Speaking of issuing challenges to Dawkins

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. 

Quote for today on the Shroud of Turin

imageChristopher Macfarlane at The Protest Station writes a posting called Thank Shroud Almighty:

In case you don’t know what the Shroud of Turin is, it is allegedly the burial cloth in which Jesus was wrapped. I’ve seen documentaries about it, and at least from what I’ve seen, it is definitely an interesting artifact that I’m not entirely convinced should be thrown out.

Actually, it is part of a full article dealing with de Wesselow’s book. I recommend reading it.

A £20,000 Shroud of Turin Challenge to Richard Dawkins

imageThat’s about $32,000 USD

David Rolfe, in his The Enigma of the Shroud of Turin website, yesterday, issued a challenge to Richard Dawkins (pictured). After reading the letter, visit the challenge page:

An open letter to Richard Dawkins

29th March 2012
Dear Richard Dawkins

It is really not sufficient to dismiss the Shroud, as you do, on the basis of a C14 test from a single and badly selected sample area. Are you really saying that C14 has never made a mistake? Archaeologists frequently go back to retest something when other data conflicts. That has been impossible with the Shroud.

In your Shroud blog you argue, rightly in my view, that it is not enough for Christian apologists to weigh faith heavier than facts. After all, Christianity is based on a historical figure. The Shroud of Turin is a much-studied tangible object and it is a very significant fact that its unique image – so far – remains unfathomable. But that could be about to change if you, with the weight of your formidable foundation behind you, choose to accept this challenge.

When Professor Hall, Head of the Oxford Radio Carbon Unit announced the C14 result he was asked for his explanation for the Shroud. He said: “Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it”. This sounded a bit glib at the time and now, over twenty years on, it is beginning to sound a little hollow. No one has yet been able to show how it might have been “faked up”.

Thanks to the work of Professor Fanti it is now possible to take a scientific approach to such a task. He describes the criteria that must be satisfied to recreate it and it is published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Accepting this challenge would appear to be consistent with your foundations mission. Does it not represent a wonderful educational opportunity to investigate what some have suggested could only have been the work of a Leonardo Da Vinci? To make the decision easier for you we will donate the £20,000 to your foundation if you simply accept the challenge and follow it through to some kind of conclusion. The public can make up their own minds about the result.*

The challenge then, if you choose to accept it, is to explain how the Shroud and its image might have come into existence. If you cannot pin it down then, in all conscience, you should, at least, give it the appropriate respect as an enigma. If you can explain it then this site’s title becomes a misnomer and you will have solved a great mystery. Everyone would like to see this matter resolved. Could you be the one to do it?

With all good wishes

David Rolfe

* This £20,000 donation is not made possible because championing the possible authenticity of the Shroud is well funded or lucrative operation – far from it – but because your acceptance would trigger a commission for a documentary along the lines of our 2008 BBC2 film with Rageh Omaar. If you wish, you could nominate an executive producer.

Press Center for The Sign by Thomas de Wesselow

imageJoe Marino has found a press center website for Thomas de Wesselow’s new book, The Sign.  I particularly recommend spending a few minutes reading Key Points and Evidence.

The Cranky Catholic: This shrouded season

imageThe Cranky Catholic notes that “Easter must be upon us. Why? The media is dragging out new Shroud of Turin stories!

On Thomas de Wesselow’s new book, The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection:

[The author] claims that the Shroud is real, and that the picture on it (but not an encounter with the Risen Christ) was what convinced the disciples that Jesus had returned from death.

Now I don’t consider the Twelve bright or sophisticated, but I doubt that a picture on a dirty, bloody piece of cloth would convince me to risk my life proclaiming the Messiah.

And then there is this.

On the other side of the mountain of faith, there’s that bunch of perennial optimists — Italian Scientists! — who (again) claim the Shroud is real:

The scientists set out to "identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a colour similar to that of the image on the Shroud." They concluded that the exact shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could only be produced with the aid of ultraviolet lasers – technology that was clearly not available in medieval times.

Ooh! Ultraviolet lasers! Jesus! What is your frequency? (Dan Rather fans will get the reference)

Note: The ultraviolet lasers story broke at Christmas time. It is just being repeated again.

It’s a two-sips-of-coffee read. The Cranky, Skeptical Catholic.

The Real Face of Jesus Airs Good Friday

imageThe History Channel will be airing “The Real Face of Jesus?” on Good Friday, April 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm EDT. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

If Good Friday, this year, is not convenient you can buy it for almost nothing. If you just want to watch it and you don’t care about having a physical DVD in a plastic box, you can purchase a downloadable version from Amazon for $1.99. It is identical to the DVD. You can watch it on your computer or any other device that supports downloads from Amazon such as the Kindle Fire or a TIVO DVR.

You can also purchase it from iTunes for the iPad or the iPhone for $3.99.

Yes, it was also available on YouTube, for free, the last time I checked. Just type in the “The Real Face of Jesus”.

If you want the DVD, you can buy it directly from Amazon or the History Channel. The list price is for $24.95 but it is often on sale. 

Yeah, that will play in Peoria

A reader writes:

Let’s see, the resurrection didn’t happen and we know this because the shroud is real. Yeah, that will play in Peoria.