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Quentin Letts at Daily Mail writes....

about my upcoming debate with William Lane Craig. Letts is apparently referring to my post-before-last (Aug 14th).

Go here.

After much sucking of thumbs, atheists have come up with someone to debate against a visiting American evangelist.

Secularists are heading for the hills rather than square up to fizzy theologian William Lane Craig at Westminster Central Hall in October. Polly Toynbee had her doubts, so to speak.

AC Grayling collected three points for a refusal. Richard Dawkins did a Gaddafi and went into hiding.

Craig clearly puts the fear of God into them. Finally, a University of London philosopher, Stephen Law, has said he will speak up for the non-believers.

He is now trying to 'dress the house', as we say in the theatre, and has placed a message on his website imploring followers to attend the debate to give him support.

Read more:


Paul S. Jenkins said…
Well, it's the Daily Mail.

"...atheists have come up with..."?

I'm guessing that as a previous participant on Unbelievable? you responded to a personal request from Justin Brierley.

Anyway, I've got my ticket for the event, and I may be able to provide the requested record.
All the more reason to print out Craig's views on why children should be killed and distribute them at the debate.

Why should people who proclaim themselves to have a 'Reasonable Faith' be allowed to get away with advocating genocide if their god commands it?

Both you and Peter may want to give Craig's debates with Arif Ahmed and Raymond Bradley a listen.
Martin Fitch said…
Notice that this sort of rhetoric feeds right into the Evangelicalist strategy. We all (should) know that substantive philosophical and scientific issues should not be settled by public debates where wining is a matter of what leaves people feeling most satisfied, entertained, or persuaded. This is why Richard Dawkins is absolutely right, I think, in refusing to debate creationists, and why immunologists should not debate anti-vaxxers, climatologists should not debate global warming denialists, etc.

Craig often uses a strategy like this: If his opponent tries to present an independent case against the existence of God, he will complain that all his own theistic arguments have not been sufficiently addressed. But if his opponent spends all his time trying to show where Craig's arguments fail, he will complain that the opponent has presented no positive case in favor of atheism, and that the opponent should embrace agnosticism, instead.

Craig "wins" his debates because he comes across as polished, prepared, personable, and reasonable. His opponents, however, are usually trying to respond to all of Craig's claims and also to present positions of their own. There is usually no reasonable way this can be accomplished given the constraints imposed by the debate format. There is (I think) a superb discussion of this here:
Tony Lloyd said…
The whole tone of Letts' piece, together with the jeering tone of anonymous comments on the other thread rather demonstrates that many don't take these debates as an exchange of ideas. Rather they're some form of pseudo-intellectual combat of two sides champions. What is important is not to get a little closer to the truth but to "win".

I think that the Maths Tutor in the Wirral (EFC or LFC btw?) is going a bit too far in suggesting printing out Craig's apologies for genocide. But, in an exchange of ideas, it's surely right to point out the nasty consequences of Craig's "ethics".

One reason I put ethics in scare quotes is that there is another aspect of Craig's Divine Command Ethics ("DCE") that I haven't seen commented on. As I see it DCE provides no support for the existence of God without a certain assumption. We can compare real things (birds wings/good acts) to imaginary things (Pegasus' wings/Thor's commands) with no problem and use the imaginary entity as a standard (absolute zero is a good one).

Craig, himself, uses the example of Soviet guards saying that as there is no God they can do as they like. The guards are reflecting on the lack of consequences but they, clearly, know that their acts are still wrong. The non-existence of God might, in this case, be a barrier to acting well but not to either the existence of moral laws nor knowledge of them. We can talk quite coherently about things being right or wrong in terms of what would be the commands of a perfect entity were that entity to exist. (It strikes me as Adam Smith's ethical theory drawn up in religious language).

So God doesn't need to exist for DCE unless ethics require actual commands. That seems to me to equate morality with doing what you are told.

"Doing what you are told" is a very commendable attitude for a five year old, but a very bad one for a grown man. Craig's (and Peter Hitchen's, and a whole load of other people's) ethical stance is a result of ethical retardation.

