Reflections on My Virginia Tech Debate on the Existence of God

by Max Andrews

This past Wednesday (March 21, 2012) I participated in a debate titled “Does God Probably Exist, or Not?” at Virginia Tech.  My debate partner was a very loving fellow who was an undergraduate in International Relations.  My two atheist opponents were a PhD student in Physics and the other was an undergraduate in biology.  I was thoroughly pleased and impressed with the university and the love and kindness that the organizers and participants extended to me.  I certainly felt like I was in a friendly atmosphere and sensed no hint of hostility.

I thought the debate went very well.  My only criticism was that I was under the impression that there was going to be a twenty or twenty-five minute cross-examination period but that never came to fruition.  I present three arguments for the existence of God: the argument from contingency, the fine-tuning argument, and the moral argument.  For the contingency argument I used Thomas Aquinas’ argument.  The fine-tuning argument was an abductive form and a slightly modified version of Robin Collins argument.  The moral argument was an abductive argument modeled after David Baggett’s version.  In a few following posts I’ll share my arguments and methodology in more detail but here are the forms of my arguments I used:

The Thomistic Cosmological Argument

  1. What we observe and experience in our universe is contingent.
  2. A network of causally dependent contingent things cannot be infinite.
  3. A network of causally dependent contingent things must be finite.
  4. Therefore, There must be a first cause in the network of contingent causes.

The Fine-Tuning Argument[1]

  1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe/multiverse (LPM) is very, very epistemically unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPM|~FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPM is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPM|FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  3. Therefore, LPM strongly supports FT over ~FT.

*Remember, k’ represents some appropriately chosen background information that does not include other arguments for the existence of God while merely k would encompass all background information, which would include the other arguments, and ≪ represents much, much less than (thus, making P(LPM|~FT & k’) close to zero).

The Moral Argument

  1. There are objective axiomatic/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.

I felt that my arguments went generally uncriticized during the debate.  The atheists’ arguments were essentially two basic arguments: 1) that the God of the Bible committed atrocities and genocide and certain biblical doctrines seem immoral while the second argument 2) was that evolution is true and there are natural evils, pains, and sufferings and God wouldn’t do that.  I’ll explain these cases more in future posts along with a few nuanced aspects of them but those were the main punches.  I’ll also try to answer a few questions I received from the audience during and after the debate.  I also heard of a few dialogues and objections from other intra-audience member discussions post-debate and I’ll comment on those as well.  The debate was recorded with high-definition video and audio.  Once I get the video I’ll post it online.

It’s my hope that Liberty University and Virginia Tech could turn this debate into a regular course of events.  Perhaps we could have a debate once a semester and alternate the location from university to university.  I hope that I’ll be able to build friendships with all involved: my debate partner, my atheist opponents, and several audience members that spoke with me afterwards.


[1] Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology Eds. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2009), 207.


16 Responses to “Reflections on My Virginia Tech Debate on the Existence of God”

  1. Great to hear about the debate, Max. Did you record it?

  2. Perhaps they didn’t criticize your arguments because they couldn’t understand it. I haven’t seen the form of these arguments before myself so I’d be hard-put to argue against them. Not that I would, mind.

    • Possibly, the cosmological argument from contingency is in it’s usual form. The fine-tuning argument is in an abductive form, which is rare. The moral argument is in abductive form as well, which is also rare. I think the abductive arguments are much stronger and robust.

  3. Where might one find similar post-mortem reflections by your debate opponents? (if they exist.)

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