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.


Anonymous said...

Christians do some of the same things with me on their blogs and at YouTube. Why can't they just deal with our arguments rather than attack us as persons? I even link to Christian sites here at DC. Why won't Christians reciprocate? I think I can link to some of the best on their side and STILL win the debate. Apparently they don't.

Let me issue a call to apologists everywhere. If you think the arguments are in your favor then link to our site. If not...well, I know why not.

Chuck said...

John and Dr. Avalos,

My travels toward agnosticism and de-conversion were quickened when I read the debate on the historicity of the resurrection between WLC and Bart Ehrman. I have never heard of Ehrman and his presentation made me a fan. WLC however came across as a sleezy used car salesman who said belief in the resurrection doesn't need the historical-critical method but only that the audience trust him and invite Jesus into their heart. I claimed Christianity because I thought it was honest. This was a naive idea born out of the friendliness of the church communities I encountered. I see now that too many apologists try to kill the messenger because the message is inconvenient.

Thanks again for this site John and thank you both for your willingness to be honest. I find that my life is much saner and happier now that I live in this world and don't spend too much time trying to seek out or prove the next one.

Peace to you.

Chichiri said...

Dr. Avalos, do you use YouTube yourself? I started using it regularly a few weeks ago, and would be glad to relay your response to that video in one of my own videos, if you'd like. YT allows for video responses; these generally have to be approved, and "drcraigvideos" can unapprove it, but it would still show up in the "relevant videos" section.

edson said...

If you think the arguments are in your favor then link to our site. If not...well, I know why not

To link or not to link to Christian sites that was your prerogative. It sounds hilarious and pathetic when begging reciprocation.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Mr. John,
I do have some lectures and short interviews of mine on YouTube. I have not used it to respond to other videos, and so let me think about that idea. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

"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. Avalos, I find this remark puzzling. The 'heckler' was quite obviously dead wrong with respect to the 'fallacies' he accused Dr. Craig of committing, yet you're claiming he was 'generally correct.' Can you provide a specific example of a specific fallacy the 'heckler' mentioned that Craig actually committed? As I saw it, the heckler quite obviously didn't even understand what a fallacy is.

For example, he characterized Dr. Craig's opening remark on your 'tactics' as an ad hominem fallacy; however, anyone who knows anything about logic could see that this wasn't even in the ballpark of an ad hominem fallacy. Only arguments can be fallacious, *by definition*. Now, Craig's opening remarks concerning your tactics could not be construed as an argument (e.g. Avalos has done such and such, therefore his conclusions are false); rather, he was obviously trying to preempt any attempt on your part to ask him if he could identify certain manuscripts, the published contents of which he might have made use of in his work. No one with first semester logic would label this a fallacy; the very idea is ludicrous.

Now, while this may seem to be a minor point, it strikes me as rather important. If you can't identify the blatant nonsense the 'heckler' was spouting for what it was (as I demonstrated with respect to his main charge above), and instead insist on judging it to be 'generally correct,' then I have to question your ability to consider these issues with any objectivity.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Eric,
The so-called Heckler did not limit himself to Dr. Craig’s opening remark (which you have as a singular and so I am not sure what you mean).

I understand that he was counting all the fallacies he heard throughout the debate. For example, Dr. Craig does frequently use various versions of the argumentum ad populi, and I have noted that in The End of Biblical Studies.

For example, as the so-called Heckler noted, Dr. Craig often uses arguments of this type:

A. The majority of members of group X (e.g. scholars, Christians, historians, philosophers) say Y;
B. Therefore, we can regard Y as established.

The So-called Heckler did say that Dr. Craig committed ad hominem argument within the first 60 seconds. However, an argumentum ad hominem is rarely phrased as neatly as you express it (“Avalos has done such and such, therefore his conclusions are false”). No good tactician would phrase it so obviously if he or she wanted to use such a fallacy.

Within the first minute or so, you will hear Dr. Craig saying that he was disturbed by my “unprofessional conduct” and he goes on for quite a while attacking my supposedly invalid debating tactics BEFORE I EVEN SPOKE or gave an argument. So, what he was doing can be interpreted and summarized as follows:

A. Dr. Avalos uses trickery and unprofessional debate tactics;
B . Therefore, Dr. Avalos’ arguments will or may probably consist of trickery and unprofessional debate tactics rather than merit.

This is consistent with the view of ad hominem arguments found in Lionel Ruby’s Logic: An Introduction (Chicago: Lippincott, 1950), p. 132: “The implied assumption is that being a certain kind of person, or having a certain personal history, tends to make his arguments false.”

