Thursday, 20 October 2011

My Response To Dawkins' Latest Anti-Craig Excuse in The Guardian:

So I wrote this:

Dawkins, who are you kidding? This is your 11th excuse:

1) You hadn't heard of Dr Craig (plenty of philosophers actually have, contrary to your unspecified anecdote, and it's your duty to do your homework if you write a bestseller which steps outside your biology credentials). Let's consult atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:

"William Lane Craig is a leading philosopher of religion and philosopher of time. A count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig's defence of the Kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher's contemporary formulation of an argument for God's existence".

To top that off... presumably, therefore, you've never spoken to AC Grayling or Daniel Dennett? Both of whom have encountered Dr Craig in a debate exchange? Though Grayling did deny his ever happened (2005), so perhaps you caught a bad meme?

2) You only debate bishops (we've all seen you debate non-clergy, including academics. Is it true the real reason you won't debate Craig is because you felt the Lennox debates went badly?)

3) The arrogance of your claim "it'll look good on your CV but not mine". Why do you think you would BOOST Dr Craig? His reputation and career is already in full swing. He was engaging with the question of God's existence long before you appeared on the scene. Maybe you meant it wouldn't look good because you'd lose? How about Dr Daniel Came's comment (Oxford atheist philosopher):

"The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part".

4) You don't debate "creationists". Craig accepts contemporary science and uses philosophical arguments, none of which depend on any special alternative forms of "Christian Science". You were perfectly happy to debate Kirk Cameron (the "Banana Man"'s sidekick) on TV, and would have if he didn't pull out. In fact, I find this most bizarre of all. Because of the sheer number of interactions you've had with young-Earth creationists etc on your TV shows, I've come to know more about them and their views than ever before! So much for not wanting to give them the "oxygen of publicity".

5) You won't debate people who's "only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters"? Again, this stemmed from your ignorance of Dr Craig's credentials... yet somehow this ignorance empowered you to make a judgement on what they were. Evidently you don't care for evidence, as it's easy to see Dr Craig has two PhDs and publishes scores of articles in the academy. Debates take up the least of his schedule. And did you read that? "Dr" Craig, not "Mr" Craig as you like to assert, in your childish put-downs. Would you think me any more respectable, or confident in my arguments, if I started calling you "Mr Dick"?

6) You're "busy".... You're also retired, aren't you? An evening's debate and the preparation for it would not remotely dent your calendar if you wanted to do it (you find plenty of time to preach to the choir).

7) You claimed to have already debated him in Mexico. Would this be the 6-person panel event where you told Dr Craig "I don't consider this a debate with you"? Would this be the event where your response specifically to Dr Craig lasted precisely 1 minute and 04 seconds? Frankly, your first diagnosis of the situation was correct, and yet now you've gone back on it... I wonder why that could be? Again, Dr Came was not impressed with your reply, which was simply a youtube link to this "non-debate".

8) You've no intention of helping Dr Craig with "his relentless drive for self-promotion". But, of course, your recent self-promotional tour of "The Magic of Reality", which included a shouting match with Bill O'Reilly (whom you'd described 4 months prior as being "unintelligent" and "ineffective" for public discussion)... presumably was simply your altruistic effort to better the human condition (and make a nice extra buck while you were at it, of course). Dr Craig, if you'd done your homework still, has made it perfectly clear he's not seeking this debate with you, but he's responded to independent invites. I'd have thought you'd twig that, given that they'd also be liaising with you!

9) You said you "have no interest in this". Really? Then why did you write The God Delusion, which has sold over 2.5 million copies? Was that just a passing interest? It would indeed appear the only "interest" you have concerns bank balance, not academic critique and the search for truth (at least that's the impression this extraordinary comment leaves us with).

10) Andrew Copson, your spokesperson for Radio 4, says the reason why you and your Humanist colleagues avoid Dr Craig is because he is "slippery" and constructs his arguments in such a way that they cannot be refuted in the time available (yet, amusingly and inconsistently, Copson also encourages atheists to attend Craig's lecture and "refute him from the floor", which would have to be squeezed into a mere one minute). Are you claiming that you are somehow smarter than all your fellow atheist colleagues who have no qualms debating Dr Craig? Have they been "duped"? Do you wish to say that to their faces (are you planning on starting with Christopher Hitchens, who says of Dr Craig:

"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. I say that without reserve, I don't say it just because I'm here... Normally I don't get people saying, 'good luck tonight and don't let us down' but with him I do."

11) And now, just when we thought the list couldn't possibly evolve any further, you try to smokescreen the issue by calling Dr Craig's views "unpleasant" and all sorts of other words which are emotional, not rational. I thought it was you who proudly paraded the slogan "so what if you find something offensive! It doesn't affect what's true"!

