Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Summary of the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate: Does God Exist?

I got word today that there was an agnostic philosophy student at Dr. Craig’s “Defenders” class today who read this summary of the Craig-Hitchens debate and said it was “perfectly on the money” according to my source. I have not re-posted this summary since 2009, when the debate happened, so I thought I would re-post it today.

Here is the video of the debate has been posted:

TOPIC: DOES GOD EXIST?

MY NOTES ON THE DEBATE: (WC = William Lane Craig, CH = Christopher Hitchens)

WC opening speech:

Introduction:

WC makes two contentions:
- there are no good arguments for atheism
- there are good arguments for theism

These topics are IRRELEVANT tonight:
- social impact of christianity
- morality of Old Testament passages
- biblical inerrancy
- the debate is whether god (a creator and designer of the universe) exists

1. cosmological argument
- an actually infinite number of past events is impossible
- number of past events must be finite
- therefore universe has a beginning
- the beginning of the universe is confirmed by science -  universe began to exist from nothing
- space, time, matter, energy began at the big bang
- the creation of the universe requires a cause
- the cause is uncaused, timeless, spaceless, powerful
- the cause must be beyond space and time, because it created space and time
- the cause is not physical, because it created all matter and energy
- but there are only two kinds of non-physical cause: abstract objects or minds
- abstract objects don’t cause effects
- therefore must be mind

2. teleological argument
- fine-tuned constants and ratios
- constants not determined by laws of nature
- also, there are arbitrary quantities
- constants and quantities are in narrow range of life-permitting values
- an example: if the weak force were different by 1 in 10 to the 100, then no life
- there are 3 explanations: physical law or chance or design
- not due to law: because constants and quantities are independent of the laws
- not due to chance: the odds are too high for chance
- therefore, due to design
- the atheist response is the world ensemble (multiverse)
- but world ensemble has unobservable universes, no evidence that they exist
- and world ensemble contradicts scientific observations we have today

3. moral argument
- objective moral values are values that exist regardless of what humans think
- objective values are not personal preferences
- objective values are not evolved standards that cultures have depending on time and place
- objective moral values and duties exist
- objective moral values and duties require a moral lawgiver

4. argument from resurrection miracle
- resurrection implies miracle
- miracle implies God
- 3 minimal facts pass the historical tests (early attestation, eyewitness testimony, multiple attestation, etc.)
- minimal fact 1: empty tomb
- minimal fact 2: appearances
- minimal fact 3: early belief in the resurrection
- jewish theology prohibits a dying messiah – messiah is not supposed to die
- jewish theology has a general resurrection of everybody, there is not supposed to be a resurrection of one person
- jewish theology certainly does not predict a single resurrection of the messiah after he dies
- therefore, the belief in the resurrection is unlikely to have been invented
- disciples were willing to die for that belief in the resurrection
- naturalistic explanations don’t work for the 3 minimal facts

5. properly basic belief in god
- religious experience is properly basic
- it’s just like the belief in the external world, grounded in experience
- in the absence of defeaters, those experiences are valid

Conclusion: What CH must do:
- destroy all 5 of WC’s arguments
- erect his own case in its place

CH opening speech:

1. evolution disproves biological design argument
- evolution disproves paley’s argument for a watchmaker

2. god wouldn’t have done it that way
- god wouldn’t have waited that long before the incarnation
- mass extinction and death before Jesus
- god wouldn’t have allowed humans to have almost gone extinct a while back in africa
- why insist that this wasteful and incompetent history of life is for us, that’s a bad design
- the universe is so vast, why would god need so much space, that’s a bad design
- there is too much destruction in the universe, like exploding stars – that’s a bad design
- the heat death of the universe is a bad design
- too many of the other planets don’t support life, that’s a bad design
- the sun is going to become a red giant and incinerate us, that’s a bad design

