Atheist philosopher: Dawkins refusal to debate is cynical and anti-intellectual

This article by atheist Daniel Came about Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate William Lane Craig was published today in the UK Guardian. (H/T Mary)


In his latest undignified rant, Dawkins claims that it is because Craig is “an apologist for genocide” that he won’t share a platform with him. Dawkins is referring to Craig’s defence of God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 20: 15-17 to wipe out the Canannites. Here is Craig’s offending passage:

“[If] God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of [the Canannite] children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.”

I am disinclined to defend the God of the Old Testament’s infanticide policy. But as a matter of logic, Craig is probably right: if an infinite good is made possible by a finite evil, then it might reasonably be said that that evil has been offset. However, I doubt whether Craig would be guided by logic himself in this regard and conduct infanticide. I doubt, that is, that he would wish it to be adopted as a general moral principle that we should massacre children because they will receive immediate salvation.

But whatever you make of Craig’s view on this issue, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not God exists. Hence it is quite obvious that Dawkins is opportunistically using these remarks as a smokescreen to hide the real reasons for his refusal to debate with Craig – which has a history that long predates Craig’s comments on the Canaanites.

There is a lot more in the article that is worth reading, including a quick review of Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” that echoes Craig’s own comments. I don’t mind that atheists think atheism is true, and that theism is irrational. That’s their view, and they are entitled to hold it and speak it and teach it. But I think that Came is right to say that they should also be willing to defend it in public. Dawkins is clearly not willing to defend his views, and that tells me that he has no reasons to believe them.

Please read my earlier post about Dawkins’ editorial in the UK Guardian. It contains a response to Dawkins’ attack on Craig, an analysis of Craig’s qualifications, an assessment of Dawkins’ ability to debate, and a previous debate between Craig and prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens.

6 thoughts on “Atheist philosopher: Dawkins refusal to debate is cynical and anti-intellectual”

  1. I would be interested to hear William Lane Craig on the subject of abortion. If you really believe that those who die before some fictional age of accountability are saved, surely the best thing that could happen to a child would be to be aborted. That child would never have a chance to fall into sin and would automatically be ushered into heaven. Those who take the chance of letting their children live long enough to become unbelievers would be the unfit parents, wouldn’t they?

    Better to stick with what the Bible actually says and defend God’s commandment by using God’s own justification–allowing the Canaanites to live would endanger the Israelites’ faith and ultimately the line of the promised Savior. As the Creator of all, he has the authority to say who lives and who dies. He does not need Richard Dawkins’ (or anyone else’s) approval for his decision regarding who lives or dies, nor does he need anyone’s approval on how he carries out that decision (whether by natural or human agents).

  2. Every atheist I know tells me they hate Craig, but when I ask them why they think Dawkins won’t debate Craig, they all surprisingly say “because he knows he will lose!”.

  3. Dawkins is a living, breathing, (oxy)moron. His atheistic worldview cannot support moral absolutes, yet his favorite tactic in debates is to be morally outraged at the behavior of the God of the bible and religious folks.

    1. I think this is the point we really need to be comfortable making in our debates with atheists. We need for them to understand that on their worldview, morality is relative, nothing more than evolved social customs, just like clothing fashion and culinary fashion.

  4. This is where we should be the better men, after-all WE are the one that held higher responsibility by our believe system. To share our hope with honour to the opposite side. Sadly too many Christians retort to the same imbalance and rather crude tactics of Dawkins. By name calling and hateful speech. We should move past that. It’s unnecessary and unbiblical too boot.

    Craig has gained respect by many educated people, his books (and Plantinga’s) are in the recommended reading section in many classes including mine. Dawkins on the other hand has a totally different market, laymen. His arguments are amusing to people who aren’t used to rigorous thought about religion, and have its own charm.

    To philosophers of religion, there’s no contest between both of them. While to popular masses of Dawkins, they already hate Craig too much to listen to him. Debate won’t really do much except to give chance to people who hate Dawkins already, and the onslaught of old atheists- that will be very eager to show their superior (yet not well known)arguments – I believe is what Dawkins really scared about. At least I would if I were in his position.

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