When I was in Auckland recently, a young Christian apologist, Zac Ardern, challenged me to a debate. I accepted and the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists kindly agreed to host and chair this event so a date was set. It was videoed and that will be posted here soon.
We worked out a title over Messenger; Zac wanted it to be headlined ‘God versus Science: Friends or Foes’, which was odd since he’d just completed a PhD in bacterial genomics yet he seemed to want to argue for god and against science! Did he wish to devalue his recently acquired and hard earned qualification? Well you might ask!
I pointed out that, despite every believer’s tendency to think that theirs is the only god, there are actually about 4000 different deities, so we subtitled the event ‘Naturalistic vs Christian Perspectives’ to make it clear that we meant Jesus. This blog is about what happened in the Q and A.
My opponent was asked, “What is your definition of truth?” That was a pertinent question since, in his presentation, he had quoted eighteenth century mathematician, Leonhard Euler, who apparently said, “Freethinkers are not motivated by the love of truth”. To be accurate, Zac had immediately attempted to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted by saying, “I don’t mean to imply that you are not motivated by love of truth”. He has obviously not read the Billy Bunter books which comically make the point that immediately contradicting yourself adds nothing to your credibility: “Me sir, no sir, wasn’t me who ate his tuck sir, and even if it was I didn’t enjoy it!”
When challenged to define truth on this occasion, Zac responded by saying he subscribed to the correspondence theory of truth. Good. So do I. He elaborated that he meant truth is what corresponds to reality, a definition that dates back to the ancient Greeks. I jumped in saying he must be a Naturalist then!
For Christians, or any believers in a supernatural creator deity, the problem with defining truth in terms of correspondence with reality is just that – it depends on establishing a match with observations of reality (nature). This means that all their claims of knowledge about a god in an unobservable realm beyond nature cannot be substantiated as true. Shot in foot!
Naturalists have no such difficulty: with no proposition of supernaturality, every claim can be compared to nature – truth is our bitch!
I discovered later that Zac had generously been awarded a grant towards his PhD student costs by New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists. Apparently he didn’t declare his intention to promote Christianity in his application for funding…