William Lane Craig thinks nonbelievers are dumb

John Loftus re-posted on his blog a note that Bill Craig wrote on his Facebook page reflecting on his debate with Sam Harris, and reading it left me.... bewildered. I can't fathom why someone of his presumably admiral academic stature would make statements so utterly dishonest.
Many have remarked on the terribly low quality of the questions following the debate. What you need to understand is that the audience was loaded with people from the community who are part of the local sceptics group. Last year they also dominated the mikes, with the same intellectually dampening effect.
Actually, most of the questions were asked by religious students, and all of the stupid ones were. We had one kid challenging Sam Harris on the evidence for modern-day miracles – and I mean the really ridiculous ones, like bleeding statues. Another either very stoned and/or very deluded young man said God had appeared to him the night before and told him that homosexuality is beautiful. One skeptical young lady challenged Craig on his light analogy, and Craig couldn't even muster a cogent response.

But wait! Craig's not done patting himself on the back just yet; he recounts an anecdote from a fellow Christian (this is an anecdote being quoted by Craig, not Craig's own words):

"I found out too late about the debate, it having already sold out, and had to search Craigslist for anyone selling spare tickets. I did find a gentleman who was selling them at the regular $10 price and we agreed that I would meet him before the debate at a local deli in South Bend. After all the arrangements were made, he mentioned, to my surprise, that the occasion at the deli would be a Pre-Debate Skeptics Gathering, after which the tickets -- 42 of them! -- would be handed out. Apparently, the Skeptics Club, of which he is a part, had taken the liberty of buying up a large portion of the tickets, I'm assuming in order to pack the house in favor of Harris"
"Pack the house in favor of Harris"? Craig of course doesn't question the implication that skeptics automatically have ulterior motives. They didn't just want to snatch up tickets so that fellow interested skeptics could attend. No, they were trying to "stack the house" – apparently so they could pretend to be religious students asking stupid questions.

Craig comments,
The Q & A was thus not representative of the Notre Dame community, which is considerably more sophisticated.
No Q&A session is an accurate statistical representation of any community. But why would Craig expect an audience of college students to ask questions that would be impressive to someone with years of philosophical education?

Craig doesn't stop there. He thinks there's something larger and more insidious at play:
I wonder is [sic] something culturally significant is going on here. Several years ago, I asked the Warden at Tyndale House in Cambridge why it is that British society is so secular when Britain has such a rich legacy of great Christian scholars. He replied, "Oh, Christianity is not underrepresented among the intelligentsia. It's the working classes which are so secular." He explained that these folks are never exposed to Christian scholarship because of their lack of education. As a result there is a sort of pervasive, uninformed, village atheism among them.
Even if this unsubstantiated claim were true, it reeks of the most nauseating kind of elitism which suggests that apparently, it's only those uneducated people who are advocates for a contrary position. I find this kind of hubris extraordinarily ironic in light of several well-known facts:
  1. Among members of the National Academy of Sciences, a paltry 7% of scientists believe in a personal God. [1]
  2. Religious belief is statistically correlated with a lower IQ and lower education. [2], [3], [4]
  3. The only places in the world in which religious belief is thriving is in developing nations bereft of literacy. [5]
  4. A well-publicized Gallup survey showed that atheists were more knowledgeable about religion than most believers. [6]
  5. Among academic philosophers, around 70% of the them favor atheism.[7]
Craig's not done just yet...
I was surprised to see the number of blue collar folks from the community buying Harris' book and thanking him for all he has done. They didn't seem to have any inkling that his views had just been systematically exposed as logically incoherent. The intelligentsia have almost universally panned Harris' recent book (read the reviews!). Yet it is lapped up in popular culture. Wouldn't it be amazing if unbelief became the possession mainly of the uneducated?
How does Craig ascertain a person's income and education level just by looking at them? Has anyone ever looked at Bill Gates' hairdo and thought, "Man, that guy must be a billionaire!"?

You also have to love the self-aggrandizing claim that Harris' views had been "exposed as logically incoherent." He just puts it out there like it's an independently established fact. He must have been at a different debate than the one I was watching, because I thought his arguments were horrible.

And what about the claim that "the intelligentsia", whatever he thinks that is, panned The Moral Landscape? He must mean other theologians. Harris' book has been controversial, certainly; but I've been unable to find any indication that those in academia roundly disparaged it. Even critiques which raised thought-provoking objections, such as Russell Blackford's, still highly recommended the book. But Craig's comments carry a deeper implication: that the masses are incapable of rigorous critical thinking. This kind of mentality is reflected in Craig's debate tactics, such as his contention in the Harris debate that no scholars dispute the resurrection of Christ – strange, because I can name off the top of my head a number of historical scholars who dispute Jesus' mere existence, much less the historicity of specific events in the gospels. When you're out of actual arguments, nothing diverts attention from your failure like an old-fashioned appeal to authority.

It's absolutely ironic – and hypocritical – that Craig has sunk to these kinds of remarks. Craig has never shied away from disparaging "new atheists" for their alleged intellectual hubris, but I've yet to see an actual quote in which anything of the sort has been uttered. Richard Dawkins, in fact, has gone out of his way to note that even very intelligent people can believe very silly things – something he attributes to a sort of "intellectual compartmentalization". Personally, despite my cynical ribbing from time to time, I don't actually think Bill Craig is dumb. It would be ridiculous to think that someone like Francis Collins, an esteemed geneticist, is a fool.

But remember Isaac Newton: He gave us the laws of motion, the laws of optics, universal gravitation, and differential calculus. He was also an alchemist. You can be very smart in general, and very right about many things, and still hold misguided beliefs about certain things. Craig's intellectual hubris, in my view, belies the fundamental weakness of his position; if his reasoning were better, he wouldn't have to resort to self-aggrandizement and the denigration of his intellectual antagonists.


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