At the reception, Professor Roemer shocked me by telling me that Michio Kaku didn’t want to be part of our debate (he later described himself to me as “a waffler”), and so Richard Dawkins was on the panel instead! I could scarcely believe my ears! It just seemed unbelievable that Dawkins and I were going to finally cross swords in a public forum.
We were then taken by bus to a second reception back at the hotel. As I stood there, talking with other conference presenters, I saw Richard Dawkins come in. When he drew near, I extended my hand and introduced myself. I remarked, “I’m surprised to see that you’re on the panel.”
“And why not?” he replied.
“Well,” I said, “You’ve always refused to debate me.”
His tone suddenly became icy cold. “I don’t consider this to be a debate with you. The Mexicans invited me to participate, and I accepted.” At that, he turned away.
“Well, I hope we have a good discussion,” I said.
“I very much doubt it,” he retorted and walked off.
So my first encounter with Richard Dawkins was a pretty chilly one!...
The day before the debate Richard Dawkins delivered a hateful screed against religion, denouncing “the evil of faith.” About 40% of the audience gave him a standing ovation. I was glad that most people had the courage to stay seated. The audience, at least, was not as secularized as the conference presenters....
Apart from our debate, no one even questioned this unspoken scientism. So when Dawkins claimed that we should not believe anything except on the basis of (scientific) evidence, no one seemed to notice that his position was self-defeating, since the claim that we should believe only what can be scientifically proven cannot itself be scientifically proven! At this conference, as in Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, scientists were taken to be “the torchbearers of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”...
With this steady stream of unthinking naturalism, scientism, and utopianism, you can imagine how refreshed I was by my colleague Doug Geivett’s arrival on Saturday morning! Over breakfast I filled him in on the conference and the unexpected change of Dawkins’ participation. We then traveled to the conference venue, where we met David Wolpe. A coin flip determined that the atheist side would go first. Talking with David, we agreed that I should lead off to lay the groundwork for the debate, David would extend our case, and Doug would be anchor man. As it turned out, this worked really well. Professor Roemer had bought an actual regulation boxing ring which he had set up on stage with a podium in the front! Prior to the debate the theme from “Rocky” was playing over the PA system. Each of us had to climb into the ring to deliver his speech. It was the most unusual venue I’ve ever debated in!
The speeches were only 6 minutes, 3 minutes, and 1 1/2 minutes long, so it was really a fast-paced debate. We defended two contentions: (1) If God does not exist, the universe has no purpose, and (2) If God does exist, the universe does have a purpose. At first the atheist debaters seemed to agree with out first contention but then switched to saying that we can create purpose for our lives, not noticing the difference between objective purpose and the subjective illusion of purpose. They never disputed the second contention or addressed specifically our arguments for theism. The two arguments for atheism disappeared from the debate as soon as they were answered. So we felt really great about how the debate went. While Doug and I dismantled the atheists’ arguments philosophically, David really connected with the audience emotionally, so our styles beautifully complemented each other....
Soon the English version should be up on You Tube; the Spanish translated version is up already.
If you're signed up for Craig's web site, you can get access to a photo of him standing in the boxing ring he refers to, along with Richard Dawkins, here.