God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

Tomorrow (Friday) is the big day: the debate with William Lane Craig at the Greer-Heard Forum, as I previously mentioned. And of course the event continues Saturday, with contributions from Tim Maudlin, Alex Rosenberg, Robin Collins, and James Sinclair.

I know what you’re asking: will it be live-streamed? Yes indeed!

[Update: Here is the video.]

Fun starts at 8pm Eastern, 5pm Pacific. (Corrected from earlier goof.) The format is an opening 20-minute speech by WLC and me (in that order), followed by 12-minute rebuttals, and then 8-minute closing statements, and concluding with 40 minutes of audience questions. Official Twitter hashtag is #GreerHeard14, which I believe you can use to submit questions for the Q&A. I wouldn’t lie to you: I think this will be worth watching.

You can find some of WLC’s thoughts on the upcoming event at his Reasonable Faith website. One important correction I would make to what you will read there: Craig and his interlocutor Kevin Harris interpret my statement that “my goal here is not to win the debate” as a strategy to avoid dealing with WLC’s arguments, or as “a way to lower expectations.” Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.

Feel free to organize viewing parties, celebrations, discussion groups, what have you. There should definitely be a drinking game involved (it’ll be happy hour on the West Coast, you lightweights), but I’ll leave the details to you. Suggested starting points: drink every time WLC uses a syllogism, or every time I show an equation. But be sure to have something to eat, first.

If it seems worthwhile, I will follow-up with thoughts after the debate, and try to answer questions. Let’s have some fun.

  1. I can’t even describe accurately how excited I am for this debate.

    “What are you doing Friday night, Steve?”

    “Oh nothing…just watching the most highly anticipated debate of the year between a Christian apologist and a cosmologist.”

  2. “The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced.Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

    I honestly want that to be true. I am not saying your case will be weak, on the contrary, I think you will make a very strong case. But I would not expect to work on every theist on the audience… that remembered me one great quote from Gregory House (Tv character): “rational arguments don’t usually work with religious people; otherwise there would be no religious people.”

  3. Ok, your second paragraph has got me pumped. I cannot wait to see this debate!

    Craig’s tactics survive by placing God at the extremities of our knowledge and understanding, where most of us have never been. It will be satisfying to watch you clear things up for him.

  4. “Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

    lmao

  5. When it comes to Design versus Designer I am with Design, but it is awfully strange that the universe contains pattern recognizers, minds and civilizations, as well as patterns as of the Standard Model. If there are mindlike aspects then the Designer idea has some intuitive appeal, at least if one strips away the anthropomorphic attention getting imagery. Physicists and Cosmologists are still stuck with trying to make sense of why there are any Physicists and Cosmologists in the universe. Is pattern recognition optional or necessary in the universe – is it part of the Design ? If the universe makes mathematical sense – which side of math does one take – the pattern or recognizer ?

  6. “The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

    Sean,

    Have you listened to WLC’s podcasts where you are the subject? He has addressed some of your arguments before. Will you be addressing his response?

    I know that I shouldn’t even be concerned since I am not involved. But I am worried that the debate will trail off into too many subjects and nothing will be resolved. I have seen too many debates where the speaker throws out there canned case and hardly defends it when it is attacked.

    It would be nice if you both responded to each other in full, but time will probably not allow it. Rather you should keep the issues to as few a number of things as possible. That way, everything can be addressed.

  7. Please be civil! Craig is NOT a creationist, nor is he allied with the ID movement!! You both could probably find large areas of agreement, first-cause not withstanding.

    Also, I hope everyone stays on topic! When people leave the topic in order to attack their opponent (looking at you, Krauss) it only mocks the forum of debate itself.

  8. @Joel Rice… My pattern recognition machinery is telling me that your STATEments, though surely well intentioned, fall into the category of somewhat “dubious, or rather ill-conceived” [*See Edit.]… while your questions are pretty good. Logical deduction from perceived pattern: Keep asking those questions! 😉

    I hope you are able to hear Sean in action throughout the course of the debate Friday night. I also hope that it will turn out to BE a fun experience: the low ethical standards routinely employed by these vocal theistic apologists — due to a sense of special entitlement, perhaps? — so often sullies the experience for me, personally. Sean, of course, has a glittering track record for integrity of argument, irrespective of whether one ultimately agrees or not. Hmm… perhaps that’s telling us something more universal, as well.

