You Better Run Prof. Richard Dawkins

A popular new atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, refused to stand trial, to debate  defending the truthfulness of his own book at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on Tuesday 26th October, with one of the best and leading Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig.

Richard Dawkins

Prof. Dawkins maintained his head in the rabbit hole, saying :

“I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion”

Is this true? Craig has debated with the best thinkers including late Antony Flew, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Lewis Wolpert, A.C. Grayling, Bart Ehrman, Paul Kurtz, Walter Sinnott Armstrong, Victor Stegner, Lawrence Krauss, among the few. How then is Dawkins thinking Craig is driven for self-promotion?

I think the reason behind Prof. Dawkins’s refusal to debate with Craig, is the truth of  Sam Harris’ saying in his opening speech , 7th April 2011 “Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural? or Does Good Come from God?” debate with William Lane Craig:

[William Lane Craig is]“the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”

The Telegraph headline, by Tim Ross, reads Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God: Ross, Telegraph’s religious affairs editor writes:

William Lane Craig

Some of Prof Dawkins’s contemporaries are not impressed. Dr Daniel Came, a philosophy lecturer and fellow atheist, from Worcester College, Oxford, wrote to him urging him to reconsider his refusal to debate the existence of God with Prof Craig.

In a letter to Prof Dawkins, Dr Came said: “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.

“I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”

Is Richard Dawkins ,one of Sam Harris’ fellow atheists who Craig seems to have put the fear of God into? I wonder, I wonder.

34 thoughts on “You Better Run Prof. Richard Dawkins

  1. Daniel Schealler:

    “Note that a-priori claims (ontological, Kalaam Cosmological) and subjective experiences (I feel it in my heart) do not qualify as evidence.”

    …are you just saying THAT as a layman?

    “For an example of scholarly, scientific Dawkins you can see the Selfish Gene. There’s a subject worthy of scholarly attention.”

    …so should Dawkins have published The God Delusion?

    You’ve practically admitted that Dawkins is not qualified to argue on the subject, and that we should not expect sound arguments from him.

    Is your low bar for theistic scrutiny born out of personal dislike, or do you approach everything that way?

    • “Are you just saying THAT as a layman?”

      Sure, I’m a rank amateur – ‘layman’ almost seems like a step up.

      But even with my shaky understanding, I can see that ontological arguments do not present supporting observations, but argue from a position that relies on innate intuitions about how the world works.

      The whole point of evidence is that it must be something that multiple independent parties can all observe – which places evidence firmly in the aposteriori box.

      Conversely, if a premise is put forward that doesn’t rely on observation, then that’s an apriori claim.

      If the above is sound, and if it is true that ontological arguments do not present observations as evidence, then they can be regarded (and dismissed) as apriori.

      If I’m wrong in my use of terminology, then I’m happy to change the words I use to suit you.

      If I’m wrong in that ontological arguments do present evidence, well – just point me to the specific ontological argument that does this, and I’ll happily change my position to accommodate its existence.

      “So should Dawkins have published The God Delusion?”

      Yes. Of course.

      You’re assuming that all published documents by a scientist and scholar must themselves be scientific and scholarly.

      This is not true. There are other reasons to put forward an argument.

      Such as: To undermine the false and undeserved respect afforded religion in society.

      “You’ve practically admitted that Dawkins is not qualified to argue on the subject,”

      No, not at all.

      Put the axe down next to the grind-stone, and look again.

      It is not a requirement that all published arguments of a scholar must adopt the ethos of a scholar.

      Additionally: The only ‘qualification’ for making an argument is the ability to present that argument well.

      Given the popularity and success of the God Delusion, and it’s continued presence and influence, I’d say that any reasonable reading has to conclude that the goal of the presentation has been largely reached. It has changed the face of how many, many people regard religion.

      The book has been successful in its aims – which is the only qualification that matters in this case.

      If, on the other hand, Dawkins did take a dry and scholarly approach to his argumentation, such a book would probably have slipped beneath the radar and been widely ignored by most people.

      “… and that we should not expect sound arguments from him.”

      Just because an argument does not present itself with a scholarly ethos does not automatically make it unsound.

      1) All hypotheses about external reality that do not present supporting evidence should not be taken seriously.
      2) Religion is a hypothesis about external reality that does not present supporting evidence.
      3) Religion should not bet taken seriously.

      I can write this out in first-order logical form if you like, although it will take a while to work out how to render that in an online comment.

      The logical form is valid – although you may disagree with the premises.

      The ethos and the pathos that the argument is presented with are irrelevant, so long as the argument is sound.

