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Is Faith in God Reasonable?

February 2013

William Lane Craig vs. Dr. Rosenberg

Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana - February 2013


Craig Hazen: Hi, everyone. I am Dr. Craig Hazen, Director of the Masters Degree Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in southern California. Although our campus is thousands of miles away from tonight’s debate on the campus of Purdue, Biola University has become a center point for discussion and engagements on the big ideas that have really challenged humankind for centuries – like tonight’s big question, “Is faith in God reasonable?” I want to thank Biola University’s partners for the live streaming of this event. The first partner is Symposia Christi, which is a coalition of campus ministry groups at Purdue. The second is Reasonable Faith, the organization that supports the scholarship, speaking, and debates of Dr. William Lane Craig.

We are joined this evening by five thousand people on the Purdue campus and tens of thousands from around the world who have signed in to watch this important exchange of ideas. One of our goals in bringing this debate to you live is to help ignite a robust dialogue. We want you to be part of the conversation so fire up Twitter and tweet commentary for the world. You can also submit questions to the debaters online to be answered during the live Q&A.

Now, once tonight’s debate is over, there is a good chance you will want to see it again or alert others to it so they can watch. If so, just point them to a site called but jot down the address for yourself as well because there is a treasure trove of quality academic content at that site and it is all for free. So be sure to check it out.

The debaters you will see tonight are both academic philosophers and are at the top of their game. Answering “no” to the question tonight “Is faith in God reasonable?” will be Dr. Alex Rosenberg who is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and head of the philosophy department. He is a prolific author having written over a dozen books and hundreds of articles. His latest book is titled The Atheist's Guide to Reality. On the other side of the platform tonight and answering “yes” to the question “Is faith in God reasonable?” will be Dr. William Lane Craig who is a research professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Dr. Craig is likewise an author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles.

Of course, Dr. William Lane Craig teaches courses in my own department – the Master of Arts Degree Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola which has been voted the best program of its kind in the world on several occasions. If you’ve considered doing graduate work in this fascinating field of study we would be delighted to send you more information. Just contact us or log on to We have developed one of the finest distance learning programs available anywhere. So you can earn a Masters degree in apologetics or in the field of science and religion without uprooting or moving. The degree program is convenient, it is very stimulating, and it is affordable. And you don’t need a background in philosophy or theology to start it. We will give you everything you need to get up to speed. We also have a certificate program in apologetics and educational resources that are available to everyone. Of special interest to viewers of this debate will be boxed sets of Dr. Craig’s previous debates with opponents like Christopher Hitchens, Frank Zindler, Bart Ehrman, and more. You might also be interested in the boxed set of study materials called On Guard, a popular guide to Christian thought and philosophy authored by Dr. Craig and available through Biola University. One last thing: if you enjoy the ideas and want to introduce them to your church or community, consider hosting an apologetics conference in your area. Our apologetics program at Biola can supply everything you need to put on an amazing event with benefits for everyone who attends.

I think you are catching on to the idea that it is easy for the learning to continue after tonight’s debate. I hope you take advantage of all of it. Enjoy the debate and we will see you on Twitter. [1]

Cory Miller, Moderator: Good evening! Welcome! Come on in and let’s have a seat. Thank you for coming. Given the vastness of the audience that will be watching this debate tonight here and across the world, you know, some times and at some places in America we like to say, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” It is going to be an exciting night. [2] Welcome to the main event, The Symposium 2013, where the theme is the “Foolishness of Faith.” The Christian faith is often viewed as foolishness by those who don’t believe it and it is viewed as life preserving and giving by those who do. The purpose of this symposium annually is to explore and debate some of the most probing questions about faith, reason, and life through lectures, panel discussions, and debates such as this. We welcome those of you attending tonight’s debate here at Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University and we welcome those watching this live streaming, some estimated ten thousand. Those ten thousand people represent people from every state in America and, as of 10:00am this morning, from over sixty countries across the world. This is great! We are happy to include translators tonight so that the deaf community can participate in this for years to come when we’ve put this on YouTube by the end of the month. [3] We are thankful for the more than forty sponsors, many of which were included on the screen behind me as you were entering – perhaps you saw that – or in the brochures or on our website at We are also grateful to Purdue’s philosophy department for sharing the cost of flying in one of our debaters so that he could speak in their department yesterday.

My name is Corey Miller and I will be the moderator for tonight’s debate and the MC throughout the weekend where we’ve got a fantastic series of talks scheduled for you by a dozen speakers – maybe thirty five talks on issues relevant to tonight’s debate. I am on staff with Faculty Commons, the Faculty Ministry of Crew and I direct the Christian Faculty Staff Network here at Purdue. I am also a PhD candidate in philosophical theology and teach adjunct courses in philosophy and comparative religions at Indiana University in Kokomo. Our Purdue audience should have a pencil and paper that you were given on your way in to fill out some basic information including your vote on who won tonight’s debate. You can do that by pencil or complete it online at It should go without saying but please wait until after the debate to decide who won. I know some of us just love our guy that is going to be up here but it is more fun this way if you wait until after the debate. We will collect these right after the debate and prior to the question and answer time so please write legibly if you are writing.

We also want to welcome some special dignitaries who will help formally judge tonight’s debate. Wait until all of them are announced and then please welcome the judges. Judges, once I announce you individually, please stand up and greet the audience. First of all, John Schultz, a 5th year PhD student in political science and head of the Purdue Petticrew Debate Forum. He will head up the judge team and has helped organize and form this judge team tonight. Sheila Klinker is on her way. Sheila – she never misses a beat, she’ll be here! Sheila graduated from Purdue and is a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives, a Democrat representing the 27th district since 1982. Ron Alting graduated from Purdue and is a member of the Indiana State Senate, a Republican representing the 22nd district serving Tippecanoe County. Aaron Trembath, alum of Purdue’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, is the President and CEO of NanoBio Interfacing Systems, a nanotechnology based diagnostics company in Purdue’s Research Park. Before coaching Purdue’s speech and debate team he was a pretty successful debater himself. Professor Fenggang Yang, from Purdue University, is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society. The professor previously taught philosophy at a university in Beijing, China. Professor Martin Medhurst is a Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication and Professor of Political Science at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Clarke Rountree, another professor, was also flown in here just recently like Dr. Medhurst. He is Professor and Chair of the Communications Arts Faculty flown in tonight from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Let’s welcome our distinguished guests. [4]

A colleague, Paul Gould, and myself will be editing a book to be published by Routledge based on the proceedings of tonight’s debate which will include the two debaters we will announce in a moment, the two rhetoric professors we’ve just mentioned, and two other philosophers, and two physics professors with an equal divide of Christians and atheists along the lines. So the debate tonight will continue under the forthcoming title, Is Faith in God Reasonable: Debates in Philosophy, Science, and Rhetoric. We will let you know when that comes out through your contact information so make sure you give us the basic information.

Turning the corner here, the famous anti-theist Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, once said, “Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” I don’t know if that has unanimous consent. The most famous of Jewish and Christian philosophers perhaps of all time, at least in a particular period, Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas believed that faith is a virtue. Indeed, Aquinas went so far as to say that without the virtue of faith none of the other virtues are even virtuous. John Calvin, a Protestant reformer, claimed that it would be the height of absurdity to label ignorance tempered by humility ‘faith’ for faith consists in the knowledge of God. For Maimonides, Aquinas, and Calvin then faith is part of a knowledge tradition. Yet, in contemporary times, the philosopher Norman Malcolm has said that in a Western academic philosophy, religious belief is commonly regarded as unreasonable and is viewed with condescension or even contempt. It is said that religion is a refuge for those who, because of weakness of intellect or character, are unable to confront the stern realities of the world. The objective, mature, strong attitude is to hold beliefs solely on the basis of evidence. So to this provocative statement much can and should and now will be said as we turn toward tonight’s debate over the question, “Is faith in God reasonable?”

Our first debater will argue the affirmative and consequently will go first as is the tradition when taking the affirmative position. William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy of Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University at Birmingham, England before taking a doctorate in theology from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. Prior to his appointment at Talbot, he spent several years at the higher institute of philosophy of the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. He has authored and edited over thirty books including The Kalam Cosmological Argument, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology, and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology such as the Journal of Philosophy in New Testament Studies, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, the British Journal for Philosophy of Science. He is considered to be one of the foremost defenders of the Christian faith. His book here – the third edition – Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, matches his website which is Please welcome with me, Dr. William Lane Craig.

Our next debater will argue the negative and consequently will go second. He will have the final word in the debate. Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy and department head at Duke University with secondary appointments in the Biology and Political Science departments. He completed his dissertation at the Johns Hopkins University on a philosophical analysis of microeconomic laws. In addition to nearly forty articles or chapters he is author of more than a dozen books, some of which have been translated into multiple languages. Dr. Rosenberg has been a visiting professor and Fellow of the Center for the Philosophy of Science, University of Minnesota as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz and Oxford University and a visiting Fellow of the Philosophy Department at the Research School of Social Science of the Australian National University. That is a long sentence! [5] He has held fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. In 1993, Dr. Rosenberg received the Lakatos Award in the Philosophy of Science. In 2006 and in 2007, he held a fellowship at the National Humanities Center. He was also the Phi Beta Kappa Romanell Lecturer for the 2006-7 year. On one website listing the world’s fifty most famous atheists in the world, Dr. Rosenberg ranks number 13. His recent book is The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions. Please welcome with me, Dr. Alex Rosenberg.

The debate rules for tonight; the structure of the debate will be as follows: each speaker will have a 20 minute opening statement followed by two 12 minute rebuttals and then two 8 minute rebuttals. The speakers will then provide a 5 minute closing statement. In all, the actual debate should take 90 minutes – 45 minutes for each position to make their case. There will then be a 30 to 45 minute Q&A period according to which we will take questions from our live audience here at Purdue and from our live streaming audience across the world perhaps. If either of the debaters goes over their allotted time, we will give them a 15 second grace period – we are very graceful – and then promptly ask them to terminate their time. We will have a modest interaction between the professors in order to give a response to maybe answers that they give to you. Professor Craig will approach the lectern first and then when he begins the time begins. Timer – are you ready? Begin. [6]

Dr. Craig - First Statement

Dr. Craig: Good evening! I am delighted to be able to participate in tonight’s debate. I count it a real privilege to be discussing this important issue with Dr. Rosenberg. Tonight, we are interested in discussing some of the arguments that make belief in God reasonable or unreasonable. In my opening speech, I am going to present several arguments which I think make it reasonable to believe that God exists. Then, in my second speech, I will respond to Dr. Rosenberg’s arguments against the reasonableness of belief in God.

I believe that God’s existence best explains a wide range of the data of human experience. Let me just mention eight.

First, God is the best explanation of why anything at all exists. Suppose you were hiking through the forest and came upon a ball lying on the ground. You would naturally wonder how it came to be there. If you are hiking buddy said to you, “Just forget about it, it just exists inexplicably” you would think either that he was joking or that he wanted you to just keep moving. No one would take seriously the idea that the ball just exists without any explanation. Now, notice that merely increasing the size of the ball even until it becomes co-extensive with the universe does nothing to provide or remove the need for an explanation of its existence. So, what is the explanation of the existence of the universe, where by “the universe” I mean all of space-time reality? The explanation of the universe can lie only in a transcendent reality beyond the universe, beyond space and time which is metaphysically necessary in its existence. There is only one way I can think of to get a contingent universe from a necessarily existing cause and that is if the cause is a personal agent who can freely choose to create a contingent reality. It therefore follows that the best explanation of the existence of the contingent universe is a transcendent, personal being which is what everybody means by God. [7] We can summarize this reasoning as follows:

1. Every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a transcendent, personal being.

3. The universe is a contingent thing.

4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is a transcendent, personal being (which is what everybody means by God).

