Thursday, October 08, 2009

Why Dawkins should debate Meyer and Craig

The reason I put the word "entertaining" in the previous post is because I do have some reservations about public debate as a venue for the adequate airing of issues. The blogosphere, public debate, and peer reviewed journals all have strengths and weaknesses as loci for dialogue about issues like this.




By the same token, Dawkins' career, and even his previous academic position (1995-2008), the Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science, are dedicated to the defense of evolution to the general public. The ordinary complaints about public debate as a setting for the exchange of ideas go by the boards here.



It is quite true that if you have a public debate between Bill Craig and someone who is a good atheist philosopher of religion but who is not at home in the debate setting, you could complain that a debate might unfairly disadvantage the atheist cause. Similarly, a good evolutionary biologist might bomb in a debate with Duane Gish, and that this might tell us little about the credibility of evolution.



But Dawkins writes for the public, not only to accept evolution in full, but also to reject belief in the existence of God. He is an excellent public speaker. So he is not in a position to use what would ordinarily be the best arguments against debating someone like Craig or Meyer.



To make a career of making the case for atheistic evolution to the general public, and then to hide behind academic snobbery when challenged to a debate by academically qualified opponents, is trying to have your cake and eat it too.

36 comments:

D.J. Lower / KKairos said...

I've recently been reading some of Craig's stuff (including his debate with Quentin Smith, his amiable philosophical enemy and/or partner in crime, depending on subject), and I'm finding that he's pretty much awesome. Smith was, too, but on at least one front didn't really give an adequate response (morality).

So I'd LOVE to see this debate, especially what with Dawkins being someone who comes across as having great confidence in his philosophy, and the aforementioned eloquence. (Though his eloquence for me is compromised whenever I see someone bastardizing the notions from my discipline, that is, theology, to make points that are not necessarily accurate or correct about its usefulness in the world.)

Blue Devil Knight said...

These threads are silly.

If one's career is devoted to defending X in the general public, it doesn't follow that you should engage in public debates about X.

Perhaps if the antecedent was 'One's careers is devoted to defending X in the general public in a debate format' it would be a good argument.

Dawkins responds to his critics. He doesn't need to do so in a circus.

Sure, circuses are entertaining, and it would be fun if Dawkins did it, and the publicity would be great for Meyer and other relatively unknowns. However, to make it seem as if Dawkins is being irresponsible or cagey by not participating in circuses with certain people is just a non sequitur.

Victor Reppert said...

What is Dawkins' response to the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

Yes, it is open to Dawkins to say "OK, debate format's not my thing, here's my essay responding to your objection or argument."

He didn't refuse to debate Craig because debates are circuses. He refused to debate Craig because he had never heard of him, and didn't want to give him any academic standing.

Gordon Knight said...

Doesn't everyone know who WLC is?

Elaine said...

I would love to hear a debate between Steve Meyer and Dawkins. Maybe throw in Polkinghorn as a scientific type but who is not an evolutionist per se.

Do you know of any venues where this is occurring? Meyers lives in Seattle, right? Dawkins in Oxford and Polkinghorn in Cambridge? Perhaps they could meet in the middle somewhere on the East Coast?

J said...

On questions specifically relating to evolution, Dawkins speaks with authority. Even on the more technical, biochemical issues, he has problems--he's not a biochemist. I don't agree with Dr. Behe per se (at least not with his specifically judeo-christian assumptions, but Behe does speak with quite a bit of authority on the strictly scientific issues (ie the limitations of Darwinism--though Behe does not reject Darwin outright, or seem to agree with the "young world" creationist wingnuts).

IN regards to the philosophical issues, Dawkins is mostly blowin' smoke, though he does at times bring in some decent points from Sagan, or Russell, Hume, etc.
Then WL Craig, another salesman-for-Jeezuss. blows smoke as well. Dawkins TGD has made him a rich tory now, however, so he probably feels no need to engage with rustic biblethumpers such as WL Craig...

Maybe tag-team debates: Team Dawkins, helped out by Dennett, or PZ Myers, Quentin Smith, AC Grayling, etc. VS. Team WL Craig, helped out by say Plantinga or Ed von Feser, Doc Reppert or the Pope, etc.

Get read-ay to rumble

Anonymous said...

Someone should debate J about anti-semitism.

J said...

Why is that, Anny? Are you one of Doc Reppert's Holocaust deniers? Or just trying to start sh*t up. Non sequitur either way.

We might consider the Old Testament (and New T. for that matter) a collection of ancient, superstitious myths (though perhaps with wisdom of a sort). I might object also to Israeli politics, but I do not think jewish people should be discriminated against simply for being jews.


