Atheists On The Run

In which a discussion is raised on the cowardly evasion of Richard Dawkins:

I don’t know A. C. Grayling‘s reasons for not wanting to debate, but, if I remember correctly, Dawkins doesn’t do debates anymore. There’s a reason he hasn’t done one for years. As far as I know, he declared himself out of debating theists even before Craig’s current clarion call for a head to head debate. If anyone knows better, I’m open to being corrected.

I’ll start out by informing the initiator of this discussion thread that the president of the British Humanist Association Polly Toynbee has pulled out of an agreed debate with Dr. William Lane Craig in October claiming as her reason that she “hadn’t realized the nature of Mr. Lane’s debating style.”
It will be useful to provide a little bit of backdrop to this story.
First of all, I’ll encourage you to disregard the duplicitous pretensions by Mr Dawkins in this matter. I’ll get to it later. Let’s just state that for brevity’s sake, Dawkins’ staunch and inflexible refusal to debate Mr. Lane Craig, a formidable apologist for Christian Theism, has lately begun to sit uncomfortably with his fellow university professors and other eminent personalities in the skeptical movement. When a lot of hullaballoo was made about his seeming cowardice on the matter, even as he continues to reap handsome profits from the sale of a God-bashing book, Miss Toynbee decided to toss her hat in the ring to protect as it were, the ‘reputation’ of atheism or secular humanism from charges of being intellectually incapable of defending their beliefs and convictions.
So, she signed up to debate Craig when he visits the UK this fall as he challenges the fallacious fulminations in “The God Delusion” and defends Christian Theism against the now-fashionable assault by many of today’s New Atheists. There had to be a reason why Dawkins was running scared of Craig, but of course at the time, it will be fair to say that poor Miss Polly Toynbee was not cognizant of this. So you’ll have to admire her guts or bravery for offering to take on Mr. Craig. But upon closer inspection, it quickly begins to look like that all-too-familiar arrogance and hubris that unfortunately affects a lot of these New Atheists. Who on earth could Mr Craig be anyway that one ought to think twice about a debate with him? What preposterous and laughter-worthy points is some so-called philosopher from America going to raise to successfully attack atheism or skepticism anyway? Why bother to do any research on this chap? It is not likely that he would be on the same intellectual footing as we fashionable God-abolishers with his mumbo jumbo about the existence of God, so why are some respectable academics in the atheism and skeptical movements apprehensive of a debate with the fellow? So with nary a thought, and of course brimming with her cocky self-assurance, she offered to debate Mr. Craig without as much as knowing anything about the man.
In hindsight, it is rather hilarious that the woman chickened out of the debate afterwards. In all honesty, I cannot blame her much. My guess is that not too long after she cavalierly threw her hat in the ring, her handlers apprised her of the formidable nature of her opposition. Now, I am not going to suggest that she was painted a flattering picture of William Lane Craig, but whatever she was told, she was made to understand in unmistakable terms what heavy intellectual and perhaps political toll would be her portion from a widely publicized debate in which her highfalutin secular humanism or atheism was intellectually, imperiously and conclusively dealt a devastating blow. The fact is that for all the bluster, or the haughty pretension to a superior knowledge on the God-question, many of these militant evangelistic atheists and secular humanists are shockingly and I daresay disturbingly under-informed on exactly what they are supposed to be against. She can thank her lucky stars that she got out of a very severe public embarrassment.
Now, concerning Richard Dawkins, I wish to make it absolutely plain that I think he deserves respect in the field of evolutionary biology. That’s his area of expertise. The man has a gift for metaphor and for explaining evolutionary concepts in very beautiful almost poetic language. Whenever he is speaking on the issue of evolution (that narrow field in which he specializes), one may be well-served to listen to him and take his words seriously as they represent perhaps the most current understanding of evolution we have today. I make this caveat here first of all, to assure you that I do not harbor some visceral distaste for the chief apostle of atheism.
So what happens when an evolutionary biologist leaves his narrow area of discipline, and then dabbles into Philosophy or Theology by writing a God-bashing best-seller? Should he be given the same deference as he might be given when he is speaking on evolution? Should his words be swallowed wholly and uncritically by a majority of the self-styled New Atheists seeing as this man was pronouncing entirely on a subject that he has at best, a rudimentary understanding? One doesn’t even need to be a theist to see that the answer is a vigorous negative.
