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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.

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Posted on August 25, 2011, in Religion/Spirituality, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

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

  2. akinyemi jegede

    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. Atheists on the run. That’s pretty silly.

    Hardly. None has yet stepped up to the plate to debate Mr. Craig. I’ll make bold to say that none will.

    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.

    You are getting ahead of yourself here. First of all, this is a discussion or a debate about the existence of God. That is the issue at stake here; the bone of contention. There are two worldviews or competing ideologies: theism and atheism. To bolster the arguments for or against the existence of God, both sides of the debate do employ science, philosophy, morality, history, etc. Therefore, I categorically reject your idea that Science is to be viewed as some pillar or framework of philosophical atheism; I reject a mindset that denies theists the leverage of science when it strongly confirms aspects of the theist worldview or that expects theists to always hold views which are opposed to verifiable and conclusively proven science. So, your contrast between science and religion in the first place holds no water. It demonstrates a palpable bias. If you weren’t bogged down by this bias, you may be shocked to discover that when empirically testable and reproducible actual science is the focus, you will see a weighty representation from theist circles. You don’t get to claim the mantle of science here.

    Secondly, the atheists that would likely debate with Craig (if they ever show up) would be discussing the big issues of the day like “The existence of God”, “What is Morality?” and not, as you are trying to do here, several and sometimes contrasting beliefs and positions of different faiths. When the issue of the existence of God is settled, then you can proceed to your seemingly mocking analysis of some of these religious claims. Here’s something that may shock you: you may get to discover, upon a closer study, that having faith does not entail abandoning reason. You just may discover when you talk to theists (discrepant, discordant and divergent as they are) that they are, to an astonishing degree, skeptical and/or opposed to many and conflicting religious claims. While they are convinced on the existence of God, they are in sharp disagreement over the doctrines or the details. At any rate, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. There is still time for a titan of the atheist or humanist lobby to step up to the plate, comfortably demolish Craig’s arguments and dispatch this supposedly nettling God-obsession to the background of our collective affairs. Who will bell the cat for the atheists?

    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).

    You are somewhat misinformed regarding this issue. First of all, you’ll need to go and acquaint yourself with the sheer number and the gravitas of the atheists who have actually mustered up the courage to debate Dr. Craig. It is refreshing, if not ironic, to note that not all atheists are apparently as spineless as the chief apostle of atheism. Secondly, you need to go and find out what Dr. Craig’s position is on the age of the earth or the relevant science that undergirds these discussions. I suspect that you are one of the misinformed New Atheists who arrogantly assume they are better informed on science matters than any theist, or that indeed Dr. Craig holds the so-called Young Earth Creationist perspective. Richard Dawkins himself knows better; of course in a debate with Dr. Craig, I don’t expect him to make the patently false accusation that Dr. Craig is running around teaching that dinosaurs co-existed with humans. If he does anything that recklessly stupid and uninformed, his haughty and hasty resort to mischief will be exposed and roundly rebuked. I want to suggest that you are simply attempting to belittle and tarnish the opposition in order to draw attention away for Dawkins’ transparent cowardice.

    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.”

    I don’t know where you got the statistics that suggests that at least 50% of Americans are atheists. I would encourage you to cross-check that suggestion. As for whether Atheism wins out in the “fullness of time” (a very vague point in the future it seems), I think it is too immature at this stage to make that deduction.

    At any rate, don’t attempt to make Richard Dawkins or AC Grayling’s points for them. I am sure you are very convinced on your position. Here’s what you can do since you know how sure of victory your position is: write a letter or organize a drive to get Richard Dawkins to step up and defend his and your worldview when Dr. Craig lands in the UK soon. He should be able to effortlessly dismantle Dr. Craig’s arguments and demonstrate to anyone paying attention that God is indeed a delusion. What could be possibly wrong with such a move by Dawkins? It can only draw more fawning adulation from his lately disconcerted atheist flock (remember the whole Rebecca Watson fiasco), it will produce a spike in New Atheist conversions, and of course it will make “The God Delusion” generate even more handsome profits. For the love of Darwin, why won’t Dawkins listen to his selfish genes and undertake an action which you are undoubtedly convinced would only redound greatly to his benefit?

