rather, it is the resistance to accountability that is at the root of atheism. I have often discussed the God question with atheists, and invariably the biggest objection is “no one should tell me how to live”. The moment God’s existence is acknowledged, lifestyle change is almost invariably forced on the atheist. We have only to look to history to see many examples of this, C. S. Lewis and Lee Strobel being two modern ones that quickly come to mind. Countless other examples could be given. Sadly, our society ruthlessly reinforces this “I want what I want when I want it” mentality, to its own ultimate detriment. Strangely, I have more sympathy for people who can at least agree that a Creator must exist (we are here, after all) but simply choose to reject his overtures, than those people who continue with what I see as intellectual dishonesty. They are simply without excuse. One of the things I admire most about Craig is his commitment to getting to the truth, and not just trying to “win” the argument. Far too often, debaters on both sides of the aisle have allowed this to be a stumbling block not only for themselves but for their listeners (dare I say followers?) as well. I believe it was Pascal who said that “unless you love the truth you cannot know it” (or was it Francis Schaeffer?). What amazing things might be discovered if we all endeavored to follow this admonition? Simply put, let’s follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if that means changing our opinions sometimes. I also believe that, while the testimony of our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit is the main weapon in the Christian arsenal, there is some value in debunking competing world views. In particular, something as ubiquitous as evolution practically cries out to be challenged. Creation or evolution seems to be the only game in town. Hopefully, by discrediting evolution, some people will be driven to consider the cross as the only logical and well founded explanation for …. Everything! I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to remark on the general quality of the posts, in particular the level of hostility that is sometimes apparent. While this sometimes happens on the creation side, here and on other sites, it is more prevalent when reading submissions by atheists. This speaks volumes to me, as it does nothing to further the debate but rather helps to reinforce stereotypes of narrow mindedness and incivility. When we end up resorting to ad hominem attacks we essentially are admitting that we have lost the argument. I am most grateful for your patient and kind answers to all of the posters. The bible tells us to “always be prepared to give an answer for the hope you have, with gentleness and respect”. You are putting this into practice daily, and I commend you. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations between Habermas and Flew. This is the way dialogue is supposed to take place. I look forward to posting again in the future. God bless.

  89. Luis Dias says:

    Luis, you’re invited to reply here, too. How much of Craig’s work have you read? Which titles? Broadening the scope a bit more, how familiar would you say you are with analytic philosophy of religion?

    I do not know his work, and from what I’ve heard him saying, I do not think I want to. I don’t like wasting my time with people who have problems understanding basic things like phenomenology, the problem of induction, the problem of noumena, the problem of sticking our noses only on what we can observe, perceive and test. When I hear someone claiming that a witness that claims supernatural deeds or observations should be given more credit than cold hard evidence, my brain hurts. There I see how he managed to be a theist. He’s just gullible.

  90. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Tim

    I first saw Craig in the early 90s when he appeared on the CBC here in Canada. Since then I have come across him more and more often on youtube and other venues (like the horrid 100 Huntley Street). Despite a great deal of interest in his style, more so than the content of his arguments, it was only recently I actually took the time to have a look at his writings.

    As it stands right now I would say I have a fairly clear grasp of his major arguments but admittedly haven’t read any of his books. Craig’s excellent website reasonablefaith.org has been far and away my main source.

    On analytical philosophy I would say my exposure to it has been mostly through chance. More often than not I stumble across a philosopher with something to add to a topic I am interested in. In other words, if I have gained some fluency in the language of philosophy I have only done so in order to understand the arguments its proponents make. The actual study of logic itself does not interest me greatly.

  91. courageousfaithdotcom says:

    Valkyrie: There is significant archaeological and historical evidence for both the validity of scripture and the person of Jesus of Nazareth. However, I have found that relationship, not philosophy, has become the greatest evidence for me. When you are acquainted with an individual, you know them. Jesus’ invitation to men is not one of evidence, but of relationship, though evidence abounds. I enjoyed Lee Strobel’s book “Case for Christ.” You can learn about the author at http://www.leestrobel.com/. He, as a non-Christian, sought to “prove” or “disprove” the Jesus of the bible. His journey is interesting and addresses some of those proofs you are talking about. My point is not that “proofs” don’t exist. it is that proofs only bring you to a point of decision. Knowing Christ is the real deal on the other side of the “proofs.”

  92. Pingback: Re: Atheism, a post from the Internet Monk « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  93. Valkyrie.0010 says:

    I don’t get it why people don’t focuse on the history of the bible more, because science if it proves one thing ever, it is how much we don’t know for certain about.
    I would love to see a debate on just the historical figure of Jesus and is he who the bible claims he is, with no science or philosophy.
    To me you can argue philosophy till you blue in the face, because all philosophers based the opinions on experience and beliefs, to me it is nothing concrete like anthropology or archaeology or history,which is really quite concrete most of the time

  94. Tim says:

    Hi Paul,
    Luis, you’re invited to reply here, too. How much of Craig’s work have you read? Which titles? Broadening the scope a bit more, how familiar would you say you are with analytic philosophy of religion?

  95. Tim says:

    Hi Paul,
    Luis, you’re invited to reply here, too. How much of Craig’s work have you read? Which titles?

  96. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Luis

    Sorry but I should say that by theism I am referring to any belief that a supernatural power or powers of any kind intervene in human affairs. From there, as I’m sure you know, specific religions make claims on the nature of both that higher power and to what extent that higher power intervenes. Christian theism would be one of those claims.

    I was also extremely surprised to hear Craig say deism is simply a branch of theism. He could not be more wrong. In fact, deism is a direct refutation of theism. The only thing that amazes me more is how many theists do not understand the significance of this distinction.

  97. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Luis

    Exactly and well said as usual.

    My main problem with the argument from the resurrection is that it is based almost entirely on faith in the Bible. If the same standard of evidence is applied any number of contradictory events from any number of texts can be given equal or superior credibility. I have no doubt that there are Muslim, Jewish or Hindu scholars (to name a few) that could easily use the same kind of argument.

    Craig’s entire second contention (the heart and soul of his position) swings on this very point. In fact, Craig could easily omit his other four arguments and, staying only with his fourth, end up exactly where he did. Better put, once you clear away all the smoke and mirrors you are left with a single argument entirely based on the veracity of the Bible.

    Hi Chekov

    I’m sorry it appears that way but there’s more to this story than you know. Let me just say that my response to Doug was for Doug alone. Normally, I would never use an argument of the type you suggest and in fact always welcome constructive feedback on the arguments I do offer. Certainly I would welcome it from you if it were offered.

    On a side note, I disagree with you on Hitchens’ performance in this debate. I thought Craig was weak and transparent while Hitchens was authentic and extremely convincing. Of course this is just an opinion. I would never go so far as to refer to my opinion as a fact.

  98. Luis Dias says:

    By Christian Theism Paul is referring to the existence of a God rightly described by the Bible, that is, a loving, caring, active God that will answer to prayers.

    By Deism, Paul is referring to the existence of a Demiurgic God or Force or whatever have you, some kind of an “energy” that is passive, inable or died long ago, or is simply of other worries on other universes etc. That is, it is used merely to explain the coming about of this universe. It’s not obligated to be inactive, but when it is active, it is called a “theistic god”.

    I understand that Craig tried to put “deism” under the carpet of “theism”, as if deism was something that was inside the theistic camp, when Hitchens argued that many of Craig’s points were points for the deistic god, not the theistic god. Craig then made a very bad show of mathematics and logic by saying that Deism was a subset of Theism, not the other way around, disregarding the simple notion that a more specific being such as a theistic god is obviously a subset of a more generalized being such as a deistic god, that is, some kind of a god that not only created the world but also is active upon it.

    Leaving aside that controversy of who is the subset of which, (which is also telling of many other things), Hitchens was rightly saying that most of Craig’s points were not evidence of the Christian God at all. The only point was Christ himself, and given his personal admiration for faith above evidence as Hitchens quoted him in his own book saying, and given the sheer absence of evidence apart from a cooked and forged old book (something that many many religions also possess, btw), it is a very weak evidence.

    Anyways, even considering that someone did exist at that time, I would fully agree with Nietzche’s take on him on the Antichrist. If anything, JC wouldn’t call himself a christian today.

  99. Chekov says:

    I see… the ol’ “It’s too difficult for you to understand” routine. I mean no offense, but that’s probably one of the most common mistakes made by atheists when they debate the theists (whether they be deists, Christians, or whatever). I’m not going to state if I have a religion or if I believe in a god or not, but that was a somewhat odd reply. It IS necessary to know what the opposing viewpoint is and how to define it in your own words. A Quaker is much different than a Baptist. A Humanist is much different than a nihilist.

    In my opinion though, it doesn’t matter whether or not you agreed with the points Craig made. The fact remains that Hitchens was not doing great at all in this debate. I think he’s actually gotten worse for the past couple of years, but that’s my opinion.

  100. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Doug

    No, that’s not necessary at all. Just don’t respond if you don’t understand what I’ve said.

  101. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Paul,

    With summer responsibilities, I’ve been less attentive to blogging. Sorry for the delay in posting your comment.

    How about defining for us each of the terms that are so crucial to the argument you’re making: “theism,” “deism,” and “Christian theism”?

    -Doug

  102. Paul MacGillivray says:

    The more I think about this the more I find it hard to understand why anyone thinks Craig made a convincing argument. He starts with two contentions:

    1) That there’s no good argument that atheism is true.
    2) That there are good arguments that theism is true.

    At this point it is extremely important to note that his second contention does not specify what brand of theism he is going to argue for. Nevertheless, I think I am on safe ground in assuming that he is referring to Christian theism and that whenever he uses the word god he is referring to the Christian God. There is ample evidence in the debate for my assumption.

    His argument for his second contention appears to consist of five parts:

    1) The Cosmological Argument: Craig’s argument relies on the contested school of thought that infinity is absurd and that something cannot come from nothing. On infinity he says, referring to mathematical objections to infinity, “…this shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind not something that exists in reality”. From this he goes on to suggest the universe must have had a beginning since past events are not ideas but are real and must therefore be finite.

    I object strongly to his assertion that, quote, “this conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics”. No such conclusion has been reached by science. In fact, the Big Bang theory only seems to show that everything in the universe came from a singularity. The nature of that singularity, including its origin and what may lie beyond it, is the subject of a great deal of speculation. Craig goes so far as to call the Big Bang “absolute” and “cataclysmic” but neither of these words has been shown to be accurate by any scientific evidence.

    However, none of this, as interesting as it may be, is relevant to Craig’s second contention. The real meat of his argument comes a few seconds later when, after concluding that the universe was created by a being, he states:

    “This being must be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of unfathomable power. Moreover, it must be personal as well. Why? Because the cause must be beyond space and time. Therefore it cannot be physical or material. Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description. Either an abstract object like numbers or else a personal mind, but abstract objects can’t cause anything therefore it follows that the cause of the universe is a transcendent intelligent mind. Thus the cosmological argument gives us a personal creator of the universe.”

    Assuming he is arguing for his second contention, Craig must either show how the cosmological argument is theistic in nature or he must later use it as support for a theistic argument. Leaving aside the use of the word personal, Craig’s argument up to this point is purely deistic in nature so I must conclude he is going to make a connection to theism at some later point.

    2) The Teleological Argument: As Craig states, “In recent decades scientists have been stunned by the discovery that the initial conditions of the Big Bang were fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a precision and delicacy that literally defy human comprehension.”

    I think there are dozens of objections that could be raised to Craig’s argument but I only want to judge it based on its relevance to his second contention. Once again, Craig concludes an intelligent designer but does not mention any connection to theism.

    3) The Moral Argument: If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. Craig’s argument here appears to boil down to his statement:

    “The problem is that objective values do exist and deep down we all know it. In moral experience we apprehend a realm of objective moral goods and evils. Actions like rape, cruelty and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behaviour they’re moral abominations. Some things at least are really wrong. Similarly love, equality and self-sacrifice are really good. But then it follows logically and necessarily that God exists.”

    In a nutshell, objective moral values exist because some things are really wrong.

    Leaving aside the chasm Craig has just leaped into, the argument is not theistic and once again we are left waiting for something in support of his second contention.

    4) The resurrection of Jesus: Craig makes several statements of interest here but I think they can all be summed up by the following:

    “Historians have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority: the authority to stand and speak in God’s place. He claimed that in himself the kingdom of God had come and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracle working and exorcisms. But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead then it would seem we have a divine miracle on our hands and thus evidence for the existence of God.”

    As I have done before I will only judge his argument based on its relevance to his second contention. Whether or not one agrees with the basic premise of the argument (that the Bible is true) Craig is surely making a case for theism and therefore one that is relevant to his second contention.

    Having said that, I did not detect a connection to his previous three arguments. Since Craig was not clear on this point I can only assume one of two things: first, there is no connection and Craig is simply blowing smoke or, the second, all four arguments are evidence for the Christian God. The first seems unlikely so I will assume the second.

    Of course, if that is the case, he would logically be obligated to conclude that many of the beliefs held by other religions, if not most of their central tenets, are untrue. Craig did not make this argument but he should have.

    In any case, the argument from the resurrection of Christ is undeniably an argument for Christian theism. As such a connection to the previous three deistic arguments is required. Craig did not offer that connection.

    5) The experience of God: I think I am on safe ground in saying that this point has no place in a debate of this kind. I say this because the argument, as I understand it, would be valid evidence for any religious belief. In other words, the argument could be equally applied to any argument for any version of theism. Since I have already concluded that Craig’s second contention can only stand if his first four points are taken as arguments for Christian theism, I must reject his fifth point as irrelevant.

    In conclusion, Craig presented three arguments for deism, one for Christian theism and one that was utterly irrelevant to his second contention.

    On this basis I conclude that not only was Craig unclear on the most critical element of his overall argument, he did not provide a coherent argument for his second contention.

  103. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi John07,

    As Doug said to an earlier poster calling himself Voltaire who posted something similar to you but from the other side:

    “I’m glad you’ve dropped in. It would be valuable to have an argument from you for one or more of your assertions.”

    Except in your case you haven’t said anything at all about Hitchens’ arguments. Voltaire at least addressed the subject matter.

  104. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi John,

    Yes, Hitchens commands a substantial fee. This is how he butters his bread. A debate for him is a significant source of revenue, first for the gig itself, and second for book promotion and sales.

  105. John 07' says:

    Was Hitchens paid to participate in this event? I have always felt that Mr. Hitchens is merely a sensationalist who enjoys controversy because it sells his products. He is the “Borat” of faux atheist apologetics. It is his chosen “craft” in which to prosper. He has learned his subject matter well because bombastic attacks on God in general and Christianity in particular must be fairly well articulated and a bit outrageous to keep the books flying off the shelves and appearances on TV in demand. He was apparently ill prepared for a real and proper debate because, in reality, he could care less about whether God exists or not. Follow the money. It was a gig for Mr. Hitchens.

  106. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Oh and the point of deductive validity I must admit I find it very hard to distinguish the premise or premises for the moral argument. I certainly agree with the article you provided but I am not sure at all how to apply it to what Craig offered.

    In order to offer something I should say what I perceive the argument to be:

    1) Morality exists.
    2) Morality is either subjective or objective.
    3) In order for it to be objective it must come from a higher power.

    If there is a fourth step as Craig seems to imply and the existence of the Christian god can somehow logically be concluded I will deal with that point only if it becomes necessary.

    My problems with this idea are as follows:

    1) No problem here. Morality as a concept does seem to exist.

    2) I do not see how this premise can even be argued. We don’t know what morality is let alone how it might have originated. Furthermore I am not entirely sure how one could go about showing how morality is either objective or subjective.

    If I understand the concept correctly, objective morals would exist with or without the presence of humans to perceive them. Opinion would have nothing to do with it. On this basis I cannot see how a case could be made for the existence of objective morality.

    Even if I have poorly laid out the argument I believe I am safe in assuming that the moral argument relies on the existence of objective morals. Since that existence cannot be shown to be true I cannot see how one could build an argument on it.

    3) If objective morals could be shown to exist then I would be very interested in knowing where they came from. In fact I will go so far as to say that evidence for the existence of objective morals would make me seriously reconsider my world view.

    However, assuming we could prove the existence of objective morals and, assuming we could determine which morals are objective and which are not I do not see how such a feat would lend credibility to any particular religion.

    I must admit the whole discussion seems circular to me. One can logically believe in objective morals essentially only if one logically believes in a higher power. I have no particular problem with this belief except I cannot distinguish a starting point for the chain of logic.

    I mean does one argue that objective morals exist because of a belief in a higher power and then later or at the same time argue that a higher power exists because one believes that objective morals exist? Chickens and eggs come to mind.

    If the question is then, how does one explain the existence of objective morals and further what is the best existing explanation my answer can only be a question: do objective morals exist? It seems to me that before we ever get into discussing the role of a higher power we have a bit of work to do.

    p.s. I will try to trim down my responses as much as possible but if I am asked questions which I feel require lengthy answers I will provide them. I can assure you that I read every word of every post relevant to any discussion I take part in.

  107. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hi Tim

    OK a few points to address there:

    1) On your methodological point I am having a hard time understanding why you would bother to even bring this up. Ineffable is hardly a subjective word but rather is about as specific in its definition as any I can think of. I thank you for your advice but I must say I do not see it as either warranted or relevant.

    In any case, my point was that the use of the word might or might not have been appropriate but the point was intelligible and easily understood. I then went on to give the example of the cosmological argument to remove any doubt from the discussion. After showing not only where the cosmological argument goes wrong but why that argument should never be applied in the first place I asked you directly if you agreed with me in so much as the argument is at least flawed. As far as I can tell your response has been a vaguely pedagogical point about the use of dictionary definitions.

    Which leads us to:

    2) I am beginning to see why these discussions never end in anything productive. I am sorry to put it like this but Luis has done nothing but attack the foundations of Craig’s deductive reasoning. If you see his or my language as not being acceptable or of the proper format I propose, with all due respect, you are being narrow-minded.

    Luis has explained clearly, as have I, where we see the problems with Craig’s reasoning. In fact, I have already addressed all of this effectively in my last message to you.

    3) In order to bring this back to something recognizable I will tackle the moral argument. As I have said, we do not have a scientific theory of morality as such at this present time. We have hypotheses from various camps (some of them armed) but nothing verifiable. With that in mind I respectfully propose that we are all on common ground in the sense that we are all guessing when it comes to the origins of morality.

    Now, with that in mind let’s bring this whole thing to a conclusion shall we? What do you believe is the point here? If it is that the moral argument is sound, you are correct. I concede the point gladly. If it is that the soundness of it proves anything I disagree strongly.

    Why do I disagree? Simply because the entire discussion is based on a question that has no satisfactory answer. It may well be that the moral argument is correct and it may well be that it is not. We simply do not know. I fail completely to see how such an argument could be offered as evidence for anything.

    Luckily for all of us Craig is offering it as an argument for the rationality of his world view. On that point I agree with him: it does seem to be a rational view in as much as it is at least possible that the argument is correct.

    Unfortunately for us Craig liberally uses the word evidence and in doing so, in my view, obscures his overall point. His argument is sound and can easily be accepted as an hypothesis, but it cannot be accepted as evidence under any existing definition of the word.

    If we cannot agree on this point I respectfully suggest that we are kicking a dead horse.

    Is there some question here about the role of philosophy in science? I am beginning to think there may be.

  108. Luis Dias says:

    Tim,

    In my post from May 30–the last one I submitted–be aware that I *denied* ineffability as stipulated by you. I never affirmed it. You should aim your criticism toward someone who actually holds to the notion of ineffability you describe.

    This is one of the problems with religion of course, everyone has his own :). I’m directing this criticism to every serious christian theologian that I know of, and I could add muslim and judaic theologians. They have concluded long ago that God was “innefable”, and the only way that such abysmal difference could ever be overcome would be by God himself (for he’s capable of everything, so his fans keep saying), and thus the prophets, thus the messiahs, thus the “son of god”. This is why christians, for example, keep saying that jesus is the path to god, there is no other, for if this schism is infinite in nature, only when the two worlds intersect have we got the slightest chance of glimpsing the other part, thus we should follow jesus (he’s the truth, etc).

    Back to our discussion, if you want to deny a conclusion of a deductive argument (such as that employed by the natural theologian), there two and only two ways to do so (if you want to do so rationally, that is): deny a premise or show invalidity.

    This is what I’ve done. He states that Moral Absolutes exist (he calls them “objective moral values”, it’s the same thing), but he gives no evidence of this, he merely pounds on the table. He then states that these “moral absolutes” are evidence of a God. Could be. He just missed the part where he would prove that these absolutes do in fact exist. Empirically, I see evidence of the contrary. While there are things that are somewhat stable, most moral values have radically changed since the time of the writing of the Genesis book.

    I can tell you though that that’s not happening here though and now it should be clear why.

    It isn’t. Please clarify me. From what I see, if you claim tertium datur, I immediately declare victory, for you agree you are no less of a relativist than I am ;).

    If you’re unfamiliar with all this talk of deductive validity…

    I’m familiar with bivalent logic, thanks.

    I am *within* the camp that thinks propositions about God stand in logical relations to other propositions. I.e. I, like you, deny that God is somehow “above logic.”

    The problem is that from my point of view, your view is no more or less true than those who feel that God is above logic. I understand that you don’t like the idea, it gives christians the creeps whenever someone hints at the possibility of God being “beyond good and evil”. But, if you like bivalent logic so much, you do understand the point that I make that, if a theist claims god is ineffable (as many do in fact), then they cannot say they are not above logic.

    I’m glad though that you go for the simpler version and declare that God is knowable. No one has ever shown how metaphysics is even true, so you have a lot of work still ahead of you.

    @Paul, np, I usually fall on those lines too, specially in my own bad days :p.

  109. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Hello

    In all fairness I should say I have a quasi-religious belief that I feel is worth mentioning. Basically, I find the arguments for the existence of other intelligent life in the universe convincing. Furthermore, for whatever reason, I like very much the idea that we are not alone in the vastness of space. I cannot prove it of course but I draw some solace from my perception that other life forms can be rationally believed to exist without going too far into absurdity.

    This is not an attempt to change the topic. My point is that I believe we are all prone to wishful thinking in one way or another just as we are prone to greed, love, ambition, etc.

    I say this because I’ve been thinking about what Luis said to me and he is right. I should not have attempted to guess at Craig’s motivation. If Craig or Hitchens do have ulterior motives they are hardly alone and the fact does nothing to diminish their points. For that I must apologize. Thanks Luis for calling me on that one.

  110. Luis Dias says:

    Luis, the many-worlds, or multiverse, hypothesis is brought in to explain apparent design at the level of natural laws governing the behavior of our universe. They aren’t posited to explain how this universe was caused to exist. Nor could they.

    The multiverse answer would provide an answer where there wasn’t a “beggining” per se. There are others (Smolin’s evolutionary universes comes to mind, but its fading in its fandom) as well.

    But the problem is more profound than this. What I am arguing is that for every problem, we can have multiple answers. If all science and philosophy all made thus far isn’t entirely incorrect, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect only one of them is true, and probably we still didn’t even imagined it yet.

    But if we are in a position in which we don’t know the answer, it is irrelevant if there comes a person claiming that “X” did it, and that’s the right answer, because the other people haven’t figured out a comprehensive definite answer. It’s inadmissible in a dialogue for these kinds of things being said.

    So, in the eighteenth century, you’d ask, explain me the variety of this amazing garden of life, you can’t, there’s no materialistic explanation. In the caveman time, you’d ask me the cause of wind, of fire, of thunderstorms. I’d be baffled by this. It’s not an argument, it’s a common fallacy, appeal to ignorance. And yes, it is “God of the Gaps”. You just don’t accept this because you think you found the “ultimate” Gap, one which not even science can take it out from there, and you feel glad by it. I wouldn’t be so optimistic if I were you.

    Also it is worse, because “God Did It” is not presented as a conclusion of a thesis, but as an evidence that God exists. You and others say, God exists because it’s the “best explanation for the universe”, but when someone points out, but hey, you don’t need that explanation, there are others, theists go back and say, well, ok, but you haven’t proved it, so it is a very good hypothesis at least. But that’s already a concession on your part of the argument, is it not?

    Ultimately, there aren’t any evidences or arguments for this or any other God. Only excuses for its existence. Efforts at compatibilizations. Which is both rather poor and an inevitable trend considering what we’ve learned from this universe.

  111. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Doug:

    1) I’ve described the mechanism by which science works. Without that mechanism science achieves nothing. With it science achieves wonders. Call that philosophical if you will, but the results are as tangible as anything I can think of. Even better said, ignoring the scientific method produces silliness like astrology and creationism.

    2) I disagree. You are a believer in the existence of something you seem to claim explains observable phenomena. There are many believers in the world that believe in contradictory explanations for the same phenomena. Either everyone is wrong or someone is right. The obvious follow on question is: if you have decided who is right does that decision provide you with enough evidence to build a belief system, influence the lives of millions, kill in the name of your chosen explanation, etc.? You tell me.

    Simply put I offer two possibilities. The first is that you are wrong and your hypothesis is false. The second is that there is absolutely no evidence worthy of the word sufficient to make a decision either way.

    In either case I am not required to offer an alternative and my analogy stands. You may not want to equate your deity with other imaginary and/or discredited suggestions (witches come to mind) but given the long, long, long list of discredited human beliefs I would think you would be less careless.

    Remember, if you argue for a higher power you are on safer ground. The problems arise when you try to define that power as something you have a relationship with.

    To Luis:

    Sound advice and worthy of thought. It’s always a danger for anyone to be too overzealous when discussing these topics. In my defence, as purely logical as I would like to be, I never ignore the human factor in any discussion. I did try to accuse Hitchens and Craig of the same charges if that counts for anything.

