The gauntlet was thrown down that God can't be scientifically proven by web site called “Rational Response". Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort of "Way of the Master” took it up and the whole thing was moderated by ABC Nightline.
You can see the debate online at http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline look for the link "Kirk Cameron vs. the atheists"
The entire debate was posted by "Way of the Master" on YouTube, too.
Two other web sites mentioned during the debate dealing with evolution when the question came up:
First off, there have been many good debates through history with many good arguments on both sides. Depending on who you read about those debates, sometimes one side wins,
sometimes the other.
This is not one of those good debates. This was a gimmick by ABC and the participants with single minded web site creators on one side and self-appointed representatives of Christianity on the other.
Neither side presented a good argument one way or the other and at times delved into ridicule and name calling without keeping the debate on subject. Neither side presented any scientific anything.
It should be known from other posts on this Blog where I stand on the subject. My intent here is simply to vent my frustration over this sham conducted by these self appointed representatives of both sides.
As I watched the debate, I took some notes, kind of an amateur's critique. I took debate in high school, so I figured I could at least follow it somewhat. However, this debate did not seem to follow any rules that I was familiar with and neither side really seemed to pay attention to what the other was saying and instead responded by diverting the questions to address their own agenda of what they wanted to say.
The questions are those posed during the debate, the response is my own commentary on the question or commentary on the response given by the players. They will make much more sense if you go to the web site and watch the video yourself.
To be honest, I feel I could have done a better job, no matter which side I was on. I'm not discounting the research and intelligence shown on both sides, but neither side really presented good arguments.
So here’s how it went:
As a form of introduction, they showed some information about the "Rational Response" website and their “Blasphemy challenge” and some clips of Cameron and Comfort’s show "Way of the master".
A couple of thoughts on what was shown:
Rational Response - just another exercise in freedom of speech and really presents no threat to those who prefer a more intellectual approach.
Way of the Master - in your face evangelism - more of a ratings gimmick than really what Jesus demonstrated. There were times his message was refused, but he always approached people in love, not name calling. Even when threatened He walked away.
The debate opened with Mr. Comfort asked to give "irrefutable proof" of the existence of God without appealing to faith or the Bible. Instead he gave a very impassioned sermon and quoted the 10 commandments and basically made it clear that God can only be understood through faith. He stated that God has shown himself through creation and thus a painting needs a painter.
Here are my thoughts:
Attacking evolution is a weak argument. While there is an ongoing debate in evolutionary research, you shouldn't bring it up unless you are prepared to get deeply into the science of it and play on that field - and that where the debate was supposed to go, into the realm of science, but Mr. Comfort did not go far enough. A Painting needs a painter, but that doesn't prove God.
The human conscience - still a weak argument, as people declare they're own morality in spite of what the majority thinks. They may know it's wrong to lie, but that doesn't stop them from doing it and not feeling guilty about it.
Citing the Bible doesn't work for those who throw it out at the start. Sadly, the opposing side threw it out without explanation of why and the Christian team kept throwing it back in without arguing why it should be accepted.
Arguing personal experience does not constitute scientific proof. Too subjective.
Having started off on that bad foot, the rest of the debate was pretty much a joke.
Here are the questions that came up and my thoughts on what was said.
Atheist’s response to Comforts opening:
Who created God? If a painting needs a painter, who painted God?
To support his argument, he quoted the third law of thermodynamics as "matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed". (By the way, that's not the third law of thermodynamics -the laws of thermodynamics PRESUPPOSE that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed - I could not find any law of matter or energy to support that, but then again my resources are limited to the Internet.) So since the matter and energy in the universe cannot be created, they don’t need a painter. But if they do, then the creator had to be created.
My response: O.k., so let’s accept that matter and energy cannot be created - but the Big Bang theory is a well supported belief about the beginning of the universe. What caused the bang? Why didn't the matter and energy stay the way they were? What caused the explosion that gave birth to the universe we see today? If there's an effect, there must be a cause. And a cause for that cause and so on. Somewhere down the line, we have to have an un-caused first cause. That's where you find God.
