The Course of Reason

SSA at UC Santa Cruz Hosts a Debate

May 14, 2013

Some SSA members at the debate.On Thursday, April 25, the Secular Student Alliance at UC Santa Cruz hosted (along with the Graduate Christian Fellowship) a formal debate between local Christian pastor Dr. Peter Payne and atheist blogger and writer JT Eberhard. The debate topic was "Does Ethics Need a Foundation in God?" and was moderated by UCSC Linguistics professor, Jaye Padgett. Both being highly skilled at formal debates, Peter represented the affirmative, and JT represented the negative. The debate -- which lasted about two hours including a Q&A session -- was held at UCSC's Stevenson Event Center in front of approximately 150 attendees including UCSC students, members of local Santa Cruz Christian and atheist groups, and even some people from out of town just looking to enjoy a good philosophical/religious debate.

JT Eberhard debates Peter Payne at UC Santa Cruz.
JT Eberhard debates Peter Payne at the campus of UC Santa Cruz.

The Secular Student Alliance at UCSC began planning this event back in January and are happy to say it was a great success. Despite having been on the go with a busy travel schedule for the past two and a half months, JT performed spectacularly, as anyone who is familiar with him would expect. Everyone we talked to agreed the debate was enjoyable and Dr. Payne was a good opponent for JT. This was our second year in a row hosting a debate with the Graduate Christian Fellowship. At the urging of many of the attendees, we plan on continuing this yearly event. The debate was publicized online through Facebook postings from both the SSA and Grad Fellowship. We also shared duties posting flyers at campus bus stops and in the dorms. Additionally, we handed out flyers near the Student Union on the day of and day before the debate to increase awareness and interest.

Additional funding and publicizing for the event was provided by Stevenson College at UCSC, The Institute for Credible Christianity, Center for Inquiry On Campus, the Secular Student Alliance, and UCSC InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. On behalf of the Secular Student Alliance at UC Santa Cruz, I would like to thank Sarah Kaiser of CFI On Campus as well as Lyz Liddell and Nick Stancato of the Secular Student Alliance for their support in helping us make sure everything ran smoothly. Also thanks to David Tamayo of Hispanic American Freethinkers ( for photographing the event.

Some of the crowd before the debate.
Some of the crowd before the debate.


About the Author: Rob Carman

Rob Carman's photo
Rob Carman is the current president of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of California Santa Cruz. He is a mathematics graduate student at UCSC studying the representation theory of finite groups.




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