William Lane Craig and atheist Daniel Dennett discuss cosmology and fine-tuning

This audio records a part of the Greer-Heard debate in 2007, between prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and lame theistic evolutionist Alister McGrath. Craig was one of the respondents, and this was the best part of the event. It is a little bit advanced, but I have found that if you listen to things like this over and over with your friends and family, and then try to explain it to non-Christians, you’ll get it.

By the way, this is mostly original material from Craig, dated 2007, and he delivers the speech perfectly, so it’s entertaining to listen to.

Craig presents three arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe:

  • the contingency argument
  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the teleological argument

He also discusses Dennett’s published responses to these arguments.

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (this is very snarky, because Dennett was just awful)

  • Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.
  • I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when I go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.
  • But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.
  • The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.
  • Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.
  • “Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7”. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)
  • The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.
  • I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.
  • Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.
  • If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism. (This part is correct, but Craig believes that God enters into time at the moment of creation – so that it is not a deistic God)
  • If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.
  • I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus based on minimal facts, that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet in public debates and in prestigous books and research journals.

I was in the second row at the Baylor Conference on intelligent design when Guth debated Craig on the origin of the universe. Guth admitted afterwards that the universe did require a cause.

I do not recommend purchasing the whole 2007 debate, because McGrath is a squish. You’re better off with the 2005 and 2008 sets. The 2006 one is OK, but not great. I don’t have the 2009 one yet, but it looks good.

20 thoughts on “William Lane Craig and atheist Daniel Dennett discuss cosmology and fine-tuning”

  1. Does anyone know when/why was Craig holding a copy of Denton’s “Evolution: A theory in crisis” in that picture?

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    1. I would guess that he was giving testimony at a hearing on education policy in favor of teaching criticisms of Darwinism. He is holding up that boo because it is written by a non-Christian. That’s just my guess. In debate situations, he is perfectly happy to grant Darwinian evolution for the sake of argument, and he’s just open-minded on intelligent design, not really a pro-ID advocate. I think he’s just for critical thinking in general on every issue.

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  2. Can you at least name a few of the “most prominent historians on the planet” Craig has debated . . .

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      1. That seems like a rather nit picky point to complain about WK not including an adjective like “biblical” describing the type of historians.

        Also, if Craig had indeed debated today’s most “overall” prominent historians on the planet about the resurrection, it would have been undoubtedly boring because they most likely wouldn’t know enough of the resurrection to counter Craig arguments.

        I have a question though-is there a place to view or hear or even read the debate at the “Baylor Conference on intelligent design when Guth debated Craig”?

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        1. Adam –
          Did not intend to be “nit picky” – but it is an important adjective to omit. I have listened to many of Craig’s debates on the hisoricity of the Gospels – I would like to hear the opinions of historians who do not specialise in the subject – to see if the methods used by Biblical scholars are as rigorous as those used by historians in general.
          There is a debate available on ID between Craig and Francisco Ayala … not brillaint however.

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          1. Richard,
            New Testament scholars ARE historians. They are historians who specialize in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Most of the N.T scholars I am familiar with are specialists from roughly the Maccabean period (150 B.C) through the end of the Patristic period (A.D. 450). These are the scholars who would interact with evidence for and against the resurrection. Since it is an event that occurred during this time period and in the Palestinian region. Whom would you want him to debate? Colonial American historians or Medieval European historians?

            It seems that you may be under the impression that scholars who study this period are all religiously motivated or in some sense “Christian.” It may surprise to you to learn just how many New Testament scholars are extremely critical in their methodology and either agnostic or atheistic in their metaphysical leanings.

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          2. Brad –
            I accept that Biblical scholars are historians. I was just curious to see if their methods are comparable to other areas of historical research. Biblical history is perculiar in one sense – that is regarding the resurrection. You either believe it occured – or you do not – either position puts a certain slant on your outlook. I am not sure how a historian could be unbiased in this regard. It would be strange for a Christian historian to argue against the resurrection on historical grounds – or a non-Christian to support the resurrection on historical grounds.
            My comments wern’t intended as a criticism – I just thought that somebody outside of Biblical studies might cast some new light on the problem.

