Debate with William Lane Craig

I would like to formally announce myself as an atheist with this blogpost, and I think I have found a very creative way to go about doing so.  I have studied the arguments for and against God for the better part of 12 years, and I feel like I have a good grasp of the concepts.  I would like to explain to you the reasons why I am an atheist in a formal debate rebuttal with Dr. William Lane Craig.

The reason why I think this would be interesting is because Dr. Craig seems to be the best that theists can offer in terms of arguing for the existence of God.  He is an excellent debater, and often times his debate style alone causes atheists to lose the debate (despite my belief that they are more correct in their thinking).  They simply aren’t prepared to meet him point for point.  I think if you’re an atheist, you should understand the theist arguments, and be able to refute them.

For this exercise, I will be using Dr. Craig’s typical debate performance opening and rebutting it.  Obviously doing responses would be difficult because he responds specifically to his opponents, so I will leave it at the opening statements.  If any theist wants to respond to my opening, feel free and I will respond in kind.

I will use Craig’s opening with Christopher Hitchens because he seems to cover the broadest range of arguments in a relatively short amount of time.  You can view the opening here, and subsequently see how NOT to debate Craig if you watch the rest of the debate.  Hitchens fails miserably in a formal debate format, in my opinion.

Protip:  Skip ahead to the 13 minute mark to avoid all the introductions and get to what I am rebutting.

Without further ado!

“Thank you to everyone who hosted the fake debate.  I’d like to thank my brain for inviting me and hosting the event.  Thank you to Dr. Craig for not agreeing to have his opening used in this manner.

Tonight, I’m defending atheism. The lack of belief in a god or gods.  Atheism is not a belief system, it’s not a claim of truth.  It’s the disbelief of a claim. Therefore, I hold no burden of proof tonight, EXCEPT to rebut the arguments of Dr. Craig.  A lack of belief can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of the belief itself.  Atheism can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of theism.  If we remove the reasons to believe, we are left with no reason to belief.  This is what atheism claims.  We have no reason to belief.  Therefore, in order to “prove” atheism is true, and build up a case for atheism, we merely have to show that theistic arguments are not reasonable.  Atheism is the ground floor and theism is the building on shaky stilts, so to speak.

You may think this is a cop out, but allow me give an example.  Alien abductions are a claim made frequently in our society.  These people claim to have physical evidence, physical experiences, supernatural experiences.  Sound familiar?  In order to disbelieve these claims, we do not need to prove that the opposite is true (that aliens don’t exist).  We need merely to cast a looming shadow of doubt on the claims made by these people.  We need merely to have no evidence in their favor.

In an age where many God claims and various other supernatural claims are made, such as the existence of aliens, it is paramount for us to be doubtful.  All of the god claims in the world can’t be true.  Many of them are mutually exclusive.  This isn’t to say that none of them are true, but it is to say that the burden of proof is on the ones who are making the claims, not on the disbelievers to prove another explanation.

Tonight though, I make it my burden to discredit and tear down Dr. Craig’s claims.  If he hopes to be successful, he must prop them back up.

1.  Kalam

I will start with Dr. Craig’s first claim.  The Kalam Cosmological Argument.  Dr. Craig claims the the universe must have had a beginning, and that this is scientifically agreed upon to be the big bang. The beginning of our universe.  I agree.

My first point of contention is when he claims that there was “nothing” before the big bang.  First, this is not scientific.  Most scientists claim not to know what was before the big bang.  In fact, the phrase “before the big bang” may not even make sense within the context of our universe.  The Law of causality may not apply because we’re potentially talking about a “time” before there was time.  It’s up to Dr. Craig to demonstrate, using evidence, that there is such a thing as “before the beginning of time”.

My next contention is that even if we grant Dr. Craig that there was a “before the beginning of time” we don’t know very much about it.  Dr. Craig claims that we do.  He makes several claims about it.  He claims that the cause of the universe must exist in this “before the beginning.” That this creator must be is a being.  That it is uncaused.  I’m not even sure what basis this claim has.  That because it is outside of our time, space, and matter, it is therefore timeless, spaceless, immaterial. How does he know ANY of this?

It’s at least possible that if there was something that caused our universe to exist that it was not any of those things.  We don’t know that a cause had to be outside of all time, space and material, just our observable time, space and material. It’s possible that our universe came from the matter, time, and space of another universe.  If that were the case, the cause of the universe wouldn’t necessarily be a being, wouldn’t necessarily be outside of all time, all space, all matter.  Just the time, space, and matter of our observable universe.

