You can dismiss the support request pop up for 4 weeks (28 days) if you want to be reminded again. Or you can dismiss until our next donations drive (typically at the beginning of October). Before you dismiss, please consider making a donation. Thanks!
One Time
$5/month (US)
$10/month (US)
Support II via AmazonSmile Internet Infidels Needs Your Support!
dismiss for   28 days   1 year   info
2017 Internet Infidels Fundraising Drive / $32,582.64 of $40,000.00
Support Us! By providing information which is nearly impossible to find elsewhere, the Secular Web has sought to level the playing field by offering arguments and evidence challenging supernatural beliefs. In an ocean of religious confusion, help us maintain a drop of sanity!
81.46%
 

Summary and Assessment of Craig-Jesseph Debate (1998)

Jeffery Jay Lowder

 

This debate took place in 1997 at Arizona State University. The debate was the second forensic encounter between William Lane Craig and Doug Jesseph on the existence of God. Their first encounter, which I call the "Jesseph-Craig Debate" because Jesseph spoke first in that forum, took place at North Carolina State University (Jesseph's employer) and is available on the Secular Web at <URL:http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/doug_jesseph/jesseph-craig/>.

I do not know of any way for the general public to purchase tapes of the debate; the only way I was able to view the debate was because a Christian philosopher (who I shall not name so that he is not inundated with requests for copies) was kind enough to send me a copy. I wish to state that I have immensely enjoyed my conversations with this philosopher and hope that they will continue in the future.

Summary of the Debate

The following summary of the debate is correct to the best of my knowledge; however, it has not been reviewed by either debater. Also, the following debate summary does not include the Question & Answer period.

Craig's Opening Statement

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true
II. Good reason to think theism is true
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
       (1) Anything which begins to exist must have a cause
       (2) The universe began to exist
       (3) Therefore, the universe must have a cause
           - cause of the Big Bang must be uncaused, changeless, 
             timeless, immaterial, and personal
             -- the cause of the Big Bang must be uncaused because 
                there cannot be an infinite regress of causes
             -- the cause of the Big Bang must be changeless and 
                timeless because it created time
             -- the cause of the Big Bang must be immaterial because 
                it created space
             -- the cause of the Big Bang must be personal because how 
                else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal 
                effect?

   B.  The Fine-Tuning Argument
         - Life-permitting universes are vastly more improbable than 
           life-permitting universes.  The odds of a life-permitting
           universe like ours coming into existence by chance are so
           remote that our universe must be the result of intelligent
           design.
         - the complexity of our universe and the conditions which 
           allow life are analogous to finding a skyscraper in the 
           Sahara desert.  No one would ever claim that a skyscraper 
           in the middle of the Sahara desert arose by chance.  Nor 
           would anyone claim that the skyscraper is the result of a 
           random arrangement of sand -- just one improbable arrangement
           out of many improbable arrangements.  The skyscraper has a 
           certain complexity to it and must have been designed.  By 
           the same reasoning, then, the universe must also have been 
           designed.
         - Thus the atheist must not only believe the universe popped 
           into existence, uncaused, out of nothing.  The atheist must 
           believe that when the universe popped into existence, 
           uncaused, out of nothing it just happened to be fine-tuned 
           to allow life

   C.  The Moral Argument
       (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
       (2) But objective moral values exist.
       (3) Therefore, God exists.

   D.  The Resurrection
       - The Resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for 3
         historical facts:
         (1) The empty tomb
         (2) The post-resurrection appearances
         (3) The very origin of the Christian faith
       - This entails a divine miracle and the existence of God.

   E.  Religious Experience
       - this isn't an argument for God's existence;  rather, it's
         the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from
         arguments

Jesseph's Opening Statement

"atheism" is defined as the belief that the evidence does not support God. Someone who simply lacks theistic belief, a small child who has never been taught about God, or someone who simply rejects God as an act of rebellion does not count as an atheist.

I.  Arguments for Atheism
   A.  Argument from Conservatism
       - We should apply Ockham's Razor.

   B.  Argument from Asymmetry
       - Believers in one god tend to deny the existence of other gods 
         by using naturalistic explanations.  We should be consistent 
         and apply naturalistic explanations to all gods.

