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William Lane Craig comes to Denmark!

19 Apr

Does God Exist?Yesterday we had a wonderful opportunity to witness the long-awaited debate between Prof. Klemens Kappel and Prof. William Lane Craig trying to answer the question: Does God exist? Over 600 people gathered in Bethseda building in Copenhagen. Both theists (Christians, Muslims…) and atheists under one roof in expectance to find some answers for their questions that would support their worldview as more rational. The debate had its traditional form:

2 x 20 min presentation (positive case goes first)
2 x 12 min rebuttal
2 x 8 min rebuttal
2 x 5 min closing statement
Break
Q&A

First one to present his positive case was Prof. Craig, who guided us through 3 reasonable ways of inferring that something might be one way rather than the other.

  1. Logical argument
    1. Cosmological argument
  2. Argument from the Best explanation
    1. Fine-Tuning of the universe
    2. The origin of the universe
  3. Historic explanation
    1. Resurrection of Jesus Christ (and the 3 indisputable facts rooted in historic sources)
      1. The empty tomb
      2. Post-mortem appearances of Jesus
      3. Strong faith of disciples that even lead them to die for their cause

After this Prof. Kappel compared God to other mythical beings like Thor or Aphrodite in effort to show the absurdity of such reasoning. Afterwards he explained that we ought to give space to science and common sense that tells us that such creatures do not exist and even though there are areas that science cannot yet give account for, we ought to stay careful in filling them with God. He stated that he will not respond to the arguments given by Prof. Craig for we should not give them so much credit, rather he will only give reasons to show why atheism is a better option. For it is most likely impossible to show somehow with arguments that God does not exist. Quote: “Not to persuade you, but to illustrate“. Then he presented some kind of dialectical issue in which we deal with two people who come to different conclusions based on the same evidence. However they are so convinced that their explanation is the right one that they are beyond the reach of reasoning and no debate will persuade them otherwise, thus only some sort illustrations can bear meaning. At last he elaborated on the origin of belief stating, that the reason why people believe in various religions is to large degree the background in which they were born to and raised in.

Craig in his rebuttal expressed that he didn’t hear any positive arguments for the atheistic position and that in fact prof. Kappel agreed with him in saying that there is none. In his reaction he showed that the origin of belief has nothing to do with the fact whether the belief is true or false and clarified the difference between Gods transcendent being who is above the reach of our natural 5 senses and other “demigods” like Thor or Aphrodite which according to their definition we should be able to expose with our senses. Then repeated his positive case and added another argument from a best explanation – argument from consciousness, saying that the cumulative force of these arguments creates a powerful case for theism that makes it a more reasonable worldview that the atheistic alternative.

Klemens Kappel

Ph.D., cand. philosophy, and cand. medicine Klemens Kappel

In the second round Kappel asked: “What is this debate about? What are you (Craig) trying to achieve? Why is proving God such an important thing?” These questions served to show his opinion that there are more important questions than this one. Afterwards he once again appealed to common sense. What was unusual was his reference to a debate he had before with a different theist who supposedly was stating false scientific information (this seemed to bear no relevance to the current debate). Then he showed the variety of religions still present, but also those which are extinct and built his case around doubting the relevance of any religion since there are so many, finishing with the question: “Why should we then consider atheism and theism equal?” Then he proposed that the burden of proof thus lies on the side of theism. At this point he finally turned to Craig’s arguments and strongly suggested that the premises on which they are built, are far more controversial than how Craig is presenting them and therefore also the conclusions they lead to are uncertain.

In his response Craig shows the relevance of the question: “Does God exist?” by explaining the sudden meaning and love that this worldview of reality brings with it and in contrary what hopelessness and desperation is carried by atheism. Here, Craig explained that in a forum like this, in a debate, a burden of proof lies on both sides. Both parties need to present a positive case for their position. He continued by saying that for a moment he did not try to avoid his obligation to build one for theism, for that is what he was doing all the way to this point. But so far it is the atheistic position that didn’t show any. This was followed by a number of examples that displayed the relevance of his arguments, while affirming the relative controversy behind them, finishing this round with a metaphor that demonstrated that the idea that the universe is uncaused is like magician that pulls a rabbit out of a hat. While in theism you still have the magician, on the atheistic standpoint you don’t even have that, which makes it the worst kind of magic we can imagine and thus metaphysically incorrect.