This is why some Christian and Skeptical groups have on their own privately sought to sponsor a debate where Richard Dawkins’ expostulations in his book will be robustly challenged thoughtfully and intellectually. It makes sense, doesn’t it? For example, if some economist, with little or no training in Biology decides to write a strongly worded book vehemently criticizing evolution, it is normal to expect proponents of the evolutionary theory to challenge that economist’s understanding of evolution. Notice here that I am not saying that Richard Dawkins, or the economist in this case, have no right to write a book on any subject or academic discipline they fancy. But if they want to be taken very seriously, they should be very open to a mature and robust challenge of their understanding on the matter. This is where William Lane Craig steps into the picture.
We have seen that Richard Dawkins apparently has no scruples about debating persons of religious faith. His duplicitous claims of not debating creationists is belied by the fact that he has on different occasions debated people who are not rigidly wedded to his Evolution by Natural Selection like Alister McGrath, or people who might be in favor of Intelligent Design (spitefully dubbed creationism by the willfully ignorant) like John Lennox or indeed people who are creationists! We have seen that Dawkins is happy to join issues with lay clergy, and ordinary believers and theists. So let us dispatch this lie at once. When he was caught flat-footed with that lie, he is famously known to have said that he would love debates but only with someone like the Pope, a cardinal, an archbishop or some other visibly high representative for Theism. All these pronouncements sadly seem to be devoid of any real commitment. Why then is he afraid of debating someone who is reputed to be the best or rather the strongest mouthpiece for the opposition? Why is he running scared of Craig?
I suspect that the simple reason is because Richard Dawkins knows too well what a debate of that nature may do to him and his influence with this rapidly expanding quasi-religious New Atheism. As one of the four horsemen for Atheism in these times he has an image and a reputation to protect. By the way, the arguments that these New Atheists offer are neither different from that of atheists of the past century nor are they any more sophisticated. Richard Dawkins has seen clips of Craig where the unscientific and sometimes patently illogical and irrational presuppositions of latter-day New Atheists were graciously laid bare. For now, Richard Dawkins maintains that he is too busy to debate Craig—even as he runs to the bank with the handsome profit that a sophomoric treatment of the God Hypothesis has earned him. LOL, let’s not begrudge the man the fruit of his labors okay? As things stand now, it appears that none of the shrill and highly regarded mouthpieces of the UK atheist and humanist community is willing to stand up and be counted. Of course, it’s always easier and fashionable for belligerent New Atheists to cajole and to mock on various web fora and in YouTube videos’ comments section. I suppose when Craig is done and gone, they’ll emerge to attack and discredit whatever he might have said. Nonetheless, I can’t help wondering how the rest of the high church of ‘internet atheism’ feel about this sort of spinelessness from their much adored high priests.
Truly, far from being dead or a delusion, the God-issue is alive and well in the US, the UK and many other parts of the world. Unbelief it would appear is not really anchored upon the realization that there is no God; rather it seems to be a willful and concerted refusal to accept one higher than oneself to whom one must give account. It seems to me that this New Atheism isn’t so much as a result of a genuine failure to see glaring evidence that calls for a creator; it seems to be anchored on a desire to rid oneself of moral accountability to some superintending moral law-giver; or a petulant fist-shaking at a God who as it were, failed to prevent some personal calamity from befalling one.
Conclusively, I wish to point out with very earnest tones that the truth or the falsity of beliefs and worldviews are not decided by the outcome of a debate. Inasmuch as there is no doubt in my mind that a debate with Craig will expose the laughable superficiality and the gross misrepresentations in Dawkins’ best-seller, I would not take that to mean then that the existence of God for example, has been conclusively proven or established. Likewise, if Richard Dawkins were to somehow demolish Craig’s argument in that debate, it wouldn’t also mean then that the existence of God has been refuted. It will simply mean that one side has succeeded over the other in making a compelling case for their worldview. Nevertheless, it still falls on you to honestly and sincerely weigh the evidence and choose your own worldview in the teeth of mankind’s incomplete knowledge of himself, his surroundings and the universe on a grand scale.

