Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Craig-Lowder Debate?

I found the following post in my Drafts folder; it appears I never finished writing the post before I became inactive with blogging for over 5 years. At the outset, I want to make two points regarding this post so that it is put into the proper context.

First, I am posting this now solely to clear out the backlog of articles that were left in various stages of completion before I became almost completely inactive for several years on the blogosphere. I am not posting this article now as part of some attempt to pressure Craig into debating me right now; in fact, I'm in no rush to debate him, having been "out of the loop" for quite a while.

Second, I want to emphasize I am not calling into question Craig's integrity. First, I apparently was unable to locate my reply, if any, to a student's proposal for me to debate Craig at Harvard in 1999. Second, I was invited to debate Craig on Lee Strobel's television show, "Faith Under Fire," but I objected to the venue. Third, I have made no effort at all since 2005 to follow-up with Craig about debating.

What follows is the text I found in my Drafts folder from late 2005/early 2006.

On Christian philosopher Victor Reppert's blog, there was a recent discussion about Craig's willingness to debate me (and Doug Krueger):


This motivated me to go through my email archives to count how many times someone has tried to arrange a debate between Craig and I, only to be turned down. I know that my archives are incomplete, but here is what I have found:
  • In October 1999, I was contacted by a student at Harvard University about my interest in debating Craig on the resurrection at Harvard in April 2000, after he turned down Bob Price as an opponent. I don't seem to have my reply in my email archives, but I may have passed on that opportunity at the time.
  • In January 2000, Jim Lippard confronted Craig about his inconsistency regarding the qualifications of his debate opponents, namely, the fact that he claims to have a PhD-only policy, but he had just debated Ron Barrier, who does not even have an undergraduate degree. Craig told Lippard, "The debate with Barrier was set up without my prior approval, and I just assumed he had a doctorate. I had a debate scheduled this spring with Doug Kruger, but it fell through. Does Jeff want to debate me?" Ron Barrier told Jim Lippard: "I was approached by Campus Crusadefor Christ to participate in a debate. They submitted several names and I told them I would debate whomever they chose as names and/or titles do not impress me. I was never asked to submit anything other than a bio and in my bio I list no academic qualifications."
  • I was contacted in March or April of 2000 by a student at UCLA about the possibility of representing atheism in a debate at UCLA on May 2nd, 2000. I stated that I was interested in debating Craig, but I was told that I was unacceptabe because I have neither a Ph.D. nor a teaching position.
  • The Atheist Alliance, International in October 2000 tried to arrange a debate between William Lane Craig and either Jeff Lowder or Dan Barker. According to Ed Buckner, who was the organizer for the event that never happened, "Wm Lane Craig turned me down flat for the AAI debate, without even knowing who his opponent might be--doesn't want to "help us make our atheist event better" and is "only interested in fairly 'evangelical' settings" for his debates.
  • I contacted Craig in September 2000 about a debate. When I asked him if he was open to the possibility, he said, "Wow! I guess so." I then contacted Anthony Battaglia at the Council for Secular Humanism, who attempted to organize a debate for the Campus Freethought Alliance between Craig and I. I think this was in 2000 or 2001, but I could be wrong about the date. I believe they had attempted to arrange a debate at Yale University. Initially, I was told by Erika Hedberg in October 2000 that "Word on the street is that Craig has finally agreed to a debate with you," but apparently Craig's position on this later changed.
  • In April 2001, I was contacted by Ronald Tacelli at Boston College. Hewrote, "Bill Craig has expressed interest in debating Mr Lowder here at BC. Could you please forward this to Mr Lowder or at least send me his e-mail address. I'd like to schedule the debate for Fall (mid-September)of 2002 or maybe Spring of 2003 (mid-April)." I don't remember why that proposal never went anywhere.
  • In September 2001, I am told second-hand, by two different trusted sources, that Craig is telling one freethinker (perhaps others as well?) that I am a "sad case," that I am a young man with a lot of intelligence and energy, but I am wasting it on the wrong fight. "The only reason" I have any influence is because of my "computer savvy with the internet." (Internet Infidels) He said that "since skeptics are generally unscholarly, I have become a big fish in a small pond" (my source's words, not Craig's), and I am "taken much more seriously than warranted." If Iwere to convert to Christianity, I would "never be allowed to join the rank of 'true scholars.'"
  • In September 2005, James Lazarus, the producer of the Infidel Guy radio show, attempted to organize a radio show with Craig and I. He declined on the grounds that he didn't care for the venue and instead proposed we meet on "Faith Under Fire." I declined. I think it's a bit hypocritical for Craig to refuse to appear on the Infidel Guy's radio show because of its ties to the Secular Web, but then request that I appear on "Faith under Fire" which has ties to Craig. I then proposed that Craig and I do a formal, oral debate on a college campus somewhere. Craig responded by saying that he has nothing going on at the moment in terms of invitations to speak/debate at any colleges, but that whenever he does, he's going to suggest me.

In March 2005, I asked Victor Reppert about Craig's refusal to debate me. Victor's reply:
 "I'm a little puzzled by Craig's policy on this, since it seems that a case-by-case assessment is more significant than applying a general rule. For example, a Ph.d in some non-philosophical discipline could be a complete patsy for Craig, while a philosophically capable Ph.D student might do well against him. I heard a tape of a debate between Craig and 80+ year old Robert Dietz that was a travesty. I suppose he has to limit his debates somehow. He once told me, of the debate with Dietz, that it was a good opportunity for the Gospel. That's OK if there was an honest process that put Dietz in the atheist's position (I would told that he was all they could get), but the whole thing ends up looking staged, and I don't think that helps anybody in the long run, and doesn't really help the Gospel."
"The only debate of yours that I have seen is the one with Fernandes. Maybe it's the only one much of anyone has seen. Going by that one, I think you would be an excellent debate opponent for WLC."
"The Ph.D requirement is understandable, but don't you get poor debaters up there with Ph.Ds who know nothing about the debate situation? Anyway, we can look at your debate with Fernandes and assess you as a debater. Although some people are weak debaters because they lack the background knowledge."
"I think there is an inherent problem that an atheist faces in debates, and that is that he or she is invariably doing the negative job. The atheist has to talk about what he is tearing down, the theist has to talk about whathe/she does believe. This opens up the possibility that the atheist debater will come across rude, sarcastic and negative."
And then in a separate email:
"Jeff: No reference to you in the final point; in fact I think your debate is the best I've seen in that area. My comment was general; I have noticed a lot of students get put off by Jesseph and Parsons.

"And yes, I am personally disappointed that there has never been a Craig-Lowder debate. I do not think your background knowledge would be weak; I am trying to understand the Ph.D. rule that Craig has. There is no committee I have in mind; I just was thinking about how Bill and company would go about selecting debate opponents. After a bad debater debated against Bill, he called me (as I had asked him to) and told me that even though the opposing debater was bad this was nonetheless a good opportunity for the presentation of the gospel. The comment made me cringe a little."

"Also Bill has a weakness as a debater in relying way too much on his personal experience-the detailed description he gives in the debate with Parsons wasted a lot of time he could have used explaining why arguments from religious experience support theism.

"Do you think Bill is afraid of debating you? I heard about a debate between WLC and Shelby Spong--Does Spong have a doctorate?"

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