A Response to the “Proof of God” Debate

A while back I posted that a “Best-selling Author Will ‘Prove’ God’s Existence”. I wasn’t able to see the show, but apparently they did it, God was proven without a doubt using pure science and everyone believes now. Ok, maybe not so much. Sorry, I don’t mean to be flippant about this, I know it is kind of a big issue. The debate actually was somewhat interesting and if you have an hour or two, you should watch the clips.

The debate is up on YouTube (but I cannot make any guarantees as to how long they will remain up. Part 1 can be found here, all the other parts you can either get to from YouTube or all the links at the bottom of this post.

Below are my comments about the debate as they came to me. Sorry if they aren’t extremely easy to follow, they are somewhat a streaming of consciousness as I was listening, but they are my thoughts none the less. If you want me to get back on any of the points I address or make, please drop a comment.

The beginning: Comfort seemed to be preaching, not really providing evidence of proof. We are sinners, we need redemption, Jesus came to provide that redemption. Yes, absolutely! But that doesn’t really seem to fit with that they are trying to do. Those things weren’t scientific proofs of God’s existence. Cameron suggested people looking into the science they are taught in school. Awesome, I completely agree. Comfort: “There’s no beginning and end to space.” Well that really isn’t the case.

Generally speaking I think Comfort’s and Cameron’s discussion of culture was helpful and were appropriate answers. While Christianity can be, and is, cultural, it isn’t restrained by a particular cultural as the Gospel message is opened to all.

Brian: “Third law of thermodynamics says that all matter has always existed.” Well no, we can’t speak as to what happens before the big bang. Everything came into existence at that point, that is what science tells us. This is not a disproof of God, it is a claim that there was a specific beginning. He goes on to say “the components have always existed.” No, again, they have always existed since the beginning. He then says the the third law says that “the universe has always existed.” He seems to be confused about what the third law says, the third law is talking about a closed system and doesn’t speak to any sort of creation event. The big bang clearly leads to a singular beginning where all matter came into existence, we cannot say what came before that because all known laws of physics break down at that point. The universe hasn’t always existed, therefore there was a creation event. I, as Christian, believe that God was completely involved with that. It just seems that neither party is spot on when it comes to this topic.

Issue of morality without God: the atheists claim that it arises out of society and looking out for humanity and that it is necessary from an evolutionary standpoint. This is a pretty week argument. Neither Brian nor Kelly explain morality and it’s creation very well. Both sides don’t really deal with the “the Bible says you can do anything and be forgiven in the end.” This is a big issue and the atheists throw out some lame arguments that could have been easily put down that either time didn’t allow for or Comfort and Cameron didn’t know how to respond to (the rebuttal statements they did make weren’t very strong).

Cameron’s rebuttal to the question of evolution being the dominate theory I that was, generally speaking, done well. I don’t agree on some of the particulars, but his comment that there has never been a transitional species found (which speaks against macro evolution) was good and that his noting the different between macro and micro (adaptation within a species) as decent. His pictures of cross species animals was completely stupid didn’t actually speak to actually evolutionary theory. Brian then says that every single fossil is a transitional form. I think what he is trying to say is that because evolution is always happening, every fossil is a transition from a previous age to the next age (but he doesn’t explain this very well). To me it seems that what he is talking about is micro evolution within a species and he never shows or supports his claim as being about macro evolution. He concludes by saying that macro evolution is the end result of lots of steps of micro evolution. While this may be the case, there still doesn’t seem to be much that says there is a jump in species.

Kelly claims that there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus existed, let alone was God. She says there wasn’t anything about Jesus till 100 or so (or 60ish) years after Jesus. Comfort notes that she is ignoring the witness of the Bible. Now of course this is dangerous because atheists don’t like the Bible, but I don’t understand why they are willing to believe in one historian who says nothing about Jesus over the scriptures that talk about Jesus plenty. Why would they naturally give priority to the ones that just make no mention? Comfort then leans more towards preaching again instead of actually discussing scholarly research of the Bible (which would have been more helpful in this context because the amount of research that has gone into the history creation of the Bible is extremely interesting and powerful). Both Brian and Kelly like to keep saying that they have read the Bible multiple times… is that supposed to mean that they have actually opened their hearts to it? Of course that really isn’t the issue because if they don’t believe in its credibility, of course they won’t listen to what it has to say (which is why speaking to Biblical scholarship would have been more helpful in dealing with the validity issue).

