Thursday, October 20, 2011

Salute to Richard Dawkins

Since Richard Dawkins claimed in this Guardian piece to take pleasure in how upset people get when he refuses to debate William Lane Craig, I assumed that was an open invitation for us all to have fun at his refusal as well. As long as we are all enjoying ourselves.

You are Richard Dawkins.

You enjoyed success at the academic level as an evolutionary biologist, and made a name for yourself producing readable books about a subject that is not always exciting. You tire and weary of religious people that don't like your work, so as a side project you decide to write more and more about how there is no God and that people who believe in God are stupid. You then write a book called The God Delusion, where you – a professional scholar – offer up arguments and ideas about the nature of religious belief.

Your loyal followers love it, but within the world of informed critics it is less well received. One of the greatest Christian philosophers of the age says that to call it sophomoric would be an insult to his sophomore class and a well known fellow atheist lambasts you for your ignorance as it pertains to religion. But you are Richard Dawkins, and you needn't worry about the opinions of critics because your dogs are out in force and they gleefully attack the character of anyone who dares question your brilliance.

There is a man that you despise, one among many. He is a fellow scholar and he debates people like you all over the world. Friends and colleagues by the dozens, respected scholars all, have met him on stage in the spirit of open dialogue and intellectual engagement. He wants to debate you, but you hesitate. “Why should I debate him?” you ask. You are famous and beloved and he is nobody. You decide to let it go. Sooner or later the upstart will disappear.

But he does not and now the pressure is mounting. You are, after all, the face of the new atheists. You are the mack daddy of doubters who sneers like no other. You have been as rude and dismissive as possible while making it clear that you are above this guy, yet the calls keep coming. And now there are articles in British papers questioning your spirit! They ask if you have the guts to take this man on! How dare they?! Don't they know you are Richard Dawkins?! Who cares if the man is coming to your stomping grounds to discuss and criticize your book, you are better than him and more famous by far. You have no responsibility to face criticism for your intellectual work in the normal academic style! You are the atheist bomb and have brought the thunder to stupid God believers for decades! PZ Meyers will back you up on that as will all of his blog commenters!

So what are you going to do? “I am busy that night.” Genius. And for good measure, you write an editorial that reiterates that you are Richard Dawkins and don't have to talk to this guy, because even though you and your philosopher friends have never heard of him – at least the ones that have not already debated him - and you do not want to engage his arguments you happen to have read some of his arguments. You characterize him as a kook and a defender of genocide. You go on Bill O'Reilly to peddle your book and then come home and cast the upstart as a shameless self promoter.

There will be an empty chair on the stage representing your absence? Well tell your followers to leave empty chairs everywhere to make the point that you are not at lots of places that night. Of course lots of places will not be hosting a criticism of your work where you turned down repeated invitations to defend your intellectual claims, but your followers will think this is cute and will not ask questions.

You are right. This will work. If there are empty chairs everywhere then the one looks less damning. If everyone else doesn't debate him, then it doesn't look so bad that you won't. So encourage everyone to not debate him and simply shun him. Good show.

You are Richard Dawkins.

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