Craig vs Dawkins

A Christian radio station is tackling Richard Dawkins with sarcastic bus adverts after the controversial atheist declined to debate with theologian William Lane Craig earlier this year.

London-based Premier Christian Radio has purchased banner space for around 30 stagecoaches in Oxford that will bear the slogan: ““There’s probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.”

The banners are believed to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to an Atheist bus campaign in 2009, when comedienne Ariene Sherine paid for posters on over 200 bendy buses in London, which read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

William Lane Craig told The Oxford Student he had no involvement with the urban banners, which refer to another forum on 25th October: “I had nothing to do with the publicity, including the banners, even to sign off on it. All the events are organized and promoted in the UK.  My role is simply that of guest speaker.”

When asked if he hoped Dawkins might turn up at the event anyway, Dr Craig replied: “Frankly, I don’t even know if he’s in town.  My expectation is that I’ll be replying to my three respondents.”

Several Christian societies have already dispatched open invitations to Dawkins, asking him to debate the existence of God at the event later this month.

Oxford Atheist Humanists and Secularist society Chairman Ben Krishna was bemused by Premier Radios’ gesture: “Surely there must be something more worthwhile than taunting Professor Dawkins via the medium of buses? I’m not that interested in Craig’s visit as an arrogant philosopher in Oxford is like a drop of water in the ocean; there are much more interesting questions than ‘Does a god exist?’ such as ‘How should people live their lives’ or ‘How much influence should a religion have in public life?’ which are much more relevant and useful questions to ask.”

At the 2009 debating forum Intelligence2, Dawkins refused to engage Craig in debate on the grounds that he “doesn’t debate creationists… and people whose only claim to fame is that they are potential debaters.”

One of the organisations that invited Dawkins to debate is the Oxford University Inter-Collegiate Union (OUICU). President Robbie Strachan said: “Last term I sent Richard Dawkins an invitation to debate William Lane…which he declined, saying ‘I see no benefit in abetting Mr Craig’s evident craving for publicity. If you think he can fill the Sheldonian, good luck to you, but you’ll get no help from me.’”

Also amongst them was Worcester College’s Dr Daniel Came, who claimed the Professor’s refusal to debate “is apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part”, according to the Telegraph.

Robbie Strachan added: “I think it is a real shame that the event in the Sheldonian Theatre on the 25th October will not comprise a debate between William Lane- Craig and Richard Dawkins. If Dawkins and other outspoken public atheists like AC Grayling and Polly Toynbee (both of whom have also refused to debate Craig), are to be consistent with their professed commitment to rationality and interest in religion, it only seems right that they would consider engaging in public debate about the existence of God with one of the most distinguished Christian philosophers of our time. The flippant refusal of these New Atheists seems to suggest that Dawkins’ 2006 paperback has provided some kind of irrefutable closure on the existence of God. This attitude can’t help coming across as a little arrogant.”

Strachan stressed that his opinion did not necessarily match that of all OUICU members.

Several Oxford atheists were disappointed with the banners; 3rd year English and German student Alex Gabriel described them as “disheartening.”

“It’s saddening to know that William Lane Craig hasn’t yet discovered Richard Dawkins, or welcomed him into his life. Those of us who have encountered him feel a genuine sense of inner peace, and Dr. Craig’s event at the Sheldonian seems so perfectly designed that only the existence of Richard Dawkins could explain it,” he added.

Premier Christian Radio was unavailable for comment.

Comment by Tom Blackburn

Fans of Richard Dawkins and the atheist bus campaign that he supported a couple of years ago will no doubt be riled by William Lane Craig’s parody, which is a little too close to home for comfort. The joke ‘I don’t believe in the existence of Dawkins’ isn’t a particularly original one – to my knowledge it has been used by several stand-ups in the last few years, ever since the ‘New Atheism’ started to make the news. However, what is interesting about this story is that it raises the following question – is the Great Dawkins unwilling to debate one of the most famous Philosophers of Religion on his own turf for the very reason that he can’t adequately defend his own arguments? This is certainly what Craig and his followers are claiming, and their calls have been lent support from a professor within Oxford itself.

