Two tough rams butt heads, and may the best ram win!

William Lane Craig debates Austin Dacey: Does God Exist?

Here is the video and summary of a debate between Christian theist William Lane Craig and Austin Dacey at Purdue University in 2004 about the existence of God.

The debaters:

The video: (2 hours)

The video shows the speakers and powerpoint slides of their arguments. Austin Dacey is one of the top atheist debaters, and I would put him second to Peter Millican alone, with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in third place. This is the debate to show people who are new to apologetics. The debate with Peter Millican is better for advanced students, and that’s no surprise since he teaches at Oxford University and is familiar with all of Dr. Craig’s work. The Craig-Dacey debate is the one that I give to my co-workers.

By the way, you can get the DVDs and CDs for the first Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Dacey debate and the second Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong debate. The Peter Millican debate is not available on DVD, but the link above (Peter Millican) has the video and my summary.

Dr. Dacey’s 5 arguments below are all good arguments that you find in the academic literature. He is also an effective and engaging speaker, This is a great debate to watch!

SUMMARY of the opening speeches:

Dr. Craig’s opening statement:

Dr. Craig will present six reasons why God exists:

  1. (Contingency argument) God is the best explanation of why something exists rather than nothing
  2. (Cosmological argument)  God’s existence is implied by the origin of the universe
  3. (Fine-tuning argument) The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life points to a designer of the cosmos
  4. (Moral argument) God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and objective moral duties
  5. (Miracles argument) The historical facts surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
  6. (Religious experience) God’s existence is directly knowable even apart from arguments

Dr. Dacey’s opening argument:

There are two ways to disprove God’s existence, by showing that the concept of God is self-contradictory, or by showing that certain facts about ourselves and the world are incompatible with what we would expect to be true if God did exist. Dr. Dacey will focus on the second kind of argument.

  1. The hiddenness of God
  2. The success of science in explaining nature without needing a supernatural agency
  3. The dependence of mind on physical processes in the brain
  4. Naturalistic evolution
  5. The existence of gratuitous / pointless evil and suffering

One final point:

One thing that I have to point out is that Dr. Dacey quotes Brian Greene during the debate to counter Dr. Craig’s cosmological argument. Dr. Craig could not respond because he can’t see the context of the quote. However, Dr. Craig had a rematch with Dr. Dacey where was able to read the context of the quote and defuse Dr. Dacey’s objection. This is what he wrote in his August 2005 newsletter after the re-match:

The following week, I was off an another three-day trip, this time to California State University at Fresno. As part of a week of campus outreach the Veritas Forum scheduled a debate on the existence of God between me and Austin Dacey, whom I had debated last spring at Purdue University. In preparation for the rematch I adopted two strategies: (1) Since Dacey had come to the Purdue debate with prepared speeches, I decided to throw him for a loop by offering a different set of arguments for God, so that his canned objections wouldn’t apply. I chose to focus on the cosmological argument, giving four separate arguments for the beginning of the universe, and on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. (2) I reviewed our previous debate carefully, preparing critiques of his five atheistic arguments. In the process I found that he had seriously misunderstood or misrepresented a statement by a scientist on the Big Bang; so I brought along the book itself in case Dacey quoted this source again. I figured he might change his arguments just as I was doing; but I wanted to be ready in case he used his old arguments again.

[…]The auditorium was packed that night for the debate, and I later learned that there were overflow rooms, too. To my surprise Dr. Dacey gave the very same case he had presented at Purdue; so he really got clobbered on those arguments. Because he wasn’t prepared for my new arguments, he didn’t even respond to two of my arguments for the beginning of the universe, though he did a credible job responding to the others. I was pleased when he attacked the Big Bang by quoting the same scientist as before, because I then held up the book, specified the page number, and proceeded to quote the context to show what the scientist really meant.

Dr. Craig is always prepared!

5 thoughts on “William Lane Craig debates Austin Dacey: Does God Exist?”

  1. I love it!

    Contingency and Moral Arguments are the ones that I could never run away from as an atheist. There just is no good response to those, especially the Moral Argument, where the atheist has to live in two different worlds at one time – retaining subjective moral values and duties for one’s own behavior while imposing objective moral values and duties on everyone else!

    “or by showing that certain facts about ourselves and the world are incompatible with what we would expect to be true if God did exist.”

    It would be interesting to see a Biblical response to this, because one of the things that I found as a new Christian was that the Bible has deep explanatory power and scope for life as we see it. I often use that argument on the streets. I know that Craig brings in some of the Bible in his responses, but it would be interesting to present a comprehensive set of Bible verses as an offensive tool.

    Thanks for the link, WK!

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    1. I became an absolute relativist after discovering that everything is absolutely relative to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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  2. RE: Dacey’s arguments:

    1. The hiddenness of God – Atheists close their eyes to the obvious and want God to be even more hidden. Closed hearts and minds will never see God (at least until he opens them on judgment day).
    2. The success of science in explaining nature without needing a supernatural agency – Hilarious! Either the Cosmos or its Creator has always existed and science tells us that it’s not the Cosmos. If science is anything, it is the study of God’s Creation.
    3. The dependence of mind on physical processes in the brain – An automobile driver is completely dependent upon the physical processes designed into his vehicle. So?
    4. Naturalistic evolution – Natural history may be summed up as sudden appearance and stasis. Being observable, repeatable, and predictable, stasis is 100% natural. Sudden appearance of the major body plans: not so much.
    5. The existence of gratuitous/pointless evil and suffering – Only the omniscient could be the final judge on this one. For those who trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, evil and suffering are temporary with no comparison to the glory awaiting them.

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