William Lane Craig’s promotion of anti-gay pseudoscience

In my post on Craig’s defense of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, I mentioned how Craig is “willing to traffic in almost any kind of fundamentalist pseudo-intellectual garbage when it’s convenient for him,” and promised to write more about it in the future. One of the major examples I had in mind is Craig’s promotion of anti-gay pseudoscience.

Craig does this in a chapter in his book Hard Questions, Real Answers about homosexuality. Re-reading it in preparation for writing this blog post, I want more than ever for people to realize how dangerous Craig is. The chapter starts with a stock rendition of Craig’s moral argument, which looks out of place until you realize Craig is setting up the argument that either we have to accept the Holocaust could be okay, or we have to accept what God says about homosexuality no matter what.

If you see Craig as just a guy who makes a few bad arguments, think about that next time you hear his moral argument. Also think about the fact that Craig thinks slaughtering an entire tribe could be moral if God says so, but think about the gay issue because it’s one where Craig’s views hurt real people today.

But on to my main point: after reciting the Bible verses that condemn homosexuality, Craig comments on the usefulness of having non-Biblical arguments that homosexuality is immoral, and so begins arguing that it’s harmful by citing a series of statistics designed to pain gays and lesbians as, in general, hyper-promiscuous, disease-ridden, mentally ill substance abusers.

The source for these claims is Thomas Schmidt’s Straight & Narrow? I first found out about this book in college, and spent quite a bit of time fact-checking it, but never found a place to publish my long write-up of my findings. I’ve decided to make it available in a Google Doc, but since it’s so long (>12,000 words), here’s the executive summary.

The biggest, recurring problem with Schmidt’s statistics was that they were rarely based on random samples. As I explain in the full write-up:

A representative sample is what is needed to make inferences of the form, “X% of group Y members in this study were Z, therefore roughly X% of group Y as a whole is Z.” To give an obvious example of how such an inference could go wrong, no one would think that a study of heterosexuality whose subjects were recruited from a red light district would be able to tell us much about the straight population as a whole. Though this is an extreme illustration, some of Schmidt’s misuses of data approach this level.

It turns out that about a third of Schmidt’s sources include explicit warnings to the effect of, “hey, this is a non-representative sample, you can’t generalize from it.” And in about a third of the cases, there are obvious reasons why the sample may have been skewed, for example, because the authors recruited men seeking help with STDs. If you want to understand just how problematic this is, I recommend the parody “The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths.”

There are other problems with Schmidt’s statistics. One thing that sticks out is that in spite of Schmidt’s claim that he relied solely on secular sources, at one point he cites a paper by the fundamentalist, anti-gay, and thoroughly discredited Paul Cameron. And, rather disturbingly, Schmidt shrugs off the problem that high rates of depression among gays are likely the result of homophobia, not anything inherent about homosexuality (this is also an issue Craig totally ignores).

On the basis of Schmidt’s book, Craig says he thinks it would be reasonable (without quite saying it’s what we should do) to deny equal opportunity in housing and employment to gays and lesbians:

For example, would you want a practicing lesbian to be your daughter’s physical education teacher at school? Would you want your son’s coach, who would be in the locker room with the boys, to be a homosexual? I, for one, would not support a law which could force public schools to hire such individuals.

But this is all kosher, Craig insists. If Christians pass laws denying equality to gays and lesbians, they aren’t forcing they’re values on anyone, because Schmidt’s book totally gives them a secular rationale for those laws.

Oh, and then to wrap up the chapter, Craig pushes ex-gay therapy: “seek professional Christian counseling,” he tells the gay readers who I really hope he doesn’t have. “With time and effort, you can come to enjoy normal, heterosexual relations.” (This was a few years before even the ex-gays admitted there are no ex-gays.)

So… yeah. That’s Craig on homosexuality. Feel free to use the comments for this post to discuss all things Craig-related, including posting links to things he’s written that you’d like me to blog about. Those are really useful to me, because they let me blog about Craig without having to read too much more of his stuff.

  • Justin

    Just when you thought Billy Craig couldn’t get more smarmy and repugnant.

  • http://deusdiapente.blogspot.com J. Quinton

    Wow… WLC is not only a sharlatan, but an anti-gay bigot.

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    A curiosity question. Until I started regularly reading atheist bloggers here at Patheos I had no idea that this guy even existed and I still don’t know much about him. I’ll Google him but I wonder how much influence he really has (admittedly based entirely on my unscientific anecdote about never hearing about him)?

    • Slow Learner

      He’s quite influential amongst Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. I have been told that he’s convincing and I really ought to read him, and I’ve got the entire Atlantic between me and that slime-ball.

      • machintelligence

        You could try listening to one of his debates on YouTube. It doesn’t matter too much which one — he pretty much says the same thing in all of them. I kind of like the one against Sam Harris, where Sam has a great put down of Catholic dogma. Craig strikes me as a smarmy know-it-all.

        • Amakudari

          Rather, he strikes me as someone who will rationalize anything necessary to hold a literal Biblical worldview, and no amount of argumentation or evidence will convince him otherwise. He’s boring to listen to in that regard, because you always know what his conclusion will be.