  112. Tim says:

    Luis and Paul,

    If you’re unfamiliar with all this talk of deductive validity and why it’s so important, I saw recently, at another epistemologist’s blog, a post called A Catechism of Logic. I suppose it captures in a charming way the importance we, as rational agents, should give to evaluating arguments in the proper way.

    If you’re interested, you can find it here http://thisisthenameofthisblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/catechism-of-logic.html#links

  113. Tim says:

    Hello there Paul,

    My reply just now to Luis regarding ineffability is for you, too. For the record, I am *within* the camp that thinks propositions about God stand in logical relations to other propositions. I.e. I, like you, deny that God is somehow “above logic.” This in fact allows me to accuse Luis’s earlier parody of Craig’s argument of being an effete reply—his argument parody is invalid whereas Craig’s Moral Argument (the one he was parodying) is not.

    Now a methodological point. It’s up to you (though not advisable) to use a dictionary definition against your interlocutor with respect to some issue. But then it’s always up to him to deny that he holds the view described by the dictionary’s definition. So, for example, you say, “The dictionary definition of ‘ineffability’ is such-and-such.” And he replies, “Hmmm….well, I don’t hold that view, then.” You may bring up dictionary definitions all day long, but if you’re going to find problems with your interlocutor’s views, you’d better make sure they’re views that either (1) he holds or (2) are implied by views that he holds. Otherwise, you just end up shooting at the wrong target, as you did in an earlier reply to me on ineffability.

    As for your other lengthy comments on Craig’s arguments, I will wait to find a convenient jumping in point. There’s just too much to reply to.

  114. Tim says:

    Luis,
    I’ll say a few things in reply to your June 18, 2009 post.

    In my post from May 30–the last one I submitted–be aware that I *denied* ineffability as stipulated by you. I never affirmed it. You should aim your criticism toward someone who actually holds to the notion of ineffability you describe.

    Back to our discussion, if you want to deny a conclusion of a deductive argument (such as that employed by the natural theologian), there two and only two ways to do so (if you want to do so rationally, that is): deny a premise or show invalidity.

    As to your comments on divine command theory, you’re right: necessarily, p or not-p; either something’s a command theory or it’s not. You and I are of one mind there. But there are different species of divine command theories. Your criticism is only of certain strong forms of divine command theory. There are also weak forms. And yes, subtle distinctions do sometimes escape me. (Who told you this? Was it my wife?) I can tell you though that that’s not happening here though and now it should be clear why.

  115. Doug Geivett says:

    Paul,

    (1) Your conception of science, as any conception of science must be, is itself inherently philosophical.

    (2) Gremlins are by no means a legitimate analog. If we agree that the universe had a beginning, then we are not disagreeing about something like the existence or non-existence of gremlins in your laundry room. We are agreeing about what is to be explained. I offer a theistic explanation on philosophical grounds. What is it that you offer instead?

    -Doug

  116. Doug Geivett says:

    Luis, the many-worlds, or multiverse, hypothesis is brought in to explain apparent design at the level of natural laws governing the behavior of our universe. They aren’t posited to explain how this universe was caused to exist. Nor could they.

  117. Luis Dias says:

    Doug,

    Well, no one has to answer it, of course. But if this argument shows up in a debate you’ve agreed to, it seems you should have some sort of answer.

    Then you are seeing it wrong, Doug. That is the starting point of conspiracy theories, not of a reasonable method of inquiry. Sometimes, “I don’t know” is both the most honest and best answer one can possibly give. I agree, it is not easy to accept humbly that we don’t know, but we must have that courage and honesty. Imagine we are cavemen arguing thunderstorms and the believer will state something in the order of,

    -”Thunderstorms exist and they are both terrifying and magnificent, the sheer power of it! They are surely the evidence of a God!”

    The skeptic kicks in:

    -”Well, not really. We don’t know how thunderstorms come about, but they could come about without a God”
    -”How so? Give me evidence of this! How is it not created by God?”
    -”Well, I can’t give you evidence that it is not, because I don’t know how it works”
    -”Ah, well therefore we are at least tied in this point, and I claim superiority on the grounds that at least I give an answer!

    Such is not the case however. The fact that the caveman was incapable of understanding thunderstorms didn’t validate the believer’s hypothesis one bit. This is not how our socratic and scientific method works. We postulate hypothesis, we are the ones who have the burden to explain them. How is it so, and how can I prove them wrong (falsifiability, Popper). If you can’t falsify them, it becomes a platonic exercise and everything is possible, which the sheer variety of metaphysical claims should testify for.

    Ideally, this includes proposing an alternative hypothesis that explains the same phenomenon, and going on to show why the alternative is a superior hypothesis.

    In this case, there are multitudes of explanations. One of them implies a multiverse, for example. Speculations abound, and they aren’t metaphysical wanderings, they are physical speculations that have empirical consequences. The reason why they are all superior to the God hypothesis is because they are, in principle, testable. Whenever they aren’t testable at all, they lose credit. Science itself abolishes our need of metaphysics.

    PS: Paul, come on chill out man! Had a bad day? Here’s a thought to you: it is just as easy for anyone to misrepresent incompetence and take it as fraudulent action as it is for one to succumb to conspiracy theories, or religion for that matter. I believe Craig is honest. He’s just not very smart or he’s too brainwashed by his metaphysics.

    But even if he wasn’t, I don’t see the need to jump into conclusions about his intentions. It is really irrelevant for the debate in question. Debate the points, not the debaters.

  118. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Wow, finally some meat to throw on the BBQ. Here goes:

    To Luis:

    First off, if I misinterpreted you at some point I am sorry. I didn’t mean to but was getting frustrated with constant calls for clarification on points which I felt you were making very well. I experienced the same kind of response to my comments and I felt a word or two was in order.

    Second, I think if you read my most recent post you will see that I am in fact arguing along the very same lines that you are describing. Sorry if my original posts were unclear.

    My argument, respectful in its nature, is that both Craig and Hitchens are intelligent men capable of and probably prone to questioning their own logic. It seems very strange to me indeed that either would present “evidence” in a debate of this kind. I do not claim this to be fact, but I strongly suspect both are well aware of the weaknesses in their own arguments and work very hard to present their points as persuasive without being too intellectually dishonest.

    This idea leads me to believe that there is an underlying motive or motives in almost all of what they are saying. In my opinion that underlying motive could be two things: notoriety and/or persuasiveness.

    Better said, Craig has a lot to gain by beating Hitchens in a debate and I think Hitchens has a lot to lose by being defeated by a small timer (perhaps up-and-comer is more apt) like Craig. I know this is hardly pure logic but I, as a rule, never discount the human element from any equation. Subjective as it may be I do not believe any discussion of a human interaction is complete without some questioning of the motives of the participants.

    On the point of physical laws, I only bring them up because I am convinced there is a very strange disconnect between acceptance by rational people of scientific theories based on evidence and religious hypotheses based on supposition that would not normally constitute evidence. In other words, what would normally be required to convince a rational person in almost any other branch of science does not seem to be necessary when religion is involved. This point is entirely subjective but seems to me to be germane to the discussion.

    To Doug:

    With all due respect, I could easily say the same to you. You put a piece of writing out there. You should be open to the reactions that you receive. My comments are open to anyone to reply to in any way they see fit. Your responses were not, in my opinion, respectful in a way that I appreciate. Why did I think this? Because it seemed to me that I took the time to carefully read what you wrote and you did not do me the same favour. If I was wrong about that I apologize but remember that respect is extremely subjective.

    On your points I offer the following:

    1) I assume people contributing to this discussion have seen the debate. I did elaborate on Craig’s argument to some extent but not with the assumption of speaking to someone who is unfamiliar with the subject matter.

    In addition, my comments were directed at both yourself and Tim who both have, as far as I can tell, seen the debate.

    With all due respect, I do not understand or even see the point to this criticism.

    2) Craig can refer to himself in any way he pleases but he is a philosopher, calls himself a doctor and makes scientific claims (or at the very least claims he could only make with some scientific understanding of the subject matter). He cannot do so and later say that his claims are somehow unscientific.

    A philosophical claim can only go so far. Craig’s error, which I strongly suspect was intentional, was to oscillate between opinion offered as a philosophical conclusion and interpretations represented as fact. Some in the theistic community may have missed the distinction but I certainly did not.

    Worse still, he presents his arguments as evidence. I’m sorry but I have to challenge you on this point. If his claims are evidence, as he clearly states them to be, by what criteria do we judge them if not scientific?

    On the point of debate format, my statement was and was framed as an opinion. If we differ I can only say that I respect your opinion and hope you respect mine.

    3) Yes, you are correct. This also appealed to me as Craig’s overall point. However, I disagree strongly with the word narrow. Science has achieved many things and I am hard pressed to think of one that was not done through the scientific method. If I am wrong please correct me on this point. If I am wrong in my appraisal of the scientific method I invite you to present a definition you feel is better.

    On the point of confusing philosophy with religion I can only say that I cannot avoid noticing a fundamental difference in our approaches to this discussion. For me, religious questions are philosophical by nature. In fact, this has been my argument from the get go. If Craig constrained himself to philosophical conclusions I would have very little to say against him, but he did not and therein lies the problem.

    As far as how science should be practiced, it is practiced in one and only one way. A phenomena which requires explanation is observed/perceived. Hypotheses are presented and tested according to predictions. The results of those tests can either lead scientists to accept or not accept any particular hypothesis. After extensive testing and peer review an hypothesis can become a theory. Sometimes of course testing can lead to alternate hypotheses but those hypotheses are subject to the very same process. I am unfamiliar with any other process by which science can be carried out.

    The only argument Craig presented that I view as even vaguely scientific was his historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ. On that point and that point alone I am prepared to offer him and the sources he quoted the benefit of the doubt. The rest was nothing more than conjecture. Conjecture, as it happens, that can neither produce evidence for itself or even suggest where the foundation for testing might be found.

    4) I admit I offer opinions from time to time. When I do I try to preface them with some variation of “in my opinion”. If I forget to do so I am more than willing to clarify when requested to do so. Also, it is not impossible that I confuse belief with fact. My question to you and others is: do you do the same?

    Never one to be left behind I would like to offer a comment on your response to Luis. Here goes:

    The question of the origin of the universe is not “inherently philosophical” but only theoretical at present. To call it inherently philosophical is to say that science, or any other method, will never be able to resolve it. Given what science has already managed to do I would caution against calling anything “inherently philosophical”.

    Furthermore, the theist does not offer any response to the question of the origin of the universe. There is a deistic addition made by some to the cosmological argument but there has yet to be any logical argument made for how that connects to theism. Even if a higher power did create the universe the idea does nothing to advance the hypothesis that the same power cares about humans themselves. The theist can claim that their creator made the universe in their favour, but this is merely a claim and therefore subject to the burden of proof.

    Now, if I agree to a debate and this point is raised I can only do what I have just done and show the flaws in it. I do not have to provide an alternative hypothesis any more than I have to provide one if someone claims that I have gremlins in my laundry room. I am not the one making a claim. I am only showing the problems in the logic with theirs. Whether or not I have an alternative is irrelevant.

    It is far from irresponsible to show that an hypothesis is false. It is the foundation of the scientific method and, if I may, the foundation of every truth humans have been able to ascertain.

  119. Doug Geivett says:

    Luis, I appreciate the tone of your most recent response and thank you for continuing to leave interesting comments.

    The point about burden of proof is interesting. Here’s how I see it. Take some alleged phenomenon, like the origin of the universe. The question—inherently philosophical—is, “What is the best explanation for the origin of the universe?” The theist offers one response. What is one to say if one rejects this response? “I’m afraid I’m a skeptic and I don’t have to answer that question”? Well, no one has to answer it, of course. But if this argument shows up in a debate you’ve agreed to, it seems you should have some sort of answer. Further, to reject the theist’s hypothesis is a partial answer. A satisfactory answer that includes the rejection of one hypothesis must go further to engage the explanatory value of that hypothesis. Ideally, this includes proposing an alternative hypothesis that explains the same phenomenon, and going on to show why the alternative is a superior hypothesis. (Another option is to deny the alleged phenomenon, offering good reasons for this.)

    Again, this is my view. But it illustrates why I think disagreements about who owns the burden of proof are unproductive and, in a certain sense, irresponsible.

  120. Doug Geivett says:

    Paul,

    I addressed you publicly (though anonymously) because you sent a comment that was intended for public consumption. I’m afraid that’s a risk you take when you visit my blog. I will not be taunted. And if, in my judgment, a comment is sent that is tainted by taunting, I will not post the comment. I’m not claiming moral high ground. I am exercising my prerogative.

    -Doug

  121. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Paul,

    Others may have things to say in response. I want to be brief.

    (1) I think readers need context to know what you’re referring to when you recall an argument that most people haven’t heard. When William Craig mentioned the 2% figure, he was responding to a claim by Hitchens against the God of Christianity. What claim was Hitchens making? You haven’t given readers here any means of evaluating your claim because you don’t recount the argument and counter-argument.

    (2) You seem to be inadequately informed about a few things. First, I’ve never heard Craig call himself a scientist. I’d say you haven’t, either. Second, in debate, when members of the audience ask questions, responses from both debaters is common. I happen to know this from my own experience debating. In fact, just today I replied to a non-theist whom I’ll be debating about the structure of our upcoming debate. This is precisely what he proposed.

    (3) In addition, you’re careless about a couple of factual claims. First, Craig did not claim that religion offers an explanation for this or that. He presented the hypothesis of God’s existence as the best explanation for a range of phenomena. This is a philosophical claim. You may disapprove of philosophy, but you should be careful about conflating it with religion. Second, you’re working with a narrow, and I believe question-begging, conception of science. It strays enough from historical scientific practice to leave you with the burden of proving that you’re right about how science should be practiced.

    (4) For someone who claims to be wholly committed to believing anything only on the basis of empirical evidence, it’s surprising that you presume to read minds—William Craig’s mind, the minds of people in the audience at the debate, the people who directed more questions at Hitchens at another event, and so forth. It is astonishing how speculative you are given the paltry evidence you cite. You do not even consider alternative explanations—which is a natural impulse for objective observers (like the ideal scientist).

  122. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Here is the modified version of my post:

    Oh and one more thing. Craig’s “2% of humanity before the time of Christ” is about as ineffective and possibly calculated a remark, let alone a counterargument, as I have ever heard. Talk about missing the point completely. In my opinion it was an argument Craig thought would work on an audience he hoped would believe just about anything.

    So what if only 2% of people lived before Christ was born(and by saying that I do not admit he ever was)? Hitchens’ clear point is not about the number of people that suffered through the time before God’s supposed intervention, but rather they lived existences clearly void of any divine charity for an almost unimaginably long period of time. His point comes into its own when he describes how God finally does intervene in possibly the most ineffective manner conceivable.

    It should be noticed Craig’s answer to this argument was that God chose a very effective time since there were more people living on the planet than before. By the same thinking almost any year would be better than the previous. I am sorry to say but this is simply an embarrassing point to make for a man who calls himself a scientist.

    I won’t even raise the point that Hitchens is only referring to homosapiens. If we include other species of primates and, even worse for Craig, other species in general that have never seen God’s intervention in their favour, that 2% changes very very quickly.

    I find it hard to express the amount of disrespect for his audience that Craig showed by even voicing such an opinion. Either he was extremely overconfident, felt it was worth the risk or thought his audience was ready to accept anything. It may also be possible he believed what he said but for his own sake I hope not.

    Don’t even get me started on the objective morals claptrap that Craig spends most of his debating career going on about. The fact is no one knows why we have morals or why we act in many of the ways we do. People have offered hypotheses but the truth is we have no theory yet or, for that matter, a great deal of testable evidence to even get started with. The God of the Gaps strikes again.

    I believe this is why Hitchens is being accused of dropping points in this debate. The fact is Craig can number his arguments all he wants but they are almost all essentially the same: we don’t know the answers, religion offers an explanation therefore that explanation must be true or at least plausible. It’s becoming painfully obvious to me that there are quite a few university educated people out there that are all too willing to forgo the scientific method in questions they have a personal stake in. The result, as seen in this debate, is far from palatable.

    Oh and before I close, Craig was essentially ignored at the Christian Book Expo a few weeks before this debate when he tried to throw these arguments around. No one, not even the other believers, paid any attention to him. Almost all of the questions were for Hitchens, absolutely none were for Craig and not even once did any of the other writers echo or even use a Craig point.

    Lo and behold a few weeks later the stipulation is made, and stressed by the moderator, that all questions are for BOTH speakers to answer. Want to bet who made that suggestion? I have seen Hitchens and others debate dozens of times and I have never seen a moderator stress or even mention this point.

    My guess is, and I would put good money on it, that Craig knew once they got to question period it was game over for him. So, knowing that virtually every question would be for Hitchens, he made sure he would have the ability to get the last word every time without appearing like too much of an apologist. Brilliant move on his part I must admit. Cheap and it shows just how much he put into trying to beat Hitchens, but yes brilliant.

  123. Paul MacGillivray says:

    Number one: If you are going to address me publicly and not allow me to respond in the same way I see no way for you to claim any moral high ground. Will you, for example, even allow this message to be visible?

    Number two: I will make a few small changes if that is what you require, but to be perfectly honest I see your description of my post as grossly exaggerated. Seriously Doug, I called his rebuttal stupid and I suggested the possibility he is a buffoon. Out of line possibly, but hardly venom and malice.

    Number three: Am I allowed to offer opinions of any kind or do you also qualify my opinions about Craig’s debate strategy as ad hominem attacks?

    Number four: Thank you for pointing out that copy/paste error I made in the first paragraph. I will be sure to do the same favour for you should the need arise (and unless you are perfect it most surely will).

  124. Doug Geivett says:

    To You-know-who-you-are:

    The latest comment submitted to this post is so full of venom and malice that I cannot approve it as is. All the ad hom attacks will have to be stripped away, and the name-calling, like ‘buffoon’, ‘stupid’, etc.

    Show respect, or don’t show up.

    You might want to review your grammar, as well.

    You know who you are.

    -Doug

  125. Luis Dias says:

    Thanks Paul for those insights.

    I’d disagree with only one thing of what you’ve said, which is the fact that the debate was a symetrical game between parties that didn’t want to see their fragilities opened.

    I don’t think that at all. I could have thought of that before I saw the debate because I thought Hitchens had not responded to the moral argument as well as he actually did. The assymetry arrives when one party doesn’t deny that “something” as a god may actually exist, but that such question is in fact, pointless. He does not have to show how god does not exist in order to debunk christianity. All he has to do is to undermine the core tenets of Christendom and question its legitimacy, its empirical prowess, its ethics, its use, etc.

    Because Hitchens is the skeptic, it is not legitimate to place on him the same burden of proof as one should place Craig. Of course, a believer may see this otherwise, but only for emotional reasons really. The motion of “God exists and he was JC” is not in the same ballpark as “God does not exist”, a priori and per se.

    Also, the moral argument was well replied, and the fact that Craig didn’t even understood Hitchen’s point is telling (Craig misunderstood Hitchens several times, appalling, I thought Craig was smarter than that). The moral argument hinges on the pressuposition that if morals are objective, and if all observers in the mortal world are subjective, only a true objective person can see them (refers to the Russell’s point: an objective reality needs an objective observer).

    If morality is objective, then god exists. If god does not exist, then objective moral values may not exist at all. Hitchens did reply (youtube took out the debate) something as in “what if objective (as in absolute) moral values do not exist?”. Craig’s “proof” depends on the assumption that objective moral values (in the Russelian terminology) in fact do exist.

    But how do we attest that they do? What is the fundamental evidence that they do? It’s circular reasoning. It’s as if I stated, “The Absolute exists because his Absolute Rules exist”.

    And keep physical “laws” out of the discussion. Physicians rarely name them that way, they mostly refer to them as “symmetries”, not laws (unless they are talking to the general layman, who is more used to judicial terms than aesthetic terms :)).

  126. Paul MacGillivray says:

    In direct response to comments made by Doug and Tim I offer the following:

    1) Ineffable is defined as incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible. It may or may not be the proper choice of words but I believe Luis’s point remains valid. The concept of God is subjective (as evidenced by the myriad of ways in which humans experience what they describe as their connection to a higher power). If it is a subjective concept it can only be expressed in terms of opinion and not fact. There are no facts where higher powers are concerned. There are only opinions.

    Taking this a step further, what you describe as knowing God can easily be described as you forming an opinion about a concept you agree with. The simple act of doing so is not evidence of anything but rather your expression of an understanding you believe you have attained.

    Also, one very important piece of information that has eluded our cognitive grasp is proof of God’s existence. It should not be surprising then that there a so many opinions about his nature. If we cannot even establish a good reason to believe he exists then why would we expect to be able to understand him.

    2) Tim, it is indeed possible to argue the nature or existence of higher powers with logic. I would be hard pressed to think of any other way to go about answering the question. Unfortunately, as hard as I try I can think of no statement ever uttered about a higher power that can be conclusively shown to be true. Many have been shown to be false over the millenia (i.e. Zeus does not live on Mt. Olympus and Ra does not take the sun across the sky every day in a canoe) but I can think of none that were ever shown to be undeniably true. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    3) You should not be surprised that you believe true-false statements are possible where God is concerned. You are a believer. If you didn’t believe true-false statements were possible you could not be a believer.

    4) The cosmological argument, for example, is often poorly stated but is essentially an argument for a first cause to the universe (i.e. something started it all). Many proponents of the cosmological argument disagree that the argument should ever be extended to the existence of a higher power much less the existence of the Judeo-Christian divinity. They disagree for two good reasons. First, the argument was originally intended to be an argument against infinity. Second, there is no good reason to think that the universe having a root cause implies the existence of an intelligent creator.

    Therefore, if the argument is stated in this way:

    A) The universe had a beginning.
    B) That event caused the universe to exist.
    C) That event was caused by something.
    D) That something was God.

    Logically I have no problem with A, B and C but have an enormous problem with the massive leap represented by D. To not only assume the root cause of the universe was a higher power, but to further assume that higher power is the Judeo-Christian version of God and to go so far as to present this argument as “evidence” seems to me to be about as egregious a failure of logic as I can think of.

    I’m not saying there is no higher power but I am clearly stating that the cosmological argument does nothing to prove its existence.

    I say this because Luis did not make an argument. His chain of logic you reacted to was not intended to be foolproof but was intended to show how similar arguments are constructed and presented as persuasive even with clearly visible gaps in them. I do not want to speak for him but I would imagine his point was to show that his statement is equally as weak as others made by Craig in the debate.

    Now, are you saying that you can see the problems with Luis’ example (which is actually a well-established point often raised in discussions of this kind) but cannot see the complications I raised with the cosmological argument?

    5) You may hope to see Luis respond to you in the way that you would like but I see nothing wrong with the manner in which he has chosen to do so.

    His clear argument since the beginning has been about the futility of arguing about a higher power in this way. Yet no matter how clearly he states this point he is continually asked to structure his arguments in the very same way he is trying to say is useless. You are asking him to do something he does not want or need to do because he has already done it.

  127. Paul MacGillivray says:

    One more point I wanted to make the other day is that I do not understand this call for clarification from posters like Tim. Luis has made his points and they have been easily understandable in every case. I find it very strange indeed that other posters keep asking him to make an argument. He’s been doing so for months and has made several in that time.

    With all due respect, Craig’s arguments are nothing new. In fact they and their responses have been thrown back and forth for, in some cases, over a thousand years. Even the relatively new arguments are only slight variations on ideas that were proposed when the Earth was still believed to be flat. They are all as weak as they are strong and are all standard tools in a debate of this kind.

    If you want to know the objections to any of the arguments that Craig presented as evidence jump on Wikipedia for a few minutes and do some reading. It’s all there. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many of the people participating in this discussion are already well aware of the objections.

    It appeals to me as odd indeed that Luis has gone through the trouble of bringing up a few of these and has gotten as a response that they are either false or unclear. First of all Luis’ objections have as long a history as the arguments they are used to refute and are as clear now as the day they were first uttered hundreds of years ago. Second, they are as logical or illogical and as true or as false as anything uttered by Craig.
    The fact that some are quick to see the value in Craig’s points and apparently completely unable to see the value of the responses strikes me as strange and somewhat indicative of an emotional response. If logic is to be the standard by which these ideas are judged then they are at very best equals.

    Luis is quite right in referring to the argument as a game. If Craig is an intelligent man the flaws in his logic should be immediately apparent even to himself. In fact, if either he or Hitchens actually believe their arguments are foolproof (something which would surprise me very much) I would have to say they are not great thinkers and never will be. The fact that both are reticent to bring up the weaknesses in their own arguments only shows how hard they are trying to either convince themselves or convince their listeners or both.

    I mean come on, let’s think this through. Craig opens with his “evidence” which amounts to virtually every single pro-monotheistic argument ever taken seriously by anyone and then throws in some hotly debated historical tidbits which he claims give him good reason to believe in the resurrection. What would you have Hitchens do at that point? Apparently what you think he should have done in order to “win” this debate is rehash the same tired old responses to the same tired old arguments and then attempt to deny the validity of the resurrection.

    My question is why would he do that? He doesn’t have to. It’s been done a thousand times before by the greatest thinkers this world has ever seen and the argument has yet to reach any conclusion that I can detect. Hitchens instead chose to make his own case in his own way. In this particular debate I didn’t feel he was as effective as I have seen him but that’s beside the point. Hitchens only has a certain amount of time. Wasting it on responding to Craig’s invitation to an endless party does not appeal to me as a very strong tactic.

    I truly do not understand the logic (and the apparent glee) of those that were waiting for answers from Hitchens and when they did not get them declared a victory for Craig. Like I said before, if you want to hear or know the responses to everything Craig said you can find them in a heartbeat.