    • 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.

      • 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?

  5. Great article man!

    You may find this vid worth featuring, as I’ve just covered the story of the British Humanists cowardly “trinity”!

    Enjoy! 🙂

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

  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.

    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?

  8. 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.

  9. First of all, I should say that while I am atheist, I can’t stand this “bright” terminology (invented by Daniel Dennett, if I’m not mistaken). I never use it and never will. I find it condescending.

    There is nothing bold at all about my comment on the nonexistence of “miracles.” I’m simply reporting on what is known about the world, and “miracles” don’t fit into the picture (because the laws of nature don’t allow for miracles; otherwise they wouldn’t be called laws of nature). As Dawkins has written, true and false things can be said about the world. “Miracles” fall into the latter category. Besides, philosophically speaking, the very idea of miracles is a truly frightening and terrifying idea. Really, I would hate to live in a world where miracles could occur. Let me know if you can figure out why I would say this. (I would also hate to live in a god-created world, but that’s for another time.)

    Nobody can account for the first cell or for that first dawn of life. No one ever will. But that doesn’t mean evolution by natural selection is a flawed methodology. Daniel Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” is a superb book, but for a less-dense read (and Dennett’s book is hardly a dry, academic work) I would recommend “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne.

    What I mean by ignoring the Big Kahuna is that instead of tackling the Ultimate Question, I find it more enjoyable and amusing to remove some of the smaller bricks from the edifice otherwise known as Belief in God — and when you remove the smaller bricks the entire edifice begins to look a bit rickety. In other words, people believe in a Supreme Being, and then like garlands lovingly draped around a statue, they add all these accouterments that amount to a kind of scaffolding or shoring up, ideas that people have created to enforce or prop up their belief in a Supreme Being. As I noted earlier: prayer (telepathy), miracles, risen corpses high-fiving people (Jesus isn’t the only chatty corpse in the Bible), “holy” water, that some guy lived to 500 years old (or was it 700?), the Catholic Church’s insane and nutty idea of “Transubstantiation.” The list goes on. Sure, science has its mistakes (asbestos, anyone?), but there’s nothing intrinsically nutty about the scientific method or Enlightenment reasoning that supports the method. But angels? Where do angels come from? I can tell you: they came from somebody’s ass, pulled out about, oh, two to three thousand years ago. Yep, that’s it. Somebody just made it up, made it sound attractive, got some good PR, and here we are today, in a world where billions of people ACTUALLY believe in angels. It’s one thing that we get to a certain age where a belief in Santa Claus evaporates, but how can I take any religious-themed disquisition seriously when many (all?) believers believe in angels? Hey, don’t think I’m being snide here. I’m not being a jerk about this. I have a good grasp pf conventional theology to know that a belief in the archangel Gabriel is crucial to Christianity and Islam, and if Gabriel didn’t “exist” the we wouldn’t have either religion.

    And why, in the absence of evidence, do I want to believe in something non-physical/material as an ingredient in the universe? I don’t see the attraction in it. Besides, nobody has ever seen a “soul” (because souls, as “things” in the world, don’t exist). But the soul as an idea, that is, as a word to be used in the realm of creative literature and imaginative thought, well, I don’t have a problem with that (“that jazz pianist is soulful player” for example). In the meantime, we have cringe-inducing nonsense like “The soul enters the body at the moment of conception.” Hmm. Someone either has proof of this or it’s nothing but a sheer idea that got pulled out of someone’s ass a very long time ago. Gee, I wonder which it could be.

    Religious people are always telling me and others what they “believe”. “I believe in one god, the father almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.” Really? Why? Why does anybody WANT to believe this, especially in the absence of evidence? See, it’s not so much that people DO believe this. I want to know why people WANT to believe it. But think about it: if we lived in a god-created world there would be no need to “believe” in this god, right? But, hey, forget about intelligent design. Check out “intelligent falling.” Did you know that things don’t fall to the ground on their own accord but instead fall to the ground because God wills them to fall? You can read all about it here:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/

    Dawkins and Harris aren’t cowering. They’re bored (by Craig).

