I announced at the time a debate on November 13, 2010 in Puebla Mexico on the question: Does the Universe have a Purpose? The debate participants were Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer, and Richard Dawkins vs Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, and R. Douglas Geivett.
This second post in the “Name that Fallacy” series draws on material from that debate. Remember that the question being addressed here is whether or not the universe has a purpose (I do not want to predispose you to find a particular fallacy anywhere). That is the only comment I will add on the issue in debate. To provide some background to today’s example, here’s a section from William Lane Craig’s statement:
In today’s debate, we on the affirmative side are going to defend two main contentions. First, that if God does not exist then the universe has no purpose, and secondly that if God does exist then the universe does have a purpose. Let me say a word in defence of each of those contentions.
First, if God does not exist then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death. Man like all biological organisms must die, and the universe too faces a death of its own. Astronomers tell us that the universe is expanding, and as it does so it grows colder and colder until its energy is used up. Eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light. There will be no heat. There will be no life. Just the corpses of dead stars and galaxies, ever expanding into the endless darkness and the cold recesses of space, a universe in ruins. This is not science fiction. As unimaginable as it sounds, barring divine intervention, this will happen.
But if atheism fails to provide a purpose for life and the universe, what about biblical theism? According to the biblical worldview God does exist and man’s life does not end at the grave. Because of this we can live consistently and purposefully within the framework of such a worldview. And thus, biblical theism succeeds precisely where atheism breaks down.
Now, I’d be the first to say that none of this proves that God exists.
And now, the subject of this blog post, Richard Dawkins. Here is the relevant section from his presentation, which came later that day:
I think the whole case that the other side is putting really comes down to an emotional case rather than a rational one. William Lane Craig seemed to think that it would be so intolerable, so disagreeable that we are doomed to death, that the universe is doomed to death, somehow playing on the heartstrings, playing on the emotions, it’s not nice to think that we’re all going to die, it’s not nice to think that the universe is going to die a heat death and everything is going to come to an end. It’s not nice to think that everything is meaningless. Somehow that must prove that there is purpose in the universe and that there is some sort of top-down supervising God.
I will offer no further comment in this post on the above quotations. The floor is yours, folks. Name that fallacy!