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Jul 23 2013

Is William Lane Craig Afraid?

There are two people who have been asking noted Christian apologist William Lane Craig to debate them for years. And he has consistently declined, always with specious excuses–which are all the more galling given that they are much the same excuses Dawkins gave for not debating Craig, which Craig then mocked, not at all grasping the irony.

John Loftus

One of those guys is, of course, Craig’s former student, John Loftus, author and editor of multiple books and chapters in the philosophy of religion and Christianity, with multiple graduate degrees in the field. Loftus has analyzed all the accumulating excuses Craig keeps giving for never debating him, including his declaration that “the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine” (a statement Loftus has multiply confirmed). Indeed. Fear. Attempting to backtrack from that embarrassing admission, Craig has retreated to a litany of other excuses, which Loftus has pointed out are ridiculous at worst, and specious at best (here and here). It’s been years now. No change.

Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder, co-founder of the Secular Web and an astute analyst and skilled debater (who now blogs regularly for Secular Outpost), commented on this odd and persistent refusal by Craig to ever debate Loftus and there even noted that Craig was willing to debate him…until, apparently, he chickened out. That wasn’t Lowder’s conclusion, it’s mine; Lowder tried to be charitable.

But now Lowder is starting to get suspicious. All the way back in 2006 Lowder documented Craig’s willingness to debate him…and his sudden backtrack (with the “I won’t debate anyone without a Ph.D. excuse,” which is funny because Craig has debated lots of people without Ph.D.’s–and even the people with Ph.D.’s he has debated, few have Ph.D.’s in the actual subject they debated: philosophy of religion; Lowder is actually far more skilled in that field than most of them).

And yet before deploying that excuse, and beating a retreat, Craig actually said:

Yes, I did say I’m happy to have a debate with Jeff. My statement to whatever university group is referred to [that he wouldn't do any debates unless invited to do so by a university] is just my general policy to which I feel free to make exceptions. Jeff is an exception.

Apparently not any more. Because that debate never happened and Craig now refuses to debate him. What changed?

Lowder has now blogged about his latest refusal when he invited William Lane Craig to debate him in 2014. His excuse this time was that he’s busy. Or more specifically, he really wants to write his next book so he can’t debate anyone for…well, apparently a year. Hmmm. I wonder how many people Craig will end up debating in this coming year anyway. Indeed, apparently just as Craig was telling Lowder that, Craig was asking to debate biologist Jerry Coyne next year, and Coyne refused. So, Lowder reasons, apparently there is a debate Craig agreed to do and scheduled for next year that now has no opponent…well, great! Now he can debate Jeff Lowder! I mean, he can’t use the “I’m busy” excuse now, can he? I wonder what his fallback excuse will be.

(Has Craig used enough diverse excuses to avoid debates by now to fill out a bingo card? Anyone who makes one, definitely link it here in comments. I will appreciate the amusement.)

Lowder informs me that he’s “been trying to schedule a debate with [Craig] for over a decade, but for one reason or another it never happens.” He even documents this litany of refusals stretching back fourteen years. Note that Lowder has been at the forefront of studying Craig’s apologetics and has spent nearly two decades making available online critiques of Craig’s arguments from diverse authors, some with Ph.D.’s in philosophy, history of philosophy, theology, or biblical studies.

Even noted Christian apologist Victor Reppert has expressed puzzlement and disappointment at Craig’s persistent refusal to debate Lowder, writing that:

I am personally disappointed that there has never been a Craig-Lowder debate. I do not think [Lowder's] background knowledge would be weak; I am trying to understand the Ph.D. rule that Craig has. There is no committee I have in mind; I just was thinking about how Bill and company would go about selecting debate opponents. After a bad debater debated against Bill, he called me (as I had asked him to) and told me that even though the opposing debater was bad this was nonetheless a good opportunity for the presentation of the gospel. The comment made me cringe a little.

Reppert openly wonders whether indeed Craig is afraid to debate Lowder. I suspect he is. I’ve been told Craig won’t debate me again, either (even though he has debated several other opponents multiple times–even opponents without Ph.D.’s, and I have one). Is it the same thing? I don’t know.

There can be no doubt Lowder is as qualified as anyone else Craig has debated, and in fact more qualified than most. In addition to being a reasoned and well-informed critic of Craig for 20 years (as just noted), Lowder is even published on this subject (the philosophy of religion and Christianity) and frequently cited as an authority or contender in it, unlike many other opponents Craig has debated.

Even apart from his extensive online writing and editing and compiling, much of which Craig has also seen worthy enough to respond to, Lowder has authored or edited the following in print:

The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (co-edited with Robert M. Price; Prometheus, 2005. (Featuring a litany of experts, many specifically addressing Craig’s apologetics, including Lowder’s own contribution.)

  • [That book received a lot of attention, being reviewed by Jana Riess (Publishers Weekly); John Jaeger (Library Journal); Richard Ruble (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith); Robin Griffith-Jones (Times Literary Supplement); R. Joseph Hoffmann (Free Inquiry); Glenn Balfour (Journal for the Study of the New Testament); Tim Callahan (Skeptic); Norman Geisler (Christian Apologetics Journal); Stephen T. Davis (Philosophia Christi); and New Testament Abstracts. It was also discussed in Charles Foster, The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), chapter 4.]
  • [Indeed, it has been seen as such a threat it is attacked in Lee Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus (Zondervan, 2007; e.g. pp. 108-111, 145-147, 151) and in Tim and Lydia McGrew, “A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, actually edited by William Lane Craig himself, and J.P. Moreland; in Josh and Sean McDowell's More Than a Carpenter (rev. ed., Carol Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2009), e.g. p. 134; by Stephen T. Davis in Disputed Issues: Contending for Christian Faith in Today’s Academic Setting (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009), pp. 66-73; and even by William Lane Craig himself, in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (third ed., Crossway, 2008), e.g. p. 376.]

Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig,” The Journal of Higher Criticism 8:2 (Fall 2001): 251-293.

  • [This article gained considerable attention, too. It was cited in Michael J. Cook, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2008), e.g. p. 324, nn. 20 and 22; and in Michael Martin, “Review of The Resurrection of God Incarnate by Richard Swinburne,” Religious Studies (2004): 367-71; and both defended and criticized in Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T & T Clark, 2005), e.g. pp. 314 n. 451, 318 n. 468, 319 n. 473, 326 n. 506, 334 n. 537, 336 n. 545; and critiqued by Robert Bowman, Ken Neimann, and Lenny Esposito on Apologetics.com Radio (Los Angeles radio station KKLA, 99.5 FM), on April 19 of 2003.]

Review of The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel,” Philo 2 (1999): 89-102.

  • [Which gained enough attention to be criticized by Lee Strobel himself on “The Bible Answer Man,” a nationally syndicated radio show with Hank Hanegraaff, on July 13 of 2000. It was also addressed in John Noe, “The Only Defense in the Major Case Against Christ, Christianity, and the Bible,” presented at the 54th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Toronto, Canada, November 2002.]

Lowder’s writings in print and online have gained expert attention in several venues, for example:

  • Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Was Jesus Mad, Bad, or God?… Or Merely Mistaken?” Faith and Philosophy 21 (2004): 456-479.
  • Michael Martin, “It Is Not Rational to Believe in the Resurrection” in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (ed. Michael L. Peterson and Raymond J. Vanarragon, Malden: Blackwell, 2004), 174-184.
  • Wes Morriston, “Causes and Beginnings in the Kalam Argument,” Faith and Philosophy 19 (2002): 233-244.

Lowder has also engaged several formal public debates, and in each performed excellently:

  • “Does God Exist? The Cases for Faith and Atheism,” a debate with Rev. William Gipson (theist), Prof. David Hufford (theist), Stephen Van Eck (deist), and Hillary Aisenstein (atheist), at the University of Pennsylvania, on April 24, 2000.
  • “Naturalism vs. Theism: Where Does the Evidence Point?,” a debate with Phil Fernandes, sponsored by the Society of Humanist Philosophers, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on September 26, 1999. [This debate is widely considered one of the best debate performances ever by an atheist on God's existence.]
  • “Evolution and Creation,” a team debate with Jason Robar, Lief Moi, and Doug Jue on “Street Talk,” KGNW AM 820, Seattle, January 15, 1994.

So, no slouch or nobody here. Lowder is a contender.

If Victor Reppert, Stephen T. Davis, Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, Tim and Lydia McGrew, Mike Licona, Charles Foster, Josh and Sean McDowell, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Wes Morriston, Michael Martin, Robert M. Price, Ted Drange, Keith Parsons, Richard Carrier, Robert Greg Cavin, and Evan Fales think Lowder is worthy of being cited or critiqued, or collaborating with on a book, then why is he not worthy of a debate with William Lane Craig?

Inquiring minds want to know.

131 comments

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  1. 1
    piegasm

    I get the impression that Craig only really wants to debate scientists for a few reasons; the obvious ones being the ability to leech credibility from them and then be able to mock them and insinuate that they’re afraid should they refuse. The other is because I think he wants to be able to talk about bleeding edge scientific concepts that people don’t generally encounter as matter of course. That way he can say blatantly untrue things and the vast majority of his audience will neither realize that he’s wrong nor understand his opponent’s explanation of why he’s wrong. Not to mention that the opponent is often able to correct him since another thing Christian apologists in general like to do is bring up so many diverse points in one turn that their opponent has neither the time nor the expertise to correct all of their errors.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      I agree with every point.

    2. 1.2
      GrzeTor

      Scientists debating WLC are not using enough PR means available to them in such debates. Established ones could start with self-advertisment, like “I’m X and I’ve discovered Y,Z…, i work in V, on a difficult problems like P ranked N-th best university” etc. Showing some real credentials at the beginning could work well against WLC self-confidence. Then in the rebuttal they might start with an innocent comment on what WLC had discovered, during all his “academic” career…

    3. 1.3
      Roundsquare

      Richard is clearly not taking his loss to Craig in their debate very well. Craig has debated numerous worthy opponents as you admitted include scientists, and top atheist thinkers. For Pete’s sake he even debated the late Anthony Flew. Unless Richard thinks Jeffery Jay Lowder is a much better debate opponent for Craig than he is.

      Craig’s arguments stand because they are good solid and logical. Richard it’s crazy that you’re still smarting from your loss to Craig in that 3 year old debate, I suppose this post is just your way of releasing some of that bottled pain.

    4. Richard Carrier

      Flew was a terrible debater, as pretty much everyone agrees. So I don’t know why you think otherwise.

      And the only way Craig got a technical win against me is that he ran out the clock. If you think preventing me from stating my rebuttals is a fair way to win a debate, you have a problem.

