The poet John Milton put it so well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.” This is true whether this marketplace is in a verbal debate, a written debate, or peer-reviewed literature. What serves as a decline in the value of ideas are when these ideas have no competition and/or no competition is invited or encouraged.
I’ve recently blogged on Richard Dawkins’ and PZ Myers’ excuses to not engage in dialogue with William Lane Craig. Once Myers read my blog post he was quick on his draw and gave colorful responses such as:
You call an exposure of WL Craig’s blatant misrepresentation of science “tomfoolery”? OK, I see where you stand. In ignorance.
And when I said that there should be dialogue he responded with,
It’s what YOU want. Why shd we want a dialog with a fraud & moral monster? RT @maxeoa A dialogue is all we want.
You can see Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, for more on his thoughts. Anyways, I’m not too concerned about this at all. You can read Dawkins’ excuses in the Guardian (see my post linked above) and Myers’ on his blog. Their responses have no substance. All we have are ad hominem attacks and just weak excuses. If this is the best of new atheism then Christian theism has very little academic rigor to compete with. Like I said before, debating involves skill, that’s obvious, and not everyone can debate well. Then why not a written debate or review of the other side’s literature?
I commend Dennett for engaging with Craig and Plantinga. I appreciate Hitchens and Harris for debating Craig. I’m thankful for Law and Millican in their choice to debate Craig despite Dawkins’ request that they not do so (though they aren’t new atheists). However, I honestly believe the new atheist trend is fading out. Richard Dawkins is, perhaps, the most famous atheist there is. When he ostensibly refuses to engage in dialogue it says a lot. It indicates that all he wants is a monologue, which is what’s going to kill new atheism. I would love to say that Christian theism will be the cause of snuffing out new atheism in the popular culture and in the university but I think it’s the new atheist’s desire for monologue, philosophical and academic suicide.
Oh, how we should loathe the day when we actually put our worldviews, philosophical, and scientific beliefs before others for criticism and falsification. I think we should all have our worldviews and beliefs be put to scrutiny and to be tested. We should hold on to what is good and true and allow our beliefs to rest in empirical harms way and be open to criticism and correction. This seems to be quite contrary to the direction new atheism is headed. I really wish there was substantive dialogue; whether that is verbal debate, written debate, or peer-review, the leaders of new atheism need to strive for dialogue and substantive interaction. Everyone can see through the name calling and poor excuses and see a lack of substance. I hope atheists can pull themselves together and have a rich dialogue and exchange with Christians. Perhaps, that’s just too much to ask for.