Debate: Richard Dawkins vs William Lane Craig

edited February 2011 in Religion & Philosophy
Last May someone asked Richard Dawkins (atheist) why he won't debate William Lane Craig (Christian). Dawkins said he only debates bishops or popes, not "creationists" or people who are only famous for being professional debaters. Craig thought that pretty funny (he's not a creationist and has published many technical works of philosophy).

Well, I just found out about this, but apparently they finally debated each other last November in Mexico. Dawkins was assisted by Matt Ridley and Michael Shermer; Craig was assisted by Doug Geivett and Rabbi David Wolpe. Anyone got any links to the video, audio or transcript?


  • Here's Craig's site:

    Here is the youtube page with all the Mexico debate -- many parts!
  • Is it worth watching?
  • said:

    Is it worth watching?

    Perhaps... It is always interesting to me to watch Craig take apart those who think they are really smart. Not to say that they're not smart, but their arguments are always wrapped around some semantical issue, not the main points of Craig's argument, for they have no argument against that. His proposition is essentially Q.E.D. so they argue that the argument is invalid.

    It is also interesting to watch men, who claim to be oriented toward truth as discovered by Science, dance around issues that they KNOW are in fact not what they represent in their propositions -- like the fact that the universe is infinite. They know better, but that is the only way to defeat Craig's argument, so that's where they go, pushing the advent of the cosmos to a place (multi-verse, etc.) where it can never be tested or falsified, and where they can suppose an actual infinite. Such can never be the case in the bounds of the actual universe (mathematical propositions aside, we're talking ACTUAL here, not numbers) but they try because they know any other response gives Craig the victory in under 30 seconds.

    After that, there are a multiplicity of other points touched on as the debates go onward. Things like time, God, substance, strong and weak gravitational force, et al, are all on the table. If nothing else, it is educational.
  • Thanks, Guy. Was too busy to look around last week. Had a chance today. Your link jumps us to part 9. I found an uncut single video of the whole thing.

    Full 2-hour video:

    Debate proper starts at 0:08:30.


    Topic: "Does the universe have a purpose?"
    Affirmative: Rabbi David Wolpe, Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Douglas Geivett
    Negative: Dr. Matt Ridley, Dr. Michael Shermer, Dr. Richard Dawkins
    When: November, 2010
    Where: Pueblo, Mexico

    Debate format:

    8 minutes debate introductions
    6 minutes apiece, first round, alternating sides, negative first, six parts
    3 minutes apiece, second round, alternating sides, affirmative first, six parts
    3 minutes neutral debate commentary, Dr. Mitchio Kaku
    90 seconds apiece, third round, alternating sides, negative first, six parts
    60 seconds apiece, professional commentary, seven parts, last part by Kaku
    30 seconds closing statements, alternating sides, affirmative first, six parts


    0:08:30 - First round, negative, Ridley
    0:13:15 - First round, affirmative, Craig
    0:19:50 - First round, negative, Shermer
    0:26:15 - First round, affirmative, Wolpe
    0:31:40 - First round, negative, Dawkins
    0:38:20 - First round, affirmative, Geivett

    0:46:15 - Second round, affirmative, Craig
    0:49:35 - Second round, negative, Ridley
    0:52:55 - Second round, affirmative, Wolpe
    0:56:15 - Second round, negative, Shermer
    0:59:30 - Second round, affirmative, Geivett
    1:03:05 - Second round, negative, Dawkins

    1:07:40 - Debate commentary, neutral, Kaku

    1:12:15 - Third round, negative, Ridley
    1:14:05 - Third round, affirmative, Craig
    1:16:05 - Third round, negative, Shermer
    1:17:45 - Third round, affirmative, Wolpe
    1:19:30 - Third round, negative, Dawkins
    1:21:30 - Third round, affirmative, Geivett

    1:24:10 - Professional commentary

    1:36:05 - Closing statements

    1:40:25 - Conclusion
  • I'm currently reading God according to God, by Gerald Schroeder, the MIT physicist. He is 100% sure that the universe was created by God, and cites a number of other high-ranking physicists who do as well. The evidence is starting to be overwhelming in that direction.

    I do not agree with all of Schroeder's theological points (he comes at theology from a Kabalistic Jewish perspective) I do greatly admire his grasp of science, and his matter of fact take on certain scientific issues that most out there will not touch with Rick Warren's... You get the picture.

