Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Atheist Debate Dream Team

I love watching really good debates between theists and atheists, but many of them are lackluster. Last year's debate between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig was a particularly good one when it came to the cosmological evidence for and against theism. But those kinds of debates are the exception. The one thing Sean Carroll can't do well is debate the historicity of Jesus, or morality. And for other atheist debaters like Richard Carrier, the one thing he can't do well is debate the fundamental cosmology theists try to use to argue for god. William Lane Craig for example can debate both of them well - in that he's got enough knowledge of each to make a case that appears convincing, even if it isn't.

That's where a group debate would come in handy. To entertain my debate fantasy, we'd have a three-on-three atheist vs Christianity team debate and on the atheist side I'd pick and choose who I'd want representing team atheism. Since cosmology always comes up in god debates, I'd have Sean Carroll on team atheism to handle cosmological questions. He's shown himself to be more than capable in that regard. There are many other cosmologists who could do the job, like Lawrence Krauss, but Krauss' disdain for and ignorance of philosophy is a strike against him. Carroll, though not a philosopher, is at least philosophically inclined. (He minored in philosophy as an undergrad.)

For Christian-specific questions, such as the historicity and resurrection of Jesus, I'd have Richard Carrier on team atheism. Over the years Carrier has demonstrated himself to be one of the world's foremost scholars in the field of Jesus mythicism. He knows Christianity and its historical context really well, and has the ability to debate them better than most. So I think he'd successfully be able to put to rest any claims that the evidence demonstrates Jesus existed and rose from the dead.

Lastly, besides cosmology and the arguments specifically for Christianity, Christians usually bring up either morality or the origin of life as their other preferred arguments. For morality, I'd consider AC Grayling, who is a moral philosopher, or Massimo Pigliucci, or maybe Michael Shermer. Matt Dillahunty is another good atheist debater, who could handle many of the non-scholarly stuff. For the origin of life I have no idea who can debate that sufficiently enough to drive the point that it doesn't need a god. So I'm not sure who I'd employ here. (Maybe Aron Ra?) Ideally, I'd pick someone who can do both morality and abiogenesis or evolution, and that might leave me with Pigliucci since he was a biologist turned philosopher. But this position might have to be decided depending on the Christian debaters. And if this is pure fantasy we're talking about, I'd have Christopher Hitchens between Sean Carroll and Richard Carrier. Though Hitchens was not a philosopher or scientist, he was really good at pointing out the bad things about religion and many of its non-obvious absurdities.

Who would be on team Christianity? Probably William Lane Craig. I'd definitely want him on it. Maybe Alvin Plantinga, JP Moreland, or Edward Feser, or David Wood. Who knows? The thing is Feser and Craig don't agree on a lot of metaphysical views, so I'm not sure they'd both be on team Christianity. I do know that a weakness of the atheist/theist debates is that there is no atheist version of William Lane Craig. There are atheists good at philosophy, but not science; there are atheists good at science but not philosophy, or decent at both but not history. Since to sufficiently debate god, you have to know physics, cosmology, biology, philosophy, history, and of course, religion, that is a lot of stuff to have to know. You by no means must be an expert in all of these subjects, but you have to be exceptionally familiar with each in order to be a good debater on the god topic. And since today there is no single atheist who can do this, only an atheist debate dream team could. If I had 100 million dollars I'd definitely use some of it to orchestrate such a debate.

If only.

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