Dr. Craig was clearly poisoning the well at the very least.

Moreover, my arguments about Shelly clearly showed that the documents he claimed were complete were not complete, and so that is also not an argumentum ad hominem or unprofessional in the first place. My argument there can be summarized as:

A. Dr. Shelly claims Manuscript X is complete;
B. But when actually shown the same manuscript, Dr. Shelly says Manuscript X is not complete.

Whose words would best show that Dr. Shelly was wrong if not Dr. Shelly’s words themselves? So, tell me where is the ad hominem there?

The idea that Craig was simply afraid I might use a trick, only presumes that he was correct about me using debating tricks.

Finally, you also have the words of Craig himself, when he says on that YouTube video: “I felt very uncomfortable about doing that because it was in a sense attacking him in the debate for his methods...”

What does “attacking him” mean? Why does he feel uncomfortable at all if he had not seen that this was not a proper debating tactic on his part?

Why can't this be part of an argumentum ad hominem, which does entail an attack on a person for the purpose of diminishing that person's arguments, preemptively or not?

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Avalos,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post.

"The so-called Heckler did not limit himself to Dr. Craig’s opening remark (which you have as a singular and so I am not sure what you mean)."

Right, which is why I referred to the *fallacies* he accused Dr. Craig of committing. As for my use of the singular 'remark,' I qualified it by referring to what Dr. Craig said about your 'tactics' in a previous debate.

"For example, Dr. Craig does frequently use various versions of the argumentum ad populi, and I have noted that in The End of Biblical Studies.
For example, as the so-called Heckler noted, Dr. Craig often uses arguments of this type:
A. The majority of members of group X (e.g. scholars, Christians, historians, philosophers) say Y;
B. Therefore, we can regard Y as established."

Dr. Avalos, it seems to me that three points have to be made about instances of Dr. Craig's so-called ad populum fallacies.

First, the vast majority of the time, his appeal is to the conclusions of most experts, and, as we all know, appeals to experts are not, strictly speaking, fallacious. They may be rather weak when presented alone, but they're not necessarily fallacious, provided the experts appealed to are in fact experts in the *relevant* field -- and, in Dr. Craig's case, they almost always are.

But this brings me to my second point: he never presents appeals to authority alone. He always says, 'Most experts accept X, and here's a few lines of reasoning supporting X.' In such cases, the weakness of the non-fallacious appeal to authority is buttressed by the lines of reasoning he uses to defend the majority conclusion. (I'm assuming here that he's correct when he presents X as the majority opinion; if it is not, then of course he must be called on this. However, my main point is that such appeals are not fallacious if he is in fact appealing to experts in the relevant fields, and that he never makes appeals alone, but always supports them with various lines of reasoning for the conclusion he's defending.)

Third, it seems to me that when we're considering historical arguments, the use of the term 'fact' (which Craig frequently uses) becomes a bit vague. As a philosopher, Craig almost certainly understands a 'fact' as an actual state of affairs, or the actual state of affairs to which a true proposition refers. Now, when dealing with historical questions, it seems perfectly acceptable to speak of 'facts'; however, it's also clear that the term takes on some nuances that it might not possess when, say, it's used in most of the the natural sciences. (Please don't take me to be lecturing you here! I'm sure that you know all of this far better than I do; indeed, you'll probably correct some mistakes I'm making here, for which I'll thank you in advance. I'm just trying to lay my argument out with care -- well, with the care possible in an extemporaneous blog post, that is!)

So, is it a 'fact' that Jesus died by crucifixion? It seems to me, as I read various historical Jesus scholars, that it is, even if we can't verify it with certainty (and so on). Is it a fact that he was buried in a tomb? This is certainly more controversial, and I'm fine with someone questioning Craig's use of the term 'fact' here. However, it's not at all clear that it cannot be referred to in this way, given the nature of historical facts. The same could be said for Craig's other 'facts.' My main point here is that, given the nature of the term 'fact' when used to refer to historical events, it seems as if what is and isn't a fact is more of a normative question than it is in, say, the natural sciences, and thus depends much more on conventions, majority opinions, etc. than it might in other disciplines, since such 'facts' can never be verified (with the term 'verified' understood weakly) as they can in other disciplines. (And, it seems to me, that as we move on to other disciplines, the use of the term becomes more normative still, e.g. literary criticism.)


Anonymous said...


"However, an argumentum ad hominem is rarely phrased as neatly as you express it"

No, but the personal reference must be part of an argument to qualify as an ad hominem. Also, as hominem fallacies are fallacies of relevance; Craig's remarks here were not only not part of any argument against your conclusions apropos of the issue being debated, they were relevant to the concern he expressed, viz. a desire not to be asked questions he considered irrelevant or misleading that may fool an audience of laymen into thinking that some serious point had been made.

