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March 3, 2007

30

missing the point perhaps – william lane craig interviewed in the Daily Telegraph

by quaesitor

Lane Craig UCCF has a national roadshow underway – Prof William Lane Craig, philosopher of religion AND disciple of Jesus, is being ferried around university settings in the hope that people might stop to listen and think. The tour launch was a debate last Tuesday between him and renowned atheist Prof Lewis Wolpert. I couldn’t make it to that one, but i did hear him the following night when he came to us All Souls. It was a fascinating evening, where he gave evidence of his vast range of knowledge (2 PhDs, the ability to discuss everything from the anthropic principle to the need to be forgiven etc) and his ability to pitch his content in a humourous and down-to-earth way. For more details of other events check out the Be Thinking site.

I had heard, however, that the previous evening had been something of a one-sided debate (and this is only hearsay of course) to such an extent that Prof Wolpert didn’t really engage as much as simply reasserted his position. Depressing really – not because of the power of knockdown arguments leading to sudden conversions – you wouldn’t expect that necessarily (oh me of little faith). But because it seems all too often that there is a lack of willingness actually to engage with what is being said (which is sadly as true of Christians as much as of non-Christians). Here was a Christian who really engages at a phenomenally deep and complex level – but is still greeted by a complete lack of acknowledgment of the reasonableness of his arguments. Of course there are moral as well as intellectual dimensions to faith – but it is sad nevertheless. This was perfectly exemplified by Richard Dawkins’ dismissive and haughty rejection of an invitation to debate with Lane Craig. ‘I’ve never heard of Prof Lane Craig and while a debate would look good on his CV, i don’t think that it would add anything to mine’ (as quoted in answer to a question at All Souls on Wednesday about whether Craig was willing to debate with Dawkins).

John Humphreys on Mastermind (BBC)But i write all this now because of BBC journalist John Humphrys’ rather depressing article in today’s paper. Humphreys actually chaired the debate at Westminster Central Hall last Tuesday – and by all accounts did an excellent and fair job. But he has not followed this up in the same spirit with his article. He hasn’t really engaged at all where Craig has. And the parting shot of the article feels like a journalistic trick to claim the moral high ground rather than portray what Craig is really saying. For all this, though, it does illustrate one thing very clearly: the complete bemusement of the largely secularist and modernist establishment in this country at the resurgence of theistic belief. Humphrys couldn’t quite believe that Central Hall (seating 2000) was both full AND that 90+% of the audience already believed in God! While this made for an unbalanced audience perhaps, it certainly didn’t provide any excuse for the lack of real engagement and debate. It is time i think for the powers that be, who traditionally ‘don’t do God’, to sit up and start recognising what is going on all around them.

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 3 2007

    When will William Lane Craig debate Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Krueger of the Internet Infidels http://www.infidels.org/

    He has been ducking them for years.

    Reply
  2. Mar 3 2007

    I should add that Dawkins has a long standing , well publicised position of not debating creationists.

    Craig has a long standing , well publicised policy of debating people who write books and articles on naturalism and atheism, such as Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Krueger.

    So why doesn’t he?

    Craig has already debate Eddie Tabash of the Internet Infidels.

    Guess what? Craig doesn’t want to go through that experience again….

    Reply
  3. Mar 3 2007

    I would have thought that Dawkins’ position that you allude to is both a shame and revealing – especially as Craig himself rejects the simplistic (as i see it, though i’m quite prepared to accept the integrity of people who disagree) premise of a literal 6-day young-earth creation – and actually integrates Big Bang theory into his theology of creation (which is something that John Humphrys, to his credit, acknowledges in his Telegraph article). To reject ALL creationists out of hand is as foolish and narrow as doing the same for all evolutionists and atheists. These are not monolithic positions but contain a wide variety of nuances. After all, there are many evolutionists and atheists who completely disagree with Dawkins – eg on his Meme theory. As Prof Michael Ruse (Prof of Philosophy at Florida State University) says of Dawkins’ new book: “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths [in their book The Dawkins Delusion] show why.” To reject all creationists as unworthy of debate before even starting strikes me as remarkably illiberal, unscholarly and (dare i say it) unscientific.

