Friday, February 4, 2011

Williamson vs. Craig at University of Saskatchewan

If you've already seen the earlier debate between these two men, you'll find this debate to be highly repetitious of those same arguments. At least Williamson seems a bit more prepared this time.

Craig starts out very strong, giving his usual five highly-polished arguments for theism. No surprises there.

Williamson starts out weak, fumbling about for a bit, speaking haltingly, and seemingly generally ill-prepared. I experienced a sinking feeling at this point, but he goes on to put together a few interesting arguments, one of which was an unusual presentation of a form of incompatible properties argument. Points for novelty at least.

On rebuttal, each speaker does a fine job ot tearing apart their opponent's arguments. Indeed, Williamson's rebuttal demonstrates that he did his homework, immediately singling out one of Craig's premises and demonstrating how that particular premise begs the question in favor of theism, and giving some reasons to doubt the premise itself. This is generally a good model for how to rebut deductive arguments put forward for theism. (His rebuttal of the fine-tuning argument could have been better, by providing an argument showing how the universe may have been naturally finely-tuned, and not conceding so much ground to Craig.)

Here is an example of what that rebuttal technique might look like in practice:
Craig's argument from objective moral values assumes that morality can only be "objectively real" if it is grounded in the mind of a transcendent moral being, which we call God. Thus, by claiming that morality is indeed objective (in this peculiar sense of the term) Craig is claiming that god exists, right up front in one of his premises. But this is precisely the question under discussion, and so we should be debating instead about the actual nature of moral value, rather than simply assuming that they are transcendent in the theistic sense which Craig supposes.

After the rebuttal period, the two debaters cross-examine each other for awhile, a format which I always enjoy. Craig gets the better of Williamson here, but it wasn't terribly one-sided.

Overall, it was a decent debate in which both sides were examined in some depth, but better arguments for naturalism exist, and may be found in better debates.

Here is another view.

Overall rating: 4.0
Believer rating: 4.5
Unbeliever rating: 3.5

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