Second, God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe. We have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning a finite time ago. In 2003, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary. What makes their proof so powerful is that it holds regardless of the physical description of the very early universe. Because we do not yet have a quantum theory of gravity, we can’t yet provide a physical description of the first split second of the universe. But, the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem is independent of any physical description of that moment. Their theorem implies that the quantum vacuum state, which may have characterized the early universe, cannot be eternal in the past but must have had an absolute beginning. Even if our universe is just a tiny part of a so-called multiverse composed of many universes their theorem requires that the multiverse itself must have had an absolute beginning. Of course, highly speculative scenarios, such as Loop Quantum Gravity Models, String Models, even Closed Time-Like Curves have been proposed to try to avoid this absolute beginning. These models are fraught with problems but the bottom line is that none of these models even if true, succeeds in restoring an eternal past. Last spring at a conference in Cambridge celebrating the 70th birthday of Stephen Hawking, Vilenkin delivered a paper titled “Did the Universe Have a Beginning?” which surveyed current cosmology with respect to that question. He argued, “None of these scenarios can actually be past eternal.” He concluded, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” But then the inevitable question arises, why did the universe come into being? What brought the universe into existence? There must have been a transcendent cause which brought the universe into being. We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:

1. The universe began to exist.

2. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent cause.

3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.

By the very nature of the case, that cause must be a transcendent, immaterial being. There are only two possible things that could fit that description: either an abstract object, like a number, or an unembodied mind or consciousness. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number 7, for example, has no effect on anything. Therefore the cause of the universe is plausibly an unembodied mind or person and thus we are brought not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe but to its personal creator.

Three, God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world. Philosophers and scientists have puzzled over what physicist Eugene Wigner called the uncanny effectiveness of mathematics. How is it that a mathematical theorist like Peter Higgs can sit down at his desk and by pouring over mathematical equations predict the existence of a fundamental particle which experimentalists thirty years later after investing millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours are finally able to detect? Mathematics is the language of nature. [8] But, how is this to be explained? If mathematical objects are abstract entities causally isolated from the universe then the applicability of mathematics is, in the words of philosopher of mathematics Penelope Maddy, “a happy coincidence.” On the other hand, if mathematical objects are just useful fictions, how is it that nature is written in the language of these fictions? In his book, Dr. Rosenberg emphasizes that naturalism doesn’t tolerate cosmic coincidences. But the naturalist has no explanation of the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world. By contract, the theist has a ready explanation. When God created the physical universe, he designed it on the mathematical structure he had in mind. We can summarize this argument as follows:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.

2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Fourth, God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. In recent decades, scientists have been stunned by the discovery that the initial conditions of the Big Bang were fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a precision and delicacy that literally defy human comprehension. Now there are three live explanatory options for this extraordinary fine-tuning.

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either: physical necessity, chance, or design.

Physical necessity is not however a plausible explanation because the finely tuned constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature and therefore they are not physically necessary. So could the fine-tuning be due to chance? The problem with this explanation is that the odds of a life permitting universe governed by our laws of nature are just so infinitesimal that they cannot be reasonably faced. Therefore, the proponents of chance have been forced to postulate the existence of a world ensemble of other universes, preferably infinite in number and randomly ordered so that life permitting universes would appear by chance somewhere in the ensemble. Not only is this hypothesis, to borrow Richard Dawkins’ phrase, an unparsimonious extravagance, but it faces an insuperable objection. By far, most of the observable universes in the world ensemble would be worlds in which a single brain fluctuates into existence out of the vacuum and observes its otherwise empty world. Thus, if our world were just a random member of a world ensemble, we ought to be having observations like that. Since we don’t, that strongly disconfirms the world ensemble hypothesis. So chance is also not a good explanation. It follows that design is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe. Thus, the fine-tuning of the universe constitutes evidence for a cosmic designer.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Fifth, God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness in the world. Philosophers are puzzled by states of intentionality. Intentionality is the property of being about something or of something. It signifies the object directedness of our thoughts. For example, I can think about my summer vacation or I can think of my wife. No physical object has this sort of intentionality. A chair or a stone or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things. As a materialist, Dr. Rosenberg recognizes this fact and so concludes that on atheism there really are no intentional states. Dr. Rosenberg boldly claims that we never really think about anything. [9] But this seems incredible. Obviously, I am thinking about Dr. Rosenberg’s argument. This seems to me to be a reductio ad absurdum of atheism. [10] By contrast, on theism, because God is a mind it is hardly surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus intentional states fit comfortably into a theistic worldview. So, we may argue:

1. If God did not exist, intentional states of consciousness would not exist.

2. But intentional states of consciousness do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Number six: God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world. In moral experience, we apprehend moral values and duties which impose themselves as objectively binding and true. For example, we all recognize that it is wrong to walk into an elementary school with an automatic weapon and to shoot little boys and girls and their teachers. On a naturalistic view, however, there is nothing really wrong with this. Moral values are just the subjective byproducts of biological evolution and social conditioning. Dr. Rosenberg is brutally honest about the implications of his atheism. He writes, “There is no such thing as morally right or wrong. . . . Individual human life is meaningless . . . and without ultimate moral value. . . . We need to face the fact that nihilism is true.” [11] By contrast, the theist grounds objective moral values in God and our moral duties in his commands. The theist thus has the explanatory resources which the atheist lacks to ground objective moral values and duties. Hence we may argue:

1. Objective moral values and duties exist.

2. But if God did not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Number seven: God is the best explanation of the historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. Historians have reached something of a consensus that 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 miracle working 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 we have a divine miracle on our hands and thus evidence for the existence of God. Now, I realize that most people probably think that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just accept by faith or not. But there are actually three facts recognized by the majority of historians today which I believe are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus. Fact number one: on the Sunday after his crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. Two: on separate occasions, different individuals and groups of people saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. And three: the original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. The eminent British scholar, N. T. Wright, near the end of his 800 page study of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection concludes that the empty tomb and post-mortem appearances of Jesus have been established to such a high degree of historical probability as to be “virtually certain, as the death of Augustus in AD 14 or the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” [12] Naturalistic 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. [13] Thus we have a good inductive argument to the existence of God based on the facts concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

1. There are three established facts about Jesus:

· his empty tomb,

· his post-mortem appearances, and

· the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exists.

4. Therefore, God exists.

Finally, number eight: God can be personally known and experienced. This isn’t really an argument for God’s existence. Rather, it is the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by personally experiencing him. Philosophers call beliefs like these properly basic beliefs. They aren’t based on some other beliefs; rather, they are part of the foundations of a person’s system of beliefs. Other properly basic beliefs would be belief in the reality of the past or the existence of the external world. In the same way, belief in God is, for those who seek him, a properly basic belief grounded in our experience of God. Now, if this is so, then there is a danger that arguments for God could actually distract our attention from God himself. The Bible promises “draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” [14] We mustn’t so concentrate on the external proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes a personal reality in their lives.

In summary, then, we’ve seen eight respects in which God provides a better explanation of the world than naturalism.

1. God is the best explanation of why anything at all exists.

2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.

3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.

4. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.

5. God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness in the world.

6. God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world.

7. God is the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ resurrection.

8. God can be personally known and experienced.

For all of these reasons I think that belief in God is eminently reasonable. If Dr. Rosenberg is to persuade us otherwise, he must first tear down all eight of the reasons that I have presented and then in their place erect a case of his own to show why a belief in God is unreasonable. Unless and until he does that, I think we should agree that it is reasonable to believe in God. [15]

Dr. Rosenberg - First Statement

Dr. Rosenberg: Thanks, Corey and thank you for the invitation. As Yogi Berra, the famous Yankee catcher once said, I appreciate your making this not necessary. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. I hope you didn’t pay money to come to tonight’s debate because everything that Dr. Craig said – almost everything, actually – he said many times before in many different debates almost in the same order and all of them available on the internet. So you know you didn’t need to come out in this really cold night here in West Lafayette to hear these debates again and to hear these arguments again. In particular, what is remarkable about them is how impervious they are to the previous discussions and criticisms that they have been exposed to. They are exactly the same as seven or eight or nine internet presentations of his arguments in the past. What it leads me to ask is, is Dr. Craig infallible or does he just not listen? Probably the latter. He probably doesn’t listen to what his interlocutors have suggested. I don’t think that he listens because he really is not interested in getting at the truth. He is interested in scoring debate points. There are two moves that Dr. Craig almost always makes. First, there is the burden of proof claim as though we were in a court of law, as though there was a defending attorney and prosecuting attorney engaged in an adversarial procedure. The other thing that you often hear is “all I need to show to win is.” So, for example, at the very end of his remarks he said, “I’ve got eight arguments and he’s got to refute all eight of them or else I win.” [16] You know, philosophy and theology don’t proceed by courtroom style debate. We are engaged in a cooperative search for the truth, both theists and atheists, not an adversarial contest for victory. This is the wrong format for a profitable discussion of faith or God or science and reason.

But let’s turn to the substance of the matter. Our topic is whether faith in God is reasonable. But of course, by definition, faith is belief in the absence of evidence. So I am going to give Dr. Craig the benefit of the doubt and accept the change that he has made in the terms of the debate. It now turns out that what we are arguing about is whether belief in God is reasonable. The God we are talking about is the God of the Abrahamic religions – the God of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is not the milk and water deism of, for example, the founding fathers Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, perhaps even George Washington. The God we are talking about has the following features – if he exists, he has got the three “omnis” and benevolence – he’s got omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and an unqualifiedly good will. If these four features are incompatible with some obvious fact then of course the theist’s God is non-existent. Let’s be clear that we are arguing about theism here. In thinking about theism and in thinking about science there is something else that we had better keep in mind. Dr. Craig is very confident about his take on fundamental physics, on important and controversial questions about which physicists have not attained consensus. But the important thing to bear in mind in thinking about his take, the sides he chose, and the confidence with which he presents his take, the important thing to bear in mind is this: there are two thousand members of the National Academy of Science – the most important body of the most distinguished scientists in the United States of which four are faculty here at Purdue and the two Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, of course, are both members of the National Academy of Science – of these two thousand people, 95% of them are atheists. And the percentage for the physicists is even higher. What do these people know about physics that Dr. Craig doesn’t know? Is it a coincidence that this number of the members of the National Academy of Science is unbelievers? I think it isn’t and I think it requires us to take with a certain lack of confidence the claims that Dr. Craig makes about science. I am going to controvert some of those claims right now.

In particular, many of the arguments that Dr. Craig gave tonight and which he has given repeatedly in the past rest on the first cause argument. An argument that goes back certainly to St. Thomas Aquinas and probably to Aristotle and it rests on, of course, the principle of sufficient reason. The principle that everything that exists must have a cause. Now, the remarkable thing about this argument and the principle of sufficient reason as it is called on which it rests is that the principle is plainly false. OK? It is refuted trillions of times every second throughout the universe. It is refuted in this room and I will give you a pretty full explanation of why. Take two uranium-238 atoms that are absolutely indistinguishable. In a given moment these two indistinguishable atoms – atoms of exactly the same mass and energy state – have the following difference: one produces an alpha particle spontaneously and the other doesn’t and there is no cause whatsoever for that difference. That is what quantum mechanics tells us. Suddenly one emits an alpha particle and the other doesn’t and there is no cause whatever for that difference between them. Now, you might think that that is not a very important fact of nature but one mole – one Avogadro’s Number of uranium-238 molecules – emits three million alpha particles a second. And every helium atom on this planet is one of those alpha particles. [17] And the smoke detectors that operate all through this auditorium to protect us from fires – those operate because of the indeterminate, unexplained, completely spontaneous appearance of an alpha particle out of a uranium atom in these systems. For Dr. Craig to insist on the arguments that rest on the claim that every event had a cause that had to have brought it into being is just bluff. It is not a principle accepted in physics. And you can’t argue from its intuitive attractiveness.

