Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Three logical prerequisites for biological evolution to work

Biologist, blogger and super-mom Lindsay has written a post that explains what supporters of Darwinian mechanisms have to prove in order to explain the origin and diversity of life.

Here are the three things that Darwinists must demonstrate:

  1. It is possible to add biological information.
  2. There are more upward steps than downward steps (or at least a way to get more upward steps than downward steps at least some of the time).
  3. There does exist a gradual genetic pathway that can be climbed in tiny, incremental steps.

So first of all, the main two arguments for intelligent design and against naturalism are the origin of life and the Cambrian explosion. Both involve massive infusions of new biological information. So Lindsay is right to focus on whether Darwinism can add new biological information. But I wanted to focus on number three, because I really think that her post is about the burden of proof on Darwinists more than it is about our burden of proof. And we do need to get used to asking Darwinists for the evidence for their view.

Take a look at the detail on number three:

In order for evolution to be true, not only does information have to be added over time, but each successive change must occur in a living organism and it must be conserved by being passed on to offspring. Thus, the change cannot kill the organism or seriously disable it, or the change will not be passed on. This must be the case for EVERY step in the entire evolutionary sequence, no matter how small. At every step you must have a functional organism. Thus, the changes must be gradual enough that the tiny upward steps (if they exist) can achieve each new level without killing or disabling the organism. To use a simplistic analogy, if one tries to change from one word to another by changing one letter at a time (cat to cot to dot to dog, for example), there must, at every step, be an actual word that can be reached by changing one letter. In the Mount Improbable analogy, this means that there can be no upward jumps in the trail. If the maximum possible upward step is 6 inches, then there can be no 6 foot cliffs along the trail, or even 7 inch steps. If ever there is a step which requires more information than unguided evolution can provide, then evolution is falsified in that instance. It cannot account for the change in information if that is the case.

Now I have never seen a gradual genetic pathway from one body plan to another in any peer-reviewed paper. I am talking about from one phyla to another. What I need to see to believe in the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to drive change from one body plan to another is that sequence of changes at the genetic level. And I don’t just need to see the steps, I need to see the probabilities of getting the correct sequence of changes at the genetic level within the time available by chance. That’s what Darwinists assert in their theory – that’s what they need to prove. Talking about how one creature looks like another creature is irrelevant. My car looks like my Dads car, because we drive the same model, but different model years – and both cars are designed.

When people ask our side for evidence for our claims, we are able to produce the evidence to substantiate our claims, e.g. – cosmic fine-tuning factors or protein sequencing probabilities. I would like to see the other side do the same, and not just tell me a story.

If you are looking to understand what the other side has to prove, and in a concise way, read her post.

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How good are the atheistic arguments of Christopher Hitchens?

I thought that I would go over an opening statement from a previous debate featuring Christopher Hitchens to find out what atheists are like in debates. 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 being 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.
  • Hitchens cannot complain about morality because he has no foundation for objective moral facts. What he is really expressing is that he personally does not like such-and-such a state of affairs, based on his own arbitrary personal preferences, and the arbitrary social customs that evolved in the place and time that he finds himself in. On atheism, “morality” is just describing what people do – either individually or as groups living in different times and places. There is no objective right and wrong, and no objective way we ought to be. All statements are subjective. They describe what the speaker personally likes and dislikes. Just like taste in foods or taste in dress – which varies by individually, and is influenced by time and place ARBITRARILY.

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 Frank Turek talked about facts in the external world, and Christopher Hitchens mistakenly thought that his opinions and preferences about what he would do if he were God were interesting to us. They might be interesting to his psychiatrist, but they are not interesting to us.

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J. Warner Wallace: why are you a Christian?

J. Warner Wallace ask this question of a bunch of young people he trained, and he posted some of the responses.

Excerpt:

Last week I had the opportunity to train a group of high school students in preparation for an upcoming Berkeley Missions trip. These students will spend the next eight weeks learning about the evidence supporting the Christian worldview and examining many of the most popular objections to Christianity. Since we were very early in the process, I began by asking the students to tell me why they were Christians in the first place.

