I run across debates online every once and a while and a couple of days ago I ran across and excerpt from a debate between William Lane Craig and an atheist whom I have never heard of.
The interesting part comes at the end during Q and A. A woman asks the atheist what his evidence that god does not exist is, since he claims to only accept claims supported by evidence. The atheist quite reasonably answers that he is not making the claim that god does not exist but only that there is no evidence he does and thus people who believe this without positive evidence are delusional. Now I would have probably worded my answer quite a bit different than he did but what I found problematic was Craig’s actions after the answer.
Craig basically had three options after the question had been answered. One option was to say nothing, which would have been proper given the usual rules during a Q.A. session in a debate. The second option would be for Craig to let the questioner know it that it is always important to fairly address the debaters actual position rather than demand they defend a position they don’t even hold. Unsurprisingly Craig takes a third option and agrees with the questioner, claiming that the atheist has made a claim he did not prove. He flat out asks his opponent to defend a claim he had just said he wasn’t making.
Now, I don’t blame the questioner for asking the question because they may not know much about philosophy. They may not understand the concept of burden of proof, or the, admittedly subtle, difference between claiming god does not exist and a rejection of someone else’s claim that he does. Craig does not have these excuses, however. He has a PhD in philosophy and he should have learned a few things about proper debate tactics. It is difficult for me to imagine he is simply unaware of how duplicitous a tactic this is in a debate. (unless he slept through most of his philosophy classes)
Looking over the posts on the YouTube video the comments seem almost fanatical in their need to praise Craig. I personally find it a bit cult like to be honest, and every time I’ve talked with one of his followers they get very personally offended that I think Craig is either very bad at logic or he is a fraud, but I can’t think of any other options.