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Speaking of issuing challenges to Dawkins

March 31, 2012

imageThe following is an extract of a posting at bethinking.org pertaining to Richard Dawkins refusal to debate William Lane Craig (pictured) at the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford. It is very telling.

Richard Dawkins, outspoken atheist and critic of religion, may be losing his nerve. He has just refused four British invitations to publicly debate with eminent philosopher William Lane Craig when he visits the UK this October. The requests came from The British Humanist Association, The Cambridge Debating Union, the Oxford Christian Union and Premier Radio.

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

Dawkin’s refusal to debate Craig has led Oxford University philosopher Dr Daniel Came to write to Dawkins urging him to reconsider, saying his refusal to do so is “apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.”

Craig, however, throws down the gauntlet, saying “I am keeping the opportunity open for him to change his mind and debate with me in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford at 7.30pm on 25th October.”

Dawkins has claimed, “As for religion … nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris.”  Harris debated Craig on 7th April. In his opening statement in that debate, Harris declared that Dr Craig is “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” After that debate, the atheist website Debunking Christianity reported: “Bill (Craig) has once again showed himself as the best debater of this generation.”

Following the debate with Christopher Hitchens in 2009, the website,Common Sense Atheism commented: “Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”

Dawkins’ Reasons

So what reasons does Dawkins offer for refusing to debate Craig? He gives six:

Firstly, he says that Craig is a professional debater and that is his“only claim to fame”. In fact, Craig is a highly distinguished academic with doctorates in both Philosophy and Theology. He has published more than thirty books and nearly 200 papers in peer-reviewed, academic journals.

Secondly, he says Craig is a Creationist. . . . Craig asserts that the universe had a beginning 13.7 billion years ago. He argues that the universe is therefore finite in the past and requires a first cause. It is therefore wholly inaccurate to describe Craig as a creationist in the standard sense of that term.

Thirdly, Dawkins says that Craig is not a senior churchman and that he will not debate a religious person less senior than a Cardinal or a Bishop. However, most senior churchmen are not distinguished academics. Few have done research in secular universities or have gained doctorates, either in science, philosophy or theology. Professor Craig therefore is a much more rigorous opponent. Dawkins has in fact previously debated with other Christian academics, namely John Lennox and Alister McGrath.

[ . . . ]

Finally, he states “I have no interest in this.” This is surprising. He has made a fortune from his book, The God Delusion, and continues to promote his aggressive atheism but is not interested in exchanging views with a serious academic who wants to challenge his arguments in public.

Perhaps I am being unfair to quote extensively from a Christian apologetics website that is clearly in Professor Craig’s camp and not in Professor Dawkins’. But search the web. Focus, if you wish, on information published on Dawkins’ own foundation website. The answer is the same but for some wording.

imageThe third reason given by Dawkins is perhaps the most interesting and silly. He was trapped. How could he then refuse a chance to debate Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the same venue, the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford.

Reuters described the encounter, just this past February and chaired by the philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny:

It was the intellectual version of a world heavyweight title fight when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams faced evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," on Thursday in a debate on the nature and ultimate origins of human beings.

Genetic pre-determination and the nature of consciousness were just some of the issues touched upon during an hour and a half of erudite jousting in the university town of Oxford.

[. . . ] So the time was ripe for champions of the religious and secular camps to step into the ring – or in this case, the Sheldonian Theatre, a distinctive 17th century building where Oxford’s venerable university holds graduation ceremonies.

Audience reactions were interesting:

"It was a points victory for Rowan Williams, but not a knock-out round," said Andrew Wilkinson, a theology graduate.

His friend Judy Perkins said "Williams was better at engaging with the science than Dawkins was at engaging with the philosophy."

[ . . . ] "The argument was a bit like afternoon tea and muffins," said Jane Kennedy, a schoolteacher.

[ . . . ] Camille Bonomelli, a doctoral student in biochemistry, emerged from the debate stimulated if not swayed. "Nobody is going to win this battle anyway," she said.

