A few thoughts on this 2 hour debate.
I just finished watching the debate on DVD and thought it was very interesting but became very frustrated at how Dan Barker focused so much on the definitions and meaning of words and ignored the tough issues, such as the beginning of all matter and objective moral truths. He became obsessed with defining what God is. He wanted a definition that could explain him in our terms, such as, size, weight, color, etc. All I’m saying is, there could have been more intellectual thoughts presented rather than argue trivialities such as what God looks like. Despite this, the debate brought about many interesting arguments for both sides. If you did not know the most powerful arguments both sides use, you should watch this DVD. Be warned though, both sides fail at providing adequate defense in many cases. This is said in hindsight of course, as any argument that is watched can be carefully analyzed.
Dan brought up very good points on morality using current examples and common sense intuition but could not coherently disprove how moral truths, that are outside our decision making and intuition, could exist. He simply stated that we can arrive at these “truths” which he defined as instinct, naturally. However I think a point Trent missed here was giving examples of how certain actions that natural selection would allow we do not consider correct, such as the killing of babies who are born with defects to make the gene pool improve or simply to make society better because we will have one less mouth to feed who will not produce/work, or the killing of old people who become handicap because they are of no use, and this includes inaction, not only literal killing, that is, not helping the weak continue because of their state, which we see in the animal world, where animals who are injured fall behind and remain.
While Dan did state that all humans should strive to reduce suffering overall, he did not want to admit that this truth comes from some moral objectivity, but rather, our culture simply values this thought process. I did not think this was an adequate answer, since across cultures, certain views could be seen as correct, and yet we believe them to be wrong at all times. Such as causing suffering for the sake of increased suffering. If morals were truly relative, we could never say whether one person was right or wrong, they are simply of a different opinion. And even this is contradictory, since being tolerant across the board is a form of objectivity (if all relativists did this), which causes you to not be relative anymore since you are stating a universal truth (tolerance).
Trent Horn also stumbled many times, one example is when Dan asked him if lying was always wrong or right. I believe that answer, directed towards lying alone, is not absolute, and that the correct answer would have been that moral truths tell us to treat others as we would want to be treated, with care, love, patience, etc. Therefore, in Dan’s example where you were asked if you would lie to the husband to protect the wife, you yourself would desire to be lied to if you were in the position of the crazed man. Being in a rational state and not in a frenzy, we would know what the objective truth is, that is, that we would want others to lie to us in order to protect loved ones until we calmed down and could think correctly. It seems like common sense in hindsight but a lot of opportunities were missed for both sides.
On the argument of the multi-verse, Dan provided no compelling arguments we haven’t heard before, such as, given enough multi-verses, we came about by luck. He avoided the question that despite having many multi verses, what created those? His main argument is: since we don’t know, we cannot assume. But the very definition of God, in a scientific sense, leads to him being impossible to discover using scientific tools and procedures. Because if God truly created all matter and space and time, then he himself cannot be made of these things. Dan then proceeded to try and define God again by asking, if God is immaterial, then how can God exist? Nothing can’t be something. But this very logic is then abandoned when he tries to defend the universe coming from nothing. He states that it may be possible, but we do not fully understand it. So on one hand God cannot be nothing, but on the other, the universe and the cosmos could appear out of nothing.
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