Monday, October 25, 2010

Debate: Is Christianity Rational?

I enjoyed listening to a debate on October 7th, 2010 between Jeremy Beahan (of Reasonable Doubts podcast) and Christian apologist Cliff Knechtle.  The topic was "Is Christianity Rational?"

Overall, I found Beahan's performance to be far superior to Knechtle.  Beahan calmly stated his case without emotional appeals, unlike Knechtle who spoke with the punctuated emphasis like a Baptist preacher, and who appealed to emotion more and more as the debate went on.  Beahan managed his allotted time much better, even ending his remarks before his time was up, whereas Knechtle continually went over time and had to be prodded by the moderator to finish his comments.  But that's about the performance, and one aspect of debates is that they are largely theater and oratory.

As for the content, Knechtle brought nothing new to the table that I haven't heard for decades from the likes of Josh McDowell and (to a lesser degree) Kent Hovind: God exists because we can see Design; Jesus really rose from the dead because we have eyewitness testimony; without God we can't have morality.  These are old, tired arguments that have been debunked countless times, some of them for millennia (ie, Euthyphro's Dilemma, Epicurus' God and Evil.)

Whereas Beahan's content was largely unoriginal, although he can't be blamed for that.  When an old rebuttal works against an old argument, there's little need to update the rebuttal.  In fact, the area where Beahan interjected new material was where he stumbled the most.  In response to Knechtle's Anthropic Principle as evidence that God favors humanity (by positioning Earth in such a choice location in the universe), Beahan responded by noting that the newly discovered planet orbiting Gliese 581 in that star's habitable zone.  Beahan asserted too much about that planet, stating that we know much about it's composition and rotation, when in reality almost nothing is known about the planet.  Beahan argued that with this planet capable of supporting life, therefore the universe is benign to life and the anthropric principle is too solipstic to take seriously.  But we're a long way from knowing much more about distant planets, and there are plenty of candidates in our own solar system for potential life (Mars, Europa, Titan, etc.)

All in all, Beahan handled himself well, did not preach, and did not resort to emotional appeals, compared to Knechtle, whom I found disappointing and irritating.

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