Debate - Is God Real? William Lane Craig vs Michael Tooley

This is my last post reviewing every chapter in the new anthology on the problem of suffering titled, God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain,edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew. [To read other entries in this series just click on the "God and Evil" tag below this post].

This time up is the transcript of the debate between William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley, "Theism, Atheism and the Problem of Evil" (pp. 292-326), which is the Appendix to the book. I found the video of the debate which you can watch below. I was surprised it was included in this book because I think Tooley beat Craig soundly. More on that later.

William Lane Craig
It's been said by a few atheists, most notably Chris Hallquist, that one way to beat Craig is to go first when debating him. That certainly has its merits since, if you have a good opener, it forces your opponent to present an opening statement AND try to rebut your opening statement at the same time. Tooley knew this and did both effectively as the second presenter. Knowing that we must do this is the key, and it isn't hard to know what Craig will say first, since he basically repeats the same lines of arguments in all of his debates on the existence of God. Tooley did his homework such that he even predicted in advance how Craig would respond, and surprise, Craig responded as predicted! If going second can be done in this fashion it leaves us with the last word unrebutted.

Michael Tooley
Tooley also chose to focus on one argument, the problem of evil, although he was also prepared to briefly answer all of Craig's other arguments. I think that was very effective. Focus on one argument, but be prepared for the others. Some of Tooley's answers to Craig's litany of arguments were quite good, and even a bit surprising for me.

I have the written transcript of the debate before me, with better diagrams than in the video, and I still had a bit of trouble following the argument in his opening statement. So that part of Tooley's opener wasn't too good as far as the presentation went. Speaking before an audience requires debaters not to get too technical (unless the goal is to bamboozle them like Craig did in his debate with Bart Ehrman). My guess is that Tooley lost most of the audience. Lesson learned then, don't get too technical. Keep it as simple as possible for the hearing audience without becoming simplistic.

That having been said, I think Tooley schooled Craig, and he schooled the rest of us on how to debate Craig. I loved how Tooley initially described four clever maneuvers Craig uses to fool listeners, adding a fifth one later on. Spot on. Tooley is my new atheist hero. He gets it.

This isn't to say Craig is not a formidable debate opponent at all. He is. I was surprised how quickly Craig was able to respond to Tooley with arguments that might resonate with believers who need to believe. It's just that Craig's arguments were an exercise in special pleading and begging the question, which Tooley pointed out a few times.

A clear win for Tooley.

Since Tooley mentioned his book with Alvin Plantinga, Knowledge of God, follow the link to get it. It's bound to be good!