3. hitchens’ burden of proof
- there is no good reason that supports the existence of god
- all arguments for god can be explained without god
- atheists can’t prove there is no god
- but they can prove there is no good argument for god

4. craig’s scientific arguments don’t go far enough, they only prove deism, not theism
- the scientific arguments don’t prove prayer works
- the scientific arguments don’t prove specific moral teachings of christianity

5. if the laws of physics are so great then miracles shouldn’t be allowed
- good laws and miracles seem to be in contradiction

6. extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence
- none of craig’s evidence was extraordinary

7. science can change, so craig can’t use the progress of science
- it’s too early for craig to use the big bang and fine-tuning
- the big bang and fine-tuning evidences are too new
- they could be overturned by the progress of science

8. craig wrote in his book that the internal conviction of god’s existence should trump contradicting evidence
- but then he isn’t forming his view based on evidence
- he refuses to let evidence disprove his view
- but then how can atheists be to blame if they don’t believe
- so evidence is not really relevant to accepting theism

9. the progress of science has disproved religion
- christianity taught that earth was center of the universe
- but then cosmology disproved that

Response to the big bang and fine-tuning arguments:
- was there pre-existing material?
- who designed the designer?

WC first rebuttal:

Reiterates his 2 basic contentions

CH agrees that there is no good argument for atheism
- then all you’ve got is agnosticism
- because CH did not claim to know there is no God
- and he gave no arguments that there is no God

CH’s evolution argument
- irrelevant to christianity
- Genesis 1 allows for evolution to have occurred
- christianity is not committed to young earth creationism
- the origin of biological diversity is not central to christianity
- st. augustine in 300 AD said days can be long, special potencies unfold over time
- also there are scientific reasons to doubt evolution
- cites barrow and tipler, and they say:
- each of 10 steps in evolution is very improbable
- chances are so low, it would be a miracle if evolution occurred

CH’s argument that god is wasteful
- efficiency is only important to people with limited time or limited resources
- therefore god doesn’t need to be efficient

CH’s argument that god waits too long to send Jesus
- population was not that high before jesus
- jesus appears just before the exponential explosion of population
- conditions were stable – roman empire, peace, literacy, law, etc.

CH’s argument that Craig’s scientific arguments only prove deism, not theism
- deism a type of theism, so those scientific arguments work
- all that deism denies is miraculous intervention

CH’s argument that Craig has a burden of proof
- theism doesn’t need to be proven with certainty
- must only prove best explanation of the evidence

CH’s citation of Craig’s book saying that evidence should not overrule experience
- there is a difference between knowing and showing christianity is true
- knowing is by religious experience which is a properly basic belief
- showing is done through evidence, and there the evidence does matter

CH’s rebuttal to the big bang
- there was no pre-existent material
- space and time and matter came into being at the big bang
- the cause must be non-physical and eternal
- cause of universe outside of time means = cause of universe did not begin to exist
- this is the state of science today

CH’s rebuttal to the fine tuning
- CH says scientists are uncertain about the fine-tuning
- craig cites martin rees, an atheist, astronomer royal, to substantiate the fine tuning
- the fine-tuning is necessary for  minimal requirements for life of any kind
- the progress of science is not going to dethrone the fine-tuning

CH’s argument about heat death of the universe
- duration of design is irrelevant to whether something was designed
- cars are designed, yet they break down
- design need not be optimal to be designed
- ch is saying why create if we all eventually go extinct
- but life doesn’t end in the grave on christianity

CH’s rebuttal to the moral argument
- CH says no obj moral values
- but CH uses them to argue against god and christians
- but CH has no foundation for a standard that applies to God and Christians

CH’s rebuttal to the resurrection argument
- empty tomb and appearances are virtually certain
- these are minimal facts, well evidenced using standard historical criteria
- best explanation of these minimal facts is the resurrection

CH’s rebuttal to religious experience
- prop basic belief is rational in the absence of defeaters
- so long as craig has no psychological deficiency, experience is admissible

