Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thoughts on the Craig-Rosenberg Debate

I've been watching the Debate between William Lane Craig and atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg. It's the first and probably last William Lane Craig debate that I watch. I was on the debate team in high school for four years, so I know the advantage that the experience of debating gives Craig over his opponents. It doesn't necessarily mean that his arguments are better. It's that he is able to present them more concisely and in a more organized manner in a limited amount of time. I agree with Rosenberg that this is not the best way to try to discuss or argue about these matters. I guess my advice to inexperienced debaters who are challenged to debate Craig is to respond, "Craig is a much more experienced debater, so I don't think I would do very well in a debate with him. I am, however, willing to co-author a series of letters with him, where we have time to organize our thoughts and respond to each other's points."  For example, the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, has done this at least a couple of times that I know of: once with the philosopher Michael Tooley and once with Daniel Dennett.

I haven't finished watching the debate, yet, but I have a couple of thoughts about it.  I'm not sure how strong the cosmological argument is (contingent existence implies necessary existence).  For me it works on an emotional level.  Yes, it seems logically possible for there to be contingent existence without necessary existence.  But our constant striving to answer the question "Why?" would leave us unsatisfied with mere brute fact for the ultimate answer.  We want there to be an answer which makes sense and that we just see must be so.   Which is what a necessarily existent being would be.

I'm glad that Craig made the distinction between Divine Command Theory and Divine Nature Theory and favors the second.  I'm not sure it answers the Euthyphro dilemma any better, but it seems to offer more promise.

Rosenberg is one of the few philosophers I've seen who seems to buy into what is known as Scientism, and does so wholeheartedly.  I'll have to watch the rest of the debate to see if he goes into more detail.

UPDATE: I guess I should add that regardless of the logical status of the Argument from Evil, it works on an emotional level for me the same way the Cosmological Argument does. One of the things that attracts me to Christianity is that it offers an answer that also works on an emotional level: Whatever reason God had for allowing so much apparently gratuitous pain and suffering in the world, He has at least deigned to become a human being and taken some of his own medicine. In fact, somehow his pain and suffering have become the focal point for the meaning of all pain and suffering. Whatever this world of grief is supposed to be about, we can say, "Emmanuel -- God with us."

Further Update: Just finished watching the debate. I don't understand but am curious about Alex Rosenberg's position. I'll have to buy his book and try reading it. I imagine that's why he agreed to do the debate -- free advertisement. It worked on me, at least.

Last Update: During the question and answer period Craig did make a good point: People are much more likely to watch a debate than read a philosophy book, or even listen to two philosophers have a discussion. So if one wants to disseminate one's views to the general public, a formal debate is the way to go.

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