Transcript

Does God Exist?

William Lane Craig vs. Massimo Pigliucci

University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States – 1998

William Lane Craig – Opening Speech

Good evening! I want to begin by thanking the Issues Committee for the invitation to take part in tonight's debate, and I hope that it will be a significant step forward in your own spiritual journey.

Now in raising the question of God's existence, we are in effect engaging in the assessment of a hypothesis about the world, namely, the hypothesis that God exists. If our goal is to determine rationally whether or not this hypothesis is true, we must conduct our inquiry according to the basic rules of logic. Arguments based on invalid logic, however emotionally appealing, are worthless in providing any rational warrant for their conclusions.

Accordingly, we need to ask ourselves two questions with respect to this hypothesis: (1) What evidence is there that serves to verify this hypothesis? and (2) What evidence is there that serves to falsify this hypothesis?

Second Question

Now with respect to the second question, I'll leave it up to Dr. Pigliucci to present the reasons why he thinks that this hypothesis is false. Atheists have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, but no one has ever been able to come up with a successful argument. Dr. Pigliucci, on the other hand, in his article "God as a Falsifiable Hypothesis," says, "My position is that belief in God can be falsified" on the basis of the evidence.1 So rather than attack straw men at this point, I'll just wait to hear Dr. Pigliucci's answer to the following question: What good evidence is there to show that God does not exist?

First Question

Let's look, then, at the first question: What evidence is there that serves to verify God's existence? Tonight I'm going to present five reasons in support of the specific hypothesis that a personal Creator and Designer of the universe exists, who is the locus of absolute value and who has revealed Himself in Christ. Whole books have been written on each one of these, so all I can present here is a brief sketch of each argument and then go into more detail as Dr. Pigliucci responds to them.

First Argument

1. The origin of the universe. Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal and uncaused. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it a minute. If the universe is eternal and never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."2 But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can't go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist.

This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the "Big Bang" 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because, as you go back in time, you reach a point at which, in Hoyle's words, the universe was "shrunk down to nothing at all."3 Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.

Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. For as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, "A proponent of the big bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the . . . universe came from nothing and by nothing."4 But surely that doesn't make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now from the very nature of the case, as the cause of space and time, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being of unimaginable power which created the universe. Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect. If the cause were timelessly present, then the effect would be timelessly present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.

Isn't it incredible that the Big Bang theory thus fits in with what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Now I put it to you: which makes more sense: that the theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing? I, at least, have no trouble assessing these alternatives!

Second Argument

2. The complex order in the universe. During the last 30 years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life-permitting universe like ours. How much more probable?

The answer is that the chances that the universe should be life-permitting are so infinitesimal as to be incomprehensible and incalculable. For example, Stephen Hawking has estimated that if the rate of the universe's expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed into a hot fireball.5 P. C. W. Davies has calculated that the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for later star formation (without which planets could not exist) is one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least.6 John Barrow and Frank Tipler estimate that a change in the strength of gravity or of the weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe.7 There are around 50 such quantities and constants present in the Big Bang which must be fine-tuned in this way if the universe is to permit life. And it's not just each quantity which must be exquisitely fine-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.

There is no physical reason why these constants and quantities should possess the values they do. The one-time agnostic physicist Paul Davies comments, "Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact."8 Similarly, Fred Hoyle remarks, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics."9 Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, calls this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.10

So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent Designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe, when it popped into being uncaused out of nothing, just happened to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.

We can summarize our reasoning as follows:

1. The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to either law, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to either law or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Third Argument

3. Objective moral values in the world. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. Michael Ruse, a noted agnostic philosopher of science, explains,

The position of the modern evolutionist is that . . . morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.11

Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.

I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right.

But we must be very careful here. The question here is not: "Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?" I'm not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: "Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?" I think that we can.

Rather the question is: "If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?" Like Prof. Ruse, I don't see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by homo sapiens is objective. And here I think Dr. Pigliucci would agree with me. He writes, "It has been pretty obvious since Darwin that we, indeed, are nothing but machines."12 In the absence of God, we're just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development has become taboo; but that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, there's nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.

But the problem is that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it. There's no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, cruelty, and child abuse aren't just socially unacceptable behavior--they're moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good.

Thus, we can summarize this third consideration as follows:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Fourth Argument

4. The historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God's place. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come, and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracles and exorcisms. But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and, thus, evidence for the existence of God.

Now most people would probably think that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just accept on faith or not. But there are actually three established facts, recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today, which I believe are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus.

Fact #1: On the Sunday following his crucifixion, Jesus' tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, "By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb."13 According to D. H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.14

Fact #2: On separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the prominent New Testament critic of Vanderbilt University Gerd Lüdemann, "It may be taken as historically certain that . . . the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the Risen Christ.15 These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.

Fact #3: The original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah, and Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead before the end of the world. Nevertheless, the original disciples came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar from Emory University, muses, "Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was . . . ."16 N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, "That is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him."17

Attempts to explain away these three great facts--like the disciples stole the body or Jesus wasn't really dead--have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible, naturalistic explanation of these facts. Therefore, it seems to me, the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.

Fifth Argument

5. The immediate experience of God. This isn't really an argument for God's existence; rather it's the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. If you're sincerely seeking God, God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."18 We mustn't so concentrate on the proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God to our heart. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

In conclusion, then, we've yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen five reasons to think that God does exist. Together these reasons constitute a powerful cumulative case for the existence of God.

Massimo Pigliucci – Opening Speech

Thank you. First of all, let me thank a few people: the Issues Committee for inviting me here to carry out this enviable task, and the Rationalists of East Tennessee which are scattered around the room and over there at one of the tables, providing me with great support, and, of course, Dr. Craig, who has offered very valuable arguments on his count, and to all of you for coming. I realize that this is a minority position that I will explain in the next few minutes. I hope that my statements tonight and my suggestions will help you in your personal intellectual journey a little as they helped me in the past.

Let me start first of all with a disclaimer of some sort. This is a disclaimer by a philosopher named Baruch Spinoza; he used to say: "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." This is my position tonight. I'm not here to make fun of anybody. I'm not here to ridicule anybody. I'm simply here to state what I think is a logically self-consistent and incredibly enlightening position. I would like also to make clear tonight that my positions are actually provisional. I'm not married to any particular faith. I'm going to be married in a couple of months to a wonderful woman, but that's a different matter!

Clarification of the Term "God"

So let me start by clarifying what is it that we are actually talking about tonight and what my position is, and therefore we need to talk about the ways of science and its limits. About the limits of science: science cannot investigate negative statements, and you cannot prove negative statements, so no matter what whoever will tell you. There is no way you can prove the inexistence of something, unless you define that something by positive statements. So, for example, you can't ask me to come up with a proof of the inexistence of God without clarifying what you mean by God--it's completely impossible. That is why the atheistic position is not a position--the extreme atheistic position if you want--it's not the position that I am supporting . If you read the program, I'm defined here as a non-theistic naturalist, which, I hope , it will be clear in a minute what that means.

