Full report from William Lane Craig’s Quebec debating tour

I received William Lane Craig’s report from his Ontario and Quebec speaking tours in my e-mail inbox. The report is not yet posted on his web site, so I reproduce the portion related to his debate at McGill against Shabir Ally below. (I wanted to post everything, but it was too much)

Here’s what Bill says about debating Shabir at McGill University in Montreal:

The next evening was my debate at the English-speaking McGill University with the Muslim apologist Shabir Ally on “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” I began by presenting a case for Jesus’ resurrection, and Shabir then followed. Shabir is a very slick customer, a skilled debater and smooth speaker. Whereas my debating style tends to be pretty formal, ticking off one point after another, Shabir began his opening speech by telling a joke, which got the audience laughing, and even presenting to me a small souvenir gift from Montréal. I thought to myself, “Boy, I’m already ten points behind just on audience rapport!” But my experience is that these first impressions fade pretty quickly as the debate unfolds.

So I figured I should just carry out my plan to attack his view hard, while continuing to be gracious personally. Shabir defends a very strange view of what happened to Jesus. He holds that Jesus was crucified (despite the Qur’an’s denial of that fact) but that he was only apparently dead when he was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. Before he could die in the tomb, God assumed him into heaven and thereafter gave visions of Jesus to the disciples. In that way, Shabir is able to affirm the historicity of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the disciples’ belief in his resurrection, but all without Jesus’ being raised from the dead!

Unfortunately, to my surprise, Shabir didn’t even mention his theory in his opening speech but just presented a wishy-washy, feel-good talk about Islam and Christianity. “Now what should I do?” I thought. “If I attack his view when he hasn’t even presented it, I’m really going to come across as mean-spirited. But if I wait till the rebuttals, there won’t be enough time to present my critique.” As I said, I decided to go after his view anyway, explaining to the audience that this is his position in his published work.

As a preliminary observation, I pointed out that no true Muslim could embrace his view, since the Qur’an could not be more straightforward or unambiguous: “They did not kill him; they did not crucify him” (4:157). I even quoted the Arabic “wa maa qataluhu, wa maa salabuhu.” I charged that Shabir, in denying the Qur’an, had already deserted Islam for a mishmash of Christianity and Islam, which I dubbed “Chrislam.” I said that if you’re going to embrace Chrislam, why not go all the way and become a Christian?

I then argued that Shabir should do this because his view faces insuperable historical and theological objections. Historically, it has inadequate explanatory scope (since mere visions of Jesus would not explain the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection), weak explanatory power (since the early Church distinguished visions of Christ from resurrection appearances of Christ), and little plausibility (since it is highly improbable that Jesus was taken down alive).

The theological objections are even more problematic: (1) The theory provides too little, too late. For in virtue of his crucifixion, Jesus has already suffered shame, humiliation, and defeat in the minds of his enemies. (2) By misleading the disciples into thinking that Jesus was risen from the dead, Allah himself is to blame for foisting the religion of Christianity on the world, resulting in hundreds of millions rejecting Islam and going to hell! Shabir had little to say in response to these objections, except to reiterate that there’s no way of knowing that Jesus was really dead.

So in the end the palm of victory went clearly to the Christian side. But sad to say, there were very few Muslims in the audience. I hear through the grapevine that Muslims are increasingly disaffected with Shabir because of his compromises on orthodox Islam. In fact the Muslim Student Association at McGill, which had promised to help promote the debate, called at 4:00 p.m. the very afternoon of the debate to say that they weren’t coming and had decided to schedule a meeting of their own that night! So it appears that the Muslim community is losing confidence in Shabir.

His newsletter contains more about his speaking in Quebec at the University of Montreal and the University of Laval. The newsletter also discusses his debate with Shelly Kagan of Yale University, held at Columbia University. And he concludes with his upcoming speaking engagements. Please pray for Bill and consider supporting him by donating to Reasonable Faith.

Does Darwinian evolution matter for the progress of biology?

Over on Tough Questions Answered, they have analyzed an article by Phil Skell, emeritus professor of chemistry at Penn State. Skell’s article appeared in Forbes magazine. Skell argues that evolution has no bearing on the progress of science in biology.

TQA writes:

Skell writes that Darwinists “overstate both the evidence for Darwin’s theory of historical biology and the benefits of Darwin’s theory to the actual practice of experimental science.”

Experimental science, in biology, has “dramatically increased our understanding of the intricate workings within living organisms that account for their survival, showing how they continue to function despite the myriad assaults on them from their environments.”

These advances, however, have little or nothing to do with explanations of Darwinian origins.  They “are not due to studies of an organism’s ancestors that are recovered from fossil deposits.”  The study of fossils “cannot reveal the details that made these amazing living organisms function.”

Another (even better) Forbes article by neurosurgeon Michael Egnor is here. He explains why practicing scientists don’t need to be Darwinians, because Darwinism is irrelevant to the practice of science.

Excerpt:

The fossil record shows sharp discontinuity between species, not the gradual transitions that Darwinism inherently predicts. Darwin’s theory offers no coherent, evidence-based explanation for the evolution of even a single molecular pathway from primordial components. The origin of the genetic code belies random causation. All codes with which we have experience arise from intelligent agency. Intricate biomolecules such as enzymes are so functionally complex that it’s difficult to see how they could arise by random mutations.

Egnor then asks why Darwinism is so important to some activists. And he describes how strongly they cling to their belief in Darwinism, often in very facistic and insulting ways:

I came to learn why evolutionary biologists are so fiercely devoted to Darwinism. I was vilified on the Internet. Calls came to my office demanding that I be fired.

