The following is a guest blog post by Shaun Smith. Shaun is completing his MA in Philosophy and attended the debate.
Thursday night at Liberty University there was a debate over the existence of God. This debate was meant to liberate all thinkers from every walk of life. Theist, Atheist, and Agnostics alike were going to usher forth the new age, with perfected reasons, a scope towards utopia, and a… said no one ever. Max Andrews of Liberty University brought forth compelling arguments, including the infamous ontological argument. Dan Linford, of Virginia Tech, came with a few scattered thoughts, and a selected amount of tactics to try and move the conversation into, well, nothing really. Though, Linford I think had a few great points that he really could have sponged out for the audience. Listen, it isn’t about a winner or loser, its about reasoning together and furthering the discussion. However, I found that there were a few issues that did not bring out that initial goal.
I have much to say about last night’s debate I participated in concerning the existence of God but those comments will come later. We asked those in attendance (at least 400) to use the #LUGODdebate hashtag if they decided to live-tweet the debate. I’ve taken screen shots of the hashtag’s feed from the beginning of the debate until now (lunchtime Friday). Most of those tweeting were Liberty students but you’ll be able to gauge the atmosphere of the debate and the performances. My Twitter handle is @maxeoa (just an FYI if you spot it in the feed). The feed is in order from the most recent uses to to the earliest uses.
I can now announce that on Thursday, March 28 from 7.30-9p I will be engaging in a debate with Dan Linford from Virginia Tech on the debate topic, “Does God Exist?” Dan is in the philosophy PhD program at VT. He and I debated each other last year (in partnership with Josh Nixon and Beau Bradley). Last year we debated at VT, and this year we will be debate on the campus of Liberty University.
The precise location has yet to be determined but it’s currently scheduled to be in DeMoss 1113. That room holds about 300 but from initial surveys I suspect we may need to find a larger room. We currently plan on having the debate filmed so we should have it available online sometime afterwards. I’m hoping to find a way to stream the debate online. If anyone knows how we can do that please let me know. I’ll be using #LUGODdebate as the Twitter hashtag (@maxeoa). This will help gather interactive thoughts from attendees after the debate. More information will be shared as time gets closer.
- Moderator Introductions
- 17 minutes opening (Max—affirmative)
- 17 minutes opening (Dan—negative)
- 7 minutes rebuttal (Max)
- 7 minutes rebuttal (Dan)
- 10 minutes cross-examination (Max asks Dan questions)
- 10 minutes cross-examination (Dan asks Max questions)
- 5 minutes closing statement (Max)
- 5 minutes closing statement (Dan)
- 20 minutes of Q&A
- Total of 78 minutes of debate and 20 minutes of Q&A
The cumulative case uses the prime principle of confirmation: Whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability. This principle is sound under all interpretations of probability. Each argument must be taken on its own grounds and one cannot arrive at “God” at the end of each argument. The conjunction of arguments is what is needed to make a cumulative case for the existence of God.
The Likelihood Principle of Confirmation theory states as follows. Let h1 and h2 be two be competing hypothesis (in this case the existence of X and ~X, with X being a first cause, fine-tuner, etc.). According to the Likelihood Principle, an observation e counts as evidence in favor of hypothesis h1 over h2 if the observation is more probable under h1 than h2. Thus, e counts in favor of h1 over h2 if P(e|h1) > P(e|h2), where P(e|h1) and P(e|h2) depict a conditional probability of e on h1 and h2, respectively. The degree to which the evidence counts in favor of one hypothesis over another is proportional to the degree to which e is more probable under h1 than h2: particularly, it is proportional to P(e|h1)/P(e|h2) . The Likelihood Principle seems to be sound under all interpretations of probability. This form is concerned with epistemic probability.
I am currently a college student with a strong interest in apologetics. I’ve seen that, by and large, the arguments that apologists use seem to have shown themselves logically sound and hard to disprove despite decades or centuries of them being around. So the theist’s arguments seem to have many strong points. What would be considered the “weak spots” of the apologetic arguments? What arguments might the skeptic use that have the most potential to show that theism is false and that God does not exist?
Thank you. (Shawn)
This is a very interesting question since it seems to me that I’d have to be showing those at the table what my hand is. There are few weak spots in apologetic arguments and I think the two I see most concerning are 1) poor methodology and 2) theoretical implications for parts of the arguments/defense.
Let’s first look at some poor methodology. Most arguments you’ll find in the deductive, inductive, or abductive form. I’m a staunch proponent of abductive arguments. Here’s an example of William Lane Craig’s fine-tuning argument.
You can choose either of the following.
1)I have a question relating to parsimony and explanatory power.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that God used natural processes entirely to create, us, the cosmos and everything in it. Furthermore science has already discovered all this and there are no giant gaps like abiogenesis.
If we ignore cosmological arguments (let’s say we just aren’t able to formulate one successfully) and consider only teleological and axiological arguments for God’s existence.
Even with these arguments a metaphysical naturalist would be able to show that the appearance of design and morality can be accounted for by natural processes. (again perhaps there is a naturalistic alternative to fine tuning)
A theist might believe that there is design and morality as a part of reality but the naturalist has a complete worldview by explaining these away and plus it appears to be more parsimonious.read more »
On 8 November 2012 I did a presentation to the Ratio Christi club at Liberty University on how to argue for the existence of God. It was designed to be a smaller training session for the Ratio Christi members. I discussed the importance of apologetics and the difference between knowing your faith to be true and showing your faith to be true. That was the followed by methodological differences and my use of the classical approach.
I then gave three arguments: 1) Thomas’ cosmological argument from contingency, 2) the abductive fine-tuning argument, and 3) the abductive moral argument (or as I like to say, the new moral argument).