Dr. W. L. Craig Caught Telling More Untruths: A Case Study in Theistic Apologetics

Character Assassination by Theistic Apologists in the YouTube Era.

Theists repeatedly characterize atheists as having little or no regard for the truth. But over on YouTube a blogger using the moniker, “Drcraigvideos,” has posted a gem of a study in the theistic ethics of truth-telling---see
Craig Attack video

It is hard to count the number of untruths in this video, but the story gets even stranger when I confronted the website about these untruths. Since the website would not post my comments there, I decided to bring their unscrupulous tactics to light here. It is a study in how self-described professional evangelical apologists, such as Dr. Craig, use character assassination with little regard for basic fact-checking or fairness.

I will highlight the issues and comments (numbered for convenience and in general order of appearance in the video along with related e-mails and posted comments on that YouTube blogsite) in bold italics and my responses immediately beneath. If you watch the video, you will recognize these quoted statements.

1. [Title of post]: “Attacking William Lane Craig.”
This title alone provides a study in deception. In truth, most of the 10+ minutes of this video are attacks on me. In fact, I did not hear a single quote from me in which I made any comments about Dr. Craig, and so it is difficult to see how this is a video about attacks on William Lane Craig. The video should have been titled: “Attacking Dr. Hector Avalos.”

The only supposed attacks on Dr. Craig came from a so-called heckler in the audience at the 2004 debate between Dr. Craig and myself at Iowa State University. But this so-called heckler was generally correct in his criticisms of Dr. Craig’s debating tactics. He did not “heckle” as much as he enumerated specific types of fallacies on the part of Dr. Craig. Dr. Craig said he did not mind calling me out on my supposed bad tactics, and so why does he not refer to that as “heckling”?

2. [Craig]: “As head of the religious studies department there..."
This is patently false. I am not, and have never been, the head of the religious studies department at Iowa State University or anywhere else. Now, I can forgive a simple error, but Craig attempts to use this leadership position to make it seem as though I exert some malicious undue influence on students. Moreover, even if it is a simple error, what does this say about the respect that Dr. Craig has for basic fact-checking? My academic history can be googled easily, but he apparently did not bother to do even that. And just for the record, the formal name of my department is the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

3. [Craig]: “And he [Avalos] portrays himself as an ex-evangelical and a former preacher. This is all a little bit really exaggerated frankly, when you look into his personal biography. But that’s the way he likes to cast himself.”
I either am or am not an ex-evangelical. I either am or am not a former preacher. So how is this exaggerated at all? Otherwise, Dr. Craig does not tell us what was exaggerated. And what does it mean to look into my personal biography? I don't recall Dr. Craig being present in any portion of that period in my life. So, Craig just throws this charge out there with no other facts to support it.

4. [Craig]: “And has it as his goal to basically destroy the orthodox faith of the Christian students in his classes through intimidation, and ridicule, and criticism.”
There is no basis given for this charge that I use intimidation, ridicule or criticism in my classes for the purpose he claims. Dr. Craig has never been in my classes, and so he cannot have verified this himself. If he is relying on testimony, then it is hearsay. So how is using hearsay to bring such a generalized charge an ethical or professional thing to do?

The truth is that the way I teach my classes is very different from the way I speak on these issues outside of classes. In class, I use a multiple viewpoint approach that has been very successful. Outside of class, I argue for my viewpoint as strongly as my constitutional right allows. And here are just a few more facts:

A. I was named Professor of the Year at ISU in 1996, a university-wide award, that in my case, was initiated by Christian students.

B. While no professor will often get 100% approval from students, and while I cannot claim everyone feels the same way, student evaluations usually give me some of the highest, and sometimes the highest scores, in my department. Regularly, 70-80% of mostly Christian students give me the highest possible rating.

On a few occasions, 100% of my students gave me the highest ratings possible. This is hard to do if I am as Dr. Craig describes. And those who do describe me as intimidating mostly do so for my academically demanding manner rather than for any effort to destroy faith in class.

Of course, Dr. Craig has never seen these student evaluations, and so it is difficult to see how he can have so little regard for basic fairness before making such a charge.

C. While I don’t recommend looking at Rate My Professor because the sample is so small and the student status of those posting entries is hard to verify, the ratings and comments there generally reflect the scores I receive.
See Rate my Professor

D. No one has ever brought any formal complaint about my teaching in my 16 years at Iowa State University. I’ve had probably over 2000 students, most of them Christians. So, how is going 100% of the time without a formal complaint in 16 years of teaching make Dr. Craig’s case? And even if he found such students, their complaint would have to be investigated more thoroughly before regarding it as “fact.”

