Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The last bit of advice for Michael Nugent

I've written two other posts for Michael Nugent on his upcoming debate with William Lane Craig.

Thus far I've focused on refuting Craig's arguments, which is largely my main purpose behind this blog/YouTube account.

But a debate with a prominent apologist isn't completely about simply showing that their cumulative case approach of arguments doesn't work.  A debate is as much about the show between two debaters, and the interactions on stage are going to sadly play far more of a role in viewers minds about "who won" rather than whether Michael was able to refute all of Craig's arguments.

So this is my final piece of advice: Attack! Attack! Attack!

How? Well lets get on to it.

If Michael, or any debate opponent, just plays the game of refuting the apologetic arguments, it's very likely not going to look very convincing to an audience.  This is especially true when going up against a skilled orator and debater like William Lane Craig.

So my first piece of advice is to make sure that you use your opening statement to present actual arguments for atheism.  Since for whatever reason the atheist must always go second in these debates, make sure to note that you will respond to Craig's opening arguments in the rebuttal period, but that your opening statement is where you get to present your own arguments.

Now when it comes to specifically debating William Lane Craig, you actually have an ace up your sleeve: Craig believes in and defends one of the most abhorrent versions of Christianity around.  He believes and defends that his god ordered the Canaanite genocide, and as such Isrealite soldiers had a moral obligation to murder infants and young children because of their race.

He believes and defends that his god is morally justified in subjecting conscious beings to an eternal conscious torture in hell.  That debate is available via transcript, and it's worth going through.

In short: Make Craig own that shit, on stage, as prominently as you can.

Note that I'm not advocating attacking Craig himself, who by all accounts is a kind and moral person, but attacking the philosophical and theological beliefs he defends.

Remind the audience that Craig's arguments amount to belief in genocide as moral (if god commands it, and Craig believes his god has commanded it) and that a perfectly loving and omnipotent god will subject the vast majority of humanity to eternal conscious torture.

It's hard to make an argument for Craig's belief in the morality of the Canaanite genocide, so I would work it into your rebuttal of his moral argument.

You can however present an argument that eternal conscious torture is immoral, that Christianity entails god created a world in which the vast majority of moral agents will be subject to eternal conscious torture, and therefore there is a contradiction between the Christian god's supposed omni-benevolence and the existence of hell.  Also when arguing about hell, Craig will invariably try to appeal to it being metaphysically impossible for his god to create a world in which everyone freely chooses to be good forever - point out that Craig's definition of omnipotence entails that his god can do all things logically possible - and it's logically possible to create a world in which any number of perfectly good free creatures exist.

Another argument to consider is presenting an evidential problem of evil.  Paul Draper's version of the argument is extremely strong, and there are some good resources on it available online.  You may want to look at Jeff Lowder's summary of Draper's debate with Craig.

For a final argument, I'm partial to Stephen Law's Evil God argument.  Fair Warning: Craig is familiar with this argument because Law used it in his debate with Craig.  If you were to use it or something like it, then this may be a debate worth watching as prep.

In the end, it's about whatever arguments you want to present that you feel that you can most strongly defend - the point is that you give some actual arguments rather than just playing the defense game against a debater like Craig.

Some final Defense Pointers

Craig will almost certainly use the Resurrection argument in the debate.  I think it's important to specifically strike this down - largely because it's a terrible argument.  Here are some main pointers:

Any use of a "minimal facts" approach is actually cherry picking.

The whole of the "evidence" we have for the resurrection of Jesus is the entirety of the four gospels and parts of Paul's writings, with Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians coming first, then Mark, Matthew/Luke, and then John.  

By limiting his defense of the resurrection to a small subset of supposed "facts" that can be found in multiple books of the bible, Craig is actually not painting the entire picture.

For instance the Bible narrative of the resurrection clearly adds demonstrably false supernatural claims. The ending of Mark is contested, with the longer version that is in the vast majority of modern bibles not being in the earliest copies of Mark we have.  This is where we get the passages related to Christian Snake Handlers - who believe Jesus's words about true believers being able to drink poison and/or handle poisonous snakes without being harmed.  This is a demonstrably false supernatural claim.

Another assuredly false supernatural claim is the resurrection of the saints in Jerusalem described in Matthew 27:52-53. Here the Bible claims that a number of dead people came out of their graves and went into the city to appear to the people there. This is an extraordinary event if it occurred and would have been documented widely if true, except we have no extra-biblical recordings of this event, in fact it only appears once in the gospels.  This is another case of a assuredly false supernatural claim being added to the resurrection narrative in the biblical text. 

Even multiple, "independently" attested "eye witness" accounts don't constitute good evidence for miracles

The key words above were put in scare quotes because they don't accurately describe the kind of evidence we find in the gospels - accounts written anonymously 30-50 years after the death of Jesus.

Still, even if they were independently attested eye witness accounts of the Christian miracle claims, we wouldn't accept that because our experience today is that miracles don't happen. In fact when supposedly repeatable miracles are reported, when they're investigated they turn out to have purely natural causes

A good example of the double standard at play would be to point out that we can still find some living witnesses to the "miracles" of Indian guru Sathyia Sai Baba. We have multiple independent eye witness accounts to the "miracles" of Joseph Smith, and a host of others, yet Christians treat these claims with quite a lot of skepticism - and even if they do accept the miracle claims as possibly having happened, they don't count towards the theological truth of the teachings of their practitioners.

I'd strongly recommend checking out  Bart Ehrman's debate with Craig for a good explanation of why you can't make a historical argument for the resurrection.


Good luck Michael!  I hope that at least some of this information and advice is useful to you in your preparation.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all of this advice. It was very helpful.