    5. 1.4
      Daniel Schalit

      @Roundsquare: //Craig’s arguments stand because they are good solid and logical.//

      They’re fallacious and absurd, a collection of God of the Gaps and Special Pleading fallacies, distortions of actual Physics, and so on. Craig has ‘won’ many of his debates. Which goes a long way towards proving that debates aren’t actually an idea way to get at the truth, if any conman with shiny rhetoric can sway a crowd.

      But please, if you’d like to be an apologist for Craig, have at it and show how his arguments are “solid and logical”.

  2. 2
    Randall Johnson

    There aren’t words to describe my contempt for Craig- but I’ll use a few anyway. I find him so personally and intellectually objectionable, it would suit me if no one ever debated him again.

    His conclusions are never quite supported by arguments and he is about one strawman away from getting listed in the credits for The Wizard of Oz. When his opponents make valid dagger-like points, he responds with litanies of arguments from ignorance, usually in support of a previous point he made without addressing anything his opponent said. He just waggles his prehensile alien thumbs and blithers on earnestly and enthusiastically to his choir who thinks he is killing it.

    He is the lead dog for small group of mercenary apologist debaters I suspect of actually knowing better but playing for the team that pays the most and demands the least. He calls to mind a Sam Harris remark made to another of that group (maybe Dinesh the Sousaphone) I’ll paraphrase as- saying it louder and incessantly doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    Why anyone of substance would give this man a public platform that grants him de facto peer status is beyond me and I salute Dawkins and the others for declining.

  3. 3
    Bret

    I Enjoyed the post. I think it’s obvious that Craig knows Lowder would have a high probability of defeating him in an oral debate. As you said, Lowder is very good- both in debate skills and knowledge of the arguments.

    Loftus too is knowledgable, but not so skilled in the debate side of things. I think he would be thrashed and Dr. Craig would be merciless. I almost wonder if Craig gets off on frustrating Loftus. As a sincere fan if John’s, to me it’s clear that his temper is his Achilles heel.

    What Loftus, Lowder, or whoever else Craig debates next needs to do is challenge him to a written debate. With well defined rules and plenty of words. This way, rhetorical tricks are minimized and arguments can’t slip through the cracks. Most of all, Craig would be caught red-handed when he restates his opponents argument incorrectly, as he so often does.

    1. 3.1
      Richard Carrier

      I agree. But it’s for that very reason Craig avoids written debates like the plague. He very rarely does them (if even at all; I thought he did once, but couldn’t find that, possibly because I wasn’t using the right search string).

    2. 3.2
      Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Richard — Thanks for writing this article.

      As a side not, your link (in the comment below) to Greg Cavin’s debate slides don’t seem to take readers to the slides, though the site that is linked is very interesting and definitely a worthwhile read. Here is the link to Cavin’s slides.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Thanks for that. I thought the linked discussion included a link to the slides.

  4. 4
    Will

    This is interesting.. Craig seems more and more shifty as time goes on. I guess he’s a nice guy but i think your assessment of him as a con man is probably on the money.

    Just a side note about Craig… I guess this is the thread to ask about this.. When arguing for the resurrection i get the feeling that Craig (and Licona) builds his case by completely bracketting the prior probability of a supernatural resurrection and he concentrates his efforst on trying minimize the consequent probabilities of naturalistic explanations. This seems especially dodgy to me.. The closest they seem to come to dealing with the prior probability for the resurrection is by claiming that the resurrection reports are happening in a ‘religiously charged context” and they claim that since there is evidence that god exists it makes the supernatural resurrectionI much more probable on the given evidence. but they are concealing some huge leaps here.. first of all Craig typically grounds existence of god the Kalaam cosmological argument. now I don’t think this argument works at all.. but let’s grant him that it does.. Kalaam says NOTHING at all about the particular abilities or preferences that this God would have in relation to raising jesus..or working miracles in general. They are hiding this giant ad hoc assumption so as to tacitly inflate the pror probability of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus.. But in actuality this is absurd.. Kalaam (even if correct) doesn’t help jesus out in any significant way because it tells us nothing of what that god would or could do within the historical particulars of human affairs. So the prior probability isn’t helped more than a miniscule amount and is still insufficient for overcoming the priors of natural explanations. Hope this is clear..What is your take on this Richard? thanks.

    1. 4.1
      Richard Carrier

      They’re standard apologetic address to the prior probabilities argument is to claim that asserting a low prior is bias against the supernatural and thus presupposed naturalism.

      That’s false, but it is their usual tactic to dodge the problem. That tactic, incidentally, was brilliantly and thoroughly debunked head on in talk by Greg Cavin (in response to the McGrews), the slides to which are available online [actually here].

      (I have notes on those slides I was considering blogging about some day, as far as things I think are misleading in them, but not because they were mistaken but because they could mislead a reader who just looks at the slides and doesn’t hear the original spoken commentary on them, or doesn’t know how Bayes’ Theorem works in the details, but those parts are few, and I think anyone would still benefit from perusing that slideshow.)

    2. 4.2
      Will

      thanks for the reply.. I think i botched my Bayesian terminology in my question though.. I guess appealing to the existence of God would be part of ‘b’. So that would affect their attempts to raise consequent probability (not Prior) of the resurrection by claiming the evidence we have is what would we would expect given ‘b’ that includes a god (or the high probability of a god). Am i hopelessly bungling this or does that make sense now? Because after i thought about my original question i realized that the apologists really can’t touch prior probabilites insofar as we have no previously confirmed cases of a God resurrecting someone…(and this is required by their dogma if the resurrection of Jesus was a sngular one-time event around which thier whole paradigm turns.) So they really need to focus all their guns on establishing God as part of ‘b’ and its effect on consequent probabilites.. But like i said before this ultimately is not helping much since the way they usually arrive at God (kalaam, etc) entails absolutely nothing about whether or not this deity would do x, y or z. I’m just trying to get this straight in terms of Bayesian framework and would appreciate any more feedback you can give.. thanks!

  5. 5
    Charles Foster

    Richard: you mention that I cite Lowder and Price’s book in my book ‘The Jesus Inquest’, and you infer that I think that Lowder is a serious thinker and a worthy debating opponent for Craig. I’m very happy to confirm that that is indeed my position.

    Charles Foster,
    University of Oxford

  6. 6
    Raging Bee

    What’s the fucking point of anyone debating Craig anywhere under any circumstances? What does anyone really expect such a debate to accomplish, if Craig agreed to it? What can anyone say to the public that can’t be said anywhere but in a debate with Craig?

    All this dancing around the subject of debating with Craig doesn’t seem to have any effect, except for allowing Craig himself to hog attention and pretend he’s a relevant poobah whose wisdom is sought the world over. What would Craig do, good or bad, if no one gave a shit about debating him?

    1. 6.1
      blotonthelandscape

      Craig is relevant to many people who are important people for the atheist community to reach, and he uses the unwillingness of people to debate him to inflate his position.

      What’s important is who debates him, not why. As highlighted above, he has a clear mandate in his debate-partner selection bias, seeming unwilling to debate people who are experts in his field, or who present a credible threat to his frequently stated foundational principles.

      Note as well that men like him and Geissler and Keller and the rest also offer a foundation for rebutting religious beliefs, because of their willingness to state their beliefs forms which can be critiqued (if not falsified), and their ability to create consensus amongst believers (not easily achieved!). And this can be a powerful tool for converting people away from religion, because it gives us a framework for structuring arguments which cause people to question received wisdom.

      He could easily sell his books and peddle his misinformation without people willing to offer credible, public rebuttals.

    2. 6.2
      Raging Bee

      Craig is relevant to many people who are important people for the atheist community to reach…

      Who, exactly? And are you sure there’s no way we can reach Craig’s audience without letting Craig be part of the game? If they only listen to Craig, chances are they’ll just quietly ignore what his opponents say in any debate. Does anyone have any evidence that debating Craig has any effect on the target audience?

    3. 6.3
      GrzeTor

      1. He has some popularity, so your arguments have a chance to be watched by a number of people large enough that it is worth to participate in a debate.

      2. The debates are a chance to make money for debaters, again popularity and brand name of WLC would make a debate more profitable than a one with someone unknown.

  7. 7
    Joe

    I think Craig has also avoided Douglas Krueger and a rematch with Eddie Tabash. He’s also refused Matt Dillahunty! So many wonderful, potential debates and he wants to debate Dawkins so bad he’ll pull a Clint Eastwood.

    Also, Richard is there anyway to find recordings to those debates you mentioned of Lowders’? I know the Fernandes one is available but I wanna hear the others because Lowder did so well!

    1. 7.1
      Richard Carrier

      Craig has debated Tabash several times. So I might understand his being done with that.

      But yes, Douglas Krueger is another strong opponent Craig has conspicuously avoided (Chris Hallquist covers that story here, including the fact that Craig kept using the “no Ph.D. excuse” yet now Krueger has a Ph.D. and…silence).

    2. 7.2
      GrzeTor

      I’d say you pairing of just intellectuals for debates misses lots of interesting possibilities based on meaningful differences. Like a theoricisist vs. a practical man debate. A creative person against a logical one? A confrontative “revolutionary” protester vs. a calm, self-confident apologist? A more comedian-like naturalist vs. serious-like apologist?

  8. 8
    Herro

    Have you seen any of Loftus’ debates? I ask because I don’t recall his debating skills being impressive at all (whether his arguments are good is another question), so I doubt that Craig is afraid of Loftus. IMHO he should stick to editing great books ;)

  9. 9
    Kevin Harris

    I can assure you Dr. Craig is not afraid! That is a cheap shot right out of the gate! And while Jeff has never stooped to that kind of talk, many have – showing they are more interested in a grudge match than a civil debate.

    I recommend that Dr. Craig stay away from such challenges (which come in all the time) and stick to debating in mostly academic settings with participants who are established in their fields and have credentials in keeping with Dr. Craig’s.

    While it’s true that Dr. Craig has debated some non-credentialed participants in certain circumstances, you will see this less and less. In fact, that’s why we do the podcast. I keep an eye on strong responses and will bring them up in podcasts, so I encourage everyone to respond in print to his work if you would like to interact.

    Kevin Harris

    1. 9.1
      Richard Carrier

      Grudge matches require actual grudges.

      For Craig to mock people who refuse to debate him, and then himself assiduously avoid debating opponents who would obviously be exceptionally strong opponents for him, is the issue here.

      If you cannot stand up to your strongest opponent, you have no honest case.

      Craig should just pack it in on that realization alone.

