Video of the Oswestry debate on ‘Is there a God?’, with Andrew Copson of the BHA and Richard Lucas

The debate was in March but the promoters put the video online on 31 May. Shropshire Humanist Group sponsored the participation of British Humanist Association’s Andrew Copson in this event.

Some discussion on arguments put forward in the debate:

https://shropshirehumanist.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/brief-report-on-the-does-god-exist-debate-in-oswestry-9-march/
https://shropshirehumanist.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/644/
http://eveningperson.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/debating-god-part-one/

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More on the ‘does God exist’ debate in Oswestry

Richard Bonella writes:

Lucas’ effort was little (if anything) more than the God of the Gaps: “all this stuff is so improbable that it must be the work of something even more improbable”.

His gaps were spurious, whether as a result of ignorance or mischief. Simon’s exchange with him, regarding consciousness was entertaining. Had there been time, I’d have had a go at his cosmology, though I know less of it than Simon does of neurology.

Specifically:

First cause. As Andrew pointed out, the Universe as a whole does not necessarily follow the commonsense based on our own experience. Physics has had to acknowledge this for at least a century, since Boltzmann, Planck et al began to see beyond the Newtonian model in quantum physics.

The Upper Probability Bound: This is on a par with the tortoise and the hare. It is trivially easy to construct situations in which the number of possible outcomes exceeds the upper P bound, e.g., with two packs of cards (1 x 10^166 possibilities), but this doesn’t mean that they can’t or don’t arise. See http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/06/28/dishonest-dembskithe-universal-1/, and note that Lucas is both a maths teacher and (according to the website of the school where he works) an amateur magician.

Fine tuning. All that his tiny, wee percentage changes tell us is that chemistry would be different if one of the several constants that form part of the Standard Model of particle physics had different values. This has been known for several years, and not surprisingly, physicists have gone on to consider what would happen if several of the constants had substantially different values. The answer they offer is that, while some combinations of values do appear to be make matter as we know it impossible, many combinations lead to quite different, but quite stable, universes. See http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/06/why-the-universe-wasnt-fine-tuned-for-life.html.

Mithras. The links between Mithraism and Christianity are much discussed. A Wikipedia article claims that the link was made by St Justin the second century CE. A quick google will show that it is much more than “something made up for a few Youtube videos”. I felt that Lucas was particularly rattled by Andrew’s familiarity with classical religion, and his objection to what he described as the ‘Santa Claus question’ was not surprising. It was noticeable that he never mentioned the Bible; perhaps he has given up trying to defend the use of folk tales as a basis for a world view, and doesn’t want to be pushed back towards it.

Richard Burnham writes:

I wasn’t there but I am interested to learn that Richard Lucas never mentioned the Bible. Since Christianity is based on the Bible, this means that he could not have argued for a christian god.  I wrote some comments on this before the debate.

Brief report on the ‘Does God Exist?’ debate in Oswestry, 9 March

It’s expected the video will later be available on DVD and possibly YouTube.

Chris Smith writes:

Starting the debate Richard Lucas gave his five reasons for the existence of god, which he described as being from science and philosophy. Andrew Copson (Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association) gave reasons to support his understanding that god (gods, goddesses etc.) was a human construct before addressing the five points. Andrew entertained as he explained, dung beetles and rainbows, lots of quotes from ancient and modern times. Richard quoted too, some scientists who had found that their researches lead them to the inevitable conclusion “that god must exist”.

Questions from the floor followed. The first question was from someone carrying a copy of New Scientist, who challenged what Richard had said. More questions were addressed to Richard than Andrew.

There was not to be a vote and with the usual thanks all round people were free to continue their conversations, look at the book table and so on.

The debate was recorded and we can have a copy of the DVD in time. It will be interesting to hear what others who were there thought.

Next meeting

On Thursday 17th February in the Hobbs Room at Shrewsbury Library at 7.30 pm, the focus of the meeting will be the radio debate recorded in Canada between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on the proposal `Religion is a force for good in the world’.

We hope to have Ibrar Khan for the March meeting.

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