  10. By way of a preamble, I’ll make haste to refocus this discussion which you are seemingly trying to derail. The issue here is whether or not Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Polly Toynbee or any stalwart of the British Humanist Association is going to ‘man’ up and defend their worldview when Dr. Craig lands in the UK. It is beginning to look like this debate is not going to happen—and so I suppose one has to endure the profuse and impotent excuses tendered by the fanatical godless on behalf of their heroes. How unimpressive!

    Now, here you are ‘nobly’ fighting for a worldview that your atheist heroes seem unwilling or perhaps incapable of defending. In fairness to you, I suppose I could point out that you were not here to play the water-carrier for the cowering British Atheists; but it would have been infinitely better if you had stated this explicitly from the beginning. The reason is because it seems as though, in defense of your atheist leaders, you’ve come here to distract attention from their cowardice by metaphorically flinging faeces on the wall.

    I note this because I had expected a series of reasoned arguments to intelligently bolster up your position when I asked you those few questions in my penultimate post. Instead all you’ve done in your response is the same thing that most atheist do—throw an emotional tantrum on a subject which you have hitherto demonstrated a very little understanding of. If this is what goes for a discussion or an argument in atheist circles, please be advised that this is not one of such places. I am well aware of the atheist position on the controversial issues—if you seek a real discussion and a meeting of minds, spare me the emotionally petulant rhetoric because it is not a substitute for an argument.

    As I began to say earlier, the main topic for discussion here is “the existence of God”. This is the focal issue; one’s conviction on this fundamental issue is basically going to determine a sizable chunk of their personal convictions on how the world works, or the nature of reality. It is going to determine whether one is exclusively wedded to a naturalistic/materialistic understanding of the universe or otherwise. It is precisely on the basis of this naturalistic bias that you ignorantly and I daresay arrogantly assert the things you do, or deny the things you’ve chosen to deny. The real discussion to be had here (if this is not going to be another fruitless exercise where you rail against the things that you are completely ignorant of) is the justification or the arguments that we could tender to justify our convictions.

    For example, when I ask you a question like “what makes you think that miracles do not exist” or “what exactly do you understand the soul to mean?”, I already know of your opposition to these concepts. They fundamentally do not agree with your atheist worldview. But what I would be seeking is not another pointless tirade or reckless assertions as though I should fecklessly accept your dogmatic naturalistic presuppositions. I would rather you gave me your logical reasons for why you believe what you believe and why I should be persuaded to accept your line of reasoning. I am open to being persuaded. You just have to abandon this anti-theistic emotional rant that seems to be your preoccupation. I want some carefully considered argument that bolsters up your case (if that’s not too much to ask for).

    There is nothing bold at all about my comment on the nonexistence of “miracles.” I’m simply reporting on what is known about the world, and “miracles” don’t fit into the picture (because the laws of nature don’t allow for miracles; otherwise they wouldn’t be called laws of nature). As Dawkins has written, true and false things can be said about the world. “Miracles” fall into the latter category. Besides, philosophically speaking, the very idea of miracles is a truly frightening and terrifying idea. Really, I would hate to live in a world where miracles could occur. Let me know if you can figure out why I would say this. (I would also hate to live in a god-created world, but that’s for another time.)

    The reason why you don’t believe in miracles is simply because you inflexibly do not accept the existence of a supernatural or transcendental. As you can see, this drags us back to the first question I pointed out to you which was whether God exists or not. The existence of miracles just would not agree with your naturalistic framework—or has anyone ever heard of an atheist or naturalist who freely admits the possibility of the existence of anything besides the physical or natural? So when you claim to be reporting on what is known about the world and how miracles purportedly do not and have never happened, do me a favor and point out that you are speaking for yourself alone on the basis of your own atheistic assumptions.