Let’s consider the fine-tuning argument, another claim about science that Dr. Craig makes. This is the argument that the charge on the electron, the gravitational constant, the mass of the electron, Plank’s Constant, the Hubble Constant, the cosmic density parameter – that they are all so beautifully arranged to make human life actual – that there must have been some purpose or design that brought them into being in order to do that. That is the best explanation. Well, to begin with – this is terrible carbon chauvinism. If these constants had been slightly different, maybe there would be intelligent life in the universe that is germanium-based or silicon-based. Look at the periodic table of the elements, look at the atoms around carbon in the periodic table and ask yourself whether if some of these constants had been slightly different whether there might not be intelligent creatures in the universe that are differently composed from us. More importantly, physics ruled out the kind of teleology – the kind of purpose of thinking that Dr. Craig invokes here – four hundreds years ago. If it is one thing that physics is not going to go back to and turn around and accept in its search for the fundamental nature of reality, it’s the invocation of purposes. There are, of course, in physical theory at least two different ways in which the particular way in which the constants of our part of the universe could have come into existence while there being an indefinitely large number of other combinations of constants making up other inaccessible regions – either in this universe or of other universes. The inflationary period soon after the Big Bang produced regions of space by completely quantum mechanical indeterministic symmetry breaking which are inaccessible to us which are beyond our event horizon. There are possibly indefinitely many of these. For all we know, there may be life or there may not be life in them. Then, of course, String Theory and M-Theory tell us that there are minimally 10500 different kinds of possible universes or actual universes bubbling up out of the quantum foam of the eternally existing multi-universe. I am not going to take sides on these varying theories but I defy Professor Craig to argue from authority that it is impossible for something to have been created from nothing. The symmetry breaking which is characteristic of the cascade of events that occurred in our universe and which produces our universe in addition to the indefinitely many other universes bubbling up out of the quantum foam of the multiverse – that symmetry breaking is another example of the violation of the principle of sufficient reason on which Dr. Craig stakes so many of his arguments.

Let’s turn to something much more accessible – objective values. Dr. Craig’s argument that only God can underwrite objective values was refuted by Plato in 390 BC in an argument that he gives in the first and simplest of his dialogues – the Euthyphro. I am very tempted to say to Dr. Craig “What part of ‘no Euthyphro’ don’t you understand?” The question that Plato raises in the Euthyphro goes like this. Take your favorite moral norm – gay marriage is forbidden or FGM is required [18] or “thou shalt not kill” – take your favorite moral norm and ask yourself this question: is it morally right because God chose it or did God choose it because it is morally right? We all know the answer to this question. The answer to this question is God chose it because it is morally right. What that means, of course, is the moral rightness of “thou shalt not kill” is an entirely independent fact from God’s choosing it. It is because he recognized the moral rightness of “thou shalt not kill” that he imposed it on us. [19] And that means that the mere fact that it is God who imposed it on us doesn’t explain the nature of objective value. It is that further fact that he was wise enough and smart enough to detect about “thou shalt not kill” that made it the morally right value for us. OK? This is the point that Socrates makes to Euthyphro in the first and simplest of the dialogues and it is a problem that theological ethics has wrestled with ever since. The only option in responding to this argument is the Divine Command Theory – a theory that has had its exponents all the way back to William of Ockham. The trouble with Divine Command Theory is that in order to articulate that theory, in order to defend it, in order to make it sound plausible you have to already commit yourself to there being some normative fact – some moral fact about the moral rules – that make them right independent of God saying “you do it or you go to hell.” OK? There is a rightness about moral norms that cannot be exhausted by the mere fact that it was handed down on the mountain by Moses from God.

Natural selection is a theory, of course, about how we came to be moral, why we are moral, about what the ecological conditions are that made us moral. It explains our morality but it doesn’t necessarily explain away our morality. That requires something else. OK? The suggestion that without God the naturalist, the Darwinian, has no basis on which to underwrite his normative commitment – that, again, is bluff and in fact it is the person who claims that it is God that gave normative morality to us that explains its normative rightness is the person who has regrettably to use the expression that Dr. Craig invokes the burden of proof of explaining what is it about God that makes for the moral rightness of the ethical norms that he imposes on us. There are, of course, any number of alternative ethical theories that underwrite the objectivity of ethics – among them, Utilitarianism and Social Contract Theory and Ideal Observer Theory and Hume’s Theory of the Sympathies and the Kantian Theory of the Categorical Imperative. The real problem for Dr. Craig is he needs to refute each of these normative theories in order to show that there is no other basis for ethics than God and the resources that he would use to cast doubt on these theories also cast doubt on the Divine Command Theory.

Let’s turn to the argument from the New Testament. I am sort of gob smacked as a philosopher that he should persist in propounding this preposterous argument. Ask yourself the following question: in 1827, Joseph Smith got eleven people to certify that they observed the golden tablets which he – an illiterate person – was able to translate from Reform Egyptian and convey the Book of Mormon to the Latter Day Saints. Do we believe on the basis of those eleven certificates that are only about one hundred and sixty years old that the Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? The Qur’an tells us that Mohammed ascended to heaven from the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem – on the 26th of February, 621. And there are millions and millions of Muslims all over the world who are committed to that great truth. Do you think we, in this room, should believe it? Right? Scientology that claims eight million adherents throughout the world tells us that seventy five million years ago somebody named Xenu brought billions of people to earth on spaceships that looked like DC-8s and who are we to believe that there are fifty five thousand people in the United States or eight million people around the world who really believe this too? Is there any reason why we should accept the certification of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology? That this actually happened? No, of course not. [20] How many of you are familiar with the Statues of Madonna taken out from their churches once a year which shed tears. Of course, as scientists, we know exactly what the physical properties are of these statues and how the rapid and sudden change of temperature between the inside and the outside of the cathedral produces condensation which the devout believe to be tears but that is no reason for us to believe it. Think about this. Fifty three of the first sixty two DNA exonerations of people who turned out to be innocent of charges of capital crimes in the United States – fifty three of these people were convicted on eyewitness testimony. We know from cognitive social science how unreliable eyewitness testimony is today. Why should we suppose that eyewitness testimony from 33 AD is any more reliable? This as an argument for God’s existence seems to me to be bizarre.

Of course, the killer argument against God’s existence is the argument from evil. It is enough to show that theism is unreasonable and it of course is the principal reason for apostasy from the Christian faith and the Jewish faith and Islam all through the centuries. And the argument is simple and terrible. OK? It goes like this:

1. If the theist God exists, he is omnipotent and benevolent.

2. A benevolent creature eliminates suffering to the extent that the benevolent creature can.

3. Therefore, if there is a God and he is omnipotent and benevolent he eliminates all suffering.

But as we know it is obvious that there is plenty of suffering in the world both man-made and natural suffering. So, if there is a God then he is either not omnipotent or not benevolent or not either omnipotent or benevolent and theism is false. The problem of evil is theism’s problem from hell. Now I want to say one last thing about the problem of evil and about the potential responses that Dr. Craig will make and that he has made in the past. I need to make something about my own personal history clear here. There are a lot of responses to the problem of evil that I find morally offensive. I find them morally offensive for a certain reason. I am the child of Holocaust survivors. All of my family, except my parents, were killed by the Nazis including two half brothers of mine. I will not take kindly to a suggestion that Dr. Craig has made repeatedly in debate forums like this that innocent children who died in the Holocaust, or who died at the hands of soldiers of Israeli in Canaan, that these innocent children like my half brothers were more fortunate, were luckier, because they ascended to heaven directly than the S.S. soldiers who killed them and lived very nice, very comfortable, very long lives in West Germany after World War II. I am not going to take kindly to that kind of an exculpation of theism. In particular, Dr. Craig has said before and said in one sentence at least tonight that nobody has ever shown the incompatibility of theism and suffering, that it is part of a divine plan that is beyond our cognizance. The argument that I sketched, the argument from evil, is a logical deduction which shows the incompatibility of an omnipotent and benevolent creature with suffering on this planet. It is not enough to fob it off on the mystery of God’s plan or on the mere logical compatibility of these two views.

I’ve got to stop and in the reply I am going to want to take up the two new arguments that Dr. Craig introduced – the argument from mathematics and the argument from intentionality. But I think I have put enough on the table for him to rejoin. Thank you. [21]

Dr. Craig - Second Statement

Dr. Craig: I noticed that in Dr. Rosenberg’s opening speech, he didn’t really present many arguments against the reasonableness of belief in God. He gestured in the direction of the problem of evil but he didn’t really develop it. The problem is that that argument is based upon controversial premises such as if God is all powerful he can just create any world that he wants and that if God is all good he would want to create a world without evil. Neither one of those is necessarily true and that is why, among philosophers, even atheists, the logical version of the problem of evil is widely rejected. So what Dr. Rosenberg needs to show is that it is impossible that God can have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world and until he does that he hasn’t even begun to offer a problem of evil that disproves theism.

Rather, when you read Dr. Rosenberg’s work, what you discover is that his skepticism about God’s existence is really rooted in his scientism, or naturalism, which makes it unreasonable to believe in God. But here I think it is absolutely crucial that we distinguish between two types of naturalism that Dr. Rosenberg tends to blur together – epistemological naturalism, which says that science is the only source of knowledge and metaphysical naturalism, which says that only physical things exist. Let me say a word about each one of these.

First, with respect to epistemological naturalism I want to make two points.

1. It is a false theory of knowledge for two reasons.

a. First, it is overly restrictive. There are truths that cannot be proven by natural science and the success of natural science in discovering truths about the physical world does nothing to show that it is the only source of knowledge and truth.

b. Secondly, it is self-refuting. The statement “natural science is the only source of knowledge” is not, itself, a scientific statement and therefore it cannot be true.

For these two reasons, epistemological naturalism is a false theory of knowledge that is widely rejected by philosophers. But leave that point aside. The really important point for tonight’s debate is the second:

2. Epistemological naturalism does not imply metaphysical naturalism.

a. A case in point would be Willard Quine, the most famous epistemological naturalist of the 20th century. Quine showed himself to be commendably open to the reality of non-physical entities. He wrote, “If I saw indirect explanatory benefit in positing sensibilia, possibilia, spirits, a Creator, I would joyfully accord them scientific status too, on a par with such avowedly scientific posits as quarks and black holes.” [22] In fact, Quine was as good as his word, for he did posit the existence of immaterial, nonphysical objects, namely mathematical objects like sets. Quine’s case shows that the epistemological naturalist need not be a metaphysical naturalist.

b. Secondly, my arguments for the existence of God. Many of my arguments do just what Quine said. They show, on the basis of scientific evidence, the explanatory benefit of positing God. So they are acceptable to the epistemological naturalist. The epistemological naturalist can, and I think should be, a theist.

So the real issue in the debate tonight is not epistemological but metaphysical naturalism. Dr. Rosenberg hasn’t given us any reason to think that metaphysical naturalism is true.