          • Azix

            Silly. So he’s bad for being able to actually defend his world view as opposed to atheists who literally can’t. Maybe this is a sign he is right and you are wrong. It’s hard to tell whether he would change his views when no decent arguments, evidence etc challenge them. I also am not sure about your “literal biblical worldview”. All you are doing is crying that he won’t turn atheist no matter how much atheists insist without reason

            I find myself disagreeing with him I some things but it’s better than what atheism offers – a meaningless existence… just because.

        • Azix

          You guys don’t give him enough credit. He may seem to say the same thing in debates but that is because they are debates and, let’s face it, almost all of his atheist opponents have no response. He really makes atheism look like a severe mental illness/extreme delusion. Those who do try to mount an argument for their atheism end up on some extreme assertions or just deny knowing or claiming anything.

          I say he is underestimated because, if you pay attention to q&a etc., he knows his stuff. You should also consider a possible bias on your part. Was there ever a chance that any of you would accept him and his arguments? Do you even try to or do you just look for the quickest way out.

    • Chris Hallquist

      He’s popular-ish. I don’t really know how to quantify it. Lee Strobel, whose books have sold millions of copies among evangelicals, all include interviews with William Lane Craig. Argue with enough Christians, and you’ll encounter a few who cite Craig.

      • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

        ah, heard of Strobel. Something that Catholics and Atheists agree on I think is the danger posed by Fundies.

      • http://twitter.com/blamer @b

        Probably one (highly-discredit?) way to quantify it: http://klout.com/#/RFupdates

        Less than Strobel. More than UncredibleHallq. About on par with Martin S. Pribble.

  • http://theaunicornist.com Mike D

    This seems timely in light of Craig’s most recent Q&A:
    Choice quotes:
    “I’d encourage you to seek Christian counseling to help you deal with your homosexual orientation.”
    “you should hope to marry a Christian girl that God has in mind for you.”

    This guy doesn’t just peddle bad religious arguments. Let’s not forget that he peddles bigotry and creationism, too.

  • MNb

    I agree that Craig is dangerous. His Divine Command Theory is disgusting ánd he has influence. I see him cited as an authority on Dutch blogs and in one Dutch orthodox-christian newspaper as well.

  • mikespeir

    What a shame. I’ve always said that too often higher intellect is just the ability to kid oneself at a higher level. Still, it’s hard for me to believe WLC is really kidding himself as successfully as he appears to be. I think he’s scared that there might be something to the whole Christian thing and dares not allow himself to consciously entertain much doubt about it. Basically, he’s trying to talk himself into it.

    • ZenDruid

      Craig is a one-trick pony; he developed a debate routine that is superficially successful. Like Plantinga, he’s a presuppositionalist, and the only way I can parse that is, “If you can imagine something, then that something exists.”

  • Annatar


    A nice put down of Craig re:homosexuality

  • http://www.atheistmusings.com Travers

    Hi chris,

    I was hoping I could ask for some feedback. I’ve been following William Lane Craig for a while, and one post of his that grated was his dismissal of Stephen Hawking and leonard Mlodinow as amateur philosophers. This arrogance was typical of Craig, but I always doubted wether Craig was honestly describing ontological pluralism and model-dependent-realism. Anway I just started a blog, and researched wether the two had anything in common. My conclusion was that they didn’t and Craig was deliberately misrepresenting both arguemtns to portray Hawking as some sort of philosophical extreme radical.

    I’ve written a blog post called “William Lane Craig doesn’t understand Model-Dependent Realism”. I’ve put a fair amjount of research and work into it, but I have no philosophical training, and I want to make sure that I haven’t made any howlers. Could you please look at my post (http://atheistmusingsdotcom.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=16&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2) adn let me know what you think. If you find anything there that you could use for future blogging, I’d be very happy for you to use it.



    • Chris Hallquist

      I don’t know that particular area of philosophy, but your conclusions don’t surprise me at all.

    • Azix

      Your post is funny because they aren’t even philosophers to begin with. Calling them amateur is being too kind. Something about scientists and bad philosophy…

      At least that is something that seems very common among atheist scientists

  • SAA

    Quote: “But this is all kosher, Craig insists. If Christians pass laws denying equality to gays and lesbians, they aren’t forcing *they’re* values on anyone”

    I believe you mean *their* values, not “they’re”.

  • Pingback: Craig: gay marriage is “really odd” because “homosexuals typically don’t have lasting partnerships”()

  • Chenko

    William Lane Craig does not believe that it would be reasonable to deny equal opportunity in buying or renting housing to homosexuals!


    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Hmmm… okay, on a second reading, he’s technically being non-committal on both housing discrimination and employment discrimination, but he’s being slightly different shades of non-committal on the two questions. Not sure how to work that into a correction, or if it even needs one.

  • Azix

    “For example, would you want a practicing lesbian to be your daughter’s physical education teacher at school? Would you want your son’s coach, who would be in the locker room with the boys, to be a homosexual? I, for one, would not support a law which could force public schools to hire such individuals.”

    The thing about this quote is, I wouldn’t want a guy in there with my daughter or necessarily a woman in there with my son. Whether or not we should be more worried about the homosexual aspect of it depends.

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