william-lane-craig

Ph.D in philosophy, and Dr.Theology William Lane Craig

Kappel answered with repeating the controversy behind Craig’s premises, putting them into a less certain light. In effort to give an alternative explanation to beginning of the universe he simply stated, that he does not find it irrational to believe that universe just did not have a cause. That the principles of causality work only in the world we know now, but they might not have to be in place before (whatever “before” means). This single event does in no way make everything irrational. For, while the start might have been irrational and uncaused everything that followed, works according to specific rules and laws of physics, that makes it accessible for us to rationally approach it.

In his closing statement Craig expressed that according to him we have not heard tonight any arguments for atheism and all in all while both positions are rational it appears like theism is a better explanation from the two.

On the other hand, Mr. Kappel one more time showed his disbelief in Craig’s arguments and implied that in such a situation one should not boldly keep proclaiming his conclusions, but loose his confidence and go back to first solve the controversy behind the premises.

After a traditional Danish coffee break there was almost an hour for Question & Answers, which unfortunately I will not cover in this post.

————

In summary, the entire debate turned out to be sort of a dispute between someone who was trying to point to the truth by building a case, offering best possible explanations based on sound scientific discoveries, logical and philosophical methods in strive to offer credible answers;… and a skeptic who merely questioned all that had been said, bringing in an element of doubt and uncertainty. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong in challenging ideas, it seems like this approach alone, without a trace of positive case, fails to clarify issues, but rather dims our perspective on them, keeping one without any plausible solution. In the end of the day, after speaking with several people from the audience I could feel, including myself, a subtle disappointment caused by the absent case for atheism.

For those of you who would like to see Craig’s visit in CPH for yourself click HERE for the 1h 36m long debate or here for the following 53m Q&A session.

Where YOU there? Did YOU hear & see it? Leave us a comment and let us know what is YOUR impression! Starting with a brief survey…

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19 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2012 in News, Reasonable Faith, Reviews

 

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19 responses to “William Lane Craig comes to Denmark!

  1. Christian Rasmussen

    April 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Peter and Jakub,

    Thanks for a very interesting summary. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in either of the debates som so I am looking very very much forward to the youtube version.

    Thanks again 🙂

    /Christian Rasmussen

     
    • factorysense

      April 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Hey Christian

      I am really glad you find this interesting! It is good to love our God also with our mind :). The videos are out and you can find them here.

       
  2. Den Kantianske Misantrop

    April 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    A prominent scientist’s point of view on the topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-jQUHUF1MU

     
    • factorysense

      April 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Hello Misantrop

      Thank you very much for your post! I appreciate that you showed us also this option. It is a very interesting video and it raises some good questions around the possibilities and potential of quantum mechanics in regard to a need for a universe that was caused.

      I searched for some fitting answers to it and I think this one might be very helpful.

      “When we ask that question, we are asking whether the whole of being could come out of non-being; and here a negative answer seems obvious. Concerning this question, even genuine quantum indeterminacy affords no evidence for an affirmative response. For if an event requires certain physically necessary conditions in order to occur, but these conditions are not jointly sufficient for its occurrence, and the event occurs, then the event is in principle unpredictable, but it could hardly be called uncaused in the relevant sense. In the case of quantum events, there are any number of physically necessary conditions that must obtain for such an event to occur, and yet these conditions are not jointly sufficient for the occurrence of the event. (They are jointly sufficient in the sense that they are all the conditions one needs for the event’s occurrence, but they are not sufficient in the sense that they guarantee the occurrence of the event.) The appearance of a particle in a quantum vacuum may thus be said to be spontaneous, but cannot be properly said to be absolutely uncaused, since it has many physically necessary conditions. To be uncaused in the relevant sense of an absolute beginning, an existent must lack any non-logical necessary or sufficient conditions whatsoever. Now at this juncture, someone might protest that such a requirement is too stringent: “For how could anything come into existence without any non-logical necessary or sufficient conditions?” But this is my point exactly; if absolutely nothing existed prior to the Big Bang–no matter, no energy, no space, no time, no deity–, then it seems impossible that anything should begin to exist.”