5. [Craig]: “The way he behaves in these debates also can be very unprofessional, appealing to ad hominem attacks...”
This seems to be at variance with his quoted comments in the Iowa State Daily (February 6, 2004) after our debate: “Craig said he enjoyed the dialogue with Avalos very much and he thought there was no ill will between them.‘Both Avalos and I conducted ourselves with the proper tone and behavior,’ Craig said.” (emphasis mine)

See What Craig said then

So was Dr. Craig telling the truth then, or was he misquoted?

6. [Craig]: “I felt very uncomfortable about doing that because it was in a sense attacking him in the debate for his methods, for his modus operandi, but I thought that I had to do it since I was the first speaker and I didn’t want him to pull one of these tricks on me...the way I had seen him do with a professor Shelly in a previous debate...”
When referring to his opening remarks at our 2004 debate, Dr. Craig seems to admit to attacking me, but this YouTube video suggests that it is I who is attacking Dr. Craig. So much for truth in advertising. I also explained why I had to do what I did with Dr. Shelly, and so does that justify what I did? See My comments on Craig Debate

And why does Dr. Craig keep complaining about a debate that many of his supporters claim he won? It seems you don’t keep complaining about a debate you so obviously won. Why does Dr. Craig keep explaining why he deviated from a normal debate protocol (in his opening statement) if he wants to make the case that his opponent was not following proper protocol?

7. [Craig]: “[Avalos]... Continued since then to attack me on a personal level...”
I certainly have not posted any attack videos about Dr. Craig on YouTube, and my comments about Dr. Craig have at least appealed to his own words for my conclusions. I have not used hearsay from unnamed sources. See: My comments on Craig Debate

My critique of his flawed and inconsistent views on the resurrection in The End of Biblical Studies is scholarly, not personal. Therein I discuss in detail how he blatantly misrepresents the work of the historian, C. Behan McCullagh. When I discuss Dr. Craig's questionable claims that errors in one of his books were due to the printer, I at least showed a document from his publisher that denies that was the case.

8. [Craig]: “Gonzalez’s colleagues in the department, despite this secret e-mail campaign, publicly said this is simply about his academic credentials, not intelligent design, when, in fact, secretly that was clearly the issue.”
Dr. Craig’s comments here shift to the creationist movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). The movie featured the case of Guillermo Gonzalez, a professor at Iowa State who was denied tenure in 2007. Dr. Gonzalez is an advocate of Intelligent Design creationism. The movie tried to make much of some supposed secret conspiracy against Gonzalez, and claims that some e-mails provide a smoking gun. I have already commented on why this is not the case: The Gonzalez E-mails

Craig, who is not part of Iowa State University and who was not privy to any internal discussions, is generally repeating the propaganda of the Discovery Institute, the main pro-Intelligent Design organization today.

9. [Craig]: “But Avalos, I suppose not being part of that department—he was very overt that this was about Intelligent Design and said as much in the interview.”
Another deceptive statement because it leads the listener to assume that I was speaking about the tenure of Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez (see below).

10. [Drcraigvideos slide:]“And here’s proof of that.
Wrong again. This is only proof that the person posting at Drcraigvideos has fallen for some deceptive editing in the movie Expelled. This individual was not at that interview, and so could not possibly hear what was being discussed right before the sentence in the clip.

And for more on the deceptive interview techniques of the producers of Expelled--See: Expelled’s Deceptions

I wonder if Drcraigvideos will blog about those deceptive tactics anytime soon.

11. [Dr. Avalos]: “What we wanted to stop is the use of the name of ISU to validate Intelligent Design...and we did succeed.”
This is the actual quote from me heard in Expelled. Despite the plain meaning of my statement, notice how Dr. Craig is leading listeners to assume that I was speaking about the denial of tenure for Dr. Gonzalez. Again, what I meant is further explained here:
The Gonzalez E-mails

After listening to this video, I contacted the webmaster to correct some of the inaccuracies in the video. Here follows the e-mail responses I received from “Drcraigvideos.”

12. [Saturday, July 18, 2009]
"Dr. Craig videos has replied to your comment on 'Attacking William Lane Craig.'
Havalos50010: 'As usual' Dr. Craig is not dealing with the facts? You mean to tell me he was lying when you vindicated his claim that it was because of Gonzalez's view on ID that got him denied tenure? BTW, you were given tenure and promoted full professorship at ISU at the department of "Religious Studies" so who are you kidding? Craig may not have been in your classes but certainly students have told him how you tried to de-convert them Christianity. Professionals don't do that, Dr. Avalos."

See above for this supposed “vindication.” Observe that, instead of correcting the false information in Dr. Craig’s comments, the webmaster attempts to justify Craig's use of hearsay to level accusations. Note that this individual assumes the truth of Dr. Craig’s statements without checking the veracity of the claims that Dr. Craig makes. Do professionals do that?