It is erroneous, however, to suggest that Dawkins, a man famously unafraid of angry fundamentalists worldwide in his published work, is running away in fear. It doesn’t take half a brain to notice that, unlike his prodigious parter in godlessness Christopher Hitchens, Dawkins has never really made a point of debating anybody in the past in a one-on-one scenario. Indeed, the last time he talked publicly at Oxford, it was part of a cosy, armchair discussion with the cuddly AC Grayling that involved the pair nurturing each other’s disdain of religion to the point of loving tenderness. The forum Dawkins obviously favours to express his views is clearly one revolving around group discussion, or in book or lecture form – debating one-on-one clearly isn’t his game, but this does not by any means suggest that he is intellectually unable, or afraid, to participate. His lack of interest is not specific to Craig, and to put it down to fear would simply be a dodgy inference, a claim lacking sufficient evidence. It is only because Craig has the budget to stir up such a fuss that those opposing Dawkins have the chance to publicly cry ‘coward’.

Dawkins is often described as ‘strident’, but compared to Craig’s mock-jovial platitudinous barrage, his speaking style seems positively meek. Craig is an academic with a considerable amount of published work to his name, although this is unrelated to his academic reputation, which as a philosopher I have discovered to be mixed. It remains to be seen whether he can live up to his brash campaign in this the most analytic and scrutinous of forums. Craig has used underhand tactics – besides the bus parody, the seat he will leave empty for Dawkins is clearly going to remain empty (and Craig knows this). Whether the apologist can show Oxford the intellectual goods he has promised, or whether (as Dawkins has claimed) his message is one of publicity and self-promotion rather than genuine academic inquiry, will be revealed on the 25th.


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'Craig vs Dawkins' have 30 comments

  1. 13/10/2011 @ 16:31 Premier Christian Radio

    We were available for comment, you just never rang!

  2. 13/10/2011 @ 16:42 Calum Miller

    It’s tiring when reputable philosophers are referred to as theologians instead, just because they believe in God…

  3. 13/10/2011 @ 16:56 Dante

    “I’m not that interested in Craig’s visit as an arrogant philosopher in Oxford is like a drop of water in the ocean; there are much more interesting questions than ‘Does a god exist?’ such as ‘How should people live their lives’ or ‘How much influence should a religion have in public life?’ which are much more relevant and useful questions to ask.”

    But the question “Does God Exist” is much more basic and relevant…

  4. 13/10/2011 @ 17:14 ajollynerd

    @Calum Miller: When a philosopher debates the subject “Is there a God?”, they tread into the realm of theology. I would say that W. L. Craig is a Philosopher/Theologian, since most (if not all) of his debates are centred around apologetics.

    Just my $0.02CDN

  5. 13/10/2011 @ 17:16 Jonathan Smith

    After the British Humanist Association made their display on 200 London buses, it’s a laughable to hear Ben Krishna’s wimpering protest, “Surely there must be something more worthwhile than taunting Professor Dawkins via the medium of buses?”

    They just don’t like it up ‘em, do they?!

  6. 13/10/2011 @ 17:20 Alan Darley

    I think the bus adverts are a little childish and demeaning and I’m pleased Craig himself has had nothing to do with them.

  7. 13/10/2011 @ 17:35 Christopher Heward

    I don’t quite understand why some atheists insist on keeping moving the goalposts to where they want them to be, why some will only debate what they want to debate. Perhaps the questions they want to ask are seen by others as largely irrelevant as well? With regards to Mr Krishna’s quote, surely you can only determine ‘How should people live their lives’ or ‘How much influence should a religion have in public life?’ if you know whether or not God exists? More to the point, when a Christian wants to debate whether God exists this is seen as irrelevant, whilst when an atheist writes a book trying to convince people God doesn’t exist, this book is extremely well received by the same people (obviously Mr Krishna might not himself be a fan as not all atheists appreciate Dawkins’s style of argument).

