Why do the big names in atheism freeze up when debating William Lane Craig?

I recently watched William Lane Craig's debates with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris and in both debates, it was easy to walk away with the feeling that Craig won. Hitchens just kept saying "I haven't heard any convincing evidence..." Without refuting Craig's arguments. Sam Harris did something similar - instead of addressing Craig's arguments, he ignored them for the entire debate. Also, Lawrence Krauss, when debating Craig about A Universe from Nothing, missed an opportunity to counter Craig's (correct) assertion that the primordial soup of the universe is not nothing.

Now, I've heard refutations for Craig's arguments but neither Hitchens, Harris, nor Krauss used them and so it could seem as though they lost their debates with him. Craig even invited Hitchens to become a Christian while onstage, and was justified in asking - given their performances in the debate. Any ideas why they froze up in their debates against him?

I also noticed that Craig got first word in those debates, in which he was able to define the terms used in the debate, giving him an edge.

Finally, why doesn't Dawkins debate Craig?

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Craig is a pigeon theist.

Arguing with theists is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good I am at chess, the pigeon is just going to knock over the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around like it's victorious.

He didn't win dick. He is loud (because loud makes right), arrogant and has nothing to back it up with. I watched that idiot's debates while cringing and lowering the volume every time he took a turn so my ears wouldn't bleed from his anal tone of voice. How can any atheist claim "craig won" after he already admit he believes in devils, angels and the "forces of evil" ? The forces of evil ? What is this star wars? Grow the fuck up. Not only does he not win anything, his debates should warrant him a seat on the short bus.

Also craig has no place debating scientists, seeing as he has no real degree in anything. It's like scientists trying to debate a baby. How the hell do you explain the universe to a drooling toddler?

Wow lots to take in and I think I hit a nerve with a lot of people. I'll reply to everyone here but I guess my general response is: why didn't they say these things in debate with Craig?

Again, that's a general response. If they had cited Craig on these objections, I think I would have come away with a different perspective. It seems to be a plausible thing for someone to have said "Are we here to debate real things or are you (Craig) just going to rattle off arguments which I haven't the time to address but have already been countered?...oh wait you're NOT arguing real things, you're here to debate the existence of an invisible sky god!" They've called out people before in debates. I'm just wondering why they don't do the same with Craig.

Perhaps because when someone reels off a ton of seeming evidence for their position (the Gish Gallop), complaining about the tactic seems like a weak response.  "Yeah but you haven't addressed any of my evidence.  Why not?"

Unfortunately debates in this sort of format are not won by who is actually right but rather by who can manage to make the other look unprepared to answer their arguments.

Lukeprog has done some writing about the topic - though it makes WLC out to be some unstoppable juggernaut. As was noted already, folks like Sam Harris et. al. are not debaters. That's not their calling, nor is it for quite a few of us. There's arguing, then there's debating to make yourself a living. You can know cosmology, philosophy, biology, etc. up, down, left & right, but if you can't spot how and when the opponent isn't right and communicate that in a crisp, clear way, it doesn't matter.

Is it hopeless to challenge WLC? Nah. The flaws in his arguments are quite numerous, and can be found quite easily around the 'net. Presenting those objections in a convincing way is another animal altogether...which I touched on briefly in my earlier comment. That's the part that is so badly neglected, and not just vs. WLC.

I did this in a Philosophy of Religion class once. Our attendent theists were attempting to monopolize the class, and I mentioned during class, 'when I signed up for this class it was titled, Philosophy of Religion, not Christian Evangelical training 101'. 


WLC has debating down - he is not a scientist.  Skilled philosophers/debaters can make the brightest non-theist scientists look silly - but it's not because he speaks the truth or has valid arguments, it's because he looks and sounds better.

Scientists need not debate this Christian "philosopher," imo.  He is a mere distraction in the progress of human knowledge. 

He unleashes a torrent (and it can lean a little philosophical). Now if you look at a transcript of these torrents and reduce what you take from it to a number of questions, you can start to take him apart. But in his presentations' initial unleashing, you're presented with sheer mass, a colossal tower of wrong to make right, and you don't even know where to start. He's the very worst kind of modern Christian, but a fantastic     for an atheists that likes to really get in there and dismantle mountains.

Or because he has the kind of face that you just want to smash until it leaks pink oozy fluids. Because there's that.

WLC is very good at debating. We have discussed this before and in order to counter his arguments you do need to be very prepared. He has been called a “Master Debater” here before and I cannot disagree with that sentiment. However his arguments are not as significant or as important as he would like to think. The Kalam Cosmological Argument which he refined and made his own is a worthwhile exercise in philosophical debate if you are so inclined. However it is basically a remodelling of the “First Cause” argument. The fact that the KCA is from Islamic tradition never leads him to deduce that Allah is this First Cause rather than his Christian god is never explained.

He is good at debating the KCA as he has dedicated the last 40 years to it. If something exists it must have been caused to exist. The Universe exists so it began to exist therefore his god did it.  This is a supernatural explanation to a naturalistic question.  One of his aides is a TA member and we have had a few good debates with him. However like all Theists they still assume that their Arguments for god are actually Evidence for his existence.

He also reworks the Ontological Argument. God is the greatest thing we can conceive of. Therefore gods’ non-existence is not possible.  Therefore the Atheist must reject something he knows must exist. So anyone denying the existence of god is contradicting themselves. This however as Schopenhauer says is only a “subtle play with concepts” and not an a priori proof of anything. Non-existence does not have any attributes and so is only a “fiction of the mind” to quote Kant.

His arguments need a fair degree of conceptual analysis and they tend to become metaphysical debates. This is his area. He is good at it and it may be difficult for the opposite side to stay with him because their grounding is in logic and reasoned analysis of the subject. It is easy to stray into such a place in a philosophical debate. He is highly qualified in this area. The study of philosophy is the introduction to philosophy, to quote Hegel. Many coming from a scientific background will not be able to switch to the WLC way of thinking which they need do in order to debate him. What they should do is to say “Ok the Universe did have a First Cause. We think it is the Big Bang because we have evidence to suggest that this is scientifically true.” ”Please refute our argument without playing your faith card.” Leave infinite regression arguments out on both side and see who makes more sense. I think he would leave the stage and the scientist would end up talking to his vacant chair. I can conceive of that scenario in my mind as being  “Perfect”.

RE: "the Ontological Argument. God is the greatest thing we can conceive of. Therefore gods’ non-existence is not possible."

Where does that leave people like me? I can't conceive of a god, which therefore ascertains that he/she/it cannot be the greatest thing of which I can conceive.The greatest thing of which I can conceive, is the unconditional love of a child, and ain't no talkin'-snake makin' god gonna top that!

you cannot conceive God, because you do not want do, or because its intellectually more compelling to you, to believe, we are the result of pure chance, or physical necessity ?

Or maybe it's because he's sane.

Thanks, k, but who's really gonna believe that?


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