One of my favorite movies is an extremely silly kung-fu parody entitled Kung Pow. For the sake of those who have not seen the movie, I will briefly summarize it here. The main character, known simply as The Chosen One must fight the evil Master Betty in order to avenge his parents (who were killed by Betty) and save a village from Betty’s oppression.
One of the characters in the movie, who does not like The Chosen One, is a guy with squeaky shoes named Wimp Lo. When The Chosen One first arrives in the village, Wimp Lo challenges him, but is obviously no match. The local kung fu master, Master Tang explains, “That is Wimp Lo. We have trained him wrong on purpose, as a joke.” Later in the movie, The Chosen One and Wimp Lo actually fight. Wimp Lo is losing badly, but keeps fighting The Chosen One. No one really wins the fight because The Chosen One’s girlfriend, Ling, pleads with him to stop beating up Wimp Lo. The fight ends as The Chosen One leaves, and Wimp Lo declares, “I am bleeding–making me the victor.”
I told you, it’s a silly movie.
And a fitting analogy for what occurred last Thursday night when William Lane Craig and Sam Harris debated on whether or not God is the source of morality. Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason tweeted, “Clearly, the keepers of rational thought are theistic philosophers and not atheistic popularizers.” After listening to the audio of the debate for myself I am inclined to strongly agree with Kunkle’s assessment. Dr. Craig was The Chosen One, and Dr. Harris was Wimp Lo.
Dr. Craig’s contentions were simple, but solid. He noted that both Dr. Harris and he agreed that there is such a thing as objective morality, but they disagreed as to what that meant and where morality came from. Dr. Craig clarified that objective moral values are binding, valid, and independent of human opinion. He had two main contentions about the origin of objective morality that he repeated several times throughout the debate.
1) If God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.
2) If God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.
Dr. Craig argued that Theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral values grounded in God’s own nature. God is the highest good, and supremely loving, generous, faithful, and kind in nature. Theism also provides a sound foundation for objective moral duties, God’s commandments which reflect His supremely good nature.
Dr. Craig went on to criticize Dr. Harris’s view of objective morality. He quoted Dr. Harris’s definition of good “as that which supports the well-being of conscious creatures.” He explained that in Dr. Harris’s view, morality had naturally evolved from a primitive herd instinct that helped our prehistoric ancestors to find well-being in a society. He pointed out that this was semantic trickery on Dr. Harris’s part because he was redefining good and evil in non-moral terms.
There is nothing morally good or bad about conscious beings flourishing. Especially, when one considers the Atheistic worldview–in which men are merely ape-like animals, evolving by chance, on a random planet in the milky way galaxy–there is no objective foundation for either moral values or duties. If God does not exist, why should we think that we or morally obligated or probited by anything? In that case, there would be no supreme moral Good as a standard for objective moral value, and there would be no commandments from a supreme moral Being reflective of His nature.
Dr. Harris’s views not only fail to explain objective moral values, but also fail to explain where objective moral duty comes from. Dr. Craig explained this by saying that ‘ought’ implies ‘can.’ This was significant because in Dr. Harris’s view all our actions are determined by natural causes, and we have no free will. Dr. Craig pointed out that human beings cannot be held morally responsible for actions they are not able to avoid.
Dr. Harris did not seriously challenge Dr. Craig’s contentions at any point in the debate. He started by reiterating what Dr. Craig had already said about his definition of good as the well-being of conscious creatures. He asserted that Dr. Craig has misrepresented his view, but did not defend his view against Dr. Craig’s arguments, aside from referring to his book. He presented several red herrings, such as the problem of evil, and the evidence for God’s existence, but failed to refute Dr. Craig’s primary arguments.
The only part of Dr. Craig’s arguments Dr. Harris even made any attempt to refute was the goodness of God. He attempted to do this, not by logical arguments, but by painting an emotionally charged picture of a strawman “Christian” god. This “god” was concocted by cherry picking the worst popular misconceptions of Christianity. Far from demonstrating that Dr. Craig’s God was not the supreme Good, it demonstrated how ignorant Dr. Harris is of Christian theology. At any rate, it was another red herring because the topic of the debate was not the nature of the Christian God, but whether objective morality came from God or not. As Dr. Craig pointed out later, asking why God must be the supreme Good is akin to asking a bachelor why he must be an unmarried man. Good is simply what God is, and if He were not the supreme Good, He would not be God.
Dr, Craig repeated his arguments each time he spoke, but Dr. Harris failed miserably to refute Dr. Craig’s arguments. In fact, he usually declined to even adress them, despite Dr. Craig’s repeated challenges to do so. Like Wimp Lo, Dr. Harris seemed to think up was down, wrong was right. Perhaps Dr. Harris had been trained wrong, on purpose, as a joke. Dr. Harris has been referred to as one of the Four Horsemen of the New Atheists. Perhaps this debate served as a sign of the end for the New Atheism.
William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris Debate Audio: http://j.mp/g7sCfx