Tag Archives: Coward

UK Independent joins UK Guardian in call for Dawkins to debate Craig

A call for Richard Dawkins to debate William Lane Craig, from the other major secular-left UK newspaper. (H/T Michael & Czar Berstein)

Excerpt:

William Lane Craig is a formidable debater. He has done battle with celebrity academic atheists including Lawrence Krauss, Lewis Wolpert, Peter Atkins, and Sam Harris. Not long after his exchange with the philosopher Anthony Flew, perhaps the leading atheist thinker of the late 20th century, Flew converted, if not to Christianity, to deism. Harris described Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”.

Christopher Hitchens said: “I can tell you that my brothers and sisters in the unbelieving community take him very seriously. He’s thought of as a very tough guy: very rigorous, very scholarly, very formidable.” After a debate in which the two locked horns, one US atheist website pronounced: “Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

William Lane Craig is the Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in California. He is a conservative evangelical, but he is smart, with a doctorate in philosophy from Birmingham and one in theology from Munich. He has developed such a reputation that when he began a 10-day speaking tour of Britain on Monday he drew an audience of 1,700 at the cavernous Central Hall in Westminster.

The titles of his UK lectures give a clue to his breadth: “Does God Exist?”, “Can We be Good without God?”, “The Origins of the Universe – Has Stephen Hawking Eliminated God?”, “The Historicity of Jesus’s Resurrection”. He is unafraid to range across ontological theology and moral philosophy and talks with ease about new developments in cosmology, mathematics and physics. He has a ready command of easy analogy and can be funny. He is a million miles away from the evangelical rhetoric that amuses and bemuses our secularist and modernist establishment. Proof, he says, is not about scientific or mathematical certainty; it is about a cogent and logical argument which is more plausible than what opponents argue.

This is not the style of the Dawkinsites’ preferred adversaries. Their debating techniques tend to be catalogues of religion’s historical atrocities, coupled with psychological sideswipes about the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. Dawkins in the past has been notable for seeking out extreme oddball fundamentalists. He and his followers routinely erect a straw man – defining religion in ways unrecognisable to many mainstream believers – and then knock their caricature to the ground. But Craig is an opponent of a different calibre who focuses ruthlessly on failures of internal logic in his rivals’ arguments.

What is striking to the outsider is the ad hominem abuse that has been hurled his way. Dawkins has blogged of his “almost visceral loathing” of Craig’s “odiously unctuous, smug and self-satisfied tone of voice”. Craig, he says, is a “deeply unimpressive… ponderous buffoon” who uses “chopped logic” for “bamboozling his faith-head audience”. On Dawkins’s website his supporters have called Craig a “debased freak” and “snakeoil salesman”.

The writer of this article not so much sympathetic with Craig as he is disappointed with Dawkins for not being willing to debate and defeat Craig. I think that most of the atheists on the Richards Dawkins site have never heard Craig’s arguments, otherwise, they would be pointing out the flaws in them and linking to evidence. When someone dodges what I am saying and instead insults me personally, I think it’s fair to assume that they don’t have a case against me based on substance. If they had substance, they would argue substance.

The UK Guardian article denouncing Dawkins for cowardice is here. The conservative UK Telegraph explicitly called Dawkins a fool or a coward for not debating Craig. But I don’t think it’s going to happen, because Dawkins is a coward. That’s just what he is. And I think he isn’t even intelligent enough to lose as badly as Hitchens did – it would be a much worse defeat for atheism. The man has never expressed any substantial arguments for atheism in any of his books – it was always just bile. And I never saw William Lane Craig’s publications or those of any other major Christian thinker referenced in the footnotes of his books – he is oblivious to the arguments on the other side.

My response to Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig is here. In it, I go over Craig’s qualifications, Dawkins’ reason for not debating him, and link to Craig’s debate with Christopher Hitchens.

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)

Excerpt:

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.

Richard Dawkins responds to Craig’s debate challenge in a UK Guardian editorial

Atheist Richard Dawkins explained why he wouldn’t debate Craig in this UK Guardian column. This is his latest excuse for not debating Craig, (see the full list of excuses here). I guess this is Dawkins’ way of striking at Craig without giving Craig a chance to respond. If he wanted to hear a response, he would have attended the debate at Oxford, and put his arguments on the table to be answered.

Defeating the column

His entire column is easily dispatched using Dawkins’ own words against him, because he contradicts himself.

Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

Meanwhile, in his column, Dawkins claimed that God’s command to destroy the Canaanites was an instance of evil:

Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament. Anyone who criticises the divine bloodlust is loudly accused of unfairly ignoring the historical context, and of naive literalism towards what was never more than metaphor or myth. You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder.