So what kind of God can we talk about? First of all, there are three kinds of Gods I can think of. There is a metaphysical kind of God. That's the kind of God that doesn't have any attributes, that doesn't interfere with the regular everyday life of the world. He may have created the world, but then after that he retired. That kind of God is completely unfalsifiable; science doesn't have anything to do with it, and rationalism doesn't have anything to do with it. There is no way to deny that kind of God. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that not many people here actually believe in that kind God because it's not particularly satisfying. It doesn't do anything for us.

A second kind of God is called the imperfect anthropomorphic God. He is a God that has human attributes, or human-like attributes, but is he imperfect; he makes mistakes. The ancient Greeks were the first ones to describe this kind of God, and they even didn't believe that much about this kind of entity, simply because again if he is fallible, then he is not much better than a human being. You can think of him as a very powerful human being, but he is still a person. So we will set aside that kind of God also.

What we are talking about tonight is what we call a perfect anthropomorphic God, that is, a God that does have something to do with the everyday working of the universe, but he is perfect, he doesn't make mistakes, he's always good, he's all over the place. That is the kind of God that I think can in fact be falsified to some extent. In other words, if you believe in that kind of God, you are making positive statements about what should happen in the universe; and if you make positive statements about what could happen in the universe, then science and rational thinking can have something say about it.

Argument from Design

Let's start with the argument from intelligent design, which Dr. Craig raised at the beginning of his talk. The argument from intelligent design says that the universe is so complex that it must have had a designer; that is, if you find a watch somewhere, you know that there was a watchmaker. What science is telling you is that, well, no, that may be true for the watch, but seeing a design doesn't mean that there is a conscious, intelligent designer. Notice here that I am acknowledging that the world had been "designed." Natural selection, for example, in the case of biological evolution is definitely a designer. But it is an unconscious designer, a designer that works mechanically. It doesn't work pursuing any higher goals. So we do agree that there is a designer. The question is who is the designer or what is the designer.

One of Darwin's best arguments against the theistic position was that if you really look closely at the universe--and you don't even have to look that closely--, you'll find out that it is not perfect at all, and therefore you can question to what extent it actually reflects a designer. For example, the so called perfection of human beings has been called into question: you might know that human beings have a bizarre structure in their eye. The eye used to be a favorite example of theists. It's the kind of structure that you really cannot explain except by design. Well, it is pretty badly designed because, for example, we have blood vessels right in front of our retina, which means that under certain light conditions especially some among us see these funny little things flying all over the place across the visual field. Well, that's not a good design. Not only that, but there are organisms that are better designed. Squids, for example, have their blood vessels in the back of their eyes, so they actually see much better than we do, even though otherwise the two kinds of eyes are very similar. So my question to you is: are we better designed because God liked squids more than human beings? That seems to be the message.

Another source of bad design is the fact that most chemical reactions that occur inside everybody's bodies--humans, animals, and plants--are actually pretty inefficient, and if you ask a physicist or a chemist to do some calculations, it's pretty easy, and they will show you that the metabolism of most plants and animals, including humans, is really badly designed. It doesn't work very well, it's wasteful, it produces a lot of waste products. So if there is a designer, he's not a good designer.

Furthermore, there are other questions that a theist that believes in perfect design really has a hard time explaining. Have you ever wondered why people get hemorrhoids? Well, the reason for that is because we have this tendency to walk upright, but we are not very well designed for it, and we paid for that with several consequences, including hemorrhoids and varicose veins. So this ought to lead to the point that if there is a designer it wasn't a good one.

The general point that some scientists at least make, and I agree with them, is that the more we know about nature, the more we realize that in fact the world is the result of two things: chance, which is sometimes called historical contingency, and necessity, which is usually associated with natural selection. Therefore my position is not that we are the result of chance because chance alone, Dr. Craig is right, has no way to create such a complex structure as an ecosystem. But chance and natural selection is a different matter. Natural selection can work very effectively over longer periods of time.

God and Nature

Furthermore, it seems to me that the more we know about the mechanisms of the world, that is, the more we understand the world, the more the realm of God is being pushed back. The reason for that is, if you think about it, that in ancient times people used to evoke God as an explanation for almost everything. There was a thunder or lightning striking--well, that was Zeus that got upset with someone. That's because they didn't know where lightning was coming from. Now we know better, and we don't fault God for that kind of thing. We can now seclude him and confine him to only those things that we don't understand, the big questions that we are still answering in science, like the origin of the universe or the origin of life. But otherwise we understand better and better how things are going. After all, science has been around only a couple of hundred years. Give us some time! The more we understand, the less room there seems to be for God to exist. Now if you extrapolate just a little bit, you'll see that you have no reason for God.

In fact, this argument was presented more than a century ago by the astronomer Laplace, who was the first to present a complete theory for the origin and evolution of the solar system, a theory, by the way, that it is still considered pretty much correct. He presented his theory to the National Academy of France, and Napoleon was there. At the end of his presentation, Napoleon asked Laplace, "Monsieur Laplace, what about God?" And Laplace looked at Napoleon, and he said, "I don't need that hypothesis anymore." And there lies the key. God is a hypothesis that we formulate, that we could come up with, when we don't understand what is really going on.

Argument from Fine-Tuning

Now the current frontier of the design argument is, as Dr. Craig mentioned, the idea that the physical universe is highly improbable. The current physical universe, the one that supports life as we know it, is highly improbable. I will get into the specifics of Dr. Craig's argument probably during the my rebuttal because I want to make a few other points; but some of the main points that come to mind in responding to that kind of argument is: first of all, the fact that we don't know how something works, like we don't know how physical constants originated, is by no means a positive evidence for the existence of God. There is a non sequitur here; there is a leap in logic. The fact that we acknowledge that there are some things we don't understand does not imply at all that there was a creator. It just means that we don't know, and that's the position that any honest scientist should actually maintain.

Furthermore, how likely is the universe? Well, we don't know because this is the only universe that we have. We can speculate, it's very hard to come up with numbers--actually, it's very easy to come up with numbers, but it's hard to come up with reasonable numbers. We don't have experiments; we can't experiment with different kinds of universes that easily. So, for example, I made some calculations: I'm assuming that there are a little more than a thousand people here tonight, and I made some calculation on what was the probability that each one of these persons was going to be here tonight. Since there are about five billion people on Earth at this point, the probability is 1 in 10 raised to 1000 raised to 5 billion. That's a humongous number! So by that reasoning either somebody really conspired from the origin of our lives to get us here tonight or this event is so improbable that, I'm sorry, you have the illusion that we're here, but we're not. You see where I'm going with this.

Problems with Theism

In general what we are discussing here tonight is the difference between theism and naturalism, and I think the theist has a lot of problems which need to be addressed. One of these problems is that theism makes an unfounded and difficult-to-defend assumption: it assumes that something else exists beyond matter and energy. That might be a reasonable assumption to some people in the audience, in fact I'm sure, to most people in the audience, but think about it. You know that matter and energy exist. You don't know that something else exists beyond that, and therefore the burden of proof is not on me to demonstrate that that something does not exist; it's on Dr. Craig to demonstrate that something else exists, because we all know the matter and energy are here. If you need something else, then we need some evidence for that.

