Even Richard Dawkins’s fellow atheists get it. Dawkins’s condescending tone dismissing Craig as an unheard-of philosopher is hardly credible, given the notable fellow-atheists Craig has debated in recent years (Christopher Hitchens, A.C. Grayling, Lewis Wolpert, Peter Atkins, Shelly Kagan, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, just to name a few). Either he has not been paying attention to the comments on his own atheist-website or he is being dishonest.
Just searching the term “William Lane Craig” on Dawkins’s website brings up tons of comments, even some from Dawkins himself. Just today I did this and the site returned 2,670 results. For example, on September 28, 2011, Dawkins made this comment:
“I have to be careful to avoid prejudice resulting from my almost visceral loathing of “Dr” Craig’s odiously unctuous, smug and self-satisfied tone of voice. But this piece of libellous logic-chopping almost deserves to be set alongside his notorious defence of biblical genocide and infanticide. Craig really is a truly disgusting person in the literal sense: he disgusts. After this, I’d have a hard time bringing myself to shake hands with him, let alone share a platform with him.”
Hmm. Interesting words there, Dr. Dawkins. I find it odd that you – writing from your moral highground (cough, cough) – refuse to debate Craig, while Christian apologists are not similarly loathe to debate Peter Singer, a Princeton bio-ethicist who has been quoted as saying: “Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.” (See http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html) Both Dinesh D’Souza and John Lennox have debated Singer – without Dawkins’s self-righteous remarks.
When the heat is on you, the strategy can be either to go forcefully to meet the attack or ignore, hoping the noise will go away. So Dawkins and some others have chosen to ignore. This tact usually works when your opponent is universally recognized to be a quack, but Dr. Craig is no quack. Dawkins knows it, but chooses to ignore anyway. Time will tell if this is to his advantage. I think not.
So, it will be a loss to the intellectual world to have Dawkins miss his opportunity next Tuesday, October 25th, if he does not show up for the debate – which, we think is what will happen. And, not without regret from some of his fellow atheists, as Daniel Came laments in The Guardian on October 22nd:
“As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins’s conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people’s beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn’t care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people’s attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another.” (http://tinyurl.com/3lao8jq)
We hope that in the coming days someone from the atheist camp will pick up the banner, and with a respectful and thoughtful tone, engage Christians in a way that promotes light, and not heat (such as the Russell-Copelston BBC debate back in 1948. See http://tinyurl.com/42g3g8u).
Now, that would be a miracle!