So, in one statement, there’s no good or evil, and in the next statement, there’s evil. That’s a contradiction, and it undermines his entire column, Q.E.D. You can’t claim that there is no standard of good and evil in one breath, and then make judgments of good and evil in the next. It’s self-refuting. Dawkins didn’t even try to respond to any of Craig’s standard arguments for God’s existence in the editorial, he just went off on a tangent about a few Bible verses that, even if true, might only defeat Judaism and Christianity in particular, but not the existence of God in general. And the debate “Does God Exist?” is about the latter.

Responding to the argument

If we ignore Dawkins’ first statement denying that morality is real, and just respond to the verses he is complaining about, then we can look at this response online by William Lane Craig, or we can watch a lecture in two parts featuring Christian philosopher Paul Copan (part 1, part 2). So, a response to this objection is not hard to find. We have entire books written to answer this challenge – to say nothing of academic papers.

It’s troubling to me that Dawkins would not reference any responses to his argument in his editorial, since they clearly exist, and can easily be found just by searching the world wide web. Dawkins’ failure to interact with his critics is not surprising, though, given the fact that he didn’t reference any opposing scholars in his latest book. Moreover, Dawkins has cited a professor of German language as an authority on the historical Jesus and suggested that unobservable aliens could explain the origin of life. These are not actions of a genuine scholar, and the refusal to debate William Lane Craig in public is part of that same pattern.

But the main point to realize is that Richard Dawkins refuses to debate William Lane Craig, and that means that nothing Richard Dawkins says can be taken seriously. He isn’t willing to take the stage with an opponent and defend his views. He prefers to take pot shots at peripheral matters, (disputing particular Bible passages has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of whether a Creator of the universe exists or not), from the safety of the UK Guardian’s editorial page. I cited responses to the passages from Craig and Copan above, but Craig could even just reject the passages as mistaken and Dawkins’ argument would be neutralized – the debate is about the existence of God – the bare philosopher’s God who creates and designs the universe. The debate is not about the Christian God in particular, or even about the inerrancy of the Bible. Evidence against inerrancy is not evidence against a Creator and Designer of the universe.

Finally, it’s important to note that Richard Dawkins has peculiar views on morality himself. Not only does he support abortion, which resulted in the death of over 50 million unborn babies since 1973 in the United States alone, but he actually has no problem with infanticide.

(H/T Anglican Samizdat)

That’s why it’s important to make these arguments in a debate – instead of preaching them in an editorial to the UK Guardian choir. Theists do have responses to these and other objections, and it would be nice to be able to give those responses in public. If truth is the goal, then hearing both sides is the best way to reach the goal. It’s part of the scientific method that we should be open to being disproved by the evidence.

About William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is currently conducting a debating and speaking tour of the UK, with stops at Oxford, Cambridge, London and points in between.

Let’s review William Lane Craig’s qualifications:

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity… In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument; Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus; Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom; Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of Philosophy, New Testament Studies, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Craig’s CV is here.

Craig’s list of publications is here.

Here are some of Craig’s recent publications: (it’s a little out of date, now)

From 2007:

  • Ed. with Quentin Smith. Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2007, 302 pp.
  • “Theistic Critiques of Atheism.” In The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, pp. 69-85. Ed. M. Martin. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • “The Metaphysics of Special Relativity: Three Views.” In Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity, pp. 11-49. Ed. Wm. L. Craig and Quentin Smith. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2007.
  • “Creation and Divine Action.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, pp. 318-28. Ed. Chad Meister and Paul Copan. London: Routledge, 2007.

From 2008:

  • God and Ethics: A Contemporary Debate. With Paul Kurtz. Ed. Nathan King and Robert Garcia. With responses by Louise Antony, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, John Hare, Donald Hubin, Stephen Layman, Mark Murphy, and Richard Swinburne. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  • “Time, Eternity, and Eschatology.” In The Oxford Handbook on Eschatology, pp. 596-613. Ed. J. Walls. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

From 2009:

  • Ed. with J. P. Moreland. Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” With James Sinclair. In Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Ed. Wm. L. Craig and J. P. Moreland. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • “In Defense of Theistic Arguments.” In The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue. Ed. Robert Stewart. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Forthcoming:

  • “The Cosmological Argument.” In Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues. Ed. Paul Copan and Chad Meister. Cambridge: Blackwell.
  • “Cosmological Argument”; “Middle Knowledge.” In The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology. Ed. G. Fergusson et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • “Divine Eternity.” In Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology. Ed. Thomas Flint and Michael Rea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

He seems eminently qualified to debate the existence of God, doesn’t he? And he’s done it dozens of times, against the top atheist scholars.