And I have never denied that the nazis murdered millions of jews--though they also murdered poles, slavs, etc.

Carbonman said...

There is absolutely no need for Dawkins to debate Craig. I have heard and read Craig's arguments and they are without substance. There really is nothing to debate.

J said...

While I don't support the religious folks usually (especially calvinists), I do think they should hammer the Darwinian posse on naturalism. If the D-gang cannot really justify naturalism for all cases (including the human mind), then Darwinian evolution might not hold for ALL apparently natural processes--including humanity.

Actually, naturalism might hold in all cases--except as an explanation for human thinking, at this stage. Although one might agree to Darwinian evolution and naturalism, one might hold human-thinking itself to be anomalous, unique, non-reducible (and possibly a dualism of some sort). That's one strategy.

(The Thomistic chestnuts typical of the bible school types may bamboozle some, but are ultimately analogies, not really valid arguments)

Victor Reppert said...

They do have a certain amount of respect in the philosophical community. Carbonman, what is your refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. If it's just "Who made God," you don't understand Craig's argument.

Carbonman said...

http://commonsensecarbon.blogspot.com/2009/09/dr-william-lane-craigs-arguments-with.html

J said...

I think you mean the theological community.

Anyone who understood Kant's First Antinomy (and other sections) should have problems with Aquinas' arguments, at least as supposed necessary arguments. There's no contradiction with an infinite series of events, however mindboggling

Gordon Knight said...

J,

Kant may be right, but he did not show that there was no problem with an infinite series. What Kant tried to show is that the hypothesis of infinite and finite series leads to contradictions.

So these Cosmological Arguments don't work against a true Kantian, but perhaps they work against someone who does not take the transcendental turn? There are all these scientific realists roaming the streets, preaching empiricism..

Blue Devil Knight said...

J: they do try to "hammer" naturalists when it comes to thinking.

You said: 'Actually, naturalism might hold in all cases--except as an explanation for human thinking, at this stage.'

I'm not sure what you mean. We don't have an explanation for terrestrial magnetic field reversals right, so would that suggest naturalism is false? There are tons of things we can't explain right now that have no implications about naturalism.

Explanatory gaps aren't enough. They need (and typically try to give) arguments that certain gaps are special, that they can know using a priori arguments that certain gaps will never be filled (and that the such gaps can and should be filled Godspackle).

J said...

Actually, I'm starting to think the endless Theist-Atheist debate should be viewed as a business. God-NoGod, Inc. Both WL Craigs and Quentie Smiths depend on the hype.

Anonymous said...

If Dawkins want to duck the debate, that's his prerogative. But let's recognize his excuse (that he doesn't debate creationists) for what it is: A complete and utter load. Dawkins picks and chooses his debates because, when you get right down to it, he takes a strategic view towards this subject. He's not out for rational debate or a fair and free exchange of views. If he can simply shame people out of views he dislikes, he'll take that route. And he's on record as saying as much.

As for naturalism, the position is utterly lacking in content at this point. Even a full blown worldwide miracle wouldn't dent naturalism, because aliens, mass hallucination, or the fact that we all reside in a computer simulation could come in as "naturalistic explanations". It's hard to take down a position which jettisoned all real content a long time ago.

Galactor said...

"He didn't refuse to debate Craig because debates are circuses. He refused to debate Craig because he had never heard of him, and didn't want to give him any academic standing."

I agree that Dawkins initially refused a match with Craig as you say. Subsequently, however, Dawkins, I believe, has found out who Craig is and what he stands for. Dawkins re-posted, on his own forum, a post by stevencarrwork that linked to Craig's defence of deific genocide in the OT. The associated disbelief that went with Dawkins' post suggested to me that he would consider stepping into the ring with Craig as a discussion with a lunatic and I suspect that this kind of mindset disgusts Dawkins.

On the RDF forum, Craig has been discussed frequently, including his fellowship to the Discovery Institute, his position at Talbot and the doctrinal statement which accompanies this tenure, his "view" on evolution and ID. I know that Dawkins reads a lot of the threads that appear and certainly the one that he himself started by which I conclude that he will have long discounted Craig as a person with whom he could stomach sitting in the same room.

Added to this, Dawkins regards theology as a non-subject.

Galactor said...

"There is absolutely no need for Dawkins to debate Craig. I have heard and read Craig's arguments and they are without substance. There really is nothing to debate."

Calamity Craig's arguments have been discussed until the cows came home at RDF and if Dawkins has read these discussions, it will be more reason for him to look at Craig disdainfully and to conclude that any form of exchance would be beneath Dawkins.

Galactor said...

"... what is your refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. "

Here's Craig's introduction:

"Why is there something rather than nothing?"

