Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The (First) Loftus-Wood Debate Is Now Available Online

My first debate with John Loftus on the Problem of Evil can be watched below. John and I decided to make it available several months ago, but, unfortunately, neither of us had a clue how to do it. John did his homework, however, and is now an expert on Google Video. (Note: Due to some technical difficulties on the evening of the debate, the sound quality isn't very good. So be prepared to crank up the volume and listen closely.)

I'm looking forward to feedback. (And wouldn't anyone like to see a debate titled, "Loftus vs. Wood III: Why an Atheist Became a Christian, and a Christian Became an Atheist"?






For John's comments on the debate, see "Comments on the Loftus-Wood Debate on the Problem of Evil."

For my comments on the debate, see "The Will to Disbelieve: A Critical Review of the Loftus-Wood Debate."

Click here to listen to a Podcast of my second debate with John Loftus, on "The Debate Hour."

For a review of the second debate, see Mary Jo Sharp's "Loftus-Wood Round Two: Another Failed Argument from Evil."

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Hitchens-Wilson Debate

Here’s an excellent written debate between Christopher Hitchens (God Is not Great) and Douglas Wilson (Letter from a Christian Citizen) on the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” Both participants are good writers and quite witty. I think Wilson won by a significant margin, as Hitchens failed to make a strong case and never really answered Wilson’s objections. Hitchens briefly mentions the Problem of Evil, though the real value of the debate (for purposes of this blog) is the discussion of objective moral values.

In his opening, Wilson raises the issue:

In your concluding paragraph you make a great deal out of your individualism and your right to be left alone with the “most intimate details of [your] life and mind.” Given your atheism, what account are you able to give that would require us to respect the individual? How does this individualism of yours flow from the premises of atheism? Why should anyone in the outside world respect the details of your thought life any more than they respect the internal churnings of any other given chemical reaction? That’s all our thoughts are, isn’t that right? Or, if there is a distinction, could you show how the premises of your atheism might produce such a distinction?

Wilson repeats his challenge in every imaginable way, yet Hitchens’s most detailed response is this:

Our morality evolved. Just as we have. Natural selection and trial-and-error have given us the vague yet grand conception of human rights and some but not yet all of the means of making these rights coherent and consistent.

Wilson, of course, had already challenged this response:

I have been asking you to provide a warrant for morality, given atheism, and you have mostly responded with assertions that atheists can make what some people call moral choices. But what I have been after is what rational warrant they can give for calling one choice “moral” and another choice “not moral.” You finally appealed to “innate human solidarity,” a phrase that prompted a series of pointed questions from me. In response, you now tell us that we have an innate predisposition to both good and wicked behavior. But we are still stuck. What I want to know (still) is what warrant you have for calling some behaviors “good” and others “wicked.” If both are innate, what distinguishes them? What could be wrong with just flipping a coin?

I’m not sure why, but every time I hear theists bring up this objection, I actually expect atheists to come up with some sort of reasoned answer. My expectation may be put as follows: “Here Hitchens has written a bestseller on why Christianity is bad for the world. Surely he must have carefully thought through these issues. Hence, when asked for an explanation for his moral views, he will be able to give one.” Yet he wasn’t able to give one. Wilson sums up the situation nicely:

You are a gifted writer, and you have a flair for polemical voltage. But strip it all away, and what do you have underneath? You believe yourself to live in a universe where there is no such thing as any fixed ought or ought not. But God has gifted you with a remarkable ability to denounce what ought not to be. And so, because you reject him, you have great sermons but no way of ever coming up with a text. When people start to notice the absence of texts, the absence of warrant, the absence of reasons, you adjust and compensate with rhetorical embellishment and empurpled prose. You are like the minister who wrote in the margin of his notes, “Argument weak. Shout here.”

(Wilson’s assessment here applies not only to Hitchens, but also to Dawkins, Harris, and other atheist fundamentalists.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath

Here’s an interesting discussion between Alister McGrath and Richard Dawkins, which was edited out of Dawkins’s video The Root of All Evil? They start talking about the Problem of Evil in the middle of the interview, but the entire program is worth watching.

I find it interesting that Dawkins frequently claims that he’s interested in dialogue with theists and that he just can’t find any. Yet he refuses to debate his views with Christians (click here for one example). It’s as if he’s saying, “I really want to discuss this stuff with Christians, but not really.”

Given Dawkins’s reluctance to engage with knowledgeable theists, I was impressed that he interviewed McGrath. It is clear, however, that when Dawkins says he’s interested in “dialogue,” what he really means is that he wants extended Q & A sessions, with him doing the questioning.