      (Although to win a debate is not to win the argument, since unlike honest arguments, debates always stop the clock before all the facts are in. But I doubt Craig’s reason for avoiding his best debaters is that. For to use that as his reason, he would have to concede that he himself is exploiting that fallacy in all debates…since that would be the only reason to avoid the tables being turned.)

    2. 9.2
      Elle87

      If Craig only wants to debate established experts, what is the point of challenging Coyne, an evolutionary biologist who has no credentials whatsoever in Craig’s field of expertise and debate arguments?

    3. Richard Carrier

      In any other case I would suspect, to debate evolution. But Craig has consistently avoided ever defending his creationism in a debate (so far as I know, he has never debated evolution).

      Actually, the proposed topic was “Are Science and Religion Incompatible?” Coyne has credentials in that subject (not just as an actual scientist, but as one who has researched and written extensively on the intersection of science and religion in the evolution debate).

    4. 9.3
      Emil Karlsson

      In any other case I would suspect, to debate evolution. But Craig has consistently avoided ever defending his creationism in a debate (so far as I know, he has never debated evolution).

      I am not sure if this qualify precisely, but Craig debated biologist and philosopher Francisco J. Ayala on “Is intelligent design viable?” in 2009.

    5. Richard Carrier

      That qualifies enough, although it sounds like it allowed Craig to avoid having to defend his biblical literalism and inerrancy (and “viable” is a long way from “true”).

    6. 9.4
      Elle87

      I see what you mean, but my point is that this would seemingly contradict Craig’s own rule, since Coyne’s academic specialty is ecology and evolution, while his take on the relationship between religion and science, though perhaps thoughtful and informed, is (academically speaking, which Craig seems to care so much about) “amateurish”. I mean, why not try to debate a professional philosopher of science who has written extensively on this kind of subject, Maarten Boudry, for example, whose work Coyne himself has talked about a few times?

      https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/Home

      I’m not saying that Coyne is incompetent. It’s just that Craig doesn’t seem to completely stick to his own criteria of academic qualifications. But maybe I’m falling for the “hyper-specific qualification” fallacy you have pointed out a lot of times on this site…

    7. Richard Carrier

      Oh, yes, that’s certainly a good point.

      It’s not that one must abide by any “hyper-specific degree” rule but that, surely, if you want to honestly debate x, you should want to debate the strongest opponent on x, who would be someone actually most qualified to do it.

      I don’t object to debating topics with persons who don’t have the hyper-specific degree on that topic. But I do agree it’s odd that Craig would have a standard that says “Ph.D. only” yet not even promote the standard “relevant Ph.D. preferred.”

    8. 9.5
      aaronadair

      Actually, Craig did debate Intelligent Design Creationism with a biologist, Francisco Ayala. Ayala is also a Christian and on the advisory board for the journal Zygon.

      You can see an assessment of that debate (from Luke Muehlhauser) here.

    9. Richard Carrier

      Noted. See other comment.

    10. 9.6
      James Rasmus

      “For Craig to … assiduously avoid debating opponents who would obviously be exceptionally strong opponents for him, is the issue here.”

      Richard Carrier, you seem to be implying that Craig never chooses strong opponents and that, therefore, you yourself were not a strong opponent for him. Nevertheless, your argument is a non sequitur: the conclusion that Craig thinks Lowder is “not worthy of a debate” and that Craig is deliberately avoiding “strong opponents” does not follow from Craig’s declining the debate. Perhaps Craig is too busy. I think Kevin Harris is correct. We should be wary, for attacking a person’s character might reveal our own sense of feeling threatened by that person.

    11. Richard Carrier

      “Craig never chooses strong opponents”…

      Note how my “exceptionally strong opponents” gets trimmed in your mischaracterization of what I said to merely “strong opponents.”

      This is the same trick Craig himself pulls on his opponents: a straw man fallacy sculpted into an equivocation fallacy.

      Craig can’t be too busy, now that, as my article noted, his already-planned debate with Coyne is now in need of an opponent.

      Thus…

      Once we clear the decks of your fallacies and omissions, then we can draw what conclusions remain for Craig.

    12. 9.7
      James Rasmus

      Richard, thanks for clarifying “exceptionally strong opponents.” I was not attacking a straw man, but merely highlighting that your statement “seems to be implying” that all those whom Craig has debated are not good opponents, or rather “exceptionally” good opponents, including yourself and other exceptionally good opponents like Quentin Smith. (You mischaracterized what I said by trimming out “seems to be implying”). Nevertheless, how is my claim (that your argument is a non sequitur) false or a fallacy? Even if Craig is not too busy, it still does not follow that Craig thinks Lowder is “not worthy of a debate” and that Craig is deliberately avoiding “exceptionally strong opponents.” There might be numerous other reasons for why Craig declined. Perhaps you mean that it is more plausible for us to think that Craig is avoiding Lowder? But again, this seems too hasty and uncharitable, for why assume the worst about Craig unless we know Craig’s heart? Or maybe you are merely highlighting that Craig declined the debate, leaving it up to us to draw our own conclusions? If so, then why even mention Craig’s declining unless you wish to show that Craig is a terrible person. I hope this is not your motive, for it might reflect badly on you. Kind regards

    13. Richard Carrier

      To explicitly refuse to debate your own student and the one person who has most closely followed and reported on your work for over a decade and has asked you to debate him every year for fourteen years is behavior in want of an explanation.

      The fact that Craig is a con man, and uses tricks to win debates rather than honest engagement, supports a plausible explanation: he knows these guys know his devices and will expose them or best them. Instead, he picks opponents he thinks won’t spoil his tactics, and whom he believes he can manipulate with them.

      He is, in other words, afraid of this. And smartly is avoiding it.

      There is one easy way for him to disprove that hypothesis.

    14. 9.8
      James Rasmus

      Richard, I think I clearly understand your position now: Craig is a “dishonest, manipulative, tricky con man” explicitly avoiding debating those aware of his tactics because he is “afraid” of them. This is quite a statement!

      P.S. It is rather nice that you respond to most of the comments on your blog. I’m sure you’re a busy man, and so your effort is commendable.

  10. 10
    Richard Martin

    While I’m not very familiar with Craig, the strategy of a written debate was tried for a book by Leonard Mlodinow and Deepak Chopra, The War of the Worldviews. Mlodinow defends the naturalistic viewpoint and Chopra defends anything mildly metaphysical, mostly by claiming that scientists don’t appreciate art and poetry and the like, an obvious non sequitur, even if it were true. Chopra’s “arguments” are really atrocious, so I don’t think a written debate by Craig or any other Christian or religious apologist for that matter would necessarily be an improvement.

  11. 11
    Emil Karlsson

    (Has Craig used enough diverse excuses to avoid debates by now to fill out a bingo card? Anyone who makes one, definitely link it here in comments. I will appreciate the amusement.)

    I made a quick and dirty one (although not necessarily 100% accurate):

    http://img713.imageshack.us/img713/3314/k5vv.png

    1. 11.1
      Richard Carrier

      Oh, that’s a good start. Made me laugh, indeed!

      A hundred points to Ravenclaw if anyone can expand it to one more column and row (that’s quite a challenge, though; may be impossible).

  12. 12
    Andrew Reid

    I had a (probably not unique) idea about how to approach debating the Kalam with WLC: Just concede (for the purposes of the debate) the first part of the argument (“the universe has a cause of its existence”) right away so you can spend the rest of the debate talking about the much sillier “part B” of the argument, that the cause must be a conscious atemporal agent (ie God).

    This would stop the discussion getting derailed by trivia about infinitely large hotels and focus it on the fact that the argument isn’t really even close to an argument for anything like the traditional monotheist concept of God.

    1. 12.1
      Richard Carrier

      Well, that just trades one galaxy of trivia for another.

      Plus, insofar as we see debates as education opportunities, I prefer teaching people that Craig doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or knows what he’s saying is bullshit) when he talks about transfinite mathematics…and quote a bunch of actual experts in transfinite mathematics.

      But I see merit in attacking any of the premises to the exclusion of or in addition to the others, including the hand waving part you refer to (where he doesn’t really even have a proper syllogism). But even the first premise is handy. To educate the audience on what Big Bang science actually says at present exposes Craig as either an ignoramus or a fraud. And that’s something people also deserve to know.

    2. 12.2
      GrzeTor

      Andrew – sometimes Craig’s arguments are not even revelant for the topics of the debates. If the debate is about “Does god exist?” then it’s clearly a present tense, the question being “Does god exist NOW?”. Craig’s attempts to argue that his god existed 13+ billions years ago (at the beginning of the Universe), as well 2000 years ago – as a giver of the “absolute moral values” claimed to exist in the Bible. Same with fine tuning – he shows no evidence that the world is being fine tuned NOW, just argues for a fine-tuner at the beginning of the Universe, and at the beginning of life – basically 3-4 billions years ago.

      So all his claims can be transported into the present only on his weakest argument that such creator/fine tuner has to be eternal. But he typically doesn’t even provide any argument for this being valid from 2000 years ago onwards – his standard arguments about longevity are about the period from infinity to where the narrative of Bible ends. So a hypotethical story of a fine tuner existing few billions years ago, doing his job, and dying (like all beings in the universe) is compatible with his arguments.

      The only arguments about contemporary times are about miracles occuring in present times. These look like the weakest ones, as right now we have enough media for such miracles to be well documented, and these have never been.

      Besides in his argumentation there’s no point about the following claimed persons: creator/fine tuner, moral giver, miracle maker (per miracle) etc. being the same beings. He just relies on preexisting monotheistic thinking framework of both believers and atheists grown up in cultures where monotheism is strong.

      By the way – when it comes to refuting fine tuning Peter Ward’s book “The Medea Hypothesis” might be useful, but arguments from it are still not popular in the debates, as compared to arguments from cosmology.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medea_hypothesis

  13. 13
    Bret

    Craig did one written debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Sinnott-Armstrong is excellent , and I really enjoyed the book. It can be found here.

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Craig-Sinnott-Armstrong-God-A-Debate-between-a-Christian-and-an-Atheist.pdf

  14. 14
    Rauss

    Reading Craig’s 2006 response, I notice two things:

    1) Most if not all of his debates seem to be sponsored by university groups, so his request to having it done at the invitation of a university seems fair.

    2) He made an exception in favor of debating Jeff, and made it clear that he was happy to do so. This is something that counts in favor of Craig, as Jeff wouldn’t have ordinarily gotten a foot in the door.

