As I’ve written before, I’m a huge fan of the work Richard Dawkins has done to promote science and reason. I think he is at his best when he he talks or writes about science and especially his primary area of expertise, biology. Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, had a big influence on me a long time ago, so much so that I dedicated The Empty Tomb to Dawkins. On the other hand, philosophy of religion is not Dawkins’ area of expertise; his book The God Delusion is not nearly as well argued as The Blind Watchmaker.
I find myself in an odd situation. I agree with Dawkins’ decision not to debate Craig, but not for the reasons he has given (more on that in a moment). With all due respect to Dawkins, I don’t think he should debate Craig because he simply isn’t qualified to do so. If The God Delusion is any indication, Dawkins clearly isn’t familiar with contemporary philosophy of religion, whereas Craig is an expert on the philosophy of religion.
The idea of Dawkins debating Craig would would be like a championship bodybuilder, who just happens to have a green belt in Taekwondo, agreeing to a fight with an eigth-degree black belt. Bodybuilding is not completely irrelevant to Taekwondo and the bodybuilder may be the best bodybuilder in the world, but bodybuilding and Taekwondo are clearly not the same thing. The black belt would easily and decisively beat the bodybuilder.
There is no shame or dishonor in declining a mismatch. If the black belt challenged the green belt (bodybuilder) to a fight, the bodybuilder would be rational–indeed, wise–to decline the invitation. The bodybuilder needs to clearly acknowledge, however, that he is declining because it would be a mismatch.
And if Dawkins did decline the invitation on the grounds it was a mismatch, theists shouldn’t act as if they’ve scored some major victory, just as, say, Billy Graham’s refusal to debate an atheist philosopher of religion shouldn’t be viewed as a victory for atheism.
Enter philosopher Edward Feser. Feser has written a well-argued, prima facie case for the conclusion that Richard Dawkins has contradicted himself on the topic of his reasons for refusing to debate Craig.What is the (apparent) contradiction? On the one hand, this past October, Dawkins very publicly stated that he refuses to debate Craig because Craig defends the genocides attributed to the God of the Old Testament. On the other hand, Dawkins just emailed the host of a Catholic radio show stating that he had, in fact, already debated Craig in Mexico in 2010. In my opinion, Feser makes a good case that Dawkins has apparently contradicted himself.
Apparently the radio show host has invited Dawkins to debate Feser. I don’t think Dawkins should accept that debate invitation and for the same reason as Craig’s: both Craig and Feser are philosophers and Dawkins is not.