CH first rebuttal:

it’s not agnosticism
- if there are no good arguments for theism
- then there is no reason for belief in god
- that is atheism
- everything can be explained without god

god wouldn’t have done it that way
- homo sapiens is 100K years old
- for 98K years, they had no communication from God
- lots of people died in childbirth
- disease and volcanos are a mystery to them
- life expectancy is very low
- they die terrible deaths
- their teeth are badly designed
- their genitalia are badly designed
- why solve the problem of sin by allowing a man to be tortured to death
- that’s a stupid, cruel, bumbling plan

lots of people haven’t even heard of jesus
- many of them die without knowing about him
- they cannot be held responsible if they do not know about jesus

the early success of christianity doesn’t prove christianity is true
- because then it applies to mormonism and islam, they’re growing fast

objective morality
- belief in a supreme dictator doesn’t improve moral behavior
- i can do moral actions that you can do
- i can repeat moral positions that you can say

religious people are immoral
- genital mutilation
- suicide bombing

moral behavior doesn’t need god
- we need to act moral for social cohesion
- it evolved for our survival
- that’s why people act morally
- it’s degrading to humans, and servile, to require god for morality

free will
- i believe in free will
- i don’t know why, because i can’t ground free will on atheism
- a bossy god seems to reduce free will because then we are accountable to god

WC cross-examination of CH:

WC why call yourself an atheist when you have no reasons?

CH because absence of belief is atheism

WC but agnosticism, atheism, verificationism all don’t hold that belief, which are you?

CH i think god does not exist

WC ok give me an argument for the claim you just made to know god does not exist

CH i have no argument, but i don’t believe in god because it depresses me to think he might be real

WC would you agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?

CH no i don’t agree

WC moral argument: it’s not epistemology it’s the ontology – have you got a foundation for moral values and duties?

CH i do not, it’s just evolution, an evolved standard based on social cohesion

CH cross-examination of WC:

CH you said that the historical reports of jesus doing exorcisms are generally accepted – do you believe in devils?

WC i commit to nothing, what I am saying there historical concensus on the reports that jesus did exorcisms

CH what about the devils going into the pigs, do you believe that?

WC yes i do, but the main point i’m making is that the historical reports show that jesus acted with divine authority

CH do you believe in the virgin birth?

WC yes, but that’s not historically provable using the minimal facts methods, and i did not use the virgin birth in my arguments tonight, because it doesn’t pass the historical tests to be a minimal fact

CH do you believe that all the graves opened and dead people all came out?

WC not sure if the author intended that part as apocalyptic imagery or as literal, i have no opinion on it, have not studied it

CH do exorcisms prove son of god?

WC no, i am only saying that the historical reports show that jesus exercised authority and put himself in the place of god

CH  are any religions false? name one that’s false

WC islam

CH so some religions are wicked right?

WC yes

CH if a baby were born in saudi arabia would it be better if it were an atheist or a muslim?

WC i have no opinion on that

CH are any christian denominations wrong?

WC calvinism is wrong about some things, but they are still christians, i could be wrong about some things, i do the best i can studying theology so i’m not wrong

WC second rebuttal

Response to CH arguments:

no reasons for atheism
- no reasons to believe that god does not exist
- ch withholds belief in god

why wait so long before contacting humans with jesus
- population matters, not time – jesus waited until there was about to be a population explosion
- there is natural revelation (Romans 1) for those who lived before christ

what about those who never heard
- (Acts 17:22-31) god chooses the time and place of each person who is born to optimize their opportunity to know him based on how they will respond to evidence (this is called middle knowledge)
- those who haven’t heard will be judged based on general revelation

