Thursday, December 22, 2016

Debate Video: Jeff Lowder vs. Frank Turek- What Better Explains Reality: Naturalism or Theism?


This debate features Dr. Frank Turek of CrossExamined and Jeffery Jay Lowder, founder of Internet Infidels.

Debate Review

I greatly enjoy watching debates and usually get very excited about them. For me, these types of debates are akin to what the Super Bowl is to others. Most often, however, debates do not live up to my expectations.

I remember being very excited that Sam Harris was debating William Lane Craig, but then I was disappointed by Harris' inability to stay on the topic and his insistence on attacking arguments that Craig hadn't even made.  More recently I was excited to watch David Wood's debate with Dr. Michael Shermer, but then I was frustrated with Shermer trotting out atheist slogan after atheist slogan while demonstrating, once again, that he does not understand the moral argument for God's existence. This is why I so enjoyed this debate between Frank Turek and Jeffrey Jay Lowder.

For those who are unfamiliar with Jeffrey Jay Lowder, he is a metaphysical naturalist, who, as noted above, is co-founder of Internet Infidels. He also blogs at Secular Outpost. As Dr. Turek pointed out in the debate, Lowder doesn't just attempt to tear down the case for God made by the Christian theist, but he actually presents arguments in favor of his position. Further, Lowder's debate style is very similar to that of William Lane Craig. He begins with the contentions he intends on defending and then supports them with his arguments. This should be modeled by all those who desire to debate successfully.

My thoughts on the debate are as follows:

Substance- Turek and Lowder spent the entire time arguing for their positions and defending their positions. This may not seem all that impressive to some, but for someone like myself, who has watched many debates, this was refreshing. There were very few red herrings introduced.

Organization- Both debaters presented very well-organized cases for their positions and knew their material well. It was obvious, especially in the case of Lowder, that the debaters were familiar with their opponent’s position and written work.

Tone- It was obvious that these gentlemen respect each other and that came through in their interactions. Absent were the common ad hominem attacks that accompany these types of exchanges. Turek and Lowder both went out of their way to compliment each other when appropriate and while neither pulled their punches, they acted as gentlemen throughout. I confess that I wish all theists and atheists would model this behavior.

Humility- Lowder was willing to point out arguments that he believes favor theism, which this listener greatly appreciated. Moreover, when he and Turek were discussing what grounds objective moral values and duties, Lowder conceded that he had not settled on which atheist explanation he finds most satisfying. Furthermore, at one point Lowder even said that he was not going to make an argument that "95% of other atheists make" and that is "the Euthyphro dilemma." He and Turek agreed that it is a false dilemma. It is this type of honesty that initially attracted me to Lowder's work, and we should all learn from it. Drop an argument when it fails. Don't try to continue using it just because it is the "done thing."

Rhetoric- If the debate were judged on rhetoric alone, I believe even Lowder would concede that Turek won. At one point during the debate, he even complimented Turek on his comedy. I appreciated Turek's ability to share stories, illustrations, and jokes to communicate his points.

Arguments- The debaters differed in how they argued. Interestingly, I believe they could learn from one another! While Turek majored on presentation, Lowder majored on content. It was evident that Lowder had over prepared for the debate and, as a consequence, was unable to cover all his material as he would have preferred. Turek, on the other hand, presented some arguments that were not as well developed. Therefore, they sometimes looked like mere assertions. For example, he asserted that the laws of logic must be grounded in the existence of God (which is a position I am sympathetic with); however, he did not present an argument for this position.

So, while Turek could learn from Lowder's depth, Lowder could learn from Turek's presentation.

Conclusion

In most of the debates on the existence of God, I am always impressed with how well the moral argument for God's existence stands. Although the argument was not completely developed by Turek, the naturalist’s difficulty with grounding objective moral truths apart from God was once again on display.

I learned a great deal from this exchange and, like any great debate, it has inspired more study. I want to learn more about Lowder's claim that evolution is more probable on naturalism than theism. And while it is still my conviction that God best grounds objective moral values and duties, I want to explore the atheist positions highlighted by Lowder.

All in all, this debate was pure mind food.  I completely agree with Randal Rauser, who wrote, in his own debate review, "Lowder and Turek have provided us a fascinating exchange of ideas and style which explores a range of issues and topics that often get overlooked or underemphasized in the God debates."

Please let us know what you thought of the debate in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad
Related Posts

Resource: Faith + Evolution

Video: The Case for the Existence of the Soul by J.P. Moreland

Book Review: Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case by Frank Turek

2 comments:

Brian said...

Great review! Thanks for taking the time to share.

Bob S said...

"I am always impressed with how well the moral argument for God's existence stands"

I'm curious to hear more. The moral argument for God (as I understand it) seems quite weak and ad hoc to me.