Prominent Atheists Fundamentally Misunderstand First-Cause Arguments

Uncommon Descent

Recently, a debate was held in London between theist philosopher Rabbi Daniel Rowe and atheist philosopher A.C. Grayling. The subject under dispute, unsurprisingly, was God’s existence. It’s a very interesting debate to watch. I’d never heard of Rowe before, but I was familiar with Grayling, who is sometimes referred to as the Fifth Horseman of New Atheism.

Generally speaking, the “New Atheists” haven’t shown any natural genius for philosophy. Grayling, though being a professional philosopher, does not prove to be the exception here. Instead, he shows that even when they have the benefit of philosophical training, it does them very little good when they engage in debates over God’s existence. I think it would be pretty uncontroversial to say that Rowe won the debate rather decisively. Grayling often seemed so far out of his depth that it was even making me uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how Grayling must have been feeling.

In an article at ENV, David Klinghoffer has pointed out that Jerry Coyne agrees. Writing at his blog, Why Evolution is True, Coyne says:

I have to admit to finding the prospect of an orthodox rabbi holding his own in a debate with Dr. Grayling on God’s existence rather disheartening, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what went down the other night in London.

If there’s anything inaccurate in this description of the debate it’s Coyne’s characterization of Rowe as merely “holding his own”.  Anyone who watches the debate will see that Rowe did much more than that. What I want to comment on, however, is the argument that Coyne thinks he would have used were he in Grayling’s shoes, because it demonstrates that prominent figures within the New Atheism movement (or whatever you want to call it), for all their bluster about the failure of arguments for God’s existence, often don’t even understand the arguments…


Misunderstanding first cause arguments | Uncommon Descent