WC re-assess the state of his five arguments:

cosmological argument <signal loss>
- heat death of the universe won’t happen on christianity

moral argument
- if no objective moral standard, can’t judge other cultures as wrong
- no transcendent objective standard to be able to judge slavery as wrong

name an action argument
- e.g. – tithing
- the greatest command – love the lord your god your god with everything you’ve got
- atheists can’t do that, and that is the biggest commandment to follow

moral obligations
- there are no objective moral obligations for anyone on atheism
- on atheism, you feel obligated because of genetics and social pressure
- on atheism, we’re animals, and animals don’t have moral obligations

resurrection <signal loss>
- the belief in resurrection of 1 man, the messiah is totally unexpected on judaism
- they would not have made this up, it was unexpected

religious experience
- experience is valid in the absence of defeaters

CH second rebuttal:

faith and reason
- Tertullian says faith is better when it’s against reason

it’s easy to start a rumor with faith-based people
- mother teresa: to be canonized she needs to have done a miracle
- so there was a faked miracle report
- but everybody believes the fake miracle report!
- this proves that religious rumors are easy to start
- the resurrection could have started as a similar rumor by people wanting to believe it

name an action
- tithing is a religious action, i don’t have to do that

moral argument
- i can be as moral as you can without god
- i can say that other cultures are wrong, there i just said it
- without god, people would still be good, so god isn’t needed

religious people did bad things in history
- this church did a bad thing here
- that church did a bad thing there
- therfore god doesn’t exist

religion is the outcome of man’s struggle with natural phenomenon
- that is why there are so many religions

WC concluding speech

no arguments for atheism presented

What CH has said during the debate:
- god bad, mother teresa bad, religion bad

atheism is a worldview
- it claims to know the truth
- therefore it is exclusive of other views

what does theism explain
- theism explains a broad range of experiences
- origin of universe, CH has dropped the point
- fine-tuning, CH has dropped the point
- moral, CH says that humans are no different from animals – but an evolved standard is illusory, there are no actual moral values and standards, it’s just a genetic predisposition to act in a certain way – that’s not prescriptive morality
- resurrection, CH has dropped the point
- experience, craig tells his testimony and urges the audience to give it a shot

CH concluding speech

HITCHENS YIELDS HIS ENTIRE CONCLUDING SPEECH!

A question & answer Period followed end of the formal debate

Further study

Check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens, Lee Strobel and some other people. Biola University philosopher Doug Geivett’s review is here. He attended the debate.

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Trailer for the Craig-Hitchens debate DVD made by Illustra Media

ChristianJR4 sent me the video of the trailer. You should subscribe to his YouTube channel, he posts amazing stuff quite often.

You can read more about this debate here, including ordering info.

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Illustra Media’s new Craig vs Hitchens debate DVD is on sale now!

It’s on sale for 10% off ($17.95) at GO2RPI.com. (H/T Brian Auten at Apologetics 315)

Details:

  • Format: Region 0 (Playable Everywhere), Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • 2 DVDs
  • Language: English
  • Running Time: Approx. 178 minutes
  • Bonus Features

Blurb:

On April 4, 2009, William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens met at Biola University to debate the question of God’s existence. Craig is one of the world’s foremost Christian apologists. Hitchens is a leading spokesman for the “new atheism” movement.

In front of an overflow crowd and a global internet audience, they debated the origin and design of the universe, the implications of human morality, the deity of Jesus, and the validity of Christ’s resurrection. It was a compelling clash of worldviews and an examination of the major arguments for and against Christianity and atheism.

This two-DVD set captures every moment of the debate (documented by 10 cameras). Bonus features include the pre-debate press conference, a question-and-answer session, and interviews with Hitchens and Craig.

Does God Exist is a vital resource for anyone who doubts the Christian faith-or seeks convincing evidence to defend it.

Here’s the trailer: (H/T ChristianJR4)

I wrote a play by play of the debate here, and you can watch a sample video here. You can also read about Craig’s recent debate on the viability of intelligent design with Francisco Ayala here. The post has some video and the full audio for that debate.

