Instigator / Pro

THBT: William Lane Craig defeated Christopher Hitchens in their 2009 debate


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
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After 2 votes and with 2 points ahead, the winner is...

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One day
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One week
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Contender / Con

The debate in question:
Topic: Does God Exist?

William Lane Craig:
Christopher Hitchens:

Debate: A formal debate involves two sides: one supporting a resolution and one opposing it.

Stances (burden of proof is shared)
Pro: William Lane Craig defeated Christopher Hitchens
Con: Christopher Hitchens defeated William Lane Craig

Round 1
  • In 2009, philosopher William Lane Craig debated atheist Christopher Hitches. The debate is here and a transcript of the debate can be found here (both links are in the description). 
  • The debate was resolved in question form "Does God Exist?" The resolution is a question, not a proposition. Thus Craig argues for the proposition and Hitches argues for the con position. We are debating over who won the debate, and I think it is clear that Craig strongly outperforms Hitches. 

Craig's Arguments
  • Immediately observing the structure of Craig's opening, it is clear that he is versed in a formal debate. His opening is sectioned into contentions for each argument he delivers. Unlike Hitches who decides to go on unstructured rambles where it is unclear precisely what his contentions are, Craig has the advantage of having an outlined and organized case. His contentions are as follows: 
  1. Atheists have historically failed to provide an argument that disproves the existence of God. Here, as he says rather than to "attack straw men at this point" he appeals to hear an argument from Hitches to present a defeater for God. 
  2. The Cosmological Argument: Appealing to scientific evidence, Craig argues that as the universe began to exist from its origin point the Big Bang, the universe thus has a cause for its existence, because all inductive evidence we have collected suggests that things that begin to exist come into existence with causes. He argues that finally, the cause must be a God. Stating in quote: "Now as the cause of space and time, this being must be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of unfathomable power. Moreover, it must be personal as well. Why? Because the cause must be beyond space and time, therefore it cannot be physical or material. Now, there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either an abstract object, like numbers or else a personal mind. But abstract objects can't cause anything. Therefore, it follows that the cause of the universe is a transcendent, intelligent mind. Thus, the cosmological argument gives us a personal creator of the universe
  3. The Teleological Argument: Craig uses scientific evidence here, indicating that as he says: "[w]ere these constants or quantities to be altered by less than a hair's breadth, the balance would be destroyed and life would not exist. To give just one example, the atomic weak force, if it were altered by as little as one part out of 10^100, would not have permitted a life-permitting universe." He argues further that there are three possible explanations for this: chance, physical necessity, or design. Chance is implausible given that the "chance" is approximately 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. He points out that the attempt the escape the implausibility of chance into physical necessity has been the multiverse hypothesis, which he further argues that even if the multiverse was assumed, the fine-tuned conditions we observe are extremely implausible. For example "Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form through a random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist." As Craig presents the options disjunctively—P ∨ (Q∨R)—it follows that design is the explanation of this phenomenon. He formalizes as below: 
      1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design (P ∨ (Q∨R)) 
      2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance (¬P ∧ ¬Q)  
      3. Therefore, it is due to design (∴ R) 
  4. The Moral Argument: Here Craig argues that objective moral values exist and they can only exist through the existence of God, an objective moral source. He further contends that we have strong rational intuitions that point to the existence of objective morality, and these cannot be explained by evolution: "[o]n the atheistic view, then, an action like rape is not socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really morally wrong. On the atheistic view, there's nothing really wrong with raping someone."
  5. The Resurrection of Jesus: As Craig affirms: "[t]he historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. Historians 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 miracle working and exorcisms." He goes through the objections to the evidence for the resurrection and shows that they are all insufficient and weak, and thus, the evidence for the resurrection is strong evidence for the existence of God. 
  6. The Immediate Experience of God: Here Craig asserts that "[t]his isn't really an argument for God's existence; rather it's the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from argument simply by immediately experiencing him" and that "philosophers call beliefs like these properly basic beliefs. They aren't based on other beliefs...grounded in the sense that they are formed in the context of certain experiences." Since Craig says this is not an argument but a foundational reason, I will not include it in the clash. 
  • From this analysis, it is clear Craig separates his arguments into contentions and uses clear deductive inferences. 

Hitchen's Arguments 
  • Observing Hitchen's arguments is peculiar. As intelligent and renowned as the man was, he had no clear structure to his speech and mostly went on a disorganized ramble about various topics. He goes on a tangent about presuppositionalism vs evidentialism when Craig does not follow presuppositionalism. 
  • He also gives no clear argument for his position even though the debate has a clear shared burden of proof. He just gives vague and sporadic "criticisms" of Christianity even though the topic of the debate only has to do with the existence of God. From this, we can observe that the majority of his opening case is simply irrelevant to the debate at hand and Craig emphasizes this well throughout the debate. 