    No one should be surprised when someone rejects unanswerable questions. Asking them is the oldest trick in the book and attempting to answer them is the surest way to lose a debate.

  128. Luis Dias says:

    P.S. I think Hitchens is very very good at just “go along with the flow”, making his own speech as he goes along. Perhaps what made him nervous was the lack of response from the audience, that didn’t give him the confidence he needed.

    Just speculatin.

  129. Luis Dias says:

    No problem Doug, I understand your censorship and appreciate it. It keeps things civilized.

    I should have said, this is a subtlety that escaped you (period)

    My frustration comes in the intuition that my point won’t be understood but recognize that was out of line a bit.

    I do think Hitchens was pretty nervous, not by his sweating, but by his uncoherent ramblings in his first two addresses. He’s usually better than this, and there were sometimes where even I was confused at where he was getting at. But I know his points from other debates, and so I understood at what he was trying to get at. He was as nervous as a good student always is when making an oral exam (?) without having fully prepared the speech.

    Mumbo Jumbo are basically all the arguments he presented. The moral argument was a straw man, the ontological argument is bollocks, the cosmological argument is an appeal to ignorance (because you don’t know how this happened, goddidit) and a fabrication (quoting a scientist that said that before the big bang there was no space. Of course he forgot to mention that such assertion wasn’t the scientific “truth”, but an hypothesis, a speculation about the nature of space-time as having no beggining at all, so it was a complete abuse of the quotation).

    I’m not even starting on the Jesus evidence. He thinks (and wrote it in his book as quoted by Hitchens) that testimonies of faith are more valuable than cold hard evidence of facts. This is rendering to wishful thinking overtly. I’m appalled that the audience didn’t “ahhh” to that, as it was supposed to do. It may well be a “philosophical” audience, but I simply don’t recognize their merits (their questions were also very poor).

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  131. Paul MacGillivray says:

    I think Luis is making a very valid point here about the nature of the arguments that Craig presented. I think though that the discussion requires clarification on some key points. Here goes:

    1) As Luis and myself have already pointed out, Craigs arguments are somewhat compelling (possibly even persuasive) but have definite limits. I will not go into more detail because I believe Luis has made it clear where those limits are found. I, however, would like to take things a step further and say that Hitchens’ arguments are essentially of the same nature: persuasive but by no means irrefutable. I have absolutely no reservation stating that anyone who does not see the limited nature of the arguments presented in this debate has not fully thought them through or is not intellectually honest.

    2) I may or may not agree with a particular point made by either speaker but by agreeing or disagreeing I do not prove anything. For example, I can agree that God’s sudden intervention in Bronze Age Palestine seems suspect or I can agree that objective moral values are only possible through the existence of some kind of guiding force but by doing so I have only stated that I find a particular argument persuasive or I do not.

    3) Even if I agree with every single argument put forth by one speaker or the other I still would not have grounds to claim I have evidence for or against any particular hypothesis. In fact, all I would have is a belief in absence of evidence. All I would be is persuaded.

    4) Any hypothesis must be testable and those tests must provide evidence in order for us to arrive at a theory. Viewed properly, every single argument presented in this debate is simply an hypothesis. Without being scientifically verifiable none of them will ever progress beyond that point.

    5) There is, at this point in human existence, not a single complete theory. In other words, there is no phenomena that we absolutely understand down to its finest inner workings. All of them are subject to revision based on further evidence.

    6) Some arguments are extremely compelling but no matter how persuasive I find them if I cannot test their predictions I cannot take them any further. I can only not dismiss them and wait for more evidence to appear.

    Now, why do I say all of this? This debate is nothing more than an attempt by both speakers to persuade listeners. Neither side has conclusive evidence and as such can only do their best to be as compelling as possible. Put differently, both sides are doing their utmost to make a point in lieu of actual evidence.

    I find it necessary to say this because it appears to me that a great many thinkers confuse this sort of debate with what happens in the scientific community. Allow me to be clear, it is not science and if there is a connection to the scientific method it is only coincidental.

    I am perfectly willing to admit that I see several flaws in Hitchens’ arguments. I am equally willing to admit that I see the same flaws in Craigs’ arguments. In fact, I can reduce all of them to a single flaw. That being: both of them are relying on nothing more than logic in a question that has almost no foundation for testable predictions. I would think a single glance at the history of human thinking would be enough to show just how far from the truth we can get when we follow that path.

    There is only one question to be asked here. It is: who has the burden of proof? I find it odd that neither party, having the burden of proof, would be able to provide a shred of evidence for their hypothesis, but having said that I see no way to even hold this discussion without first answering and then agreeing on the answer to this question.

  132. Doug Geivett says:

    Luis,

    I’m happy to see you and Tim crossing swords on the issue you address again in your note dated and time-stamped 2009/06/18 at 11:38. But I very nearly deleted your comment rather than approving it for others to read. Because of the standards I seek to maintain for discussion at this website, I think I should explain so that it’s better understood by all visitors.

    All but the last line of your message is unquestionably passable. But the last line crosses the line. It is an ad hominem attack against one of my visitors. If a student said this in class, I would ask him to leave the room.

    I caution against smack talk, even in its milder permutations. It’s liable to foster an opinion of the speaker that the speaker believes to be false. But impressions are impressions. I, for one, would discontinue conversation with anyone who persisted in addressing me that way.

    This post about the Craig-Hitchens debate is one of the most heavily trafficked posts on my blog. Despite the deplorable state of so much internet blathering and excoriation of others on the God question, I’m pleased to say that everyone entering the discussion here has contributed, agreeing and disagreeing respectfully. I regret that one comment was submitted that I had to delete. But it pleases me that it has so far been only one.

  133. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello, again, Luis.

    There were other philosophers in the room and I can assure you there weren’t many (if any) who thought Craig was deliberately faking out the audience with high-sounding mumbo jumbo.

    I heard people say that Hitchens was nervous at times. I didn’t think that myself. He was sweating quite a lot, but that’s something he does.

  134. Luis Dias says:

    If you disagree with me here, I’d appreciate an argument.

    You just asserted that it is possible, Tim. But to you and Daig, it is not possible to both claim that God is ineffable and “knowable” without setting aside logic in the first place. You can do that, but if you do, then there’s no really any point in debating, for that requires logic in order to do so.

    And what is a weak divine command theory? Either it is a command theory or not. If you state tertium datur, then you don’t really know if what you’re defending in morals is really true or not, and you’re just as good as a moral relativist.

    But this is a subtlety that escapes you, I’m sure.

  135. Luis Dias says:

    Hello, long time. Just to say that I’ve seen the debate now that it is on youtube, and I must say that I am appalled at the level of criticism that Hitchens has had in this thread and others, apparently some atheist ones.

    I thought Craig was completely bad. Very very bad points. Utterly wrong.

    And Hitchens understood the moral question even better than Craig ever did, and I ever did, so I renounce to what I said earlier in my defense of “objective morals without god”, for it is irrelevant for this debate.

    Hitchens understands perfectly well what are objective moral values and simply dismisses the importance of its existence. What if morals are not “objective”? He is perfectly sound on his equation and Craig only has to offer against this misrepresentation (his misrepresentation on what “Atheism” is was also laughable, at one point he ridicules Hitchens’ version of atheism for apparently being A-Theism, yes it was that bad, and he repeated it twice!), as I said, only has to offer a misrepresentation – Hitchens must concede God exists because Hitchens “obviously” believe objective morality exists, which he did not at all concede (in fact Hitchens politely refers to Craig that “Objective” was not a very common term, that he was referring to “Absolute”, which renders what Craig was saying as more ostensibly religious than “objective” that seems so scientific), or a strawman, Morals only exist if objective.

    Basically I think that Hitchens was a little nervous and was not in his best, but got better over time. But what went wrong for him was that the audience was simply not at his level. Apparently, because of the way Craig was speaking, his philosophy seemed to the untrained thinker as profound, but at points, it just was completely ridiculous, as when Craig refers to Evolution as a “miracle”, quoting bizarre “probabilities” (showing that a theologian should just leave the interpretation of probabilities with the experts) that was so stupid that even Hitchens gave a big smile at it.

    The only points that gave Craig any respect was when he first said that he didn’t want to go into the “secular made more deaths than religious” debate because he was interested in the truth, not in the outcomes of it (but then, as Hitchens had already pointed out, “truth” for Craig is attested better by testimonies of miracles rather than by cold evidence, so it’s a version of “Truth” that I despise and laugh at), and when he said that the problem of evil is that no one fully knows if evil is really a necessary condition for the world to exist or not, and if such possibility exists, then it is not a disproof of God.

    Of course, it’s a cop out, but at least it’s honest.

    All in all, good debate, Hitchens kicked ass, he deserved a more intelligent audience than that.

  136. Tim says:

    Hi Luis,
    I’ll echo Doug’s reply to the issue of ineffability. Moreover, I think propositions (or statements) about God are capable of being either true or false, and as such, can be employed in deductive arguments in the same way that propositions about anything else can–statements about God are treated no differently. For this reason, I disagree that it’s impossible to argue about God using logic. If you disagree with me here, I’d appreciate an argument. As such, there’s no game-playing on my part. I’m just evaluating arguments according to the rules of logic.

    Now, regarding your argument, it differs from any that Craig offers for the existence of God in that it’s invalid, and pretty plainly so. That is, its conclusion doesn’t follow from its premises. I’m also inclined to deny premise (2). I’m not sure exactly what you mean, but it sounds to me that you have some strong version of divine command theory in mind; but I, like many theists, find strong divine command theory implausible.

    Replies like mine (i.e., arguing for the falsity of a premise or showing some inference invalid) are what I’m hoping to see you offer in response to Craig’s arguments. To do a fair job of this, you’ll need to state the arguments accurately and then deal in specifics about exactly where the problem lies.

  137. Doug Geivett says:

    Hey Luis,

    I’m happy to see the discussion here between you and Tim continuing. I’m monitoring the comments with interest (and also to ensure that they continue to reflect mutual respect when there is fundamental disagreement). But I would like to say that the “ineffability” of the godhead need not be interpreted in the way you seem to stipulate. In fact, many theists, myself included, believe that God is know-able. To be sure, there is much about God that will remain beyond our cognitive grasp.

    -Doug

  138. Luis Dias says:

    PS: To prove my point, I can also play that “game”, here’s my own argument:

    1. Objective Moral Values are True;
    2. If Morals come from God, then they are Subjective (subject to God);
    Therefore, God does not exist.

    QED!
    :D

  139. Luis Dias says:

    Tim, it is unsound to use the term “God” as if it was clear and defined from the term that “God” postulates “Objective Moral Facts” or something to that order. In sound logic, it could be that way or the other, for if “God” is an ineffable concept, then you can not infer anything about “God” in a “logic” way. It’s impossible. Like I said, it’s like children debating the superpowers of Galactus.

  140. Tim says:

    Luis,
    Sorry, I must’ve misunderstood how your remark about “well-definedness” related to your charge of unsoundness. I’m not familiar with “perfect establishment,” or how that relates to soundness either. More generally, though, I’m not sure why the talk of definitions right now. An argument is unsound IF AND ONLY IF it makes an invalid inference, contains a false premise, or both.

  141. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi “Voltaire,”

    I’m glad you’ve dropped in. It would be valuable to have an argument from you for one or more of your assertions.

  142. Voltaire says:

    Regardless of how well Craig crafted deductive arguments, the fact of the matter is he is wrong. Perhaps he’d be better off debating an atheistic philosopher if you want such formal argumentation. Its all superflous verbiage which seeks to cover the fact that religious belief is superstitious, inconsistent, contradictory, and at times arbitrary. I agree that the fact that the universe appears to obey laws is mind-blowing, and that there are many things that may be unknowable, but to somehow go from that to saying that a personal good exists who cares about you, and apparently intervenes at seemingly arbitrary times, and sits back and allows innocent people suffer–well that’s wishful thinking.

  143. Luis Dias says:

    Tim, again, I didn’t say that they weren’t well defined, I postulated that they aren’t perfectly established, and sorry for the “Prime Mover”, I am obviously referring to the “First Cause”, or “Uncaused Cause”, or any other babble you often hear from apologetics.

    To start to discuss what “God” can or can not do, what is consistent or not, pressuposes that the terms are even definable, when “God” himself is also usually defined as “innefable”, which means that everything is possible beyond comprehension, ergo, no logic can either prove or disprove his existence, nor even understand him.

    To this end, when I start hearing people trying to seriously defend what God can or can not do, pictures of kids debating what Superman can or cannot do against Batman comes to mind immediately.

    This is probably why Hitchens was right on not taking him on that pathway. If the God’s question is to be answered, this is not the way. Rather, one should look into the consequences of such beliefs into the objective world, and test them in that place, in an inductive manner.

  144. Tim says:

    Hello Luis,
    When Craig uses these notions and terms in his arguments, he doesn’t leave room for guessing what he’s talking about. He defines what he means by ‘God’ and ‘objective morals’. ‘Prime mover’ doesn’t appear in any of his arguments, to my knowledge. And ‘causality’ can be given a pretty clear ostensive definition.

  145. Luis Dias says:

    Tim, thats easy. The soundness of his arguments lie on the pressuposition that his definitions of “Causality”, “Prime Mover”, “Objective Morals” and even “God”, are not only well defined but also perfectly established.

    Case in point, they aren’t at all. Therefore, the kind of conversation that Paul was rightly irritated at is nothing much more sane than that of discussing the number of angels that can dance on top of a pin head.

  146. Tim says:

    Hi Paul,
    I’ll add one more.
    2) “Soundness” is a term of art in logic; it has a very precise meaning. If you want to challenge the soundness of one of Craig’s arguments, you need to be specific about where the problem lies.

  147. Doug Geivett says:

    Paul,

    (5) First, you seem to contradict yourself: “theism” is the new kid on the block, AND theists have had ages to make their case. Which is it? Second, the first sign of a biased commentator is that he thinks there is NO evidence for the position he rejects.

    (6) OK, let me put it this way, then. You don’t speak for all atheists, either in your definition of atheism, in your assessment of the evidence on balance, or in your conception of the value of this long-debated topic. This is simply a factual claim and not a piece of advice.

  148. Paul MacGillivray says:

    1) A format, agreed upon by both parties, is necessary. Beyond that either side can argue in any way they see fit. Craig preferred traditional arguments which of course have the advantage, like all arguments from faith, of being irrefutable. I do not pretend to know the mind of Hitchens (see what I did there?) but I strongly suspect he knows full well nothing has been resolved by hundreds of years of such debates, recognizes their futility and prefers to make his points in the time he has. I don’t blame him. Craig’s game is as old as the debate itself. Bog the other down in arguments that have no answer. Why play it?

    2)An argument that has no answer is not necessarily sound. This is the fallacy that leads people to kill over religion and seems to lead many people to believe they are much more intelligent than they really are. Being able to stand up and say “riddle me this Batman” and then laughing hysterically when your opponent cannot answer does not make your point sound, it makes you a bad actor. Craig’s arguments are no more sound than my assertion that cheese is the root of all evil. He simply knows he can bog Hitchens down in the endless mire of philosophy and score a victory or a draw simply by doing so. It is to Hitchens’ credit he did not play into Craig’s hands.

    3)Great.

    4)These men are not debating the salmon population of a river, they are debating the existence of God. There are no answers to be had at this stage in our existence and both Craig and Hitchens know it. Did you seriously expect to hear infallible arguments or were you expecting Hitchens to come up with witty new challenges to positions held/clung to for hundreds if not thousands of years? Let’s be clear, if Craig does not have to bring anything original to the table neither does Hitchens.

    5)I do not agree with your view on the nature of the God debate. First, I have never seen anything that I would even vaguely call evidence for or against the existence of God. Second, it is my opinion that those who believe in a supernatural caregiver have made a claim they cannot back up despite having had thousands of years of time to do their darndest. In fact it is amazing to me how normally scientific minds can ignore their own methods on these questions. Any hypothesis having had hundreds of years to prove itself or even produce some evidence for itself would long since have been rejected in favour of more promising research. Since when is “you can’t prove that my ideas are wrong” the beginning of the scientific method?

    6)Let me worry about that.

  149. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi, Paul. Thank you for jumping into the conversation. Here are my initial thoughts about your proposals:

    (1) This was a debate, after all. So debate method is appropriate. There are rules of debate, and Craig followed a standard practice. Of course, not everyone is interested in debate. That’s fine.

    (2) You seem to think that long-standing arguments for a position are rendered futile simply because they are long-standing. But the soundness of an argument does not change over time.

    (3) Minds are changed by the exchange of ideas and the consideration of arguments for competing worldviews. You’re making an argument in your comment, and you may succeed in persuading some readers of this post.

    (4) Since you don’t say what you mean by “prove,” I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “Neither will be able to prove the truth of their perspectives.” I’m puzzled by this because I have no idea how you could know this.

    (5) I don’t think it really matters who is the new kid on the block. I think this figure of speech doesn’t capture what is salient. If you’re interested in the truth on the question of God’s existence, then you’ll want to consider all relevant evidence, for and against. Any atheist, or theist, for that matter, can beg off and leave it to the other to make his or her case to his satisfaction. I’m not into that. I prefer a discussion with people who agree that this is an important question, that it matters what’s true, and that the best way to get at or approximate the truth is to consider the relevant evidence for and against.

    (6) I think it’s risky for you to speak for all atheists.

  150. Paul MacGillivray says:

    It seems to me that dragging a debate into the mire of absurdity that always results from a discussion of this type is worth the inevitable criticism from those who would like to hear answers. Craig’s arguments are nothing new and the responses to them are equally ancient. Any one of them can easily be reduced to the simple belief that they are nonsensical. In other words, throw any good argument for God’s existence out and you will eventually get an equally good argument for nonexistence. Hitchens was quite correct in not going down that road. It’s boring, only appeals to a small segment of academia and has been done to death a million times over.

    For example: everything has a cause therefore so must the universe and therefore that cause must be a prime mover. Even accepting the argument as legitimate it does nothing to advance the discussion. One side will come down in favour of God and the other will not. Neither will be able to prove the truth of their perspectives and, in all likelihood, are discussing a point no human has ever fully understood or is even in a position to dispute.

    What I saw was Craig trying to force Hitchens to play the game by his rules and Hitchens refusing to do so. I am not surprised by this as both are fairly consistent in their approaches to debates of this kind. Hitchens does not view the subject as belonging to any one field of study while Craig seems to believe, as many philosophers do, that questions of this sort should only be discussed in terms of philosophy.

    Anyway, putting all of that aside, I should offer something of my own view. Atheism is frequently held to be some sort of opposition to God. I do not see it this way. Atheism is a reaction to a relatively new worldview that has yet to prove its validity. In other words, theism is the new kid on the block and as such is required to provide evidence for its ideas. Atheism simply questions the evidence offered by the theistic side.

    Put better still, atheists are the people that have not been convinced by any of the evidence put forth by theists. In terms of what atheism means I can go no further without making assumptions I do not wish to make.

  151. Luis Dias says:

    Doug, I said I would finish, but I’ve read your reply and wanted only to correct some ambiguous things:

    (3) I can see and measure atoms, even if only by using instruments. I could even say that without any instrument at all, I cannot see (the eye as an instrument);

    (4) That is right, you cannot do anything without commiting yourself to something. That doesn’t require anything supernatural, only, gasp, brains, competition and time! I’ll explain. If you have someone who posits that commitment and other who doesn’t (believes the universe is unintelligible), the first will always come up with something interesting about the universe, while the latter will always come up with pseudo-poetic babble. The first will always be more interesting than the second. Self-selection applies, science emerges.

    Anyway, this has more to do with the usefulness of religion than of its truth (religion as prosthesis)

    (6) Most cosmologists hope that ST will prove itself to be a good theory. Many others are in the sidelines frustrated with it, for they don’t see how it can be tested in the foresseable future;

    (7) Spooky is fine if proven beyond any doubt. Spooky in QM has been thoroughfully tested because scientists hated it for so long. Not only it is “spooky”, as it is measured with an astonishing precision.

    Doesn’t excuse “ordinary” spookiness. In order to “ordinary” spookiness to be valid, it has to have the same amount of checking QM has had;

    (8) It’s not unintelligible, it’s queer, that is, it works in a very different way from what we are used to in our ordinary lifes. It’s logic is different. It’s not unintelligible.

    (9) Therefore, Goddidit? That’s God of the Gaps in a nutshell.

    (10) Science doesn’t require theleological explanations. It simply emerges out of an organized society of intelligent beings, with an interest for the cosmos.

    Now I promise I go away!!!! Thanks

    Luis

  152. Doug Geivett says:

    Right you are, Tim. Thanks to you, I’ve corrected it.

  153. Tim says:

    Doug,
    I think you meant to say in point #4 that you cannot do science without making certain metaphysical commitments. As it reads right now, you said you can.
    Tim

  154. Doug Geivett says:

    Luis,

    You’re right, this has to end somewhere.

    (1) Craig’s point is that the naturalist has yet to produce a satisfactory account of the objectivity of morality. That is an assertion, of course. But more important, it’s an invitation to the naturalist to produce a viable explanation. If the naturalist has one, then it’s “game on” and Craig will need to respond. Mind you, the naturalist explanation should be superior to any theistic explanation.

    (2) It does matter. Science is in principle ill-prepared to deal with “gaps” of a certain kind. It simply isn’t plausible to think that science will explain the phenomena of the origin of the universe, first life, human consciousness, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. I develop this point more fully in my chapter on “The Evidential Value of Miracles,” in a book I co-edited with Gary Habermas: In Defense of Miracles. And science can’t explain the success of science, or why knowledge is possible by means of scientific practice.

    (3) Your conception of science in this point is in conflict with your affinity for the invisible in science (like quanta).

    (4) You cannot do science without making certain metaphysical commitments. So your argument undermines the value of science.

    (5) I’m not using “religious” in a pejorative sense, here. I’m calling attention to the religious character of the ideology of scientism.

    (6) So you agree that scientists disagree about something so fundamental. What explains the disagreement?

    (7) So “spooky” is OK with you. Just wanted to know, since some in the scientism camp object to the existence of immaterial minds on the grounds that they’re too spooky.

    (8) If QM is unintelligible or incoherent, then it is no use trying to explain something else in terms of QM.

    (9) My point, exactly. So all bets are off as to what sort of event the Big Bang was, insofar as a physical description is concerned. QM does not clearly apply.

    (10) It’s still not clear what you think science is.

    Good chat! See you.

  155. Luis Dias says:

    Doug, thanks for the feedback.

    I’ll sketch mine and I think I’ll end it. It starts to feel as a never ending tautology :D, but I guess this debate will always be so, due to the nature of it (yes, got to make a little materialistic gotcha into that sentence).

    (1) It doesn’t matter if it is repeated or not, I’m just stating how the moral argument stands. It’s stated, naturalism (as Craig understands it, note) cannot account for morality, therefore only an external source can, therefore God. It always starts with the presumption that natural forces aren’t sufficient to explain morality, but of course this is merely asserted out of ignorance of such theories, whose first principles and ideas are already produced by science;

    (2) Doesn’t matter;

    (3) Naturalism is different from supernaturalism, in the sense that I can see nature, and that counts a lot. If someone posits a theory in which all that is visible is enough to explain what is happening and the other has to postulate a “super”naturalism, the first one wins. Always, think about it;

    (4) I think you are not aknowledging the “idea” of science. Science is an objective method to acquire knowledge. It’s only that. If you can do it without making equations and dress white coats, fine by me. The problem with theologian methaphysics is that it is completely subjective, and everyone has his very own methaphysics. It has to be this way, for there is no objective external method of deciding who’s right and who’s wrong;

    (5) Hubris is a sin, yes, and it may get religious. I find it funny that you use the term “religious” as a perjorative one. Freudian slip maybe?

    (6) String Theory is not “vacuous” at all. While it has been laughed at by many scientists, it remains the best candidate for a TOE, and it has produced a lot of amazing, brilliant science. This is not platonism. Furthermore, the LHC will bring good light unto it;

    (7) “Spooky” things have been already discovered by science, it’s quite routine now. Consider the “observer effect”, for instance, if you want to fry your brains out :). It makes no sense at all, and yet, the theory works like a charm;

    (8) Quite the opposite, QM is queer, and if the universe started with a Big Bang, it started in a singularity “point”. But there are no “points” in the universe, for in miniscule scales, QM is king, and yes, it is queer.

    So I’m not evading, I’m stating a mere fact. The kickstart of the universe is still outside the realms of our understanding of it, and surely of our “common sense”;

    (9) The problem is the definition of the singularity, and while there are QM mechanisms, it isn’t solved. And the Bing Bang was exactly not “one garden-variety quantum event”, it was probably the most complex event ever considered by QM;

    (10) No. See (3). Occam’s razor is enough for me, as it is what I also do with ghost theories, UFO theories, etc. (not comparing thematics, only methods of dismissing unfalsifiable theories).

    Best,
    Luis

  156. Doug Geivett says:

    I sense your enthusiasm, Luis, but it isn’t as simple as you suggest.

