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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What William Lane Craig has going for him is that he is not concerned with persuading anyone with his arguments, such as they are.  He knows that, going into a debate, there will be those who already agree with him, and those who do not.  And no matter how strong or weak the arguments are on either side, especially if he throws in some pseudoscientific jargon, here and there (a la Deepak Chopra), virtually none are likely to have their opinions changed. So Craig is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to make logical, reasonable, scientific arguments; he is free to be as radical and preposterous as he wishes and it will satisfy his adherents.  

Likewise, he knows he cannot supply real, rational arguments for his contentions, and therefore has no chance of swaying the opinions of non-believers.  Craig goes into a debate with, say, 300 believers already on his side; no matter how bizarre or nonsensical his arguments, the number of people who will leave convinced remains at 300; that’s all he wants or expects.  In the end, his reputation is solidified among his followers, not by the quality of his arguments, but by the mere fact that he appears, to them, to have vanquished his enemy.  Heck, he could do nothing but recite Alice in Wonderland and they would take it as profound Christian wisdom and a victory over the wicked atheists.

In other words, Craig never “wins” these debates. He merely survives them with his reputation strengthened among his fellow troglodytes.  On the other hand, his opponents have no chance, either, of “winning,” because the religious believers are completely impervious to ANY logic, reason, or science.  They a priori reject it all.  

So Dawkins has it right.  There is nothing to be gained by debating Craig.  And, as Dawkins says, to give any semblance of respect to a man who believes God was righteous in killing all the Canaanites, including the children, is to award him what is far beyond his moral due.  The mere fact that Craig is able to entice any respectable opponent to confront him automatically achieves his goals.  Craig’s reputation lies not in the quality of his debating skills, but in the caliber of opponents he can lure into a debate, the result of which is pre-ordained.  

You want proof?  I - me, myself, I - hereby challenge Craig to debate me.  I won’t be breathlessly waiting by my phone for his eager acceptance to my challenge, though, because debating me - someone that neither he nor anyone else ever heard of - will gain him nothing, and he knows it.  He also doesn’t know if I’d play fair (I wouldn’t).  Between you and me, though, I think I could make him very uncomfortable with my standard repartee with the J.W.’s and Mormons I send scurrying away in ignominious defeat from my front porch.  After all, he’s just another crackpot creationist.  

It seems like much of the main points have already been addressed, but I do have a relevant tangent:

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.

I don't think Craig's assertion is correct; I think it is undetermined. Nothing is inherently problematic to observe or define. It may be that, up until now, we have defined a useful concept in a useless way. It seems to me that what people like Krauss are stating is, based on the best observations available to date, we need to shift perspectives on the concept of nothing. I believe this is actually correct and meaningful. The phenomena described do represent qualities of nothing.

I can understand that sounds like shifting goal posts, but I still think it's fair. On what basis were the previous goalposts set? Craig asserts 'From nothing, nothing comes', but on what is this assertion predicated? Had he stated, "There is no evidence, or insufficient evidence to declare that something could come from nothing," I think he would have a more tenable position. I don't think the burden of proof should rest on his shoulders in that scenario. Unfortunately, the way he makes his claim does require proof, especially since he uses his statement to reach a specific conclusion.

There are two distinctions which I feel favour Krauss. First, Krauss's position is based on evidence in quantum mechanics, where Craig's is based on assumption. Second, Krauss's position doesn't seem to extend much further. What he proposes is, in itself, the means by which something naturally comes from nothing. For Craig, on the other hand, even if he can establish that from nothing comes nothing, it still doesn't confirm his positon that something does come from God. It's only half an argument. I know that he does address this issue, in his own fashion -- IIRC, he typically uses three arguments --; however, the supporting arguments also have similar problems.

But I will point out that I am only addressing your parenthetical 'correct'. In terms of debate performance, I believe your assessment is correct, (though it has been some time since I have seen the debate).

My opinion on these debates, quite broadly, is that they are only for show. While I like dogs and ponies, I don't 'two hours of rhetoric' like them.

Hey Kris,

Wow.

Craig asserts 'From nothing, nothing comes'.