The problem of Evil is brought up. Comfort notes that darkness is the absence of light. This is fine and all, but the problem of pain has been dealt with in lots of places and I don’t really see how it fits with this debate. (Well I do understand; the problem of evil is a difficult topic that everyone wants an answer to. The answers are available and a different context, and probably different speakers, would do better to answer that.)

An audience member asks about atheistic nations that have produced functional moral systems (and mentions how any examples he has seen has just produced evil: communistic countries, etc.). There is some argument here. When Kelly is asked to answer the question directly, she really cannot do it (and she is coming across as extremely condescending).

Question about cultural context of living in Saudi Arabia where there is huge Muslim population, what hope could there be? Interesting question, Comfort mentions that God wouldn’t judge people if they didn’t know about God, but that they will be judged for their actions (or something along these lines). Cameron notes that this was the case for early Christianity as well where believing in God could get you killed, so of course there is hope.

Pascal’s wager with sarcastic and condescending enthusiasm from Kelly. Brian says that it is obvious that when you read the Bible, God does not exist so he is not worried. Ok, I am going to say it (Lord please forgive me), Kelly is a [deleted] (ok, I decided to restrain myself, but it is really hard): “I would rather go to hell than go to heaven and worship a megalomaniacal tyrant.” (and of course there is applause) How revolting and arrogant (and she had a smug and proud look on her face). Argh.

A lady asks a question about God allowing cancer (in response to Comfort using the human body as an example of how God creates an amazing a complex being). Comfort mistakes this question to be one about suffering, they lady adamantly tries to explain what she means (although extremely well) that that is not her question. I think her question more related to the fact that, while God creates such a complex and amazing being, cancer seems to suggest that he didn’t do a very good job (although I don’t think I am restating what she meant very well). Comfort kind of answers this in dealing with the fallen world (and that it isn’t just humanity that is fallen): our bodies are fallen as well so aren’t perfect. I don’t really think this was a satisfactory answer for her, but it was none the less true (if not complete).

Comfort’s closing remarks were more sermon like than anything, but he was just asking people to open their hearts to the possibility of God. Brian’s closing remarks were pretty lame: stating all the supposed bad things about religion (that don’t necessarily have anything to do with religion but with the sins of the individuals that happen to claim they follow religion). There was so much misinformation about religion in such a short statement! And his sarcastic and mocking comments that “if you take it all out religion is force for good” really gives him great credibility. Then he equates Ray and Kirk to terrorists that supposedly use the threat of violence in order to create fear to achieve a religious goal. Yes, Brian really knows what is going on with Christianity. He claims that Ray and Kirk do what they do for fear of hell… again, he clearly knows why they do what they do. Argh, really aggravating closing remarks. Kirk’s closing remarks: he notes a few people that are thinkers and have believed in God and then says that “creationism” has the science to support it. I am not too sure what to make of this statement, if he is meaning “Creation science” folks have scientific support, I would have to disagree with that (if you want to know what I mean by that, you can read my posts Creation Science and Science vs. Religion). Cameron points out a great statement by Dawkins: “Even if there was no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory we should still be justified in preferring it over rival theories.” And notes that that is completely unreasonable and the definition of blind faith. I agree. Notes that atheists don’t like to be told what they can or cannot do morally so start with the presupposition that there is a God that would tell us what we should do. That is a great point and was well said. Kelly’s closing remarks: She is extremely condescending again but does make the point that there wasn’t proof made (which was true). She does say there wasn’t evidence presented that supports God, this I disagree with. There is plenty of evidence that God exists, that is different than scientific proof.

