William Lane Craig Debates Richard Dawkins

It’s a well-known but unfortunate fact that Richard Dawkins has refused to debate Bill Craig.  But, coincidentally, he did this past weekend and Dr. Craig provides some of the details on his website (it may be necessary to login to view this).  A Spanish-dubbed version of the debate is on YouTube, but the English version is said to be coming soon.

Along with the debate details, Dr. Craig observed that the workshops held at the conference – “La Ciudad de las Ideas” (City of Ideas) in Mexico – were marked by three themes.  These intellectual currents are the same ones that characterize much of our culture and institutions of higher education.  The first two I believe are corrosive to rationality and truth-seeking while the third is naïve.

(1) Naturalism. There was no cognizance of God or even of religion’s contribution to culture and humanity—though, to Professor Roemer’s credit, there was, after all, our debate! But the other conference presenters took no recognition of the supernatural. Human beings were repeatedly treated reductively as purely physical mechanisms. A person was treated as just a network of neurons. This led to the bizarre view, repeated several times, that the worldwide web (whose inventor, by the way, was one of the presenters) is a huge collective brain, almost a sort of super-person. The day before the debate Richard Dawkins delivered a hateful screed against religion, denouncing “the evil of faith.” About 40% of the audience gave him a standing ovation. I was glad that most people had the courage to stay seated. The audience, at least, was not as secularized as the conference presenters.

(2) Scientism. The unspoken assumption throughout the conference was that science, and science alone, is the way to truth and knowledge. It’s not just that religious knowledge was excluded. Rather any and every question, even questions that are properly philosophical, was considered only insofar as it could be addressed scientifically. Apart from our debate, no one even questioned this unspoken scientism. So when Dawkins claimed that we should not believe anything except on the basis of (scientific) evidence, no one seemed to notice that his position was self-defeating, since the claim that we should believe only what can be scientifically proven cannot itself be scientifically proven! At this conference, as in Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, scientists were taken to be “the torchbearers of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”

(3) Utopianism. There was a pervasive sentiment that science and technology are the savior of mankind and are about to usher us into a golden age. I couldn’t help having misgivings about the brave, new world they described. For example, Michio Kaku said that the internet will be embedded in contact lenses that will project images directly into our retinas. So, he said, if a student doesn’t have a date for Friday night, he can create an image of the most beautiful girl imaginable, download a movie, and watch it with her. I found something pathetic about this scenario of a student, alone in his room, cut off from contact with a real person, living in his imaginary world. This is progress?

* Update: The full audio of the debate is now up at Apologetics 315, and the English video is here.

* Update:  Rabbi David Wolpe, who along with Dr. Craig and Dr. Doug Geivett defended the proposition that the universe has a purpose, gives his account of the debate at the Huffington Post.


April 7 Debate – D’Souza vs. Hitchens – “Is Religion the Problem?”

The South Bend Tribune reports,

Atheist and author Christopher Hitchens and Catholic conservative Dinesh D’Souza will present a public debate on the topic “Is Religion the Problem?” on April 7 at the University of Notre Dame.

The debate will be at 7:30 p.m. in Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Named one of “America’s most influential conservative thinkers” by the New York Times, D’Souza has been outspoken in his defense of religion in his writing and speaking appearances.

A native of India and a graduate of Dartmouth College, D’Souza served as a policy analyst in the Reagan administration. He is the author of the best-selling book “What’s So Great About Christianity?” He is also the author of a 2007 book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11.”

Hitchens is an author, journalist and public speaker. Considered a leader in the “New Atheist” movement, he is the author of the 2007 book “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, The Nation and other media outlets. Born and raised in England, he now holds dual British-U.S. citizenship. (more)

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March 1 Debate Between W. L. Craig and Victor Stenger

The Oregon Faith Report relates the details:

The OSU [Oregon State University] Socratic Club will sponsor a public dialogue entitled, “Two Philosophers Debate the Existence of God,” on Monday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus.  William Lane Craig will argue for the Christian view that a personal God exists and Victor J. Stenger the atheist position that there is no God.

Is God the greatest fact or the greatest illusion?  Of all the questions posed by philosophy this is surely the most important.  Has scientific knowledge made belief in God unnecessary and outdated?  Is the universe all there is and God merely a human invention and a fantasy?  Or is there an uncreated being, who is absolute, perfect, eternal, and personal that we call God?  These issues will be addressed by two distinguished philosophers who will offer widely differing points of view.

[. . .]

The Socratic Club is in its eighth year as a student organization at OSU. The Club is modeled on the original Socratic Club, which was founded at Oxford University in 1941, with C. S. Lewis serving as President.  At OSU it offers a forum for opposing points of view on subjects of contemporary debate at the intersection of Christian belief and contemporary culture.  Each speaker is given 25 minutes to present one side of an issue, after which the two query each other regarding their differences before the floor is opened to questions from members of the audience.  Two events are planned for each quarter.  For more information visit the OSU Socratic Club online at http://oregonstate.edu/groups/socratic/

The mp3 of their previous 2003 debate is available here.


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Commentary on William Lane Craig vs. John Shelby Spong Debate

This is an older debate, but Quodlibeta offers some good commentary on Spong’s (erroneous) use of the genre of midrash.