And this person issues a non sequitur when linking my promotion to Dr. Gonzalez’s situation. But how does my promotion mean anything about the merits of Dr. Gonzalez’s case, especially since we are in different departments? Indeed, even William Dembski, the main guru of Intelligent Design, said:

Dembski’s comments
Comment 48:
To Hector Avalos: Thank you for your forthright response and for answering my questions. You certainly seem worthy of tenure, and I expect I would have voted for your tenure had I been on any of the appropriate committees. (Would you do the same for Guillermo Gonzalez?)

13. [Saturday, July 18, 2009]
"drcraigvideos has sent you a message:
I deleted the comment because I can't confirm if you're actually Hector Avalos. However, by stating "as usual" Dr. Craig isn't using facts, I can't allow that type of insult to Dr. Craig. If this is Dr. Avalos, why not go ahead and post your review of this video at the "Debunking Christianity" blogsite? God bless."

Now this becomes bizarrely humorous. The webmaster refuses to post my corrections and complaints because I have insulted Dr. Craig by stating “as usual” even though I can support a long list of claims that Dr. Craig has called facts but are not.

Second, notice that the ethics of this theist “can’t allow this kind of insult” but it can allow hearsay, calling someone a liar and a “weasel” without any sort of solid documentation, and without the courtesy of checking with the accused to see if there is some other explanation or response.

Notice that the reason given for deleting my comment is because the webmaster says that he (or she) cannot confirm my identity. Apparently, however, the webmaster does not mind that he or she cannot confirm the identity of anyone Dr. Craig has used for his hearsay.

In addition, the webmaster does not seem to be able to look up my office phone number to leave a message in order to request confirmation of my identity. Can this person really not think of any other way to confirm my identity?

And if the e-mail messages I received were not associated with Drcraigvideos, then I do apologize. That is part of my professional ethic.

14. [Comment from IDQuest]: “He [Avalos] does not understand Intelligent Design (after all, he's not a scientist)....”
I’ve answered this old charge, but IDQuest can’t seem to use Google very well, and this individual does not specify how this conclusion was reached. See further--My response to Discovery Institute smear campaign

15. [Comment from IDQuest]: “and he has no real warrant when it comes to history. If anybody is interested I have a debate between Avalos and Weikart on the Nazis and whether they were evolutionists or not (do a search of "Were the Nazis Evolutionists?" in youtube). Avalos gets roasted in the debate!”
I am sure IDQuest must be a qualified historian or else this individual exempts himself (or herself) from a standard demanded of others. My publishing record shows that I am as much of an historian as many other biblical scholars (and certainly as compared with Dr. Craig). I also have pointed out Dr. Weikart’s numerous historical errors (including clearly misrepresenting Darwin in one passage, ignoring a long history of Christian anti-Judaism, being unable to find a single direct quote of Darwin on the part of Hitler, and using questionable sources such as Hitler’s Table Talk for his evidence). See further:

Avalos contra Weikart:Part I

Avalos contra Weikart: Part II

So, let IDQuest specify where I get “roasted.” We need specifics, not generalized charges from IDQuest, who, I suppose, is an eminent historian.

Unfortunately, character assassination has always been a standard operating procedure among theistic apologists. We need to call them on it when it becomes as egregious as this example.

If they are even going to begin to succeed in showing moral superiority, theists first have to convince atheists that they actually are practicing better ethics or at least the ethics they preach. What we find here is that the use of hearsay and generalized character assassination is valid if it suits your ends. The ends justifies the means. There is no need to verify if accusations are true or not, but don’t use the phrase, “as usual,” or that becomes grounds for not posting a correction to false statements.

So here is a good test of theistic ethics for Dr. Craig or his minions at drcraigvideos. I will restrict it to the simplest facts that can be expected on the grounds of simple fairness:

1. Will Dr. Craig or the aforementioned webmaster admit at least that it is false to claim that I am or ever was the head of the Religious Studies department at Iowa State University?

2. Will Dr. Craig and/or the aforementioned webmaster tells us how they verified truth of any defamatory hearsay that was repeated about my teaching methods in class? In particular, can they give us percentages of dissatisfied students or the percentage of students that make such claims compared to the percentages of students that provide the highest ratings? Can they provide specific names so that we can check their student status and verify the complaints? Otherwise, they might be wise to consult a good lawyer about what defamation of character means.

3. Does Dr. Craig regard using hearsay, character assassination, and misrepresenting my comments in Expelled as “professional” and ethical conduct?

-I am transcribing the video as best I could. If there are errors, I will be glad to correct them.
-I don't necessarily assume that Dr. Craig is sponsoring Drcraigvideos, but he should dissasociate himself explicitly if he does not approve of their unscrupulous practices. His statements on the clip, however, are his responsibility.