This debate’s topic is a common topic in which is debated among philosophers today. The title was “Does God exist?”
Affirmative: Dr. Phil Fernandes
Negative: Dan Barker
Dr. Phil Fernandes-Dr. Fernandes is the leader of Trinity Bible Fellowship(A church.) He also is the leader of the Bible Defense Institute. He is involved in both evangelism and apologetics. His degrees are as follows: A PhD in Philosophy of Religion from Greenwich University. A Master of Arts in Religion from Liberty University (where he studied apologetics under Dr. Gary Habermas). A Master of Theology degree from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is also studying to get a doctor of ministry under Dr. Norman Geisler.(1) He is a member of The Evangelical Theological Society, The Evangelical Philosophical Society, The International Society of Christian Apologetics, and The Society of Christian Philosophers. Dr. Fernandes also teaches at Columbia Evangelical Semiary.
Dan Barker-A former ordained preacher for 19 years that turned atheist. From what I can gather he came from a charismatic background. Dan is bilingual and is also studying other languages. He is a member of a number of high IQ societies.(2) I’ve looked all over to see if he has any degrees but I didn’t find any. He either doesn’t have any degrees or for some reason he decided not to share them on his site.
I will summarize the opening cases that each opening side makes followed by a review of the debate itself.
Opening Statements, central points will follow the arguments:
Dr. Phil Fernandes presented the following arguments for theism:
1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument:
A.) If the universe will end, then it must be finite, and thus, had a beginning.
B.) An infinite series/events of numbers is impossible outside of a mind.
C.) Every model in science that attempts to show that the universe always existed is wrought with problems.(See this article, I mention some of the issues with these models.)
D.) The universe is expanding, this implies a finite universe because it can be traced back to a finite point.
E.) Space, matter, and time had a beginning.
F.) The law of causality demands that the universe had a cause.
G.) Intelligence exists in this universe, but intelligence does not come from non intelligence.
H.) Morals don’t come from physical objects. For example, a rock is not held morally responsible if you trip over it. Morals can only come from the mind and thus, the creator of the universe must be a personal being.
I.) If the universe had a cause, then God is the best cause. This can be determined by the process of deduction.
2.) The Continuing Existence of the Universe/Argument from Contingency:
A.) Limited finite beings exist that are dependent on other dependent beings. However, the sum total of dependent beings are still limited when put together.
B.) If each part of the universe is dependent, then the entire universe is dependent.
C.) This means that the cause of the universe must be both unlimited and independent.
D.) Only a single God must exist, because if two Gods exist then they would be dependent on each other.
E.) God is an unlimited being.
F.) Therefore, God is the unlimited being who caused the universe.
3.) /Fine Tuning Argument/The Teleological Argument
A.) The universe is fine tuned for the existence of life. If the constants(At least 25 of them.) in the universe were slightly altered, then life would not be possible.
B.) Complexities exist within the universe that is best explained by design.
C.) Life arising would be statistically impossible without some sort of cosmic intelligence.
D.) Irreducible Complexity.(Certain life can’t be explained without intelligence, the chance of certain lifeforms forming by chance is too low to be reasonably considered.)
E. Complex but discernible information can only be produced by intelligence.
4. The Moral Argument/The Axiological Argument for God:
A.) If moral values were dependent on finite individuals then no one could really call anyone else’s actions(Such as Hilter’s) morally wrong.
B.) If moral values were dependent on individual society then no one could give moral condemnation regarding the Nazi’s actions against the jews.
C.) The world consensus has been wrong on numerous occasions, therefore, world consensus can not be a foundation for moral values.
D.) In order for moral laws to have any ground or objective standard moral laws must transcend from above mankind.
E.) Moral laws must be prescriptive, not descriptive.(Moral laws must tell us how things “ought” to be. Only prescriptive laws are capable of this.)
F.) God is the best explanation for moral values due to God’s properties.(Prescriptive moral laws must be prescriptive.)
5. The Absurdity of Life without God
A.) If atheism is true then there is no hope for us; we are doomed to perish.
B.) Happiness is meaningless if we are all destined to perish.
C.) There would be no difference between a Mother Theresa and an Adolf Hitler.
D.) All we could wait for is the end.
E.) Nothing we would do would matter.
F.) Nothing we do in life would ultimately matter beyond the grave.