* * * *

I recently listened to a debate between William Lane Craig and John Shelby Spong on the historical Jesus (this was an actual debate, unlike the presentation and response Craig had with Dennett). You can listen to it here. Craig argued that Spong is so insulated that he doesn’t know what scholars outside of his small circle actually say. He points out that a survey of NT scholarship of the last few decades indicates that three-fourths of the scholars writing on the subject accept the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb, and almost universally accept his post-mortem appearances as historically demonstrable. Moreover, most scholars today recognize that the four gospels are written as historical writing, specifically in the genre of ancient biography — not myth, not legend, not allegory, not midrash (as Spong claims). Spong seems genuinely puzzled by this. It reminds me of something N. T. Wright wrote of Spong in Who Was Jesus?

What is central is that Spong apparently does not know what ‘midrash’ actually is. The ‘genre’ of writing to which he makes such confident appeal is nothing at all like he says it is. There is such a thing as ‘midrash’; scholars have been studying it, discussing it, and analysing it, for years. Spong seems to be unaware of the most basic results of this study. He has grabbed the word out of the air, much as Barbara Thiering grabbed the idea of ‘pesher’ exegesis, and to much the same effect. He misunderstands the method itself, and uses this bent tool to make the gospels mean what he wants instead of what they say.

We may briefly indicate the ways in which genuine ‘midrash’ differs drastically from anything that we find in the gospels.
First, midrash proper consists of a commentary on an actual biblical text. It is not simply a fanciful retelling, but a careful discussion in which the original text itself remains clearly in focus. It is obvious that the gospels do not read in any way like this. (Continue)

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William Dembski Debates Lewis Wolpert

William Dembski reports,

Lewis Wolpert and I had an audio debate a few weeks ago, which is now available online as a podcast: go here (there’s about three minutes of stage-setting by the interviewer Justin Brierly before the actual discussion with Wolpert begins). The debate is part of a program series called UNBELIEVABLE. Other debates available there include one between Denis Alexander and PZ Myers and also one between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox.

Wintery Knight provides a good summary of the debate here.

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Why Richard Dawkins Won’t Debate William Lane Craig

Speaking of Dr. Craig and debates, here’s Richard Dawkins explaining why he won’t debate Craig.  It sounds like he thinks such a debate would be below him (which is absurd).  But having debated John Lennox (mp3 here), I can’t see any good reason to refuse to debate Craig.

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Jerry Coyne on the Craig-Ayala Debate on Intelligent Design

I haven’t been able to find the original source of this quote, but it was cited by someone asking a question on William Lane Craig’s website.  The following is the question, quote, and Dr. Craig’s reply.

*UpdateIt turns out that this quotation actually came from a review Coyne posted of Ann Coulter’s book Godless.  Apparently, someone (the questioner or his/her source) replaced Coulter’s name with Craig’s in the quote.  Coyne brought this to Craig’s attention, and Craig removed the original post.  See their exchange here.

Question 1:

Jerry Coyne replies to your recent debate:

“What is especially striking is Craig’s failure to tell us what he really believes about how the earth’s species got here. It’s clear that he thinks God had a direct hand in it, but beyond that we remain unenlightened. IDers believe in limited amounts of evolution. Does Craig think that mammals evolved from reptiles? If not, what are those curious mammal-like reptiles that appear exactly at the right time in the fossil record? Did humans evolve from ape-like primates, or did the Designer conjure us into existence all at once? How did all those annoying fossils get there, in remarkable evolutionary order?

“And, when faced with the real evidence that shows how strongly evolution trumps ID, he clams up completely. What about the massive fossil evidence for human evolution — what exactly were those creatures 2 million years ago that had human-like skeletons but ape-like brains? Did a race of Limbaughs walk the earth? And why did God — sorry, the Intelligent Designer — give whales a vestigial pelvis, and the flightless kiwi bird tiny, nonfunctional wings? Why do we carry around in our DNA useless genes that are functional in similar species? Did the Designer decide to make the world look as though life had evolved? What a joker! And the Designer doesn’t seem all that intelligent, either. He must have been asleep at the wheel when he designed our appendix, back, and prostate gland.

“What’s annoying about Craig is that he demands evidence for evolution (none of which he’ll ever accept), but requires not a shred of evidence for his alternative hypothesis.

“Scientists gain fame and high reputation not for propping up their personal prejudices, but for finding out facts about nature. And if evolution really were wrong, the renegade scientist who disproved it — and showed that generations of his predecessors were misled — would reach the top of the scientific ladder in one leap, gaining fame and riches. All it would take to trash Darwinism is a simple demonstration that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, or that our closest genetic relative is the rabbit. There is no cabal, no back-room conspiracy. Instead, the empirical evidence for evolution just keeps piling up, year after year.”

Care to respond?


Dr. Craig responds:

I wasn’t aware that Coyne, a prominent biologist at the University of Chicago, had taken any cognizance of my debate with Francisco Ayala on “Is Intelligent Design Viable?” His response is precious because it illustrates so clearly exactly what I said in the debate: Darwinists tend to confuse the evidence for the thesis of common ancestry with evidence for the efficacy of the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection. Did you notice, Tom, how all of Coyne’s remarks pertain to the former, not the latter? And yet it was precisely evidence for the latter that I was asking for in the debate. It just amazes me how such brilliant men can be so inattentive to the structure of an argument. As for his other questions, I addressed them specifically in the debate and the public Q & A that followed.

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