    In most of the debates on the issue the main issue is commonly side-stepped, and the debate majors on teensy semantical issues wrapped around the argument itself instead of on the main points that are growing ever more evident for all to see. Our cosmos was designed, our earth was designed, and life on our earth was designed. It is only a matter of time before any materialistic view is set aside as a footnote to history.
  • My last post was just a dry index. Here's my summary of the debate. Though I side with the affirmative, this summary is a neutral one; I believe I have been fair representing both sides. I compiled this survey both to assist my understanding of the flow of the debate and to make the long debate more accessible to you all who may be pressed for time.

    First, a condensed summary composed from a longer summary (below that).

    Negative: Objective purpose is an illusion. We must create our own arbitrary purpose.
    Affirmative: If God does not exist, the universe has no objective purpose; if God exists, the universe has objective purpose. The answer depends on whether God exists. Both sides should agree with this.
    Negative: No we don’t agree you need God for purpose, or no-God means no-purpose. You don’t need God to be good.
    Affirmative: Progress without value/purpose is incoherent. Atheists are just asserting their statements.
    Negative: We all must construct our own purpose.
    Affirmative: Note the shift in the debate: everyone agrees the universe is purposeless apart from God, but now the atheists changed tactics to emphasize real purpose can be created. A purposeless life is unlivable, so the atheist must create purpose. Atheism is both irrational and unlivable.
    Negative: Atheists do not pretend love. Our real purpose is to be caretakers of Earth.
    Affirmative: Theism makes sense of our sense of purpose. The theism hypothesis is a likely/rational position to hold. Atheists never argued that God does not exist, nor have shown theists arguments are fallacious.
  • Here's my longer summary that I used to make the last post. Also neutral.

    Round 1:

    Negative, Ridley: Looking for purpose in everything leads to muddled thinking. Function is real. Purpose is an illusion. Evolution is progressive. Order, symmetry, beauty emerges bottom-up.

    Affirmative, Craig: If God does not exist, the universe has no purpose; if [the Judeo/Christian] God does exist, the universe does have purpose. The answer depends on whether God exists. Both sides should agree with this.

    Negative, Shermer: Thinking the universe has purpose is wishful thinking. Evidence to the contrary would include God healing amputees. Being a part of evolution is uplifting. Four things can help you feel purpose: deep love with a soulmate, meaningful work, social interaction, and a sense of transcendency. Now is what counts, not some future life.

    Affirmative, Wolpe: The question is not do you have a purpose but does the universe have a purpose. Negative says, "the more we understand the universe, the more meaningless it seems." That's a contradiction: meaninglessness cannot be comprehended. Science is not the only mode of understanding. Questions that matter are not addressable by science (purpose, love). We're not asking if the universe has purposes, but if the universe has a purpose. As Craig said, in order to believe that, the universe must have a Purposer.

    Negative, Dawkins: "Why" questions are silly questions. Humans are obsessed with purpose. Teleological answers are childish, most people (but not all people, pointing to the Affirmative) grow out of such childish answers. Lots of silly examples are given, like lobsters have shells to give us exercise cracking them. Darwin showed you do not need a designer. Affirmative has had to retreat from science to the remaining unknown, like the origin of life, but physics will answer that eventually. Why on earth would you think religion can answer the origin of life?

    Affirmative, Geivett: Life has a purpose only if God exists. The God of Biblical monotheism is invoked for a reason, He satisfies requirements for purpose. "Cheerful obedience to the loving will of God fulfills the highest ideal of living a purposeful, meaningful, deeply fulfilling life." Negative seems to agree that the universe has no purpose since God does not exist. Shermer's suggestions are things both sides can agree to, what makes his distinctive? Apparent design is a bizarre figment. There is no real purpose. Any purpose is arbitrary at best. Such choice is only possible with a freedom-bestowing God. They can't explain choice without God. Inventing purpose is absurd.

    Round 2:

    Affirmative, Craig: Both sides seem to agree: if God does not exist, there is no purpose; if God does exist, there is a purpose. Negative raise argument from evil, Craig answered last round, no reply. Argument from evolution doesn't evidence atheism exclusively. No other argument for atheism was given. Ten arguments were given for the existence of God. This is a cumulative, powerful case for God's existence. Dawkins' "silly" remark is reprehensible: "why" questions are the deepest questions all people ask. To refuse to answer them is to reduce humans to mere animals, which is what the negative side believes. Love, meaning, are all ultimately meaningless. The tragedy is if God exists and these questions are dismissed.

