ABC’s Debate on Religion

Written by Drew on May 9th, 2007

Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s debate with the Rational Response Squad (the group responsible for the “Blasphemy Challenge” on YouTube) is now running on ABC’s news website. I watched as much of it as I have time for, but early on it became clear that neither side was prepared for a discussion of the arguments for the existence of God.

Comfort started with the argument from design, a strong argument to be sure. He gave several effective illustrations, but then he moved on to two other “arguments” that were actually gospel sermons unconvincingly cloaked in science. Comfort feebly argued from the existence of morality, allowing the discussion to turn towards the Ten Commandments and sin. This was unfortunate because it left atheist Brian Sapient an open door for accusing his opponents of not honoring the terms of the debate. (Comfort asserted that he would prove God’s existence without mentioning faith or the Bible.) Last, Comfort gave a gospel sermon couched as an argument based on the power of conversion.

On the atheistic side Brian Sapient, spokesman for the Rational Response Side, brushed off the argument design by saying it was “full of holes.” “Who designed the Designer?” he asked. This told me I was watching a debate broadcast for people who have never studied these arguments before, and about thirty seconds later, after Sapient said he had answered all of Comfort’s claims, I stopped watching. The question “who designed the Designer?” is a non sequitur, because it does nothing to negate the initial argument that a Designer can be inferred from the natural world. True, Sapient spent about ten seconds challenging Comfort’s premise, pointing out that men have mammory glands and that animals eat each other to survive, but in my opinion somebody’s going to have to do better than that before I come to believe an eternal universe accidentally formed our world and all of its marvelous features using only the tool of evolution.

What was interesting to me is that, although the event was staged at a Baptist Church in Manhattan, Sapient received vigorous applause from the audience. In the portion of the debate that I watched, Comfort didn’t receive any positive feedback.

It’s too bad that Christians can’t get a major network to broadcast an event like this unless Kirk Cameron is involved. On the atheistic side the representatives were even more embarrassing. The Rational Response Squad could not hide their arrogance, yet if they had read anything beyond the opinions of their friends on the Internet, it didn’t show. If the ABC’s producers were really interested in getting to the bottom of this, they would have invited some full-fledged philosophers to the table for a discussion.

I’m told that portions of the debate will air on ABC’s Nightline tonight. Maybe somebody who watched the entire debate can comment to this post to give a more accurate recap of the debate.
 

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Bill Reichart says:

    I will definitely be watching tonight. Although I don’t question their heart or intentions, I do have an issue though that their approach is to argue without using the Bible. To argue simply with reason as the foundation is to concede that reason is the sole arbiter of what is true or false. I think that this approach is a critical mistake.
    -Bill from ProvocativeChurch

  2. Matt Dowling says:

    Hi Drew,

    Not sure there is much to summarize…

    Ray Comfort employed the teleological argument as you rightly point out, then used the preseence of a conscience to shore it up. Had he and Cameron billed this debate differently, I think they might have received a better response, but unfortunately they opened themselves up for ridicule because they did not stick to the format originally promised. The atheists employed talking points used widely by Richard Dawkins (and included in The God Delusion). I’m surprised that two relative neophytes to the debating gig would put themselves out there with such an audience. There are times in the webcast that Cameron and Comfort are not able to respond to the Rational Response Squad, even when their positions were weak and could have been easily attacked. My hope is that the whole thing will quietly go away and fade from memory.

    Best,
    Matt Dowling

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