"God in Light of Modern Cosmology"

The William Lane Craig/Sean Carroll Debate

By Jeff Laird

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Continued from Page Two

This is especially fascinating, as Carroll was directly quoted at the start of the debate, saying that people can always come up with elaborate schemes to protect their philosophical preferences against evidence. Craig, I think, missed an opportunity to drive this point home.

Carroll's contention about the definition of theism was really just a repeat of that very claim: that any evidence can be interpreted or explained away. So far as it goes, that's a good point. There are those who make an effort to explain away evidence, or purposefully ignore it, in order to protect a philosophy. But as Craig said, the entire premise of the debate was that certain scientific ideas do suggest theistic concepts, and one could falsify a theistic God through various theological or physical means.

Further, Carroll's criticism of theistic definitions was entirely on the basis of his personal preferences: the universe is unfair, the cosmos is a waste of space, there is too much suffering, God is totally invisible, etc. That last point was the only time I felt he risked caricaturing religious belief. Theism itself is the belief that God has, and does, make Himself known through interactions with the universe. But Carroll's not a theist, so from his philosophical perspective, that it what it is. He readily admitted he was moving off-topic, but seemed to have no other real contention for this view other than those opinions.


The second major error Carroll made, I think, was his claims about Causality. He rightly noted that the physics we see in our daily lives are not necessarily representative of the universe as a whole. But then, he took this further to say that causality itself did not necessarily apply to the universe as a whole. And yet, Carroll had repeatedly spoken of a universe of "unbreakable laws".

This, Craig did make note of, and for good reason. The entire discipline of science is predicated on the idea that we can connect events in a logical, causal sequence. Once you deny that, science is literally impossible, and we can just make up any crazy idea with the excuse that "the rules don't apply here." Craig rightly noted that Carroll had to rely on causality to build his science, and his models, but was trying to abandon it when it became inconvenient.


All in all, it was an informative and positive debate. It was high on technical terms, including what seemed like several thousand mentions of "Boltzmann Brains", a concept Craig used to attack the idea that universes just randomly appear from some chaotic substrate. If you're not familiar with the Boltzmann Brain idea, you'll definitely want to brush up on it prior to watching the debate. But as the conversation went on, positions became clearer, as did the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. There seemed to be recognition on both sides that philosophical assumptions, more so than physics, separated their views. That's about as much as one could hope for.

Debates that play out as this one did are extremely good for both the scientific and faith communities. Non-believers have nothing to lose, and Christians have nothing to fear, from a bold and honest pursuit of truth. In fact, we have ample reasons to pursue truth, even if we think it will contradict our beliefs (1 Corinthians 15:19). Passionate discussions, such as this between Craig and Carroll, are an excellent way for us to learn each other's views, develop respect for other interpretations, and sharpen our thinking (Proverbs 27:17).

Image credit: the Milky Way from the Bermudas by Stakaly; Creative Commons

TagsCurrent-Issues  |  Reviews-Critiques  |  Science-Creation

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Published 2-26-2014