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Richard Dawkins for Prime Minister

I hear the best politicians these days are the ones who can unashamedly equivocate on the meaning of “is”, or tell the filthiest lies with a straight face and a slick smile.

On the assumption that there’s a shortage of such people in the world, I think it’s imperative we begin the Dawkins for Prime Minister Campaign immediately.

I was tipped off by an editorial in The Guardian yesterday, where Dawkins gives the final word on why he refuses to debate William Lane Craig. It’s a masterful piece of political spin-doctoring. “Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of William Lane Craig,” he begins. “He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either. Perhaps he is a “theologian”.”

Now, just last night I was watching Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, where he talks about the masterful way Goebbels used language to make the industrial-scale elimination of the Jews seem a perfectly reasonable thing. In fairness, Dawkins is no Goebbels, but he would have made a good propagandist.

Notice how he deftly frames his entire piece with aspersions on Craig’s credentials. From the alleged ignorance among his philosopher friends of Craig’s name, to the scare quotes around “theologian”.

Of course, if Dawkins’s audience were savvy enough to check for themselves, as hopefully at least some of them are, a simple Google search would show what utter garbage this is. Here’s how Wikipedia, hardly a sympathetic source, introduces Craig:

…an American analytic philosopher, philosophical theologian, and Christian apologist. He is known for his work on the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion, specifically the existence of God and the defense of Christian theism. He has made major contributions to the philosophy of religion and his defense of the Kalam cosmological argument is the most widely discussed argument for the existence of God in contemporary Western philosophy. He has authored or edited over 30 books including The Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979), Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology… [etc]

What should we conclude from the fact that Dawkins’s professors of philosophy haven’t even heard of Craig?

Either that these fellows are quacks, or—more likely—that even in an underpopulated field like philosophy the chances of knowing a fraction of the professionals in your discipline is pretty small. For example, I have a three-pronged profession: copywriting, marketing, and web design. Those combine into a fourth profession called conversion-rate optimization. Do you think I’ve heard of even one tenth of the most successful copywriters, marketers, web designers, and CRO experts? I seriously doubt it.

For some years now, Craig has been increasingly importunate in his efforts to cajole, harass or defame me into a debate with him. I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: “That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine”.

What Dawkins means to say is that ever since Craig destroyed the sophomoric arguments in the The God Delusion he has wanted to advance the discussion with Dawkins, and hopefully reveal to all his slavering fanboys how little substance there is to his position. Craig doesn’t want people believing lies—more than can be said for Dawkins, given the rank disingenuousness of his editorial.

Dawkins of course has consistently balked at debating Craig, presumably because he doesn’t want it to be publicly revealed that his arguments haven’t the slightest ability to stand up to rigorous analysis. It wouldn’t look good on his CV.

Craig’s latest stalking foray has taken the form of a string of increasingly hectoring challenges to confront him in Oxford this October. I took pleasure in refusing again, which threw him and his followers into a frenzy of blogging, tweeting and YouTubed accusations of cowardice.

One of the greatest “refutations” you can employ is simply to state the facts with a sarcastic slant that implies only an imbecile would accept them. But the accusations of cowardice are perfectly accurate. Dawkins is a coward in the same way he is a bully. He enjoys notoriety and taking shots at Christianity in a medium where he’s got all the control. He can feel like a big man publishing best-selling books aimed at people with even less schooling in critical thinking than he has. But like any bully, if you confront him and threaten him with a bloody nose, he’s quick to disappear.

Dawkins reminds me of Draco Malfoy after Hermione socked him in the kisser in The Prisoner of Azkaban. “Not a word to anyone, understood? I’m gonna get that jumped-up mudblood, mark my words!” he rants to his friends as they beat a sniveling retreat. Yeah right Malfoy.

I turn down hundreds of more worthy invitations every year, I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.

Strange—aren’t these people “theologians” with scare quotes? So why are they more worthy than Craig? Could it be because they’ve got less credentials than him? Because they haven’t already published work that obliterates Dawkins’s arguments against God? I guess it’s probably something like that.

