Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dawkins debating Dawkins

On the one hand:

But Craig is not just a figure of fun. He has a dark side, and that is putting it kindly. Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament.
Do not plead that I have taken these revolting words out of context. What context could possibly justify them?
Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn't, and I won't. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.
And if any of my colleagues find themselves browbeaten or inveigled into a debate with this deplorable apologist for genocide, my advice to them would be to stand up, read aloud Craig's words as quoted above, then walk out and leave him talking not just to an empty chair but, one would hope, to a rapidly emptying hall as well.

On the other hand:

But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?
Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.


  1. "You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God's commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder. And verses 16 and 17 are even worse"

    I preached on Deuteronomy 20:16-18 two weeks ago... found one of them barbaric modern preachers!

  2. I just want to say the debate between William Lane Craig and Peter Millican, which took place 4 days after the one between Craig and Law, is a much more enjoyable and thought provoking debate. The time flew by listening to it. Unlike the Craig/Law debate which was tedious because Law just kept repeating himself.

    Here's the link to the Craig vs. Millican debate

  3. The Craig/Millican debate does cover a lot more ground than Craig's debate with Law. Millican at least attempts to answer (most) of his arguments for God.

    I did find Milligan a bit slapdash, though.

  4. "But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not?"

    Certainly not any more than a truly theistic view of the nervous system. On theism, we're all God's programmed machines. Who's to blame but the omniscient programmer?

  5. To begin with, there's an elementary distinction between being programmed by a mindless process (e.g. natural selection) and being programmed by an omniscient Creator.