   C.  Evidential Argument from Evil

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
       1.  No reason to think cause is personal, benevolent, etc.  
           Persons are physical things.
       2.  Causation is a relation between physical events.  The 
           striking of a match causes the ignition of the match.  But 
           there is no event outside the universe to interact causally 
           with the Big Bang.  Craig seems to think God is a sort of 
           cosmological spark plug.
       3.  Craig seems to assume there is a time before the Big Bang
           (quotes Ehrman [sp?]).  The Big Bang model offers no special
           advantage to theists.

   B.  Fine-Tuning Argument
       1.  'improbable' does not equal 'designed'
       2.  Craig's argument is like asking the question, "What are your
           chances of landing in a universe hospitable to life, assuming
           you were tossed into any old universe whatever."  That is 
           precisely not the point.  It's presupposed in the question that
           you're already in a universe which favors life.  Confuses 
           conditional probability with unconditional probability.
       3.  Odds are based on extremely questionable principles of 
           indifference.
       4.  Other theories do not support Craig's claim that  
           life-permitting universes are improbable:
           4.1.  Alan Guth's inflationary model
           4.2.  Sidney [unintelligible]'s worm-hole theory
           4.3.  [unintelligible]'s virtual particle model

   C.  Moral Argument
       1.  objective = independent of the observer
       2.  objective moral values are compatible with the nonexistence of God
       3.  Euthyphro dilemma

   D.  Resurrection
       1.  The credibility of the New Testament is in question.  The New 
           Testament accounts need independent confirmation.  But there 
           is no confirmation independent of the New Testament for the 
           Resurrection.
       2.  The evidence for the Resurrection would have to be extremely 
           strong

   E.  Religious Experience
       1.  Jesseph doesn't deny that people have experiences.  Jesseph 
           denies their veridicality.
       2.  Reports of religious experiences are varied.

Craig's First Rebuttal

I.  No good reasons to think atheism is true
   A.  Argument from conservatism
       1.  Grants the principle of conservatism
       2.  The issue is whether atheism can provide naturalistic 
           explanations for the five facts outlined in Craig's 
           opening statement
       3.  Not an argument for atheism

   B.  Argument from asymmetry
       1.  Double-edged sword.  Atheists think ALL theists are wrong.
       2.  Not an argument for atheism.

   C.  Evidential argument from evil
       1.  No contradiction between God and evil
       2.  Free Will Defense
       3.  The Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense: 
       god wants the best, but that doesn't mean he wants to make
       us happy.  God's purpose is for people to come to know God.
       Evil may be pointless with respect to happiness, but not 
       with respect to knowledge of God.  In areas of intense
       suffering, people are coming to know God.
       4.  Logical problem of evil has been widely abandoned.

II.  Good reason to think theism is true
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
       1.1  God must be personal because only a being with free will could
            create a temporal effect from a timeless state.
       1.2  God's benevolence was addressed by the moral argument
       1.3  The cause of the Big Bang must be the Christian god on the
            basis of the argument from miracles (the Resurrection)
       1.4  Jesseph grants that the universe began to exist
       2.  The claim that causation is a relation between physical events
           begs the question by assuming naturalism
       3.  Kalam cosmological argument does not assume a time before the  
           big bang.  Cause and effect can be simultaneous, like a 
           bowling ball depressing a cushion

   B.  The fine-tuning argument
       1.1.  Agree
       1.2.  Skyscraper analogy
       2.  Trained marksmen analogy
       3.  No theory of everything that would explain physical 
           constants.
       4.1.  inflationary models require fine-tuning
       4.2.  Vacuum fluctuation models outmoded.  Quotes Christopher 
             Isham.

   C.  The moral argument
       1.  Jesseph's view leads to moral relativism.
       3.  Moral values are rooted in God's nature.

   D.  The Resurrection
       1.  Independent confirmation is not necessary.

Jesseph's First Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
   A.  Argument from Conservativism
       - atheism can easily provide naturalistic explanations
   B.  Argument from Asymmetry
       1.1.  Atheism is symmetrical.  Atheists use naturalistic explanations
             to explain all religions.
       1.2.  Theism is asymmetrical.  Theists apply naturalistic explanations
             to all religions except their own.
  
  C.  Evidential Argument from Evil
      1.1.  Anticipated this in opening statement.
      1.2.  Logically possible does not mean probable.  It is logically 
            possible that OJ Simpson didn't really do it.
      2.1.  Craig denies major theological doctrine held from Augustine to 
            Calvin (deterministic theism).
      2.2.  God could have intervened to stop evils.  God could have prevented 
            Hitler's rise to power.
      4.  Evidential argument from evil was presented.