    Similarly, the usual method I’ve encountered to criticise belief in God is to construct a straw man, a god that sounds a bit like the God recorded in the Bible, based on loose memories and misconceptions generated in first school assemblies and Sunday schools, and then announce that this god, which as a result is so incredibly vague, cannot be disproven or proven and therefore you’d be daft to believe. However, the God of the Bible is one that is laid open to scrutiny. God is shown as someone who guides His people, who forgives people and sets them free from the chains that we are constricted by through wrongdoing in life, and who indicates He will move through his people’s prayers. Given then that people receive unmistakable guidance, that people receive that freedom and see their lives dramatically turned around (far beyond what any wishful thinking or placebo effect could achieve), that people are healed, given words of wisdom and various other things through the prayers of followers of Christ, then this would imply that, at the very least, the existence of God is something that needs to be considered further?

    I understand that many people have made their minds up about the existence of God, have decided He isn’t there, but often these people criticise Christians for being closed-minded, and often criticise Christians for believing based on a book (I for one know that I believe for many reasons other than what the Bible tells me) even though the theories and life rules they put their hope in are often things they have read about in books and never really seen or explored themselves.

    Sorry for what has become a mild rant(!), but I just wanted to convey how many pot shots are taken at followers of Christ, but when the opportunity comes for atheists to debate, or generally to find out more, they shy away because they’ve closed their mind, or because they know the God the Christians want to debate isn’t the straw man they would wish to dismantle. It works both ways.

  8. 13/10/2011 @ 21:34 downtown dave

    It’s not necessary to debate the existence of God since the debate is over. God has proven Himself to mankind. Maybe a good debate would be about whether or not it is beneficial to remain in rebellion to God.

  9. 13/10/2011 @ 22:07 Beat Attitude

    The advert is witty, creative, gently provocative and relevant to the debate. I can’t think of a better tagline to generate interest: it’s a marketing success.

    It’s right of WLC to distance himself from it, and use the chance to clarify that he doesn’t regard Dawkins as necessarily the greatest thinker/debater on his side. The advert plays on Dawkins’ popularity, and WLC has a chance to express both the serious and courteous aspect of his own position.

  10. 13/10/2011 @ 22:55 Joe christ

    Craig refuses to debate his former students,and refuses to debate John W. Loftus , who has requested several times. We think Craig is scared to death to introduce Loftus to his fan base. Dawkins is a biologist, Loftus is a theologian. Craig needs to be debating theologians, his own former students who are now atheist.

  11. 14/10/2011 @ 00:41 Marty Kay Zee

    On the topic of cults in general, consider the notion of the Cult of Personality: Religionists are fond of pointing to a historical handful of high-achieving charismatic psychopaths – the usual suspects; Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. – as emblematic of how a nongodfearing leader behaves. But history is also littered with devout mass murderers placing themselves at the center of influence.

    What distinguishes atheists is that we hold up no personalities, not even such allegedly benign ones as Moses, Jesus or Mohamed, but rather like true conservatives we put principles first, such as the rule of law.

    If some 10% of the U.S. population eschews responsibility to sundry gods and devils, at least 30 million people, why are they not running in the streets wreaking havoc and destruction? Why are there not atheist street gangs or an atheist mafia? Why is it almost impossible to find a conscientious atheist in prison?

    Because, as that preeminent poet of our era, Bob Dylan, has said. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

  12. 14/10/2011 @ 00:44 Ray Dobson

    Dawkins has nothing to gain by debating theologians, and no obligation to let them piggyback on his stature. Besides, scientific questions (such as the existence of an all-powerful being that interferes with the natural laws of this universe) are not settled by debates, rhetoric and riling up the true believers in the cheap seats – they are settled by evidence, and there is precisely zero evidence for the religionist position.

  13. 14/10/2011 @ 13:35 karin

    Reply to Ray Dobson
    No evidence apart from 1000s of testimonies of people from all over the world having their lives completely changed by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Just google “testimonies” …they can’t all live in cloud cuckoo land,(including myself).