What can we say about metaphysical naturalism? Again, I want to make two points.

1. My arguments for the existence of God show that metaphysical naturalism is not true. There is a personal, transcendent reality beyond the physical universe.

2. Secondly, I think that metaphysical naturalism is so contrary to reason and experience as to be absurd.

In the following arguments, the first premise in every case is taken from Dr. Rosenberg’s own book.

First is the argument from intentionality:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I cannot think about anything. That is because there are no intentional states.

2. But I am thinking about naturalism. From which it follows,

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

So, if you think that you ever think about anything you should conclude that naturalism is false. [23]

Second is the argument from meaning:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then no sentence has any meaning. And he says that all the sentences in his own book are in fact meaningless.

2. But, premise (1) has meaning. We all understood it.

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Third is the argument from truth:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then there are no true sentences. That is because they are all meaningless.

2. But, premise (1) is true. That is what the naturalist believes and asserts.

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Fourth is the argument from moral praise and blame:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I am not morally praiseworthy or blameworthy for any of my actions because, as I said, on his view objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2. But, I am morally praiseworthy and blameworthy for at least some of my actions. If you think that you have ever done something truly wrong or truly good then you should conclude:

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Fifth is the argument from freedom:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I do not do anything freely. Everything is determined.

2. But, I can freely agree or disagree with premise (1). From which it follows:

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Sixth is the argument from purpose:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I do not plan to do anything.

2. But, I planned to come to tonight’s debate. That is why I am here. From which it follows:

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Seventh is the argument from enduring:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I do not endure for two moments of time.

2. But, I have been sitting here for more than a minute. If you think that you are the same person who walked into the room tonight then you should agree that:

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

Finally, the argument from personal existence - this is perhaps the coup de grace against naturalism:

1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then I do not exist. He says there are no selves, there are no persons, no first-person perspectives.

2. But, I do exist! I know this as certainly as I know anything. From which it follows:

3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

In a word, metaphysical naturalism is absurd. Notice that my argument is not that it is unappealing. Rather, it is that metaphysical naturalism flies in the face of reason and experience and is therefore untenable. So, in sum, epistemological naturalism is consistent with theism and metaphysical naturalism is absurd.

Let’s now return to those arguments that I offered for God’s existence and see how Dr. Rosenberg responded to some of them.

He didn’t respond to the first argument, “Why anything exists rather than nothing?”

As for the origin of the universe, he says not everything has a cause. In quantum mechanics, virtual particles come to be without a cause. Notice that he misstates the first premise which is that “the universe began to exist” and then the second “if the universe began to exist, the universe has a transcendent cause.” That is because the universe can’t come into being out of nothing. And virtual particles don’t come out of nothing – they come out of the quantum vacuum which is a sea of roiling energy. Moreover, in quantum mechanics, it is not clear that these entities are, in fact, uncaused. There are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics according to which the behavior of these particles is fully determined. And finally, number three; I would say in response to this that on the origin of the universe you have to believe the entire universe could come into being from nonbeing in order for it to come to exist without a cause. I think that takes more faith than belief in the existence of God.

He didn’t reply to the argument about the applicability of mathematics in the world.

As for the fine-tuning argument, he simply appeals here once again to the multiverse hypothesis. But I refuted that in my opening speech. If we were just a random member of a multiverse or world ensemble then we ought to be having totally different observations than the ones that we in fact have. [24] Therefore, that is why physicists like Roger Penrose have concluded that multiverse hypotheses are impotent to explain the fine-tuning of the universe. He says, perhaps you could have another basis for life like silicon. What he doesn’t appreciate is that in the absence of fine-tuning there wouldn’t even be matter, there wouldn’t even be chemistry much less stars and planets where life might evolve. So I don’t think he really understands the extent of the fine-tuning of the universe and the catastrophic consequences that would ensue if it were not finely tuned.

Intentional states of consciousness he didn’t respond to.

As for objective moral values, in his book he admits that naturalism faces an even worse problem than the Euthyphro Dilemma. For the theist, the Euthyphro Dilemma is easy to solve; namely, you craft a third alternative that God, himself, is the Good and that his commands are necessary expressions of his moral nature. So they are neither arbitrary nor is the Good something external to God. But on Dr. Rosenberg’s view, there is no basis for moral value or moral objectivity and that is why he is a moral nihilist who doesn’t think that anything is truly right or wrong.

As for the resurrection of Jesus, he just doesn’t understand, I think, the credibility of the New Testament documents in this regard. You cannot compare them to Joseph Smith which were probably lies or to Mohammed’s ascension which is probably a legend because in this case we are dealing with early eyewitness testimony that is not the result of conspiracy or lie; these people sincerely believed what they said. That is why most historians accept those three facts. Therefore, the naturalist has got to come up with some alternative explanation. You can’t indict eyewitness testimony in general and then use that against a specific case – you would have to show in the specific case of the Gospels that this testimony is unreliable. That is not the opinion of the majority of historians who have investigated these documents.

So, for all of these reasons I think his metaphysical naturalism is wholly unreasonable whereas theism, by contrast, I think is eminently reasonable and plausible. [25]

Dr. Rosenberg - Second Statement

Dr. Rosenberg: Gee, what a lot to cover. I guess the way to begin is to say I read this book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality – I actually didn’t want to call it The Atheist’s Guide to Reality but my editor said “you’ll sell a lot more books and even get yourself invited to a debate like this if you title a book like this” – but of course the important thing to remember about that book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, is the structure of its argument which was science has a number of important implications. In fact, the first couple of pages of my book I identify fourteen of these implications and most of them sound really bizarro just the way Professor Craig suggested in his remarks. But the real issue is that among these fourteen implications of science that I argued follow in my book, one of them is atheism and the others are that set of doctrines that Dr. Craig described as absurd. None of them is supposed to follow from atheism. None of the things that he says are manifestly false and that I’ve argued for in my book follow from atheism and therefore of course the modus tollens argument as we call it in logic that Professor Craig is trying to advance is based on a complete misrepresentation of what it says in that book. What it says in that book is that all of these alleged absurdities, along with atheism, follow from the truth of science. Now you can reject all of these alleged absurdities, but if I am right about the logical structure of my argument you have got to reject science and I don’t think Dr. Craig wants to reject science because he is building God on his interpretation of what science is supposed to show. The other thing you can do, of course, is as many of my philosophical colleagues are want to do is reject the argument that I mount about what science shows regarding these issues like free will, the nature of the self, the grounds of morality, and the purposelessness of the universe. [26] That is an interesting and important set of issues in philosophy and they are issues in the philosophy of science about the relationship between science and the agenda of the persistent questions of philosophy. They are not questions about the relationship between atheism and these persistent questions and it is simply a callow mistake to suppose that you could refute atheism by controverting these controversial doctrines that I argue for in philosophy.

We didn’t come here tonight to debate metaphysical naturalism or epistemological naturalism. We came here to debate whether the belief in God – faith in God, or as I have insisted we ought to substitute belief in God – is reasonable or not. And that question has practically nothing to do with whether the strange theses that I argue for in this book are right or not. I would cherish the opportunity to discuss the details of these arguments with Professor Craig. Let’s just take one example: the problem of intentionality. The problem of intentionality is a really hard problem to understand in philosophy. Dr. Craig mentioned a couple of times that intentionality is the fact that our thoughts appear to be about stuff like “I am thinking about Craig now and I am thinking about the timer that says I have eight and a half minutes to finish my rebuttal, I am thinking about stuff.” How is that possible? How is that possible for one chunk of matter, my brain, to be intrinsically about another chunk of matter – Dr. Craig, or the sign that now says eight minutes? That is a profound mystery in philosophy with which philosophers have been trying to wrestle certainly since Descartes and I think since Plato made the point in The Meno, one of his other dialogues. How is it possible for one chunk of matter – the brain – to be intrinsically about, directed at, pointing at, another chunk of matter? Now, you may think that is not a problem, that is not very difficult, but if you start reading Descartes and you read Leibniz and you read the philosophers in the tradition of Western philosophy you will see that it is a huge problem. OK? It is a problem for science, for neuroscience. How is it that the wet stuff in the brain can do this? There are two answers to this question. One is Descartes’ answer of dualism – there is a mind and it is independent of the brain. It is a totally different spiritual substance. Theists love this argument for obvious reasons. If there is a spiritual substance in us, a soul, a person, a self, independent of our brain, well, then of course if it is not physical it is indestructible and it is well on its way to immortality which is just what the Christian religion wants us to believe. That is dualism. Most scientists aren’t dualists. There is the odd exception – Eccles, even some philosophers like Descartes or Popper – but most neuroscientists think that cognition is a brain process. And the problem is to explain how the brain process – one chunk of matter – can have this property of aboutness. And that question has nothing interesting to do with atheism or theism.

Let’s take the matter of numbers, OK? Dr. Craig says it is a miracle, a wild coincidence, that mathematics is applicable to science on my view. Well, he hasn’t reckoned with the remarkable number of alternative mathematical objects that mathematics have conjured up, have thought about, have theorized about or about the remarkable range of possible mathematical functions relating these objects. The fact is that we know that there are indefinitely many mathematical objects and indefinitely many functions relating these mathematical objects and it is a sheer argument from ignorance to suggest that the number is so small – the number that applied to the world of this vast range is so small – that it demands divine authority to make it come out that way. Just the geometries alone – the non-Euclidean geometries alone – there are indefinitely many of them. And it happens that in the small one of them appears to apply on this planet and in larger spaces another applies but any one of an indefinitely large number could perfectly well apply in the universe. And the suggestion that it’s some mystery that could only be explained by God’s good graciousness to the physicist just seems to me bizarre again. [27] Just, you know, something that beggars the imagination.

So, I guess the last thing I want to talk about is Dr. Craig’s brief rejoinder that he can get away with showing, or with asserting, that there is no logical incompatibility between God’s being omnipotent and benevolent and the existence of suffering. Now, Christian philosophers have been worried about this problem from hell at least since the greatest of them, Leibniz. OK? And they have done handsprings and twisted themselves up in knots to try to find some explanation because logically speaking if God is omniscient and God is omnipotent and God is truly benevolent, has a totally good will and would never will anything but for the best, then the existence of suffering on our planet – human suffering and natural suffering of others, animals for example – is something that needs desperately to be explained. We’ve had, over the course of four hundred or five hundred years of wrestling with this problem, the free will defense and the mystery mongering – it’s God’s will defense. And nobody has managed to provide a satisfactory explanation and I insist that the problem is logical. Dr. Craig needs to tell us exactly how an omnipotent God and an entirely benevolent God had to have the Holocaust in order to produce the good outcome whatever it might be that he intends for our ultimate providence. Couldn’t he have just gotten away with World War I or the Great Leap Forward or the Thirty Year’s War, which killed untold millions, or the Bubonic Plague that killed forty percent of the population of Europe? Did he have to have every one of those in order to produce the kind of beneficent outcome which it is divine providence to expect? I just don’t see it. I cannot understand it. I find it offensive, all right? And I find it perplexing. In all honesty, if Dr. Craig could provide me with any kind of a logical, coherent account that could reconcile the evident fact of the horrors of human and infrahuman life on this planet over the last 3.5 billion years with the existence of a benevolent, omnipotent agent, then I will turn Christian. Thank you. [28]