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
   A.  Kalam cosmological arguments
       1.1.  Persons are physical things.
       1.2.  What would 'nonphysical person' mean?
       4.  Stephen Hawking: the universe did not come from nothing;  
           there's no place the universe came from.  That's a subtle 
           yet very important distinction.

   B.  Fine-Tuning Argument
       3.  Hoyle, Davies, et al pull these numbers out of thin air.
       4.1.  vacuum fluctuation models are not outmoded and have made
             a comeback in the 1990s
       4.2.  cosmology is a speculative science
       4.3.  Important to avoid error just as much as it is important 
             to find truth.  The atheist must be able to show that 
             theistic cosmology is false, but the atheist does not 
             need to be able to say what is true in order to accomplish 
             that.

   C.  Moral Argument
       1.1.  Objective does not mean popular.  Craig misunderstood the 
             argument.
       1.2.  A lot of things are special about human beings.  For example,
             they can experience pain.

   D.  The Resurrection
       1.  Can't prove the Bible by quoting the Bible

   E.  Religious Experience
       1.  Craig hasn't said anything yet about my counterarguments to
           the argument from religious experience

Craig's Second Rebuttal

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true.
   B.  Argument from asymmetry
       1.  Why prefer naturalistic explanations?
       2.  My arguments for theism are good naturalistic explanations

   C.  Argument from Evil
       1.  The evidential argument from evil is subjective because 
           probabilities are relative to background information.  Quotes
           Daniel Howard-Snyder's Evidential Argument from Evil.
       2.  Jesseph needs to show that it is probable that God would want
           less evil.
       3.  Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense (SBAD) 

II.  Good reason to think theism is true.
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
     1.2.  Consciousness is immaterial.  Materialism = determinism.  But
           determinism is self-refuting.
     4.  Hawking's model is flawed because of its reliance on imaginary time.
         Everyone believes the universe has a beginning.  Where did the 
         universe come from?

   B.  Fine-tuning argument
       3.  No theory of everything.  Appeal to faith in naturalism.  
           The values of the physical constants are contingent.
       4.  No evidence that vacuum fluctuation models are true.

   C.  Moral Argument
       1.2.  Why is wrong to cause humans pain?
       2.  Atheism means that we are animals and not subject to ethics.
       
   D.  Resurrection
       1.  Historians consider the New Testament as historical books, 
           not holy books.

Jesseph's Second Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
   B.  Argument from Asymmetry.
       1.  Naturalism works.  Supernatural explanations don't.

   C.  Evidential Argument from Evil.
       1.1.  Mystery maneuver.
       1.2.  Evils are gratuitous.
       3.1.  Better ways to accomplish that purpose.  For example, God
             could turn the podium into purple smoke, and I would become
             a theist right now.

II.  Arguments for Theism
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
       4.  There is no 'where the universe came from'.  There's no 
           garage in Pittsburgh, "Home of the universe."

   B.  Fine-tuning argument
       3.  If the naturalist has faith at all, it is a grounded faith.
           If we have faith in naturalism, then it is like having faith
           in using an elevator.  We take the elevator up.  We don't leap
           down the elevator shaft.  Similarly, "faith" in naturalism, is
           not a Kirkegaardian leap of faith.  Naturalism works.

   C.  Moral argument
       1.2.  It's wrong to cause humans pain because pain hurts.
       2.  Can get objectivity without God by appealing to any of the 
           standard ethical theories taught in introductory ethics 
           courses.

   D.  Resurrection
       1.  The New Testament is so poorly confirmed we should not 
           believe it.

Craig's Third Rebuttal

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true.
   B.  Argument from asymmetry
       1.  Inconclusive.
   C.  Evidential argument from evil
       1.1.  God's existence is NOT improbable on ALL of the background
             evidence (e.g., the evidence Craig presented in his opening
             statement)
       1.2.  Not at all a mystery maneuver.
       1.3.  Prove that evils are gratuitous
       3.1.  God has provided evidence sufficiently clear to those with
             an open heart and an open mind.
       3.2.  The Old Testament records that when God performed public 
             miracles, it did not produce trust in God.  It may have 
             produced intellectual assent to theism, but it did not 
             change lives.

II.  Good reason to think theism is true.
     A.  Kalam cosmological argument
         4.  Granted, there is no 'where'.  But something cannot come 
             out of nothing.

