Wednesday 14 September 2011

Grill the world's foremost Christian apologist — Unbelievable?

Last Saturday's Unbelievable? radio programme was a departure from its regular format — which usually aims to get "...Christians and non-believers talking to each other." In advance of William Lane Craig's visit to the UK in October Justin Brierley had him responding to questions sent in by listeners. Peter May, one of the organisers of the Reasonable Faith Tour, was also on the programme.

I wasn't expecting much from this, as the last time Craig was on Unbelievable? he took the opportunity to bad-mouth Richard Dawkins in an unforgivable manner.

But there were some good questions. I've only heard the show once, but here are some thoughts that occurred to me while listening:

When asked by Justin what he thought of Dawkins' refusal to debate him, Craig said Dawkins might be afraid of being humiliated — as he was in his debate with John Lennox. This seems to me a very odd interpretation of events. Dawkins gave up debating theists one-on-one after his encounter with Lennox because Lennox misrepresented the debate afterwards:

Small wonder that Dawkins refuses to debate Craig, when Craig himself echoes Lennox in misrepresenting what actually happened. (The whole of Dawkins' talk is available here: — well worth watching.)

Concerning Polly Toynbee's withdrawal from debating with him, Craig suggested that atheists seem to have got together and agreed to boycott "this type of event". It seems more likely that they got together and agreed not to debate William Lane Craig, as they know he's not interested in dialogue, only point-scoring.

Then Craig answered some listener questions. After some preliminary exposition of the Kalām Cosmological Argument he attempted to rebut Justin Schieber's excellent point about temporal causality — that one can't really say anything about cause and effect when time doesn't exist — and in doing so produced a real howler. He resorted to "simultaneity", claiming that intentions can be simultaneous with actions and therefore not temporal. But "simultaneous" means "at the same time". In what way is simultaneity non-temporal?

Fine-tuning was next up, and as usual Craig, like other theists, simply takes fine-tuning as a given. But look at the size of the universe. No, really, look at its SIZE.
"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is."1
Intelligent life (that stuff the universe is supposedly fine-tuned to support) is as far as we know an infinitesimally insignificant part of the universe. One could characterise intelligent life as a "homeopathically tiny" concentration in the unfathomably vast cosmos. Statistically speaking, therefore, there is no intelligent life at all in the universe. How can the nominal non-existence of any such thing be described as the result of "fine tuning"?

A. C. Grayling's comment that he'd sooner debate the existence of leprechauns and fairies than the existence of God was described by Craig as "condescending". This is symptomatic of the false importance theists ascribe to their wacky beliefs. They complain they're not being taken seriously, yet cannot provide any reason why they should be. We have, of course, heard this before. During a debate in 2009 Richard Harries objected to Richard Dawkins' similar characterisation:
"You can't let Richard get away with that. That's a ridiculous remark. You cannot confuse the God of classical theism, which has animated the whole of western philosophy, with a leprechaun."2
But like Craig, Harries provided no sound reason not to.

Another question was about the moral argument for God, and as expected Craig trotted out his usual claim that it's logically impossible for God to be immoral because it's part of God's nature to be moral. But he merely asserts that this is so. The only justification for such an assertion is that God is defined to be moral. This isn't really a justification, it's nothing more than an arbitrary definition.

And this man is supposedly the world's foremost Christian apologist.

  1. Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy — the original radio scripts. London 1985, Pan Books.
  2. Lord Richard Harries, during a debate at Wellington College, Crowthorne, on the motion "Atheism is the New Fundamentalism", November 2009.