Academics Debate God’s Existence

I had my doubts about this whole event – but hey! I’m an all-around doubter in these matters these days.

This past Monday’s debate – a whole week ago, yes – as to whether or not God exists was suspect. It was put on by an organization called for Athletes in Action, which, if you aren’t familiar with your campus groups, is an off-shoot of the Canadian group called Campus for Christ. As you walked in, you could grab a book on discovering your spirituality, and on a survey they handed out, you could let them know if you wanted to talk to someone about Jesus.

I think they were a lot more confident in their ability to draw people towards Christianity than was warranted.

They further cooked the books by who they brought in to argue each side. For the cause of Atheism was George Williamson, a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan and an advocacy officer for CFI Saskatchewan. (I can’t remember what CFI stands for, and Lord knows I can’t find it anywhere online.) He was a nice guy with some good points that he didn’t hammer home nearly hard enough.

Michael Horner from Trinity Western, on the other hand, was the type of guy whose PowerPoint presentation for this kind of thing has been refined over years of practice. He’s the kind of guy who not only had a PowerPoint presentation for his opening statements, but also had anticipatory PowerPoint slides made up to rebut some of Williamson’s points.

He opened with trying to a) prove that there are no good proofs to disprove God’s existence, and b) prove that God exists. His arguments included theist gems like suggesting that the design of the universe couldn’t have come about without the guiding hand of a supreme being, thereby negating the theory of evolution without mentioning it by name, and saying that morals could only originate from a higher power. That last one ended with him suggesting that atheists couldn’t definitively say that toddler torture and rape were wrong.

(By the way, toddler torture and rape were mentioned over and over again over the course of this debate. So, discuss God, and you’ll apparently also have to contemplate these two awful things again and again. Oh, and the Holocaust too.)

One of his strangest arguments was against the concept of infinity. His reason for diving into this topic was some atheists advocacy for the Big Bang Theory. “Typically, atheists have said that the universe is eternal and uncaused,” said Horner. To smack down infinity, he asked the crowd to imagine a library with an infinite number of books. I’ll skip to the end, with him stating, “A library with an actually infinite number of books cannot exist.” Well, that’s settled.

Horner and Williamson danced around the issue of morals without really solving anything. Time and time again, Horner went unchallenged on his views on how the world works. “We do know that when we see specified complexity it must be the product of an intelligent mind,” he said with such audacity. His is a version of Intelligent Design that’s particularly opposed to the discoveries of science.

Worse still was the claim that he brought forward several times that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact that could be proven. Unsurprisingly, he also suggested that, despite conflicting messages and outdated edicts, people reading the Bible with an open mind will likely be converted: “If you read the Bible with that attitude, you will find him.”

Williamson had a good comeback to that line when we hit the Q&A period: “I think most atheists would say, ‘Read your Bible,’ because I think that’s how most atheists come into being.”

In general, Williamson hit the right points, though his argument wasn’t as flashy as Horner’s. Horner said that there either was or wasn’t God, that there was no in between. Williamson’s sensible, general thesis could be summed by saying there probably isn’t a God, and that’s OK.

“God is an unknown, and if God is an unknown, then any explanation that attempts to invoke God, then they’re invoking the unknown to explain the unknown,” he said in a statement that Horner simply couldn’t properly rebut.

Horner was putting forth that wherever science hadn’t explained something, that was God. It’s not a problem to admit that humanity hasn’t explained or completely proven something as complex as the Big Bang Theory yet, but insisting on the existence of God for their to be morals or a habitable world to even act those morals out on is ludicrous.

For some more of my observations from this three-hour event, feel free to check out my Twitter feed.

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.

6 thoughts on “Academics Debate God’s Existence”

  1. This sounds like it was hilarious.
    One thing that really puzzles me about the creationist side of the debate is the anti-science angle. It seems to me that the Bible was itself a sort of “science” at the time when it was written, and it has been updated (ahem, edited to please kings) several times but that stopped for some reason. I don’t understand the fear of science. Evolution for example doesn’t mean “no god”, it could simply be the mechanism put in place by God for his creations to come into being. Or something. You know what I’m saying? A lot of science could be fit into the Bible model when framed in the right way. One might even say that science is our way of attempting to see the world through God’s eyes.

  2. Many, many people argue that Christianity and science are compatible. Lots of scientists are religious. I’m with you, anonymous: creationism sparks fights, not Christianity.

  3. @1: I don’t know if hilarious would be the right word for it. What should’ve been about two hours by the schedule they outlined at the start stretched out to three after some technical difficulties.

    The funniest part was probably during the Q&A period, which featured a lot of all-right questions directed at Horner and a couple of Christians flubbing getting a question out. One of the ones that managed to ask Williamson something asked him how he finds meaning in atheism.

    Williamson responding with a long list of all the things in his life that he loves and finds meaning in, then asked if he couldn’t find meaning in that. The questioner then cautiously said that he couldn’t, though he didn’t sound too committed to that answer.

    @3: Thanks!

  4. Don’t you love these pseudo-debates? Staged “democracy” and “openness”. Hope you didn’t have to pay or donate to put up with that, James.

    Paul, did you actually mean the Center for Inquisition? (Sorry, could not resist that line.)

    The vehement anti-science of the so-called “Christians” (gotta put quotes around it because the label definitely does not describe a lot of people who have a faith based around that guy whose birthday is celebrated around the winter solstice) has always been a sticking point with me. You / The Dog have always discussed that very well.

    But the other big thing that gets under my skin is this idea that if you’re not “Christian” – or religious at all -then you have no moral base. That is so absurd and I cannot believe it is not challenged more often. Makes you wonder how the majority of non-“Christian” humankind manage to make ‘good’ decisions, or why some “Christian” people have a moral compass that is not pointing to Good.

    Keep it up, Dog. What would we do without you?

  5. Centre for Inquiry Saskatchewan has meetings in Regina and Saskatoon every month.

    Freethinkers, apostates, skeptics, and miscellaneous earthlings are welcome to attend.

    Find our groups on Facebook or Meetup for more information

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