Short of getting Rowan Williams (whom John Bingham of The Telegraph described in a similar article on the debate as “having a grasp of 11 languages, been an Oxford professor and the leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide”) or an equally eminent Cardinal to pose a Shroud of Turin challenge to Dawkins, I don’t think he will entertain the idea. Even so, the publicity value is there. 

  1. Susana
    March 31, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I will continue to assert that Dawkins is merely an adequate academic, not a brilliant one by any stretch of the imagination. He has latched on to this money maker of an idea and has become the champion of a rhetoric that has little value. He is no fool though, and knows which side his bread is buttered on. If he continues to debate truly brilliant minds he will lose the most significant part of his income, and that’s all there is to that. Still, I pray for the guy every day, and so should we all.

  2. March 31, 2012 at 7:55 am

    OMG faith is on the march. “God Delusion” was full of rhetorical tricks that passed as reasoned analysis. For example:
    :
    “It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all, as has been done by, among others, Professor G. A. Wells of the University of London in a number of books, including Did Jesus Exist?

    “Although Jesus probably” existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.”

    Notice that there is no logical flow to this at all, only the slick spiel of a used car salesman.

    His use of “probably” to modify existed means that there is doubt and he then jumps to a complete rejection of the Bible as any kind of deity. Why the tortured logic and why the increasing cowardice to confrontation? I have a simple suggestion: the Shroud of Turin. At the very least Shroud science removes doubt about the existence of Jesus Christ.

    The science of the the Shroud is finally recovering from the flawed carbon dating analysis. Atheists like Dawkins are now in a bind. Given the fact that there are resources now to debunk the carbon dating available universally on the Internet, it’s impossible for them to assume a dismissive air.

    The issue of the Shroud’s authenticity is now again on the table. Some have called the Shroud the Fifth Gospel. It’s that and more. It is a Revelation. It is the resurrection of the Resurrection. Courtesy of Science, it is a second coming in the information age.

    Happy Easter.

    • Ron
      March 31, 2012 at 8:43 am

      I am in almost total agreement with the last two comments. Although, I wouldn’t agree that Dawkins is not a fool…Sure he may be making loads of money, but, he can’t take it with him! In light of the way he is acquiring all this wealth, I think he’ll have plenty to explain IF he ever makes it to the Pearly Gates…I won’t pray for him, but I will pray for the many many laymen souls out there that believe in his trash writings, and are being averted from the truth of our Lord….I’ll leave Hawkins to God.

      R

      • MouseInTheHouse
        March 31, 2012 at 9:27 am

        you can take your money with you either. love your enemies including praying

  3. Kelly Kearse
    March 31, 2012 at 9:24 am

    There is an excellent podcast on http://www.catholiclab.net, originally broadcast on 2/4/12, entitled “The Greatest Story Dawkins Doesn’t Get”, which takes issues with many of the major points used in the Dawkins style of reasoning.

    All podcasts are free for download.

    Lots of good stuff there that address various issues on the conflict (NOT!) between faith & science. Also a (much earlier) episode on the Shroud if you scroll down.

  4. john
    March 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I agree with Susanna…we should pray for the fool (and that is what he is according to scripture…the fool has said in his heart …etc.)whatever form our prayers should take.

    Conversions,however great or small,are happening around the globe by the minute.And apart from the classic conversion of St.Paul,we all know of various conversions in recent times as well.Malcolm Mugridge and his encounter with Mother Theresa immediiately comes to my mind and his subsequent book,”Something Beautiful for God”.

    In any case I will never underestimate the importance and power of prayer…and to take it a little further,I’d like to add something Catherine de Hueck Dorothy had said.She was a baroness of Russia and social activist who worked with the poor in Harlem N.Y.,as well as an author of many spiritual books and founder of the Madonna House, a lay apostolate in northern Ontairio,Canada(and which is now in several other countries)

    Anyhow,shortly after I had the good fortune of meeting and chatting with Catherine on a few occassions while she was living,I saw her being interviewed on a regular national T.V. program in my country Canada called “Man Alive.She was asked by Roy Bonistiel,who hosted the program,the question,”How important is prayer in your life”? To this she smiled and answered quite calmly and emphatically,while looking him straight in the eye,she said,I AM a prayer”.