Interplay/Clash Towards Conclusion
  • We have seen that Craig came prepared with a clear structure and set of arguments, and Hitchens came with a jumbled mess of a case with a very poor structure if any at all. Now, we can go through the points of Craigs's arguments and observe that he won every major point of the debate. 
  1. Arguments against/defeaters of God: As Craig points out in his first rebuttal, Hitchens concedes this point. From "Mr. Hitchens' last speech, he would agree with that first statement that there is no good argument that atheism is true." Hitchens just admits that he has no defeater for God's existence, which as Craig points out, just places the opposition in a state of agnosticism. Thus for the purposes of the debate, there is no defeater for God presented. 
  2. The Cosmological Argument: Craig points out that Hitchens does not dispute that whatever begins to exist has a cause or that the universe began to exist. He only asks if there "was there pre-existent material?" which is not an objection to any premise of the argument. By the end of the debate Hitches literally just drops this argument as Craig points out in his closing. 
  3. The Fine-Tuning Argument: This is simply dropped by Hitches by the end of the debate once again. 
  4. The Moral Argument: Christopher Hitches responds to this by appealing that atheists are just as capable of acting morally, simply missing the point of the argument which was there is no foundation for objective morality without theism. Hitches does not dispute any of the premises of the argument itself either. He goes on to concede that he can't ground these values objectively in the cross-examination. Even further he clearly shows he does not understand the argument as expressed by Craig. "Mr. Hitchens has consistently distorted the argument. He has portrayed the argument as, how would we know moral values if we didn't believe in God? We don't need to believe in a tyrant in order to find moral values; unbelief doesn't produce wickedness. That is all irrelevant." 
  5. The Resurrection of Jesus: This is simply un-refuted by Hitches by the end of the debate as Hitches goes on more tangents in his second rebuttal. 

  • This took place after each speaker had a rebuttal, and this is just to further highlight the dominance of Craig in the debate as he begs Hitches to simply answer his questions while Hitches continues to ramble (1:21:431:22:10 of video) and he forces Hitches to concede that under his view, he cannot ground objective moral values and duties (1:25:00). On Hitches turn to ask questions, he asks questions that are irrelevant to the debate such as about...exorcism? (1:25:58). Just purely weird questions that don't target any arguments in the debate. On top of this Craig provides him with clear and direct answers while Hitches answered with tangents and had to be redirected to the topic multiple times. 

  • While Craig adds structure to his arguments, Hitchens goes on a sporadic set of tangents and ramblings without addressing most of Craig's case. Of 5 main contentions, Hitches concedes on 2/5 and drops the rest. Craig also had clear and straightforward answers in the cross-examination while Hitches had to be led like a child to stay on topic. As a result of all this, no question Craig strongly won this debate, and dare I say, it was not even remotely close. 

Theism has always been an impossible position to argue. Logically, there was no way for William Craig to win this debate. 
I will prove my case on several fronts. Each of which shall be divided into their own sections.

Burden of Proof:
On-balance debate, so BOP is shared. I win if I prove Christopher Hitchens won and Pro wins if he proves William Craig won. 

l. The Misbalance of Logic
William Craig argues that there are no compelling arguments for atheism. This is the fundamental misunderstanding of christian-atheism conversation. Christopher Hitchens’s beginning argument retorts this exact point perfectly, the strength of the theist position is not contingent on whether or not it is falsiable. 

  • This means that theists must prove that God exists. The fact that atheists cannot disprove a god does not mean there is one. 
  • The product of creation doesn’t demand a creator as an explanation for their existence. 

ll. The Inconsistencies of Theism
  • William Craig states there are better arguments for theism, but the only argument they need to prove is the existence of a God. 
  • Stating that Evolution proves the existence of a creator only contradicts 100% of world religions. 
  • To state that infinity is a paradox is logically inconsistent with the concept of a designer. 
William Craig asserts that infinity is mathematically absurd, so the concept of an eternal creator is therefore a double standard. 

If the logic is as follows that the complexity of a human mind is so intelligent that it demands a creator as an explanation for its existence, then it also stands to reason that the creator also has a creator. And his creator also has a creator. 
Round 2
  • I see it as prudent to simply extend my analysis of the debate. Con does not address any of the particulars of my case, which may turn out to be his plan for round two, but he also does a poor job of analyzing the debate as it is. In fact, nearly everything con says in his round one is a false or confused statement, so we can get straight to going through his case. I of course note that my round one case is simply carried over.

Theism has always been an impossible position to argue.
  • This is such a funny claim. Impossible under what modality? If a logical modality what is the contradiction entailed, and if it is impossible under a physical modality, what contradiction is entailed with the laws of physics? Irrespective, a very silly claim to make. 