…[W]hen I asked the students to tell me why they were Christians, I didn’t get a single evidential response. Most had difficulty answering the question at all, and those who did sounded like members of the Mormon Church.

I didn’t know a lot of Christians growing up; I was surrounded by atheists and Mormon family members. I have six fantastic half-brothers and sisters who were raised in the LDS (Latter Day Saints) Church. Many are still committed to Mormonism and happy to share their faith. But if you ask them why they are believers, you’ll get many of the same answers I received with the high school students in the Berkeley training. “I prayed about it and God confirmed it was true,” “I have a relationship with God and I feel His presence,” “I had a strong experience that changed my life,” “I just know it is true,” “I was raised in the Church and I’ve never had a reason to question it; God has always been a part of my life,” “I know it’s true because my life is very different now.” These are all great responses and I want to be careful not to minimize the importance or validity of experiential evidence. But when I heard these kinds of answers offered as justification by the Christian students in our group, I asked them: “Do you believe Mormonism is true?” Many of these students had already been on the Utah Missions trip, so they understood the dramatic difference between the claims of Mormonism and the claims of Christianity. They all confirmed they did not believe Mormonism was true and immediately recognized the problem with their responses.

Since he mentioned Mormonism, I’ll just link to my post on Mormonism that offers 3 reasons to think that Mormonism is false. The first reason is scientific, the second is historical, and the third is philosophical.

But Wallace’s post made me think that it was a good for me to explain that it is OK for people to critically evaluate a worldview – any worldview – by using evidence. It’s important because a lot of Christians who believe that religion is about believing sincerely in things without evidence are going to have a hard time knowing why apparently moral, definitely sincere people in other religions are going to Hell, apparently just for the small crime of getting a few questions wrong on a theology quiz. The real answer to the question “Why am I a Christian?” is “because of the evidence”. And the real answer to the question “Why I am not some other religion?” is “because of the evidence”. Let’s take a look.

Here are a couple of worldviews that can be easily falsified with evidence.

Falsifying a religion using science

Consider this argument:

  1. Hindu cosmology teaches that the universe cycles between creation and destruction, through infinite time.
  2. The closest cosmological model conforming to Hindu Scriptures is the eternally “oscillating” model of the universe.
  3. The “oscillating” model requires that the universe exist eternally into the past.
  4. But the evidence today shows the the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.
  5. The “oscillating” model requires that the expansion of the universe reverse into a collapse, (= crunch).
  6. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. There will be no crunch.
  7. Therefore, the oscillating model is disconfirmed by observations.
  8. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism.

Atheism also requires an eternal universe, according the Secular Humanist Manifesto:

FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

One of the eternal models of the universe favored by atheists was proposed by Carl Sagan:

[I]nformation from our universe would not trickle into that next one and, from our vantage point, such an oscillating cosmology is as definitive and depressing an end as the expansion that never stops” (Sagan, Carl (1979), “Will It All End in a Fireball?” Science Digest, 86[3]:13-14, September, pp 13-14)

Again, this atheist cosmology, like the Hindu cosmology, is falsified by the evidence – both theoretical and experimental. Now, lots of people believed Carl Sagan, but the progress of science proved that his atheism was wrong. His whole cosmology was wrong. That’s a pretty big mistake to make, but that’s what you get when you invent a self-serving worldview that goes against the progress of science.

Falsifying a religion using history

Consider this argument:

  1. To be a Muslim, you must believe that the Koran is without error.
  2. The Koran claims that Jesus did not die on a cross. (Qur’an, 4: 157-158)
  3. The crucifixion of Jesus is undisputed among non-Muslim historians, including atheist historians.
  4. Therefore, it is not rational for me to become a Muslim.

I’m going to support the premise that Jesus was crucified by citing historians from all backgrounds.

