Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dawkins ducks Craig

Bill Craig sent me a newsletter in which he will be debating twice in the UK on "Is God a Delusion" but will not be debating Dawkins himself. Now that would be the debate to see! Having seen this, I wrote him saying "Oh drat! no debate with Dawkins!" He responded:

The coward! He said, "I've never heard of William
Craig. A debate with him might look good on his
resume, but it wouldn't look good on mine!"

Bill

46 comments:

David Wood said...

If he's never heard of Craig, then he's obviously never studied anything at all in the Philosophy of Religion, apologetics, etc.

This might explain why his arguments are so bad, and why he has to rely almost completely on rhetoric and insults.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I respect anyone who doesn't want to go in for the circus antics of a debate. I had never heard of William Craig when I was in philosophy, except to see his names on flyers put around by the IVCF.

exapologist said...

Ah yes, the Craigster. I remember the good ol' days, when I was a Craig acolyte. I can't believe he still defends those a priori arguments for a beginningless past with a straight face. Oh well, I guess I can't point fingers, since I defended them for about a decade.

David Wood said...

There's quite a difference between not hearing of Craig in a philosophy class and not hearing of him if you're one of the top atheists in the world.

BTW, I've come across Craig's work several times as part of my undergraduate and graduate studies in philosophy.

David Wood said...

exapologist,

Craig doesn't defend arguments "for a beginningless past." He defends arguments for a beginning of the universe. How long did you study his work?

And you would acknowledge the validity of the arguments if you weren't so opposed to the logical outcome of the arguments.

Besides, his a priori arguments are supported by empirical evidence. We know the universe had a beginning, and that's about all Craig needs for the Kalam cosmological argument

exapologist said...

Actually, they are for a beginningless past, i.e., he argues that the set of past events is finite. "Prior" to the first event, God just existed in a timeless state (on a relational view of time) or in a state in which no events existed to differentiate one moment from another (on an absolute view of time). How long have *you* studied his work?

I acknowledge the validity of his arguments -- it's the soundness that's dubious (how long have you been studying philosophy?

And I'm not opposed in the least to the conclusions of his arguments. I have no problem with theism. For example, think of Dallas Willard's exposition of the Kingdom of God in the Divine Conspiracy -- who could be against that? In any case, what is the relevance of my motives when the issue is the soundness of Craig's arguments?

It's not enough to show that our universe had a beginning by empirical arguments if a multiverse is a live option. For that would just show that our universe had a beginning.

Victor Reppert said...

In spite of his popularity, Richard Dawkins is not the guy I would put up against Craig if I were an atheist. His massive ignorance of NT scholarship, for example, would be a gigantic embarrassment for unbelief.

David Wood said...

Let's examine the word "beginningless." "Beginning" means that there's a beginning to our world. That's what Craig argues. "Beginningless" would mean that there was no beginning. That's not what he argues. The world has a beginning. And whatever begins to exist must have a cause. To say that God caused it is not to say that there is a beginningless past. "Past" is a time word referring to our world.

As for multiverse theory, you run into the same problem (not to mention that it can't help with fine-tuning or practically anything else). Check out my critique of Smolin's case:

Smolin’s Multiverse Theory

David Wood said...

It would be absolute suicide for Dawkins to debate Craig, and he knows it. Dawkins is quite popular, but his popularity would take a blow in a debate with Craig. Hence, it's not worth it. Of course, he can't admit that he doesn't want to debate, so, true to his character, he simply acts as if Craig is beneath him.

exapologist said...

I see what happened -- I wrote "for" instead of "against" (note to self: don't argue when sick). In any case, his a priori arguments for a finite set of past events are still very, very bad.

Anonymous said...

Will Craig be debating Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Kreuger any time soon?

Craig is a creationist and inerrantist, and Dawkins has written many times that he does not debate creationists.

Anonymous said...

http://www.bethinking.org/events.php

'He is in great demand across Europe and the USA, yet remarkably is largely unknown in the UK'

Even Christians in the UK have hardly heard of Craig

Craig is debating Mike Begon.

Has anybody in the US heard of Mike Begon?

Anonymous said...

'And whatever begins to exist must have a cause'

Except free will choices?

Blue Devil Knight said...

It would be absolute suicide for Dawkins to debate Craig, and he knows it. Dawkins is quite popular, but his popularity would take a blow in a debate with Craig. Hence, it's not worth it. Of course, he can't admit that he doesn't want to debate, so, true to his character, he simply acts as if Craig is beneath him.