    (1) Repeating the “God-of-the-gaps” rejoinder to every theistic argument is evidence of special pleading.
    (2) There are gaps, and then there are GAPS. Not all anomalies are equal in their metaphysical implications.
    (3) It could as easily be said that naturalists, who have no compelling argument that naturalism is true, invoke a “naturalism-of-the-gaps,” or even a “mysticism-of-the-gaps.” Some naturalists do this openly (Colin McGinn explicitly acknowledge this with regard to the problem of human consciousness, for example).
    (4) Naive scientism ignores the significance of metaphysical arguments, thinking there must be some “scientific argument” for every conclusion and a “scientific explanation” for every phenomenon. This cuts the legs from under scientific practice and leads to shabby scientific practice.
    (5) It is increasingly clear that scientism is a religious attitude and not a neutral and objective intellectual stance.
    (6) So-called scientific theories that are considered candidates for replacing the big bang cosmology are almost completely mathematical constructs. Physicists who acknowledge this can hardly even explain what this means, much less what it means regarding the status of their “theories,” and why they should be taken seriously when they are empirically vacuous.
    (7) Explaining the origin of time is going to be a pretty serious challenge for science. What is science if not an enterprise whose scope is inherently tied to the spatio-temporal realm? What you’re suggesting would not be science, but something so “spooky” that materialists, physicalists, most contemporary naturalists, should (by their own standards) shun like the plague.
    (8) It won’t do to talk of the queerness of quantum physics as an excuse for the sake of salvaging naturalism. It can’t be so queer that it’s unintelligible or incoherent, since it’s being used to explain something else that is mysterious.
    (9) The Origin of the Universe (including time) is not your garden-variety quantum event. So it’s specious to extrapolate from what is “observed” at the quantum level within the universe to some First Quantum Event. Garden-variety quantum events, insofar as they are understood at all, occur under physical conditions governed by physical causal laws.
    (10) It sounds like your reason for asserting that Craig does not “prove” his claim about the link between God and ethics is that the only evidence, argument, or proof you accept is “scientific,” in some yet to be defined (and defended) sense.

  157. Luis Dias says:

    Doug, I’ve found out a big flaw in Craig’s moral argument reasoning.

    He states that objective morals couldn’t exist without a god, but never proves the assertion.

    Again, it is just an unfounded assertion of design. Because no one can figure out how morals can come about naturally (not true, but for the sake of argument), then “goddidit”.

    I think all the arguments for god can be summed up as this god-of-the-gaps argument.

    The same could be said of the creation of the universe, as well pointed out by Jake. Nowhere is said that the universe came about from a state of nothingness, nor can it ever be said anything like that.

    Curiously, there are some prospects that String Theory, when “figured out”, could give us a good picture of the universe “before” the big bang (take “before” with the caveat that perhaps time didn’t exist “before” the big bang, but that’s a sign on how queer quantum mechanics is, not on the lack of soundness of positing something “before” the big bang).

  158. ptah says:

    Doug, please point out where he has reasoning instead of assertion and I’ll give it a stab.

  159. Pingback: Kyrkans framtid » Blog Archive » Christopher Hitchens och William Lane Craig debatten

  160. jake says:

    Well, a good place to start is Craig’s baseless claim that science posits that universe sprang from a state of nothingness. Science says no such thing.

  161. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Matt,

    The challenge, if you disagree with Craig, is to identify a flaw in his reasoning.

  162. Matt says:

    So Hitchens faltered, he was ill prepared and Craigs delivery was solid. Does this make Craig right?

    No.

  163. Luis Dias says:

    Matt,

    I thought I wouldn’t get anymore answers, thanks for the reply.

    2. (1 is finished) There is a difference between authority and dictatorship, one that is easily settled by means of finding out how this authority is given. In a democracy, the authority of policemen, courts, etc., is ultimately given by the people, for even accounting the separation of institutions, the law that everybody is judged by is always defined by representatives of the people. It is an imperfect system (as all human things are), but ideologically correct, for the authority in the society ultimately rests on the citizen himself. This is evident in many authority mottos, which are guided by the principle of “to serve, not to dictate”.

    Dictatorship is by definition something unnappealing to, unalterable, unchangeable, unimpeachable, that isn’t accountable to no one but himself.

    Clearly, the difference is staggering. God here is the ultimate ruler, a dictator of the last sort. He isn’t “voted” by anyone, he hasn’t any accountability to do, etc.

    What Hitchens said and I agree fully, is that this in itself is an evil idea, that it is the very seed of the idea of totalitarianism. If you can conceive, as you apparently do, a perfect, almighty, supergood, etc. being, then you will build up a moral system in which you will be subdued to all such being’s teachings and wants, for they are all perfect.

    The problem easily follows. Because we have no evidence this being exists nor that it does communicate such warrants, all we are left is with the *possibility* of such being be the case, and if you add the notion that *some* people have better communication schemes with this deity than others, all we end up having is some people commanding and judging others by what they (the judged and commanded, pay attention) believe is the *ultimate* moral, without any kind of external control of it being truly God’s will or not.

    This happened in fascist countries all around europe, but it started way before in history of course (divine rights of kings, pharaos and the like).

    This has nothing to do with the paradox you mentioned.

    2.1

    Finally, you state that my claim that God is good is asserted with no evidence. That is, unfortunately, a circular argument

    There is a fundamental difference in the affirmation of: “God exists (because moral obligation exist)” and “God is Good”, so your reasoning is lacking here, I am not starting where I finish. What you suggest here is slightly different, is that because moral obligations exist, hence God exists, hence God is Good (for morality comes from Him).

    But what I said is that the last jump does not necessarily follow from the first jump. One could easily picture a Good and Bad God, a Ying and Yang sort of a thing, that could describe the paths of Goodness (Morals). Even a Demon could define morals, by behaving exactly the opposite of them (just as we aknowledge that drinking moderately is good when we see a drunk making a fool of himself in a bar).

    3.…the objection you raised to divine command theories applies with equal force to secular theories

    Wrong. I’m not saying that the problem with divine command theories is that they are imperfect, as obviously they all are and were throughout history, but that they claim to be perfect because they are divine. Secular theories make no such claims and are always open to debate. It is this difference that makes divine command theories wrong and dangerous.

    Now I’d aknowledge that most (most) christians do not regard their morals as *direct* commands from God, they see that many decisions (the most complex ones, like condoms for instance) have to be though out by some kind of a ministry of priests who then interpret god’s will, and that these theories are debated.

    Which is an hilarious giveaway if you think about it. What they are really doing is a hybrid of a sorts.

    In either case, be it secular moral or theistic moral, what you always must do is to discuss morality as if no one has such direct communication, nor even indirect (through theology or the likes). Because the moment you do that, you are claiming to have more knowledge about something by unsupporting means than the others that don’t agree with you. And this is no way to discuss anything.

    4. First, I’d like to say there is no veiled insult, and you misinterpreted me completely in this point. My point isn’t that you don’t understand naturalistic evolved morals, nor that such explanations do exist, but that because they are such good explanations, the first jump I stated above (Moral Obligations exist, hence God exists) is no longer obvious nor needed.

    That is, the moral argument pressuposes there is no natural explanation for morals, hence only the God hypothesis can explain morals. But they do exist, hence the moral argument fails to support anything. It stopped being a supporting evidence and started to be a compability defense (in the sense of, God is compatible with moral obligations, in contrast with, God is proven with moral obligations).

    The most brilliant atheist of the last century, J L Mackie, believed that one could not give a naturalistic account of morality

    Well, if he stated it, either he *wasn’t* that brilliant, or he simply was unaware of them. I’ve summed up the reasoning up here, the points are all clear and simple, and I’ve yet to see any moral obligations that these “can’t” explain.

    5. First I never call anyone names in any discussion. I called your reasoning simplistic and insulting to you, which is supposed to be read as a double negative. Arguments aren’t people, and adult intelligent people often do simplistic and childish arguments, I know I do, hence the sayin’, errare humanum est.

    The fact your position entails contradictory answers does not provide a defence of it.

    Yes it does entail contraditory answers, as all moral dillemas that have been eventually solved throughout history had. This is not a defence, it is simply an obvious aknowledgement. If rape, murder and theft hadn’t their pros, they wouldn’t even be considered in legislation (perhaps in footnotes).

    What I said is that rape also entails enormous suffering, and thus it has been secularly decided by the people that this shouldn’t be allowed, for the joy of the rapist is at the expense of other’s suffering. This has to do with the Golden Rule, or the obvious take that for everybody to be free, everyone has to respect other people’s freedoms. To rape, to steal, to kill is to go against other people’s freedoms, to oppress them.

    I put it to you that this is absurd.

    Show why, you haven’t. Simply put, no one has any moral judgement on any action that they do not know about. When one makes the assumption that it did occur, then it is immoral, not before. Let’s see this through.

    a) Provided that the rape has been concealed, then yes, it wasn’t immoral, but then again, it wasn’t concealed to the rapist himself, who is also a human being that shares moral values with the rest of the society (even though may like to rape). To him it is immoral and he knows it (and will account for it himself, and will hurt him ever after);

    b) If he doesn’t know or does not accept this moral value, then no immorality occurred, for the only person accounting this immoral action would have been himself;

    c) Notice though that what makes you say that this is “absurd” is the paradoxical position we are in, for we are postulating a rape. In this sense, we are “witnesses” of it, and thus the action itself becomes immoral (for we are moral agents). But once again, this does not occur before that;

    d) That is, the paradox (the absurdity) happens when we posit an action that has no witnesses while we are intelectually witnessing it;

    e) There is no one that can actually know the future, and thus, no one really knows if this action can be concealed perfectly, nor can really predict if his actions will be without suffering. Hence, while suffering may have been avoided by sheer luck or careful planning, the decision was still a bad one, for it contained the possibility of creating suffering, even if it didn’t actually;

    f) This is beside the point; you stated that what is wrong is what causes unhappiness and a dead person doesn’t have emotions.

    There are many scenarios we are discussing. I was invoking one in which the victim had people that cared about him, or one where the rapist is someone with a conscience.

    g) The prime point of “raping” without bad consequences is really an oxymoron in almost every case imaginable, and in everyone an impossible decision to take, for it takes for granted things that aren’t in anyone’s power to determine.

    Thanks.

  164. Matt says:

    Luis we agree on 1. As for the rest:

    2. First, if you define a dictator as ‘someone who dictates’ then all authorities (governments, police, etc) are dictators. After all, the government can dictate what I can and cannot do, the police can stop me and dictate that I answer their questions; hence, they are, by your definition, dictators and thus evil. Anarchism is the logical implication of this contention.

    Second you say dictatorships (as you define the term) are evil. I am not so sure. If a person was a dictator (by your definition) but also was completely wise, fully informed, perfectly good and benevolent, then I am not convinced that there would be a problem with following such a person’s commands.

    You suggest that a dictator is evil because it violates our right to freedom. I don’t see the force of this. Suppose right and wrong are constituted by divine commands, the restrictions on our freedom, then, will simply be our freedom to do what is wrong. But this is true whether or not you ground morality in Gods commands. Suppose you ground the principles of morality in some natural property, our freedom will still be restricted by those principles. It is hard to see how the fact our freedom is restricted counts against divine command theory and not against secular theory as it is an implication of both.

    It seems to me your position is incoherent here. After all, if it is unjust to restrict our freedom in certain ways then an all knowing, perfectly good, dictator would know this, and further, being good, he would not do it. On the other hand, if it is not unjust to restrict our freedom in these ways then there is no problem with him doing so. I am inclined to think, then, that it is impossible for a perfectly good dictator to restrict our freedom unjustly.

    Finally, you state that my claim that God is good is asserted with no evidence. That is, unfortunately, a circular argument. We are discussing Craig’s moral argument: hence we are discussing the question of whether the existence of moral obligations provide evidence for the existence of God (where God is understood as a perfectly good, omniscient being). To argue that moral obligations do not provide evidence for God’s existence because there is no evidence for his existence, is to beg the very question at issue. If the moral argument is sound then there is evidence for his existence.

    3. [you have labelled two points as “2.”], Here we simply have assertions that theism is a “cognitive cheat” and “sabotage’s” ethics etc. Apart from that, you concede my point, the objection you raised to divine command theories applies with equal force to secular theories. As such, this objection cannot show that secular theories are superior to theistic ones nor can it provide a reason for preferring secular theories over religious ones.

    4 . [your 3.] As far as I can tell there is no real response here. You simply assert that secular theories are sufficient but that’s just an assertion. You assert there is good evidence against these theories, but again, that is just an assertion. You then state that any intelligent, unprejudiced person can understand a “naturalistic” account of the origins of morals.

    Three things here: first, the issue is not whether one can understand a naturalistic account of the origins of morality, it is whether one agrees that such and account successfully explains the existence of moral obligations or do so as successfully as theistic accounts do. Second, your argument here is simply a veiled insult, it essentially states that if someone disagrees with you they are an unintelligent bigot it. Thirdly, the statement is clearly false. There are plenty of intelligent unprejudiced people who do not accept that naturalism can account for moral obligation. The most brilliant atheist of the last century, J L Mackie, believed that one could not give a naturalistic account of morality. The numerous atheists who defend an error theory also accept this. Finally, calling something “God of the gaps” is not a rebuttal. If there is a phenomenon that theism explains better than naturalism then that is evidence for theism.

    5 . [Your 4.] First, you respond here by insinuating that I am childish and simplistic. That, however, is not an argument.

    Second, you note that rape often causes suffering to its victims. I agree the problem is that it also causes joy for the rapist. If as you say, rightness is “what causes happiness and joy” then it follows that rape is right. Of course given your definition of wrongness, “that which causes suffering and pain,” rape is also wrong. The fact your position entails contradictory answers does not provide a defence of it.

    Third, you suggest that the rapist will not be happy because he will be put in jail. This, however, has things backwards, we put people in jail because we consider there actions to be wrong; hence, an action’s wrongness cannot depend on putting someone in jail.

    Your fourth response is to state that if rape does not cause harm then it is not wrong. I provided some cases where it doesn’t and yet no one, including you, accepts rape is acceptable in these cases so this claim is not true.

    Fifth, you respond to these cases by saying the women would suffer if she knew it had happened, but that does not shows that the rape causes harm; it shows that believing one has been raped causes harm. All that follows, then, from your definition is that it is wrong for victims of such rape to be informed of it. Provided the rape stays concealed it is not wrong because the victim is not harmed and the rapist is happy. I put it to you that this is absurd.

    Finally, you suggest that rape of a corpse disrespects the memory of the person. This is beside the point; you stated that what is wrong is what causes unhappiness and a dead person doesn’t have emotions. Yes you can disrespect people without causing them to suffer but that is precisely the point, actions can be wrong even if they do not cause suffering, and hence, wrongness cannot be identified with that which causes suffering.

  165. Luis Dias says:

    Matt,

    Thanks for your reply. Let me answer your points.

    1. I do understand the difference you stated in Hitchen’s defence of the moral argument, nor do I want to defend him on that subject.

    2. You don’t rebut a position by describing it in pejorative terms such as “celestial dictator”

    It is neither perjorative nor otherwise. It is like it is (a dictator is someone who dictates). Doug replied well, positing that what I was making was to bring one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma. You misrepresented what I said, by comparing God with human dictatorship, that was neither my case nor Hitchens’. The case is that dictatorship on itself is an evil proposition be it divine or human for, one, it undermines human freedom a priori at its very core, and, second, is the very ideological basis for totalitarianism, a word coined in european right-wing christian fascist countries (I know it personally, I live in one such a country with that history).

    The other assumption you make is that God, if exists, is perfectly good. It is not an impossible hypothesis, but merely asserted, as all divinely inspired kings, emperors, popes, pharaos, etc. also asserted of their own justice. The evidence of that is also lacking so we’re talking about wishful thinking.

    2. Presumably then, by Luis’ logic, secular ethics is problematic?

    As all things human are. But that isn’t my problem, for I am not saying that these ethics are divine, perfect, “natural”, etc. It is precisely when one enters the ethical discussions with the presumption that one is embebbed with a divine truth that the discussion is hijacked and sabotaged. Only coming down to our senses and aknowledging that we’re here for each other and we have to design our moral system without resorting to cognitive cheats will we stand a chance to evolve.

    3. But simply asserting that is not an argument any more than a theist asserting that the athiest’s belief in the existence of moral properties, such as right and wrong, (a concept which is arguably harder to prove the existence of by scientific means that theism is) is wishful thinking.

    The naturalist explanations for moral are sufficient, and require not any supernatural additions. Poincaré was once asked by Napoleon, after showing him his own model of the solar system, where God was in his system. Poincaré simply stated that he needed not that “hypothesis”. I state the same.

    But notice that the positions aren’t symetrical. While theists accuse atheists of wishful thinking when believing morals can exist without God, I was saying that theists are wishful thinking when they postulate that they cannot, a priori. If you are careful, you’ll see that this is again, the God of the gaps (that which isn’t explained by science, goddidit), and furthermore, it is an unproven assertion when all the evidence points out the reverse. It is not that difficult to understand the origins of morals in naturalistic terms, if you leave your prejudices behind and think hard on it.

    4.The problem is that there are obvious counter examples to this. Some rapists enjoy raping – Ted Bundy said he did – hence, if something is good if it causes “happiness and joy,” then rape can be good.

    Please, we are adults speaking here. Don’t insult yourself with that simplistic take on such a simple moral dillema. Morality isn’t born only on the individual, but also on the social. Yes, it may have caused joy to the rapist, but it caused great suffering to the victim. Today we consider that the suffering of rape is too great for it ever be justified by any “inner bursts” a savage might have, but it wasn’t always so, as the Bible for instance, testifies. Clearly, we’ve evolved :).

    Also, I was saying that for the sake of argument, enough people want happiness and joy. A rapist might be happy in the moment, but won’t be so in the decades spent on jail.

    Moreover, rape can also be carried out so as to not cause any pain or suffering, a doctor who rapes an unconscious patient, for example. Hence if wrongness is what causes suffering and pain this sort of rape is not wrong.

    If rape could be certain not to cause any pain or suffering, then you would be right. But of course, even your example is unfortunate in that regard. In your example, the doctor may inflict damage upon the patient, may cause psychological damage to the patient when he knows what happened, may cause similar damage to any other people knowing the event. I think it is also not a good thing for the doctor himself.

    Even the rape of a dead body is a bad thing, for it is a disrespect for the memory of the person.

    Anyway, morals aren’t only “decided” rationally and with “scientific” criteria. It is also a gusto, a taste, an intuition we have.

  166. Luis Dias says:

    Doug,

    Here’s a feedback of mine to your carefully crafted reply. I also thank for your bulleting numbers for ease of discussion :). I’ll bullet with letters my own arguments so there will be less confusion.

    (a) I would think Hitchens would argue the way I imagined, and I understand your numbers (1) to (4).

    (b) In response to (6), I’d say sure, but I’ve yet to find a non-convoluted moral argument that doesn’t have simpler answers in purely materialistic / naturalistic terms.
    (c) I’d also say that what begins to be asserted as a argument for the existence of God usually transforms itself to an argument not against God, that is, from attacking to defensive (normally due to (b)).
    (d) I agree with your take on moral principles, of course, I was simplifying too much. I agree with the entirety of your argument until the sentence “How does God enter the picture”, with a slight caveat.
    (e) The caveat is that even those moral principles, truths and facts emerge from the facts of nature as they currently stand on our universe, our planet and our relationship with either nature or eachother. That is, they don’t exist by themselves, but are contingent on us being here on time and space.
    (f) You then confuse things and argue from design. You say that we are created as being moral agents, and, coincidence of coincidences, the universe is designed to be such a cosmos where moral significance is possible. Instead, the reverse is true, it is our own morals that have adapted to the human condition, in a very similar manner of a way as in darwinian explanations. And this is verifiable in history too, where morals did evolve, not only due to the changing societies (and technologies), but also due to ethical inquiry, trial and error.
    (g) I do not see where you get from the fact that non enforcing laws are meaningless to the argument that this proves “God’s relevance”. The only thing you did is to point out that moral laws have to be enforced in some way, and the answers are as obvious as multiple. We usually do this because (g1) we’re moral natural beings, that is, we are genetically predisposed to understand and obey moral principles (as animals do, and population survival explain this very well and flawlessly), (g2) we’re culturally reinforced to obey these moral principles (by education), and (g3) we give both credit and guilt (socially) to those that deserve it. There’s also a fourth accountability which is by our own conscience (g4). Now, this system ain’t perfect, and yes, many people will die with their moral atrocities unnacounted for. But not everything in life is just, it is just the way it is. To say that accountability must necessarily exist is mere wishful thinking.
    (h) I think I’ve clarified your question of (7). I generally agree with your definition of morals, just not their origin.
    (i) ” Hitchens is most naturally interpreted in a way that forbids him to allow the kind of moral relativism alluded to in stating your view.” Well, I’m not moral relativist, which is to say, I believe that there are always better morals than others, and they are to be fought about, because if no one does, the idea of a better moral fails to exist. That is, it is very important to fight for better morals, precisely because there is always the danger of them not surviving, or not winning the social debate.
    (j) I think I’ve already answered (9). There are actions and consequences, irreversibly (arrow of time), and there are multiple ways of dealing with ourselves and the world around us, but only very few do bring us closer to our own purposes as a thriving society and happy human beings (The assumption is of course, that we wish to be happy, but I don’t think an alarming number of humans don’t, for the sake of the argument). Those finite ways are summed up nicely in moral guidelines. The caveat is that these aren’t divinely defined, they are hard learnt and teached, and aren’t necessarily perfect. They are just the best ones we’ve come to this far.

    Thank you for the interchange.

  167. Matt says:

    Knowing that Hitchens repeats ad nauseum his own rhetorical speeches over and over, with little adaptation to each one of his debaters, I’m almost sure he invoked the idea of not having to defer to the “celestial dictatorship” to know what’s wright and wrong.

    The problem is that defenders of the moral argument do not claim that you need God to know what’s right and wrong, they claim that God is necessary for moral properties like right and wrong to exist. This is simply a confusion between ontological and epistemological questions and actually reiterates Doug’s point that Hitchens misunderstands the moral argument.

    Morals are the rules by which we try to be good or evil. I’ll leave the problem of goodness to explain afterwards. They are chosen rules, and here the moral argument is that without an ultimate reference, there is no moral. What Hitchens says about not referring to the “celestial dictatorship” is that if we assume that is a celestial entity that defines what is right or what is wrong, then all that is happening is that we are merely obeying orders (do this, do that), hence we are nothing but slaves to a dictator.

    You don’t rebut a position by describing it in pejorative terms such as “celestial dictator”. You need to actually offer an argument.
    Luis’ argument seems to me to be unsound. He suggests that if our moral obligations are constituted by divine commands then we are “merely slaves to a dictator,” which is presumably a criticism of the theory. The problem is that the word dictator has certain conations which don’t apply in the context of the moral argument. God is all knowing, he is perfectly good and incorruptible, hence it’s not possible for his commands to ever be malicious or mistaken. A human dictator, however, is of roughly the same intelligence as everyone else, frequently ignorant, bigoted, corrupted by power and brutal. Hence, one cannot legitimately draw conclusions about following earthly dictators and then apply these to the question as to whether we should follow Gods commands as the situations are dis-analogous.

    I’m not even starting on the problem that many religions have different sets of morals, all testifying that theirs is the “ultimate”, because it was god himself that created them. And I won’t because Hitchens probably didn’t say it (a slight “probably”).

    The same applies to secular sets of morals; utilitarians, kantians, virtue theorists, contractualists, etc all have different sets of morals and all disagree over what the ultimate foundation of morality is. Presumably then, by Luis’ logic, secular ethics is problematic?

    If apologists continue to press that this doesn’t rebut anything and the argument stands, its because they aren’t understanding the semantics of the reply.

    No, it is because, as I pointed out, it is not a good argument. Hitchens’ confusion of epistemology and ontology and the use of pejorative and misleading analogies about dictators and appeals to disagreements among religious ethics that apply with equal force to secular ethics are not good arguments.

    What theists don’t understand very well is that the notion that morals only exist if god exists is an unproven assertion, not backed up by anything other than wishful thinking by the part of the believers, and one that atheists don’t believe, period.

    Of course if you assert that theism is merely wishful thinking then you’re correct. But simply asserting that is not an argument any more than a theist asserting that the athiest’s belief in the existence of moral properties, such as right and wrong, (a concept which is arguably harder to prove the existence of by scientific means that theism is) is wishful thinking.

    Said other way, believers believe that morals are, by definition, the wants and want nots of a god, then of course an atheist is either immoral or not aknowledging god. But atheists don’t have that definition of moral or ethics.

    Again, simply describing a position pejoratively as “arbitrarily dictated” is not an argument. There have been arguments made by defenders of divine command theories that contest that their position is arbitrary. Hitchens could have read these and attempted to refute them, he did not.

    What is Right or Wrong isn’t something arbitrarily dictated by someone, but a fundamental distinction between something that causes pain and suffering, and other that causes happiness and joy.

    The problem is that there are obvious counter examples to this. Some rapists enjoy raping – Ted Bundy said he did – hence, if something is good if it causes “happiness and joy,” then rape can be good. Moreover, rape can also be carried out so as to not cause any pain or suffering, a doctor who rapes an unconscious patient, for example. Hence if wrongness is what causes suffering and pain this sort of rape is not wrong.

    And if you want evidence for either of these just think on the amount of times that morals have changed. Is that a sign that morals are absolute and unchangeable, or more that morals are a human construct for the benefit of themselves, something that is very hard to build and maintain and fight for, just as been done in the centuries past, mostly against theologians, I might add?

  168. Matt says:

    Knowing that Hitchens repeats ad nauseum his own rhetorical speeches over and over, with little adaptation to each one of his debaters, I’m almost sure he invoked the idea of not having to defer to the “celestial dictatorship” to know what’s wright and wrong.

    The problem is that defenders of the moral argument do not claim that you need God to know what’s right and wrong, they claim that God is necessary for moral properties like right and wrong to exist. This is simply a confusion between ontological and epistemological questions and actually reiterates Doug’s point that Hitchens misunderstands the moral argument.

