Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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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Analyzing Christopher Hitchens’ case against God

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks for the link! New visitors, please take a look around. My blog is 50% news and policy analysis, 50% defending Christianity in practical ways.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Apologetics 315! Thanks for the link Brian!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the linky, Binky!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Truthbomb Apologetics! Thanks for the link, DJ Spidey!

In preparation for the upcoming debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, I thought that I would go over his opening statement from a previous debate to see what we can expect from him. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question to be debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    - Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    - Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: There are lots of religions
    - Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    - Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    - Premise: Religious people are fearful
    - Premise: Religious people are servile
    - Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    - Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    - Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    - Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    - Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    - Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    - Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    - Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    - Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    - Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    - Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    - Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    - Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    - Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    - Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    - Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    - Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    - Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    - Premise: I don’t like original sin
    - Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    - Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

General comments about Hitchens’ case:

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So, in short, Hitchens lost the debate. A talking parakeet who could only say the 3 premises of the Kalam argument over and over, in a squeaky high-pitched voice, would have defeated him. Atheists and agnostics can do a lot better. That is, if the purpose of the debate is to win and not to just hurl insults at people on the other side.

Worst. Debater. Ever.

Here are some posts on defending Christianity: the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the irrationality of morality on atheism, debates on morality, the irrationality of moral judgements against God on atheism, the hiddenness of God, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, the problem of the unevangelized and how to defend the resurrection without assuming that the Bible is generally reliable.

UPDATE: On Hot Air, I noticed that legions of British atheists are signing up to be de-baptized. Probably fans of Hitchens and his “I woudn’t have done it that way” case against God. As well, Hot Air is covering a story that scientologists and atheists are uniting. Because, you know, they are both science-based.

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