In summary, I don’t really know what to think about this event. I have a feeling it will strengthen the beliefs on both sides. I hope that people will listen to the petition of Comfort: just open your heart up a bit and honestly and earnestly search for God (a rough paraphrase). I don’t think the two sides were represented very well. No offense to Comfort and Cameron, but they aren’t scientists and couldn’t hope to actually scientifically prove God’s existence. Brian and Kelly (who didn’t want to give out their last names… I don’t really understand that) of The Rational Response Squad are also poor choices. Quite frankly “Rational” is somewhat of a misnomer in my opinion. Kelly was extremely condescending and Brian didn’t really listen I don’t think. The be blunt, they were asses. I think there are a number of atheists that could have been chosen to debate that would have been more eloquent and knowledgeable. Just poor choices all around. But I have a feeling that “legitimate” (I know it is somewhat dangerous to throw that word around) scientists on both sides wouldn’t bother to debate this. That being said, overall, I wasn’t completely disappointed in Comfort and Cameron. I really was quite worried initially about what they would say. And while I think they did say some silly things that I don’t agree with and could have hurt the “cause” they did ok.

And how many people are atheists anyway? Seriously. It seems like most people are spiritual in some way or at least agnostic. I think the debate is somewhat artificial in that there really aren’t that many atheists out there trying to shut down the existence of God, sure they are vocal, but I don’t think they actually represent a large number of people.

Anyway, sorry for the somewhat rambling nature of this post, I hope it was at least somewhat coherent!

ADDENDUM: Let me make this clear. While I seem to be giving props to Comfort and Cameron, they in no way did what they said there were going to do. I think they had some decent things to say about the relationship between faith and reason (although they didn’t do that extremely well), they did not “prove God scientifically.”

A few quotes that I liked from the debate:

  • Comfort: “My unbelief doesn’t negate reality”
  • Cameron: “Don’t look at this as simply a debate to see who’s gonna win a theological discussion here. Look at this as an opportunity to help you make a person decision about what you beleive about God.”
  • Cameron: “Man is culpable for his own rebellion against God.”
  • Cameron: “The problem is not that you can’t find God, it is that you won’t, it is a matter of the will,” [not the intellect]. (I think I can agree with the first part, but not sure if I am completely on board with the second.)
  • Part 1 - Part 2a - Part 2b - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16 - Part 17 - Part 18

    Categories: Religion, Social Commentary, Theology Tags:
    1. salmypal
      May 17th, 2007 at 08:22 | #1

      Y’know, if you could prove God empirically then He really would be a “megalomaniacal tyrant”. He leaves room for doubt so there is room for faith.

    2. May 17th, 2007 at 13:17 | #2

      Exactly sal! Fortunately for everyone that isn’t how God works, He wants us to come to him, not be coerced in a false relationship. If only atheists could see that.

    3. jpe
      May 23rd, 2007 at 06:58 | #3

      He leaves room for doubt so there is room for faith.

      That just makes his a megalomaniacal tyrant that seems to enjoy people suffering because of his shyness. He’s a tyrant because, like a spoiled only child, he demands worship and constant attention. That he leaves room for doubt only tells us that his moral compass is busted.

    4. May 23rd, 2007 at 12:02 | #4

      I think it is very sad that you see God that way. Here is the definition of tyrant:

      1. An absolute ruler who governs without restrictions.
      2. A ruler who exercises power in a harsh, cruel manner.
      3. An oppressive, harsh, arbitrary person.

      Fortunately God doesn’t really fit the description. God is a jealous God, of course, but a megalomaniacal tyrant? Not so much.

      If he did not leave room for doubt he would be forcing people to believe in his existence. That’s not what God is about. He loves you and he wants you to accept his offer of grace freely.

    1. May 17th, 2007 at 00:20 | #1
    2. May 17th, 2007 at 08:17 | #2
    3. May 22nd, 2007 at 21:23 | #3