Dr. Craig - Third Statement

Dr. Craig: I am really excited about that last statement that Dr. Rosenberg made! Honestly, Dr. Rosenberg, if you were to read the work of people like Alvin Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen, and others on this problem of evil you would know that hardly anyone today defends the logical version of the problem of evil because the atheist simply hasn’t been able to shoulder the burden of proof required to put it through. Listen to what Paul Draper, who is an agnostic philosopher here in the Department at Purdue says. He says,

Logical arguments from evil are a dying (dead?) breed. . . . for all we know, even an omnipotent and omniscience being might be forced to allow E[vil] for the sake of obtaining some important good. Our knowledge of goods and evils and the logical relations they bear to each other is much too limited to prove that this could not be the case. [29]

In particular, the atheist assumes that if God is all powerful, he can create just any world that he wants. And that is not necessarily true. If God wills to create free creatures then he can’t guarantee that they will always do what is right. It is logically impossible to make someone freely do something. [30] So God’s being all powerful doesn’t mean he can do the logically impossible. So the atheist would have to prove there is a world of free creatures which God could create which has as much good as this world but without as much evil. How could he possibly prove that? That is pure speculation. What about the other premise that if God is all good then he would create a world without evil. The problem here is that we are assuming that God’s purpose is just to make us happy in this life. But on the Christian view, that is false. The purpose of life is not worldly happiness as such but rather the knowledge of God. There may be many evils that occur in this lifetime that are utterly pointless with respect to producing worldly happiness but they may not be pointless with respect to producing a knowledge of God and salvation and eternal life. It is possible that only in a world that is suffused with natural and moral evil that the optimal number of people would come to know God freely, find salvation and eternal life. So the atheist would have to prove that there is another possible world that has this much knowledge of God and his salvation in it but which is produced with less evils. How could he possibly prove that? It is pure conjecture. It is impossible to prove those things. And that is why the logical version of the problem of evil has been widely abandoned. Peter van Inwagen, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, says “It used to be widely held that evil . . . was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able to tell, this thesis is no longer defended.” [31] So Dr. Rosenberg, I want to invite you to think about becoming a theist tonight because the main obstacle that you’ve presented need not be an obstacle for you anymore.

Now, what about the positive arguments that I offered for God’s existence? The first one was, “Why anything at all exists?” And there has been no response in tonight’s debate to this first argument. You can’t just say the universe exists without an explanation if it’s contingent. If it’s contingent, as Dr. Rosenberg says in his book, there could have been nothing. So why is there something rather than nothing? The theist has an explanation but the atheist by his own admission has no explanation. What about the problem of the origin of the universe? I showed that it is no avail to appeal to quantum mechanics because in quantum mechanics things don’t come into being from nonbeing – from nothing. They come out of the energy in the vacuum. But for the universe to come into being, it would have to come from literally nothing because the beginning of the universe is the beginning of all matter and energy and space and time. Again, theism has an explanation for how the universe came into being but atheism is impotent in this regard. The applicability of mathematics – all Dr. Rosenberg could say is there are various alternative mathematics like non-Euclidean geometries. That doesn’t go one inch toward explaining why our physical universe is structured on this incredibly complex mathematical structure and foundation. Again, the theist has an easy explanation – God constructed the universe on this mathematical structure. The naturalist is at a loss to explain it. What about the fine-tuning of the universe? I explained the disastrous results that would ensue if the universe were not fine-tuned and I also explained why you can’t dismiss this problem by the multiverse hypothesis. There has been no response to that. Intentional states of consciousness – Dr. Rosenberg says how can one chunk of matter be about another one? I agree with him on this! It can’t! That leads him to deny that we ever think about anything. It leads me, rather, to say, but I do think about things therefore there must be minds. And minds fit nicely into a theistic worldview because God is the ultimate mind and so the presence of finite minds in this world is nothing mysterious. It fits into a theistic world in a way that it doesn’t fit into an atheistic world. As for objective moral values, it is the same situation. Dr. Rosenberg rightly understands that if atheism is true, if metaphysical naturalism is true, there are no objective moral values and duties. He and I actually agree on a great deal. But what I would say is obviously it is wrong to do certain things and therefore it follows that there must be a foundation for moral values beyond the physical world in God, a transcendent and personal being. The resurrection of Jesus, again, you can’t discuss this responsibly without getting your fingers dirty and looking at those documents. You can’t attack other documents like Joseph Smith or Mohammed and use those to impugn the credibility of the Gospel sources. [32] The fact is that the majority of New Testament historians who have investigated these documents have concluded to those three facts that I mentioned. Remember N. T. Wright says they are as firmly established as the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. But the naturalist has no explanation. Finally, God can be personally known and experienced. Why can’t God be a properly basic belief for me grounded in my experience of God? I don’t see why not.

Finally, what about metaphysically naturalism? How is this relevant in tonight’s debate? He says these bizarre consequences that he affirms don’t follow from atheism, they follow from scientism. But my argument was that scientism, or epistemological naturalism, doesn’t imply metaphysical naturalism. Remember the case of W. V. O. Quine. But if God does not exist then I think metaphysical naturalism is true. Metaphysical naturalism doesn’t follow from epistemological naturalism but it does follow from atheism. The most plausible form of atheism is, I think, metaphysical naturalism. But there are all of those absurd consequences that result from that that I described. He bites the bullet and affirms these bizarre consequences. Why not step back and say, no, this is crazy. This is not the world we live in. Ours must be a theistic world. If his only obstacle is the logical problem of evil then that obstacle has now been removed and Dr. Rosenberg should find himself free to embrace joyfully the existence of God as the answer to these deep questions. [33]

Dr. Rosenberg - Third Statement

Dr. Rosenberg: Just as, of course, Dr. Craig is repeating himself I guess I don’t have much recourse but to repeat myself because just as he suggests that I haven’t answered one or another of his points he similarly hasn’t answered any number of mine. But that is the problem with this kind of a debate and this kind of a format. It doesn’t work because what I would like to be able to do is ask William Lane Craig a question and listen to his answer. And formulate a reply and listen to his answer. And give a view and listen to his question. Which is the way in which philosophical dialogue proceeds and which enables us at least to find out where the crucial issues are between us and how we could mutually agree to adjudicate these matters.

So now I really need to know why he is so committed to the principle of sufficient reason which underwrites a good half of the arguments from science which he advances for us. I made the point that the principle of sufficient reason is false. It is not just that it is not known to be true; it is that it is just plain out flat false and disconfirmed all over the galaxy, all over the universe, all over the multiverse, indefinitely many times in infinitesimally small units of time. I don’t understand why he insists it is just intuitively obvious – what could be more obvious that from nothing, nothing can come, that if something exists there had to be a prior entity of some sort which brought it about. We know that alpha particles come into existence for no reason at all every moment in this room. Why should we assume that the universe is any different? Why should we assume that purely quantum mechanical fluctuations, symmetry breaking, which we understand is the explanation for why there is matter in the universe and not anti-matter, why this process which produces the characteristic features of our universe and does so without their being a cause for it happening one way or the other way. Why the symmetry gets broken one way or the other couldn’t be the nature of reality as far back as we can possibly dig in cosmology.

Now, let’s talk about the argument from evil. I keep hearing these quotes. He is even invoking my best friend Peter van Inwagen asserting that nobody anymore believes that the argument from evil is a problem for theism. [34] Not where I come from. Where I come from, that is the first thing that we worry about. How can you reconcile theism and evil? Now you can reconcile God and evil if you reduce his power from omnipotence or you reduce his benevolence to only, well, he is pretty good, or he is good most of the time, OK? But even a philosopher like Peter van Inwagen who I think is probably the best metaphysician working in our field today, even he can’t go any further than in his book The Problem of Evil, his Gifford Lectures in 2004, he can’t go any further than saying that he thinks that the argument from evil is not decisive, that it doesn’t absolutely and completely destroy theism. It is not as he says a successful argument. The reasons that he gives I would be embarrassed to lay before you because they have to do with an argument called the Sorites, an argument that has been known since the time of the Greeks, and that is the sort of argument that gives philosophy a bad name among more well-grounded, less theoretical people. Professor Craig invoked the free will defense – that God gave us free will and because he gave us free will, he gave us the power to do evil and the evil is done by us as a result of our exercise of free will. I have three things to say about this. The first is he could have given us free will without giving us the Holocaust or the Bubonic Plague. He could have given us free will without giving us all the horrors of the history of our species. The second thing is he made some people apparently and gave them free will and they caused no suffering at all. Whether it is small children or the saints of the Catholic Church or whoever your favorite person without sin may be. The third thing is this – let’s think about the following very simple thought experiment. Suppose I give you all an arithmetic test, you all have free will, you can all choose. I give you an arithmetic and it is one hundred questions and they are all of the form three plus five equals or sixteen divided by two equals or the square of four equals and I offer you a thousand dollars for each right answer and excruciating pain for each wrong answer. Right? You all have free will. How many of you are going to give me any wrong answers? None of you. You are all going to have ten thousand dollars at the end of a ten question arithmetic test. You all had free will, you all chose freely and you always gave me the right answer. Why couldn’t God have arranged the universe and us so that we all have free will and temptation was never presented to us? Or when it was presented to us, we always chose rightly. Why couldn’t God have arranged matters that way? Give us free will and so arrange matters that in our exercise of our free will, we never chose evil. We never chose the outcome that produce suffering for anybody. That seems to me a logically coherent possibility and it is enough to show that the problem of evil remains with us.

New Testament scholarship. You know I have great respect for New Testament scholars and for higher criticism and for the deep scholars of the Christian religion who study the New Testament. Some of them have told us that seventy five percent of it was forged. And all tell us it was written by people who were illiterate and most of them recognize that the writings Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could not have dated from any earlier than 30 or 40 or 50 years after Jesus lived and, of course, the Aramaic in which they were written was completely lost and all the extant New Testaments are in Greek and therefore the opportunity for misrepresentation or mistranscription or other kinds of mistakes was huge and indeed has been documented by scholarship over the last two hundred years. But most of all, why should we accept the credibility of Christian scholars writing about Christian documents? No more than we should accept the scholarship of Islamic scholars writing about Islamic documents or Scientologists writing about Scientology. [35]

Dr. Craig - Closing Statement

Dr. Craig: I want to thank Dr. Rosenberg for a very stimulating debate this evening. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. In my closing statement, I would like to draw together some of the threads of this debate and see if we can come to some conclusions. In tonight’s debate, I presented eight reasons why it is reasonable to believe in God and eight reasons why metaphysical naturalism is unreasonable, in fact absurd. Dr. Rosenberg has presented only one argument for atheism tonight and that is the problem of evil. It was very clear in his last speech that he hasn’t understood it. He says “Why couldn’t God create people with free will so that they always choose to do the right thing?” This has been dealt with by theists dealing with the problem of evil and the reason is because the wrong subjective conditionals of freedom might be true for God to actualize such a world. There are possible worlds which are not feasible for God to actualize. Because if he were to create the creatures in certain circumstances and leave them free, they would go wrong. As far as we know, for all we know, in any world of free creatures in which there is this much good in the world there would also be this much evil. It may not be feasible for God to actualize a world having this much good without this much evil. That doesn’t mean the Holocaust is necessary, no, not at all. But it would mean that in a world in which, say, the Holocaust didn’t occur, other events would have occurred that would have been comparably evil. So what Dr. Rosenberg, again, would have to show, or the atheist would have to show, is that God has the ability to create another possible world of free creatures that would involve this much knowledge of God and eternal salvation as in the actual world but without as much suffering. And there is no way that the atheist could prove that. It is utter speculation. And that is why the argument is regarded today as bankrupt.