      (“The Caused Beginning of the Universe: A Response to Quentin Smith”, WIlliam Lane Craig; For the extended response read more here)

      What do you think about it? Looking forward to hear from you again.
      Once again, thank you for bringing up this perspective.

       
      • Den Kantianske Misantrop

        April 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm

        I think if we accept the sentence “When we ask that question, we are asking whether the whole of being could come out of non-being; and here a negative answer seems obvious” as true, this also concerns “God”. If nothing comes from nothing, God cannot come from nothing.

         
      • factorysense

        April 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

        Hi Misantrop

        Yes, that is a very good response and a natural thing to question!

        Maybe we could then ask, what if God did not come from “anywhere”, but he is eternal according to his definition. Also Ingmar Persson raised a similar question in a debate with Craig to which he responded that:

        “It makes no sense to ask “What is God’s cause?” because God never began to exist. And the first premise states: Whatever begins to exist has to have a cause. That’s not special pleading for God because that’s what the atheists always have said about the universe, matter, and energy—the universe is eternal, uncaused, indestructible, and incorruptible. But that has now become untenable in light of modern cosmology, as well as my philosophical argument for the beginning of the universe.
        So God is a timeless, factually necessary being. As the British theologian Keith Ward writes in his book God, Chance and Necessity: “If one asks what caused God, the answer is that nothing could bring into being a reality wholly transcendent of space-time and which is self-existent. To fail to grasp such an idea is to fail to grasp what God is.” So it seems to me that the argument does conclude to a coherent concept of God.”
        (source – Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Ingmar Persson, University of Lund, Sweden – March 18, 1999)

        Thank you for following up!

         
      • Den Kantianske Misantrop

        April 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

        And yet again, that very presupposition is a claim to extraordinary knowledge. Claiming that we need such a “transcendent” “being”, is assuming something no-one could possibly justify a claim to have knowledge of – not yet in any case.
        And claiming to be able to grasp a “timeless, transcendent being” is immensely arrogant since W. L. Craig could not possibly be able to grasp this himself. “Timeless/transcendent” is utterly meaningless – it explains nothing. Processes need time as a dimension to do anything. There is no apparent way in which a “mind” (this is also an utterly useless concept that Craig simply throws in without further explanation) could operate in “timeless and transcendent” conditions. “Self-existence” does not make sense either. What is this mystical ether that God’s “mind” can operate in?

         
      • factorysense

        April 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

        Hi

        Surely to just arbitrary, without any support assert that we need or there must be such a being, would be a claim to an extraordinary knowledge. For you could do that nearly with any mythical character. Yet, I am glad to say that this is not the case. There are number of good reasons why it is justified to assume existence of a being with these specific (positively complex to thoroughly grasp) attributes that Prof. Craig presented (logical arguments, arguments from the best explanation and historic explanation).

        The argument I suppose you challenged was about the origin of universe. This argument, for Gods existence, falls into category of arguments from the best explanation. Now since we have seen that quantum events alone cannot account for the beginning of the universe, I am open to consider another more plausible “best explanation” that you will provide.

        Thank you again, for your time and volition to come back and discuss your perspective with us, because I can imagine that you could use it for many other things as well.

         
  3. Kasper Knop

    April 22, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Thanks a lot ♥ Looking forward to the video as well ^^

    Also, I would like to point out something that the author of this summary seems to fail to realize:

    The burden of proof is always on a positive claim. Atheism is the default position until the existence of a God or Gods can be proven. Just like the default view on Bigfoot and unicorns is to not believe until there is sufficient evidence. All that is required to be an “a-Bigfootist” is to show that the evidence of the existence of Bigfoot is not trustworthy. It is not necessary to then construct a case against Bigfoot.

    Similarly, atheism is not a positive claim that no gods exist. It is a lack of acceptance of the positive claims of theists, based on the unreliability of their evidence and the logical flaws in their arguments. It is not Klemens Kappels job to convince you – the burden of proof is on William Lane Craig.

    Now that I have called this to everyone’s attention it should be perfectly clear that criticizing Klemens Kappels approach and being disappointed because of the absent of a case for atheism is just incredibly facepalm worthy.