    What indeed is a miracle? A miracle is simply some occurrence that would have happened only given the intervention of an agent not bound by nature. You can discard your Humean talk about “laws of nature” as they are clearly of little significance here. If you doubt me, you would have to tell me what these so-called natural laws are (in their entirety) and how you know that they are natural laws. It would seem to any deep thinking person that what some regard as natural laws appear to be just be a compendium of regular observations. So that if one were to see something markedly different from these regular observations, one might as well question if these regular observations were really laws. The tale of scientific advancement is littered with the corpses of abandoned ‘natural laws’ and theories when greater understanding was gained.

    Suffice it to say however, that in some circumstances, if there is an agent that is not wholly bound by nature, that agent can and does intervene to bring about events or occurrences that are beyond the productive capacity of nature. That is basically what a miracle is. As you can see, to agree on the possibility of the existence of miracles is to agree on the possibility of the existence of an ultra-mundane or supernatural agent namely God. So my friend, you don’t just get to assert that miracles do not exist as though anyone was proposing that miracles are some set of natural events. To refute the existence of miracles, you’ll have to convincingly refute the existence of God, your presuppositions notwithstanding.

    Frankly I don’t know what your problem with miracles is, or why you are frightened by the idea. I suspect you have some jaundiced understanding of it. If you care to elaborate on this fear, that will be fine for me. Otherwise, all I can offer you is a friendly advice to live your own life as though miracles do not exist, and quit bothering about those who have experienced miracles of some sort and believe in them.

    Nobody can account for the first cell or for that first dawn of life. No one ever will. But that doesn’t mean evolution by natural selection is a flawed methodology. Daniel Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” is a superb book, but for a less-dense read (and Dennett’s book is hardly a dry, academic work) I would recommend “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne.

    Here, I am afraid that you may not have heard some interesting theories advanced by people with a clear dedication to a naturalistic worldview of how the first cell came about. They used to float the idea of spontaneous abiogenesis; and of course there is the theory of chemical evolution; and another that posits that life formed on the back of crystals; and yet another theory Panspermia, touted by Dawkins no less, that suggests that life was seeded on this planet by aliens. If you have not heard your atheist buddies advancing any of these theories to account for the first cell or the dawn of life, then I am afraid you are somewhat uninformed on what your side believe. At any rate, I don’t want to get into the Evolution vs ID debate right now. If you care to know my feelings on that issue however, I’ll suggest that there are mature objections, not to Evolution as a concept, but to the proposed Darwinian model of Evolution by means of Natural Selection. Plumbing the depths of that discussion will reveal the deep feeling of discomfort that the proposed Darwinian mechanism causes people with real dedication to the tenets of science.

    What I mean by ignoring the Big Kahuna is that instead of tackling the Ultimate Question, I find it more enjoyable and amusing to remove some of the smaller bricks from the edifice otherwise known as Belief in God — and when you remove the smaller bricks the entire edifice begins to look a bit rickety. In other words, people believe in a Supreme Being, and then like garlands lovingly draped around a statue, they add all these accouterments that amount to a kind of scaffolding or shoring up, ideas that people have created to enforce or prop up their belief in a Supreme Being. As I noted earlier: prayer (telepathy), miracles, risen corpses high-fiving people (Jesus isn’t the only chatty corpse in the Bible), “holy” water, that some guy lived to 500 years old (or was it 700?), the Catholic Church’s insane and nutty idea of “Transubstantiation.” The list goes on. Sure, science has its mistakes (asbestos, anyone?), but there’s nothing intrinsically nutty about the scientific method or Enlightenment reasoning that supports the method. But angels? Where do angels come from? I can tell you: they came from somebody’s ass, pulled out about, oh, two to three thousand years ago. Yep, that’s it. Somebody just made it up, made it sound attractive, got some good PR, and here we are today, in a world where billions of people ACTUALLY believe in angels. It’s one thing that we get to a certain age where a belief in Santa Claus evaporates, but how can I take any religious-themed disquisition seriously when many (all?) believers believe in angels? Hey, don’t think I’m being snide here. I’m not being a jerk about this. I have a good grasp pf conventional theology to know that a belief in the archangel Gabriel is crucial to Christianity and Islam, and if Gabriel didn’t “exist” the we wouldn’t have either religion.