This is a stretch. At best.

And remember everyone, we are not getting the whole story here.

mattghg said...

Even Christians in the UK have hardly heard of Craig

Craig is debating Mike Begon.

Has anybody in the US heard of Mike Begon?


I'm British, and
1. I have heard of Craig (and own one of his books), as have a very large number of Christians here, especially those who've been to university, as, as you saw, he's all over the UCCF apologetics website.
2. I've never heard of Mike Begon, or James Crossley. Lewis Wolpert I have though: he's high up in the British Humanist Association.

I don't think Dawkins really wants to debate anyone, at least not properly (10 minutes on the radio doesn't count). He already refused to debate Alister McGrath.

Jason said...

Y'know, I may never have heard of Mike Begon, but given his name I think I could find out pretty fast what his rep is. If Mr. D writes a broad-based anti-theological apologetic, he's intentionally taking a dump in someone else's swimming pool, and it would behoove him to at least check the creds of a swimmer who shows up to complain. Otherwise he simply looks ignorant, not to say obscurantist. (And Mr. D is hardly avoiding circus antics in other regards.)

That being said, I would like to know where exactly Mr. D said, "I've never heard of William Craig, etc." Was that in a correspondence between their publishers and/or agents? (The publishers ought to know who the authors are anyway.)


_That_ being said: it _is_ verifiably true that Mr. D is on record as not debating "creationists", and I can (somewhat) understand not doing this when he's more-or-less staying over there on that (topical, not tropical {g}) island. But when he launches a full frontal assault over onto _this_ island, and starts expositing explicitly and at length on topics outside his actual field, then he had better get used to the idea of debating "creationists". Otherwise he really is going to look cowardly.

David Wood said...

exapologist said:

"In any case, his a priori arguments for a finite set of past events are still very, very bad."

Thomas Aquinas didn't like it either. I think the argument works. (That is, I think it can only be denied by appealing to an absurdity.) But again, Craig doesn't even need the a priori argument. He can show that the universe had a beginning scientifically.

(The a priori mode appeals to those who seek a demonstration rather than probability.)

David Wood said...

Blue Devil Knight,

You think it's a "stretch" to say that Craig would crush Dawkins? Have you ever seen Craig debate? Have you ever heard Dawkins debate? Have you seen how bad some of Dawkins's arguments are? His main argument is still, "Who designed the designer?"!!!

David Wood said...

Anonomous said:

"And whatever begins to exist must have a cause'

Except free will choices?"

I wouldn't say that free will choices are uncaused. They're simply outside the realm of physical causation. A choice is caused by the self who chooses it.

This would be similar to the creation of the universe. It wouldn't be a physical cause. It would have to be a cause outside the system. And, I would argue, it would have to be a free choice.

exapologist said...

I'd very much like to know what absurdity I'd be committed to by denying those argument.

Gatsby Blastyn said...

exapologist,

Would you explain what exactly makes the multiverse theory a live theory?

If live means serving the purpose to explain away that what the evidence is pointing to then fine.... but you don't need the multiverse theory to do that.

exapologist said...

Gatsby,

By 'explaining away', do you mean 'offering an implausible (or in any case, *less* plausible) explanation for the data'? If some the date is the origin of our universe, and the explanation is that some theory of multiple universes according to which there is a continual natural process that gives rise to universes, than in what way is this an implausible (or less plausible) explanation of the origin of our universe (or at least less plausible than that in immaterial spirit created our universe out of no pre-existing materials)? Do you honestly thing that it's *clearly* a worse explanation than the parenthetical one just mentioned?

Blue Devil Knight said...

You think it's a "stretch" to say that Craig would crush Dawkins? Have you ever seen Craig debate? Have you ever heard Dawkins debate? Have you seen how bad some of Dawkins's arguments are?

I was referring to your analysis of Dawkins' fears and other motivations.

Craig must be quite charismatic.

David Wood said...

I'm sure you already know the argument, exapologist. If you say that the past is infinite, then you're committed to saying that we've already passed an infinite number of moments. But there's something extraordinarily odd about saying that we've successfully traversed an actual infinite. You can say that you don't see a problem, but many others would consider this absurd.

Besides, the conclusion of the argument is that the universe had a beginning. This conclusion was proven correct by modern cosmology. You can retreat to some version of the multiverse, but this only multiplies your problems.