Also, answering whatever question about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, or anything else, "God did it" really is not an answer. It doesn't provide any answer whatsoever; it doesn't have any explanatory power whatsoever. Well, how did God do it, how did it work , why does it work one way and not another? Science is about not just giving an answer. I'm not going tell you that humans evolve, period. I'm going to tell you how, in what times, and what sequence of events actually is involved. There's much more detailed explanation; in fact, it is an explanation. It may not be a perfect explanation, but it is an explanation.

Another problem is what I call the infinite regression problem. Let's even assume that we do need a God or some kind of supernatural entity in order to explain the universe; well, then, the obvious following question is: where does God come from? I never could get an answer to that. And if the answer is that he was always there, that is exactly the same as saying that matter and energy were always there. There is no difference there.

Furthermore, we have already talked about the problem of negative evidence. There is a tendency on the theistic side to pick up on anything that science cannot resolve or cannot explain, at the least at the moment, as a positive evidence for the alternative explanation. That is not the way things work in rational thinking and logical thinking. You have to have your own arguments, positive arguments, to come out with an explanation. You can't just pick on anything that the other party is unable to explain, especially since part on the process of the other side is exactly to come up with explanations one at a time, and some of these explanations might fall because they're not good.

The Case for Naturalism

Furthermore, I'd like to go on to say that there are very good reasons to trust naturalism. That is the positive side of my argument. First, naturalism has predictive power. There are a lot of things that work. For example, you can switch on the lights, and the lights do come on. The reason for that is because electrons move around and exchange energy. All these things physics has explained very well, so it does work. Can you come up with a similar example of predictive power on the other side? I don't think so.

Furthermore, it works in practice. The reason you guys were able to get a car, for example, to get up here tonight is because technology works. And technology is based on naturalism. If the assumptions of naturalism were not consistent, you wouldn't have a car, you wouldn't have a TV, you wouldn't have a VCR, and all these other amenities of life. Now you might argue that we might be better off without that, but that's a different question.

Problem of Evil

There also are some serious philosophical problems with the theistic position that I really have a hard time thinking how Dr. Craig can solve them. The main problem that I see is the problem of evil. The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it very nicely, and I can hardly do better than he did , so I'm going to read pretty much verbatim his quote. "If I had ten billion years and this is all I could come up with, the universe as it is, I should be ashamed of myself." Everybody in this room can think of a much better universe with no earthquakes for one thing and no snow storms, no murders, no rapists, and so on and so forth. It's very easy to come up with one. So if this God is supposed to be all powerful and all good, why do we have this mess down here? And please don't answer that question with "The devil did it!" because the devil also was a creation of God, and so it's still his fault anyway. And I really don't see a way out of that one, unless you want to argue that creation has unintended consequences, there are things that happen in the world that God really didn't want; but then we're pulling back into the category of the personal, failing God that nobody here probably believes in.

Problems with Christianity

There's also some specific problems about Christianity. What I've said up to this point really applies to any positive definition of God. As I said, I'm not here to deny the existence of every single possible God. There are some Gods that are simply beyond any kind of speculative or scientific argument. But, for one thing, can you give me a good reason to believe in the Christian God in particular, as opposed to many other ones of the Gods that have been proposed so far? You've got ample choice there: you can believe in Zeus, you can believe in Baal, you can believe in Zoroaster--there's plenty of them! Well, why one over the other? I really can't see any particular reason for it.

Also Christianity makes some specific statements about the world and about humans. If you believe, for example, literally in the Bible (which I'm guessing Dr. Craig does not), if you really believe in the Bible, of course, you get in a bunch of problems. Science can answer that there wasn't such a thing as Noah's flood and certainly not as a world-wide event. Other things are: well, the sun never stopped anywhere in the sky because the sun doesn't move at all. It's the Earth that rotates around the sun, and so on and so forth. So there's a lot of specific statements in the Bible that simply cannot be taken literally. But even if you don't take it literally and you get some kind of general meaning, well, generally speaking, man is supposed to have fallen from somewhere, from grace supposedly. Well, evolutionary biology tells us that in fact man evolved in a positive way and is one of the most complex creatures in the world today. It's the end product of a very long process of evolution, I really see those two things in direct contradiction.

Finally, as far as Christianity in particular is concerned, there's plenty of archaeological, anthropological, and sociological evidence that Christianity is just one of several mythologies that evolved and changed throughout human history. It is a part of human culture; it can clearly be traced back to Hebrew traditions, to Babylonian traditions in Mesopotamia. A lot of the myths of Christianity are borrowed all over the place, as are other myths that we see today as to religions. Religions rise, they fall, they change, depending on their culture and social background of the populations that adopt them, and eventually they die, and then something will come up and replace them. That is the historical sequence that has happened over and over again, and I can really hardly see how anybody would look at that sequence and say, "Well, this particular sequence over here is an exception. This is not just not like another religion. It's different." Well, why, on what grounds?

The Problem of Morality

Finally, the problem of morality, which I'm sure we'll have more to say about--oh yeah, I agree with Dr. Craig when he cited Dr. Ruse, a philosopher of science. There is no such a thing as objective morality. We got that straightened out. Morality in human cultures has evolved and is still evolving, and what is moral for you might not be moral for the guy next door and certainly is not moral for the guy across the ocean, the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, and so on. And what makes you think that your personal morality is the one and everybody else is wrong? Now a better way of putting this is that it is not the same as to say that anything goes; it is not at all the same. What goes is anything that works; there are things that work. Morality has to work. For example, one of the very good reasons we don't go around killing each other is because otherwise the entire society as we know it would collapse and we'd become a bunch of simple isolated animals. There are animals like those.

Thank you.

William Lane Craig – First Rebuttal

Now Dr. Pigliucci presents in my count about five arguments that he thinks would falsify the hypothesis that God exists. Let's look at each of these and see if they're persuasive arguments.

Argument from Imperfections

(1) He says the universe is not perfect. For example, squids have better eyes than human beings. I don't think that this argument in any way disproves God's existence. Let me mention three reasons.

First,, that objection assumes a static theory of creation--that God created each individual creature, which never changes. But even creationists typically hold to a dynamic theory of creation which allows micro-evolutionary change within certain types, so that God could create a certain primal type of being and then there would be micro-evolutionary change within that type, and you might look at these sorts of imperfections (as he calls them) as by-products of micro-evolutionary pressures which gradually emerge.

Secondly, the objection presumes to know what God would do if He were to design something, that we know that God would create the eye in a certain way if He existed or He would create the digestive system in this way if He existed. And I personally think that's simply presumptuous. We have no idea how to speculate about what God would create if He were to exist. Maybe it's not important to God that we be able to have eyes to see in exactly a certain way, maybe there are other off-setting reasons why God permits systems designed in this way to exist. In other words, the argument is enormously presumptuous in thinking that we know what God would create if He were to exist.

