The Craig-Pigliucci Debate:
Does God Exist?

Dr. Craig's Opening Speech

Good evening! I want to begin by thanking the Issues Committee for the invitation to take part in tonight's debate, and I hope that it will be a significant step forward in your own spiritual journey.

Now in raising the question of God's existence, we are in effect engaging in the assessment of a hypothesis about the world, namely, the hypothesis that God exists. If our goal is to determine rationally whether or not this hypothesis is true, we must conduct our inquiry according to the basic rules of logic. Arguments based on invalid logic, however emotionally appealing, are worthless in providing any rational warrant for their conclusions.

Accordingly, we need to ask ourselves two questions with respect to this hypothesis: (1) What evidence is there that serves to verify this hypothesis? and (2) What evidence is there that serves to falsify this hypothesis?

Second Question

Now with respect to the second question, I'll leave it up to Dr. Pigliucci to present the reasons why he thinks that this hypothesis is false. Atheists have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, but no one has ever been able to come up with a successful argument. Dr. Pigliucci, on the other hand, in his article "God as a Falsifiable Hypothesis," says, "My position is that belief in God can be falsified" on the basis of the evidence.{1} So rather than attack straw men at this point, I'll just wait to hear Dr. Pigliucci's answer to the following question: What good evidence is there to show that God does not exist?

First Question

Let's look, then, at the first question: What evidence is there that serves to verify God's existence? Tonight I'm going to present five reasons in support of the specific hypothesis that a personal Creator and Designer of the universe exists, who is the locus of absolute value and who has revealed Himself in Christ. Whole books have been written on each one of these, so all I can present here is a brief sketch of each argument and then go into more detail as Dr. Pigliucci responds to them.

First Argument

1. The origin of the universe. Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal and uncaused. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it a minute. If the universe is eternal and never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."{2} But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can't go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist.

This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the "Big Bang" 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because, as you go back in time, you reach a point at which, in Hoyle's words, the universe was "shrunk down to nothing at all."{3} Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.

Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. For as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, "A proponent of the big bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the . . . universe came from nothing and by nothing."{4} But surely that doesn't make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now from the very nature of the case, as the cause of space and time, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being of unimaginable power which created the universe. Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect. If the cause were timelessly present, then the effect would be timelessly present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.

Isn't it incredible that the Big Bang theory thus fits in with what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Now I put it to you: which makes more sense: that the theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing? I, at least, have no trouble assessing these alternatives!

Second Argument

2. The complex order in the universe. During the last 30 years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life-permitting universe like ours. How much more probable?

The answer is that the chances that the universe should be life-permitting are so infinitesimal as to be incomprehensible and incalculable. For example, Stephen Hawking has estimated that if the rate of the universe's expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed into a hot fireball.{5} P. C. W. Davies has calculated that the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for later star formation (without which planets could not exist) is one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least.{6} John Barrow and Frank Tipler estimate that a change in the strength of gravity or of the weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe.{7} There are around 50 such quantities and constants present in the Big Bang which must be fine-tuned in this way if the universe is to permit life. And it's not just each quantity which must be exquisitely fine-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.

There is no physical reason why these constants and quantities should possess the values they do. The one-time agnostic physicist Paul Davies comments, "Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact."{8} Similarly, Fred Hoyle remarks, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics."{9} Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, calls this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.{10}

So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent Designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe, when it popped into being uncaused out of nothing, just happened to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.

We can summarize our reasoning as follows:

1. The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to either law, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to either law or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Third Argument

3. Objective moral values in the world. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. Michael Ruse, a noted agnostic philosopher of science, explains,

The position of the modern evolutionist is that . . . morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.{11}

Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.

I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right.

But we must be very careful here. The question here is not: "Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?" I'm not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: "Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?" I think that we can.

Rather the question is: "If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?" Like Prof. Ruse, I don't see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by homo sapiens is objective. And here I think Dr. Pigliucci would agree with me. He writes, "It has been pretty obvious since Darwin that we, indeed, are nothing but machines."{12} In the absence of God, we're just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development has become taboo; but that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, there's nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.

But the problem is that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it. There's no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, cruelty, and child abuse aren't just socially unacceptable behavior--they're moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good.

Thus, we can summarize this third consideration as follows:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Fourth Argument

4. The historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God's place. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come, and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracles and exorcisms. But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and, thus, evidence for the existence of God.

Now most people would probably think that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just accept on faith or not. But there are actually three established facts, recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today, which I believe are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus.

Fact #1: On the Sunday following his crucifixion, Jesus' tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, "By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb."{13} According to D. H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.{14}

Fact #2: On separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the prominent New Testament critic of Vanderbilt University Gerd Lüdemann, "It may be taken as historically certain that . . . the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the Risen Christ.{15} These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.

Fact #3: The original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah, and Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead before the end of the world. Nevertheless, the original disciples came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar from Emory University, muses, "Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was . . . ."{16} N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, "That is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him."{17}

Attempts to explain away these three great facts--like the disciples stole the body or Jesus wasn't really dead--have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible, naturalistic explanation of these facts. Therefore, it seems to me, the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.

Fifth Argument

5. The immediate experience of God. This isn't really an argument for God's existence; rather it's the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. If you're sincerely seeking God, God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."{18} We mustn't so concentrate on the proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God to our heart. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

In conclusion, then, we've yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen five reasons to think that God does exist. Together these reasons constitute a powerful cumulative case for the existence of God.


{1} Massimo Pigliucci, "God as a Falsifiable Hypothesis".

{2} David Hilbert, "On the Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.

{3} Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.

{4} Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas' Proofs of God's Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.

{5} Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), p. 123.

{6} P. C. W. Davies, Other Worlds (London: Dent, 1980), pp. 160-161, 168-169.

{7} Actually, the figure is once more from Davies. But for a compendium of such examples of fine-tuning see John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

{8} Paul Davies, The Mind of God (New York: Simon & Schuster: 1992), p. 16.

{9} Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," Engineering and Science (November, 1981), p. 12.

{10} Robert Jastrow, "The Astronomer and God," in The Intellectuals Speak Out about God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.

{11} Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269.

{12} Unfortunately, I have not been able to re-locate the article from which this quotation was drawn.

{13} Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.

{14} D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.

{15} Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 8.

{16} Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 136.

{17} N. T. Wright, "The New Unimproved Jesus," Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.

{18} James 4.8.

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