After some more accusations of self-promotion, which ring about as hollow as a pot beating on a black kettle, Dawkins turns to Craig’s “dark side”.

You might say that such a call to genocide could never have come from a good and loving God. Any decent bishop, priest, vicar or rabbi would agree. But listen to Craig. He begins by arguing that the Canaanites were debauched and sinful and therefore deserved to be slaughtered.

He then quotes Craig’s defense of God’s actions toward the Canaanite children, concluding: “Do not plead that I have taken these revolting words out of context. What context could possibly justify them?”

Well, not to state the obvious, but an evolutionary context justifies them pretty well. Surely Dawkins can’t have forgotten writing about how “a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make[s] nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not.” Surely he can’t have forgotten that “any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment.”

If a truly scientific view of the world makes nonsense of blame and responsibility, then certainly there’s no sense in which genocide, or the defense of genocide, is unjustified. There’s no moral dimension to it whatsoever. So why is Dawkins borrowing moral norms he inherited from Christianity to judge Craig, instead of taking the rational approach and admitting there’s no reason whatsoever to condemn genocide, given what he believes?

Well, I suppose it’s because that wouldn’t make for a very good smear campaign.

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.

This seems oddly forced coming from the man who looks forward to the day when religion is only tolerated behind bars at zoos. But then, it’s all a giant smokescreen anyway; a diversionary tactic. Dawkins needs to use sleight of hand to direct his audience’s attention toward Craig’s character assassination, so they won’t notice how Craig has already assassinated Dawkins’s arguments—and would do so again given half a chance.

Dawkins is clearly cut out to be a master politician. Let’s get him out of the intellectual sphere and put him where he belongs. Dawkins for Prime Minister!

Update: James Anderson and Oxford historian Tim Stanley have also weighed in with their comments. Anderson is typically incisive, concluding that “In the end, all Dawkins has really told us is that he won’t debate Craig because he finds Craig’s views personally offensive. It’s not that Craig’s views are unethical… It’s just that Dawkins…is disgusted — and that’s all there is to it. Even if that were the real reason for his refusal to debate Craig, it would hardly be a compelling one.”

New Issue of Hope’s Reason Online

The latest issue of the apologetic journal Hope’s Reason is now available. Here’s a list of the articles and reviews contained in the issue:

Articles:
  • An Apologetic Church | Stephen J. Bedard
  • Apologetic Testimony from an Unlikely Source | Mark Eckel
  • The Witness of the Spirit: Developing a Pentecostal Approach to World Religions | Jeffrey K. Clarke
  • The Christian Doctrine of God Explained and Defended for Muslims | Luis Dizon
  • The Resurrection, Two Scholars, and Historical Method | J. Steve Lee
Reviews:
  • Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend by Ravi Zacharias | reviewed by Stephen J. Bedard
  • The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Carl Trueman | reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
  • The Priority of Jesus Christ by Tom Wells | reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
  • Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain | reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
  • Sealed With an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose by Paul R. Williamson | reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
  • If God, Why Evil? A New Way to Think About the Question by Norman L. Geisler | reviewed by Stephen J. Bedard
  • The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? by Michael Rydelnik | reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell | reviewed by Stephen J. Bedard
  • Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? by Daniel C. Dennett and Alvin Plantinga | reviewed by Josiah J. Batten
  • Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith…and How to Bring them Back by Drew Dyck | reviewed by Jeffery K. Clarke
  • Think and Live: Challenging Believers to Think and Thinkers to Believe by Paul Hughes | reviewed by Stephen J. Bedard
  • The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith by Peter Hitchens | reviewed by Ian Clary
  • The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies | reviewed by Michael Plato
  • Christian Apologetics: Past & Present: A Primary Source Reader: Volume 1: To 1500 edited by William Edgar, K. Scott Oliphint | reviewed by Ian Clary
  • Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective by Robert Letham | reviewed by Ian Clary

Get the 115 page pdf here.