And thirdly, perfection is a relative term, after all. These supposedly imperfect organs like the human eye function extraordinarily well. I mean, think of what the human eye has done in terms of art, literature, architecture, and so forth! This is hardly persuasive evidence, I think, that it could not be the product of an intelligent designer.

In fact, that leads me to his other argument, concerning biological evolution. And I'm going to suggest that the idea that evolution could have occurred without an intelligent Designer is so improbable as to be fantastic. This has been demonstrated by Barrowand Tipler in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. In this book, they list ten steps in the course of human evolution, each of which is so improbable that before it would have occurred the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth.19 They estimate the odds of the evolution of the human genome by chance to be on the order of 4-360 (110,000), a number which is so huge that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement. In other words, if evolution did occur, it would have been a miracle, so that evolution is actually evidence for the existence of God! And here the Christian can be much more open to where the evidence leads. He could say, "Well, God could have used evolution; He could have used special creation. I'm open to the evidence." But, you see, for the naturalist evolution is the only game in town! No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable the evidence, he's stuck with it because he hasn't got an intelligent Designer. So it seems to me that the Christian can be far more objective on this point. After all, if you were to find watch lying on the ground, and, say, it didn't function exactly perfectly, it lost one minute per hour, would you therefore conclude that the watch was not designed properly?

The Regression Argument

(2) What about the regression argument, that the more we know the less we think God intervenes in the universe? Well, notice that that argument doesn't prove that God doesn't exist. It doesn't even prove that God doesn't often intervene in the universe. All that follows from that argument is the sociological factor that we don't think God often intervenes in the universe. And that conclusion is perfectly compatible with the idea that God often in fact does intervene in the universe. But, moreover, even if it were true that God doesn't often intervene in the universe in miraculous ways, that's not incompatible with Christianity. After all, miracles by their nature are relatively rare, and I don't think that God does frequently go around intervening in the universe in miraculous ways. So the argument is simply inconclusive.

Pragmatic Argument for Naturalism

(3) What about the argument that naturalism works? Not at all! What works are scientific hypotheses. But those do not test naturalism because on the hypothesis that there is a Creator God who has designed the universe to operate according to certain natural laws, that could also work. So the fact that scientific theories work is in no sense a proof of naturalism.

Problem of Evil

(4) He says, "What about the problem of evil?" Well, let me make two responses here.

First, no atheist has ever been able to show a logical inconsistency between the propositions "God exists" and "Evil exists." They tried, but no one has ever been able to show that those two are contradictory. In fact, you can actually show that they are consistent by adding a third proposition, namely, "God has morally sufficient reasons to permit evil." As long as that third proposition is even possibly true, it shows that God's existence and evil's existence are logically compatible. The atheist seems to assume that if God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil, we have to be privy to them. But there's absolutely no reason to think that that is true.

In fact, secondly, evil is actually proof that God exists. My argument would go like this:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. (Dr. Pigliucci agrees.)

2. Evil exists.

3. Therefore, objective values exist. (Some things are really evil.)

4. Therefore, God exists.

And thus evil only calls into question God's existence on a superficial level. On a deeper philosophical level evil actually demonstrates the existence of God because evil as such could not exist without God.

Noah's Ark

(5) The fifth argument he raised was the problem of Noah's Ark. I would simply just dismiss this by saying: First, it doesn't disprove the existence of God. Secondly, I would take Noah's flood to be a local flood, not a universal flood, in any case.

So all of these arguments, I think, are either invalid or based on false premises and hardly present any good reason to think that atheism is true.

First Question

Now what about my arguments to show that God does exist? Dr. Pigliucci uses a general argument against this to say that God is not explanatory. But notice he fails to understand the structure of my arguments. My arguments are deductive arguments, that is to say, if the premises are true, then by the laws of logic the conclusion follows inescapably. Whether you like the conclusion, whether you think it's explanatory, is irrelevant: as long as the premises are true, it follows by deductive logic that the conclusion is true.

First Argument

So what he is going to deny? In my first argument I argued: (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Will he deny that? (2) The universe began to exist. According to Steven Hawking in his book The Nature of Space and Time (1996), "Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang."20 Will he deny that, the paradigm held by most cosmologists today? If he will not deny either of those two premises, then he cannot deny the conclusion, that A transcendent cause of the universe exists.

He says, but where did God come from? Very easily I can answer this question. The argument proves that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Therefore, there must be a first cause which never came into being. Whatever begins to exist has to have a cause; but a being which exists timelessly, spacelessly, and necessarily is uncaused. This is what the atheist has always said the universe is. But that is now untenable in light of the philosophical arguments I gave and the cosmological evidence for the beginning of the universe.

In other words, neither of my two premises of my first argument were refuted by Dr. Pigliucci, and therefore I think we have good grounds for thinking a transcendent Creator exists.

Second Argument

My second argument was based on the complex order of the universe. And here he had three objections.

(1) You cannot look for a Creator from what we don't know. I am not arguing on the basis of what we don't know. What I'm suggesting is that we do know that the initial conditions of the universe cannot be explained by law because they are initial conditions. They cannot be explained by chance because it is just too fantastically improbable. And therefore being neither explicable by chance nor by law, design is the only alternative. What is his answer? I would like to know.

(2) He says, "Well, your argument doesn't work because there's only one universe." Let me explain the theory of probability behind this. Imagine a blue dot on a piece of a paper, and let that be our universe. Slightly alter some of these constants and quantities. That makes a new universe. If it's life-permitting, make another blue dot. If it's life- prohibiting, make a red dot. Then do it again, and then again, and again, and again. What you wind up with is a sea of red with only a few pinpoints of blue here and there. That's what I mean when I say that life-permitting universes are incalculably improbable.

(3) He says, "But the probability of all these people being here tonight, these specific people, is highly improbable, and yet we are here!" That's a failure to understand the argument. Any universe you pick is equally probable, yes, but it is highly, highly improbable that the universe you pick will be life-permitting. That's the point. It's like a lottery in which there's a billion, billion, billion black marbles and one white marble. Any marble you pick is equally improbable, but the probability that the marble you do pick will be black is vastly more probable than that it will be white. Similarly, given the improbability of the initial conditions of the universe, the universe ought to be dead; there shouldn't be any life in the universe. The fact that it cannot be explained on the basis of chance or law leaves us with design as the best explanation for why the universe is finely tuned for our existence.

Third Argument

What about objective moral values? He agrees there are no objective moral values, but he says values are things that work or society will collapse. That is not at all true. Look at Nazi Germany. In his book, Morality after Auschwitz21, Peter Haas asks how an entire society who have existed in which the mass extermination of Jews and Gypsies went on for a decade with hardly a protest being offered. He says the reason is because a new ethic was in place in Germany which did not define the holocaust as evil, but as good. And he points out that that ethic cannot be criticized from within because it was internally consistent. It can only be criticized if you have a transcendent vantage point and anchor for moral values. On Dr. Pigliucci's view rape, child abuse, torture, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, the killing fields of Cambodia are all morally indifferent because there is no objective right and wrong. And I submit that is simply untenable. Objective moral values do exist, from which it follows logically that God exists.

