Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Richard Dawkins vs William Lane Craig: Not Happening (YAY)

Richard Dawkins has decided not to debate William Lane Faith-is-properly-basic Craig, and good for him.  Of course, Christians are taking this as a sign of weakness:


Craig, one of the nation's leading Christian apologists, has debated many atheists on the rationality of faith and the existence of God including Sam Harris, Bart Ehrman and Richard Taylor. His upcoming United Kingdom tour has evidently intimidated Richard Dawkins as he has continually refused to debate Craig when he visits his home turf this October.

Recently, Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association, also pulled out of a scheduled debate with Craig on the existence of God. A war of words has broken out between Dawkins and his critics, who see his refusal to take on the American academic as a sign that he may be losing his nerve.

Famous atheist Sam Harris once described Craig as "the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists."

Dawkins has already shot WLC down:

I agree completely not just about WLC, but about the average believer: it's an emotional cause for them, not rational at all and therefore, not subject to debate or rational discourse of any kind.  They appeal to emotion at every turn.  In essence they believe because it fulfills an emotional need for them, and they don't want people saying their fairy tales are false.

I first heard of WLC at the blog of Randall Rauser, who has an advanced degree in bullshit apologetics, and seemed to think that his vapid responses to his atheist responders actually had merit.  Failing to convince us that love of poetry, love of love, and nice feelings in general are sufficient to justify faith in his deity, he would cite William Lane Craig and another loser by the name of Alvin Plantinga.

Their main argument seems to be, it's nice to believe in something nice, so it is therefore true.  Of course, I got that second-hand because if their fanboy, Randy, couldn't sell them to me I didn't think it was worth reading their stuff.  I did watch some of WLC's speeches and debates on youtube and I just came away shaking my head.  He really sounds like a boxer on the ropes, defending religion on the basis of intuition, and yet people say he's a great debater.

About debates... apparently you can win or lose debates based on parrying and thrusts of a verbal sort, kind of.  So if you throw out a bunch of thrusts and your opponent only handles a few of them and sidesteps the rest in the interest of time, that is apparently a "victory."  Waving your sword in air and never actually nicking or stabbing your opponent somehow makes points. 

I think the wins and losses of debates should depend on the number of onlookers whose minds have been changed.  You could do before and after surveys of the audience, and any nudge in the average score would determine the victor.  What seems to be going on in the theist-atheist debate scoring is that people who belonged to debate clubs in high school extrapolate their useless exercises into the adult world of deciding what to believe. This goes for partisans on both sides, most of whom coincidentally give the "win" to their side but who sometimes give it to the other side.  If you are an atheist, and you watch a debate between an atheist & a theist and you are still an atheist at the end of it, the theist loses!  It doesn't matter if someone lost 'points.'

Dawkins going to an evangelical college to debate during an evangelical convention against their biggest idol would indeed be a waste of time due to cognitive dissonance.  The audience would be packed with people who have made it their life's work to bullshit themselves into believing that believing is good (forget whether it's true).  Cognitive dissonance goes like this:  I invested a helluva lot into this Christianity thing, so it has to be true, or else I've wasted my life. 

I squish them to
give them a
second chance
Atheists, even activist atheists, have much less investment.  For one, we haven't had to lie to ourselves.  For another, we haven't traded a boring life in the here-and-now for an even more boring life in the hereafter.  If we're wrong, the odds of which are seriously low, there's no particular guarantee that there's an afterlife or that the Christian version is correct.  WE haven't thrown in our lot with one fairy tale over all others.  Most of us are familiar with several fairy tales.  Losing out on the Christian one is a one-in-several shot, versus the Christian wager which is all-or-nothing.  I've led a relatively good life, so if Buddhism is true, I might come back as a richer, whiter, beautiful woman with a kickin body. 

Christians, on the other hand, have been arrogant in believing their selfish theology is correct, so they might come back as cockroaches or tsetse flies.

Back to the "properly basic" idea.  WLC says that belief in a god is "properly basic," which in philosophical terms basically means it gets a pass.  These beliefs don't need evidence, but they do.  And they're valid unless they're not.  Grab some dramamine and check out his podcast on "properly basic" crap:



Mike D said...

It's weird how invested WLC's fans are in seeing these debates. I mean, debates can be interesting and enlightening, but they are more often than not merely contests of rhetoric. They don't settle contentious philosophical issues.

Dawkins has nothing to gain from debating some hack theologian from Biola University, particularly when Craig deliberately frames his debates in a format that allows him sufficient time to raise several complex arguments than cannot possibly all be answered in depth if at all, then proclaim that his opponent has failed to answer. He's also shown himself not to be above flagrant misrepresentation of his opponent's position if it gains him a rhetorical advantage.

Dawkins has never shied away from discussions with theists. He's released all the uncut interviews from "Root of all Evil?" which shows extended, substantive discussions with several well-known and highly regarded theologians.

krissthesexyatheist said...

I think Erhmann won against WLC and he even pointed out the verbal assault thingy. After WLC said "this" "this" and "this", Erhman said, "I'm not gonna answer all those points, I'll have no time for my own.

Of the ones that I have seen Hector Alvalos, Erhmann and Robert Price have won. all the rest of Team Atheist...lost. Le sigh.


LadyAtheist said...

These debates prove nothing even if there's a "winner." I suppose the theists get some bragging rights, which in turn helps them justify their insane beliefs, mainly to themselves. There's nothing in it at all for atheists, because theists aren't shy about writing up their rationalizations. If they are college profs they *have* to

Plasma Engineer said...

Living near Oxford in UK I was amazed how few people had even heard about the controversy of RD and WLC, but WLC tried to make a big noise about it, including a campaign of bus adverts.

In place of RD though, philosopher Steven Law stepped in and demolished Craig's rhetoric! I loved it!