Posted on August 25, 2011, in Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

  2. The God debate: always a topical issue north west or south, always a debate to enjoy and look forward to. Maybe if like boxing pay-per-view, there is a price tag on who best articulate his point maybe, just maybe he (Dawkins) would agree to debate.

  3. Atheists on the run. That's pretty silly.Look, at the end of the day, atheists and secular humanists have the better arguments simply because, unlike science, religion makes claims about the world that aren't true: that there are angels, that we have ethereal entities in us called souls that float up into the sky when we die; that, as Catholics believe, there is something in the world called “holy” water; and that, as devout Muslims believe, there was once a flying horse, and so on. The real reason why Dawkins and others don't want to debate Craig is because they are cringe-inducingly tired at having to rebut questions about dinosaurs and humans living at the same time (for example).Say what you will about reasoning and the scientific method, but as Sam Harris has written, “Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or its isn't. either Christ was divine, or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity is false. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion. If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this. At least half of the American population understands this. So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.”

  4. Great article man!You may find this vid worth featuring, as I've just covered the story of the British Humanists cowardly “trinity”!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mioJYqRVDEEnjoy! 🙂

  5. Wow BirdieUpon! Great video. Two thumbs up!

  6. Look, forget the Big Kahuna (is there a creator) question for a moment. The real issue here, one that is central to all religious belief, is that you believers posit a supernatural dimension to existence where none exists. There are no angels. There has never been a “miracle” in the history of the world because that is not how the world works.And here's a question for anybody: why do the “intelligent design” folks continue to haul out the alleged mystery of the evolution of the human eye when this alleged mystery has already been satisfactorily explained in various places several times over?

  7. Look, forget the Big Kahuna (is there a creator) question for a moment. The real issue here, one that is central to all religious belief, is that you believers posit a supernatural dimension to existence where none exists. There are no angels. There has never been a “miracle” in the history of the world because that is not how the world works. Why should one forget it? The real debate is the God question because it determines what your overarching ideology or perspective is going to be. It determines for instance whether you would believe that all that exists is the physical or material, or whether you would believe in the existence of the physical plus something that is necessarily non-physical. Why, for instance, do you believe that miracles do not and have never existed? I realize that your atheism necessarily demands this, but can you explain to me the thinking behind that bold assertion?And here’s a question for anybody: why do the “intelligent design” folks continue to haul out the alleged mystery of the evolution of the human eye when this alleged mystery has already been satisfactorily explained in various places several times over?Maybe you should reserve that question for proponents of Intelligent Design—not anybody. The reason is that doing so puts you in the danger of running into confusing and contrasting narratives that may not accurately reflect the best-informed ID position on the subject. Nevertheless, if I may be so bold to say, I’ll posit that the ID theorists are not so much concerned about a the specific evolutionary processes involving the eye, as they are of the whole theory of unguided evolution through Natural Selection and how that could in fact account for the first cell. I think they have set their sights on something far more unsettling for the validity of the current evolutionary schema; at the very root of their argument, you can find that they are deeply dissatisfied with the proposed accounts for the beginning of life on this planet, and how Evolution by Natural Selection could in fact produce the first functional cells. How do you go about addressing their legitimate concerns?It is also useful to remind you that you should really encourage your much-vaunted atheist 'brights' to stop cowering and meet Dr Craig in a debate; especially one where they would feel perfectly free to raise all these secondary concerns that you are tendering. I guess I better not hold my breath then.

  8. Anyway, since Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling and Polly Toynbee have refused to engage, it now falls on the less shrill and perhaps more thoughtful atheists to step up to the challenge. And now, it appears that one has. His name is Stephen Law, a philosopher from the university of London. This confirms what I think anyway–the less truculent atheists i.e atheists who have a reasonable grasp on philosophy or the relevant material tend to be the more thoughtful atheists. They distinguish themselves from the rest of the 'pop atheists' by their treatment of the subject. They are quite different from pop atheists whose atheism really amounts to nothing more than following the trends they have found fashionable in the institutes of higher learning or among other vehemently anti-religious people.Craig will also have other speaking tours as well–so as u can imagine, this will be a very busy time for him.

  9. I just noticed I slip-up of yours that I didn't catch earlier. You spoke of Richard Dawkins's “selfish genes” in the colloquial sense of the word “selfish.” But Dawkins uses an entirely different definition of “selfish” that has nothing to do with the conventional definition of the word as it relates to inter-personal relations. That you don't know that “selfish genes” does NOT mean what you think it means would suggest that you haven't read Dawkins's work. But Dawkins feels your pain: in a later paperback edition of the book, he wrote that his title of the book might have been a mistake because too many people interpreted “selfish” in the wrong way.

