Tag Archives: Oxford

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.

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.

Michael Behe will be lecturing in the UK this November

Story from Evolution News.

Excerpt:

Controversial ID Scientist tours UK
Professor Michael Behe, a key figure in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, will challenge his critics in a lecture tour of the UK in November.

Prof. Behe is one of an increasing number of scientists who believe that modern biochemical evidence undermines the basis of Darwinian evolution. The author of two ground-breaking books on ID – ‘Darwin’s Black Box‘ (1996) and ‘The Edge of Evolution‘ (2007) – Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity has drawn attacks from many neo-Darwinists, but not one of them has been able to refute it.

As Behe himself writes, in the years since the publication of ‘Darwin’s Black Box’, “the scientific argument for design is stronger than ever. Despite the enormous progress of biochemistry in the intervening years… despite implacable opposition from some scientists at the highest levels, the book’s argument for design stands… there is very little of the original text I would change if I wrote it today.

“In short, as science advances relentlessly, the molecular foundation of life… is getting exponentially more complex. As it does, the case for the intelligent design of life becomes exponentially stronger.”

Behe’s ‘Darwin or Design? What Does the Science Really Say?’ tour runs from 20-27 November and will comprise evening lectures at the Babbage Lecture Theatre in Cambridge and the Caledonian University in Glasgow, plus events in London, Belfast and Leamington/Warwick. He will also be the main speaker at a day conference (27 November) at Oxford Brookes University.

The tour is organised by the UK-based Centre for Intelligent Design, which exists to promote the public understanding of ID.

For more details of the tour and booking information see: www.darwinordesign.org.uk

Michael Behe is one of my favorite intelligent design speakers.

Peter Atkins explains how to easily reconcile the Big Bang and atheism

It’s easy! Just watch the video of his debate with William Lane Craig, who responds to Atkins’ explanation.

So, just who is this Peter Atkins, and why is he a good spokesman for atheism?

From his Wikipedia bio.

Peter William Atkins (born August 10, 1940) is an English chemist and a fellow and professor of chemistry at Lincoln College of the University of Oxford. He is a prolific writer of popular chemistry textbooks, including Physical Chemistry, 8th ed. (with Julio de Paula of Haverford College), Inorganic Chemistry, and Molecular Quantum Mechanics, 4th ed. Atkins is also the author of a number of science books for the general public, including Atkins’ Molecules and Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science.

[…]Atkins is a well-known atheist and supporter of many of Richard Dawkins’ ideas. He has written and spoken on issues of humanism, atheism, and what he sees as the incompatibility between science and religion. According to Atkins, whereas religion scorns the power of human comprehension, science respects it.

[…]He was the first Senior Member for the Oxford Secular Society and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of The Reason Project, a US-based charitable foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. The organisation is led by fellow atheist and author Sam Harris.

Peter Atkins thinks that nothing exists. He thinks he doesn’t exist. He thinks that you don’t exist.

If you watch the debate in full, he also argues that objective morality doesn’t exist, and that moral values and moral obligations are illusory. That’s right: atheists cannot even make rational statements about morality because there is no such thing as an objective moral standard. This is in addition to denying the science of the creation out of nothing.

You can watch the whole debate here, posted by ChristianJR4.

And now you know why atheists like Richard Dawkins run away from debates with Christians like Stephen C. Meyer and William Lane Craig. Because he’s an atheist, and it is very difficult to defend atheism, on the merits. Atheism’s appeal is entirely psychological, not rational.

Consider this quote from an honest, respectable atheist philosopher named Thomas Nagel:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

People embrace atheism for entirely psychological reasons, not on the basis of arguments and evidence. If they had the arguments and evidence, then they wouldn’t run from debates like Richard Dawkins does.

Richard Dawkins debates John Lennox: Does God Exist?

Audio of the debate is hosted by my buddy Brian Auten who operates the Apologetics 315 blog.

You can download the full MP3 audio here.

I listened to this debate and thought that Dawkins did well against Lennox. It is a very short debate. This is not a rigorous academic debate, as neither participant argued in a formal manner. Dawkins came across as firm, but gracious, and he does a lot better than Hitchens did in his recent debate against Craig.

This debate is recommended for beginners to get a bird’s eye view of some of the issues before moving on to professional academic debates featuring analytical philosophers such as William Lane Craig, Walter Sinott-Armstrong, etc. They don’t really go into complicated details.

My favorite academic debate is this one featuring William Lane Craig vs Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on the problems of evil and suffering. Another great debate featuring Bill Craig and Austin Dacey is here (video) and their re-match is here (audio).

A huge list of other William Lance Craig debates is here, courtesy of ChristianJR4.