Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Coming from behind

When, by their own admission, William Lane Craig wins a debate with an atheist, atheists have well-worn excuses to discount the importance of the loss.  Of course, some atheists deny the loss. But among those who concede the loss, familiar excuses include the claim that he’s a master debater, or that he’s better prepared.

Jeff Lowder recently came up with another excuse: Craig is a philosopher of religion. And that gives him a leg up on opponents like Rosenberg.

However, that excuse cuts against the grain of something else atheists are wont to say. Atheists contend that Christianity is false. And not just wrong about one or two things, but wrong on a whole raft of issues. And not just wrong in some subtle way, but obviously wrong. Blatantly wrong. After all, that’s why they’re atheists, right? Any reasonable person can see that Christianity is false.

But this means that by atheist criteria, Craig goes into every debate at a severe disadvantage. It’s harder to argue for a false position, when the evidence is stacked against you, than to argue for the truth. If atheism is true, then every time Craig wins, he had to come from behind. His opponent had a tremendous head start, which he must somehow overcome. The odds are heavily against him going into every race.  


  1. As many know, Richard Dawkins, refuses to debate Craig. Fellow atheist and Oxford doctor of philosophy Daniel Came implied that Dawkins' refusal could be interpreted as "cowardice" on his part. Dawkins seems to be willing to make any excuse so that he doesn't have to debate Craig one on one. Atheist Luke Muehlhauser wrote, "As far as I can tell, he [Craig] has won nearly all his debates with atheists...I’m not the only one who thinks Craig has won nearly all his debates. For some atheists, it is rather maddening." Regarding the Craig/Hitchens debate, Luke said Craig won so convincingly that, "Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child." Atheist scholar (and Champion of sorts) Richard Carrier admitted that he lost his debate against Craig. Sam Harris, in his debate against Craig started out by saying (tongue-in-cheek) that Craig was "...the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the 'fear of God' into many of my fellow atheists [at 27 minutes and 40 seconds]" because many of his atheist friends begged him to make sure he did not lose the debate. Atheist leader John W. Loftus wrote immediately after the Craig/Harris debate that "Bill (Craig) has once again showed himself as the best debater of this generation, that's for sure."

  2. It is not simply that they lose the debates, it is how badly they lose the debates. The Craig-Rosenberg debate disappointed me greatly, because I had read some of Rosenberg articles on his website, and thought he would be a formidable opponent. He obviously wasn't even in the ball park for the debate. It amazed me to see a philosopher of the standing of Rosenberg use so many informal fallacies in his response to Craig. If Craig is so wrong, then it shouldn't be difficult to defeat him. All of his debates are online, and all of his scholarly work is discussed in a journal somewhere, and he most likely has responded. There really isn't any excuse for getting spanked, unless there aren't any good responses to his arguments.

  3. As far as I can tell, there are 5 debates that a number atheists think Craig either definitely lost, or that it was close. I'm sure there are others, but the 5 I'm aware of are the ones against:

    Bradley (which was specifically on Hell),

    Bradley seemed confused and unaware of Craig's distinctions even though Bradley actually tried to prepare for the debate by reading some of Craig's works (unlike many of Craig's opponents). Craig clearly won in my opinion.

    Atheists often complain that Craig likes to control his debates by choosing carefully which topics he's willing to debate and by making sure he gets to speak first. Some atheists think Tabash may have won the debate because it's one of the only debates (if not the only one) where Craig agreed not to speak first. Tabash starts out strong, but then Craig quickly deflates him. Craig clearly won in my opinion.

    When I first heard the Craig vs. Kagan debate I thought Kagan clearly won the debate and I was confused as to why Craig wasn't as aggressive as he normally is in debates. He didn't seem to press his arguments as vigorously as in the past. Then I found out later that it was because the organizers of the event wanted it to be a friendly discussion and not specifically a debate. They asked Craig not to be confrontational. The documentation for this is HERE

    Price didn't really deal with Craig's arguments. He mostly tried to psychoanalyze Craig to the point of becoming Ad Hominem. Though, Price does say that Craig isn't intentionally being deceptive. Craig won the debate from a rational point of view, even though Price won from an emotional point of view. If Price had been more organized and rambled less, he could have won it.

    Ahmed started out strong, but for lack of depth in understanding Craig's views, he wasn't able to secure a victory. As one atheist wrote, "...starting with Craig’s first rebuttal, Craig starts to pull ahead due to his superior organization, denser content, and better rhetoric." So, I think Craig won this one too.

  4. Also, if all these people Craig is debating aren't up to snuff, what does that say about atheism in general since the people Craig debates are almost always some of the most well known represenatives for atheism?

    If atheists think Craig is picking on low hanging fruit, maybe the atheists need to get their ship together and find some better fruit.

  5. Too bad he will not debate Loftus or James White.

    BTW, why do we never see Catholic Answers, Catholic Legate, Sungenis, Madrid, Hahn etc take on atheists in debates?
    I would love to see Sippo or Bonocore, with their bombastic language, taking on Loftus.