What is Richard Dawkins is afraid of?

Here’s an example of William Lane Craig debating the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, arguably the top popular atheist in the world today.

Here’s a review of that debate from Common Sense Atheism, a popular and respected atheist web site.

Excerpt:

I just returned from the debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens at Biola University. It was a bigger deal than I realized. Over 3,000 people were there, and groups from dozens of countries – including Sri Lanka, apparently – had purchased a live feed.

[…]The debate went exactly as I expected. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child. Perhaps Hitchens realized how bad things were for him after Craig’s opening speech, as even Hitchens’ rhetorical flourishes were not as confident as usual. Hitchens wasted his cross-examination time with questions like, “If a baby was born in Palestine, would you rather it be a Muslim baby or an atheist baby?” He did not even bother to give his concluding remarks, ceding the time instead to Q&A.

The atheist web site “Debunking Christianity” called it a “landslide” victory for Craig. And I want to suggest that this outcome is exactly what Richard Dawkins was afraid of.

Craig has also debated other prominent atheists like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Bart Ehrman, Peter Atkins, Victor Stenger, and so on. And many of these can be seen for free on Youtube.

What William Lane Craig offers in his debates is a set of deductive arguments that are logically valid, and supported by 1) the latest scientific evidence (which he has published in peer-reviewed scientific journals), and 2) the consensus of academic historians of all persuasions, using standard historical methods. Dawkins should have no trouble debating empirical arguments from science and history, if his beliefs were testable against objective evidence. The debate is about scientific and historical evidence, and we can investigate that evidence.

Finally, I want to note that Craig is not the only person who Dawkins refuses to debate. He was challenged to debate Stephen C. Meyer, whose Ph.D is from Cambridge, and again declined to have his ideas debated in a public forum. Meyer’s book was as a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2009 – and it was nominated by the respected atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel.

Humanist Association president Polly Toynbee runs away from debate on God

Is this what atheism amounts to?
Is this what atheism amounts to?

Here’s the story at BeThinking.

Excerpt:

The President of the British Humanist Association has pulled out of debating renowned Christian philosopher William Lane Craig. Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and prominent critic of religion, readily agreed in April to debate Craig on the Existence of God but withdrew her involvement last week saying I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and having now looked at his previous performances, this is not my kind of forum”.

The event, hosted by Premier Christian Radio and due to take place at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, has already been advertised and hundreds of pounds of ticket sales banked. Toynbee apologised for the “inconvenience”. Organisers will be contacting ticket holders, but are hoping to find an alternative leading atheist voice for the debate [see note below], who is willing to dispute the strong rational grounds for Christian theism that Professor Craig is renowned for defending.

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, California. He has debated leading atheists the world over including Anthony Flew, Lewis Wolpert, Christopher Hitchens, and most recently Sam Harris, who described him as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” Following the debate with Hitchens, an atheist website concluded that Craig had “spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

Craig says of his debates, “These are academic forums, where one concentrates on the arguments and counter arguments, the truth of the premises in those arguments and objections to them, and not on personality or ad hominem attacks.”

Richard Dawkins recently described Craig as a “deeply unimpressive … ponderous buffoon”, who uses logic for “bamboozling his faith-head audience.” Yet he still has not responded to the actual content of the arguments presented by Craig. Dawkins’ refusal to debate one-to-one with Craig was recently described as “apt to be interpreted as cowardice” by Dr Daniel Came, a lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford University. Dr Came, who is himself an atheist, called it “a glaring omission” on Dawkins’ CV.

Meanwhile, A.C. Grayling, who this year published a humanist ‘bible’ called The Good Book has refused to debate with Craig on the foundations of atheist morality. With secular Britain beset by moral difficulties, not least among politicians, police and the press, this seems to be a neglect of his moral and intellectual duty. Grayling stated that he would rather debate “the existence of fairies and water-nymphs”.

Bolstering his own refusal to debate, Richard Dawkins posted this statement by A.C. Grayling on his website: “Craig claims to have debated me before – that is not correct, unless a brief and rather pointless exchange of emails counts as such.” Why should Craig claim to have debated Grayling, if it was not true?

This embarrassing lapse of memory on Grayling’s part has been exposed by Premier Radio who on 3rd July broadcast a recording of the entire Grayling vs. Craig debate on the Problem of Evil from 2005 and placed it on their website. Within the next 10 days, 10,000 people had downloaded it. It is now available on YouTube.

The Chairman that evening, Roger Preece, remembers it well. “The Debate was excellent. Craig and Grayling spoke to a packed house of 4-500 students at the Oxford Union. I enjoyed chairing the debate and it was a memorable and robust exchange, as the audio tapes confirm.”