"The Misbalance of Logic..."
This means that theists must prove that God exists. The fact that atheists cannot disprove a god does not mean there is one. 
  • Yes, and precisely no one claimed that "the fact that atheists cannot disprove a god does not mean there is one," so I struggle to even grasp the relevance. The claim in question was that there are no good arguments that conclude with the proposition "God does not exist," or defeaters for God. 
The product of creation doesn’t demand a creator as an explanation for their existence. 
  • Actually, by definition a "creation" requires a creator—that is just an analytically true statement/proposition like "all bachelors are unmarried men," so while you are wrong about that, I can be a little more charitable. Let's say you meant to say that the existence of any given object itself does not necessarily entail a creator. Of course, no one made that claim or argument so this is going to be irrelevant to anything Craig stated in his case. Instead, he argued that certain conditions such as the fine-tuning of the constants in our world, the nature of the begging of the universe, etc. lead to the conclusion that a creator to a designer is the best explanation. 
  • Let's note that con has not even addressed the actual interplay of the debate and it is unclear as to whether he is just putting down his own problems with theism, all of which are strawmen and all of which are irrelevant. 

"The Inconsistencies of Theism..."
  • An inconsistency would be some sort of contradiction. Knowing basic logic would tell you that a contradiction is the affirmation of a proposition and its negation, so what is the contradiction and what set of propositions form the contradiction con? Clearly, con is unaware of this because he does not demonstrate the logical contradiction within Craig's arguments, he just states random points that hardly seem connected or even substantive. 
William Craig states there are better arguments for theism, but the only argument they need to prove is the existence of a God. 
  • How are these incompatible? He can claim that there are better arguments for theism and that the arguments prove the existence of God or provide a strong reason to believe in God over not. 
Stating that Evolution proves the existence of a creator only contradicts 100% of world religions. 
  • Very weird claim. First, what is the argument for that? Craig extensively shows how evolution is perfectly compatible with Christianity in his first rebuttal which calls into question whether con is acquainted with the debate at all. And second, no religion is necessary to prove that a god exists which is all the debate is resolved upon. So even if the really weird universal quantified statement was true it would not even be relevant. 

  • Here con takes the initiative to argue against Craig himself instead of showing how the person he is arguing won the debate, Cristopher Hitchens, countered this point or made an argument against it. As shown in round one all of Craig's arguments were either dropped or conceded upon. We are not arguing against the people in question, we are discussing who won the debate, and how the two people on the debate stage performed. So I could ignore this entire part of con's round 1, but I can address it anyway for the sake of clearing up false information. 
If the logic is as follows that the complexity of a human mind is so intelligent that it demands a creator as an explanation for its existence, then it also stands to reason that the creator also has a creator. And his creator also has a creator. 
  • This is just a clear confusion of the cosmological argument. All Craig claims is that anything that began to exist has a cause, not literally everything that exists. The universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause, and as he clearly argues in his opening that con did not read, "this being must be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of unfathomable power." So Craig argues that the cause of the Universe must itself be uncaused which shows that this "objection" is a mere lack of understanding.

  • Just like the confusion of Mr. Hitches in his debate, it seems con does not even analyze the arguments presented, nor does he deny that Hitches dropped 60% of Craig's case and concede elements of the remaining 40% meaning that he did not win on a single point of the debate. Con does not even address the debate and just states his personal misinformed opinions about Craig's arguments, which in any case, even if I submitted a BLANK DOCUMENT for round one would place us on equal footing. The decision for this debate is self-evident. Extend the particulars of round 1 analysis.

In Craig’s closing statement, he successfully demonstrates that he still misunderstands the requirements of atheism and theism in regards to their respective debate. 

This is far from the victory everyone else seems to think it as. 

Let’s start with.... 

l. There are no good arguments for atheism.
  • Craig strawmans William by saying he claims he has the only true worldview. 
  • He doesn’t have any arguments for this worldview. 
  • Absence of evidence is not “evidence of absence.”
Misrepresenting William’s argument is merely a cop-out. William never asserts with certainty that there is no God, so the burden to convince him otherwise naturally falls on Craig. 

William states that there is no evidence or convincing reasons to believe in God and how does Craig counter this? By stating that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

So where then is the evidence? Nothing that Craig says in this discussion is evidence of a creator. 

ll. Mutual Semantic Confusion
  • Craig asserts that the inanibility to prove atheism leads you with agnosticism. 
  • William Hitchens asserts that there is a huge leap from deism to theism. 
Both messed up here. Craig fails to understand that agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. William’s mistake was in not recognizing that deism is a part of theism. 

lll. Evolution is proof of creation
  • Craig mentions that the time limits of scripture are not meant to be taken literally. 
  • Craig states Evolution is irrelevant to theistic creation. 
  • Craig says Evolution is proof of intelligent design. 
St. Augustine is referenced here, specifically in regards to the birth of The Earth and the 6 days of creation. While the concept of Evolution was not around, there were scientific developments that indicated an Earth being of a more advanced age. 

