John Loftus has been covering William Lane Craig’s attempts to get Dawkins to debate him. I basically agree with the first comment left on John’s post:
Actually, I really doubt that Dawkins knows who Craig is. Outside of hardcore apologist circles and skeptics who find him annoying enough to be worth responding to, nobody really pays any attention to Craig. I was surprised when no one in my family (all devout Christians) and even my parents’ pastor, who is exceptionally well educated and well versed in apologetics, had no idea who he was.
I mean really, what’s his claim to fame? That he goes around debating atheists? Dawkins has one of the best-selling, most talked about books of the last decade, is a regular on TV and radio shows all over the world and helped spur a new wave of secularism in America. Craig has…. um, a website.
Dawkins is right… it would look much better on Craig’s resume than Dawkins’. Craig has his followers, but he’s a footnote compared to someone like Alister McGrath, who Dawkins has never shied away from engaging.
In spite of his multiple advanced degrees, Craig is only taken about a quarter of the way seriously in academia. His version of the cosmological argument is generally treated respectfully, but his moral argument argument is generally seen as a joke. His presentation is always based on naked appeals to authority and other non-sequiturs, and professional philosophers have called him out repeatedly on this (Craig’s response is always just to pretend he doesn’t understand why they’re so upset, though I assume he’s smart enough to understand the problem). A few Biblical scholars have been willing to treat his claims about the resurection seriously, but most are baffled at how he can make the claims he makes.
His real claim to fame is as a debater, that he can sound plausible on lots of different topics and knows how to take advantage of the fact that most of his opponents lack public speaking skills. And in spite of his admittedly impressive skills, most people still don’t know who he is. I think a lot of people must have an instinctive suspicion of the kinds of arguments Craig gives–McGrath, while in many ways a lightweight, resonates with people more.
All that said, if I had Dawkins’ ear, I would urge him to challenge Craig to a debate on evolution. Craig has always been a creationist of convenience: he knows creationism has a bad name so he distances himself from it, but he is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, and repeats stock creationist claims whenever he finds it rhetorically convenient. And this is Dawkins’ area of expertise, the place where he would really shine. If he thinks there would be bad effects of having the debate, he needn’t worry because Craig has decided it would be bad to defend his views on evolution in a straightforward way, so he never will. Then Dawkins would be able to say, decisively, “You have consistently aligned yourself with creationism, yet you refuse to debate the issue openly with an expert in the field? And you’re calling me a coward?”