Friday, August 26, 2011

The Hypnotic, Bamboozling Effect of Ad Hominem Fallacies

This October William Lane Craig will be presenting the truth of the Christian faith and God's existence around the U.K., including at Cambridge University and Oxford University. It should be especially interesting when Bill speaks at Oxford. That's where media-famous atheist Richard Dawkins teaches. Bill has invited Dawkins to debate him, but Dawkins has refused. So Bill will give a lecture presenting an alternative view to that of Dawkins. "Craig will lecture on the weakness of Dawkins’ arguments in his book, The God Delusion. A panel of Oxford scholars will respond to his talk, before members of the audience are invited to ask questions from the floor." (From here.)

Dawkins has, however, come forward to call Bill a “deeply unimpressive...ponderous buffoon,” who uses logic for “bamboozling his faith-head audience.” (Ib.) Dawkins has not actually responded to Bill's arguments and counter-arguments for God's existence and the Christian faith.

The Dawkins' quote, containing the words "deeply unimpressive," "ponderous buffoon," "bamboozling," and "faith-head audience" are called, in logic, ad hominem fallacies. While they are funny - especially "ponderous buffoon" - they are simply examples of name-calling plus a bit of bullying and, I psychologize, expressed anger and bitterness. To name-call is, precisely, to have left the land of clear-thinking logic. Any standard logic or critical thinking text warns us of the "bamboozling effect" of informal logical fallacies such as the widely-used ad hominem abusive. If Bill Craig is anything he is hyper-logical and hyper-rational. Dawkins, on the other hand, has a remarkable gift for creatively degrading people.

Use logic to attack the argument, not the person.