I hoped to get my other arguments on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the rebuttal; but I'm out of time, so I shall quit.

Massimo Pigliucci – First Rebuttal

My response is going to be: "Show me one." Until you show me one, you cannot accuse me of being close-minded because I don't want to consider or acknowledge the existence of unicorns. I'll consider it; but before I'll acknowledge it, you have to come up with a positive argument.

First Argument

About this origin of the universe thing: Dr. Craig said that the universe has a cause, and it has a beginning. As far as I know, that is true (and I am qualifying this because astronomers and cosmologists do change their mind quite often, and things have changed in the last 20 or 30 years, so I wouldn't bet my life on these things). But let us assume that in fact the universe had a beginning and in fact the universe had to have a cause of some sort. Well, that does not imply by any means that that cause was what we refer commonly to as God. It only means that there was some kind of cause that we really don't know much about. It doesn't imply by any stretch of the imagination that that cause was conscious, that it had supernatural powers, that it has omnipresence, omniscience, and all the other "omnis" that you want. The two things simply don't follow. It only means that there is a cause, O.K.? Dr. Craig said that therefore that implies that there is a personal agent. And once again I'm asking, "Dr. Craig, where does this agent come from?" Why does he think it was personal as opposed to impersonal? After all, we might not be that far from each other because scientists do agree that there must have been a cause and that cause probably was impersonal. It's just a matter of defining what you mean by "cause."

Second Argument

Let's go back to the complexity of the universe and the balance of the initial conditions. As I said before, it's really hard to estimate probabilities. These estimates that Dr. Craig referred to as the Anthropic Principle are really, really wild. If you ask a lot of physicists, as I have done, they'll tell you that those calculations really have no basis whatsoever. We simply don't know. We don't know enough. It's very easy to pull out of the hat any kind of number that shows that something is highly improbable. I don't know if you have noticed, but Dr. Craig keeps presenting these probabilistic arguments--for example, for the probability of the evolution of humans. And the people that he cites are either physicists or chemists, not biologists. Don't you find that peculiar? I mean, the problem there is this: I don't feel qualified as an evolutionary biologist to go into a physicist's lab and tell him how the atom works. That's not my job; that's the physicists' job. I find it peculiar, on the other hand, that physicists and chemists have no problem whatever getting into the field of biology, counting out their numbers out of their hats, and not furnishing any good reason for doing that. It is their prerogative, of course, to do that--inquiries are open to everybody--, but you have to have solid reasoning to do that.

By the way, I'd like to mention that you should never believe something just because somebody says it, no matter how important or famous that person is. Case in point: Dr. Craig has cited a couple of times Fred Hoyle. Fred Hoyle is a very well- respected and known British astronomer. He came up with quite a few bizarre ideas throughout his career. In fact, he came up with so many bizarre ideas in his career that the British Astronomical Association gave him, and only to him, a medal for the highest number of wrong theories proposed in a career. Notice that that is an important fact because Fred Hoyle, for example, was one of the people that opposed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, and the British Astronomical Association gave Fred Hoyle this medal because we do have in fact a lot of people working on the Big Bang theory, and we have learned so much about the Big Bang theory in part because so many people were upset with Hoyle when he proposed his theory. So you know, wrong proposals do have very good and positive results sometimes. That doesn't mean you should believe them.

Third Argument

Let's go back to this thing of objective morality. I think that there's a little bit of twisting and turning around here with terms. Again, it's not a matter of "Is there out there an objective morality?" We know that there isn't. There are some components of your own morality that are not shared by other human beings. So either you are pretentious enough to think that your morality for whatever reason is the only correct one, or everybody else in the world is wrong.

I think that that is pretentious. Of course there are some universals that all human beings share. Just today, for example, I told my students in a biology class that there are some things that human beings and society would never approve because of the way human societies are built. One, of course, is homicide; another one, of course, is rape. However, what we call homicide or rape or, in fact, even infanticide is very, very common among different types of animals. Lions, for example, commit infanticide on a regular basis because they want to make sure that the little offspring that is being raised by the lioness is their own and not someone else's. Now, are these kinds of acts to be condoned? I don't even know what that means because the lion doesn't understand what morality is, that's for sure.

Morality is an invention of human beings. It's a very good invention. I'm not suggesting we should abandon morality. I'm not suggesting, more to the point, that we should abandon ethics. Ethics is a perfectly valid way of thinking about things. We can all agree as a society that there are things that are wrong and things that are good. We can act on them, and we can enforce those things, but there is no higher power or no higher reason to tell us that this is right or this is wrong. Unfortunately, we are on our own; that's my humble opinion. I would really like for somebody to come down from the sky and tell me what is right and what is wrong. My life would be much, much easier. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

Fourth Argument

How about these historical facts of Jesus that somehow Christianity explains? Well, there are a few things that I would like to bring out on that. That, obviously, is a little bit on the side of the scientific arguments. It is really difficult to do a science of history. In some cases you can do it, but certainly with a unique historical event it is difficult. That's one of the limitations of science. Science, by the way, has limitations. I hope that that will be clear from tonight' talk. I'm not advocating science as a substitute for an omnipowerful God. But there are a few things that we can surmise from what we know about the origin of mythologies and the origin of religion in general.

For one thing, according to Roman documents of the time, Jesus was just one among a lot of people that told people that they were prophets and were doing miracles. There were a bunch of them. He was just one of many. He probably was a particularly gifted one, and that's why his particular brand of religion eventually succeeded. But there were many; so why think that that particular one was special? Just because by historical accident it happened to be one of the most successful? So was Mohammed's, Islam is incredibly successful; in fact, it is the second most popular religion in the world. Well, are all the Muslims wrong and off track just because they happen to believe in the wrong prophet? On what basis can you make that judgment?

Now what about these miracles? We can find a bunch of people that claimed to make miracles, that claimed to be prophets, throughout history, including today. I think you can get the address and send e-mail to people who claim to be prophets and miracle makers. Would you believe them? Well, I don't--not without seeing something really in person. Now, of course, people do claim to have seen miracles in person, but then again people also claim to have been abducted by aliens or to have seen fairies around, or gnomes, or whatever else you want. Now, by the way, even though I don't believe in UFOs and alien abductions, I think that those are much more credible than miracles. For one thing because a race of aliens coming in on Earth and interfering with our personal affairs--although you might ask, "Why would they want to do that, why would they want to travel out this way just to abduct a couple of people from the countryside of Iowa?"--this puzzlement aside, they don't violate any physical laws that I know. It may have taken them a long time to travel at subluminal speed without violating the theory of relativity to get to this planet, but they could have done it; there is no question about it. They are not violating any physical laws. Miracles do. Now there is nothing wrong with that either, and you can still believe in miracles. The problem is, you can't pick and chose; you can't think that naturalism in absence of miracles works most of the time and then when it is convenient for you a miracle happens. Because the most likely explanation for that is that something happened for which you simply don't have any other idea of what it was, and I think it's much more humble and less pretentious, if you want to use this term, to just say, "I don't know." There's nothing wrong with that. "I don't know" is much better than saying, "Well, I'm going to make up a whole story about what has happened, and this is the result of a higher being, of which I know nothing and I can know nothing."

