| Posted 02/08/08 at 10:13 PM||Reply with quote #1 |
|(from thesheaf.com - University of Saskatchewan)
The existence of God was debated January 31st between author, theologian, and Christian apologist Dr. William Craig and U of S philosophy professor and atheist Dr. George Williamson. Both men pleaded their case in an intelligent discussion, which lasted almost two hours. The evening's format allowed for 20-minute opening statements, 12-minute rebuttals, and a cross-examination period during which the two scholars asked questions of each other directly. The amicable debate, held in the College Building's Convocation Hall and broadcast live to the Thorvaldson Building, was well received by the attendees.
Williamson and Craig appeared on the radio together earlier that day on News Talk 650's John Gormley Live, taking questions from callers for one and a half hours. Craig has authored dozens of books on Christianity, the life and resurrection of Jesus, and other religious themes. His atheist opponent, Williamson, is a sessional lecturer in philosophy at the university.
The pro-God argument was peppered with scientific data, and Craig frequently dropped the names of physicists and other academics in order to move the debate from the metaphysical into a more tangible realm. Often the discussion would centre on questions of quantum mechanics and mathematics rather than vague ideas of faith and the afterlife.
Meanwhile, on the atheist side, Williamson attempted to point out logical fallacies and inconsistencies with the very idea of God. He insisted that the onus was on the believer to prove God's existence, not for the nonbeliever to disprove God. God is not necessary for human morality, he argued, and his slideshow presentation was titled "The Irrelevance of God."
According to the ballots filled out by audience members, 59 per cent of attendees believed in God's existence, 18 per cent were atheists, and another 23 per cent were agnostic. An overwhelming majority of 82.5 per cent sided with Craig, arguing in favour of God's existence, and won the debate. Only 13 audience members indicated that their beliefs had been changed by the debate, but the vast majority of attendees still expressed their appreciation for such discussions.
Both panelists were hopeful for more understanding between people on both sides of the religious divide. "People have been killing each other over religion for a long time," said Williamson after the debate. "It would be great if everyone could just be rational and open-minded in sharing their views, but there's something in human nature that just doesn't let us do that."
During the question period following the debate, several students challenged the scholars to defend their views. One man decried the whole debate as pointless, since few people were likely to be swayed by the arguments. He accused both Craig and Williamson of having used excessively sexist language during the exchange and argued in favour of a debate on the dangers of patriarchy. Most audience members did not appreciate the interruption, and questions soon turned back to the religious debate.
The event was sponsored by Campus for Christ and Athletes in Action, both part of the international Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ International. The organization boasts 150 members at the university, many of whom were in attendance on Thursday.
"We wanted to just give students on campus the opportunity to see both arguments," explained Brittany Chovin, president of Campus for Christ. "Having them [debate] gives people an opportunity to see both sides of the argument in an environment of respect."
The moderator of the event, Garrett Richards, encouraged attendees to visit the U of S Debate Society's website for more ways to get involved in university debates.
Both Craig and Williamson were respected throughout the night as they presented their arguments. The only outburst came when a PowerPoint presentation skipped ahead by several slides, prompting an audience member to joke loudly, "Maybe God did it!"