Incidentally, if you're going to use the third law, you need to cite the second law as well - which basically deals with entropy. In a nutshell, the second law states that the universe (or other closed system) would eventually reach a point of equilibrium where all matter and energy is equally distributed - thus in the case of our universe, preventing stars and planets and such from existing. A universe that has eternally existed would have reached this point of entropy an eternity ago. So, logically, the universe had a beginning and has not yet reached that point of entropy.
Question to the Christian team:
Is God a cultural construct - since there are so many religions, isn't god just a projection of what you've been taught to believe.
Their response: not worth mentioning. Muddled and confused and didn’t really answer the question. Something about the good in the world coming only from God and Nature is the perfect expression of God.
My thought - No. The multiplicity of religions does not negate the existence of God.
Religions are the invention of men in response to what they experience, and then handed down through the generations. People in Pakistan are taught about Allah, people in India are taught the gods of Hinduism. In Asia it may be Buddha or Shintoism. The existence of multiple responses to what is seen and experienced does not change who God is. All we know about God is how he has (and continues to) interact with us on our plane of existence. If people have written what they have experienced, we can compare that with reality and see where it lines up. Archeology and other disciplines can help us decide what may be accurate records of what is written or not. Anything other than that becomes hear-say and cannot be confirmed. Mistaken responses to God's revelation are not the fault of God, but mistakes of man.
Response by the Atheists:
Atheist can do good without a religion - they are doctors and soldiers and benefactors to the poor. Nature is not a perfect creation - men have nipples and disease runs rampant. Snakes have bones they don't use that - following evolutionary logic - used to be legs. The Christian God is just the natural progression in the mythology line that gave us Zeus.
My response: Declaring the goodness of atheists does not negate the existence of God. Instead it points to a moral code which they tried to deny. Pointing out so called flaws in nature does not negate God if you follow the Bible teaching that the world is fallen and was perfect before sin entered. Pointing out that snakes have remnants of legs actually gives some credence to the Genesis story. Comparing God to Zeus does not negate the existence of God. Zeus falls into the same category of modern non-Christian religion; it was flawed interpretation of man. Ridiculing God for being illogical and outside of human understanding does not negate his existence. By definition the creator of something cannot be understood by what is created. A painting may be an image of its creator, a self portrait, but that doesn't mean it gives you a full understanding of the painter. Making fun of your opponent is never a good idea. It lowers and debases you and brings the debate to the level of a playground name calling contest.
Next, a good question from the moderator to the atheists regarding the origin of morality:
Atheists Answer - morality has been handed down from generation to generation, mother to child, and has evolved into what it is because that's what's best for the preservation of human kind. There was a bit of an attack at Christian teaching that "all can be forgiven"
My response: fuzzy response from the atheists as to why morality has evolved - if evolution is survival of the fittest, then morality is defined by the strongest. This still begs the question: how do we know what is right and wrong, why is this rule "good" and that rule "bad"? Why does everyone pretty much agree that murder is "bad"?
Response from Ray Comfort: good, but still weak regarding God as the origin of morality.
Good comeback regarding forgiveness and true repentance. Yes, you can be forgiven, but you cannot continue to live in your pig-pen of sin and call yourself Christian. Yes, you'll slip as a Christian and make mistakes, but true repentance means turning away from a life of sin.
My response: Morality has to have an origin. Many things have been done in the name of this god or that god or in the absence of god that there are many forms of morality based on your belief. The morality of Islam is not the morality of Christianity. The morality of a Vegan is not the morality of your average atheist. In every case, the morality that people have chosen to follow was passed down to them from somewhere, but where? And why are there some things everyone agrees is wrong? Again, this goes back to the question of the un-caused first cause.
Next question: on evolution posed to Mr. Cameron
Assumed as fact, but improvable in terms of amoebas to man. Good quotes from respected news sources by Kirk. But stupid pictures of "transitional forms".
My response: much better argument could have been made using "irreducible complexity", such as the many things that have to exist in the body of a woodpecker for it to be able to live. (hard beak, shock absorbing material, quick eye covering, long tongue to get bugs out of the hole - which part evolved first - all these need to be present for the bird to live, evolution, one step at a time cannot account for the whole package as it exists now.)
Response by atheists - evolution is supported by almost all the known sciences including biology, medicine and so on.