Argument from Imperfections

Dr. Craig finally pointed out that it is pretensions of atheists, or non-theists, as I said I prefer to be called, to guess the mind of God. Of course, it is pretentious, but it's a trick. Here is the trick. I can say I'm not pretentious enough to know the mind of God, but I still need an explanation of why God is doing things one way or the other. To simply recoil into "Well, he did it because he felt like it" or "He knows better" again is no explanation. It is not satisfying from an intellectual point of view. It may very well be true. After all, probably mice in laboratories all over the world do wonder what the heck are we doing with them, making them go round and round in circles, and testing their intelligence. They probably do that, and they certainly don't have the brain to understand what's going on. At least that's what we think. But you have to ask the question, and if the answer is, "I don't know," then I'm afraid that the theistic position is in no better shape than it was when we started.

William Lane Craig – Second Rebuttal

Second Question

The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. For example, we have no positive evidence of an early inflationary era in the history of the universe, and yet if you look at many cosmologists, they believe that such an inflationary era actually existed. The absence of evidence is not a proof that it did not exist. And over and over again in the arguments Dr. Pigliucci offered to falsify the God hypothesis, he came back to me by saying that I haven't carried the burden of proof. But his objections, he claims, falsify God. Now if that's true, he's got to carry his share of the burden of proof. All I have to do is show that these objections are inconclusive.

Argument from Imperfections

So, for example, take his argument from imperfection. I responded with three points: (1) He assumes a static theory of creation, but creationists accept microevolution. He didn't respond to that point. (2) I said that it assumes to know what God would do, which is presumptuous. And he says that's true, but we must have an answer. No, not at all; it's he who thinks you have to be able to presume what God would create if He existed to carry the objection. I'm the one here to say, "I don't know, and you don't know; therefore the objection is inconclusive." (3) I said perfection is a relative term. A watch which doesn't function perfectly is still designed. He didn't respond to that.

I then gave the argument from evolution and pointed out that apart from God it's just too improbable to think that natural selection and genetic mutations could have resulted in the sort of biological complexity that we see. He didn't deny the point; he just said that I didn't quote biologists. But notice, he didn't deny the calculations or the point. In fact, Barrow Tipler in that same book reported that there's a consensus among evolutionary biologists today that the life of comparable information-processing ability to homo sapiens is so improbable that it's unlikely to evolve anywhere else in the visible universe.22 That's what they report as a consensus among biologists today.

Other Objections

He dropped his regression argument, dropped his "Naturalism works" argument, dropped his Problem of Evil argument, dropped his Noah's Ark argument. So I hope that you've not seen any persuasive reasons tonight to think that the God hypothesis is false. Dr. Pigliucci has simply failed to falsify that hypothesis.

First Question

Now what about my reasons for believing in the existence of God?

First Argument

(1) The origin of the universe. Here he admits the premises that Whatever begins to exist has a cause, and that The universe began to exist. "But why," he says, "think that the cause is God?" I gave the arguments in my first speech. I showed that it deductively follows from a cause of space and time that the cause must be timeless and spaceless. Therefore it cannot be anything physical and material that transcends time and space. It must be changeless. And I argued that it must be personal because otherwise you cannot explain how a temporal effect can originate from an impersonal, timeless cause. And he didn't refute any of those arguments. So I think in the formulation of the argument that I gave I answered all of his objections.

Second Argument

(2) What about the complex order in the universe? I explained the theory of probability. I did show why his example of the people in the room is a flawed analogy. "But," he says, "Look, there's no basis for these calculations. We don't know that these things are really improbable." What he's really suggesting to you here is that somehow a life-permitting universe is necessary, that if we knew of some Theory of Everything, we would see that life necessarily exists. And that is an enormously implausible hypothesis. Paul Davies, the astrophysicist, says,

There is absolutely no evidence in favor of it. . . . Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn't follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about 'laws of initial conditions' remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it. . . .

. . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise.23

And, in fact, as I said, when you alter those constants, those conditions, those laws, you find out that we are balancing on a knife's edge. The origin of the universe is like the Empire State Building's popping into existence out of nothing. That's what the atheistic hypothesis is like, if they believe this really just happened by chance. And I find the design hypothesis far more plausible.

Third Argument

(3) What about objective morality? Here Dr. Pigliucci is clearly in a deep existential dilemma: he affirms that morality is not objective--it is the invention of human beings--, but he cannot bring himself to say that therefore anything goes. He wants to cling to moral values. But, you see, for an atheist these values are floating in the air: they have no objective basis. On atheism moral values are just social conventions. You could have chosen to go on the red and stop on the green. They're just human inventions, the byproducts of socio-biological evolution. But that means that a society like Nazi Germany or South Africa, where apartheid was practiced, or what happened in Cambodia in the killing fields, that those aren't morally wrong, that is, they are morally indifferent. And I, at least, cannot bring myself to believe that. It seems to me far more plausible that there is objective right and wrong; for example, torturing babies for fun is wrong. And if you agree with me tonight that that is objectively morally wrong, then you would agree with me that therefore God exists. For he admits that if we have no God, these things are not objectively wrong, but they're human conventions.

Fourth Argument

(4) What about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Here he asks, "Why think that Jesus was special?" Very simply: because of the evidence for his resurrection! No other founder of any religion in history has had such a thing claimed of him. "But," he says, "Isn't it arbitrary to believe in a miracle in this case if you don't believe in miracles in many other cases?" Not at all! You should believe in a miracle, I think, when (1) No naturalistic explanation of the facts is available that plausibly explains the facts, and (2) There is a supernatural explanation suggested in the religio-historical context in which the event occurred. The resurrection of Jesus is significant not just because anyone or someone rose from the dead, but because Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the absolute revelation from God, rose from the dead. And what is significant is that Dr. Pigliucci hasn't been able to deny any of those three facts that the majority of New Testament critics hold to today: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the disciples' faith. Those are the historical facts. Now you can pursue agnosticism if you want. You can just say "Well, I don't know the explanation." But I certainly think a Christian is within his rights to say, "You know, it looks to me like those men were telling the truth," that the best explanation is that Jesus did rise from the dead. So you can remain agnostic if you want to, but it seems to me that as a historian I'm certainly within my rational rights to say the best explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Fifth Reason

(5) Finally, the immediate experience of God has not even been discussed tonight in this debate. But I think one can know immediately that God exists as well.