And let's face the facts. People didn't come to multiverse theory because the evidence points to it. Instead, people realized that it's absurd to think (1) that everything originated at the Big Bang, without a cause, an (2) that everything just happened to turn out just right for life.

Theists recognized that the evidence fits quite comfortably with what we've always been saying. Atheists, as always, look for an escape hatch.

stunster said...

or at least less plausible than that in immaterial spirit created our universe out of no pre-existing materials)?

Whatever was responsible for the Big Bang did not occupy space, if by 'space' we mean some part of our universe. And if by 'material' we mean 'occupying-space-in-our-universe', then whatever was responsible for the Big Bang was immaterial.

Gatsby Blastyn said...

Hi Exapologist,
As opposed to positing one unseen entity responsible for the conditions of the universe (conditions that allow for biological life) you are positing an infinite array of unseen entities (an infinite amount of universes where any possible scenario can play out). And it's being utilitized to explain away that what appears to be the case.... that foresight went into the creation of the universe.
Compounded with the fact that this 'natural process that gives rise to universes' lacks any mechanism whatsoever. And Dennett blasted theists for using 'skyhooks'.

Felipe said...

David,

Yes, there is supposed to be some absurdity with traversing actual infinites, and Craig (and Moreland) attempt to surface the absurdity in various ways, depending on the argument advanced. Unfortunately, when you probe at these a bit, the apparent absurdities seem to vanish.

Regarding multiverses: We're still talking about the need for a first cause, and not a designer, right? The point there was that if the universe had prior physical antecedents, then the origin of our universe doesn't entail an absolute beginning of the physical realm. In any case, regarding the use of multiverses to explain the apparent fine-tuning of our universe: from a logical point of view, I'm not sure what relevance motives have when it comes to theory choice ("that damned unregenerate! He's runnin' from Jesus with his multiverses!" or "That unscrupulous Christian refuses to consider multiverses because he wants Jesus to be the Big Banger of our universe!"). Isn't he only relevant issue that of what best explains the data? If so, then we have to treat the hypothesis of a multiverse as seriously as the hypothesis of an immaterial ex nihilating trinity. On both hypotheses, we would expect the data of fine-tuning.

Anonymous said...

Dawkins is on record as not accepting invitations to debate creationists. He probably doesn't debate people who think the earth is flat or that it's turtles all the way down or who think melting Elvigar created the primeval giant and the cow Audhumla who in turn begat the gods.

Oh that is silly, isn't it?

David Wood said...

Felipe,

No, we wouldn't expect fine-tuning on multiverse theory. If you know of a particular theory that would lead us to expect a fine-tuned universe, please share it with the group.

And no, the absurdities associated with an infinite series of past events never vanish.

David Wood said...

Anonymous,

We don't debate flat-earthers because this isn't a live option. If flat-earth theory were a live option, people were debating it left and right. Now, last time I checked, theism is still the dominant position in America, and creation is a prominent theory, even among scientists.

But I'm sure Dawkins would agree with your answer. It amounts to: "Whatever theory I disagree with, I'm going to treat it with such contempt that I will refuse to even acknowledge it as a position. That way, I won't have to debate all the people who would obviously crush me in a debate."

BTW, I think this is Dawkins's best possible move, though his reasons are obvious. If a man who has dedicated his life to refuting theism refuses to defend his criticisms against theists, how strong can he think his arguments are?

Frank Walton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mattghg said...

Anyway, did I hear that Alister McGrath will be debating Richard Dawkins?

Really? To my knowledge, he has so far refused to do so, despite repeated invitations and the fact that he must know who McGrath is, seeing as he's given a dismissive four-line review of one of his books, and that they're Oxford University colleagues and all.

Anonymous said...

Will Craig be debating Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Kreuger any time soon?

McGrath's only argument is that Dawkins cannot prove there is no God - a point Dawkins concedes in 'The God Delusion'

What then is the point of the debate, when Dawkins has already conceded that McGrath is right?

Anonymous said...

David Wood,

Your logic amounts to a fallacy called "argument to ignorance."

(1) If Dawkins does not know about X apologist, he has not studied Y.
(2) Dawkins does not know about apologist X.
(C) Dawkins has not studied Y.

...back to Logic 101.

Bill Craig's arguments make good, well-intentioned Christians like us look like sophists and rhetoricians. I am embarassed for my fellow Christians when they champion him, his cohorts, and their "arguments" as knock-down weapons to atheism.