    Morals are the rules by which we try to be good or evil. I’ll leave the problem of goodness to explain afterwards. They are chosen rules, and here the moral argument is that without an ultimate reference, there is no moral. What Hitchens says about not referring to the “celestial dictatorship” is that if we assume that is a celestial entity that defines what is right or what is wrong, then all that is happening is that we are merely obeying orders (do this, do that), hence we are nothing but slaves to a dictator.

    You don’t rebut a position by describing it in pejorative terms such as “celestial dictator”. You need to actually offer an argument.
    Luis’ argument seems to me to be unsound. He suggests that if our moral obligations are constituted by divine commands then we are “merely slaves to a dictator,” which is presumably a criticism of the theory. The problem is that the word dictator has certain conations which don’t apply in the context of the moral argument. God is all knowing, he is perfectly good and incorruptible, hence it’s not possible for his commands to ever be malicious or mistaken. A human dictator, however, is of roughly the same intelligence as everyone else, frequently ignorant, bigoted, corrupted by power and brutal. Hence, one cannot legitimately draw conclusions about following earthly dictators and then apply these to the question as to whether we should follow Gods commands as the situations are dis-analogous.

    I’m not even starting on the problem that many religions have different sets of morals, all testifying that theirs is the “ultimate”, because it was god himself that created them. And I won’t because Hitchens probably didn’t say it (a slight “probably”).

    The same applies to secular sets of morals; utilitarians, kantians, virtue theorists, contractualists, etc all have different sets of morals and all disagree over what the ultimate foundation of morality is. Presumably then, by Luis’ logic, secular ethics is problematic?

    If apologists continue to press that this doesn’t rebut anything and the argument stands, its because they aren’t understanding the semantics of the reply.

    No, it is because, as I pointed out, it is not a good argument. Hitchens’ confusion of epistemology and ontology and the use of pejorative and misleading analogies about dictators and appeals to disagreements among religious ethics that apply with equal force to secular ethics are not good arguments.

    What theists don’t understand very well is that the notion that morals only exist if god exists is an unproven assertion, not backed up by anything other than wishful thinking by the part of the believers, and one that atheists don’t believe, period.

    Of course if you assert that theism is merely wishful thinking then you’re correct. But simply asserting that is not an argument any more than a theist asserting that the athiest’s belief in the existence of moral properties, such as right and wrong, (a concept which is arguably harder to prove the existence of by scientific means that theism is) is wishful thinking.

    Said other way, believers believe that morals are, by definition, the wants and want nots of a god, then of course an atheist is either immoral or not aknowledging god. But atheists don’t have that definition of moral or ethics.

    Again, simply describing a position pejoratively as “arbitrarily dictated” is not an argument. There have been arguments made by defenders of divine command theories that contest that their position is arbitrary. Hitchens could have read these and attempted to refute them, he did not.

    What is Right or Wrong isn’t something arbitrarily dictated by someone, but a fundamental distinction between something that causes pain and suffering, and other that causes happiness and joy.

    The problem is that there are obvious counter examples to this. Some rapists enjoy raping – Ted Bundy said he did – hence, if something is good if it causes “happiness and joy,” then rape can be good. Moreover, rape can also be carried out so as to not cause any pain or suffering, a doctor who rapes an unconscious patient, for example. Hence if wrongness is what causes suffering and pain this sort of rape is not wrong.

    And if you want evidence for either of these just think on the amount of times that morals have changed. Is that a sign that morals are absolute and unchangeable, or more that morals are a human construct for the benefit of themselves, something that is very hard to build and maintain and fight for, just as been done in the centuries past, mostly against theologians, I might add?

    Again this does not follow. Think of the amount of times peoples account of the structure of the universe has changed. Geocentricism, heliocentricism, accounts of laws of nature, etc – does it follow that the universe does not have an objective structure independent of human minds and that the universe is merely a human construct?

  169. Doug Geivett says:

    Thanks, Luis

  170. Luis Dias says:

    Doug,

    Thank you for your considerate and comprehensive reply. I won’t have time today to feedback it, so my intent in writing this is to let you know I read it :), and that I didn’t agree with most you said :).

    I was also expecting the accusation of moral relativism, which is a common place whenever one challenges the assumption that moral absolutes exist. Rather on the reverse, if you posit that morals are induced from the reality (objective, not subjective) of pain, suffering, joy and happiness, you couldn’t be more distant from moral relativism.

    But I’ll develop this idea and the other challenges you put when I have the time.

    If you want to see the debates I mentioned, they are both found on google video (I think Dennet vs D’Souza is on Youtube, but they are found on GV the same).

  171. Steve says:

    No problem, its a great and honest debate without the nonsense of excuses from atheists. Its a real challenge for Craig and I enjoyed it a lot.

  172. Doug Geivett says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the link for the debate between Craig and Dacey. I look forward to viewing it on YouTube.

    -Doug

  173. Steve says:

    Thanks for your reply, Doug. I wish I’d attended [the] debate; we don’t get many here in the UK. [I mentioned Dacey and] a debate that he had with Craig. In fact they had two. Very interesting they were, too.

    I’ll shoot you a link:

  174. Doug Geivett says:

    Luis, I haven’t seen the debates between DD and Dennet, and between DD and Hitchens.

  175. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Luis,

    I’m glad you’ve commented. You bring up several good points. Here’s my response, with points numbered for ease of future reference:

    (1) Hitchens did argue more-or-less the way you imagine he would.
    (2) Hitchens dropped Craig’s version of the moral argument. He confused WLC’s argument with a different argument that Hitchens was more comfortable answering.
    (3) Hitchens did not develop a response to Craig’s argument in the way you have here.
    (4) Had Hitchens presented the argument you adopt here, he would probably have appeared to be more persuasive than he did. At least it would have been less obvious that he had dropped the argument WLC presented.
    (5) Your counterargument to the WLC version of the moral argument assumes that WLC (if not all theists) adopts a divine-command theory of ethics. You bring up one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, stated in Plato’s dialogue called Euthyphro. Not all theists are divine-command theorists in ethics. (For sophisticated expositions and defenses divine-command theory, see Robert Adams.)
    (6) There are varieties of moral argument for the existence of God. WLC presents one such argument. If his argument fails, it wouldn’t follow that there is no good moral argument for the existence of God.
    (7) I don’t believe that the most fundamental thing about morality is a moral “rule” or set of “rules.” Like many moral philosophers (see , for example, Mark Timmons, Moral Theory: An Introduction), I think moral principles are more fundamental and moral general than moral rules. A moral principle, on my view, is rooted in the configuration of certain aspects of reality. There are objective moral truths or facts, and there exist entities (i.e., human persons) that, in virtue of being the sorts of things they are (i.e., having the nature they have), stand under moral imperatives that arise through the relation between them (i.e., human persons) and objective moral truths or facts. In response to specific circumstances that call for moral action, human persons apply rules that they perceive to be rooted in these objective moral facts and their corresponding principles. Moral truths or facts are abstract objects; thus, they are causally inert. And yet, there are contingently existing entities (ourselves, for example) that happen to have natures such that the existence of moral facts places them under moral obligations. In other words, there are natural moral laws that determine the moral quality of our behavior. And, in keeping with my Aristotelian propensities, part of what it means for human persons to flourish is for them to act in accordance with moral principles that exist in virtue of there being human persons with natures that link up with abstract moral truths. How does God enter the picture? There are at least two important roles for God to play. First, God designs a world where moral action would be meaningful for (have purchase on) creatures of the right kind, and creates beings with natures of this kind (creatures for whom natural moral laws apply). Our world is an environment in which morally significant action would be possible for beings of the right sort. We are beings of precisely that sort. So there is a morally suitable environment for moral activity and there are moral agents who exist in that environment. This is not what one would expect on a purely naturalistic understanding of reality. Second, God enforces natural moral law. Natural moral law accounts for our being morally obliged to behave in certain ways. But this law is meaningless if not enforcible. There is much more to say than this about God’s relevance. But this is hardly the place to develop the point in detail. So we are both morally responsible (first point) and morally accountable (second point), and neither would be true without God.
    (7) So to say that theists are mistaken in their claim that “morals only exist if god [sic] exists” is altogether too vague. What do you mean by “morals”?
    (8) It may be that you part company with C. Hitchens in the claims you make in the final paragraph of your comment in this thread. Hitchens is most naturally interpreted in a way that forbids him to allow the kind of moral relativism alluded to in stating your view.
    (9) What actually changes over time, from generation to generation, and across geographical locations? “Morals,” you say. But what does this mean? Do objective moral truths or facts change? Do the principles that arise through the relation between moral facts and human persons change? Or do moral rules (i.e., the application of moral principles to changing situations) change? All of the above?

  176. Luis Dias says:

    PS: I wanted to add that I don’t espouse the notion that a debate should be about shouting better or spreading your enemy too thin, etc., that is, that “all is permissible”. Well, I’m all for allowing freedom to everyone, but those tactics are only some of a wide amount of tactics that are clearly devised to destroy the debate itself, not to destroy the arguments.

    As an example, take the debate between Dinesh and Dennet, where Dinesh clearly won by rethorics, but with total disrespect with Dennets’ points and questions, and ramming through as only a compulsive teenager would.

    But this should be dealt with inside the debate, not outside. That is, you cannot be given a “landslide”, allow it to happen, and then afterwards blame it on the opponent. No. If the opponent is making what you perceive as a rethorical mischievous tactic, you should be able to make your audience understand that tactic and move on with your answers.

    An example is when Dinesh (again, but who can blame me for him being such a terrible example) debated Hitchens and asked him several things, and when Hitchens was thoroughfully rebbuting those points, he was cut off by the former beause he was already speaking “too much”, and then criticized Hitchens for not replying to all of his questions (!?!?), which was not so subtle a way to be a donkey, and all the audience understood that tactic.

  177. Luis Dias says:

    Hi. I’m a little disappointed that most theists and atheists alike think Craig won, I wish I could hear the debate without having to buy it to form my own opinion, but I guess that won’t happen anytime soon.

    But judging from the comments here, I’d say that you think Hitchens bypassed the Moral argument completely. Knowing that Hitchens repeats ad nauseum his own rethorial speeches over and over, with little adaptation to each one of his debaters, I’m almost sure he invoked the idea of not having to defer to the “celestial dictatorship” to know what’s wright and wrong.

    He doesn’t clarify this well, and the blame is on him, not on Craig nor any other apologist, but that is in fact, a good rebuttal. I’ll try to explain why.

    Morals are the rules by which we try to be good or evil. I’ll leave the problem of goodness to explain afterwards. They are chosen rules, and here the moral argument is that without an ultimate reference, there is no moral. What Hitchens says about not referring to the “celestial dictatorship” is that if we assume that is a celestial entity that defines what is right or what is wrong, then all that is happening is that we are merely obeying orders (do this, do that), hence we are nothing but slaves to a dictator.

    I’m not even starting on the problem that many religions have different sets of morals, all testifying that theirs is the “ultimate”, because it was god himself that created them. And I won’t because Hitchens probably didn’t say it (a slight “probably”).

    If apologists continue to press that this doesn’t rebut anything and the argument stands, its because they aren’t understanding the semantics of the reply.

    For a Theist, what is good or evil is that by which god either likes or dislikes, and morals are the set of rules deduced by that.

    An atheist, by not believing in god is seen by theists either as not acknowledging the source of morals, or not moral at all (what Hitchens probably thought Craig was trying to do). What theists don’t understand very well is that the notion that morals only exist if god exists is an unproven assertion, not backed up by anything other than wishful thinking by the part of the believers, and one that atheists don’t believe, period.

    Said other way, believers believe that morals are, by definition, the wants and want nots of a god, then of course an atheist is either immoral or not aknowledging god. But atheists don’t have that definition of moral or ethics. What is Right or Wrong isn’t something arbitrarily dictated by someone, but a fundamental distinction between something that causes pain and suffering, and other that causes happiness and joy.

    And if you want evidence for either of these just think on the amount of times that morals have changed. Is that a sign that morals are absolute and unchangeable, or more that morals are a human construct for the benefit of themselves, something that is very hard to build and maintain and fight for, just as been done in the centuries past, mostly against theologians, I might add?

  178. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Daniel,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Bellevue conference over the weekend (April 17-18, 2009). Thanks for coming!

    -Doug

  179. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Steve,

    Did you attend a debate with Austin Dacey? Whom did he debate?

    -Doug

  180. Doug Geivett says:

    Andrew,

    Your post about debating Craig should be interesting to both (or all) sides. Of course I agree with your comments here. I would add that Craig’s opponents are free to re-frame the debate and attempt to spread him with more than he can respond to. This has been tried, with varying degrees of success.

    My next debate with will be with John Shook, in Buffalo, New York, July 31.

  181. Daniel says:

    Ah, sorry for the double post. I didn’t want to post that yet, oh well. But anyways, you’re a great speaker, keep up the good work. I am trying to learn everything I can to defend the Christian faith, and become well equipped in apologetics. Great article!

  182. Daniel says:

    Hi Doug,

    I just got back from the World View conference and have to say I really enjoyed listening to you. “Factual Evidence” and the “Problems of Evil”

  183. Steve says:

    Thanks for the review, it was very informative. I wonder why atheists continue to come to debates on the existence of God without inference to best possible explanation arguments. If you enter a debate you need to show your position to be correct or the other person’s to be wrong. I have seen but one atheist do this, Austin Dacey. No other has to my knowledge provided any good reason to be an atheist.
    :)

  184. Andrew says:

    Doug,

    Thanks for the plug. A lot of atheists seem to want to play the “shoot at the King” game and debate William Lane Craig right out of the box. My point (condensed) is that Craig is the major-leagues; he’s the best debater you guys have, and it’s negligence for would-be opponents not to take him as seriously as Craig takes each of his debates.

    Worse, when poorly-prepared atheists do poorly against Craig, they frequently offer up nonsensical or ridiculous excuses for their failures. (I should call out Richard Carrier as a notable exception here; he lost his recent debate against Craig and was very candid about why.) I can’t tell you the number of complaints I’ve seen about how Craig “unfairly” offers a lot of arguments in a short period of time or extends points his opponents didn’t have time to respond to.

    What Craig does is not “unfair”; it’s what good debaters do. If you don’t want to play by the rules, then stick to online debates, blog posts, scholarly articles, etc. But if you wade into a debate, you should be prepared for what’s coming. I try to offer some insight as to how to go about doing that, and I hope it’s interesting for both sides.

    Thanks again,
    -Andrew

  185. Tim says:

    Mozza,
    If I understand you, you’re asking how Craig could’ve answered well given the particular things he answered “yes” to. I take it that you’re thinking that anyone who answers “yes” to these has not answered well.

    Two interpretations of “not answering well” come to mind. The one I doubt you mean is that Craig made some sort of tactical mistake and undermined his own case. But remember, the debate was over the question, “Does God exist?” Craig’s yesses were consistent with his arguments for theism, so they did nothing to undermine his cumulative case. Hitchens could also have asked Craig, say, his preferred theory of the Kennedy assassination, and that would have been interesting to hear, but equally irrelevant as a rebuttal.

    But maybe that’s not what you meant by Craig’s not answering well. Instead, you might mean that anyone who admits, as Craig did, to believing in the existence of demons or a historical virgin birth has ipso facto, not answered well. Perhaps it’s just that you think these things don’t exist or didn’t happen–indeed, perhaps you think these statements are abundantly clear to any sensible person. If that’s what you meant, then two things need to be said: first, incredulity is no rebuttal to arguments in general, nor is it to Craig’s case for theism, in particular; and second, if his not answering well is little more than an expression of an anti-supernatural bias, that’s pretty plainly question-begging.

  186. Doug Geivett says:

    Thanks, Alex. The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been spectacular. First time in a long time that I’ve gotten a sunburn! -Doug

  187. Doug Geivett says:

    I’ve approved the April 13 link to evaluatingchristianity.wordpress.com here in the comments on my post because it provides a handy set of guidelines for debating William Lane Craig. The author’s advice: don’t debate Craig unless you’re qualified; being qualified takes more than you think. This is advice coming from a non-theist. And it’s pretty good on strategy. I’ve read the few comments to the author’s post, as of April 15, 2009, and I have to say they are pretty inadequate.

  188. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi, again, Jake. I’m anxious to reply to your two points from April 13. I’m still out of town, so it will have to be later. Your two comments provide an excellent opportunity to clarify.

    -Doug

  189. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Mihretu,

    Thanks for adding your reflections on the debate. I’m glad you were able to be there for it.

    -Doug

  190. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Andrew,

    People here will probably be interested in your link. I know Eddie Tabash, and have debated him myself. We may do it again, sometime.

    -Doug

  191. Mozza says:

    “12.The second half of cross-examination must have been interesting to the predominantly evangelical audience. Christopher Hitchens asked Bill Craig directly whether he believes that there are devils, that Jesus was born of a virgin, that some nonChristian religions are false, and that some Christian denominations entertain false beliefs. Craig answered each, respectively: yes, yes, yes, and yes. But he added (a) that the existence or non-existence of demons has no bearing on his argument from the resurrection for theism, (b) that while he did not think the virgin birth could be proved, whether it happened is also irrelevant to his case for theism, (c) that Islam is among the false religions, and (d) that while there are differences among Christian brethren (Craig is not a Calvinist but more of a Wesleyan, for example), their differences are on less substantive points. While Craig may not have expected this line of questioning, he answered well. It was a sign of Hitchens’s lack of preparation, I believe, that his cross-examination of Craig was unproductive. (One further indication of this is that Craig’s answers were never brought up for special criticism.)”

    If that was his answer then how could he possibly have answered it well?

  192. Andrew says:

    If you’ll forgive the plug, I offer some insights into Craig’s debating style over at my blog. I’m an atheist, but I agree with Loftus and others on here that Craig certainly spanked Hitchens.

    What’s surprising to me is that Craig has a very straightforward style that thousands of kids employ every day. It’s not difficult to understand and get prepared for it, and yet virtually every atheist to debate Craig refuses to do the necessary preparation. Whether that’s due to arrogance or ignorance, I don’t know, but I wish it were otherwise. (Notable exception: Eddie Tabash.)

  193. Mihretu Guta says:

    Dr. Doug,

    Thank you so much for your excellent summary of the debate between William Craig and Christopher Hitchens. I attended the debate live. So I can tell that your have summed up the debate accurately.

    Here is what I have to say very briefly:

    In my opinion, William Craig nailed it down and made his case so persuasively, eloquently, with utmost precision. Why did I say this? Here are some reasons I have:

    Craig gave reasons for his position on the existence of God. I do not have to list his reasons here but the point is that whether one agrees with him or not, Craig came up with arguments as opposed to assertions and rhetoric. One cannot help but face the arguments Craig put forth with respect to the existence of God. For someone who does not believe in God’s existence, even if all of Craig’s arguments turned out to be unconvincing, Craig provided evidence to counter his opponent’s objections. By doing so, I believe he made his case.

    On the other hand, Hitchens came up with assertions and rhetoric that only worked against him with respect to the position he claimed to be supporting. If God doesn’t exist, according to Hitchens, what were the arguments he provided for that? As a philosopher myself, I was not able to identify the arguments he gave for his position other than the assertions and rhetoric he built throughout the debate. Moreover, he was not even clear on the precise definition of his own position which exposed him to be instructed on the stage by Craig on the basic notions like what a worldview is, inter alia. If Hitchens thinks he has a case for atheism, it shouldn’t be based on rhetorical strategy that might attract an uncritical audience already biased to jump into the bandwagon of atheists who make assertions to make their case against the existence of God. So, the best thing to do for atheists like Hitchens is to take time and come up with evidence to support their arguments against the existence of God. As far as I can tell, Hitchens came up with neither evidence nor arguments to make his case. So, it is incumbent on him to work as hard as he can to develop arguments to engage his opponent like Craig, who in my view, had done his assignment so very well, that is to say, excellent preparation to engage his opponent.

    Finally, if the best critic of Christianity, like Hitchens, doesn’t have arguments but so many complaints against God, that won’t really show that God doesn’t exist. But it only shows a desperate move on the part of a person who doesn’t just want God to exist. Maybe this is a curable problem if Hitchens-type atheists want to apply Craig’s fifth suggestion in his debate, which is direct experience of God. If anyone is willing to know God, he or she can experience the reality of God. But this is not based on the strength, or lack thereof, of arguments, but it is a personal decision. For those who accept God’s existence on the basis of arguments, God’s reality becomes more evident. But in case, in the absence of the knowledge of arguments for God’s existence, if a person seeks God he/she can still find God. After all, God is not conditioned by our arguments yet arguments play their important role in helping us know why belief in God is rational.

    Have a nice day,

    Mihretu Guta

  194. jake says:

    Doug Said: “Maybe you could clarify what you mean when you say that Big Bang cosmology “has nothing to say about the origin of the universe and does not attempt to describe it.” That sounds plainly false. But if you mean that Big Bang cosmology takes our scientific understanding of the universe back to an absolute beginning without explaining how it began, then of course I agree.”

    The universe, as we see it today, was very different than it was 12-14.5 billion years ago. If you consider the state that it was in that long ago as “the beginning”, then that’s fine. However, how long the universe was in that very dense state, and if it ever existed as anything else before said state, it not covered by BBT. Thus, to say that there is evidence for the origin of the universe, and to later attribute that evidence to the existence of a god, is very misleading unless you define “beginning” as the state of the universe immediately before it began expanding.

    There are two reasons why I think that the question ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ is not a helpful or appropriate beginning to answer one of the oldest, most difficult questions humanity has asked itself. (1) There is not yet any evidence that suggests that a period of absolute nothingness ever existed; and (2) even if there was, that ‘something’ could come from ‘nothing’ is not impossible to begin with, given that virtual particles appear and disappear from existence all the time.

  195. Pingback: Advice For Debating William Lane Craig « Evaluating Christianity

  196. Alex says:

    Doug,
    Happy travels!

  197. Doug Geivett says:

    Because I’m preparing for a trip and will be traveling, my opportunity to leave additional comments will be limited for the next ten days. Please continue the discussion. And newcomers, please feel free to add to the thread. Brian, Mike, Alex, and Matt have recently left thoughtful comments that I hope to get to.

  198. Brian says:

    First time poster and totally amateur arguer but here goes – RE: the burden of proof is on Craig, which I believe that it is. Here’s why.

    Note: I understand this particular debate is on the ‘existence of god’ and not also that that god is the God of the Old and New Testament – but seeing as how most responses on this board are from Christians I submit this point:

    Jesus Christ admits the buden of proof is on the believer.

    Evidence:
    The interaction with Thomas in the New Testament where Thomas doubts, Jesus shows up, let’s him stick his fingers in the wound, etc and Thomas believes.

    A couple of things:
    1) If eyewitness evidence of an empty tomb by other characters in the same book of the bible is cited as actual evidence by Criag, then what are we to say of a man who actually knew and talked to these people of yore, and did not believe them? Their own contemporary did not believe them. It’s a extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence, which Jesus then provided.

    2) A common response might be: Christ says that blessed are those who do not see and yet believe! OK, so what real difference does that make? Is Thomas not receiving his reward in heaven because he demanded extraordinary proof? Jesus didn’t say that… I am not aware of any NT scholars suggesting that Thomas is in hell or that there are levels of joy in Heaven… So, if there is no downside to demanding proof as Thomas did, I would have to put myself in that boat and request the same extraordinary treatment from Jesus Christ.

    If the burden of proof were also on the non-believer, then should Christ have shown up to Thomas? I submit that his showing up to Thomas concedes that the burden of proof is on Jesus Christ.

    By the way, I don’t buy that a “personal transformation” one experiences is that extraordinary proof that Jesus is Lord, because I have personally witnessed such personal transformations in myself as a Christian, in myself as an atheist, and in others as Chrstians, Atheists, Muslims, and Buddhists. I might allow that it supports an existence of lower case ‘god’ but I have to think about that some more before I make such a claim.

    Again, this arguement only applies to those who profess belief in the New Testament and seek to use the New Testament as evidence. Other beliefs in god or those who don’t take much of the Bible literally are off the hook. They don’t have this particular problem, per se.

  199. Alex says:

    I wouldn’t say I do have the time, but I certain want to make a little. The Aristotelean and Spinozistic conception that I had in mind are just two options for a theist who denies (or withholds his belief) that there is a revelation from god whereby he addresses humanity and seeks to bring wayfarers to himself.

    For a Christian theist, like myself, God has revealed to mankind, through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, just who He Himself is and what He Himself is doing in His Governance of the Universe. Jesus, being himself God, manifests to us in his flesh and bones, his body and soul, his life and action, his words and intentions, just who God is and just what God is doing to establish His Governance of the World. Such Governance is not merely political where the Ruler is distant and uninvolved (or tragically manipulative and oppressively tyrannical). His Government is Love. Thus there is an existentially significant and weighty decision each person able to reflect upon life and existence must make with respect to his own destiny. But God’s revelation extends even to man in his wayfaring state, before he makes a decision. He helps us search for Himself. You can look at revelation and consider its merits even if you do not belief that it is revelation, you can even pray “God, if you exist, help me discover your existence and nature.” Revelation is not given merely subjectively by the Christian God; there is the historical Jesus, the Scriptures, and the ongoing action of Jesus’ Divinely Governed Society, the Church.

    Spinoza and Aristotle each believed that there is a necessarily existing entity. Aristotle believed such a necessary being was not a part of the universe. See his discussion in *The Physics*. Naturalists these days, that is, scientific materialists like Hitchens and Co., cannot explain the origin, design, or moral status of reality without positing a necessarily existing entity –that is, a non-material, non-natural, entity. I don’t know enough about Spinoza to say anything more than that he seems to have believed that god *is* the universe and thus the universe is divinized and it necessarily exists.

    The problem with a non-revelatory god is that such a god cannot be as perfect as can be.

    A revelatory god is closer to being as perfect as can be.