     B.  Fine-tuning argument
         3.  Jesseph dropped the argument.  Jesseph never responded to  
             Craig's claim that the values of the physical constants
             are contingent.

     C.  Moral argument
         - What is the foundation for our moral intuitions?  If atheism
           is true, our moral intuitions are foundationless.

     D.  Resurrection
         1.  Quotes Robert Grant: gospels must be regarded as reliable
             eyewitnesses

     E.  Religious Experience
         1.  God can change your life just as he has changed mine

Jesseph's Third Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
   B.  Argument from Asymmetry
       1.  Conclusive argument.  We have good reasons to believe 
           naturalistic explanations.  Theists have no reason to believe
           supernatural explanations. 

   C.  Argument from Evil
       1.  Craig seems to be a moral skeptic.  He can't tell if evil is
           really evil.
       2.  Craig granted compatibilism;  therefore the FWD fails

II.  Arguments for Theism
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument
       4.1.  Big Bang cosmology is strange stuff.
       4.2.  Asking "where did the universe come from?" is like asking
             "what is north of the number 7?"
       4.3.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Consider the
             odds.  There's only one way for there to be nothing, but 
             there are many ways for there to be something.
       
   B.  The fine-tuning argument
       3.1.  Craig's wild improbability calculations are based upon
             insufficient evidence.  If we had a complete theory of 
             everything, there would be nothing surprising about our
             universe's life-permitting conditions.
       3.2.  On Craig's logic, rainstorms are miraculous.  There are
             lots of possible raindrops, but the fact that we get
             certain raindrops (and not others) is NOT miraculous.
             The raindrops are determined by the conditions.  Similarly
             with the Big Bang.

   D.  Resurrection
       1.  Contradictions in the gospels.
       2.  No independent confirmation.

Assessment of the Debate

I.  Jesseph's Atheistic Arguments
  A.  Argument from Conservativism.  (Craig)
      Both Craig and Jesseph agree with the principle of conservativism 
      (e.g., Ockham's razor).  The question is whether this can be 
      extended into an argument for the nonexistence of God.  I agree 
      with Craig that this does not constitute an atheological argument.
      Jesseph dropped the argument after Craig's first rebuttal, causing
      me to wonder if *Jesseph* really believes this is an argument
      for atheism.

  B.  Argument from Asymmetry. (Jesseph)
      Craig seemed to think the asymmetry had to do with the fact that 
      each group thinks it is right and the others are all wrong, but 
      the asymmetry in the argument refers to the application of 
      naturalistic and supernatural explanations within each group.  I 
      think Jesseph won on this argument.

  C.  Evidential Argument from Evil.  (Jesseph)
      Craig initially misunderstood Jesseph to be presenting a logical 
      problem of evil;  when Craig finally addressed the evidential 
      version, I think he was unsuccessful.  I agree with Jesseph that 
      there is no reason to deny the existence of actually gratuitous 
      evils in the world, that the Free Will Defense is a failure, and 
      that the Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense is a failure. 
      
      Following Pascal, Craig claimed that "God has provided evidence 
      sufficiently clear to those with an open heart and an open mind" 
      (and presumably, sufficiently vague for those with a "hardened  
      heart" or a closed mind).  But is this really true?  Is it actually
      the case that all nonbelievers have hardened their hearts or 
      closed their minds?  Here I think Jesseph would have done well to 
      present J.L. Schellenberg's Argument from Divine Hiddenness or 
      Ted Drange's Argument from Nonbelief.  Even if we grant that some
      atheists have engaged in self-deception, there is no reason to 
      believe that all atheists have done so.  Moreover, there 
      are good reasons to believe that at least some atheists have not
      engaged in self-deception and thus their nonbelief is reasonable.

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
   A.  Kalam cosmological argument (Craig)
       Craig claimed that an atheist who accepts Big Bang cosmology 
       must believe that the universe came from nothing and by 
       nothing; I think this is patently false.  The atheist Adolf 
       Grünbaum, who Craig has called "the greatest living 
       philosopher of space and time", has noted:

          But in what sense could an uncaused Big Bang universe
          be thought to have "come out of absolutely nothing"?  Surely 
          NOT in the sense that there existed moments of time before 
          the Big Bang at which the physical universe did not yet exist 
          but only nothing. As I argued above, despite the metrically 
          finite past duration of the Big Bang world, there was no such 
          prior time. Thus, the finitude of that past does not warrant 
          the conclusion that if this universe is uncaused, it must 
          have "come out of" a prior state of nothing.