    Reply
  4. Steven Carr
    Mar 4 2007

    ‘I would have thought that Dawkins’ position that you allude to is both a shame and revealing – especially as Craig himself rejects the naive and (i would say) simplistic premise of a literal 6-day young-earth creation ‘

    Craig does not believe humans are descended from creatures that were not Homo sapiens.

    This goes against who Dawkins debates.

    When will Craig debate Jeffery Jay Lowder and Doug Krueger of the Internet Infidels who write books and articles on naturalism and atheism?

    Reply
    • Chad
      Apr 1 2011

      Rejects a literal 6 day young earth creation say?

      Yet, he repeats creationist dogma and rhetoric like it comes natural to him. Watching craig talk about any subject of science is shameful. At best, he’s simply ignorant of what he’s talking about.. at worst he is knowingly lying about science for the purpose of religious apologetics.

      Reply
  5. Mar 4 2007

    I’m afraid i’ve no idea how Craig decides who to debate (as i’ve only this last week come across him in person). I can’t imagine he would shy away from it – so get them to throw down the gauntlet!

    Reply
  6. Steven Carr
    Mar 4 2007

    Lowder and Krueger have asked Craig to debate many times.

    Craig has always been too busy.

    Craig did appear with Richard Carrier of the Internet Infidels (on the Lee Strobel TV show).

    As far as I understand it, Craig will now only face Carrier again on a Christian TV programme where it will be edited by Christians before broadcast.

    Reply
  7. Mar 4 2007

    Not to take away from what’s going on here, but Mark, do you subscribe to the Telegraph or something?

    Reply
  8. Mar 4 2007

    No but it has the cryptic crossword that i most prefer doing – to justify buying it, though, i tend to read the rest!

    Reply
  9. paul
    Mar 6 2007

    Steven #2
    This is completely untrue. Dawkins had a very aggressive and personal Andy McIntosh on Sunday Sequence on Radio Ulster. This was followed up by letters to the university suggesting that McIntosh be removed from his chair. Andy Mcintosh was easy prey as a Young Earth Creationist. The truth is that Dawkins chooses his debates and will not take on the big boys.

    Reply
  10. paul
    Mar 6 2007

    missing “debate with”

    Reply
  11. Mar 6 2007

    Dawkins does seem to have changed his policy, doesn’t he?

    Perhaps he is leaving Craig to the Internet Infidels, who Craig won’t debate.

    Reply
  12. Mar 6 2007

    Of course, I would love to see a debate between Craig and Dawkins on the resolution ‘There is good evidence that Homo sapiens have descended from other creatures’.

    But Craig would never show up.

    You can always write to him and propose that he debate Dawkins on the topic of evolution….

    Reply
  13. paul
    Mar 6 2007

    I don’t know Craig’s position on that. There are many theist who have absolutely no problem with evolution. Dawkins is wonderful when describing the science of evolution. He is way out of his depth when talking philosophy, theology, history of science, sociology… His recent God Delsuion commits every logical fallacy in the book.
    Have a look at what a real philosopher have to say
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html
    (Alvin Plantinga is John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame)
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html
    The fact is that we will never know how that debate would go because one of the potential debators is chicken.

    Reply
  14. Mar 6 2007

    I know who Plantinga is thank you.

    A Christian Evangelical Professor, Greg Welty, wrote to me once saying that Plantinga’s defense against atheistic arguments could also be used to show that it is logically consistent to believe that we only have one leg.

    Plantinga also claims his God is a necessary being who exists in all logically possible worlds, and then tries to show that there are *some* logically possible worlds where evil and God can co-exist. Excuse me, but Plantinga has to show that evil and a NECESSARY God are compatible in all logically possible worlds, not just some.