Consider some quotes from the (mostly) non-Christian scholars below:

“Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” Gert Lüdemann

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”  J.D. Crossan

“The passion of Jesus is part of history.” Geza Vermes

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is “historically certain”. Pinchas Lapide

“The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death: he was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate, on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely, crucifixion.” Paula Fredriksen

“The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned, and was executed by crucifixion.” L.T. Johnson

“One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Ponitus Pilate.” Bart Ehrman

That’s 7 famous historians: 3 atheists, 3 Jews and 1 moderate Catholic. The atheists, Ludemann, Crossan and Ehrman, have all debated against the resurrection of Jesus with William Lane Craig. Johnson is the moderate Catholic, the rest are Jewish historians. The Koran was written in the 7th century. That is why no professional historian accepts the Koran as more authoritative than the many earlier Christian and non-Christian sources for the crucifixion story. Many of the sources for the crucifixion are dated to the 1st century. The Koran is simply too far after the events to be reliable history, especially since it often contradicts earlier sources, both Christian and non-Christian.

Notice how my criticisms of these religions are very much different than what you hear from atheists. My evidence is specific and scholarly. I’m not claiming that these religions are false because it conflicts with my personal preferences. That would be a very stupid way of arguing against a religion. What you have to do is find a claim that is central to the religion and then falsify it using evidence that is incontrovertible. No one cares if you think the universe is too vast. No one cares if you think the eye is badly designed. That’s just an opinion. That’s a personal preference. Even moral claims are personal preferences on atheism. God isn’t bound by any one person’s preferences. To falsify a worldview, you have to find clear evidence that is at odds with a core claim of that religion.

Christopher Hitchens is a good example of someone who uses his feelings and personal preferences to make an emotional case against theism, for example. I sort of consider him to be more of a comedian than a scholar, but rank-and-file atheists really go for him. He didn’t do very well in his debate with William Lane Craig, that’s for sure. He is trying to disprove a worldview the wrong way – with snarky opinions. That’s not the way to get to the truth.

Conclusion

So, the point here is that it’s not that Hindus and Muslims are bad people, and it’s not that they are unhappy people. It’s that they have false beliefs. And it’s the falseness of their beliefs that is important to God. It’s not God’s purpose that we are sincere in our beliefs, regardless of whether they are true. It’s not God’s purpose that we feel happy and content. It’s not God’s purpose that we are liked by others. God’s purpose for us is that we have true beliefs about him, his existence, and what he has done in history, and the spiritual meaning of what he’s done. And he expects a proper response to knowing the truth about him in the way we live our lives, too. The truth comes first, then the actions. 

A sincere Hindu or Muslim or Mormon or atheist may be very adept at complying with the moral standards of their families and communities. They may feel very confident in the meaningfulness of their plans and achievements in this world. They may feel that they have lived a good life, one that they are happy about. They may have friends and family who affirm the goodness of their beliefs and actions. But in the end, that is not the purpose of life – we don’t decide what we are here to do, since we didn’t choose to be here. Someone else made us for a purpose. We didn’t create and design this universe.

I think people who spend their entire lives in a non-Christian religion or no religion obviously invent a story for themselves that makes them feel comfortable. The real question that everyone has to answer is “is it true?”. And for that, we look to the evidence. We do not look to our feelings. We do not look to our friends. We do not look to our family. We do not look to customs and traditions. We look to the evidence and we fashion and proportion our beliefs to the evidence.

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J. Warner Wallace: why didn’t Jesus reveal scientific facts to prove his divinity?

I was listening to J. Warner Wallace’s latest podcast and he mentioned this Cold Case Christianity post because it is getting a lot of attention.