    And why, in the absence of evidence, do I want to believe in something non-physical/material as an ingredient in the universe? I don’t see the attraction in it. Besides, nobody has ever seen a “soul” (because souls, as “things” in the world, don’t exist). But the soul as an idea, that is, as a word to be used in the realm of creative literature and imaginative thought, well, I don’t have a problem with that (“that jazz pianist is soulful player” for example). In the meantime, we have cringe-inducing nonsense like “The soul enters the body at the moment of conception.” Hmm. Someone either has proof of this or it’s nothing but a sheer idea that got pulled out of someone’s ass a very long time ago. Gee, I wonder which it could be.

    Well, that’s the wrong way of going about the discussion. As I have pointed out repeatedly, what I find more fascinating is the discussion on the existence of God. That discussion delineates the respective philosophies or worldviews out there. In case you’ve not picked it out yet, I am not interested in discussing the variegated and discrepant propositions of random faiths just as I am hardly bothered about the academic distinctions between agnosticism, secularism, humanism or atheism. If I want to discuss any of these issues, I’ll take my time to address a specific issue; so far I am not. So you can drop this lazy bundling together of all belief-systems as well as this tiresome tirade against some theistic propositions—I’ve heard quite enough of that bellyaching.

    On the other hand, you may pick one issue that you really have a genuine problem with and attempt to have a constructive discussion about it. Of course that would entail that you advance a real argument why you have a problem with it, or why anyone should feel the way you do. I am sure that I am not the only one who doesn’t find any compelling argument in your preferred method of refuting conflicting ideas by simply asserting that they came out of someone’s rear. This rudimentary form of refutation (if this can be termed a refutation at all) seems to have actually issued from someone’s rear. But I digress. It should be pointed out to you also that the veracity or the falsity of the existence of God does not rest or is not decided by ‘confusing’ or possibly ‘erroneous’ human religious beliefs and practices.

    Religious people are always telling me and others what they “believe”. “I believe in one god, the father almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.” Really? Why? Why does anybody WANT to believe this, especially in the absence of evidence? See, it’s not so much that people DO believe this. I want to know why people WANT to believe it. But think about it: if we lived in a god-created world there would be no need to “believe” in this god, right?

    What makes you think that there is an ‘absence of evidence’ for God? Is it not rather the case that you will not accept any evidence given? Is it not rather the case that you would quibble with the definition of evidence and whether your narrow or rigid expectations for successful evidence are met? Try and be honest with yourself about this—what sort of evidence would convince you that God exists? Is there any?

    But, hey, forget about intelligent design. Check out “intelligent falling.” Did you know that things don’t fall to the ground on their own accord but instead fall to the ground because God wills them to fall? You can read all about it here:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/

    By attempting to denigrate theism with this laughable idea of “intelligent falling”, you conveniently or dare I say, triumphantly threw in a link to ‘The Onion’ of all places. Either you are totally prejudiced and completely impervious to persuasion, or you are being disingenuous. The reason is because anyone who knows anything about ‘The Onion’ knows that this ‘news’ outlet is completely fake and manufactured. It is a satirical spin on the prevailing topics of the day. That is not to say that theists and atheists alike have never held beliefs which were later shown to be quite inaccurate, but your hasty resort to justify your theocentric odium on these baseless grounds smacks of desperation or mischief. You mustn’t resort to these tactics. It sort of makes you seem to be arguing in bad faith—pardon the pun.

    Dawkins and Harris aren’t cowering. They’re bored (by Craig).

