The International Affiliation of Public Debates has decided to place restrictions on debaters to prevent their opponents from being publicly humiliated. The controversial decision was made after the shocking result of the Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate, “Is Good from God?” held at Notre Dame University on April 7, 2011, where every single one of Harris’ arguments was ripped to shreds by Craig’s sharp and rigorous logic. The most perceptive thing that Harris said that night was in his opening remarks, in which he acknowledged that Craig was “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”
However, this was not the first time that Craig’s keen logic has humiliated an opponent. After the 2009 debate with Christopher Hitchens on the existence of God, even atheists were acknowledging Craig’s landslide victory. As the blog Common Sense Atheism remarked, “Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”
“It’s just not right that Christian theists like Dr. Craig should be able to reduce atheists’ arguments to intellectual compost,” commented Karl Tigellinus, president of the IAPD, on their decision to place restrictions on debaters. “Atheists are already at a great disadvantage without truth, reason, and common sense on their side. This way we hope to level the playing field.”
As a result, Richard Dawkins might finally agree to a one-on-one debate with Craig. After the recent defeats of so many prominent and respected atheists, Dawkins has always refused to face Craig. Ignoring pleas from fellow atheists to nut up or shut up (e.g., Dr. Daniel Came from the University of Oxford, in a letter to Dawkins, said that the latter’s refusal to debate Craig is “apt to be interpreted as cowardice”) Dawkins maintains that he has good reasons for his pusillanimity–namely, “I have no interest in this.”
Dawkins has staked his career on his promotion of atheism as a philosophically defensible and superior worldview, publishing books such as The God Delusion and The Devil’s Chaplain, and Craig is widely held to be today’s most prominent defender of Christian theism in the public square.
But what are these restrictions exactly? In a letter which Tigellinus wrote to Dawkins hoping to assuage his fears, Tigellinus wrote, “This is how it would go: if during the debate Craig is opening up a can of logical whoopass on you, the moderator will call you and Dr. Craig together in private and say something like, ‘So far all the ad hominems and straw men and red herrings have come from you, Mr. Dawkins. Dr. Craig, you need to start throwing out a couple of vituperative and fallacious remarks every now and then; and if you could coach Mr. Dawkins on how to argue his side of the debate logically, then no one will be able to say that he got philosophically curb stomped.’”
Christians have started a petition to repeal the restrictions, but Tigellinus remarked, “It is not the policy of the IAPD to take into account the interests and wishes of people who identify themselves as Christians. Perhaps if they wanted to identify themselves as one of the groups we actually give a crap about, we would reconsider.”