I watched the Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate today. I have to say, Sam Harris delivered a great argument championing deism. However, when I remembered that Harris was supposed to be arguing for atheism, I realized that Craig had it beat completely.
It’s actually kind of amusing to watch Harris completely ignore all of the arguments against his claims, much like the Darwinists completely ignore the arguments from ID’ers. They answer other, unrelated questions, or marginally-related questions, or say, “well the alternative is Christianity, and we can’t have that”. But they never really seem to answer the objections.
Interestingly, Craig actually never argued for Christianity in this debate, yet Harris’ arguments for an atheistic view centered on a false dichotomy between sectarian faith and atheism, completely ignoring the long history – both socially and intellectually – of natural theology and deism.
If the subject of the debate was “Can Unitarianism Offer an Objective Morality?”, then I would say that Harris did quite well, and that Craig avoided the debate. But in fact, the question was “Can Atheism Offer an Objective Morality?” In this, Harris *completely* avoided the question, and spent all of his time criticising sectarian faiths. Craig actually focused on the question at hand, and at no point did Harris come up with anything more than “you’re just a sectarian Christian, so I don’t have to listen to anything you say”.
Now, I am not a deist myself, but the questions that the deists bring up are in fact relevant and difficult. Nonetheless, it is amazing that the atheists think that arguments for deism are somehow arguments for atheism as well, and ignore the fact that to make the relevant arguments against sectarian religions one requires an objective moral standpoint to do it with. As Craig clearly pointed out in the debate (without *any* serious response from Harris), atheism simply doesn’t provide that. Therefore, I have to say that Harris did an excellent job of defending deistic views of morality, and did nothing whatsoever to advance an atheistic view.
In the end, the only thing Harris could offer for the atheistic view was “here are the axioms, we must take these as given”. What were the axioms? Of course, they were Harris’ own morality. But if everyone used their own axioms as a given, then the moral landscape would look much different than it does today. Sure, one could make a “science” of morality that had a given axiomatic starting point. However, as soon as you do that, it lacks objective binding on anyone who does not share the axiom.