Nightline’s “Does God Exist?” Debate

After watching ABC’s online version of the debate on whether God exists, I realized more than ever the need for an organization like Reasons To Believe. The face-off pitted Brian Sapient and Kelly (no last name given) from the Rational Response Squad (RRS) representing atheism, against actor Kirk Cameron and author Ray Comfort from The Way of the Master representing Christian theism. Cameron committed (in my average opinion) a fatal error by stating at the outset that “the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith.”Yikes! That’s quite a claim.

The RRS duo did not fare any better-in fact they were much worse, especially in their gross misrepresentations of Christianity-as Stand to Reason blogger Melinda Penner (see the May 9 entry) points out. So I won’t take the time to analyze their errors in reasoning here. But I did want to highlight a few areas where RTB’s influence might have helped Cameron and Comfort. When Sapient asked questions like “Who made God?” or “Can you take us to God’s universe factory?” I immediately knew that RTB has been asked these questions many times and can give far better answers than I heard on the debate. Also, when Cameron said that transitional intermediates did not exist and then pulled out from behind his chair large, color images of imaginary hybrids such as a “crocoduck”,Sapient (justifiably) moaned in disbelief. Goodness, there’s a better way to talk about the “evolution of the gaps” problem. 

A bit later Sapient said that Australopithecus afarensis was a transitional intermediate between earlier ape-like creatures and humans. Now, Cameron and Comfort made it clear up front that they weren’t scientists, but a scientist sure would have helped here. RTB biochemist Fuz Rana has written extensively in Who Was Adam? and reported as recently as April 24 on Creation Update that scientists now consider A. afarensis an evolutionary side branch at best-something that Cameron and Comfort must not have known. On another occasion the RRS representatives, when pressed on the infinite regression problem, said that the universe was eternal. In fact, Sapient made the remarkable claim that all of science points to the universe having always existed. When given the chance to respond, the Christian contingent said nothing. Huh? Here again RTB’s work, for example, The Creator and the Cosmos, would have come in handy.

A woman in the audience asked an impassioned question about why a loving God who created everything good would create cancer. Comfort tried to talk about the problem of evil and suffering, but the woman felt that he didn’t answer her specific question about cancer. RTB has tried—difficult as it is—to answer the cancer question in a scientific way that others have found helpful, along with philosophical and theological explanations. Comfort and Cameron spent a good deal of time talking about the Bible and the Ten Commandments, and they presented a salvation message and a personal testimonial. In my mind this approach was a mistake. (I might take a pounding on this point.) People who have no respect for the Bible will not be persuaded by biblical arguments.

Cameron said at the beginning that they would prove God exists scientifically, but appealing to the design of a building or a Coke can to invoke a designer left much to be desired, so the biblical evidence probably meant nothing to the atheists. Who won the debate? Martin Bashir—the moderator. He came off looking good by asking focused questions of both sides. Ultimately, ABC was probably the big winner in that the face-off generated over 12,000 responses as of May 17. Also, the fact that both sides appeared to be arrogant extremes could have played into the network’s philosophical position—total speculation here—that nobody has a handle on the truth. Yep. Good old relativism and its handmaiden, religious pluralism.