Massimo Pigliucci – Second Rebuttal

Thank you. First of all, let me remind the audience of the dynamics of this debate. The reason I'm not answering directly the last few things that you just heard is because I'm using my previous notes and responding to Dr. Craig's previous arguments. There's a time lag here. We would need an infinite number of rebuttals to go through all this, and I don't think even your patience is going to be that lasting. The other thing is, I really didn't drop arguments. Once that I stated an argument once I think that's enough. You can think about it, and we can talk about it later, and you can ask questions. I'm trying to move on and respond to some of the other arguments; so if I'm not going back over and over to the same points, it's because I'd rather use my time in order to make new points, if that's possible.

Second Question

Argument from Imperfections

Okay, now let me go back to some of Dr. Craig's previous points. He had a field day with my falsifying God arguments. He said that, "Well, of course, it's true that we live in an imperfect universe. So what? Imperfection is not incompatible with God." Oh, darn, I was raised Catholic, and I was taught that God was perfect! Now somebody is telling me that from a Christian point of view there is no problem with imperfection! Well, I find that hard to believe. It doesn't really fit with what I've learned about the Christian God. But maybe I was wrong on this.

Dr. Craig said that we presume to know what God wants. No, we don't. We're just asking the question. And, again, if the answer is, "I don't know," I'm afraid that the theistic position is on the weak side because--think about it: why is it that everybody is here tonight? I'm sure that each person has a different, particular reason for being here tonight, but what I think probably unifies this audience, including the speakers, the moderator, and everybody, is that we have a great curiosity of finding out what's going on in the rest of the universe--which means that we need to be answering questions. So, yes, we are trying to inquire into the mind of God--that's the whole point of the debate--, and if you say that the mind of God is closed and that there is no way to it, well, that's the end of the debate. You can keep your faith, of course; that's obviously your prerogative, but you have not advanced by a single iota the knowledge that human beings have about the universe and their place in it.

Let's go back to this numerological stuff. All these probabilities--for example, the probability of the evolution of human beings--, are being really twisted around. There is absolutely no consensus that human beings are so highly improbable that they couldn't possibly evolve. No evolutionary biologist has ever said that. What they mean by this is that human beings are simply one possible outcome of several possible evolutionary trajectories. Say that there are millions of possible trajectories that could have started billions of years ago when life on earth originated; what they mean by "improbable" is that probably only a few of these trajectories would actually lead to something comparable to human beings. So what? If instead of having human beings around here, say, for example, 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs did not go extinct because a meteor did not happen to strike them, well, we would have a nice assembly of reptiles tonight talking about the fact that there are these little creatures called mammals that somehow have failed to evolve and that used to be competitors for us dinosaurs. So that's what biologists mean by saying that we are improbable, meaning that the specific results that you're looking at are improbable. That doesn't mean anything at all in terms of "Therefore it couldn't have happened." Of course, it could have happened! We know how it happened, and it did happen! We're here, but it could have happened in a variety of other ways, all equally probable. It wouldn't have mattered at all to the rest of the universe.

Speaking of the rest of the universe, we finally got that it is highly improbable that the universe as a whole originated the way it is. Therefore, there obviously is one very implausible universe that can carry life. As I said, that's actually a very difficult argument to make on probabilistic grounds. But let's assume that that is the case; let's assume that, yes, it is highly improbable that life as we know it on Earth originated in any other kind of universe. And that, again, should be the evidence for what kind of designer? Think about it. If you know anything about astronomy, if you have ever seen any documentary on astronomy, you know there are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, and the latest count is of about a hundred billion galaxies (and that's probably a gross underestimate) in the rest of the universe. And all of this for us? I think that this is really presumptuous. Think of the waste, if you are a designer! What kind of design are you doing? You are throwing away not 99, but 99.99 and so on--I could on with 9's for the rest of the evening!--percent of what you've done just to produce us! And what a result, anyway--no offense, of course! I'm part of that design, too.

Pragmatic Argument for Naturalism

Dr. Craig also pointed out that naturalism works in practice but in fact never tests its own assumptions. I tend to disagree. There are several scientists that also take that position--in other words, that a naturalistic explanation of the world is a fundamental assumption of science, and therefore everything else derives from it. I think that is really flawed. It is an assumption obviously. I mean every time that I am in my office and, for example, a student presents me the results of an experiment, usually that student comes out with an explanation for that experiment--like why did this plant flower today as opposed to in a month--that does not invoke any particular kind of God. No student comes to me and says that's because God did it! And I wouldn't accept that kind of explanation. Why? Not because it was impossible, but because, again, we need very convincing arguments that that's the case, because we know fairly well how hormones work in plants and why plants flower earlier or later. That explanation is sufficient to me. That doesn't mean that there are no other explanations that are possible and, in fact, even explanations that are true. But how do we know?

Well, one way to know is one day I find a plant that has a behavior that is totally and completely opposite to any biological, chemical, and physical law that we know of.. Then I would have to seriously question the naturalistic assumption. If we were living in a universe that had no predictability or a lower level of predictability, in which miracles pop out at any particular moment without any warning, then the naturalistic assumption would not work, and the universe would make much less sense than it does now. The reason the universe is predictable, I would think, is because the naturalistic assumption works. The moment the universe will stop behaving as we think it's supposed to behave, then you have positive proof and positive evidence of a supernatural explanation. So far I haven't seen it. Thank you.

William Lane Craig – Closing Statement

I certainly hope you've enjoyed the debate as much as I have this evening! It's been a very stimulating exchange, I think.

Second Question

Argument from Imperfections

First, what arguments have we seen that falsify the hypothesis that God exists? Well, in the last speech we basically heard again the so called "imperfection argument." But, here, I think, it became evident from Dr. Pigliucci's comments that his arguments are based on the false assumption that according to theism the world is perfect. Frankly, I can't imagine where he got that idea. As Christians, we believe God is perfect, but not that the world is perfect. Look at Genesis, as God saw that the creation was "good."24 And I think it certainly is good! But the idea that it is a perfectly functioning machine is no part of Christian theology or theism. And without that assumption his whole argument evaporates.

As for the argument concerning evolution, he misquoted me. He said there is no consensus that human beings would not have evolved by chance. My argument from Barrow and Tipler said that there is a consensus among every evolutionary biologists that sentient life which is comparable to homo sapiens in information-processing ability is so improbable that it's unlikely to have evolved anywhere else in the visible universe.25 And, therefore, you cannot use evolution as an argument against theism. On the contrary, evolution is actually an argument for theism because it is so improbable that it's unlikely to have occurred in the absence of a supervising Designer.

Pragmatic Argument for Naturalism

Finally, he argued that naturalism is tested everyday, and it works. I would say that it only tests that there are natural laws. But that's consistent with the idea that there is a Creator who has made a universe that functions normally according to natural laws.

