Thursday, January 29, 2009

Payton vs. Craig on Micahel Coren

In this televised debate the interlocutors spend much of the hour going around in circles over the argument from evil, but never quite manage to drill down to the details.  This is a bit of a shame, really, because one gets the sense that they could if only given the chance.  Just when it seemed they were about to address the likelihood that all of the evil and suffering in the world is always for the greater good (as Craig asserts) they go to commercial and change the subject.

Payton makes some inroads at refuting Craig’s argument from fine-tuning, noting that we would expect to see such fine-tuning if intelligent life evolved (somehow, anywhere, at any time) to suit its environment.  Again, when it looked like we just might flesh out the relevant issues, we move on to the next topic.  Ah, television.

Craig makes an excellent point about 34 minutes into the recording, “Someone like Dawkins may be a good scientist in his field, when he begins to talk about philosophy and theology, he is merely a layman, and The God Delusion is a very unsophisticated book, intellectually.  As a philosopher, I was just appalled by the arguments that he gives in that book, it was an embarrassment, really.”  I am no philosopher (and hopefully I’ll never become one) but this was more-or-less precisely my reaction to that particular book.  This is a digression, of course, but I cannot help but notice here that precisely the same criticism may be leveled at apologists (such as Alvin Plantinga and William Dembski) who makes philosophically sophisticated but scientifically na├»ve arguments against naturalistic evolution.  All of these guys would be far better off doing their homework before sallying forth and getting published.

All things considered, I was quite surprised at how well a youngling like Payton managed to hold off Craig’s ordinarily overwhelming lines of attack.  Possibly this was because of the moderation of the host, but that cannot account for too much, given Coren’s expressly faith-based stance on these issues.  More likely it was the format of the show, styled as a somewhat conversational back-and-forth.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars



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