My response - wrong, evolution is not supported by biology and other sciences; it's the other way around. The other sciences are built on the presuppositions of evolution.
Response by Cameron - DNA is proof of creation because it is information and information cannot evolve.
My response: DNA as proof of creation - weak argument. They can claim the same for evolution - DNA is the mechanism that mutates and causes the transitions.
Question to the Atheists - can't God be proven through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Response by them - There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed; any evidence is obviously forged (such as Josephus). The only correct writings are those that don't mention Jesus at all, otherwise he would be in ALL of them.
My response: bad attack by the atheists on the existence of Jesus. The claim that no historian has any recorded proof of Jesus is ridiculous. There are many records outside the Bible and they can't all be forged. You can't say that there are all these historical records and throw out the Bible when the gospel writings present the same type of historical recordings. The argument that the writings came into existence 60-70 years after Christ is way too weak. That's much too short of time for any mythology to creep in. We are looking at 200+ years since George Washington and while there are legends, the core historical facts are still preserved and passed on and it's obvious what is truth and what is legend. The atheists presented no examples of these "well attested" writings from first century Palestine. Since it was under Roman occupation, there are many records, but few that deal with Jewish concerns.
Question to the Christians: did god create evil?
Response: God is Light, in him there is no darkness. But he created everything. (I kind of got bored at this point because he was just rambling and not getting to the answer.)
My response: bad response by comfort. Evil, by definition is the choice to turn away from God. God allowed men to have that choice, so I guess you can say He allowed evil to exist, but that doesn't mean he created it. God created free will. By giving us free will, we are not robots, we can choose him or not. Evil exists because of the choices of man.
Questions by audience
The same old tripe that are thrown around all the time. And the responses, also, are the same old tripe. Not going to waste space here for all of them, but here are a few.
To the atheists: what if you are wrong and God does exist - Pascal's wager -
Their response: obvious when you read the bible that God does not exist. Fine, with going to Hell. Would rather go to hell than worship and egotist for eternity. Why waste your life by being good when you can enjoy it as you should?
My response: no support given for the statement that the Bible shows God does not exist, but they are right, they will be fine with Hell because it is separation from God, which is what they are longing for anyway.
To the Christians: If God created this perfect information system called DNA that builds the human body, what about Cancer (the lady was very angrily adamant that the response dealt with Cancer specifically). The answer: we live in a fallen world
My response: while this may be plainly seen from the Bible, non-believers will not "buy in" to this response. A better approach is to approach in love "I'm sorry this pains you so, and I don't know why you are dealing with this, but God is love..." this opens the door to the Bible, and you can talk about Job and then later about a fallen world, once they accept what you are offering.
Don't know who this was directed at, but the question was about Religious countries vs.
non-religious - Don't the atrocities of communist counties prove that a lack of God causes tragedy?
Atheist response - many non religious countries are the most peaceful. (Later cited in closing remarks)
My response: a pointless argument. A country can't be religious, just like a car can't be religious. It's the people that determine the direction of a country. While the US may be considered "religious" compared to Norway, it's the government and the leaders that determine the direction of a country and those leaders are guided by their own morality which brings us back to the question of the origin of morality.
by Ray Comfort no closer to scientific proof. Good sermon though. Pointed back to faith as the only way to understand what he was saying.
By the atheists - Attacked the God of the Bible by listing atrocities done in the name of God. Listed non-religious countries as an example of what the world could be without a god and attacked America for being religious and having high abortion rates and so on.
My response: it's unfair to put religion in the same box with things done IN THE NAME of religion or mistakes made by those who declare themselves religious. Including those who are not Christian. Name calling gets you no credibility.
remark by Cameron - Very passionate, but again, no getting us anywhere in scientific proof. Cited many intellectuals who claimed to believe in God.
by atheist - claimed even the smartest people were compartmentalizing their lives and being illogical in their "god box" and if you pursue truth and logic you will find that truly smart people can't believe in god.
my response: you can't claim that those who believe in God aren't being logical. Many intelligent people have come to belief THROUGH logic, through research, through strong intellectual seeking.