    Klemens Kappel might have been able to give a more thorough rebuttal, although that is often very hard in the heat of a debate, which is why you almost always see better responses to William Lane Craig’s flawed (but well thought-out) arguments post-debate, and why William Lane Craig is known for reshaping his arguments when entering new debates, whereas many atheist debaters make their arguments even richer through every debate.

     
    • factorysense

      April 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Hello Kasper

      Thank you very much for taking the time to write this post and share your view with us.
      First I would only like to ask, if what you said is true and Kappel does not need to “construct a case against Bigfoot” (God) or build his own case (since “atheism is not a positive claim“) and it is not his job to convince me that atheism is more reasonable,…. why did he agreed to come and what did he plan to do there for 45 minutes + Q&A, if none of the above is the case?

      I hope you won’t find this offensive, for I truly would like to better understand your thoughts regarding Mr. Kappels role in this debate.

      Have a nice day!

       
      • Kasper Knop

        April 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm

        Wuups! I used the wrong reply button, but one of the replys to Gobbler is actually for you 🙂

         
    • Gobbler

      April 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      I think you are confusing agnosticism with atheism. Agnosticism says we either don’t know or can’t know if there is a G-d. Atheism is a stronger claim, that there is no G-d or gods or at least it is likely there is none.

      The Kappels approach and yours is also a common misconception about “evidence” for G-d. Traditional arguments for the existence of G-d are based on arguments which may have scientifically supported premises but are ultimately metaphysical arguments.

      At the very least if we wish to follow your approach Kappels should give us certain criteria he would expect to see if G-d existed and does not or sees contrary “evidence”. This would make it at least a case for “atheism” rather than agnosticism.

       
      • Kasper Knop

        April 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        You’re welcome 🙂 And thanks a lot for the videos! 🙂
        I do not find your question offending at all, and my answer is actually very straight forward. Since Klemens Kappel is not required to make a case for atheism he should put his effort towards pointing out the logical fallacies which William Lane Craig is bringing to the table. Unfortunately Klemens Kappel kinda blew this opportunity, although most of William Lane Craig’s arguments were actually relatively easy to refute. To take an example Sam Harris already destroyed William Lane Craig’s argument about objective morality leading to the existence of God in another debate, so I am kind of baffled that he got away with using it again. Similarly, William Lane Craig debated Christopher Hitchens on the exact same topic with a very identical opening, where Hitchens did very well. If Klemens Kappel had watched that debate I am sure he would have been way better prepared to take apart William Lane Craig’s arguments.

        And thanks! You go have a nice day as well 🙂

         
      • Kasper Knop

        April 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm

        Unfortunately you’re the one confusing agnosticism and atheism, undermining your entire argument. The two terms make completely different claims regarding completely different levels of cognition and they are not mutual exclusive. Agnostic/Gnostic answers the epistemological question (do you think it is possible to know whether there is a god or not?) and atheist/theist answers the theological question (do you believe in God?). By your definition all atheists are bound to be gnostics. This is a logical fallacy since being gnostic is not a part of the definition of an atheist. I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I do not claim that gods could not exist, but I lack rational reasoning to believe in any of the gods presented to me.

        Don’t be too hard on yourself though – It seems to me that even William Lane Craig and Klemens Kappel had trouble comprehending this distinction in the debate! And remember… We are all atheists about most gods. Some of us just go one god further 🙂

         
      • factorysense

        April 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        Hello Kasper

        I am glad you also shared your opinion regarding the previous debates with Harris and Hitchens. Yet I must say that I disagree with your conclusion.

        It is a common phenomenon that new atheists differ in the definitions of these terms from the classic notion of atheism as a denial of existence of God (applied in this debate), to a mere lack of belief (which is a lot more inclusive). However it seems that Prof. Kappel holds a stronger position than you do Kasper, for he claims that: “There is no reason to be agnostic about the existence of God. We know that God does not exist.” (5:35). Therefore he does not share your mere lack of positive claims (default position), but instead makes a positive claim himself, that ought to be justified.

        I am looking forward to hear from you again, hope you’re doing great.

         
    • Prayson Daniel

      April 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hello Kasper,

      If I may add to a wonderful on going chat, I would love to know what positive case could one offer for the claim that atheism is a default position?

      Prayson

       

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