    I can’t fault Craig here. But I do notice some alarming things about Richard Carrier:

    Carrier seems to quote Lowder’s claim that none of Craig’s debate partners had a PhD in philosophy of religion. Here they are both confused. Craig’s debate with Francisco Ayala, for instance, was not about philosophy of religion but Intelligent Design, where Ayala’s expertise was relevant. Craig’s debate with Carrier himself discussed the historical case for Jesus, where Carrier’s own PhD was relevant. Both Carrier and Lowder miss the boat here.

    Carrier seems to make another alarming misrepresentation of Lowder’s claim. Where Craig seems to tell Lowder that he is cutting back his speaking engagements (as opposed to eliminating them), Carrier suggests Craig is not debating anybody. This is particularly disturbing misrepresentation by Carrier, because according to Coyne, Craig was open to holding a debate in 2014. One would know these eminently skilled debaters would know the difference between scaling back and eliminating.

    I must confess I lost a bit of respect for Carrier what he tried to do in this post. This was very unprofessional, and I hope for Carrier’s sake that this is his last hatchet job.

    1. 14.1
      Richard Carrier

      I am not aware of me or Lowder ever saying “none of Craig’s debate partners” had a PhD in philosophy of religion.

      And I made the point that Coyne dropped out, so Craig now has time to debate Lowder. You seem not to have grasped that.

  15. 15
    Azuma Hazuki

    This is slightly offtopic, but germane to something mentioned upthread: Craig’s insistence that low priors are evidence of bias is a kind of well-poisoning, one that specifically seems to be done, if even unconsciously, to mask something very very important about Craig himself:

    William Lane Craig is a presuppositionalist

    Oh, he won’t say it, and he even attacks the Bahnsenites for question-begging, but tripe like “the witness of the Holy Spirit is self-authenticating” is presuppositionalism de facto if not de jure. He is on record stating that if he ever loses a debate, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong, just not a good enough apologist.

    1. 15.1
      Richard Carrier

      That wouldn’t technically be presuppositionalism (which is the view that anyone who uses logic must presuppose the existence of God), but reformed epistemology (a la Plantinga). But you are right that, colloquially, this entails Craig presupposes his intuition that Christianity is true is not only correct but uncorrectable, and therefore unfalsifiable. Which requires Craig to believe either that it is logically impossible for Christianity to be false (which entails presuppositionalism proper) or that it is acceptable to hold a belief that can be false and simultaneously insist nothing even in principle can ever disprove it (which entails being illogical).

  16. 16
    John Loftus

    Thanks for this Richard.

    Craig’s unwillingness to debate me is interesting. I don’t care much at this point if I do. I will. But the ball is in his court. I’ll just keep pointing out his inconsistency in singling me out.

    Recently I was in Canada and debated Randal Rauser three times on successive nights. For anyone who hasn’t listened to it, here is the recording of our debate on the last night (a video is supposed to be available):

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/06/debating-randal-rauser-in-edmonton.html

  17. 17
    Cornell

    Yes, that’s it Richard

    William Lane Craig is just absolutely frightened by the likes of two guys who managed to pull of 3 hits on the Philpapers database.

    John W. Loftus (2009). Book. Philosophy Now 74:38-39.

    John Loftus (2010). The Case For God. Philosophy Now 81:39-40.

    Jeffery Jay Lowder (1999). The Rest of the Story. Philo 2 (1):89-102.

    Just plug their names here: http://philpapers.org/advanced.html

    OMG this is so impressive Richard, now I understand why Craig is afraid of these great intellectuals that have made so many contributions to academia….

    The provocative, progressive and independent since 1969 Prometheus books is indeed some serious business just like Cambridge, Oxford, Wiley Blackwell, Westview Press, Prentice Hall, MIT Press, and Routledge, et al.

    I find it interesting though how you didn’t bring up Calvinist James White as one of those people who Craig will not debate.

    Anyways, don’t blame Craig, hence Lowder and Loftus have too much academic firepower at their disposal!

    1. 17.1
      Richard Carrier

      And thus you ignore everything my article said.

  18. 18
    Tom Hastings

    John Loftus to debate WLC? Really?!

    Has anyone here witnessed the debate between Loftus and Dinesh D’Souza? D’Souza isn’t half as good as WLC and even atheists on the blogosphere agree Dinesh mopped the floor with Loftus. Please do yourself a favor and watch that debate.

    Secondly, if you they are clamoring to get a PhD, let them go and get a PhD. WLC debating those with PhD’s is a good filter to discard those full time internet atheists who have nothing substantial to contribute academically or culturally. Such exceptions can be made for example, Christopher Hitchens who was a prolific author.

    1. 18.1
      Richard Carrier

      Um, Loftus and Lowder are prolific authors, too. And much more experienced authors in the subjects Craig debates…vastly more than Hitchens, in fact.

  19. 19
    gshelley

    I don’t think it really matters how good a person is in a debate. If they go into a debate with Craig expecting honesty in Craig’s statements and that we will respond honestly to theirs, they will likely lose. If they go in expecting a theological Gish Gallop, know that Craig will try to poison the well against them and create Straw men of their actual arguments, plus not respond to others apart from to dismiss them with claims they aren’t true, or no scholars agree, then they can prepare for this. Loftus knows Craig well and the techniques he uses. Craig isn’t versatile enough that he would diverge so much that Loftus would be unprepared.

    1. 19.1
      Richard Carrier

      I concur with all you just said.

  20. 20
    Dave Bruemmer

    I was at the Craig-Hitchens debate and afterward I asked him about the possibility of debating Dan Barker, and he gave me that line about how he only debates academics.

    1. 20.1
      GrzeTor

      Dan Barker’s credentials (citaitions from Wikipedia in quotes):

      1. “Barker received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University.”
      2. “was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1978. He served as associate pastor at a Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) church, an Assembly of God, and an independent Charismatic church.”
      3. Participated in multiple debates with prominent religious apologists – means he’s recognized as a worthy opponent by others from faith side.
      3. “Barker belongs to a number of high IQ societies.”

      Sounds like very good credentials: knowing the actual practical, real-world side of religion, from a view of a perceptive man, rather than knowing only some theory that WLC does. WLC would clearly loose such debate among common people, with Dan Barker speaking in a way that is understandable to such audience, while WLC is at his own useless level – neither high enough for academic purposes, nor understandable by the masses.

  21. 21
    grumpyoldfart

    Is William Lane Craig Afraid (of those who disagree with him) ?

    Not afraid; probably contemptuous.

  22. 22
    Markus Miekk-oja

    The Craig debates I’ve watched have left me with a hypothesis as to his modus operandi, and if I am correct, not debating him is the best approach:

    For a listener that does not actively test the validity of claims, they will seem convincing enough. Believers will assume he is correct, and therefore will not think critically. They are, I think, designed to have this feature: high in apparent convincingness, low in actual valid fibre.

    Thus, when non-believers remain unconvinced, believers will perceive this as evidence that non-belief is the result of intentional refusal to accept logical evidence, and hence also evidence that atheists reject God out of irrational hate for God.

    As an effect of this, the non-believers are likely to become less tolerant of atheists, as they now think they know the atheist is an irrational God-hater. In effect, he is not out to convince non-believers (or what few non-believers he convinces are just a beneficial byproduct) – he is out to widen the chasm between believers and non-believers, he is out to deepen the trenches.

    Debating him – no matter how well it is done – only will serve his purpose.

    1. 22.1
      Markus Miekk-oja

      whoops, one sentence got wrong in the comment: “As an effect of this, the non-believers are likely to become less tolerant of atheists, as they now think they know the atheist is an irrational God-hater. “. Non-believers should obviously be replaced by ‘believers’ there :|

  23. 23
    Phillip Hallam-Baker

    I don’t think you have quite closed the loop on Craig yet. But the way to make that happen would be for Dawkins to state that he is happy for Loftus or Lowder to accept Craig’s challenge to him on his behalf.

    These debates on academic credentials are such a bore but Craig really can’t claim to be in Dawkins’ league. Dawkins is a named chair professor at an ancient university and a A-List celebrity in the UK. Craig is a professor at a third or fourth rank theological college. Why bother to debate an obscure US academic at an unknown US college when he could debate the Bishop of Oxford at the Oxford Union any time of their choosing?

  24. 24
    Matthew S. North

    Most of Craig’s opponents debating him trying to be fair minded and they’re unaware of, or not sufficiently mindful of, his slimy tactics. I saw this in his debate with Lawrence Krauss. I think Krauss was surprised by the reaction of Craig’s pious fans who hyped up how Criag beat him. Krauss, a far more intelligent and rational person than Craig, simply underestimated the capacity of the religious mind to bend, distort, and yes, outright lie in a debate. The best and utterly devastating summation and dissection of how Craig’s mind works is summed up by Robert M. Price in a debate he had with Craig a few years ago. It’s at YouTube here..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3LGhL4EvBk&feature=youtube_gdata_player ,

    and here..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agRxqeQy6QU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    As the title of the video says, R. M. Price exposes Craig’s shenanigans for all the world to see. The first time I watched this I said out loud, ‘Yes! Finally someone has pegged Craig for the smug Christian salesman that he is.’ Craig and his Christian fans have been crowing for years about how Richard Dawkins is “chicken” for refusing to debate him. The same childish slur could be said of Craig’s refusal to debate Loftus and Lowder. Craig probably suspects they are well aware of his debating techniques and could potentially make him look foolish.

    1. 24.1
      Chris Lowe

      I’ve come here after watching Richard’s debate with Craig, and it was a real pleasure to listen to Price carry out the same strategy of character assassination that Craig opened with on Richard. It seems to be the only viable strategy for cutting through the shotgun approach – take the fight straight to him from the start, rather than put forward an honest defence of your own position.

      Craig ‘wins’ these debates purely through an understanding of the dynamics of the format. It is a shame to be expected/demanded to take seriously as an academic someone who will not engage in written debate where the shotgun approach is not so successful and the reader can be presented with easy to follow references to back up claims.

  25. 25
    steele

    Richard,

    I don’t think Craig is afraid of Loftus and Lowder, he wasn’t afraid to debate you. I don’t know about Lowder but Loftus is not even worth Craig’s time. I know you two have some type of bromance going on to puff up both of your book sales but seriously Richard you are too smart to think Loftus is any match for Craig.

    I think your arguments are like Craig said in his podcast are based on faulty interpretations/misrepresentations of the sources you cite in your work. Be that as it may….you are much better than Loftus and I think Craig beat you on almost every point. I think you need to get over your obsession with Craig it really is not healthy. Don’t get me wrong either I think Craig is good but give me Pascal any day of the week over him to move the heart and mind, Craig can be a little to formulaic for me at times.

    I do think you are very talented Richard but misguided unfortunately. I pray that God would move your heart to accept the message of the gospel, I think you would be a powerful messenger for Christ with your knowledge of history and science.