The Wilson-Hitchens debate

And don’t forget that you can get the Wilson-Hitchens debate from Amazon.com. You can see a trailer for the Wilson-Hitchens DVD here. Brian Auten told me that it is definitely worth buying. You can also read a different Wilson-Hitchens debate here, which occurred in written form – this is not the one in the video.

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Video clip from Craig vs Hitchens debate at Biola, on God and meaning in life

This is from the recent debate held at Biola University between Dr. William Lane Craig, and Christopher Hitchens.

By the way, don’t forget to check out my play-by-play of the debate here, and other reviews of the debate here. I also wrote a play-by-play of the recent debate at Columbia University in February 2009 between Craig and Yale philosopher Shelly Kagan. The topic there was “Is God Necessary for Morality?”

BONUS:

If you missed Dr. Craig debating on the Michael Coren show in Canada, check out these video clips posted by ChristianJR4, located below the fold. You have to click the link to display the rest of the post to see them.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Final comments on the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate

Information about how to get the audio and video of the debate will be posted here, later.

My written summary of the debate is here. It’s really a play-by-play of every statement made.

Doug Geivett’s review of the debate

Doug Geivett’s excellent summary of the debate is here. This is a comprehensive summary!

The Pugnacious Irishman

The Pugnacious Irishman has a super summary of the debate. (He attended it) In addition, he has some very welcome comments about the general task of apologetics.

Excerpt:

As I’ve said before (third part of a three part series.  To get the whole of my presentation, you need to read the first two parts as well.), this is a gigantic red herring, and confuses epistemology with metaphysics/ontology.  Craig was asking, “how can an atheist ground his moral beliefs?” not “how can an atheist behave morally without believing in God?”  Those are two totally different questions.  In the absence of a good God that grounds morality, well, the atheist might think he’s behaving morally, but he’s just attaching words without meaning to his actions..actually, the same goes for the theist!  Without God, all anyone ever does is act in ways we call morality, but our words are meaningless.  The moral sense that we have (that Hitchens claims develops via evolution) is merely an illusion that aids our survival…that’s what you get if you follow the atheistic premises where they lead.

And towards the end of the post:

The highlight of the debate for me was when Craig made an evangelistic appeal to both Hitchens and the non believers in the audience.  Of course, Hitchens wasn’t just gonna bow the knee right there, but this underscores a proper view of apologetics: it is an evangelistic, missionary enterprise.

I frequently hear Christians dismiss apologetical ventures because “its all just arguing about words.  You can’t win anyone to Christ with an argument.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that.  It’s all head and no heart and is totally irrelevant to my life.”

First, I think anyone  watching tonight could see Craig’s character and fervent love for the Lord.  I’ve seen the same for many Christian philosophers and apologists on the intellectual front lines.  They are winsome and attractive ambassadors, as Koukl says.  This puts that last objection (it’s all head and no heart) in it’s place.

Secondly, *nothing* in isolation can win someone to Christ without the Spirit, not even love or acts of service.  But people are won over to Christ with arguments all the  time when they are used by the Holy Spirit.  With the Holy Spirit’s help, they are quite potent.

Third, it’s not just arguing about words.  It is rooted in care for the lost.  Paul did it.  Jesus did it.  The early church fathers did it.  Craig showed it tonight.

Of course, if someone doesn’t care for the lost, he won’t care about any of this either…but that’s another discussion.

I would like to see TPI post something about that “other discussion”!

Further study

Check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens, Lee Strobel and some other people. Biola also officially live-blogged the debate here.

Some book reviews of Hitchens’ book by Melinda Penner and Doug Groothuis are here.

For more on the arguments used in the debate, see my index of arguments here.

UPDATE: Looks like this has been picked up by Breitbart here.

BY THE WAY: If you enjoyed Bill Craig’s performance in his debate, why not stop by his Reasonable Faith web site and leave him a donation? He won that debate through months and months of preparation. So, when you fund his research, you really are helping him to go out there and do his job well. Won’t you consider helping Bill in his work?

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