None of this proves Craig’s argument. It only strengthens William’s quote that “evidence is an occasional convenience.” There is a reason theists are accused of cherry-picking and this is precisely what Craig is doing here. 

It’s the same old song and dance. 

lV. Creation is the best explanation
  • Craig continues to assert that the evidence all points to a creator as the best explanation. 
  • That William cannot prove God does not exist. 
Craig’s intentional misrepresentation of William’s position is a skillful form of deflection. Calling atheism a worldview and saying he needs to show evidence God does not exist is far from William’s position. 

William doesn’t have to prove that God doesn’t exist and he points this out by mentioning people are not required to disprove the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Laplace is also quoted by William in stating that the mechanics of the universe do not lead to the hypothesis of a creator. 

Furthermore, Craig even admits he is unable to prove beyond certainty the existence of a god. Craig lost this debate bad. 

Round 3
  • All right, so all my arguments that show Craig won have been dropped, so extend them all. Con seems to have dropped all his previous unsubstantiated and amusing claims such as "[t]heism has always been an impossible position to argue. Con's case here is just purely disconnected from his round one post which I am sure the voters can agree has been 
  • On another note, con calls "Cristopher Hitches" William in this round, mistakingly. He points out his mistake in the comments. Of course, William is just Craig's first name, his name is William Lane Craig. 

Progression/Case Considerations
  • Note that once again, we are not arguing against the debate participants we are arguing over who won the debate. We are not making arguments against them, we are analyzing the arguments and counters made in the debate. Note that not only con's inability to remember the names of the people in this debate but his lack of response to any of my analyses in conjunction with his dropping of his previous points which have all been shown to be nonsensical place this debate in a peculiar state of one-sidedness. If I were to forfeit this round a vote for pro would follow most reasonably. 

  • Dismiss this as an unsubstantiated claim. Craig did not misrepresent any aspect of Hitchens's case, and if it was the case. This is of course why con did not link a video timestamp or a quote from the transcript. Unlike con, I cited all quotations and timestamps for my claims, but con does not seem to believe he has to. 

"Mutual Semantic Confusion..."?

So where then is the evidence? Nothing that Craig says in this discussion is evidence of a creator. 
  • This is just denialism at this point and should be ignored. 

"Evolution is proof of creation"
None of this proves Craig’s argument. It only strengthens William’s quote that “evidence is an occasional convenience.” There is a reason theists are accused of cherry-picking and this is precisely what Craig is doing here. 
  • So, sometimes people say things that may sound coherent at first glance, so I want voters to just pause and re-read this, and observe that it is simply just gibberish. What exactly was the cherry-picking? Con does not show what it was nor does he cite a QUOTE or TIMESTAMP. He also does not provide any sort of reasoning for what he says here, either for how this supports Hutchen's argument or how this does not prove Craig's argument, or what Craig's argument in question even is

Furthermore, Craig even admits he is unable to prove beyond certainty the existence of a god. Craig lost this debate bad. 
  • Yes, and no one is required to prove anything with certainty. In fact, it is dubious as to whether we can have absolute 100% certainty of anything at all. All Craig needs to prove is that it is more plausible that God exists, and Hitchens needs to prove that it is more plausible that God does not exist. 

  • I am just surprised at some of what happened in this debate but I don't think voting decisions are going to be difficult in any case. 
  • Extend that of the 5 main contentions Craig made, Hitchens conceded aspects of 2 of them and dropped 3 of them. This means all 5 of Craig's arguments went through, and none of Hitchens's did, if you can even call anything he said an argument. 
  • Extend that Craig had a clear structure and maintained it throughout the debate in contrast to the structure-less rambling of Hitchens. 
  • Extend that Craig had to beg Hitches just to stop rambling and answer his questions in the cross-examination, getting a key concession in the debate on grounding objective morals, and proceeding to answer Hitchen's promptly as he bumbled on proposing questions irrelevant to the debate. 
  • This debate was mostly me informing con of what happened during the debate or correcting various false statements. Con has dropped every single point I have made and dropped every single false statement he has made, which should be taken as a sign that he accepts those corrections. Con's case is mostly a collection of gibberish, words that have no clear reasoning behind them, confused statements etc. With a simple decision for the voters on the table, I think I will end here, and just extend my round one case once again. 

Extend. ^