Excerpt:

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels to the students of San Jose State UniversityJane Pantig (the director of the local Ratio Christi chapter) invited me, and I was delighted to come. I’ve been working with Ratio Christi across the country to defend the Christian worldview on college campuses. If you aren’t acquainted with the work of this growing apologetics movement, you really ought to familiarize yourself with Ratio Christi and find a way to support their efforts. At the end of my presentation, during the question and answer period, a polite young skeptic asked why Jesus didn’t reveal scientific facts in an effort to demonstrate His Deity. Why didn’t Jesus describe something well beyond the scope and knowledge of His contemporaries as a prophetic proof? He could easily have described the role of DNA, the proper organization of the Solar System, or the biological complexity of cellular structures.  The questioner believed this sort of knowledge would have been persuasive to him as a 21st Century skeptic, and without it, he remained unconvinced.

I thought this was a great question, and one I often receive but seldom talk about on the podcast or here on the blog. There are a number of problems with this expectation of superior anachronistic scientific wisdom…

Here’s one of the problems that he mentioned in the post (there are three):

The Nature of the Ancient Audience

The context of Jesus’ ministry and message were defined by the nature (and limitations) of this ancient audience. Sometimes it’s easy for us to approach the gospels from our 21st Century perspective (bringing our desires, needs and expectations to the text), rather than examining them from the perspective of the first hearers and readers. In order to illustrate this point, imagine yourself as Jesus. You’ve got three years to demonstrate your Divinity to those you live with in the 1st Century. Think about what approach you might take. You could reveal yet unknown scientific facts to your audience, but would this accomplish your goal? If you describe the role of DNA or the anatomy of the solar system, how would your 1st Century audience confirm your statements? Surely claims of this nature would be unimpressive to a world without the ability to assess their veracity. In fact, any combination of such claims with other demonstrations of Deity would only serve to dilute the power of your message. There are ways you could establish your Deity in front of such a 1st Century audience, but obscure, esoteric claims are perhaps the least effective approach.

What do you think? Do you think that Jesus should have explained scientific things? Would that work better than what he actually did?

One of the things that this post made me think of is the use of sledgehammer apologetics by Jesus. I know a lot of people who really resent the idea of apologetics, and want us to just read the Bible to people and hope they are magically convinced by just hearing Scripture. But Jesus was not willing to do that. He didn’t just express opinions or give moral teachings or recite poetry. He was in the business of making his case to people, and for evidence he used miracles.

The Sign of Jonah

Professor Clay Jones of Biola University makes the case that the use of evidence when preaching the gospel was standard operating procedure in the early church.

Intro:

In 1993 I started working for Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law School) which offered an M.A. in Christian apologetics (Craig Hazen was the director). Much of my job was to promote the school and although I had studied Christian apologetics since my sophomore year in high school, I decided I needed to see whether an apologetic witness had strong Biblical precedence.

It does.

As I poured through the Scripture I found that Jesus and the apostles preached the resurrection of Christ as the sign of the truth of Christianity.

What follows are some of the passages which support the resurrection witness.

Here is my favorite verse from his massive list list of verses in favor of the evidential approach to Christian apologetics:

Mat. 12:39-40: A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus is saying that the resurrection was deliberately given as a sign to unbelievers to convince them. (“The Sign of Jonah” = the resurrection)

The healing of the paralytic

Consider this article from apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.

Koukl cites three Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

Here’s number two:

[I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone?Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home?Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened.But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”.

So, I see that God uses nature and miracles to persuade, which can be assessed using scientific (e.g. – fine-tuning) and historical methods (minimal facts case for the resurrection). I think if Jesus had explained DNA and the Big Bang to the first century people, that would not have worked as well as the kinds of things he actually did.

I really want you guys to look through the Bible and see Jesus’ approach to convincing people. You should read the gospel of John to see how Jesus uses miracles to get people to believe that he was who he said he was. This is was his whole modus operandi. Today, none of us can do miracles on demand to convince people – at least I can’t. But that’s why we can use the evidence from science for miracles in nature, like the cosmic fine-tuning and the origin of biological information. And the resurrection is still a good historical argument to make, as well.

