David Schutz at Sentire Cum Ecclesia blogs from Melbourne, which over the weekend was the scene of the Global Atheist Convention.
In his three most recent posts, he comments on the Pell/Dawkins debate (elliptically), on a counter to Kraus’s theory of nothing, and – most recently, on the Purcell/Singer debate that took place late last week. He was impressed with the courtesy and quality of the Purcell/Singer debate, which, he says:
…has restored my faith in the possibility of rational debate between atheists and theists. The audience was also intelligent and respectful. No cheap shots, good questions, well thought out and argued answers. Thought provoking all round.
David hopes to link to the debate within the next few days, and I hope to listen to it when I’m not rushing between holidaying grandchildren and work. (We’re making pizza bases this morning before work; they need to be ready to top and garnish by the time my husband arrives back and is ready to take over as entertainer in chief.)
Here’s a taste (of David’s comments on the debate, not of our pizzas):
Purcell said that Singer appears to regard suffering as the “ultimate evil”. Singer agreed with this. The upshot is that the highest good would come from the avoidance of suffering. There is – it appears to me – something of the Christian/Buddhist dichotomy in this approach: Buddhism is a system for reaching “salvation” (my word, not the Buddhist word) by avoiding suffering while Christianity is a system of belief in which suffering – though an evil in itself – can become a path toward salvation. In any case, Purcell seemed especially concerned here with explaining the “suffering” that is due to natural causes, and why such suffering does not contradict the existence of a “good God”. He spoke about earthquakes (there having been one in Indonesia in recent days): these are due to the way in which our planet is constructed, tectonic plates etc. Is this an evil? As a parallel, he cited the case of gravity. Gravity is a necessity for the existence of space-time, and certainly for our existence on this planet. Yet many people die because of the results of gravity every year (from falling from high buildings etc.). Is gravity an evil? Should God have constructed a world without gravity?
By the way, our friend Kiwi Atheist attended the convention. I hope you’ll favour us with a few comments about your weekend, KA.