An Interview with Douglas Groothius

Stan Guthrie talks to Philosophy Professor Douglas Groothius about his new book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Groothius also discusses cultural engagement, the impact of cyberspace on thinking, and the greatest challenges today in Christian apologetics.

What Does it Mean for God to Be Perfect?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn talks to Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland about the nature of God’s perfection and how concepts such as moral courage, joy, personal growth and enrichment, etc, might apply to a perfect being. The PBS documentary series Closer to Truth is one of the best resources available for interviews with top scholars on God, the universe, religion, and the mind. You can view the rest of Moreland’s videos on the website here.

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Ask TM: Practical advice for persuading others in conversation?

We often get questions about theology and apologetics sent to us by readers and we thought it would be helpful if we shared some of our answers to those questions on the blog. If you’ve got a question that you’d like us to address here, send it to info@thinkingmatters.org.nz along with your full name, city, and country.

This week, one of our readers from Tauranga, New Zealand, asks what practical advice we can offer for sharing the truth of Christianity with others.

Read more

Woody Allen and Billy Graham Talk Religion, Morality, and Sex

It’s hard to imagine a more fascinating encounter. Two men, from worlds that couldn’t be further apart, met together on national television in front of a live audience. One, a New York comedian and playwright who, in many ways, represented a culture of nihilism, instant gratification, and neurotic self-focus. The other, a revivalist evangelical preacher born on a dairy farm in North Carolina.

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Decades later, Woody Allen would later reflect on their meeting in 1969:

“Years ago I was on television with Billy Graham and I was taking this position, this bleak outlook position and Billy Graham was saying to me that even if I was right and he was wrong, and there was no meaning to life and it was a bleak experience and there was no god and no afterlife or no hope or anything, he would still have a better life than me, because he believed differently and even if he was 100 percent wrong, our lives would both be completed and I would have had a miserable life wallowing in a bleak outlook and he would have had a wonderful life, confident that there was more.”

[via Denny Burk]

 

Klusendorf and Strossen Debate Abortion

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Scott Klusendorf is the President of Life Training Institute and author of the excellent book, The Case for Life. Nadine Strossen is the former President of the ACLU. The debate was held on 15 April at Westmont College.

[HT: Randy Alcorn and Justin Taylor]

The Evidence for Easter

Tyndale House, a Christian community dedicated to researching all the primary evidence relevant to the study of the Bible, has produced three short introductory films on the evidence for the central events of the Easter narrative.

Evidence for Jesus’ Trial

Dr Dirk Jongkind, a Research Fellow at Tyndale House, pieces together the earliest manuscript evidence for the New Testament and shows how it tells the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.

Evidence for Jesus’ Crucifixion

Dr Peter Williams and Dr David Instone Brewer look at the Munich Talmud, which contains traditional Jewish teaching, and discover how even the deleted text provides evidence for Jesus’ crucifixion. Read more about the evidence of the Munich Talmud here.

Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

Dr Peter Williams gives a summary of the biblical evidence for the foundation of the Christian faith – Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

[HT: Justin Taylor]

Audio and Video from the Craig v Krauss Debate

If you missed the debate yesterday between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss on the topic “Is there Evidence for God?”, the media from the event is now available.

Timothy and Michael live-blogged the event, and their post presents a good overview of what happened. For deeper commentary, Randy at Possible Worlds has posted an excellent discussion, highlighting some of the key issues that came up. David at the SAA blog also weighs in with his analysis. And Wintery Knight has also posted his own sardonic take on the respective cases put forward by Craig and Krauss.

UPDATE: The votes from the audience have been announced: 286 for Craig, 130 for Krauss, and 100 called it a draw.

 

Rob Bell defends his book on MSNBC

Martin Bashir does a good job of asking the right questions and getting to the heart of the issue in the controversy about Bell’s new book Love Wins.

 

The review that Bashir refers to is the excellent response written by Kevin DeYoung.

The Difference Between Christianity and Other Religions

Stuart has drawn our attention to the fact that unlike some religions, Christianity is open to investigation and rational inquiry. Here is a great simple illustration of why that is the case by C Michael Patton from the Parchment & Pen blog. Read more