I was quite surprised as I checked my Twitter feed this morning to find out that Richard Dawkins released another statement declaring his obstinate refusal to debate Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig. To much disappointment, the only excuses were based in mockery, arrogance, and hypocrisy.
Dawkins’ arrogant mockery of Craig. Dawkins minimizes Craig for who he is in academia by suggesting that “maybe he is a ‘theologian.'” I can see the Oxford professor doing the air quotes and saying with his germane English accent. He acts as if no one in academia has ever heard of Craig and that he’s the equivalent of a community college professor trying to make it big. Craig doesn’t need anything added to his CV, it’s already quite extensive and accomplished (as well as his publications). I’m not sure how he can honestly say that he has not heard of Craig (being that he shared a stage with him at Ciudad de las Ideas). Obviously, he knows who he is now (at least some aspects of him) but he needs to stop playing the tune of not knowing who he is and this CV jargon. All Dawkins mentions on his schedule is that he is promoting a film “No Dinosaurs in Heaven” for October 25 when Craig is to debate Dawkins (leaving an empty chair with dire hopes of Dawkins showing up). Oh, by the way, don’t pay attention to William Lane Craig’s events listed on Dawkins’ schedule. Evidently, Dawkins doesn’t manage his own schedule because, as you’ll recall, he doesn’t know who Craig is…
Dawkins’ hypocrisy. Dawkins caricatures Craig’s position with his megalomaniac-of-a-God argument by suggesting Craig argues for a God of genocide. Okay, make the claim that this is what Craig believes, which isn’t true, but he goes on to construct an argument against Craig in this press release. Wait a second, is he engaging in Craig’s thought here? If yes, then why not commit to a substantive dialogue focused on, say, divine command theory? If not, then it’s quite hypocritical. Additionally, the hypocrisy shines when he will debate Alister McGrath and John Lennox (who both believe in inerrancy and would [I believe] defend divine command theory) but not Craig. Surely, atheists have to be seeing this.
PZ Myers’ tomfoolery. Myers posted an article on his blog this morning titled “Standing up to William Lane Craig.” Most people in the scientific and philosophical blogosphere familiar with this arena of thought understand that Myers is admittedly outspoken, rude, and angry. Sure, that’s not my preference but okay, he can be that way. I don’t care too much about that. What I find interesting is that he supports Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig and considers it a “terrific put-down.” He goes on to say,
I was pleased to see that one of Dawkins’ points was one that is not made often enough:William Lane Craig is a nasty, amoral excuse for a human being.
My only reaction to this is simply laugh. No serious academic or inquirer for the truth can take these comments seriously. I think it’s an amazing demonstration of lack of substantive retort and refusal to dialogue. Dawkins and Myers simply want to monologue and when someone wants to engage, shame on that fool for thinking differently. So much for free thought, right?
The thing is, Craig has already taken on the leading atheists and to top Dawkins would be too much of a blow for the atheist camp. He is their last hope for saving face in the public sphere. Now, I’m not going to suggest that atheism has been dismantled in academia, because it hasn’t. The purpose of debating is to bring the issues to a public forum and let the premises and arguments, which underlie these competing worldviews, be heard, examined, matched against peers, and argued against (which helps prevent strawmen). Debating isn’t an academic double-blind – journal and no one ever said it was. I suspect Dawkins isn’t the most adept debater and that’s okay. I would be content with him saying that he isn’t sufficient in a formal oral debate and would prefer more of an academic review/written debate (and leave formal oral debates to those who can). That’s fine with me.
Paradoxically, I believe Dawkins’ lack of debate is a bigger defeat for new atheism then if he did debate Craig. It says so much more than if they were to engage in substantive dialogue because it demonstrates the new atheists’ desire of monologue. They want to shout on their blogs and books that there is no God (or on busses that there probably isn’t a God). If you stand up to question them they have nothing to respond with but strawmen arguments. So much for standing up to William Lane Craig, this is more of a stepping-to-the-side and getting out of his way.