    Harris, unlike Dawkins, debated Craig recently. It was a very lively debate too. So the claim that Harris is bored by Craig is arrant nonsense. You can go and look up that debate if you want. In any case, for anyone to claim on Dawkins’ behalf that boredom is the reason he is currently avoiding a debate with Craig, such a person has to factually demonstrate that Dawkins has personally debated Craig ad nauseam; such a person has to demonstrate that Dawkins has laboriously and monotonously responded to Craig’s criticisms of his work. So far that remains to be seen. Only such a scenario would compel an unbiased spectator to accept Dawkins’ plea of tedium as a justifiable excuse for his cowardly non-engagement. Please spare me the casuistry.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you for the correction about Harris. I didn’t know that he debated Craig. This isn’t really that much of a surprise because even though I’m a Sam Harris fan, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’ve seen all his debates. There are seemingly countless clips of him and other people I like on YouTube that I’ve never seen.

      I apologize if you misunderstood my comments about the first cell. That was my fault. Yes, there are competing theories out there, but no one knows, know one will ever know (I will venture to say), how that very first bit of matter popped into life. Yes, through the years — well, since Darwin’s time — we have come to better understand HOW life evolved, but Darwin never pretended to explain why or when that first spark came about.

      “What sort of evidence would convince you that God exists?” I can’t think of any.

      I like your definition of “miracle”: “A miracle is simply some occurrence that would have happened only given the intervention of an agent not bound by nature” — and that’s exactly why I’m terrified by such an idea. I would not want to live in a world where sudden irruptions of nature could occur. True, we may not have a “final” explanation for the Laws of Nature (you raise a fair point), but my larger point is that we would not be alive if existence did not have some measure of constancy and predictability to it. When I drop a pencil, I unthinkingly want it to hit the floor (if I’m unable to catch it). But if I were to witness a horse sprouting wings and flying off into the sky, I would probably pass out — as would you (because, used to certain “static” this-is-how-it-is aspects of nature, we would not be able to comprehend the irruption and therefore the mind would probably just sort of collapse in on itself).

      No bellyaching here. My sidebar arguments are directly related to the god question. Sure, I’ll admit the arguments are circuitous. But the answers to them still take you to the same place. For example, the idea that we have souls is crucial to a belief in a personal god — but if we don’t have souls (and we don’t) then the belief in a personal God (through Jesus or whatever) is canceled out and rendered irrelevant.

      I can’t think of any scientific idea that was pulled out of someone’s rear. But “afterlife” was certainly an idea that someone dreamed up one day. You are correct: I am digressing. And to continue the digression in another vein, I remain slack-jawed in amazement that billions of people around the planet possess a level of gullibility and innocence to believe in angels. I’m sorry if I can’t stay laser-focused. It’s just that whenever the “Does God exist?” subject comes up for discussion I’m invariably reminded of the inane bells and whistles that accompany the belief.

      You are funny! Did you really think that I didn’t know that The Onion is not a source of real news? Satire is a great way to illuminate an idea by other means — and in this case, the folks at The Onion were simply directing a light at the silliness of “intelligent design” by brilliantly positing a belief that ID people in fact don’t hold (but sort of ought to, if you really think about it).

      “Theocentric odium” — nice phrase. I like it.

      I just watched a William Lane Craig on YouTube. Here’s something he said: “Atheists have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of god. But no one has ever been able to come up with a successful argument.” Well, I would say to the more spirited atheists among us that all of you are pressing a bit too hard on the wrong side of the equation. Imagine if Harvey were a true story and not a James Stewart movie. Imagine if I came up to you and said that I have an invisible rabbit by my side and that he is a personal rabbit and that I can talk to him. Guess what? It’s not up to you to prove to me that my rabbit friend doesn’t exist. It’s up to me to prove to you that Harvey exists. And so it goes with anyone claiming that some Supreme Being created the universe. But to revisit what I said about miracles, I would hate to live in a world where a god existed. I would hate to discover that the universe works that way.

      But Craig is correct on one major thing: the universe did come to exist. It did come into “being.” It came to exist by what we now call the Big Bang. Well, what caused the Big Bang? I’ll leave that to Stephen Hawking, who explains in a recent episode of Curiosity (on the Discovery Channel), how the Big Bang might have occurred — and a god initiating it has nothing to do with it. So never mind Dawkins for the moment. I‘d like to see Craig debate Stephen Hawking!