Note that, in trying to blow Dr Craig's treatment of the "Canaanite Question" into your main reason for refusing now, you expose yourself as working from moral assumptions which have no ontological grounding. How can any of your objections be valid if the Old Testament figures were simply following their moral Zeitgeist? Are you not on record, when interviewed after your debate with John Lennox, saying that rape is not really "wrong" but an arbitrary taboo, in the same way we happen to have evolved 5 fingers rather than 6? What about your association with Peter Singer, who has no problems at all with infanticide (or am I taking him out of context)?

Furthermore, let's say Craig is mistaken, and changes his mind on this issue tomorrow... Does that affect whether or not God exists, or the arguments around the question? Does it tell us whether or not Jesus historically rose from the dead? AND... does it tell us anything about whether or not your arguments in The God Delusion are valid? Of course not. It's an entirely separate and secondary issue. Your bestselling book could be riddled with schoolboy errors and logical fallacies EVEN if there actually is no God!  But, to this very day, despite the fact that Dr Craig has published his criticisms in written form, all you have to offer are ad hominems (especially on your website) the likes of which one would expect from a teenage "troll".

Once again, Professor Dawkins, you are blowing smoke and running for cover. You have all the time in the world for the people who will help you self-promote, but academics with the formal training in logic and reasoning, which you lack on your CV, are simply not worthy, it would appear.

Face facts, Professor Dawkins: all the academics debating Dr Craig are either graduates from or Professors at Oxford University (okay, Arif Ahmed is Cambridge, which I'm sure pales in comparison). One has already accused you of cowardice and ducking the "intellectual heavyweights". Atheist Prof Peter Millican will not only debate Dr Craig but HOST the lecture where he critiques your book; a panel 2 of 3 of which are non-believers, will also respond...

...but apparently, you're superior even to them, because you sense a reality they cannot. A "magic" reality.

I used to find you convincing, but then I followed your advice about questioning everything and studying the arguments and evidence. It saddens me to see you don't actually practice what you preach.

Man up and debate. As the Pythons would say, "stop that! This is getting silly!" :-)

"[The God Delusion] simply puts an argument and if your views are strong enough... you will be able to defend those views. You will not say 'oh it's offensive! It's offensive! 'You'll say 'no, you are wrong here, you are wrong here, and you are wrong here.' And that's what you should do... And I hope you will do it when you've read the book."

"They've got nothing, really, to stand up for. They've got nothing. They've got no decent arguments. They have to take offence. It's the only weapon they've got."
"I don't care who you are or what community you come from or what church you go to or anything else. I want to talk to you, have a dialogue with you, about the evidence one way or the other. We'll have a friendly conversation about it and I'll win the argument."

- Richard Dawkins

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Richard Dawkins' Hypocritical & Self-Promotional Excuse for Avoiding William Lane Craig:

World-famous atheist Richard Dawkins has given, I've counted, about 10 excuses for not defending his 2.5 million+ bestselling book The God Delusion against world-leading Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig, who tours the UK from October 17th.

He resists despite the fact that a fellow atheist from Oxford University has accused him of cowardice*; not to mention the latest news that Craig's critique of The God Delusion will actually be hosted by another atheist academic from Oxford (whom he will have debated just 4 days prior) in front of a panel of skeptics (from Oxford) and that 4/5 of Craig's debate opponents will be from... Oxford (the other one's Cambridge, so I guess we can let that slip for not quite cutting the intellectual mustard).

And Dawkins' latest excuse is truly unbelievable: "I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion." (Telegraph)

Pause to consider, for a moment:

1) Craig has not sought to debate Dawkins. He's responded to invitations from independent organisations who have tried to set this up - in fact he's never set up a single debate, himself, in his life!

2) Best of all, Dawkins will actually be spending October... self-promoting! He'll be charging around the country and in TV studios plugging his new book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True! In fact, Dawkins will be promoting it in the Royal Albert Hall on October 19th, while Craig is in Cambridge delivering a lecture on Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design.

Dawkins has no fear sharing the Sheldonian Theatre with
members of the "in-group" (atheist author Sam Harris)
Dawkins' calendar, on his website, indicates that October 25th (the night of Dawkins' challenge to fill Oxford Sheldonian Theatre's empty debating chair) is free for him. It also, however, mentions a movie-screening in New York, so one hopes Dawkins isn't planning on fleeing the country!

To top it all off, while Dawkins' record of academic responses to Craig's arguments remains precisely zero, he's found plenty of time to hurl insults at Craig on his website, including "ponderous buffoon" and that his logic is used to "bamboozle his faith-head audience". Isn't that the wrong way round? Shouldn't this "faith-head" be hate-mailing him? At this rate, might we even find Dawkins making irrational arguments (or is that just a silly question)?

So, there you have it. Rather than share his stage, Dawkins prefers to stage his shares. Rather than engage in an academic exchange and critique of his published work, he'd rather you just "buy" his arguments (on faith)?

Call it irony, hypocrisy, whatever you want... it's certainly not "bright".

(Reasonable Faith UK Tour website: