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How Stephen Law Failed in His Debate with William Lane Craig

Several others have already offered their reviews of the recent Craig/Law debate (see Wintery Knight’s post, J.W. Wartick’s analysis, Randal Rauser’s comments, or Stephen Law’s own thoughts here) and so I’ll restrict my comments to Law’s debating strategy. In my opinion, his line of argument was totally inadequate to the task. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) He only gave the briefest and most perfunctory of treatment to the cosmological argument and the historical case for the resurrection, focusing almost exclusively on the moral argument and his own evidential argument from evil for the probability of atheism.

2) He didn’t understand what a cumulative argument is or how it works. It’s simple to understand really. Argument 1 gives reason to think there is a being with properties A B and C. Argument 2 gives reason to think there is a being with properties C, D and E. Argument 3 gives reason to thing there is a being with properties C, F, and G. The fact that argument 2 doesn’t give any reason to think that the being in question has property B is not an indictment of that argument, nor a weakness of the whole case.

3) These two failures, combined with the way he proceeded, meant he was really not on the atheistic side of the debate. The totality of his arguments (even if successful) allowed room for a type of theism, such as Deism.

4) His strategy of comparing the problem of evil for a good God with the problem of good for a ‘malevolent God’ (a ‘square circle’ makes just about as much sense – let’s say he meant ‘malevolent creator’) relies on Manichaeism, which is false if Christianity is true. Thus the Christian has no reason to entertain Law’s counterargument.

On the Christian view, there is no such THING as evil. Evil is rather a privation – an absence of a good that should be there. Evil is ontologically posterior to goodness, thus for there to be evil, there must be a good. Christians not only believe that God does good, but that God’s very nature is goodness itself. He IS the standard. But when evil and goodness is understood this way (and not as a Manichean would conceive of good and evil: as two forces opposing one another), you can see that there cannot be a evil being comparable to a good God. Such a being would have no being.

5) He was totally inconsistent in his use of mystery, allowing it to feature particularly in his own answer to the problem of the origin of the universe (and also in his explanation of the existence of objective moral values and his dismissal of the resurrection as the best explanation for the historical facts about Jesus and the disciples), but not allowing Craig to ostensibly have it in his answer to the problem of evil.

6) More to the point, Craig was not using mystery to answer the problem of evil. He was saying that it is not unreasonable to expect, given the nature of our situation (a transcendent God and human beings with cognitive limitations in time and space), that we would be unable to perceive God’s sufficient reasons for allowing evil. The atheist therefore is in no position to assess the probability of a good God allowing the evil he sees in the world. Thus, it was Laws that failed to carry his argument.

7) Finally, it was noticeable how Law mentioned in his first speech that he would respond to Craig’s arguments in his next rebuttal, but deferred responding to Craig’s arguments until his third speech. This only allowed Craig the opportunity to rebut Law’s counter-arguments in his closing remarks. If Law wasn’t so soft spoken and didn’t have all the appearances of a genuinely nice guy, I’d suggest this deferral was an intentionally underhanded debating trick. Whether or not this was the case, it was evident that Law, although he had done careful research beforehand (unlike so many of Craig’s interlocutors), could not respond effectively to Craig’s cosmological and historical arguments, as well as Craig’s own response to the problem of evil.

 

Audio: William Lane Craig and Stephen Law Debate the Existence of God

The Reasonable Faith UK tour kicked off yesterday with its first event as William Lane Craig and Stephen Law debated the existence of God. The audio of the debate is now available, courtesy of Premier Christian Radio:

[pk_icon_link icon=”download” icon_type=”dark”]Does God Exist? WL Craig v Stephen Law[/pk_icon_link]

The exchange was hosted by Justin Brierley and took place at Westminster Central Hall in London. Be sure to let us know what you thought of the debate in the comments below.

The William Lane Craig UK Tour

Here’s the promotional trailer for Craig’s upcoming tour of the UK:

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The final details of the tour are still being arranged, but here’s the schedule as it presently stands:

Monday 17th October 2011
7.30pm, Debate: Does God Exist?
Public Debate with Stephen Law (lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, London and Editor of the magazine of the Royal Institute of Philosophy THINK). Arranged by Premier Radio.
Westminster Central Hall, London

Tuesday 18th October 2011
12.45pm, Lecture: “The Evidence for God”
Imperial College London, London
Get the live feed here.

6.30pm, Lecture “A Moral Argument for the Existence of God ; can we be good without God?”
University of London Union, Malet Street, London

Wednesday 19th October 2011
7.30pm, Public lecture on Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design followed by a panel response
St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge

Thursday 20th October 2011
7.30pm, Debate at the Cambridge Union: “This House Believes that God is not a Delusion” (Not open to the public)
Proposing the motion: William Lane Craig and Peter S. Williams
Opposing the motion: Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson
The Cambridge Union, Cambridge

Friday 21st October 2011
7.30pm, Debate: Does God Exist?
Debate with Professor Peter Millican (Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University).
The Great Hall, Birmingham University, Edgbaston

Saturday 22nd October 2011
9.30am – 5.30pm Bethinking National Apologetics Day Conference
William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, John Lennox, and Peter J. Williams
Westminster Chapel, London

Monday 24th October 2011
7.30pm, Lecture: “The Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection”
Southampton Guildhall, Southampton

Tuesday 25th October 2011
7.30pm, Lecture – “Is God a Delusion?” A Critique of Dawkins’ The God Delusion
[or a debate with Richard Dawkins if he should accept the invitation]
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Wednesday 26th October 2011
7.30pm, Debate: Does God Exist?
Debate with Dr Peter Atkins (former Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University).
University Place Lecture Theatre, Manchester University, Oxford Road, Manchester

Some of the events will be webcast (access the stream at www.livestream.com/reasonablefaithtour2011), so those of us outside the UK will still get a chance to watch or listen in. We’ll live tweet the debates, if they’re available, so make sure you’re following us on twitter.

Q&A Videos with William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, and John Stackhouse

100 Huntley Street is a daily talk show in Canada that regularly hosts Christian leaders and thinkers from around the world. Some of their guests have included Philip Yancey, N. T. Wright, Craig Evans, and Sean McDowell. Many of these interviews are available on their website and YouTube channel and I’ve posted some good ones below. The clips are at least six months old, but they provide a useful introduction to a host of issues in apologetics, philosophy, and cultural engagement.

William Lane Craig

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What is the Best Argument for Belief in God?

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Is God a Logical Necessity?

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The ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ and The Evidence For God

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Who Designed The Designer? A response to Dawkins’ The God Delusion

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Another Atheist Refuses to Debate William Lane Craig

Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association, has pulled out of her scheduled London debate with Craig. Three prominent members of the BHA, the President and two Vice-Presidents, have now refused or withdrawn from publicly contesting the claims of theism with the Christian philosopher. Read the Reasonable Faith press release here.

The embarrassing truth about Richard Dawkins

So, when we hear the shrill voice of Dr Richard Dawkins bleating about Professor Craig’s ‘relentless drive for self-promotion’, and rejecting the debasement of his eminent CV by debating with the distinguished Christian apologist, we should remember this: Richard Dawkins never contributed much to science; his Oxford chair was bought for him by a rich admirer; and the scientific ideas upon which he built his reputation are increasingly discredited. Those beguiled by his diatribes are listening neither to the voice of reason nor science.

Click here to read the full article.

Scientist talks morality, slips on banana peel

There’s been some backslapping and cheerleading in the scientific community lately about morality, and particularly about Sam Harris’s view as opposed to William Lane Craig’s. At SciBlogs, Ken Perrott ruminates on the foundations of human morality and draws some strikingly entertaining conclusions, again indicating that these sorts of questions are well above the paygrade of the average scientist.

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Further Commentary on the Craig vs Harris Debate

There has been some good analysis of the recent debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris and I thought it might be useful to collect some of that commentary here into one post. Read more

John Loftus is tripping on shrooms, and other tales of New Atheist la-la-lands

Given how yesterday’s debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris went, imagine my surprise when I read John Loftus’s comments on the debate, over at his comically-named Debunking Christianity blog:

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How William Lane Craig thrashed Sam Harris like a naughty puppy

Since I was fortunate enough to have some time free yesterday, I was able to watch, live, the Craig-Harris debate on whether God is the foundation of moral goodness. I live blogged this on Twitter, along with with several other apologists—including @MaxeoA and @bossmanham—and a couple of skeptics—including our own village atheist @OpenParachute. (Click here for the full archive; the hashtag is #GodDebateII.)

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Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural? Watch Craig v Harris Live

Just a reminder that today’s debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris at the University of Notre Dame will be streamed live at 7pm local time (11am for those of us in New Zealand).

You will be able to watch the feed here.

UPDATE: Brian Auten at Apologetics315 has posted the audio from the debate.

UPDATE: The video of debate is up on YouTube. Read more

Krauss on Craig: “disingenuous distortions, simplifications, and outright lies”

A couple of days ago, Lawrence Krauss released a statement on his recent debate with William Lane Craig over whether there is evidence for God. (If you haven’t watched it, ctrl-click here to view it on YouTube.)

His statement was posted on Pharyngula, the blog of infamous self-styled “godless liberal” PZ Myers, and was also circulated on Richard Dawkins’ forum (the self-styled “clear-thinking oasis”).

Let me make a couple o’ comments on it:

Firstly

It’s clear that the thing I found most embarrassing about Krauss’ part of the debate—his complete lack of understanding of the contingency argument—has in no sense changed.

This argument is about why is there something instead of nothing; it isn’t an argument about causes, as he characterizes it (apparently confusing it with the Kalam Cosmological Argument), but an argument about explanations or reasons. It invokes the Principle of Sufficient Reason: that everything that exists must have a sufficient reason for its existence. Obviously, most of the things we know exist could just as easily not exist; in which case, why do they exist? But we can also see that some things, like the laws of logic, must exist—they exist necessarily. God in the latter category; the universe is in the former. There is nothing about its nature that says it must exist, or that it must exist exactly as it does. This is really not disputed, to my knowledge, among either scientists or philosophers. In fact, the science seems to indicate that the universe could have existed in so many other different ways that we literally cannot conceive of the number. But in that case, we are back to asking why does it exist, and why does it exist as it does? Krauss has no answer.

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