  14. 17/10/2011 @ 11:38 Spiritual Kiss

    I’m not sure if Calum has been answered yet, but Prof WLC’s philosophy credentials come from Birmingham University (England) and his theological ones from Munich (he also debates in German, btw).

    As far as I am aware, Dr Dawkins is schooled in neither.

  15. 17/10/2011 @ 23:15 TC

    “What distinguishes atheists is that we hold up no personalities, not even such allegedly benign ones as Moses, Jesus or Mohamed, but rather like true conservatives we put principles first, such as the rule of law”

    I thought the only thing atheists have in common is a lack of belief ina deity? You are making it sound like a philosophical belief system.

    And to Ray Dobson, I’d accept yur claim if Dawkins wasn’t known for challenging people. People who aren’t WLC.

  16. 18/10/2011 @ 13:32 garyk51188

    Interesting to note that it says God enables a person to “hear,” understanding spiritual things — that the natural man cannot, nor does he seek God.

    This seems to prove itself out, the debaters more like a football franchises. Their supporters will be for them win or lose.

    Maybe a more interesting debate would be the subject of Romans 9. God is just. The world is in rebellion. He provides a way for some to be saved, fashioning some “vessels for glory.” What about the others? They are responsible for their unbelief, yet, they are unable to believe. “How is this so and yet God is still “just?”‘

    Of course only those who regarded God’s sovereignty a real would be able to give an interesting debate.

  17. 20/10/2011 @ 12:06 Kevin Valson Jacob

    “At the 2009 debating forum Intelligence2, Dawkins refused to engage Craig in debate on the grounds that he “doesn’t debate creationists… and people whose only claim to fame is that they are potential debaters.”

    I haven’t seen Dawkins debate anyone other than a creationist.

  18. 21/10/2011 @ 08:17 Richard Dawkins is either a fool or a coward for refusing to debate William Lane Craig – Telegraph Blogs

    [...] long time for this. The invitation to discuss the existence of God at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre was extended to Dawkins many months ago. Craig is an excellent speaker who has made mincemeat out of better men, including Christopher [...]

  19. 23/10/2011 @ 04:45 Mark Goodson

    James Rothwell, you wrote:

    “Mr. It is erroneous, however, to suggest that Dawkins, a man famously unafraid of angry fundamentalists worldwide in his published work, is running away in fear. It doesn’t take half a brain to notice that, unlike his prodigious parter in godlessness Christopher Hitchens, Dawkins has never really made a point of debating anybody in the past in a one-on-one scenario.”

    You are not being truthful here.

    I noticed you conspicuously failed to quote Oxford atheist Daniel Came’s comments in the Daily Telegraph which were:

    “I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”

    Dawkins will debate passive older Christian men or weak debate opponents, but he will not debate stronger debate opponents like William Lane Craig, Dinesh D’Souza or the scientists at Creation Ministries International. Richard Dawkins is all bluster and a paper tiger.

    I will also point out that when Richard Dawkins debated Rabbi Shmuley Boteach he did so badly that he initially denied the videotaped debate occurred, but then had to retract after the video taped evidence that a debate occurred was pointed out. Boteach wrote: “In a vote at the end of the debate as to how many students had changed their minds after hearing the arguments, Dawkin’s side was defeated and religion prevailed, which might account for his selective memory.” Then Dawkins claimed that Boteach shrieked like Hitler during the debate. Of course, this raises the question of how Dawkins could possibly forget debating a rabbi who supposedly shrieked like Hitler.

    Bottom line: Richard Dawkins and atheism are not credible and Dawkins is a coward.

  20. 23/10/2011 @ 18:25 MikeMass59

    He isn’t being untruthful, you’re quoting the guy who wrote the comment piece, not the guy who did the news article.

    That said, Mark, you make a really good point – he does debate a lot of bishops and so on, but seems to pretend he’s too busy when someone with serious academic credentials, like Craig, comes along. Funny that.

  21. 24/10/2011 @ 08:17 Steven Carr

    A little quiz. There will be praise for the first person to get the right answer.

