christianity philosophy

craig cooke debate: impressions

With expectations low (but not low enough to keep us away!), Damian and I headed to the debate  (link to series here) tonight between William Lane Craig and Bill Cooke.

I think we both left having heard little or nothing we hadn’t heard before, but nonetheless having enjoyed watching it all unfold.

What follows is not a full, detailed review of the debate, but (in all truthfulness) rather various impressions I’ll share (on my way to bed)…

-Damian and I both were disappointed that Cooke did not engage (he honestly did not engage at all) with Craig’s points for the existence of God (which were anything but new or original). Regardless of how strong one feels these points were (or are), a significant expectation of the debate was engagement regarding the existence of God. The lack of such engagement was a surprise to say the least. Craig hammered away (the repetition was… well… repetitive) on his 5 points, while Cooke mainly attacked what he perceived to be Craig’s version of evangelical Christian faith.

-The debate was well attended. The original room was changed to another one, which filled quickly (we ‘estimated’ 400-ish capacity), and then two (or was it three?) subsequent rooms were opened and linked via video. I don’t know if that says much about the reputation/popularity of the debaters, the topic, or something else…

-The moderator was good. He had a generous, but practical style. He summarised the after-questions nicely; and let’s not forget that wonderful ‘mouse/rat’ squeaky thing he used as a time warning… ;)

-Good on the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists for promising to put it on YouTube. (link here)

-Just a tip to zealous, eager evangelical Christians: Don’t use the after-question time at a debate to offer an atheist debater the chance to accept Jesus into his heart…

-off to bed now… impressions from other attendees???

7 replies on “craig cooke debate: impressions”

Yep, that’s a good summary of the debate Dale.

Because Cooke didn’t engage Craig’s 5 key points I’m going to spend a bit of time over the next couple of days going through them for the benefit of anyone who’s not been exposed to the various angles. I’ll keep you posted.

I still enjoyed the debate though. Cooke really didn’t engage and Craig’s arguments are pretty old but the crowd was generous and I’m happy that so many Aucklanders chose to attend rather than stay in for Coronation Street!

Thanks for the comments. I listened to Kim Hill’s interview and was actually surprised at how reasonable Carig came across – in his manner at least.
Damian, I look forward to discussion of Craig’s points. I guess it will be on your own blog?

I too, attended the debate. Both my son and I were disappointed, not in there were no sparks or that the event was not enjoyable, but that the powder of Craig’s fellow debater remained sodden. The essence of a debate is engagement, rather than delivering an English vicar’s homilie while serving tea and sandwiches on a sunny Sunday afternoon, encouraging the parishioners to be nice to one another.
Cooke’s appeal to tolerance and inclusion together with the common concerns of the planet’s welfare, was diversionary, however worthwhile and urgent, were not the focus of the debate. Unfortunate, to say the least.
Craig on the other hand started and attempted to set the tone of the debate by presenting familiar arguments for the existence of God. Although neither original nor new (who has in the last few centuries?), he maintained the character of the debate. Unfortunately, if it were not for the lively and attentive audience, he may as well have been talking to himself.
A comment overheard, that Craig was the more rational whereas Cooke’s wishy-washy, emotive appeal to the audience was even less than pure evangelism!
Predictably, both appealled to scholarly authorship in support of their arguments. However, Craig to atheist writers, Cooke to Christian ones! All this showed, among the greater circle of participants in the classical debate over the existence of God, is the apparent discrepancies on both sides about what each is proposing as a basis for their argument.
Strangely, Cooke’s appeal to the need for inclusion and participation in the greater issues over human and planetary survival, seems to require urgent, decisive and clear debate, the character of such a debate in which Cooke would seem uncomfortable to participate!

I wonder about the debate format. Doesn’t that sort of present the whole thing as a sport. People then expect extreme statements, put-downs of the opponent, emotion, etc. The audience takes sides or gives points for each perceived hit. Real information gets lost.

The recent presentations Dawkins has been promoting as a new approach have worked for me. Here the two participants take part in a discussion rather than a debate. I was impressed in the Dawkins/Kraus discussion (Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion) how both sides could openly discuss their differences, acknowledge the honesty of the other side, didn’t use any put-downs, etc. And the audience seemed to love it.

I don’t know that one could do it with an existence of god question unless there was some common ground – a Dawkins/Collins or Dawkins/Miller discussion for example would be interesting.

However, I think there is plenty of room for discussion (rather than debate) between religious and non-religious spokepeople. We all face the same problems so there is common ground.

Yes, Ken,
I don’t think that a public, formatted, ‘trading-monologues’ style debate is the best way to discover truth. But as both parties agreed to that style of debate, both should have been prepared to do their best! ;)

I agree the ‘discussion’ format is good.

And… such a discussion between Dawkins and either Collins or Miller would be good, because they have a common ground in science, but not philosophy. ;)


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