John McLatchie, a celebrity ID-ist according to TSZ, and Alex O’Connor had a debate titled “Theism vs. Naturalism: Which is a Better Account of Reality?”
The actual debate starts at 14:08 with John McLatchie’s opening statement.
McLatchie’s “Evidence for Theism”:
- The Universe had a beginning.
- The fine-tuning of the laws of physics.
- The evidence of biological design.
- The evidence for the truth of Christianity.
McLatchie focuses on biological design in his opening statement first, and second on some scattered remarks on Christianity apparently from some Anglo-American evangelical angle.
This is boring because the title of the debate is “Theism vs. Naturalism” and none of McLatchie’s points are on theism. His first two points are cosmology, the third is biology and the fourth is Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is just one parochial/provincial form of theism, whereas McLatchie seems to care most about ID-ism which does not properly qualify as any sort of theism, even though McLatchie presents it as if it did.
ID-ism – as in McLatchie’s third point, evidence of biological design – is an argument about the nature of biology. The argument has no direct implications on theology, which is why it does not qualify as a theistic argument. Yes, biological organisms and their functions appear designed because they are complicated and purposeful, but this might mean that the designer is even more complicated, so who designed the designer? Richard Dawkins would agree that biology has hallmarks of design all over, but posits that the design is fundamentally derived from non-design. That’s how little connection biological design has to theism.
(As an aside, I recall that according to its advocates ID-ism was supposed to be sheer science, nothing sneakily religious or theological. The truth of course is that ID-ism was always meant as a sneaky way to get God into school textbooks and this is now – openly in a non-sneaky way – manifest in McLatchie’s presentation.)
The topic of theism requires properly a philosophical or theological approach, so luckily we have Alex O’Connor, a student of theology, who starts his opening statement at 34:25.
O’Connor’s first point against theism: “The inescapable God” (Psalm 139) is not a universal experience.
According to O’Connor, naturalism (atheism) would be a better explanation given:
- Hiddenness of God
- Geographical statistical arrangement of religious belief
- Problem of gratuitous suffering
I find the first point the strongest against theism. When a sincere seeker is not rewarded with results, it is a bummer for sure. However, there is a solution to it that O’Connor does not consider. Namely, some self-reflection is in order after a failed quest. You may think you are truly perfect and God should accept you as such, but are you really and should he really? In principle, God doesn’t have to obey your criteria or play according to your rules. Or, if you really are absolutely fabulous and wonderful, then there may be a better God in store for you instead of the geographical statistical average as per your local whereabouts.
O’Connor should really consider some self-reflection along those lines, because philosophy and theology are rather sophisticated pursuits, particularly when your intellectual level is above the average Joe. As for average Joes, O’Connors first two points weigh equally against atheism as against theism: Most interesting science and thoroughly matured atheism are as inscrutable for common folks as philosophically consistent theism and theology are. And you find more atheists in certain places and not in others, if that’s supposed to mean anything.
I leave O’Connor’s third point, the problem of suffering, be. In my opinion, the theists for whom the problem of suffering poses a problem are actually doubters, not believers. For me, the problem of suffering never was any sort of problem. But supposing that suffering is a problem, atheism doesn’t solve it. Atheism only asserts that gratuitous suffering is okay, “natural”. Which far from solves it.
In summary, the debate was more on topic by O’Connor, because his approach was properly philosophical. McLatchie’s ID-ism, as ID-ism in general, is basically off topic when it comes to theism. However, on this website ID-ism is very much the topic, so discuss.