    She went on to explain in greater detail,but the gest of what she wanted to convey,was how everything we do,whether it’s housework,garden work,what have you,,,also becomes a prayer when done in the right spirit and offered to God.Yes,Susanna,I agree,that we should pray for Richard Dawkins whatever form our prayers should take.

  5. David Mo
    April 1, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Read this, please: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig .

    Do you support Mr. Craig’s fundamentalism? Would you discuss with a fundamentalist Ayatollah on Allah? I don’t, of course. It’s useless and can be very unpleasant.

  6. Dan
    April 1, 2012 at 5:36 am

    David, no, I don’t support Craig’s fundamentalism (in your sense of the word). Nor do I support Craig’s assertion that Dawkins, as an Atheist, has no basis for objective moral judgment. And I do not support Dawkin’s fundamentalism of another kind, either (I subscribe to McGrath’s views on this). Craig’s fundamentalism is not the point.

    Hitchens, Harris and many other Atheists of high moral character were well aware of Craig’s somewhat strange views on a specific biblical moral dilemma. Were they less honorable for debating Craig? Were not fellow Atheists urging Dawkins to debate Craig? Could he have not used the issue of the Canaanite slaughter in debate? Of course.

    Should all people who debate others first consider their views on moral issues? Perhaps a scale of acceptability is needed. Should Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps not have debated Dawkins because of his Atheism or his beliefs about Christianity? Has not Dawkins said that raising children as Christians was a form of child abuse?

    The real point about the fist part of the posting was not about Craig’s views regarding the Canaanite slaughter as wrong. It was about the silly excuses that Dawkins gave, particularly the one in which he said he would not debate “a religious person less senior than a cardinal or a bishop.” He wasn’t standing on principle. He was standing on a self-made pedestal of arrogance.

  7. April 1, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I think Dawkins has anointed himself as the “Atheist Pope.” The jacket for God Delusion modestly described Dawkins as “the world’s most prominent atheist.” “The world numbers about eight billion individuals and climbing. What a terrible burden it is for Dawkins to be the foremost atheist among the eight billion.

    That being said, when it comes to the slaughter of innocents in Canaan, I tend to agree with Dawkins that this was inexcusable barbarity. I remember watching a History Channel program on ancient generals two or three years ago which recorded Joshua’s slaughter of women and children in Jericho after “the walls came tumbling down.” I was appalled. When I discovered that Joshua was acting on a divine command, I decided that I could not worship such a God. I was deeply saddened when a Jewish friend of mine gave the human reasoning behind that. Leaving the women and children alive would have resulted in the leaving the seeds of idolatry to blossom and grow. That came to mind a year or so later, when on another History (or Military Channel rebroadcast) I heard a Himmler speech to the German Generals as the WWII ground to its close and the Third Reich was collapsing. “We had to kill the children,” he said, “because they would grow-up to seek revenge upom us killing their parents.”

    Much of Bible is rationalization for human endeavors. Of course, that argues against it not being history. Some of its history is sad.

    But I highly recommend the direction of religions which is the basis of Richard Wright’s “The Evolution of God.” Jesus challenged the Pharisees” “What do you think of the Messiah [Christ}, whose son is he?” Wright is somewhat dismissive of the universality of Jesus message adopting the “Paul did it view.” But I think the last paragraph of his book sums up not only the direction of religious thought, but of Christianity itself:

    “Though we can no more conceive of God than we can conceive of an electron, believers can ascribe properties to God, somewhat as physicists ascribe properties to electrons. One of the more plausible such properties is love. And maybe, in this light, the argument for God is strengthened by love’s organic association with truth—by the fact, indeed, that at times these two properties almost blend into one. You might say that love and truth are the two primary manifestations of divinity in which we can partake, and that by partaking in them we become truer manifestations of the divine. Then again, you might not say that. The point is just you wouldn’t have to be crazy to say it.” *

    Amen, Mr. Wright, amen.