  10. I just noticed I slip-up of yours that I didn’t catch earlier. You spoke of Richard Dawkins’s “selfish genes” in the colloquial sense of the word “selfish.” But Dawkins uses an entirely different definition of “selfish” that has nothing to do with the conventional definition of the word as it relates to inter-personal relations. That you don’t know that “selfish genes” does NOT mean what you think it means would suggest that you haven’t read Dawkins’s work. But Dawkins feels your pain: in a later paperback edition of the book, he wrote that his title of the book might have been a mistake because too many people interpreted “selfish” in the wrong way.Please stop making unnecessary assumptions here. I knew and understood the sense in which Dawkins used the term. You can even find some YouTube clips where he talks about this. I realize the figurative use of the term “selfish gene(s)”. In fact, if you read my opening post, you would see where I gave him credit for his powerful use of metaphor in elucidating certain concepts. This was what I said:Now, concerning Richard Dawkins, I wish to make it absolutely plain that I think he deserves respect in the field of evolutionary biology. That’s his area of expertise. The man has a gift for metaphor and for explaining evolutionary concepts in very beautiful almost poetic language. Whenever he is speaking on the issue of evolution (that narrow field in which he specializes), one may be well-served to listen to him and take his words seriously as they represent perhaps the most current understanding of evolution we have today.But of course words can have various shades of meaning; indeed words or expressions can be used in a multitude of contexts. It was a sarcastic remark directed at Dawkins obviously–and I daresay his spinelessness invited that comment. Let's not forget that I wasn’t the one who asked Dawkins to personify genes. So quit making a mountain out of a molehill. In any case, this is a moot point, don’t you think?

  11. […] Atheists On The Run (1godfather.wordpress.com) […]

  12. Arguments such as the Problem of Evil show that the Christian “god” is a self-contradictory concept and doesn't exist.

  13. The Problem of Evil has some force, but it doesn't show that the Christian God is a self-contradictory concept. At best, you may use it to argue against one of his divine attributes, but the argument does not in any way dispose of nor depose God, or render the concept of God self-contradictory.At any rate, there are answers that are successful, at least to me, in tackling this problem. You may not be persuaded by those answers, but that does not mean that the answers do not exist. The only problem would be that you might decide that the answers presented for the problem of evil, while being logically valid, are nonetheless emotionally or existentially dissatisfying.

  14. Well sorry but it does show a self-contradictory concept. And you admit it by conceding that an attribute of the Chtristian “god” would have to go, which is exactly my point: the concept is self-contradictory. I don't need to address any other “god” — I presume that even you don't think any of the other 1000s exist!Of course answers like yours are given, but you illustrate how they are anything but logical. Frankly, I'm astounded that you would respond in that way.

  15. I have not admitted a self-contradiction in the concept of God–you have. The point I was making is that to you, there must appear something that looks like a self-contradiction, but on a deeper analysis the so-called self-contradiction disappears.There are answers to the logical problem of evil, but you are likely to reject such answers for reasons best known to you. Your emotional rejection of some answers that resolve the so-called Problem of Evil strikes a sympathetic cord in me, but they are still largely inadequate to declare God a self-contradictory concept.

  16. But that's the whole point, if an attribute changes there goes the concept. On deepeer analysis what looks like a self-contradiction becomes an obvious contradiction. The “answers” that have been concoted fail to address the contradiction. Your emotional acceptance of these so-called answers strkes no empathic chord in me.

  17. That you insist there is contradiction doesn't necessarily mean there is. That you have anchored your disbelief on these assumed contradictions speaks perhaps to your own limitations, especially if the so-called contradictions can be successfully resolved. No one's forcing you to accept what you are clearly emotionally opposed to. But it should be emphasized that God, or rather, the Concept of God does not pivot on your emotional revulsion towards the existence of evil.

  18. That you insist there isn't a contradiction doesn't necessarily mean there isn't.I anchor my disbelief in one god they same way I anchor disbelief in the 1000 of others, the same way I anchor my disbelief in fairies. But in the case of the contradictions of the Christian concept of god, there is an additional ancohor — the same that anchors the non-existence of square triangles.That you hang on to an irrational concept speaks perhaps to your own limitations. I thank you that no one is forcing me to accept something that is clearly irrational… although Christianity has been very good at doing just that in the past, inflicting enormous pain and suffering to millions. But now (maybe unfortunately to you, I don't know), only able to spit its venom against non-believers verbally.I realise that emotional attachment to gods or goddesses is a strong factor in religious faith. But you do nothing to establish a position of intellectual integrity to suggest that the problem of evil pivots on emotional revulsion of evil. You might do better to put forward a response to the problem rather than shift to irrelevant, ad hominem attacks.

  19. “I anchor my disbelief in one god they same way I anchor disbelief in the 1000 of others, the same way I anchor my disbelief in fairies. But in the case of the contradictions of the Christian concept of god, there is an additional ancohor — the same that anchors the non-existence of square triangles.”LOL, one expects you to state or rather explain this contradiction that you insist exists. That you've opted for rhetoric instead of demonstrating your claim is frankly no worries to me. You will be taken more seriously when you set about that task instead of dripping pointless bile.

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