       Moreover, I have privately corresponded with three additional 
       secular philosophers of religion, one agnostic (Graham Oppy) 
       and two atheists (Quentin Smith and Robin Le Poidevin), who 
       all agree that atheists who accept Big Bang cosmology do NOT 
       have to believe the universe came from nothing and by nothing.
       (Oppy and Smith consider Craig's claim a rhetorical slogan 
       rather than a serious philosophical argument.)  As Jesseph 
       pointed out, Big Bang cosmology does not entail that the 
       universe came from nothing;  rather, what Big Bang cosmology 
       entails is that there is no place the universe came from.  As 
       Jesseph said in the debate, "That's a subtle yet very 
       important distinction," and one which I don't think Craig 
       adequately addressed.  The point is that, on Big Bang 
       cosmology, time itself came into existence with the Big Bang, 
       in which case it makes no sense to speak of the Big Bang 
       "coming out of" anything.  There was no time at which the 
       universe did not exist, and there is no place the universe came 
       from.  The universe just is.

       Jesseph initially stated three objections to the kalam argument.
       His first was that there is no reason to think the cause is a 
       person.  As Jim Lippard wrote, "Jesseph maintained that he 
       could make no sense of non-temporal, changeless causes, let 
       alone non-temporal, noncorporeal, changeless persons. I agree. 
       A person is an entity with a mind and a will that engages in 
       temporal processes like thinking and acting. A non-temporal 
       creature can't change, and thus can't think or act."  
       Unfortunately, Jesseph dropped the point but Craig did not,
       so I must flow that objection to Craig.

       Jesseph's second objection was that causation is a relation between
       physical events.  Again I agree with this, but Jesseph dropped
       the point allowing Craig to have the last word, and so I must
       flow that objection as well to Craig.  

       As for Jesseph's third objection, that Craig seems to assume 
       there was a time before the Big Bang, Craig responded with his 
       simultaneous causation defense.  Craig asserted that cause and 
       effect can be simultaneous, like a bowling ball depressing a 
       cushion, and Jesseph never responded to this objection.

       This is unfortunate, for I don't think that Craig's simultaneous 
       causation defense gets him where he wants to go.  In the first 
       place, it's not clear that causes are ever actually simultaneous 
       with their effects.  To be sure, a bowling ball depressing a 
       cushion *appears* simultaneous, but I see no reason to think that 
       it actually is.  But secondly, even if there really is 
       simultaneous causation, that would only solve half of the problem.
       Simultaneous causation would explain how the BEGINNING OF TIME
       could be caused even though there is no moment of time prior
       to it.  But simultaneous causation does NOT explain how an 
       effect in time could be caused by a timeless object.  Indeed,
       it seems to me that Craig's simultaneous causation defense is
       equivalent to the following:

          (1) "God's timelessly willing the universe to exist was 
               simultaneous with the beginning of the universe's 
               existence."

       But that in turn seems to be equivalent to the following:

          (2) At the beginning of the universe, there both was and
              was not time.
              
       This is because, on big bang cosmology, time itself came into
       existence with the Big Bang.  Thus, (1) implies that at a 
       certain point in time (the beginning of time), there was
       no time!  And that is logically contradictory.  The upshot is
       that even if we allow the possibility of simultaneous causation, 
       there does not seem to be any way for a TIMELESS BEING TO CAUSE 
       ANYTHING.  See Part II of the excellent paper by Christian 
       philosopher Wes Morriston, "Is God in Time Prior to Creation?: 
       A Critique of the Kalam Argument" at 
       http://stripe.colorado.edu/~morristo/kalam_wes.html

       I therefore think Craig won the kalam cosmological argument, 
       but not because I think the argument is sound.  Craig was able
       to exploit the features of an oral debate setting masterfully
       here.

       Moreover, I don't think Jesseph did an adequate job of refuting
       the claim that materialism / physical determinism is self-refuting.
       Jim Lippard in correspondence has pointed out that (1) there is
       indeterminism in nature, and (2) whether thoughts are determined
       is irrelevant to their accuracy and reliability.  "Craig maintained 
       that if natural processes produce brains, then we have no grounds 
       for thinking that our brains engage in rational processes and
       thus well-founded conclusions. This argument simply doesn't 
       work--an instantiation of a reliable algorithm produces reliable 
       results no matter how it came to be instantiated, whether by 
       randomness plus selection or by conscious design. Craig's argument 
       commits the genetic fallacy."