I'll pray for you and them.

In His name,

Mike

Anonymous said...

I have a question:

Felipe is quite right that the motives behind formulating a hypothesis are not indicative of its chances of being true.

What I want to know, however, is just how is the the proposal of an infinite array of universes displaying every imaginable variation of physical contants (the "multiverse") any more of a scientific hypothesis -- in the sense of something capable of emperical verification or refutation -- than that of "an immaterial ex nihilating trinity."

David Calvani

mattghg said...

McGrath's only argument is that Dawkins cannot prove there is no God - a point Dawkins concedes in 'The God Delusion'

What then is the point of the debate, when Dawkins has already conceded that McGrath is right?


Not true. McGrath also contends that being a scientist who is a Christian implies no contradiction, that the history of institutional atheism is just as blood-spattered as that of Christianity, and that "memetics" is intellectually vacuous pseudo-science - all of which would provide ample material for debate.

Anonymous said...

My point is that there is no evidence for any of those theories. Neither is their any evidence in support of theism. And certainly zero in support of the Christian theology.

Wishful thinking aside.

David Wood said...

Anonomous said:

"...back to Logic 101."

The logic of the argument you laid out is completely valid. It's straightforward modus ponens. Moreover, both premises are true, so the argument is sound. The conclusion, therefore, follows.

And you don't even know what an "argument from ignorance" is. Speaking of Logic 101 . . .

(Also, I'd have to question your "I don't like your argument, so I'll pray for you, Brother" attitude. It's quite insulting to use prayer in this way, especially when you obviously don't even understand the arguments you're criticizing.)

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

Would you be willing to exposit and defend here the arguments you mention (for example the kalam argument)?

Blue Devil Knight said...

If a man who has dedicated his life to refuting theism refuses to defend his criticisms against theists, how strong can he think his arguments are?

Refusing to participate in a circus (i.e., a public debate) is not the same as refusing to defend your views. This whole line of criticism of Dawkins is silly.

Trent said...

Can you find a source for these statements please?

cesty said...

I'm not one to support the practice of debating; but I would like to see that debate.

Ktisophilos said...

Craig is a theistic evolutionist. Much of his cosmological argument depends on the big bang theory. And in his debate with Frank Zindler, he claimed that evolution could be considered "a beautiful example of God's design". So Dawkins has no "I don't debate creationists" excuse — still smarting at debating triple-doctorate Arthur Wilder-Smith at the Oxford Union in 1986.

chasing the front crowd said...

i don't see why dawkins would want to debate craigs. the statement about resumes is perfect.

craig definitely would love to debate dawkins. haven't you watched debates? the religious side loves rambling on about who they have debated. they keep arguing nonsense and after 1 hour, they walk away with a default win.

dawkins and craig are very different people. dawkins is a biologist and would be good if it were creationism vs evolution or just anything about science. craig is a theologian (aka rubbish sprouter) and philosopher. that means they talk about things for which they have no evidence and just go dabbling in hypotheticals and extrapolating through logic (or in theists' cases, logical fallacies).

If dawkins and craig debate in a science and biology context, craig would be seen as unsubstantial in 5 minutes and the cops will close the debate for humanity's sake. But if it's a philosophical context (as it is likely to be since it's just unfair to ask stupid people to argue in a field they have no clue about), then whoever rambles longer without being called on his bluffs wins. I suspect dawkins isn't very good in that.

I could debate craig.
would he wanna debate me?
it sure would look good on my resume, especially when I win with punitive ease.

Anonymous said...

Dawkins has said before that he is not interested in the debate format, he is more interested in a discussion format. Considering the amount of discussions Dawkins has participated in compared to debates, I find this to be more likely his reason for not debating Craig.

Laila Rasheed said...

Don't knock Dawkins! We need people like him to question our beliefs!

Cyrus created Talmudic Judaism by sending Ezra to rebuild the Temple & establish a Jewish form of Zoroastrianism!

Constantine created Romanism by getting a few Judas Goat Christians to join Paganism & Christianity together.

Muhammad created Mohammedanism by mixing Talmudic Judaism, Romanism & Paganism together.

Mohammedanism is the Arabian form of Romanism.

BUT, what I really want you to study is Matthew ch 19 & see what Jesus says to the Pharisees about Moses & Divorce!

Thrown away your Jewish Bible!