    Why? A revelatory god addresses the shambles that is human history and human society. He addresses it in the Christian tradition by bringing Justice. This is not some sadistic move, where people are arbitrarily evicted, sentenced, and cruelly hurt in the name of ‘restoring justice.’ Think of all the poor that suffer, even starve to death as the result of evil human rulers. Think of all the oppression that occurs in the name of economic progress. We all want justice. So does God, at least on the Christian conception. But he doesn’t just come to right the wrongs. He comes to offer a sort of life that can only be called god-like. He comes to right the wrongs, plus more. To give us undeserved enjoyment of life. This life is participation with His Life, that is, perfect life. Even in suffering we can have joy, because we know that suffering that is done with God at our side, is suffering God allows to conquer evil and injustice, both in our own life and in the world.

    A non-revelatory god, like the Deistic, Aristotelean, or Spinozistic types, is less perfect than the Christian God. If there is a God he’s as perfect as can be. If there is no God that is as perfect as can be, something the Christian conception holds to as a truth not to be denied, then I shall not worship him, I shall not so much as attempt to align myself with him. He is a strange cosmic absentee landlord who in not caring deserves no care. Perhaps there is such a god, but then he’s not really as perfect as can be and I am stuck wondering where the perfect one is. Wondering where the perfect god is; that’s the same as having no answer to the deepest of human questions. If there is no perfect god, there is no answer to the deepest of human questions. So life is a farce. But fortunately we have plenty of evidence to believe there is a perfect god and that is the God of the Christian worldview; so life is not only not a farce, but it is evident it is not a farce. Thanks be to God for giving those willing to seek and suffer the consolation of philosophy.

  200. Mike H. says:

    Hey Doug,

    Thanks for the summary. I’ve followed the thread here and thought a post over at Maverick Philosopher relates to the “The Historical Atrocities Argument.” Bill does a bit of table turning to get at one of the consistent charges that Hitchens brings up in his debates. Here’s the link…
    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/04/is-religion-the-problem-why-isnt-belief-as-such-the-problem-the-special-pleading-of-some-atheists.html

  201. Doug, does the word evidentialism best describe your type of apologetics then? I think apologists mostly wrangle with words on this as seen in the book Five Views of Apologetics. Their practice is not always what they claim they are doing. Do you agree?

  202. Matt says:

    Hi Doug

    My thoughts are a bit speculative but for what its worth here they are.

    Wolterstorff wrote an article called the “migration of theistic arguments” some time ago. In it he argued that the evidentialist objection to belief in God arose in Locke and was motivated in part by the fact that Locke feared that people who believed without evidence were dangerous. Locke worried they had totalitarian tendencies and threatened peoples freedom and dignity. Locke was a theist but it struck me this was a common thread in many atheistic arguments. Its evident in Marx on the left and Ayn Rand on the right. Ernest Nagel makes the point explicitly in “Defense of Atheism” (Reality in Focus, ed Moser (1990)) he writes “atheism historically has been and continues to be, a form of social and political protest directed as much against institutionalized religion as against theistic doctrine” Nagel then goes on to claim that religious leaders have supported injustice, opposed reform, repressed free inquiry etc etc. He concludes “the refutation of theism has seemed to many as an indispensable step not only towards liberating mens minds from superstition, but also towards achieving a more equitable society”

    I think an analogy can help illustrate this, consider how you or I view the ideology of the Nazi’s. We view the ideology as false. But we also view it as dangerous and oppressive. Our desire to shows its falsity is strongly linked to our belief it is oppressive. Moreover, one reason we think its oppressive is because of the atrocities that the Nazis committed which are documented by history.

    This is how I think the argument works for the neo-atheists. They hold two separate theses which often mistakenly conflate (a) Theism is false and (b) Theistic belief systems are oppressive (in a manner analogous to the way that we would say nazism or the ideology of the KKK are oppressive). Now (b) is supported by what I call the ‘historic atrocities’ argument. Basically its an inductive argument. Which goes something like this

    (1)Historically theistic belief systems have supported atrocities

    From this it argued ( via induction),

    (2) thiestic belief systems are opressive.

    Now how I would use Stark to respond to this is roughly as follows. I think that [1] is often based on kind of meta-narrative: The story goes like this, prior to the rise of Christianity was the “classical period” where science and reason flourished among the ancient greek thinkers. This learning was extinguished by the rise of Christianity, which hated reason and science in favour of a supersitious faith. This brought about a period called the ‘dark ages’ where all progress and science were suppressed. Heretic and dissenters executed and women burnt as witches by the millions. It was taught as fact that the world was flat and columbus was persecuted for believing otherwise. Gallileo and Copernicus changed this, they challenged the claim that the earth was the centre of the universe challenging the churches claim to be the centre of the world and were, like most early scientists, persecuted for doing so. As a result of their efforts. people began following reason again and as a result liberated themselves from the shackles of dark age superstitions most notably Christianity. It was this liberation from religious supersition that brought about the rise of science, a rise contested unsucessfully by the Church, and which resulted in the enlightenment where secularism prevailed. Such things as liberty and freedom come from the enlightenment, not from Christianity, which opposed it.

    This view is culturally dominant in movies media etc. Stark is great because his work compiles and brings together the large number of contemporary historians who have challenged almost every part of this narrative. He notes that its questionable there was a dark ages, he puts the persecutions and Inquisitions in an interesting context suggesting that they only occurred in certain identifiable cultural contexts (interestingly some authors like Kamen and Edwards have challenged much of what passes as common knowledge about the Inquisition, suggesting a large amount is urban legend, Stark notes this sort of research). Stark also makes accessible the work of people like Edward Grant who have largely refuted the caricature of the middle ages this story presents. And Stark points out that recent historiography has challenged the conflict thesis: the claim the church opposed and persecuted science. He also brings together historians who challenge the claims about witchcraft etc. He also notes the religious connections behind many social reforms such as the abolition of slavery. I have a few admittedly sketchy posts along this sort of line on my blog here.

    The problem is that many people are unaware of this research. Most Christians I know actually believe the meta-narrative I sketched above.

    Imagine, you were debating a philosophical claim with me. You offered arguments for the truth of your position. I ignored them and proceeded to denigrate your character accusing you of all manner of things leveling accusation after accusation. You responded by pointing out this committed the ad hominem fallacy and I had not addressed your argument. Two things would happen (a) you would win the debate because your point is correct (b) many in the audience would be left questioning your character. although they might grant the point you were making you never actually addressed the accusations and that would leave people wondering. This is I think is the danger we face when we use Craig to rebut Hitchens but don’t also bring in people like Stark or the numerous historians and Sociologists of religion who can contest the inductive basis of the historical atrocities argument.

  203. CHase says:

    Dr. Craig is unbelievable, he is truly someone i look up to and admire.

  204. Doug Geivett says:

    PJ, thanks. You’ve kept me busy.

    As an evidentialist in general epistemology, I regard evidence as much more inclusive than you do. It should not be limited to what you mean by scientific evidence. We need more than scientific evidence to place any trust at all in the practice and methods of science. The most basic evidence we have comes through direct experience or acquaintance with objects or truths. (So I’m also a foundationalist.)

    I don’t think you’ve clarified enough quite yet what you mean by scientific evidence. Given what you’ve said in your comments about this, I see no reason for denying that the evidence I wrote about in my previous comment is empirical evidence, delivered by means of scientific investigation, and is evidence for supernaturalism.

    It’s one thing to acknowledge the problems of perception and in that sense take them seriously. But you made a completely generalizable claim about the evidential value of experience given its essential subjectivity. How does your view of sensory experience solve this problem?

  205. Doug Geivett says:

    Matt, we’ll be standing by. I’ll do what I can to get you introduced to Mike Denton. -Doug

  206. PJ says:

    Thanks for the speedy reply Doug :)

    I think there is a little confusion of terms here, so let me clarify – I took “evidence” to mean “scientific evidence,” in this case consistent with the existence of God and inconsistent with other natural explanations of one’s (perceived) experience. In this sense, evidence for the existence of God (which some would require to have a belief in God) is to be taken as distinct from someone’s perception of an experience that in their mind supports their belief in God.

    I should have specified this distinction in my original post, as I am well aware how many words have different meanings in science, philosophy and religion/theology! :)

    Just to point out what evidence means to a skeptic, here’s an example of where you use evidence in what I see as two different ways. You said “…their believing the proposition is evidence I have that their belief is supported for them by evidence they have.” The first use of the word in this sentence is consistent with the notion of scientific evidence, however the latter is not. One needs more than someone else beliefs to call the reasons for those beliefs “evidence” in the scientific sense of the word, unless you make the blanket assumption that everyone always makes evidence-based decisions in forming their beliefs. I think “reasons” is a more precise word than “evidence” in this example.

    Christian apologists like Craig assert (or at the very least suggest) that we can find EVIDENCE for the existence of God in the natural world – so this distinction in meaning is critically important – especially given the lack of any credible scientific evidence of any supernatural phenomena even after centuries of searching. This doesn’t mean there is no God, and it doesn’t mean one can’t have faith in God – it just means there isn’t scientific evidence to support the belief. That said, religious leaders set themselves up for trouble when they make assertions about the natural world that simply don’t hold up to empirical evidence – it’s bad for religion and bad for our understanding of the natural world (science).

    Last comment then I’ll leave you with the final word, if you wish.

    Your interpretation of my comment as saying that “subjectivity of experience is such that it cannot provide evidence for anything” and then going on to say “Imagine the consequences this would have for the very possibility of doing science!” is way too black and white, and I think you know it’s not at all the essence of my comment.

    To the contrary, science shuns anecdotes as empirical evidence, and it clearly recognizes the problem of human perception! This is in large part why science demands well designed, repeatable experiments using the most objective methods available.

    Thanks for your time,
    -PJ

  207. Matt says:

    (Hopefully my wife’s picture will not show up this time; I have tried something different to bypass the problem.)

    Thanks for that, my email address is available on my site if Mike Denton would like to get in touch directly.

    I am thinking on how to formulate Hitchens argument in the most charitable light possible. It seems to me there are many apparent ambiguities in the claim that religion causes harm. I will give it some thought.

  208. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Talon,

    Thanks for jumping into the discussion. There are varieties of atheists. Some do deny the existence of God and some who deny the existence of God also argue that God does not exist, as well they should. I guess people are free to stipulate a definition of their own for any word they fancy. The term “atheist” has a long history, even an ancient history, of meaning “someone who believes that God, or a god does not exist.” So the relatively recent phenomenon of mandating a new sense of this word is understandably confusing. This is not necessarily the fault of those who are confused. And anyone who wants to be understood differently in his or her use of the term customarily used for denying that God exists needs (a) to take responsibility for whatever confusion he or she causes on this point, and (b) do something to assure others that they are not simply trying to circumvent exposure of their actual worldview through deliberately misleading or deceptive verbiage (I’ve heard this called “bullshitting”).

    By the way, some skeptics who deny that they deny that God exists unwittingly argue that God does not exist. I’ve noticed this in some of the debates I’ve done.

    I understand your preference for “deism” over “theism,” and it sounds to me that you use the term “deism” in a historically accurate sense. But I believe that there is a variety of theism that may easily be confused with deism. I call this form of theism “brute theism”; it holds that God exists, is not necessarily indifferent about the human condition, may cause miracles to occur, but is skeptical about special revelation from God in the form of written scriptures.

  209. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi PJ,

    Thanks for visiting this post.

    My point, which you quote, does not overlook the fact that beliefs based on experience are fallible. That fact is too obvious. But the point does acknowledge that experience often is evidence for a belief some subject has acquired on the basis of an experience. Three points of clarification.

    First, a belief does not have to be true for it to be justified. This is true in general, and it applies to beliefs grounded in experience. Some person may have an experience which for that person is evidence that some proposition is true, even if most of the rest of us would be skeptical, if not bemused.

    Second, there is an epistemological principle called the principle of credulity. This principle holds that when some person has an experience that indicates a certain proposition is true, then that person is justified in believing that proposition, unless there is some special, independent reason why that proposition should not be believed by that person. For example, if you seem to see a broom in the corner of the room, you would be justified in believing that there is a broom in the corner of the room, even though you may be hallucinating. But suppose there are several other trustworthy people in the room who say there is no broom. Now you have a defeater for your initial evidence. Suppose, further, that you come to learn eventually that you’ve been hallucinating under certain conditions. In retrospect, you realize that these conditions were satisfied (or present) back when you thought you saw a broom. That is additional evidence that your belief then was false, so that now you would not be justified in continuing to believe that there was a broom in the corner of the room on that occasion.

    Third, my point is that if cognitively mature people whom I know believe some proposition that I do not, and this proposition is existentially significant, then it behooves me to inquire into the evidence they believe they have, because their believing the proposition is evidence I have that their belief is supported for them by evidence they have. This is not equivalent to saying that this evidence I have constitutes for me evidence that what they believe is true.

    What you say, PJ, about the value of private evidence deriving from personal experience has unfortunate consequences for all perceptual experience. You’re saying that the subjectivity of experience is such that it cannot provide evidence for anything. Imagine the consequences this would have for the very possibility of doing science!

  210. Doug Geivett says:

    Jake, here’s my response regarding #3 and #4. It may be due to sleep deprivation on my end, but I’m not understanding your comment on #1.

    (3) The evidence-supported answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” includes empirical evidence that the universe began to exist (Big Bang cosmology), the philosophical problem of an infinite regress of past events constituting the history of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the reality and character of human consciousness, human moral responsibility, and so on. Some of this evidence—namely, the evidence that the universe began to exist—is evidence that the origin of the universe is either uncaused (some naturalists here introduce the notion of a “brute fact”), or the beginning of the universe was caused and that cause was, in the nature of the case, supernatural. Other evidence (e.g., fine-tuning, human consciousness, human moral responsibility) is evidence that whatever supernatural cause explains the origin of the universe, this cause acted purposefully, and toward ends that we can to some degree discern. The full import of this evidence is better appreciated if considered against the background evidence that the universe began to exist. The evidences I’ve mentioned in this comment are public in the sense I described in an earlier comment on this post; “public” contrasts with “private.”

    If the original question leading to this line of investigation and inference is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” the evidence I’ve mentioned answers in two stages: first, the something to which our question refers has not always existed; second, this same something was supernaturally caused to exist in an apparently purposeful way.

    There’s an ambiguity in the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The force of the question may be “How does it come to be that there is something rather than nothing?” Or, the force of the question may be “For what purpose is there something rather than nothing?” The way I’ve just sketched for organizing some main lines of evidence speak to both questions.

    Also, the first sense of the question (“Why is there something rather than nothing?”) may be further nuanced as a “why-question” in the sense that “why-questions” have in explanation theory. These why-questions are questions in search of a causal explanation, and, indeed, the best causal explanation so far available. I describe this notion of a why-question more fully in my chapter for the book Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate.

    (4) Maybe you could clarify what you mean when you say that Big Bang cosmology “has nothing to say about the origin of the universe and does not attempt to describe it.” That sounds plainly false. But if you mean that Big Bang cosmology takes our scientific understanding of the universe back to an absolute beginning without explaining how it began, then of course I agree.

    As for the unnumbered new point about Hitchens conception of probabilities, it has to be said that in the debate Hitchens did not compare the supernatural explanation for the phenomena introduced by Craig with some scientific explanation of the same phenomena. Worse, Hitchens did not even describe a scientific explanation for any of the phenomena introduced by Craig: the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the objectivity of moral facts, and the resurrection of Jesus. I agree that this is what he ought to have done. Even on the assumption that a Hitchens-styled atheist need not, in general, argue that God does not exist and can rely entirely on presenting defeaters for arguments for theism, defeaters must have the right form given the character of the arguments in question. In this case, the arguments follow the pattern of inference to the best explanation. So a defeater must show that the theistic explanation for the phenomena is not the best. And to do that the Hitchens-styled atheist must either deny that an explanation is needed (for one reason or another), or present an alternative explanation and demonstrate its superiority as an explanation. Hitchens did not do either of these things. And yet he did say explicitly (a) that a supernatural hypothesis does not explain anything, and (b) that existing non-supernatural explanations are adequate to explain the phenomena introduced by Craig.

    (Naturalists have taken one of two paths when denying the need for a “best explanation” for some phenomenon: (a) claim that the phenomenon is simply a brute fact that has no explanation, or (b) assert that the alleged phenomenon is not in fact a phenomenon at all, such that there is nothing for which an explanation might be sought. To illustrate, naturalists have often taken path (a) when called upon to explain the origin of the universe or the objectivity of morality, and path (b) when called upon to explain the resurrection of Jesus.)

  211. Doug Geivett says:

    So it is Matt. That’s good to know! Technology does let us down, at times. Just be thankful it was your wife’s pic that showed up and not someone else’s! -Doug

  212. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Matt (?),

    In my recent email to Mike Denton, I asked if he’s at Otago still. I’ve yet to hear back. But he had said he was travelling internationally and that access to the internet is sporadic for the time being. I’ll let him know of your interest in discussing conference participation with him.

    “The Historical Atrocities Argument.” That’s a great label for what it stands for in your comment. How would you cast the argument with numbered premises and the sort of conclusion reached by Hitchens? Putting arguments in explicit form makes it much easier to keep track of what is being argued and what it would take to reply.

    I agree that some public discussion between Hitchens and someone like Rodney Stark would be valuable. Stark has written quite a lot on related themes, so it might be possible to construct an argument of your own based on premises informed by his data.

    I believe that neo-atheists are opportunists in that they have exploited an opportunity to be heard, an opportunity created by violence, motivated by radical Islam, that we’ve all witnessed in recent years. But for the 9/11 incidents, I question whether this brand of atheism would have gained the traction it has. Knowing that there is no parallel between orthodox Christianity as exhibited today and the current wave of Islamic injustice, the neo-atheists have had to reach back in time to events that have tainted Christian history—the Crusades, the Inquisition, and so forth. But it’s a mistake to associate evangelical Christian belief today, for example, with the “officially recognized,” state-sanctioned church of past eras. It has to be asked whether there was a Church, faithful to the morality of the New Testament, seeking justice and helping the oppressed during those conflicts. Historians should investigate the degree to which the thread of Christian belief and practice can be traced continuously from the beginning of the Church to the present time. (I’m not suggesting this hasn’t been done.) It’s reported in the New Testament that Jesus warned, “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter his kingdom,” a kingdom that is not of this world.

    Neo-atheism is very much motivated by the perception that religion is bad for culture. Preoccupation with such a claim does tend to get in the way of seeing the point of believing what’s true on the basis of the best evidence there is. The best antidote to the worst problems associated with “religion” is a community of believers who are genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.

  213. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi David (UNRR),

    I’m pleased that you selected this post to be linked at your site, the HOTS Daily. Having read your site bio, I see that we’re kindred spirits with regard to civil discourse about the things that matter most. Press on!

    -Doug

  214. Talon Ferguson says:

    I love and hate how christians try to attack ‘atheistic belief’, as though it were a belief, or some kind of system or philosophy.

    An Atheist does not believe in supernatural beings or gods.

    That’s it. That’s all. There’s no more to it…

    I’m a deist.. & I believe what the evidence, and my intuition tell me to be true. Which is that the Bible is man-made. I came to that conclusion by reading it, and talking to pastors, who would not refute the wide-spread damnation of whole peoples whom never heard of or opened a bible. I stopped believing on moral, not evidentiary grounds. The book is unjust, simple, and often barbaric and hateful. It’s not the work of a ‘god’, even if I believe one could exist.

  215. PJ says:

    Re: your response to Jake, you said

    “(1) I’m not saying that if a normal cognitively mature person believes something, that is evidence that what they believe is true. I’m saying that it’s evidence that there is some evidence they have for believing that it’s true. This is a basic epistemological principle that I happen to accept.”

    This overlooks the well established fact that people commonly misinterpret personal experiences, and wrongfully attribute those experiences to supernatural causes (e.g. thinking prayers can help one win the lottery, the “miraculously” works of Peter Popoff, etc.).

    Your statement asserting that it is “evidence that there is some evidence they have for believing” is contrary to what we know about human perception and belief… There are REASONS many people believe something is true, but to presume those reasons for belief are evidence of truth is tantamount to saying “well, some of those believers must believe for REAL reasons, right?” Apply your statement to arguments for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Chupacabra and hopefully you see what I mean.

    This also applies to your distinction between public and private evidence. With “private evidence,” by your definition, it is impossible to separate the facts of an experience from someone’s personal perception of that experience. I think Jake was spot on with his first two comments, especially given the lack of evidence for the existence of any god, let alone any one particular god.

  216. jake says:

    Doug, thank you for taking the time to reply to my questions.

    In response to your point #1:

    But is it evidence for “public evidence” that what they believe is true? Would you go so far as to say “yes, it always is?” If not, then why do you not say that it is “evidence that there may be evidence” that the belief is true? I would agree with that.

    In response to your point #3:

    So what is the evidence-supported answer to “why is there something rather than nothing?” Is the evidence supporting your answer “public evidence?”

    In response to your point #4:

    Craig employs a very common misinterpretation of Big Bang Theory, which is unfortunate given the copious amount of literature available about it. Simply put, BBT has nothing to say about the origin of the universe and does not attempt to describe it. As I said, as of right now there is not any scientific evidence related to the origin of the universe, let alone a theory.

    Hitchen’s basis for precluding any supernatural explanation, for anything, is rooted in probabilities. Compare how often the supernatural explanation has better explained a phenomenon, thereby proving the scientific explanation to be incorrect, to how often the scientific explanation has better explained a phenomenon, thereby proving the supernatural explanation incorrect.

  217. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Alex!

    I see your point, and I think you might be right about its potential to be a game changer. For the others visiting this post and reading the comments, it might be helpful if you said briefly what a Spinozist or Aristotelian conception of god is (if you have time).

    -Doug

  218. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Alyssa,

    Thanks for dropping in. It’s reassuring to know that others with some knowledge of debate practice had trouble flowing the debate because of Hitchens’s debate style. In retrospect, studying my notes, I believe it is possible to construct the flow. I posted photos of my debate notes on Blackboard for my class. With some time off in the days ahead, I may have the opportunity to work on this.

    I didn’t see any of the atheists who came together in matching t-shirts because they were in another part of the audience. I believe the master of ceremonies said they were from the Orange County Atheists group. There are fanatical ideologues of all types. Some are fanatical atheists. Listening to the other side doesn’t come naturally for them. Sometimes they assume they already understand the arguments from the other side and have already seen that they are unsound. The problem with that is that they may be mistaken about what arguments are being presented if they aren’t listening closely. This can happen even with one’s debate opponent. Hitchens repeatedly misrepresented Craig’s moral argument, for example. It was as if he heard “moral argument” and immediately associated it with some conception of a moral argument he already knew of and was ready to address. Unfortunately, he never got it right, and so he kept addressing an argument that Craig was not making. And this is tantamount to dropping the argument that Craig was making.

    I’m confident there were people at the debate who did find it helpful and left with much to ponder in the warm afterglow of an engaging experience.

  219. auggy says:

    man sorry for the poor writing! I re-read my post and see how I’m moving point to point while being very confusing. Sorry everyone.

  220. Matt says:

    Hi Doug

    Sorry about the last post

    For some reason my account is putting my wifes photo up next to my name.

  221. Matt says:

    Hi Doug

    I will be interested in Denton’s next book, if he is still working in NZ let me know I am connected with a network of Theologians and Scientists who run conferences and seminars on the interface between theology and science and am sure he could contribute something.

    On a slightly tangential note, Hitchens’s tends to appeal to what I call the historical atrocities argument: the claim that people who believed in God committed atrocities in his name. Now this is a bad argument, Kretzman addressed it thoroughly in his theologically unfashionable Philosophy some years ago. And as an argument against the existence of God this is either a weak version of the problem of evil, or it is as Craig points out irrelevant, the issue is whether the beliefs of theists are true not whether they have been used with other premises to justify immoral acts.

    Craig is also correct that the premises of this argument are inconsistent with the denial of objective moral obligations. After all the people who did this lived in a different time or culture to us and if Hitchens’s is correct their own religious beliefs justified their actions and hence on a relativist account their actions were justified.

    One thing that bothers me though is that while these points are correct and they need to be made in a debate on the existence of God to avoid the discussion getting side tracked on side issues. The end result is that Hitchens’s still gets to claim religion has these ill effects.

    What would interest me would be a dialogue between someone like Rodney Stark and Hitchens not on the topic of “does God exist” but on the topic of whether religions effects on culture are negative or positive. This would allow a sociologist of religion who studies the effects of religion on culture to asses Hitchens’s charge directly.

    It would also be interesting to see Hitchens’s arguments assessed in a context where a person asks the comparative question of what the effects of movements such religious scepticism and Darwinism have had on culture and look at such things as Marxism, Social Darwinism etc. Or to see Hitchens’s claim about the history of religion and science addressed by someone like Ronald Numbers or Edward Grant. These issues can’t be pursued in an argument about the existence of God but they are important issues that need to be addressed and debated in any thorough response to the new atheists.

  222. UNRR says:

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 4/9/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  223. auggy says:

    Doug,
    Thank you for responding; very nice of you to take time to blog with people and actually tend your blog : )

    I did not mean sympathize in the sense of emotion but rather that when a Christian realizes that the atheist TRULY FULLY believes with pre-suppositions that God does not exist then they would reazlize that evidence is near impossible outside of directe proof (God pouring fire down from the skies).

    I’m still not convinced that Hitchens is wrong on the santa clause point. It hardly seems that if anyone debated the existence of SC that the negative would have to search the earth looking for santa in order to prove his point. The point Hitch and every atheist makes is that the burden of proof is on the affirmative and this is why I say they are flying by with no real connection. The theist on the other hand is doing the EXACT same thing. Craig wants Hitchens to give good reasons to prove athiesm is true. But Hitchens is not so much saying Athiesm is true but moreso that Since Theism is false then Atheism is true. Both are coming with pre-suppositions. To illustrate my point…

    Hitch asks: Name a moral actaion a unbelliever cannot do.