       Jim Lippard (again in correspondence) has also suggested an 
       objection to Craig's claim that an actual infinite cannot exist. 
       If Craig's claim is true, then omniscience is impossible. 
       "Craig also made his standard kalam cosmological argument, which 
       has as a premise that there are no actual infinities because 
       they result in contradictions. It is a consequence of his argument 
       (though Jesseph didn't point this out) that omniscience is 
       impossible. There is an infinite number of propositions (just 
       taking knowledge of mathematics alone); if God is omniscient and 
       changeless he must be simultaneously entertaining all of these 
       propositions. But to do so requires an actual infinity of 
       thoughts and beliefs, which Craig said is impossible. Q.E.D."

   B.  Fine-tuning argument (Jesseph)
       I think Jesseph won this argument hands-down.  Craig's 
       probability estimates of a life-permitting universe are pulled
       out of thin air.  The fact of the matter is that, given our 
       current knowledge about the origins of the universe, nobody 
       has the slightest idea how likely or unlikely the universe is.
       Perhaps, as Jesseph suggested, if we had a complete "theory of
       everything", there would be nothing surprising about our
       universe's life-permitting conditions.  But even without a 
       theory of everything, the burden of proof lies squarely on 
       Craig to justify his probability estimates for the 
       life-permitting conditions of our universe.  As Jesseph said in
       his first rebuttal, the atheist need only demonstrate the flaws
       of the fine-tuning argument; the atheist has no burden of 
       proof to provide an alternative explanation.

       Moreover, Craig's two analogies -- skyscrapers in the desert 
       and trained marksmen in a firing squad -- beg the question.  
       Clearly, if we found a skyscraper in the Sahara desert, we 
       would not assume it was the result of the random arrangement 
       of sand particles.  Similarly, if a team of 100 trained marksmen 
       all failed to hit their target, we would not believe this 
       was a random outcome.  But what does this have to do with the
       life-permitting physical constants of our universe?  Nothing.
       We don't know the possible values of the physical constants or
       how they could be assigned.  To be sure, as Craig pointed out
       in his third rebuttal, the values of the physical constants are
       logically contingent.  But that does nothing to show that the 
       values of the physical constants are physically contingent.
       Craig has the burden of proof to show that it is even physically
       possible for the physical constants to have different values 
       from the ones they do, and Craig hasn't done that.

       As Michael Hurben points out in his excellent Secular Web essay,
       "On Universes and Firing Squads", if proponents of the 
       fine-tuning argument 

          want to keep their firing squad analogy, I suggest they 
          employ a more honest version, one which is more in accord 
          with what we really know (or rather, don't know) about the 
          origin of our universe:

            You wake up one morning to find yourself blindfolded. You 
            are led somewhere outside, but you are not sure where. 
            Suddenly, you hear a deafening roar. What was it? It 
            sounded like it could have been a number of rifles firing, 
            but some of them may have been quite distant. Perhaps it 
            was just a single shot. You don't know for sure, you are 
            not certain what happened. All you know is that you are 
            alive. There are many explanations for this rather 
            singular experience, but because you were blindfolded, you 
            can't say which was more likely. Was someone shooting at 
            you? Were they near or far away? And what kind of firearm 
            was used? Were there also other shots fired off in the 
            distance? Were there other people blindfolded and who had 
            a similar experience? Did they survive? Or was it a 
            firing squad of ace sharpshooters aiming at you only, and
            they all missed? Are any of these explanations inherently 
            better than any of the others? If so, why? And if not, 
            then why should one advocate one theory in favor of the 
            others? 

   C.  Moral argument (Craig)
       In Jesseph's last rebuttal, it was obvious that he ran out of time.
       He skipped this argument entirely, so I am forced to flow the 
       argument to Craig.  Also, Jesseph never responded to Craig's 
       rebuttal to the Euthyphro dilemma, that "the good is the very 
       nature of God and that the commands of God flow necessarily out 
       of His moral nature."  Craig thinks he's answering the objection, 
       but actually he's only pushing the problem one step further back.  
       Is God good because His nature fulfills a standard independent 
       of His will, or is the fact that God approves of a certain kind 
       of character itself the standard of goodness?  Craig might reply 
       that God is good because He is benevolent, merciful, and just. 
       The question then arises: Are benevolence, mercy, and justice 
       valid grounds for judging a being to be good, and if so, are 
       they not standards by which we human beings are judging good?