I’m not asking you to accept this as an explanation, but only as a possible explanation.  Dr. Craig’s assertion is that it HAS to be uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and immaterial, yet I’ve given a plausible explanation in which uncaused, timeless, spaceless and immaterial are not definitive, proven traits of whatever caused our universe to begin.

So in summary, Dr. Craig must first demonstrate that there was a “before the beginning of time”, and then he must demonstrate that whatever was “before the beginning of time” couldn’t possibly have existed inside a separate plane of existence with time, matter, and space.  This is a heavy burden, and if Dr. Craig can manage to prop up his claims, he will definitely have surprised me, and the entire scientific community that disagrees with him.

2. Teleological Argument

This is a much simpler rebuttal.  Dr. Craig has not given any evidence in support of this claim except the improbability of life arising naturally in this way.  We can excuse this argument without evidence because it was given without evidence.  Improbability does not imply design, HOWEVER I think that this universe permitting life is less probable than Craig claims.

His figure is based on OUR life.  What are the odds that any particular universe could sustain any kind of life?  I’m sure they are much lower.  We are eager to look at our needs for life because it’s the only life that we’ve experienced.  It’s entirely possible that different kinds of life, requiring different universal conditions could’ve arisen from different universes.  It seems entirely possible that we have a need for the condition that the universe provides simply because the universe provides these conditions.

Consider a pothole filled with rainwater.  We might look at the shape the rain formed and say, “how improbable!  This water was designed to go in this hole!”, but it’s much more rational to believe that the water was molded and conformed to fit inside the hole.

In fact this is made more plausible by the fact that the universe was around for such a long time before conditions permitting the life we have knowledge of arose.

Dr. Craig must prove that the entire universe was designed to support our life, and that we did not arise naturally from the conditions of the universe.  Another heavy burden.

3. Morality

With secular morality, the moral standard relies on us.  I think that our moral standards are not ultimately objective in such a universal way of thinking about it, but I think they are objective in that they are an attempt at maximizing the overall well-being and survival of our species.  The survival instinct that is ingrained in us through natural means is the driving force for this.  In that sense, it may not be considered objective, but it is meaningful.

In theological morality, I don’t believe that objective morality exists in the way that Dr. Craig proposes that it does.  Let’s examine the words.  Objective, meaning something true apart from a mind, and value, something that requires a mind.  Values don’t exist if minds don’t exist.  Never mind the fact that we have seen no evidence yet for God’s mind, but even if we had, moralities based on God’s nature, or his commands would not be objective, but rather subjective to his standard of morality.  Even if God is moral perfection, who’s to say that God’s moral perfection is desirable?  It would still be a merely subjective idea of morality.  It would not only be subjective, but arbitrary in that morality is not defined in a way that is beneficial to anyone, but God perhaps.

Craig must demonstrate that morality is objective in the way that he claims it is, outside of minds (while relying subjectively on God’s), and that it’s also meaningful in some way.

4. Jesus  This is where he has completely derailed from reason and evidence and is content to rely on hearsay.  While the Bible may have some historical accuracies, there is no evidence for the claims made within the Bible other than hearsay.  This can easily be dismissed.  There’s no physical evidence for Jesus, for his acts, for his death, or his resurrection.  Dr. Craig must present this evidence rather than rely on baseless assertions and hearsay.  No reasonable jury would convict a defendant based on hearsay, so why should we believe things on hearsay.  Especially such extraordinary claims that fly in the face of what we know about the observable universe.

5.  Holy Spirit

Lastly, Dr. Craig continues this train wreck of a reasonable argument by appealing to his own senses and experiences as infallible.  The Holy Spirit, which speaks directly to him, and to everyone, yet he can’t demonstrate any real basis for this claim.  This is easily dismissed as well unless Dr. Craig can give us an example of this Holy Spirit.

So I have laid out my argument.  In summary, Dr. Craig has a lot of ground to cover.  He must provide evidence that:

There was a “time before time”.

There is a being outside of our universe.

It is not possible for a separate plane of time, space, or matter that exists outside of our universe.

The universe is explicitely designed for us.

Objective Morality exists, in the way that he describes it. As being dependent on the mind of God.

That this kind of morality is meaningful.

Jesus existed.

Jesus performed miracles, and was God.  This included resurrecting from the dead.

The Holy Spirit exists.

If Dr. Craig can not demonstrate these unreasonable assertions that he has made, then atheism, and doubt is the clear winner here.  We must not accept any of Dr. Craig’s claims without good reasons.

Thank you.

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