I have no idea who he is, but I can see why he beats Harris. This is what most people react to, not logical argumentation, imo. It sounds good but as you noted, doesn't necessarily mean anything.

- kk

Well what I mean by Craig is correct is that in that nothingness Krauss describes, gravity and (I think) other forces are still present. So it is not the metaphysical nothing - as you said, it's an inherently problematic concept. The argument raised then that the kind of nothing Craig describes cannot exist since once it exists, it is something. They're clearly talking about different things and that's where Krauss slips - he doesn't acknowledge that. That was the place to take Craig to task on the "from nothing, nothing comes" assertion.

I want to be clear here that I agree with you on everything you're saying. But again, my question is "why didn't Krauss raise an objection like yours or mine in debate?" If I'm not mistaken, in post debate talks, he did. It just seems then that Krauss wasn't entirely prepared for Craig.

It's worth adding that even God is not a credible answer to the 'First Cause' question.

If nothing comes from nothing, then where did God come from? And if God can be without beginning or end, then why can't an atheistic universe (or multiverse)?

Hey Gallups Mirror,

Ohhh, do I agree. You got me started:

Let me dispatch the first causes kindergarten silliness by contradiction to illustrate:

First please allow me to introduce some basic logical terminology to describe what one might call the No Evil Genius’ Proof:

"Something" (think an event) is possible in a system Q (think universe) "in principle" if Q admits of "Something" that is sufficiently well defined relative to Q.

The word "admit" here is taken to mean "allows"; in the sense that the "laws" governing all behaviors in Q "allows" an event to occur. Those laws are simply the essence of what Q is; it is what defines Q as Q.

"Sufficiently well defined" relative to Q here means the set of properties (to include possibly laws) in Q minimally sufficient to causally entrain an arbitrary event, call it k1, occurring in Q into the causal history of Q. The causal history of Q is the set of events that did, are and will (think all conjugations of “to be”) occur in Q “since” its creation. Think of it like a proton. a proton in free space has what is called a Hilbert Space that describes all its possible states (degrees of freedom). All those allowed states are allowed because of the properties of the spatial system in which it is defined; that is, Q. So, a particle can have mass, for example. That is “allowed” because that is how Q (the universe) works.

Now, we can formalize our statement supra to a first-order approximation of where we’re going with this:

Let an event k1 be sufficiently well defined relative to a spatial system Q. An event k1 is possible in a spatial system Q in principle if Q admits of k1.

Now, consider two spatial systems R and S. Let an event k1 be sufficiently well defined relative to R.

In order for causality between R and S to exist, a special condition must be met. Let an arbitrary event k2 ∈ S.

Let the subset of all properties A ∈ R necessary and sufficient to define k1 relative to R be denoted, r, and the subset of all properties B ∈ S necessary and sufficient to define k2 relative to S, denoted s.

Now, the required condition is trivial,

r ∈ S, R and s ∈ S, R ∵ s ≡  r.

must hold.

But this is just the same as if r ∈ R and s ∈ R where R is the natural world exposed to empiricism and s contains all the properties necessary and sufficient to define a cause that is super natural. But that means that s can be fully predicted and understood using empiricism alone, which is not allowed under the presumptive definition of a god.  Q.E.D.

- kk

Well said. (I think.)

oh thank you - kk

I was just going to say that --

thank you, thank you - kk

Hey Kris C,

Just so you know, when it comes to atheism, I'm kind of a big deal. :-)

But who is William Lane Craig?

As I've said before, I think these atheist "big names" are not the most competent to debate or deconvert. Let me put it this way: If Sam Harris were running against George Bush for President, who do you think would win? Substitute Al Gore for George Bush, if you like. I can tell you it wouldn't be Sam Harris. You and I would vote for him, but no one else would. That's why he needs to go back to neuroscience or whatever he does and get out from in front of a camera, imo. He's setting us back years. We all have our gifts - and I'd bet Harris is a great scientist - but the gift of gab is not one of Harris'. So, it doesn't surprise me that Nomen Nescio can spank him in a debate.

- kk

I take it that I'm Kris C?

Craig's a master debater of sorts.

Point taken. But in their fields and atheism, they typically do better in debate

Haven't heard of Noman Nescio. I'll have to look his/her debate with Harris

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