Do atheists think believers are less intelligent?

Let me set the record straight: William Lane Craig annoys the crap out of me. He's loud, pompous, hubristic, and his philosophical arguments are so riddled with baseless assumptions, blind assertions and non sequiturs that I'm aghast that anyone actually takes him seriously.

But a friend of mine posted this video on Facebook today, and as I often do when I watch "Dr" Craig's videos, the lunacy is so abundant that I feel compelled to respond.

First, a few things to note. On the Youtube page where this video is found, from the user "drcraigvideos", comments and ratings are disabled. As usual, with Christians. Secondly, the video is edited such that the atheist's response is not shown, and in the video, the host, to my eyes, is clearly playing favorites with Craig.

But on to the meat of the issue. Craig, as usual, commits a litany of fallacies in a remarkably short period of time.

It's worth asking what, exactly, Craig is trying to prove here. He says he's a philosopher, and he doesn't buy the "new atheist" arguments; he goes on to say that there are many well-regarded philosophers in prestigious universities like Oxford who do not buy the atheist arguments. This is a fallacy of the appeal to authority, and if Craig is correct about this "renaissance" of Christian apologists, the fallacy of the appeal to the majority. Just because an intelligent, educated person believes this or that does not make it so. I do not accept Dawkins' or Harris' arguments because of the academic stature, oratory skills general intellectual abilities. I accept their arguments because, on close examination, I find them to be logically consistent and valid. Craig is clearly a perfectly smart guy – though in my opinion not as smart as he thinks he is – but his intellect or academic stature, or lack thereof depending on your point of view, has nothing to do with whether his arguments are valid.

It's worth noting that I've never heard any of the "new atheists", at least any of the famous ones, declare that theists are less intelligent than they are. I'm sure there are people who hold that position, but it seems to me that in this case, Craig is guilty of the exact same intellectual hubris of which he accuses atheists. In fact, Richard Dawkins has explicitly stated the opposite in numerous interviews, and the explanation I'm going to give is, I'm certain, along the same lines.

There is a distinction between things like intelligence, education, and our use of reasoning. Just because someone is intelligent does not mean they are educated about a certain subject. And just because someone is intelligent and educated about this or that subject does not mean they apply proper reasoning. William Lane Craig is not a dullard, nor is he uneducated, but his application of reasoning is terrible. His philosophical arguments are, without exception, riddled with assumptions and non sequiturs.

Why would this be the case? It's because, as Richard Dawkins would surely say, Craig – like most theists – is guilty of a kind of intellectual compartmentalization in which supernatural claims about reality are not subject to the same kinds of rigorous skeptical inquiry to which he would subject any other kinds of claims about reality. For example, Craig's arguments about the historicity of the Bible are based on the Bible. Those of us not deeply steeped in confirmation bias can see the circularity of using the Bible to validate the historicity of the Bible. But Craig persists in such arguments, as he has for many years.

My brother is exceptionally intelligent. But he's also a Christian. I don't think him a fool; rather, I think that he has just failed to dispassionately and critically examine the claims of his faith, largely because of the deep social ties that permeate the practice of his beliefs. The key to my deconversion from Christianity was my ability to skeptically critique the arguments for Christianity, and to consider counter-arguments with no thought to the outcome. I don't think that this makes me more intelligent or better educated than my brother, but it means that I have applied reasoning in areas where I don't think he has.

Finally, I think that Craig commits a fallacy with the implicit assumption that philosophy and theology are academic disciplines on par with scientific disciplines. The reality is that all attempt to make claims about reality, but only science has a systematic method for the acquisition and application of knowledge; theology, by definition, requires one to begin inquiry with an immutable conclusion. For that reason, it is an intellectual endeavor that is doomed to stagnation.


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