I watched with great interest this debate, though not live. I have seen it two times now, because I respect the efforts put forth by both of the men, Sam Harris and William Lane Craig. Throughout my responses, I may put the corresponding minutes and seconds which will correlate with the video itself, if you care to go back and look. Its a good way to check and see if what I am saying below is true, or to check on why I say it.
The debate is between an atheist and a evangelical Christian, and their views weigh in heavily in the debate. I am going to jump right in, to about 14 minutes into the debate, where Craig is still opening up. Bill Craig gets the first word, Sam Harris gets the last word.
Craig is speaking at 14 minutes into the debate, talking of his second contingent. My question I have is that what IS the basis for objective morality, if not God? Craig does an excellent job of laying out his point of the debate and his two contingents. He explains his points in a way that is easily understood by all involved, so hard to deny and easy to knock down if they are able to be knocked down.
Bill Craig asks so many questions that need to be answered for his opponents view to stand. You can decide for yourself, but most of these questions went unanswered, and we just don't know whether or not they were ignored, or unable to be answered. Regardless, that is one telling point from Harris for his side.
You will find Craig continuing to give many quotes and examples throughout this introductory time, the first twenty minutes of the debate, in which Harris is soon to respond. At one point in the debate, Craig pins Harris on something that is very key, and it wouldn't have been right to let this go unnoticed. That is, the redefining of what they mean by good and evil, into non moral terms. Craig is pointing out how Harris has done this redefining of terms, and why it doesn't logically work out for him. For instance, when Harris suggests we define good as that which supports the well being of conscious creatures, we can agree that the well being of conscious creatures is a good thing, it doesn't define good at all. Harris has defined the word good to MEAN the well being of conscious creatures. In my experience, I have often seen similar tactics used by atheists, and its a tricky tactic because it takes a well trained eye and mind to see and then point these things out. I think many of the followers of Harris either don't care he did this, or didn't see it for themselves. Its a tough call to even make, because its a sort of pointing out of something Harris probably didn't want pointed out. Yet it needed to be done. One of the things I appreciate most about Craig is that he is not easily fooled.
Sometimes, a good debater has to keep the other side reminded of the points at hand, keep their feet to the fire, and not allow the distractions to distract. It was after all this I really saw Harris kind of go after other beliefs that differ from his.
It was pointed out that morals and values are valid regardless of human opinion. From what I saw, they both tended to agree on this. Harris never really addressed this though, from what I saw. The horrible topic of genital mutilation was brought up, as were many other things from Harris' book. Both Harris and Craig agree on this, pretty much all people do except for those that practice or support it. (Small portion of the total population, I am sure.) The biggest question for grounding of morality, and whether or not its subjective or objective, begs this question.... What is the best reason for why it is wrong?
Bill Craig expounds on his two contingents, the first of which is, "If God exists, then we have a sound moral foundation for objective moral duties." How much more fair can Craig be? To be an opponent of his, the other side clearly is taking the opposite of the views he holds, in this case the two contingents. Craig goes on to share how the two great commandments sum up God's commands. To love God with all your heart, soul mind and strength (which doesn't encourage mindless belief, by the way), and also to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a good thing to point out here, that to do those two things, would help many societies over the course of history, despite how tightly Harris and others want to believe that belief in God encourages war, slavery and genocide, etc. The exact opposite is actually true, and seen in the very words of Jesus. Sam Harris and Jesus would actually agree on very much. The facts on all sides here, are why I say this.
Craig points out how the 2 greatest commandments support love and good, and rejects selfishness to evil and others. Which also equals a much better world for all people. He points out that objective morality exists, could exist with God, regardless of human beings even existing! We do see that objective moral values do exist, without a doubt. I observed from Harris, that he never addresses anything having to do with what Craig believes, in the light of the two greatest commandments of Jesus. Its as if the measuring tool he ought to be using against Craig, is not an option, as I observe he likes to use the most extreme religious and atrocities to be the measuring tool of choice. That term, "weighing a chicken with a yardstick" applies here, and I wanted to make sure that Harris knows others see it. Its kind of not playing fair, to use things we all already agree on that are atrocious, to try and get extra points.
I grant this is a quick side tangent but very good to point out here, that to mischaracterize Craig's worldview is indeed being done. It was done almost throughout the debate. Craig avoids these points, and showed how they don't apply but notice Harris still got to try and put him down with things all the same, and it may have distracted his fans into thinking he was making valid points in doing so. It isn't scoring any real points, to miss the points of a debate, and using atrocious activities of extremists in the world, as points to be made when all agree on them anyway. It did not allow for Harris to get to address the real points fairly that Craig made and made again.
Building up emotional appeals ideas to the listeners doesn't mean that many don't see what is being left out in a debate. It does get some that are easily swayed by such appeals to think there are great points being made all the same. Craig could have used the same stories and shared his disapproval of the events, but then what about the debate?
Craig, at the point of 1:10 into the debate, points out the idea of presenting the problem of evil and unevangelized by Harris. In this rebuttal time, Craig shares his disappointment in the red herrings Sam Harris used. He brings up the perfect point however, in response to what Harris did talk about. Craig asked that if there is such a basis for Harris' beliefs, then what is it? (The point of the debate.) One can only try to keep things on task.
I will carry on this critique in my next post.