Debate with Alister McGrath




Alister McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion, Dawkins’ God, and A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest For God In Science And Theology.

Stephen Law, CFI UK Provost. Philosopher, author of The Philosophy Gym, editor of THINK.

Thursday October 29th. 7pm.

Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL – Main Hall.

£5 on the door. Free to Friends of CFI UK, PLUS GLHA, SPES, BHA, NEW HUMANIST SUBSCRIBERS.

To book go to and hit button "support cfiuk" and follow instructions. Credit and debit cards welcome. Alternatively send a cheque payable to ‘Center for Inquiry London” to: Executive Director Suresh Lalvani, Center for Inquiry London, PO Box 49097 Centre for Inquiry London N11 9AX, and include names of those coming, phone number, return address, etc.


lewism said…
Will anyone be recording it? Living in Helsinki it would be handy.
Giford said…
Living in might-as-well-be-Helsinki (outside London), I second that.

I trust you will pursue McGrath's claim that children surviving tsunamis are miracles from God, but children dying in tsunamis are not God's responsibility:
(Somewhere in there - I think they bring it up again towards the end)

Stephen Law said…
Permission to record was not granted, I'm afraid.
Stephen, one angle that you might want to be prepared for is Robert Wright's recent rag The Evolution of God which precipitated a scathing review by Jerry Coyne in The New Republic:

Wright has since replied to the critique (also on TNR's site) and Coyne has several follow-up pieces on his excellent blog Why Evolution is True:
I forgot to mention that Wright was interviewed about his new book on the September 13, 2009 broadcast of CBC Radio's Tapestry which is available for free on iTunes. If you listen to it, have a stiff drink handy to numb the pain in your head.

Tapestry is a great show. They had John Polkinghorne on few weeks ago and that one was worth the price of admission as well:
Unknown said…
Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

Dissertation Ideas
M. Tully said…

No, next question.

I'm sorry my opponent would now like to blather on about fine tuning.

O.K., he's done. Our current, measurable universe, has been existence for about 14.5 billion years. Humanity discovered agriculture 10 TYA. Writing, 6 TYA.

My '98 Chevy is better tuned. Now, next question. Unless of course my opponent would like to discuss the miraculousness of the V-6.
M. Tully said…
Alright, if you're going to have a serious debate. McGrath holds a PHD in molecular biophysics. A question I would ask him is, "where in the empirical evidence from molecular biology do we see any process or phenomenon that defies our understanding of the natural world and thereby MUST have a supernatural cause?" He'll dodge, he has to.
Call him on it. Pin him down.

He'll then leave his area of expertise and go into the setting of the physical constants at the "freezing-out" period following the Big Bang. Read Stenger's works. Stenger obliterates the cosmological fine tuning argument.

What is our good Dr. McGrath left with? Humanity apart from nature? Is he really going to deny the neo-Darwinian synthesis? Not a chance.
M. Tully said…
Oh, and then ask for all of the citations from Science and Nature that discuss the natural world pointing to god. Of course he won't have any. So then the question would be why not? Does McGrath have better sources of knowledge of the natural world he would rather we consult?

Come on, if there were good evidence wouldn't someone have published it in a reputable scientific journal?

Or would the PHD in molecular biology like to argue for a conspiracy or alternately that there is a more effective methodology for discovering truth about the natural world?

Yes, doesn't it seem persuasive to say you are a believer with scientific credentials? Well then apply the methodology that got you those credentials to the question at hand.

Then we'll get to "other ways of knowing." Good enough, but the topic was the "natural world."

Any debate that has the words "natural world" and "God" in it is almost by definition a walk in the park.

Don't get philosophical. The words "natural world" make this an empirical argument. Hold the good Dr. to the standards of scientific evidence and he doesn't stand the proverbial prayer.

The best McGrath can come away with is that is not absolutely asinine to entertain a god concept. If he tries to push beyond that, he'll have to sacrifice any credibility his scientific credentials may have had.
just_visiting said…
Stephen -

I've listened to several of Mcgrath's debates, and he's always weak on the point of suffering. On a couple of occasions (can't remember which), he was challenged on why there is so much pointless suffering in the world, and he responded

[I paraphrase, but the words are roughly right]
"I don't believe thinking about it in that way is *useful* [his emphasis]. What Christianity provides [via the cross] is a model for suffering, i.e. it teaches us that we should endure suffering in the noble way Christ did."

Now, you don't need me to tear apart this pretentious twaddle - if you can get him to go down this line, he's toast.

Of course, being a Really Smart Chap, you're already aware of this, but I thought I'd throw it in for good measure.

best of luck - I may well come along to see the show.
Stephen Law said…
Thanks to all for the advice, which I am taking on board.
Anonymous said…
This might be too late, but one of the things that strikes me about people who argue that the universe is tuned for the existence of life is that they seem to forget that the vast majority of the universe is a blank, lifeless, void and a lethal one at that. It seems to me amazing that there is life in the universe at all when the entire place seems so bent on obliterating it.