William Lane Craig is widely seen to be the world’s leading Christian apologist. Craig has two PhDs from leading universities and is also the author of over 30 books. He has written on the subjects of popular apologetics and philosophy. He has also proven himself to be an exceptional debater and thus debated many popular atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Keith Parsons, Vic Stenger, Antony Flew, Paul Draper, Lewis Wolpert, Sam Harris, Richard Carrier and Peter Atkins. Craig’s debates aren’t only limited to atheism and the existence of God, but also includes topics pertinent to Islam. He has also travelled far and wide to give presentations at public forums, and also has his own “Defenders Class” that he teaches. Clearly Craig has credentials to his name. However, of the atheists just listed one might note the striking omission of Richard Dawkins. Someone asked Dawkins, publicly, why he has refused to debate Craig. Consider Dawkins’ own reply:
“I’ve always said when invited to do a debate that I would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop. Indeed, I have done both. But that I don’t take on creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters. They’ve got to have something more than that. I’m busy.”
There is quite a lot that we can make of Dawkins’ reply. Firstly, of some interest to me is Dawkins claim that he “would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop.” I think that Dawkins is opting for easier opposition as it is well known that bishops, cardinals and popes aren’t, in general, scholars. This is certainly not to insinuate that they are incompetent on relevant matters, but it is very obvious that they don’t possess the credentials that Craig does. The question then remains why the alleged world’s leading atheist would settle for something less than one of the world’s most capable apologists.
Then Dawkins says that he doesn’t “take on creationists…” However, this is wholly besides the point since Craig has no intension to debate Dawkins on the subject of creationism or intelligent design. Sure, those topics do have their place in academic debates but it wouldn’t be what Craig would debate with Dawkins. Instead, Craig is best known for his arguments for the existence of God and, therefore, the debate would revolve around that. After all, atheists deny the existence of God whereas theists affirm God’s existence. Knowing that what would be more spectacular that an atheist-theist debate on God’s existence?
Moreover, I can’t help but wonder if Dawkins is actually aware that popes, cardinals, bishops (Christians in total) etc. are all creationists since they believe God created the universe? Sure, you get different stripes of creationism, such as Young and Old Earth creationism as well as evolutionary creationism. The common factor is that they are all creationists.
But, as i think we all should be asking, why would Dawkins decide to limit his debates only to priests and bishops? Why would Dawkins only wish to debate church leaders who are usually people who have responsibilities other than debating religious and academic topics? I think it is most obvious that Dawkins realizes that he’s outmatched and is trying to make excuses for not debating Craig. This would explain why he is happier to engage far less competent apologists.
Moreover, Dawkins says that he doesn’t take on “people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters.” In other words, Dawkins prefers not to take on people who are capable of debating? And surely debating isn’t Craig’s only “claim to fame.” And as far as I know Craig hasn’t made any claims to fame. In fact, he remains humble in the face of his reputation and popularity – that is a true leader. Moreover, perhaps that Craig’s has two PhDs, many peer reviewed philosophical journal articles, and over 30 books would factor into this equation of “fame”?