God knows why Dawkins won’t show

Richard DawkinsBy Paul Vallely, Independent

Our leading atheists prefer abuse to argument when faced with a tough-talking Christian opponent

There will be an empty chair in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford on Tuesday, unless Richard Dawkins turns up to occupy it. The high priest of atheism has been invited there to debate with America’s leading Christian apologist, the analytic philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig. But the evolutionary biologist has declined the invitation. In response, the promoters of the event have placed adverts on the city’s coaches which sarcastically echo those splashed on London buses a couple of years back announcing: “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The new version says: “There is probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.”

The erstwhile Professor for Public Understanding of Science was stung into a response, in a newspaper article. Craig, he said, was a “deplorable apologist for genocide” with whom he would not share a platform. The genocide in question is that of the Canaanites in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, which you might have expected our top atheist to point out is of dubious historical accuracy. But then any stick will do to beat a dogma.

In any case, there is another side to the story. William Lane Craig is a formidable debater. He has done battle with celebrity academic atheists including Lawrence Krauss, Lewis Wolpert, Peter Atkins, and Sam Harris. Not long after his exchange with the philosopher Anthony Flew, perhaps the leading atheist thinker of the late 20th century, Flew converted, if not to Christianity, to deism. Harris described Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”.

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