(Video: William Lane Craig debates the fine-tuning argument with Duke University philosopher Alex Rosenberg)
Christian Post reports on what promises to be one of the best debates in William Lane Craig’s career.
The debate over God’s existence heats up next week as leading physicist and atheist Sean Carroll is pitted against William Lane Craig, a top theologian and philosopher, to discuss their views about philosophy, cosmology, and the role of God and the cosmos.
The two experts will debate on Feb. 21 under the theme “God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Modern Cosmology.” Organizers announced Wednesday that the event will be held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as part of a Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture Weekend Conference. Modern cosmology is dominated by the Big Bang theory, which attempts to bring together observational astronomy and particle physics.
“Though Carroll is as fiercely anti-theistic as other cosmologists I have debated, he differs in being philosophically informed and civil in demeanor,” Craig wrote in a statement about the event.
Craig is a philosopher, professor, author and founder of ReasonableFaith.org, a web-based ministry “whose purpose is to provide, in the public arena, an intelligent and articulate perspective about the existence of God.” He has debated some of the most notable atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and, most recently, Lawrence Krauss. Some 250,000 people have watched the Craig-Krauss dialogues since they took place last August in Australia.
Over the years, Craig has developed “Eight Reasons for God.” These form his case for theism, showing that God is the best explanation for why anything exists at all; the origin of the universe; the application of mathematics to the physical world; the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life; intentional states of consciousness in the world; objective moral values and duties in the world; the historical facts concerning Jesus’ resurrection; and personal experience of God.
Sean Carroll is a physicist at the California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on theoretical physics and cosmology, especially the origin and constituents of the universe. He has contributed to models of interaction between dark matter, dark energy, and ordinary matter; alternative theories of gravity; and violations of fundamental symmetries. He has appeared on TV shows including “The Colbert Report” and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and frequently serves as a science consultant for film and television. He is the author of several books including the upcoming The Particle at the End of the Universe.
Each has selected two commentators to round out the discussion, philosophers Tim Maudlin and Alex Rosenberg on Carroll’s tag team and philosopher Robin Collins and physicist James Sinclair on Craig’s. A follow-up discussion is planned for that Saturday.
“I selected the physicist James Sinclair, with whom I co-authored the article on the kalam cosmological argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and Robin Collins, who is writing what will be the definitive book on the fine-tuning of the universe,” said Craig. “Carroll and I will be afforded the opportunity to give brief responses to each of their papers.
“There will also be opportunity for audience interaction with all the participants. Not only will the entire proceedings be video-recorded, but the transcript of the debate, papers, and responses will be published by Fortress Press. So this promises to be a very substantive and important engagement. It will also be live-streamed on the Internet, so you can join in if you’d like.”
The post includes a link to the live stream, which is provided by Tactical Faith.
Dr. Carroll’s blog post about the debate
Dr. Carroll posted about this upcoming debate on his blog, and it seems like he is is going to be a fine opponent for Dr. Craig.
Excerpt: (links removed)
Next month I’ll be doing something related, although under quite different circumstances. On February 21 I’ll be debating William Lane Craig at the Greer-Heard Forum, an event sponsored by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It will actually be a two-day event; a debate between Craig and me on Friday night, and follow-ups on Saturday from other speakers — Tim Maudlin and Alex Rosenberg for Team Naturalism, Robin Collins and James Sinclair for Team Theism.
[…]William Lane Craig (or WLC as we call him in the business) is of course a very well-known figure, largely for his many public debates, on theism/atheism as well as on various other specific theological issues. As far as debating goes: he’s very good at it! If his debates were being judged by a panel of experts as in an intercollegiate debate tournament, he would have a very good record indeed. This has led many people to conclude that atheists just shouldn’t debate him at all, or at least not until they have devoted 10,000 hours to learning how to be a good debater.
Daniel Dennett warned me that, as soon as word got out that I would be debating WLC, I would be deluged with opinions and unsolicited advice. Which is great! Always happy to hear other perspectives, although I don’t promise to actually follow any of the advice. I won’t reproduce the various emails I’ve received, but here are a few very different perspectives online: Jerry Coyne, Luke Barnes (and another), and Wintery Knight. (WK is relatively restrained, but others predict “pummelings,” presumably for me.)
Dr. Carroll explained his goals for the event:
Just so we’re clear: my goal here is not to win the debate. It is to say things that are true and understandable, and establish a reasonable case for naturalism, especially focusing on issues related to cosmology. I will prepare, of course, but I’m not going to watch hours of previous debates, nor buy a small library of books so that I may anticipate all of WLC’s possible responses to my arguments. I have a day job, and frankly I’d rather spend my time thinking about quantum cosmology than about the cosmological argument for God’s existence. If this event were the Final Contest to Establish the One True Worldview, I might drop everything to focus on it. But it’s not; it’s an opportunity to make my point of view a little clearer to a group of people who don’t already agree with me.
Recently, Dr. Carroll debated Christian philosopher Hans Halvorson, who is a professor at Princeton University, and Hugh Ross was in attendance. In a podcast, Dr. Ross said that Carroll was a gentleman, and it was a good debate, although he wanted Halvorson to disagree with Carroll more. (You can watch the “debate” here, although it really wasn’t a debate because Halvorson didn’t engage Carroll for the most part). Reasons to Believe has since pulled the podcast. However, I was able to find it, (I am a software engineer!), and I’ve posted it here. I have no idea why they pulled it, because it was a good review. If you want a good introduction to the issues they’ll be debating from a particle physicist, check out this recent lecture by Dr. Michael Strauss.
The two duelists choose their seconds
My understanding is that Dr. Carroll has already made one mistake. He selected Alex Rosenberg (see video above) as a respondent. Dr. Rosenberg is not a good spokesman for naturalism, and in his debate with Dr. Craig, he did very poorly. A better wingman would have been someone like Graham Oppy or Quentin Smith. Dr. Carroll’s other choice (Tim Maudlin) looks solid, though.
On Dr. Craig’s side, he’s chosen Robin Collins and James Sinclair. Collins recently had a chapter in “Debating Christian Theism” (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Collins and Sinclair both had chapters in “The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). Collins is an engaging public speaker, and I featured a lecture by him on the fine-tuning argument in this post.
Please pray that God would reach out to Dr. Carroll and for other non-theists listening to the debate so they can see that there are good reasons for them to rethink their views about God.
Dr. Luke Barnes previews the debate
If you would like to read some comments from an accomplished cosmologist, check out these posts (post one, post two, post three, post four) on Dr. Luke Barnes’ Letters to Nature blog. You might remember him because I wrote about his paper critical of atheist physicist Victor Stenger in this blog post. Note that Barnes’ paper has now been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The journal is published by Cambridge University.