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  3. Wow, Dennett’s response is laughably bad. Probably the worse i’ve ever heard in any of these debates. He actually seems to admit that he can’t respond, so I guess I should give him some credit for being honest. But he basically makes 4 general points:

    1.) He veers in the direction of this incredibly tired “God of the gaps” argument that I can’t believe atheists are still using in these debates (it’s amusing to hear Stephen Meyer respond to this charge, because with each debate he seems to get more annoyed at having to repeat himself). But those in Dennett’s camp seem to have a complete inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between “arguing for a God of the gaps” as opposed to “starting with purely scientific principles and using uniformity to reach conclusions that naturalists aren’t comfortable with.” Craig is not arguing that the naturalist viewpoint is wrong because it’s “mind boggling”… he’s arguing that it’s wrong because it contradicts philosophical and scientific observations.

    2.) He accuses Craig of starting with completely plausible assumptions and using them to reach implausible conclusions. But why? Of course, he never says why or bothers to critique the path Craig uses to get from point A to point B. More importantly, he never admits that the only reason these conclusions would be implausible is if one comes to the question with the kind of assumptions that someone like Dennett holds.

    3.) He argues that abstract things can cause things, and uses as an example the principle of triangulation to build a house… but kind of ignores that what he’s really talking about is an intelligence applying a principle, not the principle causing anything in and of itself.

    4.) This was my favorite – he basically refers to other colleagues and says he wishes they were here to respond, because they’re really smart and they’d disagree with Craig.

    I don’t mean to trash Dennett as i’m sure he’s way smarter than I am, but his arguments are terrible. Of the four horsemen, he’s the one i’m least familiar with, and after listening to this, I’m okay with that.

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    1. “starting with purely scientific principles” means starting without assumptions . . . If god is the answer before you have asked the question . . . Then that is faith . . . Not science. I will concede that atheism might be regarded as an a priori assumption too.

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      1. God isn’t the answer before we asked the question. That’s the whole point of the lecture by Craig. Science decided that God exists, and anyone who doesn’t believe in God is anti-science. Atheists have to prefer speculations (faith) over science in order to be atheists. That’s what being an atheist means – preferring faith over reason.

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        1. Are you suggesting that Lawrence krauss, Carl sagan, Richard feynman,.Einstein are or were anti-science because they are/were non-believers ? I would like to know when science decided that god existed . . . Most members of the Academy of Science might disagree . . .

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          1. I’m suggested that they are all science-haters, and that they are wedded to a religious idea called naturalism. And moreover, they oppose the progress of science, which has shown that faith commitment to be spurious. They are not primarily scientists, they are primarily naturalists, and their religion of naturalism is more important to them than experimental science.

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  4. How on earth is somebody such as Krauss opposed to the progress of science? Is it because his understanding of the universe does not necessitate a creator? Or (most likely) because of his opposition to ID in the sciece class. Is it only progress if it is compatible with (Evangelical) Christianity?

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    1. I am suggesting that because of his faith in naturalism that he is trying to roll back the Big Bang by speculating about nonsense theories. Just watch his debate with William Lane Craig and you will see how his naturalistic faith commitment has wrecked his ability to accept what science has shown, so that he has to take refuge in self-refuting speculations. In short, the man prefers delusions to experimental science.

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  5. I am sure Lawrence Krauss would be surprised to find that his career in science has been a delusion- and that he is a naturalist – not a scientist. Are you suggesting that God is testable, through experimental science? Do you object to Krauss because he argues for a universe that does not require a creator – and because he campaigns against ID being allowed into the science class?

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    1. I am suggesting that we can infer the existence of God by verifying his past activity using experimental science, as in the lecture in this post. I object to Krauss’ speculative nonsense and irrational absurdity because he lets his religion of naturalism pervert experimental science. He has his faith, and he refuses to be corrected by science. He’s not primarily a scientist, he’s primarily a religious nutcase who is in full retreat from the progress of science. He wants to roll back the clock. He has more faith in his own deluded speculations (the equivalent of fairies) than he has trust in what can be tested with microscopes and telescopes.

      I think we are done here. We are going around in circles.

      Watch this debate and see for yourself:
      https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/audio-and-video-from-the-debate-between-william-lane-craig-and-lawrence-krauss/

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      1. I think you are right (about going round in circles) . . . Thanks for the conversation anyway.

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