Saturday, October 22, 2011

Atheist Daniel Came Weighs In on Dawkins's Refusal to Debate Bill Craig

The Guardian has just published a piece by Oxford philosophy professor Daniel Came. Came is also an atheist. It's entitled: "Richard Dawkins's refusal to debate is cynical and anti-intellectualist - Using William Lane Craig's remarks as an excuse not to engage in reasoned debate is typical of New Atheist polemic."

This is a nice, articulate, reasoned little essay. Highlights include:
  • "There isn't much in the way of serious argumentation in the New Atheists' dialectical arsenal."
  • "Dawkins maintains that we're not justified in inferring a designer as the best explanation of the appearance of design in the universe because then a new problem surfaces: who designed the designer? This argument is as old as the hills and as any reasonably competent first-year undergraduate could point out is patently invalid."
  • "The New Atheism is certainly a far cry from the model of civilised interlocution between "old atheist" Bertrand Russell and Father Copleston that took place and was broadcast on BBC Radio in 1948." (I was required to read the transcript of this as an undergraduate philosophy major.)
  • Dawkins calls Bill Craig "an apologist for genocide." Came writes: "But whatever you make of Craig's view on this issue, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not God exists." Correct. As (hopefully) any first year logic student would know.
  • "There is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people's beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn't care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people's attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another."
  • Came refers to Bill as "an intellectually rigorous theist." He writes: "It should perhaps come as no surprise that Dawkins and [A.C.] Grayling aren't exactly queuing up to enter a public forum with an intellectually rigorous theist like Craig to have their views dissected and the inadequacy of their arguments exposed." (And remember that Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, and a number of quite intellectual atheistic philosophers have debated Bill.)
But some intellectually rigorous Oxford professors are debating Bill. Oxford philosophy professor Stephen Law's exchange is very interesting. See Law's comments here. I posted a comment re. Law's argument against God's existence on the basis of isomorphic theodicies - supporting a good God, and an evil God - that are the "flip-flop" of each other. I wrote:

How about this as a rebuttal?

1. Love is only “love” if freely chosen.

2. Evil is “evil,” whether freely chosen or not.

3. The relationship between the two theodicies is not isomorphic.

4. Therefore two theodicies cannot be “flipped around.”

Law's argument is... interesting. It is worthy of being engaged. It fits within the wheelhouse of philosophy of religion studies. I think it's going to provoke Bill to respond, precisely because it is worthy of being responded to.