G.) Atheism can not explain logic and mathematics.
H.) Atheism can’t explain human free will or human responsibility.
Dan Barker’s opening statement presented the following Arguments for Atheism:
1.) There are a lot of atheists that lead good and meaningful lives.
A.) You don’t have to believe in a god to live a good and meaningful life.
2.) There is no evidence for a god.
A.) Dr. Fernandes didn’t give any evidence of God. Instead, he exploited gaps in understanding.
B.) “God of the gaps.”
C.) Science has been successful.(Uses Isaac Newton(a Christian) and then shoots himself in the foot.)
3.) The idea of a god is not coherent.
A.) God is not falsifiable.
B.) There is no consensus on the Christian God.
C.) The Bible says that God is not the author of confusion, but The Bible has caused confusion.
D.) No one knows what absolute moral values are, since no one agrees on them, no absolute moral values exist. Christians fall on different sides on moral issues.
4.) The Logical Problem of Evil(Note that Dan Barker said that God is not falsifiable, but he says this is an easy way to show that God doesn’t exist.)
A.) Unnecessary suffering exists.
B.) If there is an all powerful, all caring God, why is there evil and suffering?
C.) Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic.
D.) If God exists, he should of stopped the bombing.(Phil is nicer than God, zinger.)
E.) Perhaps an evil god exists.
F.) Any system of thought based on violence and intimidation is a morally bankrupt system.
5.) God has characteristics which are not compatible.
A.) If God created the universe because he wanted to create the universe, then it means that he lacked something, which means he isn’t perfect.
B.) If God is personal being that knows everything, but God can make choices. An omniscient being can not have freewill. The future can’t be changed, therefore, he can’t have freewill. Therefore, he is self contradictory. If it’s self contradictory then God doesn’t exist.
Dan Barker then responds to Dr. Fernandes Arguments:
1. God is an existent thing, therefore, he can’t exist by Phil’s own argument.(There can’t be an infinite series of events.)
2. Equivocation of nothing. Nothing is not nothing, it’s quantum fields and fluctuations.
3. The first law of thermodynamics proves that God can’t create the universe.
Dr. Phil’s Rebuttal phase:
1. Nothing can’t be powerful enough to create something. If finite things can’t pop into existence out of nothing, then how can we expect the universe to come from nothing?
2. Dr. Fernandes points out that in his opening statement he was talking about existent physical things, which would not include God. This nips Dan Barker’s misrepresentation of Dr. Fernandes’ argument in the butt.
3. Dr. Fernandes points out that in order to make moral judgments the atheist must borrow from the Christian worldview.
4. Our arguments are based on what we DO know, not what we DON’T know.
5. Atheists appeal to their own gaps in knowledge, particularly regarding how the universe began to exist.
6. Life from non life violates the law of abiogenesis. Evolution and abiogenesis defies known reality and the laws of science. In order to try and refute these objections, they’ll refer to what Dr. Phil calls “chance” of the gaps.
7. Modern scientists were founded by theists, so Dan Barker’s idea that science would cease if it were scientifically proven that God exists is absurd.
8. The universe either came from nothing or it had a supernatural cause.
9. Dan Barker’s falsification principle is based off of the view of verification, which says that anything beyond our five senses is meaningless. However, the view of verification is self defeating because the view of verification itself is not testable by the five senses.
10. Strong evidence of God’s existence has been provided in this debate, Dan Barker needs to respond to all of these arguments.
11. Modal Logic deals with possible worlds in the realm of reason. There is a difference between what MUST be done and what WILL be done. God was free to create or not create, he chose to create.(A response to Dan Barker’s freewill argument.)
12. Atheists have admitted that God and evil are not incompatible.(Response to the logical problem of evil.) God could have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering. Dr. Phil says he is not as knowledgeable of God. Dr. Phil says that Dan Barker would have to have infinite knowledge in order to prove the claim that God did not have morally sufficient reasons to permit evil and suffering.
13. Atheists have to have a standard of justice in order to say there is an injustice in the world. Since atheists have no standard, they are being inconsistent with their worldview when they claim that God is unjust.
14. The first law of thermodynamics is descriptive, not prescriptive.(He refers to scientists saying that the second law of thermodynamics says that NOW matter can’t be created or destroyed, not that it has always been that way.)