With respect to the arguments from metaphysical naturalism, I think what Dr. Rosenberg has done for us is he has described brilliantly what an atheistic world would be like. It is a world in which there is no meaning, no truth, no thoughts about anything, no moral values, no enduring selves, no first person perspectives. His only mistake lies in thinking that that world is our world. But it manifestly is not. Our world is not Dr. Rosenberg’s world. Our world is a world in which we do exist, we do have thoughts about things, and in which there is therefore meaning, truth, and value. Dr. Rosenberg admits that theism provides a better explanation of such a world than does atheism. Since our world is evidently such a world, it follows, I think, that it is reasonable to believe in God.

In addition to that, I have presented eight arguments for belief in God. He, in his last speech, asked why are you so committed to the principle of sufficient reason? Because a very modest version of that is plausibly true; namely, that if a contingent thing exists, there is a reason or an explanation why it exists rather than not. And given that principle which is very plausible and modest, you need an explanation for why the universe exists. This is especially evident if the universe came into being at some point in the finite past. It can’t just come from nonbeing. I won’t repeat what I said about the applicability of mathematics, intentional states of consciousness, objective moral values, and the resurrection of Jesus. The sources we have for the resurrection of Jesus go back to within five years of the event and they were not written in Aramaic. He is just incorrect. They were written in Greek and we have the New Testament in the original language in which it was written. And the text is 99.8% authentic and pure. So doubts on that are simply groundless.

The one thing that we haven’t talked about tonight it my eighth point – that God can be personally known and experienced. And I want to close by saying this. [36] I, myself, wasn’t raised in a believing home, although it was a good and loving home. But when I was in high school as a junior, I met a Christian who sat in front of me in German class who shared with me her faith about God’s love. I had never heard of this before. I began to read the New Testament and as I did I was captivated by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I went through a period of about six months of soul searching at the end of which I just came to the end of my rope and gave my life to Christ. I experienced an inner spiritual rebirth that I’ve walked with day by day, year by year, now for over 40 years. A spiritual reality that I believe you can find as well if you will seek him with an open mind and an open heart. So as I close tonight I would encourage you if you are seeking for God, do what I did: pick up a New Testament and begin to read it and ask yourself, “Could this really be the truth? Could there be a God who loves me and cares for me and gave himself for me?” I believe it could change your life just as it changed mine. [37]

Dr. Rosenberg - Closing Statement

Dr. Rosenberg: Here is another positive argument for atheism. It is sort of so obvious that I hadn’t thought I should introduce it and I certainly didn’t think I was going to have time but this back and forth has gone on so long that I got this last chance and I am going to use it. Why is it that God is a hypothesis that science has so little use for? You may recall when the King of France, Louis XIV, approached Laplace, the great 18th century physicist, and said, “But what is the role of God in your system?” and the answer was, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” Of course, the reason that science has no need of the hypothesis is that God makes no contribution to the predictive power of any part of any of the sciences. For that reason, there is no basis on which to invoke God either for explanatory or any other purposes in science and therefore science has no more need for and indeed a considerable reason to deny the existence of God then it has to accept the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. The absence of a role for God in the predictive and explanatory content of science is quite apart from the problem of evil and is the principal reason why 95% of the members of the National Academy of Science in the United States are atheists and why science can provide not only no good basis for theism but an excellent argument against it. Indeed, if we think back to the invocation of W. V. O. Quine, the great American philosopher by Professor Craig, you will recall that he pointed out that Quine adopts abstracts objects. The objects of mathematics as existing even though they are abstract, even though they are not concrete, even though they are not physical items in the world. Why? Because they were indispensible to the predictive power of science. And because they were indispensible, Quine had no good argument against them and said that science not only had no good argument against them but in fact it had a good argument for their existence. Because of the contribution they made to enabling us to predict detailed experiments – meter readings, right? – of scientific experiments which is the litmus test of reasonability among scientists. To invoke the objects of mathematics as part of an argument for the existence of God fails to reflect this indispensible fact about the reasons that scientists are committed to them. If God could do as much for science as the number 2 then physicists would be much more receptive to his existence.

I’ll end this debate with a little advice from an atheist. Dr. Craig has ended by making a personal statement about the importance of Jesus Christ to his own character and well being and his own spiritual state. [38] Believe if you want to. Have faith in Jesus Christ if you need to. But do not make yourself vulnerable to reason and evidence. Do not demand that your belief be reasonable. You will be threatened with the loss of your faith. You may well lose you faith. Those who have lost their faith in God are generally those who have felt the need for good reasons, for evidence, for argument. Better that you should take as your slogan, credo quia absurdum: I believe because it is absurd. That is a far surer basis. It is not an epistemologically respectable one but it is a psychologically far firmer basis to believe in the existence of God. You cannot accept that faith is reasonable but that doesn’t stop you from believing. Of course, those friends of mine who are devout Christians of whom I count a number of people that Professor Craig mentioned tonight and even Professor Craig with whom I am sure I will have a friendly exchange after this debate is over, even Professor Craig I am sure will tell you that that is in many ways the firmest basis for commitment to Jesus. Faith and not reason. [39]

Moderated Dialogue - Q&A

Question: In your published works, you’ve talked about something that is conspicuously missing from this debate: the relation between reason and faith. For example, in Reasonable Faith, you point out that when faith is in conflict with evidence and argument, it is the latter rather than the former that should be disregarded. On the face of it, this seems like to amount to nothing less than an endorsement of confirmation bias. It should go without saying that an open arm embrace of confirmation bias is nothing reasonable at all. However, you, in other areas, have expounded upon this and taken what might be considered a personal epistemological code into something of a normative claim. The example I have in mind is when you are asked about how Christians should respond to their doubts. You gave the same answer but with an explanation and that is the kicker – you posited . . . what you effectively did (skipping again) was posit, instead of the possibility of the Cartesian demon, the actuality of the Cartesian demon. As Hume pointed out, Descartes didn’t take the radical skepticism far enough. In introspection, you don’t get a unified entity having these perceptions, you only get the perceptions. So, on your framework, how do you, and since it was a normative claim, all other Christians, escape this downward spiral of radical skepticism.

Dr. Craig: In tonight’s debate, I took the word “faith” to mean the same thing as “believe.” So faith in God, believe in God – that is to say, believe that God exists. But you are quite right in saying there is another understanding of faith that is more than just propositional belief. It would be the idea of trusting in someone, committing ones life to someone. I would say that that kind of faith would be subsequent to propositional belief. You first believe that God exists, and then you can believe in God and put your faith in him. In the chapter that you were speaking of in Reasonable Faith, when I am speaking of faith there I am talking about how do we know the propositional truths of the Christian faith like that God exists or that God loves me and so forth. What I was suggesting there is that in addition to external arguments and evidence there is also this immediate testimony of God himself to one that gives you, in a properly basic way, a knowledge of God’s existence and the great truths of the Gospel. That was my eighth point in tonight’s debate – that God can be personally known and experienced. And I said this isn’t an argument. Rather, it is suggesting that, just as we have properly basic beliefs like the belief in the reality of the external world or the reality of the past, so belief in God could be a properly basic belief grounded in the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. So this isn’t some kind of fideism or leap in the dark sort of thing. It is saying that God himself can give a person a knowledge of his existence that is independent of argument and evidence. This is a view that is widely defended today, especially by Alvin Plantinga in his book Warranted Christian Belief and I think he has shown that there aren’t any philosophical objections to this point of view. It is a perfectly coherent religious epistemology.

Question: Dr. Rosenberg, having taught chemistry for forty years and having a degree from a major Big 10 University in chemistry, I am very interested if you could go a little bit into more detail why the decay of uranium-238 violates any of the principles that Dr. Craig gave for the existence of God. [40]

Dr. Rosenberg: Thanks. It is a nice question because it gives me a chance to put this case before everybody a little more clearly. So you have got two uranium atoms – same number of neutrons, same number of protons, same number of electrons and all of them at the same quantum states and energy levels. They are not merely as identical as two peas in a pod; they are much more identical than that in all of their physical properties. Now at a certain moment, one of them emits and the other does not emit an alpha particle; that is to say, the nucleus of a helium atom. The difference between these two atoms is that one of them emitted and the other didn’t. Now, if every event has to have a cause, if everything that comes into existence has to have a cause of its coming into existence, then there has got to be some difference between the two atoms in virtue of which one of them emitted an alpha particle and the other didn’t. But quantum mechanics tells us, and all the experimental evidence which confirms it to twelve decimal places tells us, there is no difference – end of story. There is an event without a cause. There is no causally relevant difference between the two molecules in virtue of which one emitted an alpha particle and the other didn’t.

Dr. Craig: Well, that is not the end of the story. There are at least ten different physical interpretations of quantum mechanics and some of these are fully deterministic. And nobody knows which one of these is true. Victor Stenger, who is an atheistic physicist, says this in his book, “Other viable interpretations of quantum mechanics remain with no consensus on which, if any, is the correct one”; so he says we have to remain “open to the possibility that causes may someday be found for such phenomena.” [41] There are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics that may well be correct. In any event, my argument never appealed to the premise that every event has a cause. It was deliberately formulated in such a way as to allow for quantum indeterminacy without prejudicing the issue. My argument is that if the universe began to exist – had an absolute beginning – then the universe has a transcendent cause. And quantum mechanics is simply irrelevant to that because we are talking about an absolute beginning of space and time, matter and energy and there is nothing in physics that would explain how being comes from nonbeing.

Dr. Rosenberg: I need to make a short response to that. This is not an issue about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. I happen to think that among the interpretations of quantum mechanics some of the deterministic ones are more plausible than others. This is a matter of experimental physics. This is a matter of a fact about the nature of reality. It also seems to me clear that insofar as we have here good evidence that things can happen with no cause at all, it follows that therefore the universe can come into existence with no cause at all. Indeed, that is what the best guesses of contemporary physical theorists is.

Question: I would like to ask you about your use of the existence of objective morality as an argument. There are differences due to society or religious beliefs that lead to people having different moralities such as the practice of Sharia Law or the death penalty. If God gave us, as humanity, objective morality then why do we have such conflicting views of morality and what is right and wrong? [42]

Dr. Craig: The question you are raising is not a question about moral ontology – that is to say, the reality or the foundation of moral values. Your question is about moral epistemology – that is, how do we come to know moral values and duties? It is no part of my case to say that moral questions are always easy. Certainly there are areas of gray where good people will disagree and will differ. It is not always easy to discern what is right or what is wrong in certain situations. But what I am saying is that we do have a moral experience, a very clear grasp of cases where there are clearly objective moral values and objective duties or obligations and prohibitions. So by no means am I suggesting that all of these cases are clear. All you need is a few really – any! Then you have got to explain: what is the ontological foundation in reality for these moral values?

Question: With a lot of debates such as this, the question becomes an argument of looking at the same evidence and coming up with different conclusions. As a result of this, people become, I suppose, heated in these debates and so there is a certain level of arrogance on both sides. This is more of a question for both of you. How is it that you deal with this sort of issue where a lot of the arguments made by you posit a sort of attack on the other viewpoint and as a result the other person becomes very defensive and attacks your viewpoint? How is it that the both of you help address and calm that issue?