And much of the venom was ideological. The vast majority of evolutionary biologists are atheists. I’m Catholic, and my religious faith was mocked by my fellow scientists. Many Darwinists openly express their hatred for Christianity–atheist biologist P.Z. Myers desecrated a Eucharistic host on his Web site.

In 1989, Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in the New York Times book review section that people who don’t accept evolution are “ignorant, stupid, insane … or wicked.” He has described the religious upbringing of children as “child abuse.”

In his book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, atheist philosopher and Darwinist Daniel Dennett has written that “[s]afety demands that religions be put in cages too–when absolutely necessary.” The fight against the design inference in biology is motivated by fundamentalist atheism. Darwinists detest intelligent design theory because it is compatible with belief in God.

Canadian Human Rights Commissions are bad for business

Denyse O’Leary has a re-cap of the sorry state of free speech in Canada, here.

It is worth noting how these Human Rights Commissions don’t just affect individual liberty – they affect commerce, as well! Businesses can be sued just as easily as individuals. All it takes is a victim from a special interest group to feel “offended”.

Closet Conservative linked to this St. Catharines Standard story:

The owner of a downtown St. Catharines fitness club faces a mediation hearing today for allegedly denying a pre-operation transsexual access to the women’s only areas of his gym.

The transsexual — now a woman, but a man at the time of the incident two years ago — is taking the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, John Fulton said Tuesday.

Mark Steyn has more stories of business owners and professionals facing “Human Rights” suits from offended clients. Excerpt:

What’s the “proper conduct” for Mr Fulton? Decline to let the pre-op use the ladies’ changing room and get a “human rights” complaint? Or let the Big Swinging Dick have the run of the shower and get a whole bunch of other suits from his outraged female members?

What’s the “proper conduct” for Dr Stubbs? Decline to perform a labiaplasty on the post-op transsexual because he’s no idea what he’s getting into (so to speak)? Or perform it and risk a malpractice suit for botching an operation?

What’s the “proper conduct” for Gator Ted? Tell the medical marijuana guy to stop smoking pot in his doorway and be hauled before the commissars? Or let the guy go ahead and get sued by the trucker sitting next to him at the bar when he fails his drug test?

There is no “proper conduct”, only the whims and caprices of nuisance plaintiffs backed by the Ontario government’s social engineers. Bar owners and fitness clubs run up five- and six-figure legal bills. The nuisance plaintiffs get the tab picked up by taxpayers, and thus have no incentive to settle.

Canada may have a fiscal conservative running the economy today, but Stephen Harper still doesn’t have the majority government he needs to abolish these kangaroo courts once and for all.

So it may not be time for Americans to flee Obama’s socialist paradise for Canada, yet. Will Canada win back the right to free speech? Maybe. Time will tell.

Higher taxes for the rich will not pay for Obama’s spending plans

Representative Michele Bachmann
Representative Michele Bachmann

On her official Townhall.com blog, Michele Bachmann asks whether Obama will ever be able to find money to pay for all the spending he has announced.

To pay for the trillions in spending that President Obama and his Congressional Democrat allies have passed and are about to pass in the months ahead, our President has assured us that taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 will not be raised by “one single dime.” His plan is to increase the tax rates on Americans making more than $250k a year to offset the spending. But is this even statistically feasible was the question the Wall Street Journal set out to answer?

She links to this story in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ piece notes that Obama’s current plans to raise taxes won’t pay for the spending:

Note that federal income taxes are already “progressive” with a 35% top marginal rate, and that Mr. Obama is (so far) proposing to raise it only to 39.6%, plus another two percentage points in hidden deduction phase-outs. He’d also raise capital gains and dividend rates, but those both yield far less revenue than the income tax. These combined increases won’t come close to raising the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that Mr. Obama is going to need.

But there just isn’t enough money to pay for the spending even if we take 100% of the earnings of those who make only $75,000 and up.

A tax policy that confiscated 100% of the taxable income of everyone in America earning over $500,000 in 2006 would only have given Congress an extra $1.3 trillion in revenue. That’s less than half the 2006 federal budget of $2.7 trillion and looks tiny compared to the more than $4 trillion Congress will spend in fiscal 2010. Even taking every taxable “dime” of everyone earning more than $75,000 in 2006 would have barely yielded enough to cover that $4 trillion.

And as usual Democrats are ignorant of the fact that when you raise taxes on wealthiest producers, they stop producing, so the tax revenues actually go down. Not only that, but all of this tax and spend socialism destroys economic growth – so that tax revenues are reduced even further.

Fast forward to this year (and 2010) when the Wall Street meltdown and recession are going to mean far few taxpayers earning more than $500,000. Profits are plunging, businesses are cutting or eliminating dividends, hedge funds are rolling up, and, most of all, capital nationwide is on strike. Raising taxes now will thus yield far less revenue than it would have in 2006.

And the cap-and-trade scheme he announced earlier is going to hurt the economy even more by raising prices on energy production.

The bottom line is that Mr. Obama is selling the country on a 2% illusion. Unwinding the U.S. commitment in Iraq and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire can’t possibly pay for his agenda. Taxes on the not-so-rich will need to rise as well.

On that point, by the way, it’s unclear why Mr. Obama thinks his climate-change scheme won’t hit all Americans with higher taxes. Selling the right to emit greenhouse gases amounts to a steep new tax on most types of energy and, therefore, on all Americans who use energy. There’s a reason that Charlie Rangel’s Ways and Means panel, which writes tax law, is holding hearings this week on cap-and-trade regulation.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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