    Negative, Shermer: Wide agreement? Purposelessness has nothing to do with whether God exists. It's false that fulfilling lives can't be lived apart from God. Order, pattern, and complexity is possible to exist without a Designer, is not a bizarre figment. Finding God outside of science is nonsense, that's the God-of-the-gaps. Science is making theology retreat. Theology hides in areas science currently doesn't understand.

    Affirmative, Wolpe: Agrees, the purpose of life isn't what we don't understand. What this debate comes down to is what you believe about yourself: if you are made of stardust, an accident, you must believe the universe as a whole has no purpose. The universe does not intend to do anything. If you see something more than molecules in the eyes of someone else, this points to a real purpose in the universe. Science won't be able to figure out purpose, it's a mystery, it's about God.

    Negative, Shermer: Obviously the universe does not have a purpose. We're in agreement on this. Affirmative is arguing that since negative can't think of any purpose, therefore there has to be a god. We're not debating whether there's a god. "Don't you think even if there is no god, you should find some purpose?" They are arguing from ignorance, or argument from incredulity. Shouldn't we be doing meaningful and loving things with others whether God exists or not anyway? If you found God does not exist, would you stop doing good? No.

    Affirmative, Geivett: Ridley: pattern vs purpose; can observe pattern, not purpose; we observe progress. But progress apart from value (does not exist in purposeless universe) is incoherent. Ridley does not agree life has purpose with God, but he did not support his contrary assertion. Ridley asserted its amply demonstrated patterns in world can arise bottom-up. But is it true? Geivett doubts its possible, and a top-down explanation is a better explanation. Dawkins cherry-picked easy explanations (lobster example, etc.) but avoided the big one: the universe.

    Negative, Dawkins: "The whole case the other side is putting really comes down to an emotional case rather than a rational one." Craig things it's disagreeable that we are doomed to death. "It's not nice to think we are going to die." "That must prove that there is purpose in the universe, that there is...God." Wolpe claims a monopoly on love. Atheists love, too (when looking up at stars and down a microscope). Evolution gave us brains that let us experience love, value, and purpose. "We construct our own purpose." Evolution explains our ability to experience love, purpose. (Insinuation: God does not explain it.) To Craig: Why questions are silly questions.

    Round 3:

    Negative, Ridley Negative agrees with affirmative: there is mystery out there. Science generates mystery. But mystery does not equal existence of God, purpose.

    Affirmative, Craig: A major shift occurred in this debate. If God does not exist, there is no purpose. But now the negative says we can pretend the universe has a purpose, feel purposeful. Affirmative does not deny this can be done, but it is make-believe. Dawkins said this is an emotional question, not a rational one. Craig agrees. Atheism is adopted for emotional reasons. The rational arguments tonight all support theism. Atheism cannot support purpose, is unlivable, so atheists adopt subjective illusions of purpose to make life livable. That is why atheism is not only irrational, but unlivable.

    Negative, Shermer: Affirmative argues you can prove God through science and reason. He disagrees. Negative does not "pretend" to love their spouses; it is real. You have to believe it. The real purpose is to be caretakers of Earth.

    Affirmative, Wolpe: He never said scientists don't have love and poetry, but that love is not accessible to the scientific method. He has been with many dying people, has faced death many times. He knows what it is to understand that life is ending, to ask whether this is all there is or if the universe is deeper. Affirmative does not claim they can prove God and purpose. Affirmative claims intuition of purpose is not empty, foolish, childish, stupid. He really believes he ushers the dying into another mode of being. People have believed this since forever; that some don't believe it now does not make it untrue.

    Negative, Dawkins: It's nice to think the dying are going to a better place, it's comforting, that doesn't make it true. Of course mystery exists, science is working on it. Invoking a Designer is lazy and does not answer the question. Mysteries will be resolved with science and bottom-up explanations. That's the tough challenge and science is up for it.

    Affirmative, Geivett: Affirmative has never claimed 100% certainty; have been probability arguments. Theism argument is so likely, it is the way we should bet with our lives. 100% certainty is heard on the negative: science is the only source of knowledge. There are more ways of knowing than through science. Dawkins accuses the affirmative of making an emotional argument, but his presentation is especially emotional. He has not argued that God does not exist, has not shown affirmative's arguments are fallacious. Instead, he simply dismisses the idea of God as "pathetic." "That's emotional."

    Alright. What's up with purpose? Real? Illusion? Constructed? Discuss!
  • Dawkins is such a lightweight, I almost feel bad for him.

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