      So it doesn’t matter that Dawkins was not entirely scholarly in the God Delusion – the arguments presented should be evaluated independantly of their ethos and pathos.

      If ethos and pathos are to be critiqued at all it is from the standpoint of rhetoric, not argumentative logic. And rhetorically speaking, the God Delusion has been wildly successful at changing the public face of atheism.

      Success in achieving the author’s goals is the only criteria that matters when evaluating an argument rhetorically.

      So stop trying to dismiss the God Delusion on account of ethos.

      If you’re looking to address an argument logically, then address that argument directly and quit moaning about the decidedly un-scholarly tone.

  2. 1) Whether or not Dawkins is refusing out of cowardice is ultimately unknowable except to himself. Personally, I don’t think he is refusing out of cowardice. I think he is just fed up with refuting the same tired and bad arguments that many Christian apologists put forth. I myself dropped out of engaging with apologists for a long time for the same reason. I have to thank you Prayson for re-engaging me. You are a rarity, in my experience at least, of a Christian who, if you’ll excuse the expression, knows his shit, and is sincere about tackling arguments.

    2) In any case, I think this is a very unimportant question. The attacks on Dawkins are more of an implied ad hominem attack. As an outspoken atheist, making Dawkins look bad is viewed by many Christians as a moral victory for theism, but it doesn’t actually add anything to the discussion. In fact, I think this kind of attack from both theists and atheists distract from real issues and polarizes us against each other.

    3) I don’t think Dawkins is a very good candidate for Christians to debate. He’s a scientist, not a philosopher. He often makes philosophical mistakes that even I as an amateur can see. It would be more beneficial to pick a stronger candidate. Again, I think many Christians target him because of his symbolic value.

    4) I don’t think the oral debate format is well suited for these kinds of questions. Often the crux of the matter lies in the nitty gritty details of careful critical thinking. Oral debate lends itself instead to show off the emotive and rhetorically strong arguments. The problem is compounded when we note that for each line of fallacious argument put forth, it takes 10 lines of careful reasoning to undo, and there just isn’t enough time to do that in this format.

    5) So what if Dawkins won’t debate him? Craig has debated Dennett who’s a better candidate anyways. (I’m downloading the debate right now, and looking forward to see how it turned out.) I’ve always contended that the purpose of debates is to pit ideas against each other, not people.

    • “I’ve always contended that the purpose of debates is to pit ideas against each other, not people.”

      You know what, I agree completely!

      And this would be about the ideas. Dawkins is a rarity in that he has actually advanced his own clearly stated argument against the existence of God. The other New Atheists don’t seem even to get this far.

      He’s also taken on the various “proofs” of God appallingly. Even Dr Came, the atheist making the accusation in the video, recognizes this and has called Dawkins out on the Ontological Argument in the very same way Craig has.

      Don’t forget the published critiques, either! If Dawkins doesn’t like vocal debates, he can (and could have) responded to these academic works.

      Dawkins is an influential figure but, ultimately, it’s about the arguments – and his choices of conduct and opponents are unbecoming of a truth-seeking, seriously objectively-minded scholar.

      • For an example of scholarly, scientific Dawkins you can see the Selfish Gene. There’s a subject worthy of scholarly attention.

        Was Dawkins approaching the God question as a scholar?


        Dawkins was attempting to change the way religion is regarded by undermining the undserved respect it is shown.

        So to be disrespectful is performatively in line with his overall thesis and goal: That religious claims are not worthy of respect due to the lack of evidence that has been presented for them.

        Note that a-priori claims (ontological, Kalaam Cosmological) and subjective experiences (I feel it in my heart) do not qualify as evidence.

        If there’s an additional option for what may be presented in favor of the truth-value religious claims, then you’re welcome to present it now.

  3. If you want more detail about the story of Dawkins’ cowardice, this video should be enlightening viewing!

    Enjoy! 🙂

    • I have read it. Craig explained the Justice of God. I did not see where he entailed that killing of children is alright. That will be twisting his words.

      Case: If a child is serial killer or participating in a war, some governments indeed permit killing them given certain condition.

      So killing of children under certain condition is justified. But lets us not generalize it.


  4. Hello Prayson, thanks for your reply.

    P.Z. Myers has a post up lambasting Christian apologist William Lane Craig for his defense of genocides in the Old Testament. Here’s the damning paragraphs:

    “Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.”