I’m going to be summarizing the podcast where Wallace mentioned this question in my 6 PM post, and I urge you to listen to it with my summary at hand. When he was talking about this question, his response made me laugh out loud at what people would think if Jesus had started explaining the fine-tuning argument or the Cambrian explosion. He’s very reserved in this post, but in the podcast he is pretty funny when he role-plays how the first-century people would respond.

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William Lane Craig debates Austin Dacey: Does God Exist?

Here is the video and summary of a debate between Christian theist William Lane Craig and Austin Dacey at Purdue University in 2004 about the existence of God.

The debaters:

The video: (2 hours)

The video shows the speakers and powerpoint slides of their arguments. Austin Dacey is one of the top atheist debaters, and I would put him second to Peter Millican alone, with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in third place. This is the debate to show people who are new to apologetics. The debate with Peter Millican is better for advanced students, and that’s no surprise since he teaches at Oxford University and is familiar with all of Dr. Craig’s work. The Craig-Dacey debate is the one that I give to my co-workers.

By the way, you can get the DVDs and CDs for the first Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong debate. The Peter Millican debate is not available on DVD, but the link above (Peter Millican) has the video and my summary.

Dr. Dacey’s 5 arguments below are all good arguments that you find in the academic literature. He is also an effective and engaging speaker, This is a great debate to watch!

SUMMARY of the opening speeches:

Dr. Craig’s opening statement:

Dr. Craig will present six reasons why God exists:

  1. (Contingency argument) God is the best explanation of why something exists rather than nothing
  2. (Cosmological argument)  God’s existence is implied by the origin of the universe
  3. (Fine-tuning argument) The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life points to a designer of the cosmos
  4. (Moral argument) God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and objective moral duties
  5. (Miracles argument) The historical facts surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
  6. (Religious experience) God’s existence is directly knowable even apart from arguments

Dr. Dacey’s opening argument:

There are two ways to disprove God’s existence, by showing that the concept of God is self-contradictory, or by showing that certain facts about ourselves and the world are incompatible with what we would expect to be true if God did exist. Dr. Dacey will focus on the second kind of argument.

  1. The hiddenness of God
  2. The success of science in explaining nature without needing a supernatural agency
  3. The dependence of mind on physical processes in the brain
  4. Naturalistic evolution
  5. The existence of gratuitous / pointless evil and suffering

One final point:

One thing that I have to point out is that Dr. Dacey quotes Brian Greene during the debate to counter Dr. Craig’s cosmological argument. Dr. Craig could not respond because he can’t see the context of the quote. However, Dr. Craig had a rematch with Dr. Dacey where was able to read the context of the quote and defuse Dr. Dacey’s objection. This is what he wrote in his August 2005 newsletter after the re-match:

The following week, I was off an another three-day trip, this time to California State University at Fresno. As part of a week of campus outreach the Veritas Forum scheduled a debate on the existence of God between me and Austin Dacey, whom I had debated last spring at Purdue University. In preparation for the rematch I adopted two strategies: (1) Since Dacey had come to the Purdue debate with prepared speeches, I decided to throw him for a loop by offering a different set of arguments for God, so that his canned objections wouldn’t apply. I chose to focus on the cosmological argument, giving four separate arguments for the beginning of the universe, and on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. (2) I reviewed our previous debate carefully, preparing critiques of his five atheistic arguments. In the process I found that he had seriously misunderstood or misrepresented a statement by a scientist on the Big Bang; so I brought along the book itself in case Dacey quoted this source again. I figured he might change his arguments just as I was doing; but I wanted to be ready in case he used his old arguments again.

[...]The auditorium was packed that night for the debate, and I later learned that there were overflow rooms, too. To my surprise Dr. Dacey gave the very same case he had presented at Purdue; so he really got clobbered on those arguments. Because he wasn’t prepared for my new arguments, he didn’t even respond to two of my arguments for the beginning of the universe, though he did a credible job responding to the others. I was pleased when he attacked the Big Bang by quoting the same scientist as before, because I then held up the book, specified the page number, and proceeded to quote the context to show what the scientist really meant.

Dr. Craig is always prepared!

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