      Finally, I have to ask again: why do you find it difficult to imagine that maybe Dawkins and Grayling are not cowering? That by choosing (so far) to not debate Craig that they are “saying” something else that has nothing to do with cowering?

      One more thing: Craig is correct to argue that the impulse to ask why is huge for us and that “Why is there anything”? is indeed probably the ultimate question anyone can ask. We begin asking as children and we continue as adults. But is it possible that we are ill-equipped to answer “ultimate” questions? Colin McGinn thinks so. Years ago I reviewed a book of his called “The Mysterious Flame” in which he makes a strong case for this view. (I’d enclose a link to the review but the link is no longer available. But the book is still available.)

  11. 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.

  12. I am not going to be flowery in my use of words, but to state in utmost simplicity what i also believe to be:

    I have perused the exchange between the writer and his critics, particularly the self-proclaimed atheist Barry Lyon. But I will have you know also, that whereas atheists use science as a vehicle to establish their claims, many bright scientists have also reported their observations as being in favor of intelligent design, examples being Sir Isaac Newton, who is quoted thus ‘”This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” This is a somewhat bold claim from someone who is regarded as the most influential man in the field of science, whose contribution cannot be overlooked, to actually go out of his way to shed light on his belief that the universe in its entirety could only have been designed by an Entity he called God. Can you therefore say he was uncritical with his conclusion about His existence?. In lieu of this claim by Newton, he goes on to say that God created everything in number weight and measure. This is where science is most expedient in being able to predict these events u label as ‘natural laws’ because they are things that have been set beforehand to govern the precepts of the universe. It is therefore silly to say, once science cannot quantify the unseen which falls under the wing of the supernatural, it is improbable or even more strongly, impossible for the possibility of a spiritual Being to exist.

    Let us not forget the great philospher Plato, who recognized the fact that numbers permeated reality, and the universe being is guided by these highly organized and calculable phenomena could only be assessed by the senses, but that does not mean that things may not exist outside our perception, and subsequently, or consciousness. Therefore, we cannot trust our assessment of our own reality to discount the existence of something we may as well be incapable of perceiving.

    That brings me to the last of my personality profile, Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz, whose work with binary operations have been of immense help in the development of the computer language still in use today, but his greatest work, being the development of infinitesimal calculus independent of Isaac Newton. In his work he sought to prove that though natural laws seem to be the foundational principles of science, which relies heavily on observation through experimentation, there are principles that extend beyond the generally calculable ability of science, and we in turn ignore them, because of our view of them as being impractical. This he points out, are the general reasons why we cannot solely rely on science to prove or disprove enities beyond our comprehension, entities that nearly approach unnatural limits. Therefore, we cannot say that science has provided us with an avenue to effectively disprove faith, but that our interpretation of scientific fact we term natural laws are seemingly biased and can be open to interpretation that actually shed light on the the intricate nature of the universe as well as its design and designer. Frankly speaking, new age atheists parading as scientists have actually worked fervently to show us a one-sided scenario of the grand spectacle, to make us believe they have figured out all the answers through repeated experimentation, ignoring the blaring evidence history, and even common sense presented to us.

    In Darwins own words as he says [the theory of evolution is incomplete, as far as the fossil records showing the transition of the transformation of the species have not been found] *paraphrased. Truly, years down the line no such record has been found, yet his theories are still paraded as irrefutably true, and the idea of intelligent design washed down the drain. Darwinism in effect has become a religion, in that, education, being its main medium of transmission, has derailed in its purpose of teaching us how to think and rather taken the role of being taught what to think. I hope we all look critically at the facts, its the reason the God debate had dragged on, and while Dawkins has mercilessly thrashed those opponents he has chosen for himself, knowing he could just as easily throw them off the boat, he has refused to face those who could just as thoroughly challenge him, and that gives room for concern as to his credibility. If you could face off all those opponents, why not the very person who has proven himself among the theistic community as being eloquent and equally versed in meeting his challenge? I think he is protecting his own reputation, touche, the tides have now turned.

    -Lee

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

    • 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.

      • 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.

  14. 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.

    • 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.

  15. 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.

    • 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.

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