Does Richard Dawkins exist?
Something is afoot in Oxford. The Christians are fighting back. To herald the 'Reasonable Faith Tour' with William Lane Craig, Oxford's buses are carrying the slogan: There's Probably No Dawkins. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.
The advertising campaign follows Richard Dawkins' refusal to debate the existence of God with philosopher William Lane Craig as he visits the UK this month. He has an open invitation to debate Professor Craig at Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on 25th October. The Oxford bus campaign echoes the 2009 London atheist bus advertisements: 'There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life.'
William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, California and is arguably the world's foremost defender of historic Christianity. Widely respected among academic philosophers, he has debated with many leading atheists across the world, including Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, Anthony Flew, AC Grayling, Christopher Hitchens, Lewis Wolpert and most recently, Sam Harris.
Harris has described Professor Craig as 'the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists'.
Dr Dawkins' refusal to debate Professor Craig led fellow Oxford academic Dr Daniel Came, who is an atheist himself, to write to Dr Dawkins stating that 'the absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part'.
Meanwhile, on his website, Dr Dawkins has branded Professor Craig a 'ponderous buffoon' who uses logic to 'bamboozle his faith-head audience', but has failed to respond to any of Professor Craig’s academic arguments criticising his book The God Delusion.
Even more surprising, the President of the British Humanist Association, Guardian columnist and prominent critic of religion, Polly Toynbee, pulled out of her agreement to debate Professor Craig at the Westminster Central Hall. She had keenly agreed to debate the existence of God and tickets had been sold for the event. She withdrew recently saying, "I hadn't realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig's debating style, and having now looked at his previous performances, this is not my kind of forum."
Meanwhile AC Grayling, who this year published a humanist 'Bible' entitled The Good Book also refused to debate Professor Craig about the basis of morality, stating that he would rather debate 'the existence of fairies and water-nymphs'.
Tour Director Dr Peter May said: “Richard Dawkins seems unprepared to defend the arguments in his bestselling book on the 5th anniversary of its publication. We’ve seen lots of ad hominem attacks by him on Professor Craig but nothing of any actual substance. Does he now think his arguments in The God Delusion are indefensible? Craig certainly does and we hope that the bus campaign might provoke him to attend the Sheldonian and defend his book. 'There’s probably no Dawkins' leaves a shred of hope that he may turn up. However, he seems more keen to promote his next book than to defend his most famous one.”
The Sheldonian evening will be chaired by an Oxford Professor of Philosophy, who is himself an atheist. The stage will be set for a debate or a lecture should Dawkins not show up. Professor Craig intends to tackle the central arguments in Dawkins book before a panel of academics who will respond to his lecture, before questions are invited from the audience.
In the (unlikely) event of Dr Dawkins making an appearance, it will be the 5th debate in 10 days for Professor Craig. Braver atheists will debate the existence of God with Craig in London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester. They include Dr Arif Ahmed, Professor Peter Atkins and Professor Peter Millican. The Tour begins with a debate between Professor Craig and atheist philosophy lecturer Dr Stephen Law, who has agreed to stand in for Polly Toynbee. They will debate 'Does God Exist?' at Westminster Central Hall on Monday 17th October.
An open invitation has been sent to Dr Dawkins to change his mind and debate with Professor Craig in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on October 25th. If he does not turn up, an empty chair will be placed on the stage, and will remain there.
The void will be a reminder of Dr Dawkins' failing memory and hypocrisy. For he originally claimed not to know who Professor Craig was... despite simultaneously knowing that a debate with him would not 'look good' on his CV. He declared that he only debates people who are 'at least Bishops'... yet he has debated plenty of non-clergymen, including academics. He then claimed not to be familiar with Professor Craig's credentials... despite somehow knowing that Professor Craig was merely a 'professional debator' rather than an academic with two doctorates and reams of peer-reviewed, published material. Dr Dawkins also apparently knew enough (while 'not knowing') to dismiss Professor Craig as a 'creationist' despite the fact that Professor Craig endorses contemporary science and his arguments for theism are philosophical. Dr Dawkins has had no qualms in agreeing to debate young-earth creationists on TV (much bigger audience, you see). When the two unexpectedly met on a six-person panel debate in Mexico (in which their exchange was limited to approximately one minute) Dr Dawkins told Professor Craig: "I don't consider this a debate with you." Yet now he claims to have 'been there, done that'.
Dr Dawkins preaches the need to seek truth, question everything, and to not become duped by emotions or wishful thinking... yet he has used his website (the "clear-thinking oasis") to hurl ad hominem attacks at 'Dr' Craig (as he calls him, on the rare occasion that he acknowledges his title), complaining that his ideas are 'unpleasant'. This was the precise strategy he used against His Grace a few years ago, labelling His Grace 'nasty' (quoted in the 'honours and citations'). Academic responses and counter-arguments? Zero.
Dr Dawkins' hypocrisy is pure and undiluted. Some months ago, he said: "I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion." Yet Professor Craig is not personally seeking to debate Dr Dawkins. Rather, he has responded in the affirmative to independent organisations who have desired to stage such a debate. Further, while Dr Dawkins avoids criticism of his published work (by the 'self-promoting' Professor Craig), Dr Dawkins will be self-promoting more of his own published work - the new scientistic children's book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True. This is presently hitting bookshelves across the country and Dr Dawkins is embarking on a tour of his own to make sure they sell. Coincidentally ('as if by magic'), Dr Dawkins is also presently appearing in all the national newspapers (eg here and here), frothing at the mouth against 'alien rubbish'. But there's no self-promotion there at all. Good grief, no.
While Dr Dawkins' tour coincides with Professor Craig's own visit to the UK, the evening of 25th October appears to be free (according to the schedule on the 'clear-thinking oasis' website). And finally, here is a photograph featuring prominent atheist Sam Harris with Dr Dawkins from April 2011, discussing Harris' book The Moral Landscape. It would appear that Dr Dawkins is perfectly happy to attend a debate at the Sheldonian... provided it's a congenial chat with a 'self-promoting' like-minded fellow atheist.