    So much for Plantinga.

    Craig believes human beings were specially created, and refuses to debate on his beliefs on Hell, Satan, Inerrancy, and Special Creation.

    He will not defend those beliefs of his in a public setting.

    He also refuses to debate Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Krueger of the Internet Infidels.

    Reply
  15. paul
    Mar 6 2007

    I don’t know what Craig’s policy on debates with the “internet infidels” is. I’m sure you can point me to proof of such a refusal. But the fact remains that Dawkins is scared to take him on. Dawkins debate with McIntosh removes his ability to hide behind a “I don’t debate with creationists” stance. He is a chicken.

    Reply
  16. Mar 6 2007

    Thanks so much for your contributions – it’s great to know that someone out there is reading! I’m just thinking that we should probably call a halt to discussing who will debate with whom simply because most of it is hearsay, and it doesn’t really get us anywhere (and yes i know it was probably my fault for bringing that up in the first place.

    But for what it is worth, i do know that Craig debated with renowned atheist philosopher Anthony Flew – and that this was one seed in influencing him to accept theism (though not full-blown Christian theism as far as i know) and make a public apology for his old atheistic stance. The debate is on dvd and can be bought from the Ravi Zacharias website if you’re interested (www.rzim.org)

    Reply
  17. Mar 7 2007

    Why not just write to Craig and ask him to debate Lowder or Kreuger?

    Flew , like many atheists, was open minded to accept the possibility of his being wrong (something Craig has publically stated he will never do)

    Flew, like many humans, made mistakes evaluating evidence outside his field.

    Reply
  18. Mar 7 2007

    Well, i don’t know about this statement Craig is supposed to have made – as i said before, i’ve only come across him recently. And i certainly don’t hold him up (nor does he represent himself) as God’s answer to all questions apologetic. But i for one am quite happy to accept that i could be wrong – being human, being aware of the provisionality of all knowledge and being aware of my own limitations. In fact i am a Christian minister yes, but also someone who is plagued by doubts all the time (as i suspect are many atheists). That is the reason for my blogs subtitle – mine is a faith that is seeking understanding (which i know an atheist like Dawkins and perhaps you, Steve, rejects as viral, mind-denying lunacy. Nevertheless, it has a great pedigree and heritage and many scientists of all calibres follow the same path. It is an extraordinary and gross generalisation to assume that they have ALL lost their minds (or even that Anthony Flew has).

    Your point about speaking about things outside his field is intriguing, though. i would say that this is precisely the problem with Dawkins on religion. What he rejects is an early 18thC version of Deism which hardly bears much resemblance to Christian theism then or now. See the article by Terry Eagleton elsewhere on my blog.

    If i may be a little provocative (!), my only question to you, Steven, is to ask whether or not you are open-minded too? Are you prepared to accept the possibility of you being wrong and therefore the possibility of there being a god (whatever form he, she, it or they might take)? If so, perhaps it is worth thinking through how you might defend the premise if you had to, and how you might do it.

    Reply
  19. Steven Carr
    Mar 10 2007

    ‘In fact i am a Christian minister yes, but also someone who is plagued by doubts all the time (as i suspect are many atheists).’

    Many atheists are not ‘plagued’ by doubts.

    I could be wrong about lots of things.

    I believe there is life elsewhere in the Universe. I could be wrong.

    I believe Riemann’s hypothesis is true. I could be wrong.

    Uncertaintity is a part of life.

    The fact that I could be wrong about whether or not there is a god is not something which ‘plagues’ me with doubt. I could be wrong. Why would the possibility of my being wrong be something which should ‘plague’ me? .

    Reply
  20. Mar 10 2007

    Come off it Steven – this is being a tad pedantic isn’t it? Sure ‘plague’ is probably the wrong word to use. But there must be implications for the atheist if (s)he is wrong and there is a god (in whatever shape or form) after all, implications that just might be rather unnerving. Perhaps this divinity will just gloss over the slightly awkward problem of that person’s rejection.