15. In response to Dan Barker’s rejection regarding absolute moral values, Dr. Phil says that the fact that we all agree(whether we admit it or not) that there is a way things ought to be is evidence of God.
Dan Baker’s Rebuttal Phase:
1. You can’t take an infinite set and imply its implications to every set of numbers. The universe is a set of things and Dr. Phil is trying to take the set and apply it to the universe as a whole.
2. Every event in the universe had a cause that is natural.
3. The law of causality only applies to nature.
4. The fine tuning argument is “thinking backwards.” Rivers fit in the ground and they aren’t fine tuned.
5. You can’t compute the constants and determine what sort of constants support life. Appeals to the multi-verse.
6. God’s mind is complex and therefore must be designed.
7. There is a sloppiness in design.
8. I never said that moral values didn’t exist. Objective moral values are an oxymoron. Values are a function of a mind, to be objective is to say that morals exist independent of the mind.
9. The avoidance of unnecessary harm is a good foundation for moral values among atheists.
10. You can’t say that lying is always wrong, there are times where it is appropriate.
11. Evil is just a word.
Dr. Fernandes did an excellent job of laying out a cumulative case for theism. (He didn’t lay one out specifically for Christianity, I assume the debate topic was not focused specifically on Christianity.) However, Dan Barker did not really make a coherent case for atheism. Instead, he raised straw men against Dr. Fernandes, was condescending in some of his remarks, acted more like a stand up comedian than someone who was trying to win the debate.
Dan Barker also responded to some of the arguments Dr. Fernandes erected in his opening statement. (In formal debate, this is a NO-NO. You are not supposed to respond to your opponent’s opening statement until your first rebuttal phase.) Dr. Phil gave a very thorough rebuttal of Dan Barker’s arguments. Whereas Dan Barker did his best to get laughs out of the audience rather than giving tactful explanations of what the issues were in Dr. Fernendes arguments.
Dan Barker also erected some TERRIBLE arguments. First, instead of attacking theism, he directly attacked Christianity. (If I were Dr. Fernandes I’d have no issue with this, because Christianity is easier to defend than general theism anyway.) However, when Dan Barker attacked Christianity a lot of his arguments failed to consider the properties that The Bible says that God has. For instance, he attempted to say that the law of causality only applies to the natural universe. Christians agree with this, and this is the point that Dr. Fernandes made in his first rebuttal.(Was Dan Barker asleep?) But, if Dan Barker accepts the law of causality then he must accept that not only did the universe have a beginning, but if the cause was natural it would leave us with an infinite series of events. He also then tried to insinuate that the first law of thermodynamics shows that God couldn’t have created the universe. However, Dan Barker is either unaware or ignores that the laws of nature(as Dr. Fernandes pointed out in different words) are DESCRIPTIVE, not PRESCRIPTIVE. He then tries to appeal to bad design, which completely ignores the fall as described in Genesis chapter 3. We Christians would expect imperfections in the universe due to the fall. The point Dan Barker raises might be a good argument to use against a general theist, but it doesn’t hold water against Christianity.
The worst of all of the mistakes that Mr. Barker made was that he attempted to say that God is not falsifiable but then gave arguments such as his “free will argument” and “the problem of evil” in which he said that shows that God doesn’t exist. In short, Dan Barker contradicted one of his objections.
The cross examination was hilarious. Some of Dr. Ferandes’ sincere responses to Dan Barker incited laughter, such as when Dan Barker attempted to say that explosions can cause order because it allows him to go to the grocery store and get milk. Dr. Fernandes points out that the engine that created the combustion was designed. Dr. Fernandes also heavily pushed Dan Barker to provide a foundation for moral values, Mr. Barker kept appealing to unnecessary harm, but could not give any standard which would deem harm unnecessary. The idea of necessity or lack thereof requires a standard so the notion of unnecessary harm being a good ground for atheist morals is logically incoherent.
Dr. Fernandes wins this, no contest. I’d say that Dr. Fernandes’ background in academia served him very well in this debate, whereas Dan Barker came off as more of a comedian rather than someone who was interested in having a reasonable discussion. What it comes down to is this: Dr. Fernandes gave evidence for God’s existence but Dan Barker just made assertions that he couldn’t support. Dan Barker, opinions do not hold weight in a scholarly debate, you would do well to remember that!