Dr. Rosenberg: I have no idea. I suppose, as I said in the beginning, that I don’t think that the debate format – the eristic context of prosecutorial and defense attorneys in an adversarial relationship – is the right venue under which to pursue philosophical and theological inquiry. In fact, I am very confident that it isn’t. I have spent a lot of time in my life with Peter van Inwagen and we have often argued about issues like this and discussed issues like this and tried to find out and identify where our differences are and how we might adjudicate them. It is a difficult process; it is a process that has been going on in philosophy and rational theology for at least two thousand four hundred years in the West. It certainly hasn’t attained consensus but at its best it is not controversialist. It is unfortunate that some forums, because they make for entertainment or sells books and CDs and stuff like that, emerge in which such debates sharpen controversies. But they are not the ideal, indeed they are not even satisfactory venues for pursuing these questions.

Dr. Craig: I am glad for the question because I think while we may be passionate about our arguments and point of view, I think it is extremely important that these kinds of debates be conducted with civility and charity and honesty. I think you try to represent your opponent’s point of view fairly, you prepare by reading his work carefully, and pointing out the areas of disagreement but you do so in a way that is gentlemanly and civil without personal attacks upon character. I think these kinds of forums are very valuable. That doesn’t mean they are the only kind of forum. Obviously, he and I both publish in professional journals, we read papers at professional conferences, and publish books but most of you students will never read a professional philosophy journal or attend a professional conference. So these debates are important as a way of getting this kind of information disseminated to a wider public in a way that is passionate and firm but it is civil and it is an academic exchange. These are as old as the Middle Ages. Back in the Middle Ages they used to have what they called quaestiones disputatae – disputed questions of theology. So we are continuing a long tradition, I think, of having a good solid academic debate over these issues and I hope that people will be stimulated by what is said tonight to go out and look further and read and investigate and think harder about these. Maybe take some classes in philosophy or theology or New Testament studies about these matters. I am firmly committed to the value of these kinds of forum on university campuses. I am glad Dr. Rosenberg, despite his scruples, agreed to participate tonight! [43]

Moderator: We have a ton of questions here and probably twice as many people watching the live stream. In fairness, I am going to ask one question of each of our debaters from within the United States and then one from outside the United States.

Dr. Craig, from Anthony in Massachusetts, with respect to the fine-tuning teleological argument, aren’t you presupposing atheism since God could have made the universe without needing to have it fine-tuned?

Dr. Craig: The fine-tuning argument doesn’t presuppose anything about how God could have done it in the sense that he could have created a world, say, of just spirit beings without any physical beings at all. But fine-tuning simply means that the fundamental constants and quantities in the universe that are necessary for life fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of values, an infinitesimal range almost, such that if these values were to be altered by less than a hairsbreadth the balance would be upset and life could not exist in a universe governed by these laws. So that is all the debate is about. It is not about whether God could have created other universes with other laws of nature that weren’t fine-tuned. It is about what is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe that characterizes the universe we live in. I think that the best explanation is intelligent design. Physical necessity and chance just won’t offer plausible accounts of this fact.

Moderator: One for Dr. Rosenberg. This one, I had to take this, this is kind of funny because of this Purdue audience, this is from IU. They are actually watching with a Christian ministry and a non-theist campus group together.

Dr. Rosenberg, there is no name on this; it is the whole group that decided unanimously apparently. How can the most basic moral values be universal if they are determined by natural selection?

Dr. Rosenberg: That is a question for evolutionary anthropology. That is, it’s a question: assume that there are a set of moral norms, behaviors, values, that are universal that obtain in every culture. How could that happen? Well, first of all, the explanandum, the proposition describing what is to be explained, of course is false and therefore it is difficult to satisfy the request for an explanation. It is not the case that there are universal moral values. Moral values differ on our earth and have over time owing to important ecological differences between the communities that have emerged at various times and various places on our planet. But let’s just slightly change the question to insofar as there is a commonality among all human groups in regard to the moral norms that they adopt, how could this have emerged as a result of a process of blind variation and natural selection? So, for example, human cooperation, a commitment to fairness and to equality and to reciprocity – these are almost universal. There are only a very small number of societies which spurn such moral norms. Why should they have emerged? Well, it is a remarkable fact of recent work by evolutionary game theorists and evolutionary anthropologists and others that it turns out that cooperation, a commitment to fairness and equality and to reciprocity turn out for creatures like us who found ourselves at the bottom of the food chain on the African savanna two hundred thousand years ago to be absolutely required for our survival. In fact, it is because we glommed on by pure blind variation and natural selection to this set of norms of cooperation that we managed to climb up the food chain so that within a hundred thousand years were we at the top of the food chain everywhere on the planet. Our own persistence over that subsequence hundred thousand year period and our expansion out of Africa is largely due to the natural selection for those almost universal norms of cooperation. And it is a wonderful thing about us. [44]

Dr. Craig: I would just say I think the question isn’t the universality of these norms but their objectivity.

Moderator: Dr. Craig, this is from Tibor in Slovakia. If the Christian faith is from a realm “beyond or above reason” like Pauline “peace surpassing understanding” then how can we even anchor such a topic as the reasonableness of believing in God?

Dr. Craig: God, I would say, is beyond human comprehension in the sense that we cannot grasp fully God’s greatness and majesty. He is not able to be comprehended in that universal sense but that doesn’t in any way imply that we can’t know elements of truth about God. I would say that in fact God is the ultimate rational being, he is the ultimate rational mind and we, as finite minds, made in his image are able to know a great deal of truth and a great deal about him even if such knowledge is not exhaustive.

Moderator: Dr. Rosenberg, from Sarah in Seoul, South Korea. You said God chose it, whatever it may be, because it was morally right. Where does the standard for morally right and wrong come from and what is the logical basis for this order?

Dr. Rosenberg: I don’t have the slightest idea. But what I do know is that God’s commands cannot be such a basis. Assume God exists, assume he commanded us to obey certain moral norms, the question becomes: are those the right moral norms simply because he commanded them holding the threat of hell to our heads or did he command them in his wisdom and goodness because they are the moral right ones. The answer that we all agree to is the latter; he chose them for us because they are the morally right ones. And it can’t be rocket science what makes them morally right. It is not like interpretation of quantum mechanics. We all know what makes the morally right values morally right. It is not merely the fact that God chose them; he chose them because they were the moral right ones. Therefore you cannot argue for God’s existence from the existence of morally right norms. But what the origin, what the basis of moral objectivity is is not a question to which I have at this time a satisfactory answer. Of course, as I am at pains to point out, that is not a material question in this discussion. [45]

Dr. Craig: I think this is one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. Rooting moral values and duties in God can take either two forms. Dr. Rosenberg alluded to one form which is called Voluntarism which is what Ockham held. That is that God just sort of makes up moral duties and responsibilities for us. They are based in his will. But that is not the majority mainstream Christian position. Voluntarism is not the usual way Divine Command Morality works. The majority position would be that God himself is what Plato called the Good. God himself is the paradigm of goodness and his commands are reflections of his own character. So it is not that God commands things because they are right independently of him, that there is some good outside of God to which he is subservient. Rather, God is the Good and his commandments are reflections of that good character toward us. So they are not arbitrary, but neither are they based on something independent of God. I think this gives a very credible foundation for moral obligation and prohibition as well as moral value which the atheist cannot provide.

Dr. Rosenberg: And I think it is just the assertion that God is good because God is good without adding any content to found, to ground, to substantiate the claim. So God’s goodness cannot consist in his obeying his own moral norms because God could not disobey them. So it makes no sense to say that his goodness consists in his obeying his own moral norms. Not to mention that in the Old and the New Testament he doesn’t do it very often. But that is another matter. The real problem is, if you assert that it is God’s goodness in which the foundation of the moral norms consist, then you have to go on and say, unless you think it is like quantum mechanics, what does that goodness consist in? If you simply say it is God’s goodness because he is good, that is not an answer to the question. We need some content to the claim that his goodness grounds the objectivity, the rightness, the correctness of the moral norms and merely saying he is good over and over again doesn’t do it. This is the open question argument in metaethics and it dogs Divine Command Theory just as fully as it dogs Utilitarianism or Kant or Social Contract Theory or Ideal Observer ethics.

Dr. Craig: I don’t think that that is an insuperable problem. God, by his very nature, is the greatest conceivable being. He is a being that is worthy of worship and only a being which is perfect goodness can be worthy of worship. And the greatest conceivable being would not simply be good by conforming to some other standard. He would be the paradigm of goodness. He would be like the old meter bar in Paris which defined what a meter was – not by conforming to some abstract length but by being the paradigm of what a meter is. It makes no sense to ask, why is the meter bar a meter long? It is the paradigm for what that is. Similarly, God, I would say, as the greatest conceivable being, a being worthy of worship, is the Good and this is defined in terms of the character qualities that he has like compassion, fairness, love, justice and so forth. So it is not a contentless claim.

Moderator: If I could have someone bring up to me the results from the three voting aspects. We will continue to take questions for another 10 minutes while they bring that up and I will share with the audience the conclusions of the people. Over here for Dr. Craig.

Question: Dr. Craig, I just want to know how would you respond to Dr. Rosenberg’s argument and his concluding statement that science can operate without having to account for God?

Dr. Rosenberg: God makes no predictive contribution to science.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I read his interview in the campus newspaper this morning trying to get some clues to what he might say this evening. I saw this argument about predictability and here is what my thoughts on this are. Predictability is just one way to test for the truth of a scientific theory. And it is not always useful. Some theories, for example, are empirically equivalent in their predictions. For example, I mentioned ten different physical interpretations of quantum mechanics which are all empirically equivalent. There are three different interpretations of Special Relativity which are all empirically equivalent. And yet, they are different theories and each one is a legitimate scientific theory even though they can’t be assessed based on predictability. Other factors then can come into play. Things like simplicity, plausibility, degree of ad hoc-ness, explanatory power; these are other theoretical virtues besides predictability that we can use in testing a hypothesis. [46] Predictability is especially difficult to apply when you are dealing with a free agent rather than with impersonal, mechanistic causes. In particular, in God’s case, how could you predict what God would do? You can predict perhaps that if a universe exists then it would be fine-tuned for our existence or that if God created a universe it would likely have objective moral values and duties. I think you could make that kind of prediction but how could you predict as a free agent whether or not God would create a universe at all? So, instead, I don’t think what you do is look for predictability. You follow Quine’s prescription. Remember Quine said, if you could show the indirect explanatory benefit of positing things like a Creator then I would joyfully accord them scientific status along with these other entities like quarks and black holes. So I would say that theism has explanatory power to offer us. For example, fine-tuning is more probable on theism than on naturalism. States of intentionality are more probable on theism than on naturalism or atheism. Objective moral values and duties are more probable on theism than on naturalism. The resurrection of Jesus is more probable on theism than on naturalism. So, in all of these ways, I think theism is an explanatorily beneficial hypothesis that explains a wide range of the data of human experience which atheism cannot explain.

Dr. Rosenberg: Sounds pretty ad hoc to me.

Question: Dr. Rosenberg. In your closing arguments, you were saying that science is the only way to be reasonable. Wouldn’t that make history and personal experiences unreasonable because they are not repeatable and also everyone in this room, because we are not repeatable, scientifically?

Dr. Rosenberg: I don’t know what it means to say “we are not repeatable scientifically.” Everybody in this room has a large number of properties in common that they all share. They all have scientific explanations. Everybody in this room differs from everyone else in a variety of different respects and those differences are also open to increasingly the subject of scientific explanations with substantial additional predicative content that certify their improvement over previous scientific explanations. As for personal experience and history, as we all know and this happens to be my principal career interest as a philosopher, the philosophy of social sciences, as we all know, there are great difficulties involved in applying the methods of the natural sciences, of the empirical sciences, to human questions. In many respects, these are submitting of imaginative, interesting, and powerful solutions. As we speak, if I am right and no one will know if I am right about this well after all of us in this room are dead, if I am right, eventually, the sciences broadly understood will provide as predictably powerful and therefore as explanatorily credible accounts of the nature and character and trajectory of individual human lives as they know provide for the planets. But of course, I could be wrong. It is an empirical question.