    *(Wright, Robert (2009-05-20). The Evolution of God . Little, Brown and Company)

  8. Susana
    April 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    “When I discovered that Joshua was acting on a divine command, I decided that I could not worship such a God.”

    As people of faith, we accept that God is infinitely more intelligent, wiser, more just and more trustworthy than any human. Yes, there are times when what He does escapes our logic and we may even shake our fist at him. I have. But only for a moment. Then we remind ourselves that we trust Him with all our heart and soul. We have to believe that His reasoning is far superior to ours and encompasses knowledge that we don’t possess.

    I have also struggled with that passage, and many others (from my 21st century sensibilities, I can’t even stand the passages about animal sacrifice), but then I remind myself that I firmly believe that God not only has all the attributes that I just listed, but I also believe that He exists in the eternal present and has knowledge of what has happened and what will happen at any point in history. As such, I believe His decisions are always wise and correct, though I may not understand them or agree with them.

    Another aspect of this we have to remember as people of faith is that we are not to put so much stock in this earthly life. We get all tied up in a knot because people lost their lives and normally we would do anything to preserve life, but according to God’s plan as I understand it, this is not the life we’re supposed to value. Just because many innocents died that day, it doesn’t mean they were obliterated. I trust in a God of infinite justice who will ultimately save all the innocents who have died to this life, throughout history. They will have eternal life.

    It’s like I said; you can choose to believe or not believe, you can choose to trust or not to trust, but if you do believe, and if you do trust, then believe and trust wholeheartedly. Trust that God knows what He’s doing. Dawkins wouldn’t understand that because he doesn’t believe in God, but those of us who do can’t resort to the same kind of materialistic reasoning that Dawkins uses. If we do that, then really, what’s the difference between us?

    • April 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Susana,

      I think you and I would have a profound agreement on the two issues that concern this blog: (1) the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ and (2) It offers some proof of his Resurrection.

      As to the rest, many theologians, both Catholic and Protestant have views on scripture that may differ from you and me. St. John wrote that God is love and that is good enough for me. The generation before Christ, Rabbi Hillel was challenged by a gentile that he were convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him all he needed to know about the Torah in the time Hillel could stand on one leg. Hillel replied: “Do not do unto others that which is distasteful to yourself. All the rest is commentary.” That was a very controversial statement by Hillel. His rivals claimed that there were 613 commandments of God, each one of which had to be obeyed to the letter, all were equally important.

      Christ was challenged by one of those who sought to trap Him by asking him “Which was the greatest commandment?” He replied (in words from the Torah) “to love God with your whole heart, mind and soul.” and then continued: “And the second is like unto this: To love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these two is are based all the law and the prophets.” In the parable of the Last Judgment (parable is Pope Benedict’s word) Christ tells us that the only measure is what we do for the least of God’s brethern.” It’s the one commandment of love.

      That’s a pretty big agenda right there. I believe that Science is not only proving the authenticity of the Shroud, but through quantum mechanics we are seeing the reality of love. I am sure that to some that may appear to be out there. But to me it’s in here. We are on the verge of a new Revelation through Science.

      For those who have no interest of such, God Bless.

    • Ron
      April 2, 2012 at 3:30 am

      Susana, you said; ” this is not the life we’re supposed to value. Just because many innocents died that day, it doesn’t mean they were obliterated” ….Exactly! In my eyes I see it as; A moment of suffering for eternal life!…This is exactly what people such as Dawkin’s can never believe or accept due to their lack of faith and materialist ideals. I believe as you the innocents have been rewarded a billion times over for whatever suffering they may have occurred. Maybe Dawkins should start thinking about all the billions of deaths due to ‘materialistic ideals’ and idealists.

      Ron

  1. April 2, 2012 at 7:03 am
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