The Craig-Pigliucci Debate:
Does God Exist?

Dr. Craig's First Rebuttal

Second Question

Now Dr. Pigliucci presents in my count about five arguments that he thinks would falsify the hypothesis that God exists. Let's look at each of these and see if they're persuasive arguments.

Argument from Imperfections

(1) He says the universe is not perfect. For example, squids have better eyes than human beings. I don't think that this argument in any way disproves God's existence. Let me mention three reasons.

First,, that objection assumes a static theory of creation--that God created each individual creature, which never changes. But even creationists typically hold to a dynamic theory of creation which allows micro-evolutionary change within certain types, so that God could create a certain primal type of being and then there would be micro-evolutionary change within that type, and you might look at these sorts of imperfections (as he calls them) as by-products of micro-evolutionary pressures which gradually emerge.

Secondly, the objection presumes to know what God would do if He were to design something, that we know that God would create the eye in a certain way if He existed or He would create the digestive system in this way if He existed. And I personally think that's simply presumptuous. We have no idea how to speculate about what God would create if He were to exist. Maybe it's not important to God that we be able to have eyes to see in exactly a certain way, maybe there are other off-setting reasons why God permits systems designed in this way to exist. In other words, the argument is enormously presumptuous in thinking that we know what God would create if He were to exist.

And thirdly, perfection is a relative term, after all. These supposedly imperfect organs like the human eye function extraordinarily well. I mean, think of what the human eye has done in terms of art, literature, architecture, and so forth! This is hardly persuasive evidence, I think, that it could not be the product of an intelligent designer.

In fact, that leads me to his other argument, concerning biological evolution. And I'm going to suggest that the idea that evolution could have occurred without an intelligent Designer is so improbable as to be fantastic. This has been demonstrated by Barrowand Tipler in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. In this book, they list ten steps in the course of human evolution, each of which is so improbable that before it would have occurred the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth.{1} They estimate the odds of the evolution of the human genome by chance to be on the order of 4-360 (110,000), a number which is so huge that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement. In other words, if evolution did occur, it would have been a miracle, so that evolution is actually evidence for the existence of God! And here the Christian can be much more open to where the evidence leads. He could say, "Well, God could have used evolution; He could have used special creation. I'm open to the evidence." But, you see, for the naturalist evolution is the only game in town! No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable the evidence, he's stuck with it because he hasn't got an intelligent Designer. So it seems to me that the Christian can be far more objective on this point. After all, if you were to find watch lying on the ground, and, say, it didn't function exactly perfectly, it lost one minute per hour, would you therefore conclude that the watch was not designed properly?

The Regression Argument

(2) What about the regression argument, that the more we know the less we think God intervenes in the universe? Well, notice that that argument doesn't prove that God doesn't exist. It doesn't even prove that God doesn't often intervene in the universe. All that follows from that argument is the sociological factor that we don't think God often intervenes in the universe. And that conclusion is perfectly compatible with the idea that God often in fact does intervene in the universe. But, moreover, even if it were true that God doesn't often intervene in the universe in miraculous ways, that's not incompatible with Christianity. After all, miracles by their nature are relatively rare, and I don't think that God does frequently go around intervening in the universe in miraculous ways. So the argument is simply inconclusive.

Pragmatic Argument for Naturalism

(3) What about the argument that naturalism works? Not at all! What works are scientific hypotheses. But those do not test naturalism because on the hypothesis that there is a Creator God who has designed the universe to operate according to certain natural laws, that could also work. So the fact that scientific theories work is in no sense a proof of naturalism.

Problem of Evil

(4) He says, "What about the problem of evil?" Well, let me make two responses here.

First, no atheist has ever been able to show a logical inconsistency between the propositions "God exists" and "Evil exists." They tried, but no one has ever been able to show that those two are contradictory. In fact, you can actually show that they are consistent by adding a third proposition, namely, "God has morally sufficient reasons to permit evil." As long as that third proposition is even possibly true, it shows that God's existence and evil's existence are logically compatible. The atheist seems to assume that if God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil, we have to be privy to them. But there's absolutely no reason to think that that is true.

In fact, secondly, evil is actually proof that God exists. My argument would go like this:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. (Dr. Pigliucci agrees.)

2. Evil exists.

3. Therefore, objective values exist. (Some things are really evil.)

4. Therefore, God exists.

And thus evil only calls into question God's existence on a superficial level. On a deeper philosophical level evil actually demonstrates the existence of God because evil as such could not exist without God.