Dr. Craig: This is the question of epistemologically naturalism that I raised in my second speech. Remember I said, one reason it is regarded as a false theory of knowledge is because it is overly restrictive. In particular, Dr. Rosenberg is very harsh in his book on the humanities. In terms of the humanities, not really being a source of knowledge at all including history. This has led many of the reviewers of Dr. Rosenberg’s book to be very critical with regard to this narrow scientism that he propounds. For example, Michael Ruse who is an agnostic philosopher of science says this, “I think Rosenberg’s insensitivity to history blinds him to the fact that science does not ask certain questions and so it is no surprise that it does not give answers. I am not at all sure that the theist’s answers are correct, but they are not shown to be incorrect by modern science. Science is limited in scope and by its very nature is destined for ever to be limited.” So science may be the best way of getting at knowledge of the physical world – the way it operates – but there are many other fields of knowledge that also are sources of truth and knowledge about the world including mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, history and so forth. [47]

Dr. Rosenberg: All I can say is we weren’t debating this book which is not widely available. We were debating the reasonableness of the belief in God’s existence.

Dr. Craig: Could I ask you a question, Dr. Rosenberg. Given the debate question tonight, “Is faith in God reasonable?,” I thought and anticipated that you would say much more about your defense of scientism. Because it seems to me that that is the principal reason that you are skeptical about the existence of God and so I am curious why didn’t you make this more of an issue in tonight’s debate? That would show faith in God is unreasonable if scientism, or metaphysical naturalism, were true.

Dr. Rosenberg: I wrote this book because I was relatively disenchanted with the tide of works by Hitchens and Dawkins and Harris and here I exclude Dan Dennett whose book Breaking the Spell is quite a different order of magnitude. I was rather tired of books hammering another nail into the coffin of theism and much more eager to put before a public that might be interested in the real implications of science for the perennial questions of philosophy for what a radio humorist named Garrison Keillor calls the persistent questions that bother that guy on the fourteenth floor of the Acme building in St. Paul, Minnesota (something I was excluded from referring to by my editor because he said nobody ever heard of Garrison Keillor). I was interested in exploring what the consequences of science were for these fundamental questions of philosophy that keep us up at night. Right? What I said at the beginning of this book is science gives us the best argument for atheism and it is so good that I don’t have to rehearse it in this book. I want to go on and talk about all the other things that those of us who are atheists because we believe that science describes the nature of reality ought to believe. Now, I don’t think in a discussion about atheism the further consequences of science which I claim to obtain are relevant or material and I certainly know, and I am sure you will agree with me, that those who reject these conclusions can do so by saying they don’t follow from science. Of course, I take it that on your own view either these conclusions do follow from science and therefore my book is vindicated as an account of how science deals with the perennial questions that keep us all up at night, or else, you’ve committed a flagrant logical fallacy of affirming the consequence.

Dr. Craig: What I said was it doesn’t follow from epistemological naturalism. But I do agree with you that your conclusions follow from metaphysical naturalism.

Dr. Rosenberg: No, my argument is not that they follow from metaphysical naturalism. My argument is that they follow from the substantive claims of the sciences – physics, chemistry, biology, and neuroscience. It is not philosophy that I am deducing these consequences from. It is science. Of course, we can argue about that.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I disagreed with that part. But where I agreed with you in contrast to Dawkins, and Hitchens, and Dennett, and others was that if only physical things exist, if physics fixes all the facts as you put it, then it seems to me you are right, there isn’t any intentional states. There isn’t any meaning to sentences, there is no truth.

Dr. Rosenberg: Could I get you to write a blurb for the back of my book?

Dr. Craig: Somebody on Facebook said, why have a debate between Craig and Rosenberg? They both agree on the consequences of denying God. So he thought it would be pointless. But it drives you back to the question, well, is there a God? Is metaphysical naturalism true?

Dr. Rosenberg: Maybe there is a chance for my book to be in the Christian bookstores after all? [48]

Moderator: On that note, two more questions. I am going to go back to you Dr. Rosenberg. Gabriel, from Costa Rica, “Let’s assume that God does not exist and you are right. Then what is your explanation for the existence of evil if there is no evil and good?”

Dr. Rosenberg: Of course, my explanation, the explanation that I offer in this book, not to put too fine a point on it isn’t an explanation of evil because that would commit me to a normative theory which I am unprepared to endorse but I have an explanation for suffering, for the pain and misery of human existence and of other biological systems and regrettably it has to do with the nature of matter and the nature of the struggle for survival and the competition among physical systems including biological systems and animals and us for survival. The fact that nature has so organized living matter as to provide it with signals when it is doing something that is dangerous for its persistence and its well being by giving it pain. Now, I don’t think it is a great mystery why biological systems should have sensations and particular sensations of pain and discomfort. Those are signals that nature is providing or they are the byproducts of signals that nature is providing about the threats to one’s wellbeing. That is about the best, I think, we can do by way of explaining why there is suffering. Giving a scientific and empirical, a factual, explanation for why there is suffering as opposed to a theological explanation for why there is suffering.

Moderator: Dr. Craig, do you care to respond?

Dr. Craig: No comment.

Moderator: Let’s take one last question on this side for Dr. Craig.

Question: My question is for Dr. Craig. The Bible says that Jesus loves us and wants a relationship with us and wants us to believe in him. He even showed himself to disbelievers like you mentioned – to people such as Thomas after he was crucified to help them believe. My question is – why does Jesus not continue to physically reveal himself to people, particularly to unbelievers to show them that he is real.

Dr. Craig: Obviously, God could make his existence or Christ’s existence more evident than he has. He could have the stars spell out “God exists” in the sky or he could have every atom inscribed with the label “Made by God.” So, clearly, God could make his existence a lot more obvious. But I think what the point you are making is the salient one – God isn’t interested in just getting people to believe that he exists; to add one more piece of furniture to their ontology of the universe. He wants to bring people into a loving, saving relationship with himself. I think that God, in his providence, knows how to so order the world so as to bring the maximal or optimal number of people freely into relationship with himself. He knows that it isn’t necessary or profitable to have Jesus of Nazareth appear miraculously to every single person in his lifetime in order to provide sufficient grace for salvation to everybody. In fact, it is possible that in a world in which God’s existence was as plain as the nose on your face in which Jesus was constantly appearing in people’s bedrooms that they would get rather annoyed at the effrontery of this intruder popping into their houses all the time uninvited and it wouldn’t lead at all to a deeper faith or love in him. So, I think that we can trust God’s wisdom in providentially ordering the world in such a way that people are given adequate but not coercive evidence for his existence and the question then for us is how will we respond to that? It is not an adequate response to complain that you want more evidence. You need to look at the evidence that you do have and to make a decision on that basis. But I don’t think that there is any reason here to think that God would do what you suggest. It may be that that would do nothing in terms of bringing a greater number of people into a saving relationship with himself. [49]

Moderator: One last question for Dr. Rosenberg and then we will give you the results of the vote and close out.

Question: Dr. Rosenberg, I wonder if you might help me to understand how your view is not incoherent. Do you really claim in your book that sentences have no meaning or truth value, even the sentences in your own book? How is that not incoherent and self-refuting? At least the sentences you’ve made tonight surely you think are true but if even you don’t think that your position is true, why should we?

Dr. Rosenberg: Two paragraphs from the last page of the chapter of my book entitled “The brain does everything without thinking about anything at all.” Of course, this is at the end of a long chapter in which I talked about neuroscience, Nobel Prize winning research by Eric Kandel, the wonderful IBM computer Watson that beats us at Jeopardy, and about the best semantic and philosophical theories of intentionality. Pardon me for reading. “Introspection is screaming that thought has to be about stuff, and philosophers [and you] are muttering, ‘Denying it is crazy, worse than self-contradictory. It’s incoherent. According to you [Rosenberg], neither spoken sentences nor silent ones in thought express statements. They aren’t about anything. That goes for every sentence in this book. It’s not about anything. Why are we bothering to read it?” [50] It is not as if I haven’t figured out that this is an issue that is raised by science and in this chapter. And now I will read you the last paragraph. “Look, if I am going to get scientism into your skull I have to use the only tools we’ve got for moving information from one head to another: noises, ink-marks, pixels. Treat the illusion that goes with them like the optical illusions in Chapter 7 [a chapter in which I said don’t trust consciousness because it is mainly mistaken]. This book isn’t conveying statements. It’s rearranging neural circuits, removing inaccurate disinformation and replacing it with accurate information. Treat it as correcting maps instead of erasing sentences.” [51] Now, there is a big business in philosophy about the nature of semantics and about how intentionality is realized. And I ain’t so stupid as to contradict myself in the puerile way that you are suggesting. OK? What you got to do is read the book to figure out the answer and send me an email and I will send you a really long and hard paper called “Eliminativism Without Tears” which I have written to try to give a detailed account of why it is that we can still make sense to one another in spite of the fact that neuroscience shows that intentionality is just an overlay like so much of the rest of our common sense views about reality including the belief that the earth is standing still because things just fall directly to the ground.

Moderator: Very good. Well, let me go ahead and read these tallies and just close us out. It is not a scientific result but we have three interesting results nonetheless from a cross section of audiences – our formal judge team, our Purdue audience and across the web nationally and internationally. For the formal judging in a 4-2 decision, our judging panel has identified Dr. Craig as the winner of this evening’s debate. For the local result from Purdue, we have no vote at all 112 (by far, most people did not vote; half did not vote it appears, didn’t even write cards), Dr. Rosenberg has 303, and Dr. Craig has 1,390. Online vote appears that Dr. Craig has 734 and Dr. Rosenberg 59. For whatever it is worth.

Let’s go ahead and close this out. These gentlemen are very enlightening people, fun to hang out with, and they’re going to stick around for another half an hour to answer questions that people perhaps come up and talk with them. As someone who loves (this may sound morbid) to visit cemeteries – I do it every time I go to a new town. I’ve mentioned this many times before and I am still eager to find this – if someone knows of this cemetery with a tombstone with a particular epitaph on it, I will pay money. It reads this way: “Pause stranger when you pass me by; as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be; so prepare for death and follow me.” Somebody came by, probably a skeptic or something like that, and wrote “To follow you, I am not content until I know which way you went.”

Well, we do thank you for coming and watching live stream tonight. We hope it was beneficial generating more light than heat. Look next to the book and to YouTube, no doubt it will provide something to reflect upon and think about which of the three dozen talks you will attend tomorrow. [52]

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    Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2011), p. 171.

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    Ibid., pp. 145, 19, 95.

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    N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God, III: The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 710.

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    James 4:8

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    Female genital mutilation or “female circumcision” is often referred to as FGM.

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    W. V. Quine, “Naturalism; or, Living within One’s Means,” Dialectica 49 (1995), p. 252.

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    Paul Draper, “The Skeptical Theist” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard Synder (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996), p. 176-77.

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    Peter van Inwagen, “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” Philosophical Perspectives 5 (1991), p. 135.

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    Victor Stenger, Has Science Found God? (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2003), pp. 188-189, 173.

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    Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality, p. 193.

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    Total Running Time: 2:47:28