It was a very intense debate Friday night at the Greer Heard Forum between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig and I have to say I think Carroll decisively won. This isn't due to any sort of atheistic bias on my part, as I think Craig has "won" several of his debates on style and deliverance, but this is due to the fact that Carroll addressed nearly all of Craig's arguments and handsomely refuted them.
The debate relied on a lot of high end physics and cosmology that the average layperson simply does not understand. Thankfully I've become increasingly more knowledgeable about physics and cosmology over the years in large part as a result of debating theists. A frequent topic that came up was the concept of Boltzmann Brains - living physical brains that can spontaneously arise out of the quantum vacuum whose initial entropy states appear to be more likely than the initial low entropy state that our universe had. To refute the issue of the Boltzmann Brain dilemma, one has to have a serious understanding of the science behind it and its philosophical implications - something I think your average atheistic debater has no idea how to address or refute. I know that Dr. Carroll has written extensively on the Boltzmann Brain problem in his scientific papers and other works and he is well equipped to handle accusations that its a defeater for the multiverse.
(On a side note, I just recently signed up for free online classes from the World Science Festival on relativity that will be taught by Brian Greene (see here for details). I would certainly like to have a deeper understanding of the science behind relativity and quantum mechanics, even if it means I may have to face my crippling fear of math. You should check it out.)
Anyway, as far as the debate went, I wish that there was another round of rebuttals and I wish that there was a cross examination period so they could've gone head to head. I think Carroll really could've pressed Craig on some of his misuse of science to support his case for theism, and he could have pressed Craig on the B-theory of time (which Craig actually brought up!) as it is a knock-down argument against the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Craig also made a lot of noise, as he always does, over the idea that the universe "popped" into existence from nothing that he thinks the atheist must believe. Even if one grants the A-theory of time, the universe doesn't really pop into being. The reason why is that this presumes that you somehow have absolute nothing - and then - the universe inexplicably "pops" into existence. But this is not how it works because it presumes time exists prior to the universe. Since time is intertwined with space, from the very first moment of t=0 you have a universe. There is no moment when nothing exists prior to the universe. Therefore, you start with a universe; it doesn't pop into being. It's the same way how you cannot rewind a DVD passed 00:00:00. There is no such time as -00:00:01 on a DVD player. From the moment the DVD starts at 00:00:00 you have a movie. Carroll brought this up during the Q & A but they were not allowed to go back and forth on it.
Overall, it was a very good debate and I think Craig got hammered pretty hard from a physicist who knows the science much better than he does. I wish Sean would engage in many more debates like this one as it turns out he's one of the best debaters on behalf of atheism.
Welcome to Atheism and the City. This blog is about exploring atheism through contemporary urban living. I live in New York City, the secular metropolis, and I have an avid interest in all things religion, science, philosophy, politics, and economics. I am an atheist, a humanist, a philosopher and a thinker, and the purpose of Atheism and the City is to write about my thoughts and experiences on the subjects and topics that I have a passion for. Feel free to respond to any post whether or not you agree.