    “In a recent post on his Reasonable Faith site, famed Christian apologist and debater William Lane Craig published an explanation for why the genocide and infanticide ordered by God against the Canaanites in the Old Testament was morally defensible. For God, at any rate — and for people following God’s orders. Short version: When guilty people got killed, they deserved it because they were guilty and bad… and when innocent people got killed, even when innocent babies were killed, they went to Heaven, and it was all hunky dory in the end.” Greta Christina

    Personally I think the Hebrews just wanted to take the land that the Canaanites occupied so they lied and said “God” told them to do it.

    • You said

      “Don’t forget that Dr. Craig recently said that it’s alright to kill children…”if God tells you too””

      Your secondhand information is quite misleading. Show as how that entails Craig saying, it is okay to kill children if God say so.

  5. Well…about the article…I personally agree…while I don’t think Dawkins is actually AFRAID of William Lane Craig, I don’t see a good reason for him not to debate the man…I always felt his decision to ignore him was somewhat arrogant…

  6. Wow…I thought I was still blocked…or maybe my “blocked” status was changed during the renovations…don’t know squat about technology, héhé…kept an eye on this website, héhé…pretty interesting sometimes…always your well put answers Daniel, haha…

      • Héhéhé…I suddenly couldn’t comment, there was nothing else to conclude…what would YOU think?…I tried over and over again, never managed to comment…right after our argument about the resurrection…I would press “submit” or whatever it was and the page would behave as if it were actually going to post my comment but would only send me to the top…héhé, exactly, I came from time to time to see what you were doing on here…

  7. Admin: I have moved AC Grayling comment from New Evidences That The Gospels Were Based By EyeWitness Article to here: He wrote:

    I have not debated with Craig (a couple of brief emails is the sum of any contact with him) and I wonder how many of his other claims to have debated with people whose views I share is likewise baseless. Richard Dawkins is quite right not to waste time on what would be a fruitless event. – A. C. Grayling

    • William Lane Craig vs. A.C. Grayling: “Belief in God Makes Sense in Light of Tsunamis”

      On the evening of April 28, 2005, the Union sponsored this unusual debate between the American Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and Oxford University’s own A.C. Grayling, a distinguished philosopher and man of letters famous in Great Britain for his vociferous secularism. Decide for yourself whether belief in God can be rationally maintained in the face of terrible suffering.”

      I believe “A.C Grayling” need a memory refresh.

      Please do not pretend to be a person your not.

      Thank you for trying though.

      In Christ,

    • What the? Grayling didn’t reply to your page did he!!?

      Where’d that quote come from?

      BU x

  8. Oh, and by the way, the book is full of truths and very readable. Dawkins tells no lies…unlike the Christians who are constantly “Lying for Jesus”

  9. Dr Craig is an arrogant populist and most of his logic is suspect.

    Don’t forget that Dr. Craig recently said that it’s alright to kill children…”if God tells you too” and he used his religious philosophy and logic to excuse it.

    This is a dangerous man and one should stay far away from him. I commend Dr. Dawkins for ignoring the man.

    Atheists need to be aware that there are some Christians that need to be ignored so their message does not get out easily. I have listened to 4 or 5 of Dr. Craigs debates and he never has been able to prove God exists…one cannot use logic/words to prove this, you have to use scientific proofs that are viewable, repeatable and undeniable.

    • Dear thewordofme,

      Thank you for your comments. Can you point to were Dr. Craig said killing of Children is alright if God tells you too? Please show us were and when he said it.

      I see you hold on strong scientism. Is this position provable with scientific proofs that are viewable, repeatable and undeniable?

      • Craig defends a particular version of divine command ethics.

        The idea is that God is not held to the same standards of morality as the rest of us. If God wants to kill children, that’s God’s perogative.

        Furthermore, if God commands a human being to kill children then that’s God’s perogative as well – it doesn’t qualify as murder if God commanded you to do it.

        On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

        Do a quick search on that page for the section starting “I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate” to get to the meat of what Craig is arguing.

  10. Two things.

    One: Dawkins is an author, not a debater. Those are two different skill sets.

    Second: Debates are not about truth and false. They’re about who is the better speaker. And while I believe his logic and beliefs are false, Craig is certainly a good speaker.

    • Dear NotAScientist,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Sadly I am not sure I follow.

      1. Richard Dawkins is open to debate with religious thinkers,”a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, or an archbishop” and he also debated top Christian scientist and thinkers John Lennox and Alister McGrath. Dawkins loves to debate in television and radio shows. Thus he can not be excused not to debate Craig, defending the truth of his book, The God Delusion.

      2. Debates is certainly about finding, exploring and defending certain truths.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      In Christ,

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