By Benjamin Hawkins
Intelligent Design proponent William Dembski and famed atheist Christopher Hitchens disputed the existence of a benevolent God in a recent debate now posted on the website of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas.
The debate was hosted in the worship center of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Nov. 18. A full video archive can be viewed at www.pcawebcast.com/2010debats.
"I don't think it is healthy for people to want there to be a permanent, unalterable, irremovable authority over them," argued Hitchens, a controversial author and speaker whose books include "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." "I don't like the idea of a father who never goes away … of a king who cannot be deposed.
"For hundreds and hundreds of years, the human struggle for freedom was against the worst kind of dictatorship of all: the theocracy that claims it has God on its side, the divine right of kings, the feudal system, the monarchical one against which the American Revolution with its secular humanism took place. I believe the totalitarian temptation has to be resisted."
According to Hitchens, the structure of the universe, the course of history and the makeup of human anatomy do not prove the existence of a benevolent creator.
"Our universe is flying apart further and faster than we thought it was," Hitchens said, referring to the Big Bang Theory and the ever-increasing expansion of the universe. "Now, I don't know about you, but I find it … impossible to reconcile this extraordinarily destructive, chaotic, self-destructive process — to find in it the finger of God."
Humans, he said, are "poorly evolved mammals on a short-lived planet" who are only "half a chromosome away from being chimpanzees." Human history, furthermore, is littered with battles wrongly justified in the name of God.
During the debate, Dembski, a research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that the universe displays evidence of an intelligent creator. A champion of the Intelligent Design movement, Dembski is the author of several books, including "The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems" and "The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World."
"For Hitchens, Intelligent Design … is just rebranded creationism," Dembski said. On the contrary, he argued, Intelligent Design is "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence." This applies to various scientific fields, including archaeology and forensics. Furthermore, humans naturally try to decipher whether events are caused by chance or by the intent of an intelligent being of some kind, whether human or divine.
While Intelligent Design does not attempt to prove the existence of the Christian God in particular, it is "friendly toward theism" and toward belief in the loving God whom Christians worship.
On the other hand, Dembski argued, the atheism propounded by Hitchens and others "demands a materialistic form of evolution," such as Darwinism. "In regarding design as unthinkable, Hitchens puts himself in an atheist straightjacket: For the atheist, we must be here as the result of a blind, purposeless, evolutionary process."
Atheists often raise the problem of evil as they dispute the existence of God, Dembski noted, but they must answer a more difficult question if God does not exist: Where does good come from?
"The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: Nature, which is the nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil," Dembski said. "Values on the atheist[ic] view are subjective and contingent," arising from the evolutionary process and social customs. How, then, Dembski asked, can atheists have moral indignation toward any person or action?
Addressing the problem of evil, Dembski argued that theists find a solution by realizing that God will eventually bring all wrong to justice. They must trust God in the meantime. Christians, he later added, find the cure for sin and evil in the God-man, Jesus Christ, who identified with human suffering on the cross.
"In God becoming human in Jesus Christ," Dembski said, "God has established solidarity with the human condition."
Benjamin Hawkins is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary www.swbts.edu/campusNews.