WHY IS "SOMETHING" NOT MORE PLAUSIBLE THAN "NOTHING"? AND WHAT IS "NOTHING"? IS AN ELECTRON/POSITRON PAIR "NOTHING"?

"Astrophysical evidence suggests the universe began 15bn years ago. "

IT DOES NOT. IT SUGGESTS THAT THERE WAS A SINGULARITY, AN EVENT AROUND 15 BILLION YEARS AGO. IT DOES NOT POSTULATE A "BEGINNING" IN THE SENSE THAT CRAIG DOES.

Matter, energy, space and time were created at that moment. "

OH REALLY? CREATED? WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE/CITATION FOR THIS ASSERTION?

"The Big Bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. "

OH REALLY? AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "NOTHING"? AND THERE'S ME THINKING THAT THE THEORY POINTS TO THE EXPANSION OF SPACETIME BACK TO A SINGULARITY SOME 15 BILLION YEARS AGO.

"Nothing can come from nothing without a cause"

EVIDENCE PLEASE. OR A CITATION. SOMETHING, AS LONG AS IT RELATES TO CONDITIONS IN THE QUANTUM REALM PLEASE.

" so there must have been a cause that brought the universe into being. "

I'M BEGINNING TO GET BORED.

"We can summarise as follows:

(i) Whatever begins to exist has a cause"

EVIDENCE PLEASE. IT MAY SEEM SO ON THE MACROSCOPIC SCALE BUT DO PLEASE PROVIDE REFERENCES FOR THIS ASSERTION UNDER CONDITIONS PREVAILING AT THE BIG BANG SINGULARITY.

"(ii) The universe began to exist"

REALLY? EVIDENCE THAT THIS ASSERTION IS TRUE PLEASE.

Craig then goes on to:

"This cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, immaterial being of unimaginable power"

I SEE. OF COURSE IT MUST. IT HAS TO BE A "BEING". HOW STUPID OF ME NOT TO REALISE.

" It must be timeless and changeless because it created time "

OF COURSE. I WONDER WHY ALL THOSE ASTROPHYSICISTS AND QUANTUM PHYSICISTS HAVEN'T REALISED YET.

PHYSICISTS SHOULD LEAVE IT ALL TO PHILOSOPHERS.

Jeremy said...

Galactor, you appear to be placing a burden of evidence on Craig that you don't place on Dawkins. After a certain point, it's all postulation and philosophical musings.

Obviously, there are limitations to what can even be arrived at rationally or proven. Hence, the fact that there is still debate. There is no solid evidence or Ace-in-the-hole argument. If there was, every scientist would be an atheist.

An interesting study on scientists and religion can be found here: http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Ecklund.pdf

Jeremy said...

(I always forget to add something) Of particular interest is the finding that religiousness is based MORE on upbringing that education. Scientists that were religious going in tend to stay that way and vice versa.

Elaine said...

Behe is a molecular biologist. He is also a Roman Catholic. When he debates or speaks about evolution, he is simply pointing out its limitations at a molecular level, something Darwin, of course, did not know anything about. He usually specifically states that he is only saying that the evidence suggests intelligent design. He does not publicly speculate as to the identity of the intelligent designer.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Please Galactor stop yelling for goodness' sake.

J said...

Behe has some interesting points to make, and I object slightly to the instant dismissal of Behe's ideas by some Darwinists. His points in regards to cellular mechanism, or eyesight should at least be contemplated: he's not a young earth creationist , and holds to some aspects of traditional evolution.

But Behe errors (a type of Ad Ignorantium, really) in assuming a Designer MUST be responsible for what appear to be shortcomings in Darwinian theory in regards to biochemistry. It's not impossible that what appear to be complex biological mechanisms developed over millenia due to natural selection and adaptation. Given extinct species, and poor design (blind spot in eyes, wingless birds etc)--not to say plagues, disease-- the Designer hypothesis should be considered an analogy, really, not a necessary argument; and really it seems a bit odd, even religiously speaking, to claim that great white sharks are the product of intelligent Design.

The courts were correct in keeping IDT out of normal biology classes, but IDT, like Paley, or even Aquinas could be studied in religion and philosophy courses.

Galactor said...

"Please Galactor stop yelling for goodness' sake."

If you are referring to my use of capitals, then I intended only to make my comments discernable from those of Craig. If this is unpleasant then I apologise.

Galactor said...

Jeremy wrote "Galactor, you appear to be placing a burden of evidence on Craig that you don't place on Dawkins. "

Oh really? Would you care to provide specific details?

"After a certain point, it's all postulation and philosophical musings"

I wish I knew where that "certain point" is. The blogger asked that a refutation of the Kalam argument be given - there is no argument to be refuted because it's founded on too many unknowns although Craig feels at liberty to tell quantum physicists that all events have causes.