    I know you don’t believe the Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians but I will leave you with this….

    Ephesians 3:14-19

    14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    1. 25.1
      Richard Carrier

      I think Craig beat you on almost every point.

      Only by running the clock out before I could answer all of his arguments. You’ve evidently been duped by that tactic. Because you don’t even know that’s what happened.

      It is, incidentally, Craig who misuses and misinterprets sources. Examples here and here.

      Maybe someday the veil of deceit will be lifted from your mind and you’ll realize how badly you’ve been conned.

    2. 25.2
      Raging Bee

      If a debate with Craig is intended to reach people like Steele here, then I’d say it’s pointless. We don’t need to lecture these people about vague general topics like “are religion and science compatible?” We need to Talk around these people, to teh general public, about the specific and verifiable ways in which religion, and religious thinking, fail us and do more harm than good in our daily lives.

    3. 25.3
      GrzeTor

      Steele – if you think that WLC is so great, then how do you explain for example this:

    4. Richard Carrier

      Something is evidently missing from the above comment.–RC

    5. 25.4
      steele

      GrzeTor ,

      Like Richard stated I think something is missing from your comment. You need to watch the whole debate between Kagan and Craig, I don’t think you or whoever this guy in the video is really understands what Craig is saying.

      I am not overly impressed by his syllogisms and introducing differentiability and continuous functions as some type of analogy was pretty lame. Be that as it may I always find it funny when atheists try to promote some type of morality, when they have absolutely no reasonable objective basis for morality based on their world view. While I think the major problem for theism is the problem of evil, I find atheism’s biggest problem is its ability to account for morality. To try and criticize theism on this ground is weak in my opinion.

      GrzeTor you have obviously been taken in by Richard’s pseudohistorical, psychoanalytical approach to history. I mean you criticize theists for the things we believe but yet are willing to accept Richard’s and others probabilistic approach to history (Bayes Theorem). Do you believe Alexander Hamilton was shot by Aaron Burr because of Bayes Theorem or the standard historical method accepted by most scholars.

      GrzeTor you need to read Bart Ehrman’s response to Richard’s methods and compare them to what most historians believe. I think you will find Richard is on the fringe, which is why I think Richard is so hostile to Ehrman as well as Craig. I think Richard wants to be accepted as a reputable scholar but as long as he continues his conspiracy theory historical method he never will be. Are you a 9-11 “Truther” too GrzeTor? Ever heard of Occam’s razor?, Explanatory Power and Scope?

      Richard and people like you GrzeTor don’t really want Jesus to appear to them despite what you may say and how much you claim that would make you believe then, because then you will be confronted with what you truly are a sinner in need of a savior, Luke 5:8. Richard is trying to help you GrzeTor with your argumentation though by saying you are missing something, atheists have to tote the company line. Look what happened when Richard didn’t believe in the big bang so Stenger had to get him in line, lol JK. I do think Richard did get it right accepting the big bang theory after he examined the evidence, I just wish he could do that with his historical approach.

      I don’t want to tie up Richard’s blog with this but I feel sad for people like you who kick against the pricks but I do understand I have been there to that is why I really want you to know the truth of the gospel! Take care

    6. Richard Carrier

      Be that as it may I always find it funny when atheists try to promote some type of morality, when they have absolutely no reasonable objective basis for morality based on their world view.

      Yes, we do. I demonstrate that in fact with a formal syllogism in The End of Christianity, chapter 14.

      I mean you criticize theists for the things we believe but yet are willing to accept Richard’s and others probabilistic approach to history

      All statements about history are probabilistic. All probabilistic statements necessarily must obey the laws of probability.

      If you disagree with either statement, then you are simply irrational. By definition.

      I think you will find Richard is on the fringe, which is why I think Richard is so hostile to Ehrman as well as Craig.

      Actually, I am hostile to Ehrman because I extensively documented what I found to be his numerous factual errors and lies.

      Ever heard of Occam’s razor?, Explanatory Power and Scope?

      Those are Bayesian (as both I and renowned experts in mathematics have proved: Proving History, pp. 101-06).

      Richard and people like you GrzeTor don’t really want Jesus to appear to them

      Jesus doesn’t require my consent. To the contrary, he is morally obligated (by his own ethics) to contact me anyway (even if it were true that I was refusing to see him, which I am not). All this I demonstrate in Why I Am Not a Christian, pp. 7-17.

      Look what happened when Richard didn’t believe in the big bang so Stenger had to get him in line

      You mean I asked for better evidence than I had been given, I was given it, and I changed my beliefs in light of that evidence?

      Ooooh. Burn. Now you got me. I am persuaded by evidence. How scandalous!

    7. 25.5
      Steele

      GrzeTor,

      Check out this link, I think this will answer your comment better than I could, kinda appropriate since this blogpost is about Craig.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/formulating-the-moral-argument

      As far as for your comments Richard,

      “All statements about history are probabilistic. All probabilistic statements necessarily must obey the laws of probability.

      If you disagree with either statement, then you are simply irrational. By definition.”

      I agree with you all statements about history are subject to probability and hence (Bayes Theorem), and I will grant Richard you I am sure have way more knowledge in this area than me by far. I will have to check out your book Proving History, it does sound interesting.

      I’m not a historian but obviously Bart Ehrman who is doesn’t understand Bayes Theorem that well, because he seemed incredulous and indignant about it when Craig brought up Bayes Theorem in context of Richard Swinebure’s use of it to prove God’s existence and in the course of their debate with the probability of Jesus Resurrection. Maybe your charge against Ehrman and his incompetence has some validity, lol.

      you also state

      “Jesus doesn’t require my consent. To the contrary, he is morally obligated (by his own ethics) to contact me anyway (even if it were true that I was refusing to see him, which I am not). All this I demonstrate in Why I Am Not a Christian, pp. 7-17.”

      God is not morally obligated to you in fact quite the reverse is true, you are morally obligated to him. He doesn’t owe you an appearance because that would help you believe, Matthew 11:20-24. God has given you sufficient evidence, you choose to suppress it through your wickedness….Romans 1:19-20.

      Lastly Richard, I don’t think my few blogposts are going to turn an ardent atheist like you to Christ….I am hopeful but not foolish. All I meant by the Stenger comment was that I hoped you would be convinced by the historical evidence that is currently available for the existence of God as you were by the evidence of the big bang, btw I also am convinced of the evidence of the big bang, so we do agree on something. I just feel like you were bullied by your fellow atheists into accepting it but that could just be me.

      Thanks again for posting these comments

      Erik

    8. Richard Carrier

      God is not morally obligated to you in fact quite the reverse is true, you are morally obligated to him.

      If God has no moral obligations, then he is not moral. And ought then not be worshiped, followed or obeyed.

      If God is moral, he has the same moral obligations as any moral being (unless you are a moral relativist).

      That God (if he existed and is moral) has moral obligations toward me (in general and in this particular case) I demonstrate in my book as cited.

      The “sufficient evidence” claim is nonsense and easily proved false. I prove it in that same chapter of that same book.

      The notion that my “wickedness” can defeat God is nonsense. As I also prove there.

      And the idea that I am suppressing evidence because I am wicked is rank bigotry. Maybe thinking that helps you sleep at night. But it still makes you a bigot.

      Evidence of your bigotry is only expanded by your assumption that atheists “bully” each other into adopting beliefs and thus that we don’t follow the evidence, even despite the fact that we repeatedly say we do.

      So you have very bigoted and irrational beliefs about atheists. You should see to that. And start treating us like human beings same as everyone else.

    9. 25.6
      Dustin

      I much prefer Richard to be a powerhouse for Naturalism and Atheism and for Truth and Reality.

      Craig wins debates bc he practices in front of a mirror for 8 hours a day to spew as much nonsense as he can as quickly as he can. Richard does a great job and cannot get to every single point unless Richard also practiced for 8 hours a day in front of a mirror but I don’t think Richard is so narcissistic.

  26. 26
    Michael Strack

    WLC is speaking at Macquarie University on the 5th of August: “Why is it unreasonable to be an atheist or agnostic?”. The Macquarie Atheist League will put in an appearance. I’m unsure whether to try and ask pointy questions at the end (being a philosophical ignoramus) or just treat it as an interesting (and doubtless frustrating) experience.

    Suggestions? Anyone think there’s any point trying to call him on bullshit in a forum like this?

    1. 26.1
      Raging Bee

      My suggestion is that the atheists take notes of what Craig says, then publish an article in the student newspaper (and/or whoever else will publish it) attacking and refuting what Craig says. Does the Atheist League have a blog?

    2. 26.2
      Michael Strack

      Great suggestion, thanks. No blog, we do most of our communication within-group. But we are working on getting more material out into the student newspaper this semester, so that seems like a good medium for such a piece, perhaps in contrast with a piece from the Christian group that invited him. Having done a fair amount of reading and watching, I’ve come to the same conclusion as, apparently, most others – namely, that his effectiveness is not in his arguments per se, but in his sophistry. I’ll try to remember to come back here and let you know how it goes down.

      Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks Richard for providing an excellent jumping-off point for learning about Bill’s arguments and style.

  27. 27
    John Loftus

    Hi Tom Hastings,

    You should listen to my recent debate with Randal Rauser in the link above, before concluding anything from my earlier debate performances.

    Dinesh D’Souza is actually a great debate opponent. He too has been doing it for years, not always with regard to Christianity. I was happy to debate him and learned quite a lot from doing so:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-i-learned-from-debating-dinesh.html

    If losing a debate forever disqualifies someone from future debates then would you say Richard should not debate anyone because, as he humbly admits, he lost his debate to Craig? I think not. I would eagerly look forward to round two between them. In fact, I’ve made the case that atheists always win these debates:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/02/atheists-always-win-in-debates.html

    If I lose then I still win, ya see. If anything else, it will introduce his fan base to my works. If you don’t think much of my works then that’s a different matter.

    The only thing that matters when it comes to debates is whether or not people would like to see the match-ups. I take it you wouldn’t. Okay, so noted. I did a poll about such a debate on my blog (admittedly not a scientific one). After 1000 votes, and discounting those who just don’t care for debates at all, nearly 80% of the voters wanted to watch a debate between Craig and myself. Keep in mind that debates are largely entertaining, like watching a boxing match. They do not decide the truth on the subject.

