Last week I listened to three debates, all of which were hosted by Premier. Actually only two of them were debates (Alistar McGrath vs Stephen Law and Sye TenB vs Paul Baird), while the third was actually just William Lane Craig discussing a previous debate he 'kind of' had with Richard Dawkins.
Anyway here are my thoughts on all three. I list them in chronological order...
1) William Lane Craig discussion (audio here)
The gist of this program was that Craig was reporting on a debate he had with Dawkins in Mexico entitled 'Does the universe have a purpose?'. In fact, it was more of a panel vs panel debate, but this program mostly focused on the exchanges between Craig and Dawkins. Craig's main point throughout the program was that there is objective purpose in the universe, but the atheist worldview can only ever create illusory subjective purpose - e.g. I will be a great parent, I will learn how to play the guitar, etc. Craig agrees that everyone can create these types of purpose, but that they are ultimately transient and imaginary, unlike the real objective purpose that theists are privy to. Strangely, throughout the hour-long program, Craig never actually tells us what this real objective purpose is. He just keeps stating that it's there.
The irony, of course, is that he is labelling the only real purpose that we know exists (i.e. individual goals and objectives that we all have, including Craig) as being imaginary, while at the same time he contends that some unexplained and unproven transcendental purpose (which is almost certainly imaginary) is the only real purpose in the universe.
2) Alistar McGrath vs Stephen Law (audio here)
This debate meandered over a number of topics with the usual wordy 'I'm-going-to-completely-change-the-subject' non-answers from McGrath. The first part that particularly interested me was when McGrath said that problems with any worldview arise when a claim is made that 'we are right' and 'you are wrong', and this can include both atheism and theism. Law pointed out that claiming you are right is fine, as long as you respect the right of your opponent to be wrong. It is when a person or movement becomes authoritarian that problems arise - i.e. when they say not only 'we are right', but also 'and you have to agree with us or else'.
The closing section of the debate saw Law in the driving seat as he pinned down both McGrath, and the host Justin, with his argument that we could all be worshipping the wrong God. Why can't it be an evil God? There is good and evil in the world, and yet most theists presume that God is good, and that any evil in the world is due to the 'fall of man'. The flip side, explained Law, is that perhaps God is actually evil, and so any good in the world is due to the fall of man from evil. He points out that even though nobody really believes this, it is equally as plausible and, crucially, is not defeated by any of the classical arguments for the existence of God as they are all neutral to the question of whether God is good or evil. Its quite a clever argument, and McGrath's response boiled down to 'God reveals himself and gives people comfort'. Law responded to say that evil spirits often reveal themselves to people, who are subsequently put on medication. For more on this intriguing argument see here.
3) Sye TenB vs Paul Baird (audio here)
Here we had Round 2 of the debate on presuppositional apologetics (PA) between Sye TenB and Paul Baird. In the first debate it was quite clear that Sye was not actually going to talk about the subject of the debate, but instead give a demonstration of it. It was refreshing, therefore, to see that this second debate was actually on the subject of PA and, tellingly, Sye was on shaky ground from the start. Paul brought up several criticims of PA, none of which were effectively dealt with by Sye.
One example was when Paul 'switched hats' and agreed to accept Sye's argument up to a point. Even if we accept that a God is the precondition to truth, logic, knowledge, etc, how do we get from there to exclusively the Christian God? Sye tried his best to evade this question with another 'how do you account for x, y and z' merry-go-round, but it was obvious that even Justin wasn't impressed with his non-answer after non-answer. Paul is uploading a transcript of the whole debate, and this part is especially telling:
Justin: I mean, essentially, this is again, picking up something Rolf Wolfram said to you in response to that show, Sye, he said "It's a circular argument because it presupposes the truth of the Bible" so, I think this all comes down to same point. What's the basis on which you presuppose the truth of the Bible over anything other belief system for this apologetic?
Sye: Well, for a start, if an unbeliever asks me a question like this, this is my response to Paul, "Pizza sleeps fast under the twice"
Justin: Hmm. Ok
Sye: That's my response to Paul.
Justin: I understand that for Paul, you're saying that without laws of logic, denying those sorts of things, denying a God upon which those sorts of things rest, he can't get anywhere. But I suppose it's how do you move him from that to Christianity...
Note that Sye evaded answering Justin's question and last time I checked, Justin is not an 'unbeliever'. The criticism still stands, regardless of whether anyone can or cannot account for logic. That everyone except Sye can see this glaring flaw in his argument shows how deeply entrenched, and perhaps deluded, Sye really is. As I've said before, I think many people give Sye too much credit - he's nothing more than another Ray Comfort with an insatiable appetite for attention and publicity.