So none of these arguments provide good grounds for thinking that the God hypothesis is false. In fact what has emerged from this aspect of the debate are two arguments for the existence of God in addition to the five I gave, namely, (1) the argument from evolution and (2) the argument from the existence of evil. So I thank Dr. Pigliucci for giving me two additional arguments on my side of the debate for the existence of God tonight!

First Question

Now what about reasons that verify the God hypothesis?

First Argument

First, I argued that God is required by the origin of the universe. We saw that whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; and, therefore, there must be a transcendent, personal cause of the universe.

Second Argument

Secondly, I argued that complex order of the initial conditions of the universe points to God as a Designer over the universe. And here Dr. Pigliucci now says that "This is such a waste of space! The universe is so large!" Not at all! These stellar spaces are necessary in order for the stars to cook up the heavy elements which are necessary for the existence of life on Earth; and in order to be that old the universe would have expand 15 billion years. So the size of the universe is related to the age of the stars, which is related to the furnaces necessary to make the elements requisite for intelligent life. And, frankly, as a theist I may argue that there may be life elsewhere in the universe that God has created. How do we know that it is wasted space? Perhaps God has created life elsewhere. But wherever life exists, it all depends upon that fine-tuning present in the Big Bang itself, which no one has been able to explain by chance.

Third Argument

Thirdly, objective moral values exist. Again, we saw that in the absence of God we are left with moral nihilism: there is no right and wrong. If you do believe that there are objective moral values, then, I think, you will agree with me that God exists.

Fourth Argument

Finally, with respect to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I think I showed that the resurrection is the best explanation of those three facts recognized by the majority of New Testament scholars today.

Fifth Argument

Finally, the immediate experience of God. Let me just say this: I wasn't raised in a Christian home or a church-going family. But when I became a teenager, I began to ask the big questions in life--about the meaning of life and death--,and in the search for answers I began to read the New Testament. And I discovered in the person of Jesus a figure that just arrested and captivated me. His words had the ring truth about them. And after a period of about six months of the most intense soul-searching--to make a long story short--, I just gave my life to God, and I experienced a sort of inner rebirth. God became an immediate living reality in my life, a reality that has never left me. And I would just challenge you: if you would like to know God in that sort of way yourself, begin to do what I did. Read the New Testament. I believe it could change your life in the same way that it changed mine.

Massimo Pigliucci – Closing Statement

Second Question

First of all, Dr. Craig said that I'm asking for the burden of proof on his side but that at the same time I'm suggesting I can falsify God. Let's be more precise here. I did say two different things: I said that the burden of proof for entities, energies, or kinds of events that we have no idea and no visible proof they exist is on the side of the person that suggests that these things are actually real. At the same time, I was referring to falsifiability and the possibility to deny some specific arguments. I referred to specific descriptions of God's interference with the universe. If you tell me God did this, like Noah's flood, which Dr. Craig conceded must have been either non-existent or a local event, well, then, I can falsify that. So the two things are very distinct.

First Question

First Argument

Dr. Craig said that it follows from his premises that the ultimate cause of the universe must be timeless and personal, and he claims that this is a logical statement that follows with irrefutability. Why? Have you ever stopped and thought why is it that the cause of the universe should be timeless and personal? Just because a philosopher tells you that that is the case? What do we know about the ultimate cause of the universe? Well, I can conceive of causes of the universe that are not timeless or are not personal. I have no problem whatsoever with that! So you have to be careful in distinguishing what is actually, really, totally logically consistent and what in fact is an assumption.

And speaking of internal consistency, Dr. Craig said that his positions are internally consistent. They probably are. You can come up with a lot of internally consistent logical systems that nevertheless have nothing to do with reality. You do it all the time when you play a computer game. You create an entire universe that is logically consistent, that has rules, and has behaviors that are predictable, and you can play with it­but it doesn't exist in the physical world. So the fact that something is logically consistent does not mean that it is real. The two are completely different things. "That something that is logical must, therefore, exist" is a fallacious argument.

Third Argument

We keep going on this thing of morality; is it objective or is it not objective? Dr. Craig says that I'm waffling and I'm going back and forth on my positions. I'm not going back and forth on anything. All I'm saying is that morality can change, and, in fact, I'm arguing that morality better change because human beings, the needs of human beings, and what we must decide, do change. So why would you want a system that is completely fixed and is impossible to change? Why would you follow the morality or the rules that were laid down by people that lived 2,000 years or 3,000 years ago? Let me give you a simple example that doesn't have anything to do with Christianity. As you know, most strict Muslim people don't eat pork meat. The reason not to eat pork meat is very good; indeed, before the invention of refrigeration it was a really bad idea to eat meat in the desert, which is where Mohammed was preaching. Today that's no longer true because of things called refrigerators, freezers, and things of that sort. Of course, occasionally you still have E. coli which is going to get you, but most of the time that doesn't happen. That rule doesn't make any sense anymore. So people that are following that rule do it out of tradition, which is a perfectly respectable reason to do it, of course; you can follow all the traditions you like. But it is not an objective value, an invariant way of constructing a morality.

Fifth Argument

We touched briefly on the personal experience thing. Well, of course, personal experiences are very important. We do a lot of things by personal experience. All of the daily decisions in our lives are personal experiences. We fall in love; that's a personal experience. There's no logic behind it most of the times. The problem is, we are talking here about admissible evidence. Well, I'm sorry, but admissible evidence doesn't include personal experiences because personal experience can be good for you, but it's hardly communicable to everybody else. People that are on drugs have all sorts of personal experiences which I'm sure you wouldn't confuse for reality.

Let me close by saying that I hope that tonight we have all really learned something. I certainly have learned a lot from Dr. Craig, and I want to thank you and thank him for this. I hope that there is going to be some more understanding and some more thinking among all of us on this very important question we have addressed tonight.

Notes

1 Massimo Pigliucci, "God as a Falsifiable Hypothesis".

2 David Hilbert, "On the Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.

3 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.

4 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas' Proofs of God's Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.

5 Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), p. 123.

6 P. C. W. Davies, Other Worlds (London: Dent, 1980), pp. 160-161, 168-169.

7 Actually, the figure is once more from Davies. But for a compendium of such examples of fine-tuning see John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

8 Paul Davies, The Mind of God (New York: Simon & Schuster: 1992), p. 16.

9 Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," Engineering and Science (November, 1981), p. 12.

10 Robert Jastrow, "The Astronomer and God," in The Intellectuals Speak Out about God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.

11 Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269.

12 Unfortunately, I have not been able to re-locate the article from which this quotation was drawn.

13 Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.

14 D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.

15 Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 8.

16 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 136.

17 N. T. Wright, "The New Unimproved Jesus," Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.

18 James 4.8.

19 John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)., pp. 561-565.

20 Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 20.

21 Peter Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

22 John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 133.

23 Paul Davies, The Mind of God (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 169.

24 Genesis 1.10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31.

25 Their exact words are: "there has developed a general consensus among evolutionists that the evolution of intelligent life, comparable in information processing ability to that of homo sapiens, is so improbable that it is unlikely to have occurred on any other planet in the entire visible universe" (John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986], p. 133).