    Craig says: (IF GOD EXISTS) tithing and loving God.

    Craig is not understanding the force and position of Hitchens. First off.
    1) Hitch does not ask what a unbeliever WOULD not do but CANNOT do.
    2) Hitch will dispute that tithing (even if God exists) might not be a moral action
    3) unbelievers CAN tithe

    Not the Loving God would be more difficult but again they are flying by with no connection…

    Hitch will contend “loving God” on the premise that there is no God so the moral action of loving god is not positively moral. In fact he and Harris argue that it is immoral since it is delusional and people should live in the real world.

    To be fair to N.T. Wright, I believe the point was that they did believe in a dying and ressurecting messiah yet this amazing turn of events occured. Hitch could object still and use the Mormons as an example that: writing a new bible was something american churches did not permit and thus since the mormons wrote their own bible AND had such a turn of events and a following then it must be true.

    My point about Craigs points is that Hitch simply does not believe anyone has experienced God in a true sense but only in a wishful thinking sense and so no matter what angle “experiencing God” is presented Hitch simply does not find that as evidence.

    I’m no pysicist but I would be willing to invest stocks in the fact that they don’t have the beginning of the universe down. Now theres a chance I lose my house on that but I have a hard time believing when Craig was calling out all those numbers…
    10 to the 300,000 multiplied by 400,000 to the 5,000,000 power
    means NOTHING to hitch or any atheist because the numbers are just thrown out there.
    Craig using these numbers seems to me to be weak not because they’re not true but because it’s a hard case to prove they are to laymen like us. Since I have no way of knowing if those numbers are accurate AND I have a good feeling other scientists sitting there would have different numbers I simply don’t find ANY of the teleological arguments (spelling) persuasive at all.

    Now if you are pulling for Craig then yea, you’ll except the numbers as facts and say WOW! THAT IS MY POINT OF NOT CONNECTING.

    If you are pulling for Hitch then the numbers are a mass of comedy that are not verified except by some guy named “bla bla bla” who most of us never heard of.

    I think most people think Craig won because they wanted him to win. However I would like to have seen Craig really wrestle with the proofs rather than throwing “Jesus rose from the dead”. Criag SHOULD already know Hitchens is not going to have to do ANYTHING to leave doubt in objective listeners on ANY of the 3 points of Jesus’ ressurection. Wrights seemed to be the only one that had some value to the argument but the others (I’ll have to go back on my notes) did not move me but left me thinking HE DOES NOT BELIEVE JESUS EXISTED. Craig should have made a MUCH better case for this and DUMP the experiential argument.

    Sorry so long and thanks again Doug,

    Aug

  224. Alyssa Iwata says:

    I wanted to thank you for your assessment of the debate, especially Hitchens’ side of things, because I found it difficult to flow his speeches. As someone with a background in debate, I was extremely frustrated by Hitchens’ argumentation, or, really, lack thereof. There were times he deviated so much that I was almost tempted to give up taking notes altogether. I’m looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say in The New Atheism class tonight.

    To me, the strangest thing about the debate was how stereotypes of religion and science were turned on their heads. The theist came across as the voice of reason and evidence, and the atheist seemed happy to believe whatever he wanted even if it wasn’t consistent with reality or his worldview. My roommate watched the atheist group in attendance (in their matching t-shirts) during the debate and she noticed that none of them paid attention while Dr. Craig spoke, but as soon as Hitchens took the stage, they all leaned forward in their seats with their mouths open, hanging on his every word, as if he were some kind of spiritual leader.

    I hope this debate encouraged both Christians and atheists to think more critically about what they believe.

  225. Doug Geivett says:

    OK, Jake, I have a few minutes now to review your comments earlier today.

    (1) I’m not saying that if a normal cognitively mature person believes something, that is evidence that what they believe is true. I’m saying that it’s evidence that there is some evidence they have for believing that it’s true. This is a basic epistemological principle that I happen to accept.

    (2) By public evidence I mean evidence that can be examined and evaluated in the same more-or-less direct way available to most or many parties to a debate or discussion. It is contrasted with private evidence that an individual may have as a result of private experience (which all direct experience is).

    (3) Yes, Hitchens asserted that there is no more evidence for the existence of God than for the existence of Santa Claus. And this is absurd. You ask what is the best evidence for the existence of God. The best case for the existence of God is a cumulative case organized in the pattern of inference to best explanation of a whole array of phenomena, some of which the atheist will agree do exist and should be explained, some of which the atheist may believe do exist but need not be explained, some of which the atheist may believe do exist but cannot be explained, and some of which the atheist may deny. One of the limitations of debate, and really of any finitely long discussion of the topic, is that a total case on either side cannot be presented in full. This is not to say that debate is without merit. It can single out especially salient points most worthy of consideration, as judged by both sides in the debate. As for one particular argument (or general category of argument), I believe the most auspicious place to begin is with the question, Why is there something rather than nothing? This is a perennial question of philosopher and not an idiosyncracy of theistic argument. There are kinds of cosmological argument that infer the existence of God in answer to this question. William Craig deployed one such argument in his debate with Hitchens.

    (4) I think you’re mistaken about scientific evidence for a particular model concerning the origin of the universe. But that is a point you should take up with the cosmologists who develop models, and sample the consensus and their reasons for preferring one model over another. That is the point, after all; models are epistemically attractive or not in relation to the evidence that pertains to each and in comparison with one another. The Big Bang cosmology is currently (and for some time has been) the favored model. There are good reasons for this. Again, the physicists can tell you why. Anyone who takes science seriously must reckon with this fact about the state of research. Atheists like Hitchens, who are scientific naturalists, should not be coy about this.

    As for the gamble that a scientific answer to the question how the universe began to exist ex nihilo, that is indeed a gamble. But it is hardly warranted by the principles of scientific explanation, and entirely unrealistic about what it would take to explain such a thing. Most naturalists who believe that the universe began to exist take this to be an inexplicable brute fact. Perhaps the gamble is that scientists will discover that the universe did not begin to exist. That’s unlikely for philosophical reasons, as well as empirical reasons. And in the meantime our beliefs should be, as David Hume insisted, proportionate to the evidence. At the moment that means believing that the universe began to exist a finite time ago.

    Science has a good track record for figuring certain kinds of things out. This restriction on the actual successes achieved by science is overlooked by many who complain about a so-called “God-of-the-gaps” argument. It is possible to work out, consistent with the principles of responsible scientific practice, problems that are likely beyond purely scientific explanation (if that means explanation strictly in terms of the laws of nature). Here are a few examples: the origin of the universe, the existence of living organisms, the reality of human consciousness, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now you may say that Jesus did not rise from the dead. My point is simply this: if Jesus did rise from the dead, science is not the place to look for an explanation. David Hume knew that, and so do most modernists who declaim against the resurrection. This is itself evidence that they believe that a resurrection, if it happened, is best explained supernaturally.

    By the way, as far as Hitchens’s own atheist position and style of argument are concerned, it is possible that God exists. And thus it is possible that Jesus rose from the dead. So Hitchens, in this respect, has no real basis for precluding supernatural explanation for phenomena that require it, if those phenomena occur.

  226. Alex says:

    Hey Doug,

    I really appreciate your summary. I wish I could have seen the debate in person. I have seen Hitchens before and it seems he relies on his rhetorical skill rather than careful argumentation. It also seems like were he to concede that there is a god, although a god like Spinoza’s conception, or maybe Aristotle’s, he could launch his arguments against the Christian conception and they would have more force. I don’t know why more opponents to Christian Theism don’t take this line. I think they could do this and still keep the stylish title of being a New Atheist (of course, there wouldn’t be anything new about this).

    Yours,
    Alex

  227. Very nice post, thanks man!

  228. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Jake,

    I’m out the door right now, so I’ll have to respond later. But I wanted your comment posted right away so others can ponder what you say, and perhaps chime in with agreement or replies of their own.

    -Doug

  229. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi John Njoroge,

    It’s makes me very happy to hear of your plans to join the PhD program at UGA. Congratulations! You’ll have to tell me more about it.

    Thanks for your supportive comments about this post and the comments thread. So far, I’ve approved all the comments that have been submitted, which speaks to the quality of the commentators who all have been very civil, as well!

    I got the same question about the moral argument earlier, and if go scroll through the threads you should find my reply with a brief sketch of what I was referring to.

    -Doug

  230. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi John :)

    OK. But NT Wright’s point is one among many that include historical facts concerning the historical Jesus before his crucifixion, as well as the resurrection and its aftermath. To appreciate the significance of the point in question, the total evidence is relevant. And speaking for myself, that would include larger worldview matters, like the existence and nature of God. The Mormon concept of God is fundamentally different. Now I’ve just introduced another component into the larger debate about God’s existence, which is I’m not free to expound just now because I’m trying to keep this brief. Finally, if it happened that the Mormon claim was equally compelling on the evidence, then this would do nothing to undermine the case for supernaturalism by appealing to the resurrection. After all, the Mormon testimony isn’t in conflict with the actual occurrence with the belief that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, as argued.

  231. jake says:

    I have not been able to listen to the debate yet, but I am familiar with both gentleman’s points.

    “The Santa Claus and tooth fairy analogy is no analogy at all. The reason is simple. No normal cognitively mature person believes in Santa Claus, pixies, or the tooth fairy. But many do believe in God. This is some evidence that there is some evidence for the existence of God”

    And lots of “normal cognitively mature” people believe in things like astrology, superstition, and witchcraft. Yet that is not evidence that any of those things are true.

    “The evidence that believers have may be limited to their private religious experiences, for example. Their experiences might justify their belief in God, even if that could not count as evidence for someone else. But many, including Craig, obviously, believe there is public evidence that any cognitively mature individual can consider. ”

    Public evidence? I think I know what you mean, but what is the best example of the “public evidence” that a god exists?

    “Now Hitchens wants to say that the absence of evidence in the case of God’s existence is strictly analogous to the absence of evidence for Santa Claus, etc. This is ludicrous. Surely there is some evidence for theism.”

    Surely there is evidence that there are people that believe in only one god. But what is the best evidence for the existence of a god? That was the point of the analogy.

    “But if that’s the case, then this evidence needs to be counterbalanced or overturned by stronger evidence for a competing hypothesis. I would say that Hitchens’s scientism, his faith in science and determination to resist the task of explaining the origin of the universe, is more closely analogous to believing in fairies. And his failure to answer the arguments of the debate belies his claim that there is no evidence for theism.”

    Currently there is not any scientific evidence supporting a model for the origin of our universe. What Hitchen’s is doing is gambling that if anyone finds any such evidence, it is most probable that it will be discovered in a laboratory rather than a church. He believes this because science has a good track record of figuring things out about the world and the universe, more so than any other discipline. No faith required.

  232. John Njoroge says:

    Dear Doug,
    Thank you so much for the detailed and very informative summary of the debate. The discussion is also quite stimulating. I have not been a big fan of blogs due to the lack of civility and serious, logical engagement with important issues, but yours sets an impressive standard.

    You mention that you would state the moral argument differently from the way Craig did. You may have already explained what you meant (I’m not done reading through the threads), but if you haven’t, would you please explain briefly what an alternative form of the argument would look like?

    On a personal note: I found out you were on sabbatical last semester and so you did not get my request for a letter of reference in time. I got accepted to the PhD program at UGA (philosophy) and will be starting in the fall. Thank you for your ministry.

    John.

  233. John :) says:

    Hi Doug,

    I think Auggy’d point about the claim (by Mormons) that Jesus went to South America is this:

    1. N T Wright said that one reason why the idea of Jesus’ resurrection is unlikely to be a frictional invention thought the earliest Christians (who were Jews) because these early Jewish Christians did not have any previous tradition about one person being resurrected ahead of the rest of humanity to draw from. Their tradition was that all would be resurrected in the same time, not one person much ahead of others, and certainly nothing about a Messiah being able to be defeated and killed by pagan enemies, and nothing about a Messiah resurrecting. Even if they had thought of such an idea of resurrection, they would find it stupid to sell such an idea for it would make themselves unbelievable to others. So when these earliest Jewish Christians proclaimed that, it must be because they sincerely believed in it due to them having an actual experience (which they sincerely understood it to be Jesus’ resurrection) and not because they invented it.

    2. Now, the above argument can also be used by Mormons to argued for their claim that Jesus went to South America. Such an idea was not in existence before. Such an idea is absurd. It would make Mormons unbelievable. But Mormons still proclaimed that. Therefore (by the argument in point 1 above) the Mormons must have an actual experience (which they sincerely understood it to be their encounter with Jesus’ appearance in South America) and not because the earliest Mormon(s) invented it.

    [as an aside: Wright's above argument may no longer be strictly true because of the relatively recent the discovery of a stone with ancient inscriptions may point to the existence of an pre-Jesus Jewish idea of a Messiah being killed and then resurrected ahead of the general resurrection - though the evidence is not conclusive yet at this point in time because the inscriptions was not clear at the crucial part . One may refer to Ben Witherington's blog for some info on this stone]

  234. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Auggy,

    I have to disagree with the grounds of your assessment. Here’s why:

    (1) Sympathy for the feelings of unbelievers is well and good. But a debate is, in the nature of the case, concerned with what is true with regard to the question of the debate. And this question was, Does God exist? To get to the truth we rely on evidence. Our feelings are not a reliable guide to the truth.

    (2) Others have said that Craig and Hitchens talked past each other. I don’t believe this. There is no reasonable excuse for Hitchens to have misunderstood the moral argument presented by Craig. He got it wrong at the beginning, and he still had it wrong at the end. I explain this in my post. This is especially egregious from a debate standpoint since Hitchens had every opportunity to prepare for the debate by reviewing Craig’s use of the moral argument dozens of times in recorded debates and written publications. A debater may obfuscate, use subterfuge, deliberately and stubbornly distort in response to his opponent’s argument. This may confuse some audiences and make some people think the debaters have talked past each other. Not so in this case. If that were so, you could call it a draw at the end of any debate if one debater simply drops every argument by his opponent, because it could be claimed that they were talking past each other.

    (3) If, as you say, Hitchens bore no burden of proof, but simply needed to rebut Craig’s arguments, Hitchens still fell short. He was weak in his responses to the first two arguments, he distorted (whether naively or deliberately) arguments three and four, and he failed to understand Craig’s fifth point about experience. So even if rebutting is all Hitchens needed to do, given the kind of a-theist he is, he dropped the ball because he dropped the arguments. That alone is enough to measure his degree of success.

    (4) Rebutting was only the least of Hitchens’s responsibilities. He tried valiantly to avoid accepting any burden of proof (though, again, this phrase was never used). But here’s the thing. Craig’s argument for theism follows the pattern of inference to the best explanation. A satisfactory rebuttal of such an argument must show that the theistic explanation is either weaker than an alternative explanation, or is at least counterbalanced by an alternative explanation. That is, even if you believed that the probability of theism was not very great, its explanatory power must be considered in comparison with alternative hypotheses and their power to explain the same phenomena (i.e., the origin of the universe, apparent design, moral facts, and the resurrection of Jesus). Hitchens never even proposed a clear, distinct explanatory hypothesis for all of these things. In point of fact, he clearly is a naturalist (no matter how he defines “atheism” in application to himself). So his challenge would have been to show that Craig’s theistic hypothesis has less explanatory power, all things considered, than Hitchens’s naturalism.

    (5) I expected that Hitchens, because of his wit and media experience, would at least save face, even if he couldn’t match Craig argument-for-argument. That is, Hitchens could ensure that his position might still be regarded as reasonable, though not as well presented and defended as Craig’s. But on further reflection, I believe Hitchens fell short even of this standard. Again, he simply wasn’t prepared as well as he should have been and could have been. In effect, he was beat before he started, because he passed on the easy opportunity to master Craig’s arguments.

    (6) The Santa Claus and tooth fairy analogy is no analogy at all. The reason is simple. No normal cognitively mature person believes in Santa Claus, pixies, or the tooth fairy. But many do believe in God. This is some evidence that there is some evidence for the existence of God. The evidence that believers have may be limited to their private religious experiences, for example. Their experiences might justify their belief in God, even if that could not count as evidence for someone else. But many, including Craig, obviously, believe there is public evidence that any cognitively mature individual can consider. Now Hitchens wants to say that the absence of evidence in the case of God’s existence is strictly analogous to the absence of evidence for Santa Claus, etc. This is ludicrous. Surely there is some evidence for theism. But if that’s the case, then this evidence needs to be counterbalanced or overturned by stronger evidence for a competing hypothesis. I would say that Hitchens’s scientism, his faith in science and determination to resist the task of explaining the origin of the universe, is more closely analogous to believing in fairies. And his failure to answer the arguments of the debate belies his claim that there is no evidence for theism.

    (7) The quantum physics stuff is not mumbo jumbo. Yes, it takes special training for physicists to reach the conclusions they do; but cosmologists take reasonable positions and share them with the public. And with respect to the history of the universe, the dominant theory (accepted even by most atheists) is that the universe had a beginning. Hitchens, you’ll notice, did not dispute this.

    (8) With respect to the objectivity of morality, the question is not what is the full content of morality, or how are moral truths known, or who is in a better position to know moral truths. Craig’s point is much simpler than that. His question is, if there are such things as objective moral truths or facts, how do you account for their existence (whatever they happen to be and however they happen to be known). It seems to me that you’ve listened more carefully to Hitchens and accepted his distortion of the argument; better to listen carefully to the proponent of the argument so you understand it correctly and can then recognize what kind of response is needed from the opponent.

    (9) I’m afraid I don’t follow the comparison you make between ancient Jewish belief about resurrection and the stuff about Jesus, South America and Mormonism.

    (10) Finally, “bullet proof” arguments are not needed, on either side. It’s simply a question of which hypothesis provides the best (or better) explanation for the same range of facts. This was Craig’s claim about method, and Hitchens did not dispute it.

  235. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Josh,

    Hitchens is saying that the God of the Bible is not worthy of worship because of what He commands or allows (for example, what’s often called the “Canaanite genocide,” circumcision of male infants, etc.)

  236. Pingback: More on the Craig-Hitchens Debate « Cloud of Witnesses

  237. auggy says:

    My feelings were that Hitchens pulled of a slim victory (yes I am a christian). I say that because I feel that most christians don’t sympathize with the unbelief of the athiest. Vice Versa.

    My feelings were that the two flew over each other never connecting on each others points.

    OVER and OVER to the point Hitch said “I hope I’m not boring anyone” did he hold the position I don’t have to provide evidence that santa clause exists or the tooth fairy. I tend to agree with Hitch on this point the burden of proof is on us (craig). So everytime Craig stated Hitch gave no good reasons for Athiesm – Hitch sat there saying, I don’t have to.
    There is simply no winner here and if I have to score one on this it goes to the atheist because I think EVERY point is not a sound for of PROOF.
    If it was I didn’t see CBS, NBC, ABC or FOX with the biggest newsbread of all time…In other words Hitchens poked holes of doubt in everything Craig presented.

    Craig simply asserts there was a beggining to the universe. All the quantum physics mumbo jumbo did not prove anything to me NOR Hitchens so his point is meaningless to Hitchens.

    On the Moral ground Hitchens simply would not conceed to objective morality in a strict sense of there is a diety. Sam Harris has argued this point before and asks if there is objective morality who has it? Is it Islam? Is it the Vatican? forcing the point to even if there was a objective morality one has to prove their God in order to prove their code of morality is the objective one. I imagine Hitchens knows this being the 4-hoursemen are well articulated between each other.

    NT Wrights point is the strongest I feel presneted but even then for an Atheist it’s beggen the question. They hear that Jews had no reason to believe in a raising messiah and Hitchens (who first misunderstood the point) can simply argue No americans though Jesus would go to south America so Mormonism must be true. While being a Christian I find Wrights point to be very cool, I admit it’s not hard evidecne that a atheist needs.

    Thus my thoughts is that Craig was not as convincing as Hitchens. Mainly because Hitchens does not have to convince there is no God but ONLY show that the points are not Bullet proof. I feel he accomplished this. I love Bill Craig and always will but I want someone like Plantinga or Thomas Talbott to sit with the Four Horsement.

    Aug

  238. Josh Matlock says:

    I thought it interesting that Hitchens agreed with Craig on the problem of evil and even went as far as to state that if theists are going to assume a god, then they can’t really complain about what he does. Isn’t it true that most of Hitchens arguments against the God of the Bible are because He disagrees with what that God did and still must do?

  239. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Gina,

    Who can say? Will Hitchens want another debate like the one he’s recently experienced?

  240. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Tim,

    There are varieties of moral arguments for theism. One limitation of the argument presented in the debate is that some naturalists agree that there are objective moral “facts” and claim that these are abstract objects, and that their existence does not depend on God’s existence. These abstracta “govern” human behavior from a transcendent perspective; what it is to do the right thing is not socially determined, purely functional, or evolved through natural selection and social contracts. Now, a naturalist may have difficulty explaining the existence of such abstract entities. But they would’nt be committed to the kind of relativism that Christopher Hitchens is stuck with. Hitchens is in no position to answer Bill Craig’s argument in the way I’ve just described. If he had done so, Craig could simply have quoted from Hitchens’s book, establishing gross inconsistency between two conceptions of morality, one in the book and one during the debate. But Hitchens was vulnerable to the argument because of his fundamentally relativist view of ethics.

    I prefer to make two observations about moral experience, either of which provides some evidence for theism. First, it isn’t just that some acts are morally right and others morally wrong, objectively; they are also performed with a sense of responsibility that transcends the value of community or survival. And this sense of responsibility is not caused by abstract moral facts, since abstract objects are causally inert. The existence of moral abstracta may explain what makes an action right or wrong; but their existence won’t explain why moral agents take themselves to be obligated in any deep sense to abide by the dictates of these entities.

    Second, it is odd that there should be morally responsible agents in a world that is in no way causally affected by the existence of abstract moral truths or facts. These agents aren’t caused to exist and to be morally responsible agents by abstract objects. So there is this odd coincidence that there is a realm of abstract moral entities and that these apply to creatures such as ourselves, who have come to exist by utterly naturalistic or material processes. (Greg Ganssle has developed this point more fully than I have. See his excellent book Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy—IVP 2004.)

  241. Pingback: Does God Exist? – The Debate Continues « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  242. Tom Crisp says:

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the terrific summary.

    Tom

  243. Gina Pastore says:

    Doug, thank you for this awesome report! When will we see you debating this guy?

  244. Petros Cordellos says:

    Even-handed, good for you.

  245. Tim says:

    Hi Doug,
    Thanks for the recap. It will be nice to be able to refer others to your perceptive and even-handed summary.

    You mentioned that your preferred formulation of the moral argument differs slightly from Bill’s. Would you mind sharing what it is?

  246. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Eric,

    It’s great hearing from. Let’s set something up for lunch on a day that works for you. Do you have my email addess?

    -Doug

  247. eric O says:

    Dr. Geivett,
    Thanks for such a thorough review of the debate. Having a philosopher comment on the debate is so much more fulfilling than reading the thoughts of an amateur, like myself. Josie and I (and Dietrich) are back from Ukraine this year and were able to enjoy the debate live. What a treat! I’ve linked to your post here:

    http://immediacyisanillusion.blogspot.com/2009/04/from-another-read-better-angle.html

    And my thoughts about Hitchens’ book and about the debate are here, in case you are intersted:

    http://immediacyisanillusion.blogspot.com/2009/04/date-and-debate-night-or-what-kind-of.html

    I trust you are doing well and, if you don’t mind, I’ll stick my head into your office before the semester is out and we can catch up. There’s a lot going on at Kyiv Theological Seminary and I’d love to update you.

  248. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello, Diane. Thank you for sharing these personal connections with the Hitchens family. I understand your concern for your daughter. I trust that she is a confident Christian with a well-grounded faith. Did she see the debate also? -Doug

  249. Josh says:

    Thanks for this!

  250. Doug W. says:

    This is a very helpful recap for those not able to attend. Thank you for so precisely piecing this together. This must have taken a good bit of time to assemble.

  251. Pingback: William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens Reviews « Cloud of Witnesses

  252. Diane Ortel says:

    Thank you for the summary. I attended a broadcast of this debate last evening at a church in Champaign, Illinois. I went out of curiosity, only know a few atheists. My 16 year old daughter is dating Adam Hitchens, who is related to Christopher. Our family is Christian, specifically Missouri Synod Lutheran. Adam is a wonderful young man, but from my understanding is an atheist as is his father and their well known relatives Christopher and Peter. Adams mom is Christian. My concern for our daughter is that she will not be able to bring Adam to the Christian faith and that if their relationship continues to strengthen, it will have a negative affect on her faith. God warns us about being unequally yoked. I went, in search of better understanding atheism. I found Christopher Hitchens arguments not to have much substance to them. One can not disprove God. I left feeling so sad for him. As polite as he was during the debate, he seemed to have an emptiness about him. I thought Dr. Craig did a marvelous job debating and supporting his points. My plan is to pray for Adam and his family, including Christopher. Thanks again for the summary that you shared. I can share it with others I know that couldn’t attend that are interested in the subject. Sincerely, Diane Ortel

  253. Doug Geivett says:

    Wintery Knight,

    I don’t know what to say in response to your most recent comment on this post; it’s just so kind of you. Thank you, friend.

    I’m pretty sure if we met at a conference in 2001, you didn’t introduce yourself as “Wintery Knight.” I think I would have remembered that!