And this is what leads him to his genocide-apologia. No one (of sufficient standing) is telling him that it is wrong and he is incapable of deciding it for himself. Just like the Nazi death camp guards who were "only following orders".
Paul S. Jenkins said…
'"Doing what you are told" is a very commendable attitude for a five year old, but a very bad one for a grown man. Craig's (and Peter Hitchen's, and a whole load of other people's) ethical stance is a result of ethical retardation.'

"Doing what you are told" is precisely the attitude of the Westboro Baptist Church. You can't fault the principle, even if the execution is deplorable.
NoseyMatronType said…
Subscribing to a form of Divine Command Ethics did not prevent the good Christian jailers at Abu Ghraib prison from abusing the inmates, for reasons which have been outlined by John Doris in his book 'Lack of Character'. Julian Baggini provides a useful summary of Doris in his recent book 'The Ego Trick'. Essentialy, Doris argues that our moral behaviour is situational and determined by the environment we find ourselves in rather than by any moral principles we might bring to the table.
Anonymous said…
It is quite ridiculous how conservative and religious journalists have interpreted this; as if secular thinkers are on the run. They have themselves swallowed exactly the cajoling and bullying line that the Craig camp is putting out. Frankly I think he's bullying people into debating him. (You can't win: if you don't debate him you're scared; if you do debate him he gets to put another opponent on his CV).

Exactly what Craig wants is to create than tension and make each debate he's in 'an event'. And I'm afraid to say, you've obliged.

As far as I'm concerned, Craig is nothing more than a conceited obsessive, hellbent not on genuine argument but on the basest, most insidious kind of blatant rhetoric. It's no wonder people generally don't want to debate him and honestly I don't think it was necessary to agree to it.

If an obsessive, pseudo-intellectual, sly and conceited atheist was going around telling people that religious people were scared of debating him, it would be no loss of honour for invited religious thinkers to ignore him. Why is this any different? Craig may be popular among a certain type of religionist in the States, but "debating" someone who is quite so obviously uninterested in the truth as Craig strikes me as counter-productive.

I would only agree to debate someone like that if they agreed to have an open discussion format. As it is, he hides behind not being able to be interrupted and challenged on the spot by the outdated University Debating Society format which favours posturing. A measured armchair discussion, with a neutral chairperson to adjudicate in case someone tries to hog the floor, would expose his technique for what it is.
Jakswan said…
Hi Stephen,

I was recently debating Craig's Objective morality with a theist. This might help:-

Premise: There is an objective moral code which is gods.

Whatever that code is then it is a code not shared by all, in fact if I prepared a multiple choice questionnaire of 100 questions and gave it to 100 Christians I think I would get 100 different sets of answers.

That does not disprove an objective moral code. What it does prove though is that god is woeful at passing this code on.

In fact he is so ineffective why call him god?

The forum topic can be found on;topicseen

It is long though! It might help.

Anyway good luck in your debate.
Criag is as dishonest as they come, both in what he says and does not say. I hope you challenge him on philosophical grounds and expose some of the large holes in his rote arguments.
It will be good to have a professional philosopher tackle him as he usually just tries to pretend his opponents don't understand his brilliant arguments (after all, they aren't philosophers and should try to tackle such esoteric concepts. Only people as singularly smart as Craig should attempt such things). This guy is not half as smart as he is thought to be. He has been rehearsing the same argument (a version of the Kalam Cosmological argument) for many a self-congratulatory year. There are massive and obvious gaps which I don’t doubt even Craig is smart enough to see; he is just too dishonest to acknowledge them.
He is a total point-scorer and will take the lowest road to “win” the debate. I’m sure you are aware of most of this already but I couldn’t help have a mini-rant about this guy. How he has managed to build such a reputation on the back of a few shoddy arguments is completely beyond me. I guess he knows how to market it!

In any case, best of luck in the debate Stephen, you are more than a match for this guy.
Funny stuff

How about the reverse cosmological argument?

1. Everything that exists, exists inside time.
2. God either exists, or he does not.
3. Therefore, if he exists, he exists inside time.
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