Regarding Richard Dawkins’ Refusal to Debate William Lane Craig
Author, Zoologist, former Professor at Oxford University, current emeritus fellow at the New College, Oxford, and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, recently published an article in The Guardian titled “Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig“, addressing, logically, the issue of why Dawkins refuses to debate William Lane Craig. Given that The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) is a big fan of both Dawkins and Craig, it was with great anticipation and expectations of a reasonable, coherent, and articulate explanation as to why Dawkins won’t debate Craig that I read this article. When I finished reading Dawkins’ piece, I found myself feeling strangely unsatisfied, which unfortunately, has become the rule rather than the exception for me when I read Dawkins recent work. I often get the impression that Dawkins believes himself to have been elevated to the status of no longer needing to offer logical, well-thought out, or coherent explanations. This would not only explain “The God Delusion“, but the inconsistent, illogical, ad hominem, harangue being discussed here.
This article expands on a more concise and simple answer addressing the question as to why Dawkins won’t debate Craig, which can be seen below:
Dawkins response in the above video is to state:
“I always said when invited to do debates that I would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop, indeed I have done those, but I don’t take on Creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters; they’ve got to have something more than that. I’m busy.”
Craig is not a Creationist in the Young Earth sense of the word, and certainly is no more or less of a Creationist than the other religious figures that Dawkins mentions having debated, and as we’ll see below, Craig has much more to offer than simply being a debater. As the questioner in the video pointed out, Craig is arguably the world’s leading Christian apologist, not simply a Creationist or debater.
The general flavor of Dawkins’ article suggests he harbors an extremely vitriolic hatred for Craig, Dawkins’ default position regarding anything religious, seeming to delight in belittling Craig or otherwise undermining his character. In my long “relationship” with Dawkins’, I’ve grown accustomed to expecting a higher level of discourse from him, though all of that seems to have changed sometime loosely coinciding with his publication of the inane, juvenile, sophomoric, poorly researched, and hysterically emoted “The God Delusion”.
Dawkins begins the article by marketing Craig as an unknown, stating that Craig
“parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either.”
Having ‘cut my biological teeth’ so-to-speak on Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, and Climing Mount Improbable, it’s somewhat disheartening for me to see Dawkins’ offering crude ad hominem attacks, inconsistent logic, and quite frankly, lame excuses in the place of reasoned, well thought out, structured, and articulate responses; there was a time when I believed that Dawkins was above this, and indeed he most probably was above this, but that time has long since passed.
Whether or not Dawkins or any other philosopher with whom he’s consulted has heard of Craig is quite irrelevant to Craig’s status as a philosopher. Whether or not Dawkins’ or any of his biologist friends has heard of me certainly doesn’t speak to my status as a biologist. Craig possesses an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as well as a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham, in England. Regarding whether or not Craig is “[p]erhaps” a theologian, Craig possess a Doctorate of Theology from the University of Munich. In addition, Craig has held Professorships in Philosophy in at least four different Colleges. These credentials, and not whether or not Dawkins’ philosopher friends have heard of Craig, firmly establish Craig as philosopher of some stature.
While describing Craig as philosopher is not inaccurate, that is not exactly the status under which Dawkins would be meeting Craig in a debate setting.
Dawkins is arguably the world’s most prominent, outspoken, and well-known atheist, while Craig is arguably the world’s leading Christian apologist. Dawkins the zoologist would not be debating Craig the philosopher, rather Dawkins the atheist would be debating Craig the Christian.
Dawkins continues, pointing out that he turns
“down hundreds of more worthy invitations every year, I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.”
Dawkins proceeds, offering some self-righteous pontification concerning Craig’s efforts to “bully” him into a debate, eventually moving on and accusing Craig of having a “dark side” because Craig refuses to
“disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament.”
, further pointing out that one
“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.”