    Who wrote the following words, claiming that murder is morally obligatory if god orders it, and is no longer murder if god has ordered it?

    Was it a) Richard Dawkins
    b) Osama bin Laden
    c) William Lane Craig

    Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.

    The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

    On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

  22. 24/10/2011 @ 15:38 markgoodson

    My Oxford atheist Daniel Came quote is correct.

    Here is what Daniel Came said I will provide the link:

    In a letter to Prof Dawkins, Dr Came said: “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.

    “I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8511931/Richard-Dawkins-accused-of-cowardice-for-refusing-to-debate-existence-of-God.html

    Second, there are three things that atheists excel at: mass murders (biggest mass murders in history), lying (I notice that nobody refuted the Boteach incident information above), and cowardice.

    I cite:

    Atheism and mass murder: http://conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_mass_murder

    Atheism and deception: http://conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_deception

    Atheism and cowardice: http://conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_cowardice

    Lastly, Steven Carr we both know that JP Holding crushed your specious arguments against biblical prophecy: http://www.tektonics.org/af/carrs01.html

  23. 24/10/2011 @ 15:50 markgoodson

    I see now what two were referring to as far as the errant quote of James Rothwell.

    I did accidentally quote Tom Blackburn who merely commented rather than James Rothwell who wrote the article.

    My apologies to Mr. Rothwell.

  24. 25/10/2011 @ 22:17 Agent72

    Richard I’m a fan, but this is all so embarrassing.
    The faith-heads think we are cowards.
    WLC’s arguments are baseless – why doesn’t Richard get up and blow him away?
    So what if he has a sick interpretation of certain whack passages in the bible – even the more to get up and shove the embarrassment in his face.
    All these “excuses” for not destroying his arguments are getting me down. I’m not interested in name calling; I’m interested in his arguments being destroyed in public debate. Each premise being logically defeated.
    Hat’s off to Stephen Law, Chris Hitchens and Sam Harris – come on Richard get some balls.

  25. 26/10/2011 @ 07:56 Steven Carr

    When the Richard Dawkins Foundation published a piece in April (IIRC) about how Craig defended Biblical genocide, it transpired that they were once more beating up on fundamentalist Christianity, not at all representative of what mainstream Christians believed.

    Why can’t Dawkins take on people other than nutballs, was the cry…. That article was just typical of Dawkins bashing people who had nothing to do with True Christianity.

    And when Dawkins refused to debate Craig, it suddenly became apparent that Craig was the world’s leading spokesman for Christianity and outranked the Pope as somebody who represented mainsrream Christians.

  26. 28/10/2011 @ 22:45 Atea

    I saw Dawkins today. He does exist.

  27. 14/11/2011 @ 09:49 Rev Dr James L Verner

    Athiests are now getting some of their own medicine. They have for many years spurned their creator and mocked those who believed in Him. Only very recently, however, people such as C.S. Lewis, Martin,Craig and others have decided to call the bluff of scientists such as Dawkins (God Delusion)and demand a debate. silence! Well done, WLC! Jim

  28. 26/04/2012 @ 23:14 Vandcz

    @ Rev Dr James L Verne:

    I am appalled at what you wrote, you sound vindictive and hateful. I will forever be grateful to atheist and secularist for making some parts of this world a better place to live. In a different age when religion held sway people of your ilk would have non believers killed, mutilated and burned at the stake. Your religion no longer holds the power it once did and can no longer do as much harm to humanity as it once did.

  29. 21/05/2012 @ 04:02 James Verner

    Hi Vandcz,

    No, not vindictive. Delighted would be a much more appropriate word. And, by the way, you seem a bit worked up yourself. Why? What have atheists done to make our world a better one? Mention something! Jim

  30. 03/08/2012 @ 13:23 Quem é Craig? | Blog do Mensalão

    [...] Dawkins tem recusado a vários convites feitos por universidades para debater com Craig (aqui e aqui), o que gerou uma certa histeria entre os fãs mais ardentes de ambos e uma carta resposta de [...]


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