Monday, February 10, 2014

The very best argument for the existence of God

The atheists and skeptics had a wonderful time last Friday night. That's because the debate over "Is There a God?" was a tremendous defeat for Roman Catholics who turned out in droves to hear Philip Cleevely make the case for god.

Cleevely's only argument goes like this:
  • The world began from nothing.
  • That's very mysterious.
  • Therefore, god(s) exist.
Justin Trottier did a very good job for the skeptic point of view. In particular, he made it very clear that he was NOT defending the proposition that gods do not exist. That's not what he means by atheism. He made it very clear that the burden of proof was on those making the extraordinary claim (god exists). He had to do this because rather than provide evidence for the existence of god(s), Cleevely kept trying to show that materialism.naturalism could not prove the nonexistence of gods.

I'm pretty sure that Cleevely didn't get it. I think he is committed to the idea that atheism means the denial of god(s) and he couldn't wrap his mind around the idea that he might be wrong.

The other point he (Cleevley) was trying to make was that science absolutely requires "something" in order to work. Since the universe began from "nothing" that means that it's beyond science. Again, this is an argument about the possible limitations of science but it says absolutely nothing at all about the case for the existence of god(s).

I think that most of the audience, even the Christians, realized that the priest was avoiding the question. As I said, Justin did an excellent job of steering the debate back to the main topic whenever possible. Near the end of the debate, Justin pointed out that Phillip Cleevely had not made much of a case and that the only evidence he had presented was not much more than philosophical babble. Justin didn't go on about this—just the right amount of harsh criticism—but it had to be said.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been so kind.

Two other issues came up. Cleevely demanded that Justin explain where morality came from and where rational thought came from. Justin did a pretty good job but added that we don't have all the answers. He then assumed that Cleevely did have the answers but it turns out that Cleevely was not making the case for god based on the origin of morality or rationality. He said that those topics were too complicated—maybe they could be covered in another debate. The point of his questions was to show that science doesn't have all the answers. The implication is that because science doesn't have all the answers then god exists but Cleevely was clever enough (or stupid enough?) to avoid saying this.

Finally, Cleevely is an ordained priest and the moderator kept referring to him as "Father" whereas Justin was addressed as "Justin." There was a big difference between the respect that the moderator showed for Father Cleevely and for atheist Justin Trottier.

I imagine that it's impossible to avoid "Father" in a debate sponsored by Roman Catholics. His opponent should have been addressed as "Mr. Trottier."