Let’s briefly summarize what we’ve covered so far:
- Richard Dawkins, the world’s most prominent atheist refuses to debate William Lane Craig, arguably the world’s leading Christian apologist because:
- William Lane Craig is not a prominent Philosopher
- Dawkins has debated:
- an archbishop of York
- two archbishops of Canterbury
- many bishops
- the chief rabbi
- and is looking forward to his “imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.”
- Dawkins expects that clergy, religious persons, etc. will “disown” those parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, or seemingly morally reprehensible.
Continuing on, and spending a considerable amount of time criticizing Dr. Craig’s apologetic concerning God’s mandate that the Israelites slaughter all of the Canaanites (Craig’s apologetic concerning the slaughter of the Canaanites can be viewed here), Dawkins concludes by offering the following, which is worth quoting at length:
“Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that [Dawkins refers to Craig's apologetic linked above here]? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.”
In addition to refusing to debate Craig because Craig is not a well-known philosopher, Dawkins won’t debate Craig because not only has Craig refused to disown acts of God that appear morally repugnant to Dawkins’, and because Craig has offered an apologetic concerning the slaughter of the Canaanites.
Keep in mind that Dawkins has debated a number of religious figures, specifically:
- an archbishop of York
- two archbishops of Canterbury
- many bishops
- the chief rabbi
Additionally, Dawkins is not opposed to debating religious persons; recall that he’s looking forward to his
“imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.”
All of these facts lead to the inevitable question: Has Dawkins confronted the archbishop of York, the many miscellaneous Bishops, the two archbishops of Canterbury, and the chief Rabbi regarding their position on the slaughter of the Canaanites? If he has, and he’s not criticizing their respective positions on this issue, one is forced to assume that they’ve denounced God for the slaughter of the Canaanites, and that they share Dawkins position concerning this issue.
If that is the case, then each of those figures has undermined their own position, rendering their opinions with respect to religion and God completely worthless, and ultimately making debating with these figures completely pointless.
If Dawkins hasn’t addressed this particular issue with each of these prominent religious figures, then the obvious question is, why not?
It’s almost a sure thing that Dawkins’ hasn’t asked this of the archbishop of York, the many miscellaneous Bishops, the two archbishops of Canterbury, and the chief Rabbi that he’s debated. Had he asked this question of them, Dawkins would, assumably, be forced to offer a similarly hysterically shrieking screed concerning the lack of moral clarity of not just Craig, but of the archbishop of York, the many miscellaneous Bishops, the two archbishops of Canterbury, and the chief Rabbi with whom he’s previously engaged in debate.
Is it reasonable to assume that the archbishop of York, the many miscellaneous Bishops, the two archbishops of Canterbury, and the chief Rabbi that Dawkins has debated share his atheistic perspective regarding the moral repugnancy of God’s behavior?
An additional question for Dawkins: When you engage in your “imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury…” will you confront him regarding his perspective on the slaughter of the Canaanites, and if he agrees with Craig, that God is morally justified in the slaughter of the Canaanites, will you follow your own advice, and remove yourself from the debate, leaving your chair “eloquently empty”?
Dawkins closes his post with the following, which again is worth quoting at length:
And if any of my colleagues find themselves browbeaten or inveigled into a debate with this deplorable apologist for genocide, my advice to them would be to stand up, read aloud Craig’s words as quoted above, then walk out and leave him talking not just to an empty chair but, one would hope, to a rapidly emptying hall as well.
Dawkins closing statement screams the obvious question as to why he simply doesn’t do this. Why not simply meet Craig in the debate setting, “read aloud Craig’s words” and let the audience decide for themselves?
The obvious answer is that Dawkins not only knows Craig won’t be left speaking to an empty hall, but that his antiquated, immature, and emoted objections to God are not likely to stand against the reasoned, logical, well-thought out, and coherent arguments offered by Craig. The saddest part about this is that a man who once appeared to me as a mental giant of astronomical proportions, now reminds me of a scared little puppy, running away with his tail between his legs, while simultaneously barking, growling, and exhibiting fear-based aggression in general. Perhaps Dawkins’ acknowledgement of his fleas is both remarkably appropriate and remarkably perceptive.