    As far as getting a PhD goes, I’d rather be dragged naked through the dirt. ;-) I’m already doing what many young PhD’s could only dream of doing. If this disqualifies me from debating Craig then so be it. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

    Cheers

    1. 27.1
      Richard Carrier

      Case in point:

      I said I lost only because I ran out of time (Craig shotgunned me with far more claims than I could answer in the time allotted). If Craig honestly cares about the truth, he should for that very reason want to debate me again so as to ensure he has actually met the best opposing case, and not won merely because the clock ran out (which has nothing whatever to do with who is right).

      Example: David Marshal was so badly beaten by me in our recent debate that I actually felt sorry for him. I honestly think he failed to deploy the best arguments in defense of his side and got flustered and didn’t fill the available time efficiently. Would I refuse to debate him again? To the contrary, I would be happy to give him a second chance, since even I know his performance in our debate was not the best he could have given.

      Craig does not think like that. He does not express sympathy for his opponents (except under a veil of disdain), does not express genuine concern for his opponents getting their best case out, and is not really interested in what arguments and facts are correct but only when the clock runs out. Even Reppert cringed when Craig all but admitted this.

    2. 27.2
      GrzeTor

      Richard – why do you think that you have to address all the points of your opponent, especially under the time pressure? Doesn’t 80/20 rule apply to such settings? I mean something like: sort your opponent’s points according to which give you more gain if shown to be false (vital one), and put them first when speaking. This gives you most result, at very low time cost. Then if there’s some time left go to the less fruitful ones, and when the time is really closint to the end you can just give some references to books, articles, or papers where the remaining least importan arguments are shown to be false.

    3. Richard Carrier

      That’s what I did. I still couldn’t answer all his arguments by end of clock. That’s what the gish gallop (or shotgunning) is designed to do.

    4. 27.3
      GrzeTor

      So maybe the solution to Gish Gallop is to give up on an academic approach to the rebuttal part of the debate, and instead adopt a comedian style of rebuttal: sort opponents arguments by the stupidity level, and start from the most stupid but still relevant to the topic ones in a humorous manner. You may then add the most stupid general aspect of what your opponent promotes; for either religion or creationsm that shouldn’t be difficult.

      People have these biases, when they make the judgements early, before knowing all the data, the first pieces of information influence the decision the most, and those that have emotional impact are both better remembered as well as more influential. So you don’t have to address all of your opponents points to win with the public, but at least the first few punches of rebuttals have to be devastating to your opponent, memorable, contain some emotionality (humor as proposed before or anger, fear or something other).

  28. 28
    BB

    Hey Richard.

    I’m curious about who else Craig has debated multiple times without Ph.Ds? Are there any who aren’t as popular as Dawkins or Hitchens? I ask because it could be argued that Craig makes exceptions to his only-debate-academics rule, for those who have a big name.

  29. 29
    steele

    Richard,

    Hey just a couple things real quick, I am sorry I didn’t read your blog requirements about putting prayers in the email. I appreciate that you let mine be posted regardless, if I had read that before I would have not done that. I don’t mean to shove Christ down your throat or anything like that, I just really mean what I said about that I do pray for you, I know you guys hate that but hey cut me some slack ok I’m not doing it to irritate you, just cause I do care about you. I don’t have time to be phony with anyone these days it takes to much effort and besides I need that time to spend deluding myself as you indicated lol, jk.

    As far as Craig goes I do agree with you, he does shotgun his opponents and I sometimes thinks he (Craig) thinks he can just overwhelm the audience with 100 scholars that he lists during the debates and think that settles the matter. Unfortunately I do think people are taken in by Craig’s debate rhetoric as well, maybe I am too to some extant, I will watch the debate between you and him again too just to be sure I wasn’t overstating the case he beat you on almost every point, that was kinda rude, so I apologize.

    I do wish he wasn’t the go to Christian guru all the time cause I do find some of his debating tactics somewhat to be questionable and like I said before to be formulaic or rehearsed for my taste, and I do agree Craig takes no prisoners approach and perhaps does have no real interest in the debates but just wants to beat the clock.

    When you said in your other post

    “Craig does not think like that. He does not express sympathy for his opponents (except under a veil of disdain), does not express genuine concern for his opponents getting their best case out, and is not really interested in what arguments and facts are correct but only when the clock runs out. Even Reppert cringed when Craig all but admitted this.”

    I think you may be correct unfortunately and that is too bad he left you with that impression, but still I really don’t think he scared of Loftus!

    I will check out the links you have provided as well. I don’t believe because of Craig though I can assure you of that though. I think you are a smart guy Richard and I really mean that, I feel like you have all this knowledge that could be used for promoting the gospel, that is why it pains me to see you use it against it, if you would just humble yourself a little, I don’t know what you know that is for sure, I’m just a dumbie so maybe I am wrong or duped as you said but I think you are at least a little more honest and willing to change then the Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris’s of the world. I mean you have to admit they don’t know the first thing about Christianity really, at least you know what you are rejecting!

    Thanks again for posting that and I do appreciate the open dialog that you allow, I really didn’t think you would post that after I read your blog rules. Last thing Richard, I do think Loftus is just using you to sell his books and peddle his weak OTF argument. I really find that argument lame, the problem of evil, science, and biblical problems, ok those are real problems but not the OTF.

    Thanks again Richard, I had a few opinions of you that were unfounded and a little unfair and I apologize for that, I know you are still an atheist that thinks the Bible is crap but you seem like a guy I could disagree with on almost everything and still have a glass of scotch with, although I am not that refined and would probably just have a beer.

    Erik

    1. 29.1
      Richard Carrier

      I am sorry I didn’t read your blog requirements about putting prayers in the email.

      Oh, I didn’t take that as an actual prayer. I took it as an argument. Alas, not a very good one. But I don’t have rules against that.

      And I appreciate the follow-up comment.

  30. 30
    Meatros

    My impression of Craig and the opponents he refuses to debate is that he would basically have to do a lot of research (which he’s not unwilling to do) and he may not feel it is worth it. For example, with Loftus, he would have to familiarize himself with Loftus’ work and he doesn’t feel he has much to gain by doing so. A win versus Loftus wouldn’t do much for his CV, while it would do a lot for Loftus. So maybe in addition to not wanting to put in the work, he also doesn’t want to acknowledge that a former student of his *who left the faith* would be a worthy opponent (contra to what he said in the class to Loftus).

    A lot of Craig’s opponents (Krauss, for instance) are highly educated, but not from a debate standpoint. They are not all that skilled in the precise areas that they need to be in order to give Craig a good run for his money. So he doesn’t have to put in a lot of effort to face them. It’s a ‘win’ for him and it looks good on his CV (he’s pummeled another scientist). When I watch such debates I don’t feel I get anything out of them though – but then, I’m probably not his target audience. I’m looking to learn something from the debate – to appreciate new arguments and ways of looking at things. His target audience is looking for a win versus someone with impressive credentials.

    A debate with Lowder would require Craig to do A LOT of prep work, more so than a debate with Coyne (at least from my vantage point, which could be totally off). So he might be telling the truth when he says he doesn’t have the time for Lowder. He has the time to regurgitate the same old stuff with Coyne (or someone similar), but to face Lowder, Loftus, Kruegar, or you again, he’d have to put in a lot of effort. The reality is, he just wants to keep his cheerleaders happy – another ‘win’, with the least amount of effort on his part.

    Granted I could be TOTALLY off base here (and I genuinely hope I am) and I have not read all the relevant material.

    Richard – have you challenged him to a rematch and he’s turned you down? I’m unclear about this.

    Thanks,

    1. 30.1
      Richard Carrier

      Richard – have you challenged him to a rematch and he’s turned you down? I’m unclear about this.

      I don’t arrange debates. Someone else (usually a campus group) has to do that. (So I don’t challenge people; I just get asked.) But in that context, yes, more than one group has tried to arrange a second debate between Craig and myself and was refused.

      I compare that outcome with the two Licona debates, which I think make an excellent complement to each other since they were deliberately designed to be different in format and to advance the conversation rather than obscure it.

      (Licona, BTW, is a good example of a Christian who is [IMO, of course] usually wrong, but does actually care about getting it right, and thus when wrong, for example, is generally honest and only mistaken.)

  31. 31
    Meatros

    Ah, thank you for clarifying – I had initially thought that you had heard through the grapevine that Craig didn’t want to debate. I now see this wasn’t the case, that actaul organizers were trying to set something up. That’s ashame since I learned a lot fom your debate with him. I truly thought it was productive (even if you technically lost via the Gish gallop). The bit about Barabbas still sticks out in my mind. Wonderful stuff.

    I appreciate your debates with Licona as well. Any thought to co-writing one of those “God debate” books with Licona (similar to the WLC v Sinnott-Armstrong book)?

  32. 32
    MJ

    Carrier:

    Craig has had many written exchanges. He and Crossan, he and Kurtz, and he and Flew have debate books. There Craig engages in written debate. The same goes for his book with Sinnott-Armstrong, and other books sub as ‘five views on apologetics’, ‘god and time: 4 views’ and ‘divine foreknowledge: four views’ . On top of this, he has plenty of exchanges in scholarly journal, especial about his kalam cosmological argument. One good exchange is between he and Grunbaum.

    Avoids like the plague? You’re kidding .

    1. 32.1
      Richard Carrier

      Please be more specific. Books that include transcripts of spoken debates don’t count, and books that contain different views but don’t have back-and-forth debate over them don’t count. Excluding those, list some specific actual titles (or journal issues, if actual formal debates exist there, rather than just replies to critics).

    2. 32.2
      Joe

      The Craig v S-A book is a written back and forth debate. Dunno about the others. I think Craig is open to having book debates but he might not like the written debates akin to those found on Infidels.org or something.

  33. 33
    MJ

    Also: if that biologist pulled out, it is true that Craig would have an empty slot of time. But nothing follows about him having the time to debate Lowder. Lowder might require more prep time than Craig originally allotted, or given the empty slot time, he might prioritize his other projects over Lowder. ‘Having be time to do x’ is usually said within a context of prorities. imagine this:I have an extra 3 hrs. But I have to write an essay, and I prioritize the essay over a 3 hour movie. I might say ‘I have no time for that movie’. But absolutely speaking I do have that time, it is just that I rather spend it elsewhere, on my essay.

    1. 33.1
      Richard Carrier

      Right. After refusing repeatedly for fourteen years. This time it’s, oh, I still can’t do it, I need to write that essay thingy.

    2. 33.2
      Rauss

      Richard, I think he said it was a book. I’m no expert, but seeing the quality of Craig’s two volumes on theories of time, and the kind of rigor that goes into philosophical works overall, your characterization seems entirely unfair.

      Tellingly, the reasons you provide for your claims are very weak.

      I see no reason, for instance, that Loader and Loftus couldn’t have coached any of Craig’s previous opponents.