    But as Sartre himself said: “The last thing I want is to be subject to the unremitting gaze of a holy God.” He resolutely believed of course that such a god didn’t exist. As he once said: “That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.” But it surely gave him pause to think that such a holy god just might exist.

    Intriguingly, near the end of his life, Sartre told Pierre Victor: “I do not feel that I am a product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.” This yearning for a god clearly went deep in him. It didn’t stop fellow philosopher and long-time companion, Simone de Beauvoir’s sharp retort: “How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?”

    HIS magazine, April 1983 That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.

    Reply
  21. Steven Carr
    Mar 11 2007

    ‘But there must be implications for the atheist if (s)he is wrong and there is a god (in whatever shape or form) after all, implications that just might be rather unnerving. Perhaps this divinity will just gloss over the slightly awkward problem of that person’s rejection.’

    Well, I could also be wrong about re-incarnation.

    But I don’t really worry about coming back as a beetle.

    Why? Because I don’t believe in re-incarnation, even though I admit that I could be wrong.

    Reply
  22. Emma
    Mar 12 2007

    But in that case you don’t really believe that you could be wrong.

    So you don’t really have any doubts to be plagued by and are not open to the possibility you might be wrong.

    Which does make this debate a little difficult to conduct…

    Reply
  23. paul
    Mar 12 2007

    Steven I either you re obsessed with William Craig or are trying to create an urban legend “Craig has been ducking the internet infidels for years”.
    http://abetterhope.blogspot.com/2007/02/william-lane-craig-debate-and-lecture.html
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/03/lewis-wolpert-and-william-lane-craig-on.html
    http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=194001
    http://paulhuxley.blogspot.com/2007/02/craig-vs-wolpert.html
    http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/2007/02/27/does-god-exist/#comments
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/02/cafe_scientifique_or_lewis_wol.php
    I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceburg

    You will be glad to hear that i took your challenge seriously to listen to the debate with Eddie Tabash. The first thing I found was that Craig (who didn’t want to repeat the experience) has it for sale on his website!!! Being cheap i didn’t want to buy it but found you can download it from
    http://www.rctr.org/ap5.htm

    Having listened to the debate I wonder if you have!!! Tabash was high on rhetoric and weak on content. Two things struck me – he simply could not give a reasonable response to the cosmological arguement. He did not even attempt to explain how humanism could give any basis for mortality.

    regards

    Reply
  24. Steven Carr
    Mar 14 2007

    EMMA
    But in that case you don’t really believe that you could be wrong.

    CARR
    Of course I could be wrong about re-incarnation.

    Reply
  25. Emma
    Mar 16 2007

    Steven

    There is no way to have a sensible debate on these grounds.

    I am sorry that I commented, and Mark I apologise for getting involved. If I have ben ungracious in my comments, sorry.

    Emma

    Reply
  26. reluctantfundie
    Jul 30 2008

    “Of course, I would love to see a debate between Craig and Dawkins on the resolution ‘There is good evidence that Homo sapiens have descended from other creatures’.”

    Of course he wouldn’t it’s not his area and he doesn’t profess it to be. But when Dawkins thinks he can get away with making philosophical pronouncements he should be willing to stand up and defend it. Dawkins just doesn’t have a clue.

    Reply
  27. John Sears
    Sep 2 2008

    Dawkins definitely come across as an unscientific secular bigot, although I’ve no doubt that in real life he is quite a rational and pleasant homo sapien. I would take his view of evolution more seriously if he could cite one clear example of the information content of a genome being increased by random mutation and cite experimental evidence of speciation.

    Reply
  28. Robert
    Feb 23 2009

    There is a good reason why Dawkins does not debate with Creationists…

    “Never argue with a fool, they drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience”

    Reply

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