Noah's Ark

(5) The fifth argument he raised was the problem of Noah's Ark. I would simply just dismiss this by saying: First, it doesn't disprove the existence of God. Secondly, I would take Noah's flood to be a local flood, not a universal flood, in any case.

So all of these arguments, I think, are either invalid or based on false premises and hardly present any good reason to think that atheism is true.

First Question

Now what about my arguments to show that God does exist? Dr. Pigliucci uses a general argument against this to say that God is not explanatory. But notice he fails to understand the structure of my arguments. My arguments are deductive arguments, that is to say, if the premises are true, then by the laws of logic the conclusion follows inescapably. Whether you like the conclusion, whether you think it's explanatory, is irrelevant: as long as the premises are true, it follows by deductive logic that the conclusion is true.

First Argument

So what he is going to deny? In my first argument I argued: (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Will he deny that? (2) The universe began to exist. According to Steven Hawking in his book The Nature of Space and Time (1996), "Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang."{2} Will he deny that, the paradigm held by most cosmologists today? If he will not deny either of those two premises, then he cannot deny the conclusion, that A transcendent cause of the universe exists.

He says, but where did God come from? Very easily I can answer this question. The argument proves that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Therefore, there must be a first cause which never came into being. Whatever begins to exist has to have a cause; but a being which exists timelessly, spacelessly, and necessarily is uncaused. This is what the atheist has always said the universe is. But that is now untenable in light of the philosophical arguments I gave and the cosmological evidence for the beginning of the universe.

In other words, neither of my two premises of my first argument were refuted by Dr. Pigliucci, and therefore I think we have good grounds for thinking a transcendent Creator exists.

Second Argument

My second argument was based on the complex order of the universe. And here he had three objections.

(1) You cannot look for a Creator from what we don't know. I am not arguing on the basis of what we don't know. What I'm suggesting is that we do know that the initial conditions of the universe cannot be explained by law because they are initial conditions. They cannot be explained by chance because it is just too fantastically improbable. And therefore being neither explicable by chance nor by law, design is the only alternative. What is his answer? I would like to know.

(2) He says, "Well, your argument doesn't work because there's only one universe." Let me explain the theory of probability behind this. Imagine a blue dot on a piece of a paper, and let that be our universe. Slightly alter some of these constants and quantities. That makes a new universe. If it's life-permitting, make another blue dot. If it's life- prohibiting, make a red dot. Then do it again, and then again, and again, and again. What you wind up with is a sea of red with only a few pinpoints of blue here and there. That's what I mean when I say that life-permitting universes are incalculably improbable.

(3) He says, "But the probability of all these people being here tonight, these specific people, is highly improbable, and yet we are here!" That's a failure to understand the argument. Any universe you pick is equally probable, yes, but it is highly, highly improbable that the universe you pick will be life-permitting. That's the point. It's like a lottery in which there's a billion, billion, billion black marbles and one white marble. Any marble you pick is equally improbable, but the probability that the marble you do pick will be black is vastly more probable than that it will be white. Similarly, given the improbability of the initial conditions of the universe, the universe ought to be dead; there shouldn't be any life in the universe. The fact that it cannot be explained on the basis of chance or law leaves us with design as the best explanation for why the universe is finely tuned for our existence.

Third Argument

What about objective moral values? He agrees there are no objective moral values, but he says values are things that work or society will collapse. That is not at all true. Look at Nazi Germany. In his book, Morality after Auschwitz{3}, Peter Haas asks how an entire society who have existed in which the mass extermination of Jews and Gypsies went on for a decade with hardly a protest being offered. He says the reason is because a new ethic was in place in Germany which did not define the holocaust as evil, but as good. And he points out that that ethic cannot be criticized from within because it was internally consistent. It can only be criticized if you have a transcendent vantage point and anchor for moral values. On Dr. Pigliucci's view rape, child abuse, torture, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, the killing fields of Cambodia are all morally indifferent because there is no objective right and wrong. And I submit that is simply untenable. Objective moral values do exist, from which it follows logically that God exists.

I hoped to get my other arguments on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the rebuttal; but I'm out of time, so I shall quit.


{1} John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)., pp. 561-565.

{2} Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 20.

{3} Peter Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

[ Previous | Table of Contents | Next ]