       Jim Lippard, in correspondence, has suggested that Jesseph could 
       have been much more forceful by pointing out "that theists are 
       faced with exactly the same metaethical dilemmas as atheists.  
       He [Jesseph] only alluded to, but should have spelled out more 
       explicitly, that theists who believe in the Bible are forced to 
       conclude that ethics are based on God's whim (since he can 
       command child sacrifice, genocide, etc. and thereby make those 
       things right--which Craig took great pains to say was a view 
       where there is no moral objectivity), or else there must be an 
       objective standard of morality independent of God.  Craig never 
       really addressed this argument--he simply suggested that somehow 
       morality flows from God's essence necessarily, but is not a 
       matter of God's whim.  He never bothered to address the fact 
       that God of the Bible commanded things which he explicitly 
       stated were evil."

   D.  Resurrection (Craig)
       Before he got cut off by the moderator, Jesseph got in two final 
       objections to this argument which should have been stated in his
       first speech.  One of the final objections was the point about
       independent confirmation.  Craig and Jesseph went back and forth
       on that objection, which I consider a draw.  As for Jesseph's
       second final objection, that was a "new" objection which would
       be disallowed under debate rules.  However, suppose we ignore
       debate rules and consider the objection on its own merit.  Without
       much more explanation than Jesseph gave, his second objection does
       not constitute a prima facie defeater to the historical argument
       for the Resurrection.  I think the Contradictions Objection to
       the Resurrection, at least as it was presented by Jesseph, is 
       not as damaging as he thinks it is.  We need much more 
       information about the alleged contradictions before we can 
       assess their evidential impact.  For starters, we need to know
       precisely what Jesseph finds contradictory in the Resurrection 
       accounts.  Without that information, we are not even in the 
       position of being able to assess the significance of the alleged
       contradictions, or the merit of supposed reconciliations of the
       alleged contradictions.  What Jesseph should have emphasized 
       is the following:

         * The empty tomb story is a legend.  Legends CAN develop in 
           a short amount of time, even in the presence of 
           eyewitnesses.
         * All of the appearance stories are either legends or were 
           not physical appearances.
         * The origin of the Christian faith does not require 
           supernatural explanation.  Even if we grant Craig's 
           argument that the concept of resurrection was foreign to
           the Jewish way of thinking, there is no reason to believe
           that such a paradigm shift required supernatural 
           intervention.
  
   E.  Religious Experience (Jesseph)
       Craig dropped this argument in two of his rebuttals, but then 
       tried to revive the argument in his closing statement.  Under 
       debate rules, this is disallowed and Craig therefore lost this 
       argument.  But let's consider the argument on its own merits.  
       As Jesseph pointed out, there is no doubt that many rational, 
       sincere individuals have religious experiences.  The issue is
       whether these experiences are veridical.  Given the variations
       in religious experiences, there just doesn't seem to be any 
       reason to believe that Christian experiences are veridical 
       while non-Christian experiences are not veridical.  Moreover,
       Craig never really addressed Jesseph's counterarguments.  In
       his third rebuttal, Craig gave his standard Campus Crusade-style
       conclusion: "God can change your life just as he has changed
       mine."  But the appeal to changed lives is weak.  As Christian
       philosopher Norman Geisler wrote in Answering Islam: The 
       Crescent in the Light of the Cross:

          "When one fervently believes something to be true he lives 
          by it.  ... Any set of ideas fervently believed and applied 
          will transform believers and their culture." (p. 201)

       I would add that this is true, regardless of whether the "set 
       of ideas" includes God.  I therefore flow this argument to
       Jesseph.
    

I agree with Jim Lippard's assessment of the debate: "I'd call the overall debate a draw; Craig won as far as effectiveness of presentation (as opposed to quality of argument)." The overall debate was a draw (in the sense that there was a 4-4 tie on individual arguments), but Jesseph spoke extremely fast and "he would occasionally drop terminology appropriate to a graduate philosophy seminar rather than a public debate" (Lippard). In contrast, Craig's presentations always had an intuitive feel and he always spoke at the same unhurried pace.

Top
Support Us