William Lane Craig Debates Richard Dawkins

It’s a well-known but unfortunate fact that Richard Dawkins has refused to debate Bill Craig.  But, coincidentally, he did this past weekend and Dr. Craig provides some of the details on his website (it may be necessary to login to view this).  A Spanish-dubbed version of the debate is on YouTube, but the English version is said to be coming soon.

Along with the debate details, Dr. Craig observed that the workshops held at the conference – “La Ciudad de las Ideas” (City of Ideas) in Mexico – were marked by three themes.  These intellectual currents are the same ones that characterize much of our culture and institutions of higher education.  The first two I believe are corrosive to rationality and truth-seeking while the third is naïve.

(1) Naturalism. There was no cognizance of God or even of religion’s contribution to culture and humanity—though, to Professor Roemer’s credit, there was, after all, our debate! But the other conference presenters took no recognition of the supernatural. Human beings were repeatedly treated reductively as purely physical mechanisms. A person was treated as just a network of neurons. This led to the bizarre view, repeated several times, that the worldwide web (whose inventor, by the way, was one of the presenters) is a huge collective brain, almost a sort of super-person. The day before the debate Richard Dawkins delivered a hateful screed against religion, denouncing “the evil of faith.” About 40% of the audience gave him a standing ovation. I was glad that most people had the courage to stay seated. The audience, at least, was not as secularized as the conference presenters.

(2) Scientism. The unspoken assumption throughout the conference was that science, and science alone, is the way to truth and knowledge. It’s not just that religious knowledge was excluded. Rather any and every question, even questions that are properly philosophical, was considered only insofar as it could be addressed scientifically. Apart from our debate, no one even questioned this unspoken scientism. So when Dawkins claimed that we should not believe anything except on the basis of (scientific) evidence, no one seemed to notice that his position was self-defeating, since the claim that we should believe only what can be scientifically proven cannot itself be scientifically proven! At this conference, as in Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, scientists were taken to be “the torchbearers of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”

(3) Utopianism. There was a pervasive sentiment that science and technology are the savior of mankind and are about to usher us into a golden age. I couldn’t help having misgivings about the brave, new world they described. For example, Michio Kaku said that the internet will be embedded in contact lenses that will project images directly into our retinas. So, he said, if a student doesn’t have a date for Friday night, he can create an image of the most beautiful girl imaginable, download a movie, and watch it with her. I found something pathetic about this scenario of a student, alone in his room, cut off from contact with a real person, living in his imaginary world. This is progress?

* Update: The full audio of the debate is now up at Apologetics 315, and the English video is here.

* Update:  Rabbi David Wolpe, who along with Dr. Craig and Dr. Doug Geivett defended the proposition that the universe has a purpose, gives his account of the debate at the Huffington Post.


 

Does Religion Promote Dissension and Conflict?

Temple of St Vladimir. It was turned to bus st...
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It can, and sometimes does, but so does politics, ideology, race, and gender.  Atheists often caricature religion as the most corrosive force on earth, but as Alister McGrath points out, this is sociologically and historically naive.

Suppose [Richard] Dawkins’s dream were to come true, and religion were to disappear.  Would that end the divisions within humanity and the violence that ensues from them?  Certainly not.  Such divisions are ultimately social constructs which reflect the fundamental sociological need for communities to self-define and identify those who are “in” and those who are “out,” those who are “friends,” and those who are “foes.”

. . . . A series of significant binary oppositions are held to have shaped Western thought—such as “male-female” and “white-black.”  Binary opposition leads to the construction of the category of “the other”—the devalued half of a binary opposition—when applied to groups of people.  Group identity is often fostered by defining “the other”—as, for example, in Nazi Germany with its opposition “Aryan-Jew.”

. . . . The simplistic belief that the elimination of religion would lead to the ending of violence, social tension or discrimination is thus sociologically naive.  It fails to take account of the way in which human beings create values and norms, and make sense of their identity and their surroundings.  If religion were to cease to exist, other social demarcators would emerge as decisive . . . [As they did, for example, during the French Revolution and in the Soviet Union.]

Michael Shermer, president of the Skeptics Society, has made the significant point that religions were implicated in some human tragedies such as holy wars.  While rightly castigating these—a criticism which I gladly endorse—Shermer goes on to emphasize that there is clearly a significant positive side to religion:

“For every one of these grand tragedies there are ten thousand acts of personal kindness and social good that go unreported . . . . Religion, like all social institutions of such historical depth and cultural impact, cannot be reduced to an unambiguous good or evil.”

— Alister McGrath, “Is Religion Evil,” God is Great, God is Good (IVP, 2009), 129-131.

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Top Posts of 2009

These are some of the most popular posts at Cloud of Witnesses in 2009.

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, subscribed, or just stopped by!  I look forward to continuing in 2010.

May God richly bless you in the New Year!

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Audio of Stephen Meyer vs. Michael Shermer Debate

Along with Richard Sternberg and Donald Prothero.  Brian at Apologetics 315 helpfully provides the details.  I just started listening today and it’s quite stimulating!

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On November 30, 2009, Stephen Meyer & Richard Sternberg debated Donald Prothero & Michael Shermer on the topic: Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life? Read about the debate here, at the American Freedom Alliance website. (original audio page here)

Robert Crowther’s recap is here. Michael Shermer’s recap is here.

Full MP3 Audio here. (2 hours)

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Stephen Meyer vs. Michael Shermer

The Debate Over Darwin Continues: Stephen Meyer vs. Michael Shermer in Beverly Hills

In less than two weeks we will witness the rematch of the decade as Stephen Meyer and Michael Shermer face off on the question of intelligent design versus evolution.

Meyer vs. ShermerThese two men have met several times before, most recently at Freedomfest in Las Vegas in 2008 (click here for video). They also sparred in 2005 at Westminster College and appeared together on Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire program (video here). It will be interesting to see the new insights into the questions at hand as this debate has matured and developed.

The debate is hosted by the American Freedom Alliance and will take place at the prestigious Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on Monday, November 30, at 7:30pm. Dr. Meyer and Dr. Shermer will be joined by Dr. Richard Sternberg and Dr. Donald Prothero, respectively.

For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

(Via Evolution News)

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