Ironically, Craig bemoans Dawkins when Dawkins writes about theological matters.

"Obviously, there are limitations to what can even be arrived at rationally or proven. "

Care to provide a hypothetical scenario that couldn't feasibly be rationally arrived at?

"Hence, the fact that there is still debate."

There is debate where debate is warranted. Unfortunately, there is also debate where none is merited. A debate with Meyer and ID proponents being an example.

" There is no solid evidence or Ace-in-the-hole argument. If there was, every scientist would be an atheist."

Are you talking about Craig's postulates? Are you talking about anything specifically?

hackenslash said...

For Dawkins to debate Craig would be to somehow suggest that Craig had an argument. Frankly, he doesn't. Even the most unskilled of critical thinkers can see that his favourite argument, the Kalam nonsense, is founded on the intellectual quicksand of completely unsupported blind assertions.

Further, having delivered these blind assertions (while somehow performing the classic bait and switch from 'cause' to 'causal agent') he speciously makes the jump that it is his particular magic man that fulfills the role of causal agent.

As arguments go, it's only marginally better than Ray Comfort's banana drivel.

Craig is a skilled debater, but only in the sense that his obfuscation skills, like those of many philosophers (or metaphysical navel-gazers, as I like to call them), are such that he can make an audience think that his points have not been refuted when, in fact, they have been taken to the cleaners.

JHQK said...

"Even the most unskilled of critical thinkers can see that his favourite argument, the Kalam nonsense, is founded on the intellectual quicksand of completely unsupported blind assertions."

I'd say that it's not even the most unskilled of critical thinkers who can see that. Rather, it's only the most unskilled of critical thinkers. The ones that are more skilled will realize that the argument has enough merit to be discussed in professional philosophy publications. (Whether or not one ultimately agrees with the conclusion of the argument is obviously another matter.)

hackenslash said...

Oops. Tried to edit:


Blogger hackenslash said...

'The ones that are more skilled will realize that the argument has enough merit to be discussed in professional philosophy publications.'

Nonsense. It is an unsound argument from start to finish, because it is founded upon premises which are not supported by any evidence whatsoever. It amounts to no more than apologetics. What Craig can assert with no evidential support can be dismissed in the same casual manner.

In any event, it isn't the conclusion I don't agree with, it's the premises.

Steven Carr said...

Dawkins should debate God.

But God never shows up for a debate.

Why does God duck debate after debate after debate?

Is God scared of going up against Dawkins?

Christians worship a chicken who is too scared to debate his own existence.

Steven Carr said...

Is Craig ever going to debate Jeffery Jay Lowder or Doug Krueger?

Somebody who has been, for one reason or another, ducking debates for a decade is hardly in a position to demand a debate against somebody who , on principle, refuses to debate people who in Dawkins' words 'defend genocide'

hmm said...

@J: "Actually, naturalism might hold in all cases--except as an explanation for human thinking, at this stage."

God of the Gaps, eh? If we don't know, GOD DID IT!

"[Behe's] points in regards to cellular mechanism, or eyesight should at least be contemplated"

No, they should be dismissed. The evolution of the eye was explained ages ago.

hmm said...

@Elaine: "Behe is a molecular biologist. He is also a Roman Catholic. When he debates or speaks about evolution, he is simply pointing out its limitations at a molecular level, something Darwin, of course, did not know anything about. He usually specifically states that he is only saying that the evidence suggests intelligent design."

Except his arguments have been refuted ages ago, and the guy has constantly been changing his argument, and retracting more and more until it's basically "I fully accept Evolution, but my belief is that there must be something God did".

hmm said...

@Anonymous: "If Dawkins want to duck the debate, that's his prerogative. But let's recognize his excuse (that he doesn't debate creationists) for what it is: A complete and utter load."

Dawkins doesn't want to debate because there's no real debate. All Craig does is to repeat the same fallacies over and over again.

"As for naturalism, the position is utterly lacking in content at this point. Even a full blown worldwide miracle wouldn't dent naturalism, because aliens, mass hallucination, or the fact that we all reside in a computer simulation could come in as "naturalistic explanations"."

Of course "naturalists" wouldn't accept baseless claims with no evidence what so ever. You automatically assume "MIRACLE, GOD DID IT". Rational people hold off until they have investigated it further.

Steven Carr said...

What is Craig's logically valid argument for his idea that the creator of the universe came down from Heaven to Earth and told his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?


Why debate Craig? Does Dawkins debate JK Rowling? At least her Harry Potter books don't contain such silliness as the creator of the universe telling people how to get money by looking in the mouth of a fish.