      The people who claim Craig’s prolific victories are down merely to debating tactics are unfortunately ignorant of the quality of his written work.

      Even sophistry is subject to critical analysis, and I’m seeing very little criticism of Craig’s arguments.

      That tells me that all this piling on Craig is because he is a Christian theist.

    3. 33.3
      Joe

      Rauss-

      You haven’t searched around the internet, enough. There are plenty of us who note Craig’s ability to debate but also criticize his more-sketchy tactics and lame arguments.

      Dr. Carrier made this post to point out that there are two solid debaters out there who Craig has been avoiding for years. This seems especially weak on Craig’s part, considering he’s hassling biologists to debate him. It isn’t a take down of Craig’s arguments. It’s kind of lame to call out people for not presenting arguments against Craig in a post that isn’t about analyzing Craig’s arguments.

  34. 34
    MJ

    Richard: I was only telling you what does not follow from the empty time slot-I was not trying to defend a 14 year absence of debate. That said, I would not be surprised if Craig held Lowder low on his list of priorities.

    Some of books I spoke of begin with a transcript of an oral debate. However, what follows is a written critique from other thinkers and then Craig himself will respond to his critics. That Sinnott-Armstong book is a continuous exchange between them both-you should read it. Moreover: if you should read the exchange between Adolf Grunbaum and Craig; it is accessible on the Internet, and it is written through and through.

  35. 35
    Mick

    If historian Richard Carrier has not trolled Craig enough with his mythicist hypothesis, he is at it again in his latest blogpost. Here Carrier blatantly tries to goad Craig into further debate with two of Carrier’s colleagues. Whom, you ask? And are they professional philosophers? Prominent scientists? Top university professors? Well, no. But they are active bloggers, and they have some published work. Colour me impressed!

    But the troll in Carrier’s post is not that he wants Craig to debate these bloggers; it is funnier than that. His troll is this: Carrier argues that Craig is scared to debate these bloggers, since Craig has not yet debated them or refuses to do so. Yes, that is right: even though Craig has debated a long list of topnotch theologians, philosophers, scientists and historians in either written or oral format, and nearly always wins the debate or performs well, he is scared to debate those guys. -insert incredulous stare-

    Here is another scenario: Craig would rather spend his time debating credited academics or culturally significant pundits, building his ministry, researching, or spending time with his students and family than debating those two writers. Isn’t that a little more plausible? A little more believable? I think so.

    But even if his buddies are sufficient to warrant Craig’s attention, and I do believe this to be the case for Lowder, it would be absurd to say that they pose greater challenges than every one of those who Craig has debated. Therefore, Craig has debated, and is presumably willing to debate, those who are either more formidable than each of Carrier’s buddies, or at least just as formidable.

    But if that is true, then we should not expect Craig to be fearful of debating Lowder or Loftus; for they are no more formidable than some of the individuals Craig has already faced, and he obviously did not stray from debating those individuals.

    1. 35.1
      Richard Carrier

      When did I “troll” Craig with my mythicist hypothesis?

      In my debate with him, he is the only one who brought that up. I was content to assume historicity for the purposes of that debate, as I then said (when he forced me to call him out on the well-poisoning fallacy of mentioning my mythicist hypothesis, even though it was completely irrelevant to that debate).

      As to why Craig should debate Lowder and Loftus (and all the people he has happily debated before who are far less qualified than them), my article already covers that. So nice try pretending it didn’t. Likewise all the reasons your excuses are implausible are already covered in their articles which I linked to…and linked to for that reason.

      This is typical Christian behavior: ignore everything we say, make up more excuses, and then ignore the fact that we already debunked them.

  36. 36
    Sili

    Why are Americans (or anglophones?) so fond of debates?

    As you say yourself, the format is excellent for Gish-galloping.

    Had I the chops to debate Craig (or similar), I don’t think I’d accept the format. Why not let him state his first untruth and then politely interrupt him and correct his ‘mistake’: “We can hardly debate the arguments if the premises are flawed, can we now?”

  37. 37
    John Loftus

    I actually emailed Craig about co-writing a book like the one I did with Randal Rauser titled “God or Godless.”

    He responded, and I quote, “John, that would give me no joy.”

    1. 37.1
      Rauss

      I see nothing wrong with Craig’s response. Craig mentioned before that he cares about Loftus’ salvation more than anything else.

      If he feels debating Loftus is detrimental, it seems he will forego debate.

      I actually admire that. He’s willing to set aside another easy public victory because he cares about “the salvation of your soul”. It suggests a commitment to principle on his part

    2. 37.2
      Dave Bruemmer

      John- Obviously Craig’s response is ambiguous. I’m sure Craig feels pretty good about himself with the way he gets canonized by his theistic followers. My initial feeling from that quote was that he thinks he would handle you in lopsided or embarrassing fashion, but he likes you personally and thus would take no pleasure in beating you down publicly.

      I could be off, but I’m curious if anybody thinks I may be right. When I first heard about you and your background I was excited about the possibility of a former insider switching sides and exposing him. But I did see a couple of your debates (Wood, Licona, and that asswipe D’Souza) and your skills in public debating just were nowhere near his. As you know, in debates presentation and tactics can be more persuasive than information and arguments.

      Do you think that in his mind rather than being intimidated he looks at avoiding you as a mercy sparing? I’m not trying to put you down and I’ve been dying to find the time to read The Christian Delusion and The End of Christianity (which had been on my desk for a long time). I’m just asking out of curiosity.

    3. 37.3
      Joe

      That response made me lol, irl.

  38. 38
    Meatros

    Rauss, I would have similar feelings to you if I believed that were the case. That is, if WLC was genuinely concerned about Loftus’s soul and that’s why he would debate him, then I could respect that.

    I’m not sure that’s actually the case. Obviously I don’t know and I’m only speculating though. My main reason to doubt this is because WLC has given several reasons for not wanting to debate Loftus.

    In any event, has Loftus gotten an personal emails from WLC where Craig attempts to save his soul? Anything of that manner? Has Craig called him up and attempted to preach the gospel? Anything to that effect?

    If not, then I don’t really buy that he’s all that interested in Loftus’ salvation.

    1. 38.1
      Rauss

      Meatros, one of the problems is the personal animosity atheists display towards Craig. When I look at him as a neutral, I can see he is an experienced debater and presenter of arguments. But his academic work also tells me that he genuinely knows his stuff. Earning two PhDs and two summa cumme laude masters degrees is something only the very cream of the crop can even hope to achieve.

      I say all this to point out how there is almost no appreciation for his expertise in the atheist community. He is almost by dogma labelled a sophist.

      So could you even hope to get a fair representation of Craig by these people? Almost everything Craig says is filtered through a bitterly anti Craig lens, of which this blog post is one.

      I believe if you want to get a fair representation of the facts, you have to strip away all the editorializing.

    2. Richard Carrier

      That would be a poignant remark if Craig’s work was actually logically sound. It isn’t. It’s as full of fallacies and factual distortions as his spoken work. Ph.D.s don’t make you honest, accurate, or even logical. They can (and they should). But they often just don’t. And the proof is in the pudding.

  39. 39
    Rauss

    In fact, here’s one more reason why Craig will mop the floor with Lowder: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2013/07/13/my-1998-article-william-lane-craig-christian-theisms-hired-gun/

    Read point (c). Lowder doesn’t even realize that the formal debate format stipulates that the side that argues in the affirmative goes first, which means Craig usually goes first, based on how the topic of the debate is worded.

    “critics were quick to point out the inherent bias of the debate format. On the one hand, the debate format was structured in advance to allow Craig to speak first. The first speaker was not determined by the random flip of a coin toss; FSLF by mere fiat allowed Craig to speak first. ”

    Which critics? Any of those critics actually knowledgeable about the formal debate format and structure? The coin-flip comment was just embarrassing, and Lowder’s claim that “FSLF” allowed Craig to speak first by fiat was patently false.

    When Lowder can come up with blatantly false statements like this, what does it do to his credibility as a debating opponent?

    The fact of the matter is that anyone debating can guarantee they go first simply by ensuring the debate topic or question is framed such that they argue in the affirmative. Unfortunately, this is difficult to implement. That being said, there have been debates where the debater opposing Craig has gone first. The debate topics simply allowed for it.

    I’m really seeing this as a case of sour grapes, given that Lowder levels a constant gish-gallop of accusations one after the other.

    1. 39.1
      Richard Carrier

      Lowder doesn’t even realize that the formal debate format stipulates that the side that argues in the affirmative goes first

      This shows that you are the one who doesn’t understand how it works. If the debate topic is only an affirmative (“God exists”) then yes, the proponent goes first and the opponent does not have to prove the negative, they just have to show the positive case presented is insufficient. But in that debate, the burden was placed on both sides (Atkins had to defend the negative, i.e. actually argue God did not exist, not just that Craig had failed to prove he did). In debate formats like that, a coin toss usually decides first go. All exactly as Lowder explains. I quote:

      Craig did not have to use any of his speaking time in his opening statement to refute Atkins’s position (since Atkins had not yet stated his position); in contrast, Atkins was expected to both refute Craig’s case and present a case of his own. Yet…the debate topic was, “What is the evidence for or against the existence of God?” Thus, the Craig-Atkins Debate was really structured as two debates in one: one debate about Christian theism and one debate about atheism.

      Which is an entirely correct observation. Thus, Lowder actually knows a lot more about debating than you do.

  40. 40
    LykeX

    As I see it, the problem is that Craig isn’t a debater at all. He’s a preacher. He proselytizes under the guise of debate. That’s why he has no problem making arguments that he knows are bunk; the point isn’t to make arguments. The point is to shore up the faith of believers and hopefully make a few new converts.

    That’s the reason for his seemingly strange priorities in picking opponents. He has no interest in picking the person who can best represent the other side. He doesn’t really care if his opponent knows what they’re talking about, beyond what’s needed to keep up appearances.

    The debate is simply there to make it less obvious that he’s actually giving a sermon.

    1. 40.1
      Richard Carrier

      If by “debater” you mean “honest debater” as in someone genuinely interested in finding out the truth through debate, then you’re right. But most people mean by “debater” someone skilled in the technical art of debate, whether they use that skill honestly or not. By the latter definition Craig is one of the most skilled debaters in the religious studies field. But otherwise, you’re basically right. (As Reppert exposed from his conversation with Craig: it’s about evangelism for Craig, not a quest for the truth.)

    2. 40.2
      LykeX

      Oh, I agree that he’s skilled. He is highly skilled in rhetoric, but he’s using that skill to avoid having any real, substantial discussion. It’s a kind of sabotage; a high degree of technical skill, but used in contradiction of the usual purpose.