    [Edit:] I can see that I was thrown off a bit by the distinction you made between “Design versus Designer” up front, probably due to the conventional implication that goes with that choice of capitalization! So I should soften up the critique a bit (apologies) and ask for more clarification of what you meant, should you care to comment, Joel. Thanks.

  9. drink every time WLC says “as such and such an authority figure says….”
    BTw its very late here in England to watch, will it be put online afterwards?

  10. Sean, I’m with you 100%. But you clearly do not belong to the culture that maintains “He who straps on his sword for battle should not congratulate himself as he who takes it off.” [1st Kings, 20:11, my translation.]

    I’ll be watching, Sat. 2am Jerusalem time, probably under the influence, hopefully sober enough to be critical, as is my nature.

  11. @Mike… I might offer the opinion that W.L. Craig, and other self-styled “rational Theists”, or even less vocal “moderates”, are indeed effective apologists for Creationists and other theistic extremists, if only by EGREGIOUS omission! If not, why were ID-promoting legal actions burdening the justice system in 26 states (!) at the time of the Dover, PA decision; despite the (prior?) broad political support given by Evangelicals for the legal authority of Republican Justice John E. Jones III — who noted with crushing finality that the ID (“…by whomever/whatever”) case was one of “breathtaking inanity”?

  12. Mocking someone before you debate them is not wise. I think the biggest problem you are going to need to contend with won’t be your arguments so much as your own hubris. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  13. …And BTW, Mike: Sean, in public forums, exhibits NOTHING like Lawrence Krause’s current proclivities and simplistic, off-topic biases — ever, so far as I can tell.

  14. I admire your work Sean and wish you success. But please don’t get so overconfident! Your discussion with Hans Halvorson was not that impressive. I hope that you can contrast the epistemology of naturalism with that of religion and make no compromises.

  15. @Frederick
    I see what you are saying (the wounds of Dover are still fresh) but you really can’t implicate people solely on the grounds of not being actively against it. If that were the case, then plenty of atheists who were silent on the matter (apart from head-shaking) should be admonished. In fairness, I’m not sure a lot of people (theists or otherwise) really cared about it. Sure, it got brought up in my circle of Ars Technica-reading geeks, but it was invisible outside of that. Ah memories…….

  16. @Frederick
    ….and BTW, I agree %100 that Sean isn’t Krauss, and that’s a good thing. My main point being: I didn’t think even eccentric Krauss would fly that far off topic. It was disappointing that we didn’t get to hear his thoughts on the topic at hand.

  17. I believe that a possible weak point in your position, Sean, is that science or naturalism has nothing to say about moral values. I don’t think that this is completely true. Is it moral to employ procedures that are known to fail when successful procedures are known?

    Or if it is a moral choice, then you could point out that we choose this life, the welfare of ourselves and fellow humans, and the future of humanity on this earth – which we know and see and have abundant evidence for; religion distains all that (take no thought for the morrow) and chooses a future life, which we don’t see and have no evidence for. So take your choice.

  18. I’m certainly going to watch this. Sounds like a lot of fun. And maybe you should wear a bow tie. It works for Bill Nye, and after all, bow ties are cool.

  19. Oh no. Why did you let them dictate format? You said it will be “opening 20-minute speech[es] by WLC and me (in that order).” That’s such a disappointment, and will likely lead to this being the usual mess that these sorts of things are. He will do his usual gallop, and you will be left to either address his falsehoods and thus never cover things of interest, or you will have to ignore them, giving the impression of incompetence.

  20. @David Park… Cognitive psychology research has quite a bit that’s interesting — and scientifically valid — to say these days concerning the nature of our moral feelings… and it is important to note that “feelings” are crucial in typical, predictable, and, of course, characteristically specious theistic arguments against naturalism as being sterile of any source (or even acknowledgment!) of morality.

    Naturally, Sean is correct that it is ultimately up to us to define the terms of our moral rules and sensibilities. I’m not so sure that Sean has outlined his objections to notions that science can offer up some fairly concrete set of moral values in sufficient detail to effectively counter the opinions of Sam Harris, et.al.; and the undeniable evidence (at least in the light of empiricism) that “Enlightenment values” and the deconstruction of political theistic authority have broadly and profoundly expanded the “moral sphere”. The likes of W.L. Craig have made all manner of attempts to deny this, or to confuse the issue; but facts are facts — a matter of history and public record.

    My apologies if I have missed something more extensive in scope on the topic here on site (I’m thinking particularly of Sean’s observations viewable on YouTube). I, for one, would encourage Sean to address this topic in more depth here, or in some other appropriate forum.