    It’s interesting that you should mention the recorded lecture on evil for ACAP. Just a couple of days ago a French university student majoring in modern languages wrote me that for one of her English assignments she was required to select something recorded in English, listen to it, summarize it, and write critical comments about it. She was writing to tell me she had selected that lecture on evil. She’s a Christian, studying in a much more secularized environment than we encounter here in the United States. But I mention this because of the coincidence—her note, and now yours.

  254. Doug Geivett says:

    Thank you, Feyd. I trust that John and Steven chimed in because they believe my synopsis and commentary to be even-handed. I’m glad to have you visiting, as well! -Doug

  255. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi John (Loftus),

    I look forward to reading your book. I teach a course on the New Atheism to a hundred students at a time. From the favorable reviews of your book, I have high expectations that it speaks directly to the case that has been made by evangelicalism’s most noted apologists. Maybe your publisher, Prometheus, would consider sending me a desk copy.

    I’m afraid Dan Barker goes a little over the top when he writes that anyone who reads the book “will have no choice but to discard the claims of Christianity.” Let’s face it, that’s a pretty freewheeling statement. I know Dan and have done a debate with him in Minnesota several years ago, and I don’t mean this to be personal. But I have to say that in general neither books nor debates, nor arguments in general, rise to the standard of leaving targets of argument with no choice but to believe or disbelieve x, y, or z.

  256. Doug, I met you at a philosophy conference in Wheaton around 2001. I asked you whether you thought that investing was gambling, and you spent some time talking to skeptical students as well. I was impressed by the way you handled them.

    Your lecture on the problems of evil for ACAP is my favorite audio resource on the topic. I could not possibly be more enthusiastic by the though of you blogging more on philosophy of religion and epistemology.
    I really hope you will take me up on it!

    Wintery Knight

    P.S. – My post on the problem of evil where I link to the audio of your lecture on the problems of evil is here:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/everything-i-know-about-the-problems-of-evil-and-suffering-in-a-4-page-essay/

    I recommend everyone have a listen, as this is the best thing out there, in my opinion.

  257. Feyd says:

    You know you’ve wrote a serious blog when both John Loftus and Steven Carr arrive in your comments. Loftus easily ranks in the worlds top 20 most notable atheists. Im surprised Carr’s not told us that his man Jef Lowder could lick Craig in debate.

    The salient fact is atheist no 1 Richard Dawkins has repeatedly refused to debate Craig, and reading your blog one can see why. Even John Lennox was able to force Dawkins to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’ and according to Melanie Philips to get him to admit a serious case can be made for the existence of a deity.

    Craig would probably have Dawkins publicly repenting! I was glad to read that Craig implored Hitchens to accept Christ. Its good for both sides that Christians are being more assertive.

    When an atheist “looses” by being converted, the reality is he wins the greatest prize of all, the Kingdom of Heaven.

  258. It’s about time some newer general apologetics books are written. Groothuis is writing one that I think may be the standard for years to come, and now I hear you’re doing the same. I look forward to them both. I can’t begin to tell you how inadequate such a project is from the get go, but the Christian community needs better books of this type. My book is being used in apologetics and atheist classes in both secular and Christian colleges. Perhaps you’ll consider dealing with my book in yours. Have you read the reviews of it?

  259. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Wintery Knight,

    Thanks for your interest in the stuff I write for publication. A year ago I decided to experiment with blogging. My idea was to use it as a venue to write about other things I think and care about. Since it was an election year in the U.S., it was a great time to experiment. With the new administration and its hair-raising antics, I find now that I pay less attention to national politics. But I still like to write about things I’m reading and things I’m noticing about the culture.

    With your encouragement, I may start doing more here on philosophy of religion and epistemology. I’m working on a book on Christian apologetics, so I’ll have to be careful not to repeat here what I’m putting in the book, before the book even comes out.

  260. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi again, John (Loftus). Thank you for kindly inviting me to write a guest post for your website. I’m not sure what I would write about, but I’ll give it some thought. -Doug

  261. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Matt,

    Yes, Mike Denton was (and may still be) affiliated with Otago. He’s working on a third book and wrote me about it recently.

  262. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Matt,

    Yes, Mike Denton was (and may still be) affiliated with Otago. He’s working on a third book and wrote me about it recently.

  263. Dr. Geivett, I have published guest posts on my blog from people like Bill Craig, Craig Bloomberg, James Sennett, Doug Groothuis, and John F. Haught, as is, and without comment from me. I extend to you that same opportunity. We get about 50,000 hits a month. Just email me.

    Cheers.

  264. Matt says:

    Hi Doug

    Great review,

    I read Denton’s book a few years ago. I have not met him but I believe he was at one stage working at the University of Otago where I did my PhD.

  265. C_R_Misley says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write out this synopsis.

    I am curious what your personal opinions are, having a background in epistemology…

    It is fair to say my bias is present.

    Point 3 – Bill Craig’s arguments seem ubiquitous and generic among theologians.

    In regards to the debate, I cannot see how Hitchen’s could share the wealth of knowledge debunking religion in one evening. The research, inquiry, logic, and literature all exists, but it does not fit as nicely (and easily to understand) as that of religion, and god. As an active anti-theist, secular humanist, and critical thinking individual, I would much rather have had Richard Dawkins represent the community in debate.

    As a rather young individual, who has yet to exhaust the literature for ‘debunking religion’, I find myself utterly confused with how people believe in god. As a ‘heart-warming’ answer to, why we are here, what are here for, and where are we going, I can see its allure, but my acceptance ends there.

    Wish I had more time to share. I have schoolwork to attend. With the intention of ultimately bringing secular humanist ideals into the political system. I pray, pun intended, to see the day when a political speech can end without ‘god bless’.

  266. nathanrelson says:

    Reading your account of this debate has left me tarrying to get my work accomplished that I need to. But I feel compelled to comment. First, I have not had the opportunity to attend a debate of this sorts in the past, however I can say that I have been on both sides of this argument. As someone who once held to an almost strict orthodoxy of post-modernism, the one thing that never quite made sense for me was the seeming truth nature of moral law. For instance, “killing another human being is bad.” While for some individuals, this moral law is not applicable, for a great deal of understood human history this rule has been a societal norm. I was always left for want of a reason why thing such of that could be pervasive.

    On another note, I find it terrible fascinating the tension between evolutionists who invoke the idea of a long and wasteful creation period as a compelling reason to stand against Theism as a form of intelligent design (I refer specifically to the idea of death here). There seems to be an underlining assumption that death is a terminal state and an undesirable one at that. Could it not be argued from both a naturalist and a theistic perspective that death is not in and of itself a negative but a part of the process of existence existing? If naturalist are only concerned with matter – then who cares what form it is in? I would also hope to believe that death, as in physically death, is not seen as being a wasted state by most Theists (Christians in particular).

    Anyways, not fully formed thoughts but thoughts interesting to me nonetheless…

  267. Rich Bordner says:

    Hi Dr. Geivett,

    Nice run down. I linked to it in my own review.

    I appreciate that Craig made such an evangelical appeal. I think it underscores a proper view of apologetics. Apologetics are rooted in the care for the lost, plain and simple. The debate should therefore give some Christians (who dismiss apologetics and philosophy as mere arguing about words) pause.

    FWIW, here is my review:

    debate

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  269. Madeleine says:

    Hi Doug – thanks for that and yes please do add us, we would be honoured. We will return the favour as we too enjoyed finding your site.

    We regularly add more articles, the final installment of Belief without Proof will be up tomorrow and then I think the next philosophical series will be is an exegetical treatment with philosophical analysis planned for the Lex Talionis and the Alexandrian Argument. This if course will be interspersed with political, social and jurisprudential commentary and the odd bit of humour – in accord with our blend so as to appeal to lay philosophers as well as professionals. If you search the archives you will find nearly 3 years worth to keep you going!

    Michael Denton sounds very familiar, I will ask the other M, who is the Philosopher in residence and come back to you.

    This debate sounds very similar in places to the debate we organised with Bill Craig and Bill Cooke at Auckland University (we have video footage on our site). You really have to wonder at these lite-atheists who step up to debate Craig, Craig’s standard debate content is all over the web, he doesn’t deviate much – I clicked Craig’s powerpoint for him at the Auckland debate so I had a transcript in front of me of his opening statement and it was precisely what I had read and seen in his other debates, yet Cooke, (like you described Hitchens) seemed to not see it coming. It is like they are hearing his arguments for the very first time – where is their preparation? Try google!

  270. Hi Doug,

    In his debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Craig says the hypothesis, “God raised Jesus from the dead” explains four facts: (1) “After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb”; (2) “On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty, by a group of his women followers”; (3) “On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead”; and (4) “The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.” These four facts can be found on pages 22-24 of God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist. So, for whatever reason, Craig sometimes drops (1) from his list of facts. My guess is that he adds it if he thinks his interlocutor will dispute it.

  271. Ranger says:

    Just to clarify,
    Craig changes his number of points with regularity. For instance, when debating Shabir Ally, he split a point into the two points that Jesus was crucified and that he actually died since the Quran seems to imply that he was neither crucified nor dead. In that debate, I think he actually had five points: 1. Jesus was crucified, 2. Jesus died, 3. Jesus received an honorable burial, 4. Jesus’ tomb was empty, 5. Jesus’ followers experienced the risen Jesus and believed he had been resurrected. His points depend on his opponent and their typical arguments against the resurrection.

  272. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Sue,

    I see your point. But I think it assumes an extreme form of cultural determinism. Also, while it’s true that we are fallible in our understanding, we nevertheless require some reason to believe what we believe. As I often say, human beings are naturally truth-interested and exquisitely evidence-sensitive.

  273. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi unkle e,

    We can’t know what God is up to. But we can press on. And as you say, we have more to learn about how best to engage the culture. I think it’s a mistake to talk of engagement in terms of a “culture war.” Our efforts should be motivated by love for others, whoever they are. Our methods of engagement should be practiced from Christian virtue. The business of the Christian in the world today is to appeal to others to be reconciled to God. That is, we are peacemakers by vocation. (See 2 Corinthians 5.)

    The fanfare generated by the neo-atheists does two things for the Church. First, as you point out, it keeps believers tooled up to respond more effectively to concerns that many, Christian and nonChristian, have had for quite some time. The case for Christianity is strengthened by the necessity to respond the specific issues that are the rage today. Second, it draws public attention to the possibility of making sense of Christianity and the sense it can make of our lives. Because the neo-atheists are so visible, direct engagement with them by thoughtful believers will also be visible. This can hardly be the intended fruit of neo-atheist denunciations of religion. But we know what God says about the wisdom of the world, don’t we?

  274. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello Wintery Knight. Thanks for the links.

  275. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Mark L.,

    I know. You would have enjoyed it.

  276. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi again, Steven. Bill Craig may have presented four facts in during his debate with Richard Carrier. If so, that would be a departure from his usual practice. But three, four or whatever, the argument deserves to be taken seriously and answered point for point. I’m sure that Richard thinks this can be done, that, indeed, he can do it himself.

    My brief take on your three points:

    (1) Yes, a number of people have identified themselves as eyewitnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus, within a brief time following his crucifixion and burial. Mary Magdalene did this when she reported her experience to Jesus disciples on that early Easter morning. Two of them, Peter and John, went to see for themselves and corroborated their testimony. The apostle Paul met with Jesus’ disciples to query them about the faith (see Galatians), and left satisfied with what they reported. This is reflected in Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians. The Gospels themselves are informed by eyewitness testimony. Of course, some who saw the empty tomb also saw Jesus alive after the resurrection, while others who saw Jesus may never have visited the tomb. Further to the point, a rumor began to spread immediately that Jesus’ body was stolen by his disciples. The best explanation for this rumor is that the empty was empty tomb and that the enemies of Jesus knew this. This is the kind of historical evidence we have that some discovered the tomb to be empty and considered this remarkable and one basis for believing that Jesus had risen. But they might not have believed this if they had not also seen him alive.

    (2) You’ll have to present evidence that members of the Christian church at Corinth, true converts to Christianity there, were scoffers. 1 Corinthians 15 addresses concerns that some in Corinth had about whether the dead would be raised. Second, you’ll have to state more clearly what you mean by “scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.” Third, while I gather that you consider this somehow relevant to Bill Craig’s case for the resurrection, I fail to see how it does.

    (3) The earliest Christians who expected the return of Jesus in their lifetime did wonder what if would mean if he tarried. Paul addressed these concerns, as did the apostle John, in the Apocalypse (or Book of Revelation).

  277. Doug, how come you don’t blog as much on apologetics and philosophy of religion on your blog? I really like your apologetics work.

    For example, are you having any debates these days? Publishing any papers? Just wondering…

  278. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Madeleine,

    I’m glad you found my post. Your MandM site looks great. I look forward to reading more articles. If you don’t mind, I’d like to add MandM to my blogroll.

    By the way, do you know my friend Michael Denton, who lives and works in New Zealand? He’s made great contributions to the proper understanding of evolution theory.

    -Doug

  279. Jason says:

    Hi Doug. Thanks for your review of the debate and for your well balanced responses to the other posters. I feel affinity with some of the posters questions regarding Craig’s modus operandi but I am in complete agreement with you as to why he shouldn’t change his reasoning just because it is always the same reasoning. If something is true then it is true, why change it?

    Anyway I hope Hitchens himself can look back and see why his worldview is based on very shaky ground whereas the case for theism is firmly established in claims that are obviously irrefutable. If they weren’t then why hasn’t somebody conclusively refuted them already?

    To God be the praise.

    Jason

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  281. sue says:

    What do you think when a child is enlightened by the Holy Spirit only to be held captive in the training of ritualisms instead of being trained into a repentant and forgiven life with Christ? The vulnerability of the child and the offense may not be able to be articulated at such a young age. Thus, the seed was sewn, but living a life of having to know it all, will impede the faith that it takes to have that seed grow. I think that when you are striving to prove all earthly wisdom, you will miss the freedom of having the Holy Spirit bring you the truth.

  282. unkle e says:

    “we may soon witness a great renaissance of Christianity”

    I think this final statement is probably true, but I suggest we should recognise that God may be doing some “purification” first. As Vincent Martinez says, answering the “new atheists” on the fate of those who follow other religions, on evolution and Old Testament bloodshed, is leading christians into less literal interpretations and slightly more inclusivist doctrines. I believe we can see God using the new atheists to reform our teaching.

    But further, I think we all know that the modern, affluent, western church needs to change. We have too often been uncaring, judgmental, superficial and seeking our own comfort and wealth before the kingdom of God. We have too often failed to serve and offer grace. We have had too many leaders who have brought disgrace to the name of Jesus. We need to lift our game!

    So yes, I think we can look forward with hope, but we will need to embrace change, repentance, grace and humility. And the new atheists will have been a necessary catalyst in the hand of God.

  283. My own summary based on the video is here:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/the-debate-so-far/

    Other resources, including audio from last week’s debate between Hitchens and Craig at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, are linked here:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/audio-from-wiliam-lane-craig-vs-christopher-hitchens-debate/

    The second link includes book reviews of Hitchens’ book by Melinda Penner and Doug Groothuis.

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  286. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Nicole,

    I agree that argument can distract from the existentially deep issues of heart and commitment. But I believe Bill Craig actually made that point at the end of his opening argument. This is the limitation of debate. Debate is a venue for the presentation of arguments. It is by no means the only context for reflection on reality and values and their relevance to our lives. So just as it would be unsuitable to fixate on arguments at the exclusion of life application in sermons from the pulpit, so it would be unseemly to participate in a “debate” but practice narrative at the neglect of argument. So context is key.

    Could you give some examples of specific points that Bill Craig missed or didn’t hear, because he was so concerned with his outline?

    Also, are you assuming that his argument for theism is ineffective if it does not evolve into different permutations of argument over time? Why shouldn’t the evidence he’s always presented be good evidence simply because it’s the same evidence he’s always presented?

  287. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Vincent,

    I’m fascinated by your interest in filmmaking and the exploration of worldviews. I’ve edited a book on Faith, Film, and Philosophy that may interest you.

    Three quick points:

    (1) For over a hundred years, conservative Christian thinkers have considered Darwin’s general theory of evolution to be compatible with plausible interpretations of the book of Genesis. Even some of Darwin’s contemporaries accepted this. And it is a mark of intellectual virtue to welcome evidence from any quarter in the effort both to believe what’s true and to understand the Bible aright.

    (2) The person named by Bill Craig in his debate is Augustine of Hippo, a major theologian and philosopher of the Church, acknowledged as such by Catholic and Protestant traditions. Augustine is by no means a rogue figure in the history of Christianity, nor is he the only one who considered such views as possible. But of course, it wasn’t until the development of the science of biology that substantive empirical evidence could be considered, one way or the other.

    (3) The science of biblical hermeneutics, or the interpretation of the Bible, is far more complex than what is suggested in your welcome comment. Among the books I recommend on this fascinating topic is the IVP reference work Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, edited by Donald K. McKim.

  288. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Rob,

    I know you would have been there if you could. But it’s a long drive from Oregon!

  289. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi UnBeguiled,

    Right you are. Some moral philosophers hold that moral values or truths are abstract objects and that, as such, they need not depend on any relation to divine existence or divine will. Hitchens may be prevented from endorsing such a view because of his social Darwinism and his version of scientism.

  290. Mark Linville says:

    Great review. Thanks, Doug.

    I wish I could have been there!

    Marl

  291. Brian says:

    I have removed the MP3 and am pointing people to the official audio and video on that link now.

  292. Doug Geivett says:

    Thanks, Gordy. I think you’re right. Hitchens did make that point more than once.

  293. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Brian,

    Is the MP3 at the link you give an authorized recording of the debate with high quality audio? I’m sure the DVD will be available soon.

  294. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi John Loftus,

    I didn’t know of your website debunkingchristianity.com until your comment. So thanks for dropping in. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments various readers left about it.

  295. Steven Carr says:

    I thought Craig said there were 4 facts, as recently as his debate with Richard Carrier.

    Has anybody in history ever named himself as having seen an empty tomb?

    And isn’t it a fact that early Christian converts in Corinth were openly scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses?

    And the church in Thessalonia seemed to be getting worried about the fate of corpses as well

  296. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Steven,

    I’m not sure what you mean by Craig’s “fourth ‘fact.’” In his 1984 book Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press), Bill Craig writes: “The case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus seems to me to rest upon the evidence for three great, independently established facts: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith” (p. 185). 272). That was over twenty years ago. In the 1994 revised edition of his book, with the new title Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, the same statement appears verbatim on page 272. In his debate with Antony Flew in 1998, he stated, “there are exactly three established facts, recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today, which I believe are best explained by the Resurrection of Jesus” (see Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate, pp. 22-23). This has been his standard practice for more than two decades: to enumerate the same three factual claims supported by research among New Testament historians. He presented the same evidence last night. If anything, the consensus on each point has grown stronger in recent years. (In the Craig-Flew debate book, I have a chapter that includes a four-page discussion of this part of Bill Craig’s case for theism.)

  297. Madeleine says:

    Thanks for this, we really wanted to be able to link to someone who was there and who could give a great summary and you definately fit the bill!

  298. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi emjay (Matt),

    Thanks for your kind comments about my article, “A Pascalian Rejoinder to the Presumption of Atheism,” which appears in the book God Matters: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion.

  299. feyd says:

    great post. i hope the great renaissance comes soon. Praise God!

  300. Carrie Allen says:

    This was a great recap, thank you!

  301. Adam says:

    Thanks for all that. I have been looking into applying to Talbot and this sort of thing really attracts me to going there.

  302. Nicole Vandelaar says:

    Greetings Doug.

    I appreciate your detailed account of last night’s debate. I enjoyed myself at the event, and there were a number of times I wanted to jump up on stage and speak with Bill Craig myself…lol!

    I must say, that Hitchens was obviously not following an organized outline of any sort as Craig was. However, I think Craig’s delivery last night is a great example of how an organized set of rules, beliefs, and concepts can be so ingrained in a person’s mind, that they fail to live in the vulnerability of the moment, which is a portal into the power the formless consciousness of a power greater than ourselves. While I do think Hitchens could have had somewhat more of a looser outline, Craig was so concerned with his outline that he missed a number of opportunities to explore deep questions that pain and confuse many believers who are trying to follow a set of principles that do not always make logical sense. Craig’s outline and “plan” for last night’s debate was so well researched, thought out, and supported that of course he could respond to any question, however his responses were nothing new. He couldn’t hear because he was so identified with his plan and,furthermore, winning the debate. I will point out that yhe essence of the power of this dynamic universe lies within the ever changing moment that cannot be nailed down through any man-made mental construct that gives an individual a false sense of security through sense perceptions of solidity…which is what I heard from Craig last night in his execution. Which is s divine example on a minuscule level of how a planned out set of rules, concepts, and beliefs can obstruct the power of the true universe. Ironically, it takes a lot of faith to “let go,” and and feel the essence of a power great than oneself that cannot be understood by the human mind.

    In love and Spirit,
    Nicole V.

  303. Vincent Martinez says:

    I appreciate your faithful recap of the debate. I’m a student at Cleveland State University and, although I am not on course to be an apologist (some of my friends are), I believe my relationship with Christianity and faith is undeniably influential to my narrative and auteurship as a filmmaker. I agree that Christopher Hitchens did not have a logical throughline in his arguments with the exception of his personal experiences with God or Christianity.
    I was surprised that Hitchens did not pursue further the convenient adaptation of mainstream Christian belief in the face of evidence and discovery by science. Decades ago, there was no allowance for evolution within mainstream Christian doctrine. In particular, I’m talking about the creation of the world in six days. I may be mistaken, but I recall that Bill Craig seemed satisfied to rebut Hitchen’s point on (in my own words) “convenient adaptation” especially in regard to the creation in Genesis. Craig rebutted with two points. First, that there is (in my own words) leeway or camps of interpretation on this portion of the Bible especially with the 6 days of creation timeframe. Second, that a Christian scholar (I can’t recall his name) had, years before Darwin, discussed (almost in prophetic preparation) this matter in such a way as to provide Christian doctrine “a way out” so to speak. I take issue with both of these points from logical dissatisfaction and can’t see why from a tactical standpoint, Hitchens would not target them with an offensive. I’m sure you have already anticipated my first question.
    If the six day timeframe of the creation of the world can be given to interpretation and categorized in an anecdotal nature such as some of the psalms and proverbs, how can legitimacy of any exact words of the rest of the body of work hold up in an objective way? It is my understanding that within the camps of Christian faith, there is a wide range of disagreement on just how much Biblical text can be taken literally or not. Obviously disagreements of this nature weaken the Calvinists, Wesleyans, and all other Christian camps in the argument for theism. Authorship of biblical text varies, but is it fair to give ratios of weight to certain portions of Biblical text over others such as the six day creation of the world text or the several eye account witnesses by followers of Jesus who discovered an empty tomb? There are a great many books that Christians use to contextualize or legitimize portions of the Bible. But, again, it seems to me that there is a range of differences over these augmentations as well.
    And with regard two Craig’s second point, it is suspicious that there is a sudden allegiance to a little known, if not, rogue theory that has not been mainstream belief decades ago and before the emergence of hard science in support of the evolution theory. It would seem that during the advent of “convenient adaptation,” Christians dug up a doctrine (and Christianity is a religion prolific with a universal range of doctrine) to digest and accompany the theory of evolution.
    I concede to the skeptical tone of my questions. However, I can’t tolerate convenient construction to support my belief system. I am very eager to hear your thoughts on this.

  304. Wow, Doug. Great summary and insights. Thank you for taking the time to share with those of us who couldn’t attend.

  305. kapeka says:

    Thanks for this outline about the debate. It seems that I have really missed something here completely.

  306. UnBeguiled says:

    Thank you for this clear and even-handed review.

    Concerning the grounding of morality, you wrote:

    “It baffles me that so many atheist, agnostic, and skeptical debaters distort this argument so consistently.”

    I concur. I remember Hitchens in another debate amateurishly not responding to this issue, choosing rather to set fire to a figure of straw. I remember wondering if Hitchens really did not understand or if he just could not answer. Certainly answers are available, since plenty of moral philosophers have ethical theories not grounded on theism. In addition, there are arguments that morality cannot be grounded on theism.

    Not that I wish to hash out these arguments here, but to just emphasize your point that Hitchens was ill-prepared and to also agree that most atheists are not capable of answering this difficult question.

    Thanks again.

  307. e2gordy says:

    I believe that Hitchens third argument against teleology (your note 5) was that the extraordinary time required for the big bang and the # of species that have died out made the designer cruel and inefficient and wasteful. I think Hitchens conflated the two common objections (A) problem evil in nature and (B) the idea that a designer must be perfect.

    Thanks for the great wrap up.

    Gordy

  308. Brian says:

    MP3 Audio is here.

  309. Thanks fo this review. I had predicted Dr. Craig would win and you’ve just confirmed it. Maybe someday I’ll get a crack ot debating him.

  310. Steven Carr says:

    ‘Fourth, he stated three sets of historical facts that are uniformly accepted by New Testament scholars, which together provide ample evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, implying the occurrence of an important miracle and hence the existence of God. ‘

    Has Craig now dropped his fourth ‘fact’?

  311. emjay says:

    On behalf of all of us who missed the debate, thanks for this summary, Doug.

    Concerning points 5 and 10, I think it’s worth pointing out how widely underdiscussed the burden of proof seems to be in this context, along with the relevance of the kinds of attitudes we bring with us to the inquiry. A few years back, some fellow wrote an article called “A Pascalian Rejoinder to the Presumption of Atheism,” which–in my humble opinion–is an important contribution to this discussion. The same fellow is also thanked, I believe, for comments on an earlier draft of Paul Moser’s “Cognitive Idolatry and Divine Hiding.”

    Shalom!

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