Grayling has since commented “I was wrong about debating Lane Craig – but Lane Craig is wrong about everything else in the universe, so I guess I don’t do too badly in the deal.”

Dr Peter May, Director of the Craig Tour, said, “If Craig is ‘wrong about everything else in the universe’ and his arguments for the existence of God are so easy to refute, it is hard to see why the leading atheist voices in the country are running shy of having a debate with him. Rather than hurling ‘ad hominem’ attacks on Craig from their bunkers, it would be good to see these figures come forward to rationally defend the atheism they publicly espouse. At the moment it’s looking like a rout.”

While Toynbee is President of the British Humanist Association, Dawkins and Grayling are both Vice-Presidents. The BHA describes one of its core values as “engaging in debate rationally, intelligently and with attention to evidence”. [View the BHA core values here.]

And now we sing the atheist theme song:

If I were an atheist, I would be ashamed. This woman turned down a formal academic debate with a leading Christian scholar. The debate format is neutral, featuring fixed length speeches and no interruptions. Craig’s style is to use scientific evidence and formal logical arguments. I thought atheists were supposed to be good at logic and science? I guess not, though. “I don’t like God telling me what to do” is apparently as far ahead as they’ve thought. Is that all atheism is? Is it just a childhood tantrum that has run on too long? Is there no argument or evidence to sustain it at all? Are the “best” atheist debaters simply the ones who can rant the most shrilly? Is there anything more to atheism than whining and insults?

If you are interested in seeing William Lane Craig debate, check out the two videos below:

Yes, that is Christopher Hitchens in the first debate.

Related posts

Coward A.C. Grayling and chicken Dawkins flee debate with William Lane Craig

Sing with me:

Brave Sir Grayling ran away
Bravely, ran away…away…
When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled
Yes, brave Sir Grayling turned about
And gallantly he chickened out
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Sir Grayling

He is packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering off
And chickening out and pissing off home,
Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge.

From BeThinking.org’s web site.

Excerpt:

For years, ‘New Atheist’ Professors Anthony Grayling and Richard Dawkins have made money and gained publicity out of God.  But now, the courage of their convictions seems to be running dry: they have both refused to debate one of the world’s leading defenders of the Christian Faith, Professor William Lane Craig.

While Professor Dawkins has set himself up as the ‘scourge’ of the Church, Professor Grayling has offered his latest attack on Christianity by publishing The Good Book – a secular bible in the year the Church celebrates the 400th anniversary of the translation of the King James Bible.

While Dawkins and Grayling have refused to debate the existence of God, Grayling has also refused to debate the foundations of the morality on which his ‘Good Book’ rests. These point-blank refusals to engage in public discussions with Professor Craig will undermine their credibility, not only among Christians but also amongst fellow academics.

Professor Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, California, is arguably the world’s foremost defender of historic Christianity. He has debated with many top academics and leading atheists across the world, including Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, Anthony Flew, Christopher Hitchens, Lewis Wolpert and, most recently, Sam Harris.

Craig visited the UK in 2007 and received national media coverage for his debate at Westminster Central Hall with Professor Lewis Wolpert, chaired by Radio 4’s Today presenter, John Humphrys. This debate has now been seen by thousands of people on YouTube. Professor Craig, who has two Ph.Ds, has written over thirty books and published some 200 academic papers. He is returning to the UK from 17-26 October in a tour sponsored by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Damaris Trust and Premier Christian Radio.

Having been invited to debate Craig, Professor Grayling replied:

I am not interested in debating Professor Craig, though if he would like to co-opt me for the publicity for his tour – I would be happy to debate him on the question of the existence of fairies and water-nymphs. But as for the very uninteresting matter of whether there is just one god or goddess and that it can be debated despite the claim that it is transcendently ineffable and unknowablethat is an empty prospect, hence my declining the invitation.”

Justin Brierley, who presents Premier Radio’s highly-rated discussion programme, Unbelievable?, comments:

“It looks insulting and worryingly narrow minded when an invitation to defend such views against a top-flight Christian academic such as Dr. Craig is dismissed in these terms. Grayling is seen as a key proponent of rationalism and atheism in the UK. It will therefore come as a surprise to many that he is so unwilling to defend the rational grounds for atheism against a major opponent.”

Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 tweeted this, earlier:

If you would like the see how well atheists do in debates with Craig, you can watch this:

William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens:

No wonder Grayling and Dawkins are soiling their knickers at the thought of facing him. It’s easy to impress your students when you are grading their papers AFTER they’ve paid their tuition. But a formal debate in a neutral venue would not be safe.

Previous story on Dawkins’ refusal to debate is here.

Craig’s UK tour schedule is here.