My conclusion: overall, the debate was a farce. Neither side fairly represented their constituency. It was more about promoting personal statements and agendas. If you have to declare a winner... well, really, honestly, neither side won, neither side stuck to the argument at hand which was supposed to be proving (or disproving) God through Science.
As someone who was represented by the Christian team, I would plead that if they are to engage in future debates, do a little more homework and don't rely on your passion to carry you through. To the atheist team, don’t rely on name calling and the applause it generates from the audience to get you a “win”.
A better argument was made for God and the Bible by Christian (and conservative) Comedian and speaker Brad Stein. Here is a paraphrase of his argument from his video "Put a Helmet On":
You have to get them to accept the Bible first before asking them to accept what it says.
They will say: Why should I believe in the bible? Who cares what it says? “what's the
difference, the Bible is just another book” first off that's wrong, the Bible is not a book, it's 66 books 40 different people wrote them over 1500 years. Yet, all fitting together into one cohesive story with an appropriate beginning, a logical ending, a central character, and a consistent theme. there's never been a book like that in history. Ever. Does that make it the word of God, no, just means it's worth considering because there's never been a book like this.
What about history? For hundreds of years archaeologists have been using the old testament - books written before the birth of Jesus - (and new testament, books written after and about the life of Jesus) to find buildings, people, civilizations and kings that didn't exist, or so some thought they didn't, then suddenly the bible says they're there, they dug it up and there it was.
Does that make it the word of God? No, it just means it's historically accurate. if Real people really existed and really wrote down what they saw, it's worth considering.
And those people who were writing said, “we're going to have God show up”. Now lots of people have said that, lots of religions. But God said “don't worry I'll prove it” - as a rational god would do, “I'll do prophecies, to show I'm not trapped in linear time I can see beyond where you are, I will give you prophecies to show you what that guy – when I show up, when god appears on earth to reveal himself, - what that guy will look like. Over 300 prophecies.
And then a man showed up one day named Jesus, and he said “I'm that guy” and he fulfilled all 300 prophecies. That's impossible.
They will say: “well, yea, they just wrote it afterward and filled it all in”.
Yes, you may say that, but we know that the first Greek translation of the old testament was done 250 years before Jesus was born. So how could they possibly know he'd be born in Bethlehem, how could they possibly know he'd be crucified when crucifixion didn't even exist as capital punishment yet? How could they possibly know he'd be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver 250 years before there was a Jesus? Does that make it the word of God?
But it's starting to get close.
And Jesus did miraculous things to prove he wasn't just a guy talking like everyone else. “Look what I've done!” And some people believed and some didn't that's how humans are. But then he went further. He said this: “I'm going to prove it to you; I'm going to prove I'm God, I'm going to die, and then I'm going to come back to life.” Nobody's ever done that one.
And then he died.
And all those who were with him for three years ran in fear. As would all of us. They ran away and said “well, I guess we were wrong”. But then something happened. Something happened that made all these guys come back and be willing to be killed for this belief system. What was it for? Because they were going to get rich? There were no riches here. The Roman government hated them, wanted them destroyed, used them as playthings that could be eaten alive by animals for sport and entertainment. They were kicked out of their culture, the Jews weren't going to take them in, and there was no value there. There was nothing good here; there was nothing here to gain. And they all still died, for what? Because they found a new religion? No, for one reason, they said this:
“I saw him die,
....and I saw him come back”.
That's it. You don't have to believe it. Why did he die? So you could have a perfect life, no, so you don't have to go to Hell.
They will say “well, I don't believe in a god who would send people to hell”
He didn't create hell for you, that's what's great about Christianity, it gives you all the answers, hell was created for the devil and his angels, but it was part of the rules he put into nature and the nature that we live in, and anyone who rebelled against him, this is where they’re going. So once we did that, he could have bailed out “sorry, you're going to hell” but he didn't do that. He said “don't worry, kids, I'm coming down”. So if you go to Hell, you chose it. And you will not sit there and argue with him. You'll know what you've done.
And if you're an atheist, let me tell you something: that's your dilemma. If we all die and there is no god, it's just eternal unconsciousness, you'll never know. But if you're' wrong, you’ll know forever. It's not a gamble anyone should take.
They will say “so what are you saying I should just believe in Jesus so I don't go to hell? “