      It wouldn’t bother me half as much if he’d just be more frank about what he’s doing. If he wants to preach, that’s fine. However, he should do that at a church, instead of during what ought to be a serious, academic debate.

  41. 41
    Lion IRC

    Has anyone ever offered to do a debate and donate the proceeds to an agreed charity?
    Then it would be about honor rather than ego.

    BTW – stop nagging for a debate. It makes you look needy and jilted.

    1. 41.1
      Richard Carrier

      Since I haven’t asked for a debate, I don’t know who you are talking to.

      I don’t arrange debates. I only attend them when asked by someone else.

      And I’m here talking about two other people (neither of whom is me) asking Craig for a debate, repeatedly for years, and his repeatedly avoiding them. For years.

      And neither of those men even requires any compensation at all. It is Craig who typically demands an initial asking price in the vicinity of $5000 (although he has waived or reduced that at times).

  42. 42
    Lion IRC

    So you dont actually even care really whether or not WLC agrees to the debate request?

    It sounded a lot like you were keen for it to happen. (My mistake. Never mind)

    BTW – when I asked …”has anyone” I wasnt addressing to post to one particular person.

    1. 42.1
      Richard Carrier

      So you dont actually even care really whether or not WLC agrees to the debate request?

      You were talking about me.

      I was talking about other debaters.

      I think you’ve lost track of the thread.

  43. 43
    Michael Strack

    Hi all,
    Following my above comment, here’s the link to a blog post I wrote up about Craig’s visit to our University campus a couple of months ago. Hopefully our student newspaper publishes it.

    http://drmixtrak.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/i-dont-believe-in-william-lane-craig.html

  44. 44
    booyabible

    Craig is an excellent businessperson, if not a liar. He is continually and forever doing a, perhaps subconscious, cost-benefit analysis in his head. “Debate Hitchens? Well, he doesn’t have a PhD, which makes me a liar, but the benefit to me would be glorious! Therefore, I’ll debate him! Debate Lowder or Loftus? I will most certainly lose and there’s not enough high-profile buzz around them to put cash in my pocket and hold up the veneer that I’m the “Muhammad Ali of Apologists…the Greatest…”, therefore I will not debate them.” He is a consumate hypocrite. I believe Dawkins might well “lose” a debate with Craig, not because Craig has truth on his side but because his command of rhetorical devices is impressive. He uses the Gish Gallop with the same efficacy that Luke Skywalker used the phasers on his X-Wing. Do we arrive at the “truth” watching Craig? No, but we see an amazing skill. Watching him, I feel very much like I’m watching an infant throwing feces but with the dexterity of Steve Nash shooting free throws. However, regardless of the skill involved, I must take note that I have shit all over myself.

  45. 45
    finnagainzero

    Thank you very much for this article.

    I’ve been an atheist since I was 8 years old, was involved in formal academic debate through high school and college, studied philosophy and epistemology in college, and currently teach physics and debate at the high school level… and I had never heard of Craig in my academic studies or my personal research over the years. But I’d begun seeing odd patterns in verbiage, ‘logic’, and factual errors that were disturbingly common online. That there was some sort of common source was clear, and a bit of digging turned up Craig as Patient Zero, if you will.

    Now, after having watched Craig’s performance in videotaped debates, and reading over the transcripts of others, I can only come to the conclusion that Craig is wilfully, and more importantly, maliciously dishonest. His tactics most often boil down to Gish Gallops, Special Pleading, God of the Gaps, and statements that sure seem hard to describe as ‘honest errors’… well, at this point, all I can think it that debating with such a person merely provides the illusion of legitimacy to his activities. That is, I think, exactly why Craig trolls for scientists to debate; being taken seriously by an eminent scientist, and appearing to have a position worthy of scholarly debate lends ‘scientific legitimacy’ to someone’s positions. The fact that Craig evidently prefers to debate people whose primary field of expertise does not lies within the domain of philosophy, is not accidental.

    From what I can tell, Craig is a worthy of note as a cautionary tale.
    Nothing more.

  46. 46
    Rizz

    How many atheist intellectuals does a man have to debate before he is not called a coward for having missed one or two? Craig has debated Tooley, Q. Smith, Morriston, yourself, Sinnott-Armstrong, Shelly Kagan, Jesseph’s, Keith Parsons twice, and others. The Smith and Morriston debates were focused squarely on the Kalaam, hence the ‘shotgun’ charge rings hollow at least for those debates. BTW, I am not a “follower” of Craig, nor do I think he won all of the debates I just listed. Sinnott-Armstrong in particular (I don’t know if this was live or not) did an excellent job as did Parsons.

    Regarding the other “cheap debaters tricks”, I agree that he sometimes uses them, but not as often as your post implies, and not nearly as much in debates on the Resurrection where the discussion is more focused on a single topic.

  47. 47
    Inky

    I watched a Loftus debate and I was very disappointed. Based on his own personal experience having been raised a Christian he proceeded to build arguments based on the assumption that EVERY Christian thinks as they do, just because they were raised to think that way. If you make that assumption it is easy to critique their beliefs as the product of indoctrination. The problem is that it makes for a very weak argument, because it ignores the millions of people who were NOT raised to hold Christian beliefs and who embraced them later in life, sometimes going from being an atheist to being a Christian.

  48. 48
    Dustin

    Dan Barker hasn’t in my knowledge debated Craig but I think Craig should be very very afraid of Dan. Dan is from what I have seen, 2nd in command to Hitchens if I were to list them in order. Another name that most don’t know about is Eddie Tabash. Eddie does an amazing job debating Craig and I, ojectively as I can, say Eddie won the debate.

    1. 48.1
      Dave B

      At the Craig-Hitchens debate I asked Bill when he was going to debate Dan and he told me that he only debates academics.

    2. Richard Carrier

      Which is a lie. He has debated several non-academics.

  49. 49
    mike alviar

    Richard, I have to agree that you sound hurt by your loss to WLC. “Technical” loss or not, you should have been able to package and present your case to avoid taking the loss. It’s interesting to note that you are advocating for Loftus to get a shot at a debate with WLC. In Loftus’ debate with D’Souza (which Loftus lost), Loftus stated that the real arguments take place in books, i.e., the ideas in his books vs. the ideas in D’Souza’s books. If that’s the case, why is Loftus clamoring for a live debate with WLC? Admittedly, Loftus would do a better job than you did against WLC, but I consider WLC to be superior to D’Souza; therefore, it’s easy to see WLC disposing of Loftus rather easily.

    1. 49.1
      Richard Carrier

      If you actually think one can explain why a statement is wrong in the same number of words as it takes to make the statement, you are really, really, really bad at math.

      What hurts is that Craig would exploit this fact to fool people, rather than allow the time necessary to actually hear the truth. That should hurt you, too. It would, if truth is what you actually cared about.

  50. 50
    mike alviar

    Bravo, Richard! Thanks for your statement “If you actually think one can explain why a statement is wrong in the same number of words as it takes to make the statement, you are really, really, really bad at math.” Now if we can just get you to show the same enthusiasm in urging the champions of your cause to think the same way!. I’m thinking of folks like Daniel Dennett, Dawkins and the late Hitchens (may he rest in peace) that would set out on emotionally charged diatribes vs. engaging in an honest search for truth. I may be bad at math, my friend, but many of your friends think their doing math when in fact they are not :(

    1. 50.1
      Richard Carrier

      None of those men are my friends, nor anyone I ever cite in regards what you mean, so why you cite them here is beyond me.

      Moreover, they were simply summarizing vast swaths of more detailed scholarship by experts like Michael Martin, Victor Stenger, myself, and so on. You can’t go to the “popularizers” of a field of knowledge and complain that those popularizations lack all the technical footnotes and digressions therefore that field’s conclusions are bogus. If you want to know whether the popularizations are wrong, you have to go and read the actual scholarship they are popularizing.

      If you don’t know that, then you aren’t just bad at math. You’re bad at sense.

  51. 51
    mike alviar

    Good grief, Richard!

    “Moreover, they were simply summarizing vast swaths of more detailed scholarship by experts like Michael Martin, Victor Stenger, myself, and so on. You can’t go to the “popularizers” of a field of knowledge and complain that those popularizations lack all the technical footnotes and digressions therefore that field’s conclusions are bogus.”

    Are you equating emotionally charged diatribes with summaries of your more detailed work? Interesting…Also, I never said that the ramblings of those “popularizers” invalidated any of the conclusions of the fields of knowledge they touched on (that was your conclusion, not mine, and a sign of poor reasoning on your part). I merely suggested that those “popularizers” failed to engage in an honest search for truth. Looks like you can use a little improvement in the “sense” area, yourself :)

    1. 51.1
      Richard Carrier

      Are you equating emotionally charged diatribes with summaries of your more detailed work?

      If they summarize findings in other fields, their tone is irrelevant to that assessment. If they are x, they are x, regardless of whether they are also y. You seem then to be complaining merely of their aesthetics now, not their content.

      That’s a fallacy called moving the goalposts.

      I merely suggested that those “popularizers” failed to engage in an honest search for truth.

      Not really. You objected to their tone, not their content (as you now just admitted), which has nothing to do with whether they are telling the truth or their claims are backed by prior adequate inquiries (an “honest search for truth”). To cite a statement of a conclusion and complain that it lacks all the honest work that lead to that conclusion “therefore no honest work lead to that conclusion” is simply one giant fallacy. I called you out on that fallacy. And now you are floundering around trying to find a way to get out of it.

      That’s not on me. You are the one who stepped in the poo on this one.

  52. 52
    mike Alviar

    Sorry…nice try! Again, you tried to foist a conclusion on me that I did not reach. Go back and re-read the thread. I clearly stated that they (Hitchens and the like) set out on emotionally charged diatribes vs. engaging in an honest search for truth. You then FOISTED the conclusion on me that I felt the conclusions of the fields they touched on were bogus because these guys failed to include the technical footnotes and digressions. Haha! I didn’t come anywhere close to saying that! Interesting…you arrive at a fallacious conclusion, attribute it to me, then say I’m floundering? Either you made a mistake or you’re just being dishonest. I’ll go with you made a mistake :)

    1. 52.1
      Richard Carrier

      I clearly stated that they (Hitchens and the like) set out on emotionally charged diatribes vs. engaging in an honest search for truth.

      You used that as an argument against me in a comment on an article about my debate with Craig, and as an argument against the truth of what they say. That’s what you actually did here, and which I was responding to.

      Or do you have an allergy to context?

      Given what you actually argued, I’ve soundly refuted every claim you made. So what claim do you have left to defend here?

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