More Defense of William Lane Craig

Wow, my post defending William Lane Craig has generated a lot of feedback. Given the interest in that topic, I thought it would be valuable to go through in detail an example of the sort of unfair attack I’ve seen a few atheists heap on Dr. Craig. Over at the Rational Response Squad forums, I discovered this 2010 post by “HisWilliness” (HW), where the author comments on Craig’s debate with Shelly Kagan. HW writes:

That’s actually what I mean when I say “destroyed”. Ordinarily, WLC’s opponents are so flummoxed by him (because he’s supposed to be a philosopher, and he seems to grant himself the luxury of not addressing questions posed to him) that they get caught up in the weight of the overwhelming insanity of his position. That can flat rattle a thoughtful person!

But because Kagan is so talented and practiced at lecturing (as evidenced by his online course on death) he’s well suited to show Craig for the phony that he is. Kagan is the real deal, in that he can both rattle off an argument and also think about it on the spot. Craig merely appears to be a philosopher in that sense, especially in other debates where no-one is clever enough to take him to task for just one argument at a time.

And then further down the thread, HW writes:

Not a joke like WLC’s education is apparently a joke, another kind.

I find these comments appalling, not to mention illogical. Consider the first quotation. In its logical form, HW’s argument seems to be the following.

(1) If a debater is caught completely off guard by their opponents’ comments in a single debate, then that debater is a phony and not a real philosopher.
(2) WLC was caught completely off guard by Shelly Kagan’s points in their debate.
(3) Therefore, WLC is a phony and not a philosopher.

For the record, I agree with (2); Craig’s performance in his debate with Kagan was quite out of character. But (1) is false. Just as in the National Football League anything can happen on “any given Sunday,” any philosopher, even one who is usually very good at debating, can have a bad day in a given debate. Absolutely nothing follows from a single debate performance about a person’s knowledge of philosophy. The conclusion of this argument is false.

Turning to HW’s attack on WLC’s education, again, I would offer the following reply. Look in the mirror. What are your philosophical credentials? Do you have a Ph.D. in philosophy? If not, why should anyone at all care what you think of WLC’s–or, for that matter, anyone else’s–credentials in philosophy?

And calling Craig a “phony” or dismissing his education as a “joke” is rude, a personal attack that is completely unjustified and has no relevance to the merits of his arguments. Just as we should not tolerate misbehavior by theists, we should not tolerate misbehavior by atheists, either. As a simple matter of common courtesy, I hope that HW apologizes to WLC for these remarks.

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