"So, what he was doing can be interpreted and summarized as follows:
A. Dr. Avalos uses trickery and unprofessional debate tactics;
B . Therefore, Dr. Avalos’ arguments will or may probably consist of trickery and unprofessional debate tactics rather than merit."

You have no non-question begging support for B whatsoever. Craig addressed each of your points after his opening remarks without once suggesting that you were trying to deceive anyone *during your debate with him*. Indeed, he treated your points (whether adequately or not) as if they were serious objections to his arguments, which they were. Not once did I hear him suggest or imply or hint that any of the arguments you presented during the debate were deceptive or unprofessional.

"Dr. Craig was clearly poisoning the well at the very least."

Was he poisoning the well, or protecting himself from a move you have undeniably made in a past debate? And, did he have reason to think you might make such a move during your debate with him? Given the issue you were debating, and the nature of some of his work, it seems to me that he did minimally have good reason to expect you to make such a move.

"Whose words would best show that Dr. Shelly was wrong if not Dr. Shelly’s words themselves? So, tell me where is the ad hominem there?"

If I remember correctly, Craig's main problem was your asking Shelly to identify the manuscripts you showed, and then chiding him for not being able to identify manuscripts the texts of which he (Shelly) had made use of in his work. Also, again if I remember correctly, he had an issue with your overly restrictive use of the term 'complete' when referring to certain ancient manuscripts. I'm certainly no expert here, so I can't say who was correct; however, I do know what the issues were, and what Dr. Craig's responses were.

"What does “attacking him” mean? Why does he feel uncomfortable at all if he had not seen that this was not a proper debating tactic on his part?"

I think it's clear that the choice was a tough one for Craig, and the response of the 'heckler' shows that Craig's concern was justified. He felt that he had to defend himself, but felt bad about doing so. I can understand entirely: imagine a boxer going into a bout with an opponent known to throw some elbows in past bouts. I can understand one wanting to warn the ref and the public about this man's use of his elbows, and feeling conflicted about bringing up something negative about another person who has done nothing at all to you yet.

"Why can't this be part of an argumentum ad hominem, which does entail an attack on a person for the purpose of diminishing that person's arguments, preemptively or not?"

I don't think Craig intended to suggest that your arguments couldn't be trusted; indeed, as I said, all the evidence we have from the debate concerning how seriously he treated the arguments you presented that night, and how in nothing he said after his opening remarks even implied that you were using deceptive arguments or tactics that night, militates against the notion that his opening remark was meant to damage your subsequent arguments. It may have done so in the minds of some of the audience members, but that's another issue entirely.

(Sorry for the long post; I certainly understand if you don't have time to respond in detail.)

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Dr. Avalos--

What were your pre-debate interactions with Dr. Craig like? Did you have any hint he'd pull out personal attacks on you?

With my new book that I've got out, and the fact that I'm working on a Ph.D. in philosophy, I may end up debating him some day, an idea I like in theory, but I wonder if it would lead Craig to pull the same stunts.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Mr. Hallquist,
On that YouTube video, Dr. Craig indicates that he deviated from his normal debate protocol. He indicates he did something he had not done before
in that 2004 debate with me.

So, no, I did not expect him to start off that way. I don’t recall much of any interaction about the debate with Dr. Craig prior to its actual occurrence.

One thing, we did do, however, is to agree on the sequence, protocol, and timing of segments. But such arrangements were mostly handled through intermediaries.

His debates on the resurrection usually start by his establishing of some “facts” that he then uses to support other “facts.”

I was going to address his definition of "fact," and that is what I did if you listen to my portion of the debate. I, of course, knew of how many his “facts” are no such thing, and I was going to explain the flaws in his arguments when my turn came up.

But he, instead, chose to devote a sizable part of his opening remarks, not to arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, but to my supposed misconduct in a debate in 1998 with Dr. Rubel Shelly. That was somewhat of a departure from the protocol to which he agreed, as I will explain in another post.

Otherwise, my recollection is that I first met Dr. Craig in December of 1987 in a round table discussion on Divine Design in Boston at the Society of Biblical Literature convention.

I had a private mini-debate with him in my hotel room in New Orleans in 1990 (at another SBL convention), but it was informal, and the Shelly debate had not taken place yet. I encounter him from time to time, mostly at SBL meetings.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Look forward to the post talking about debate protocols.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Eric,
Thanks for your response. I will take up your offer to restrict my time to items I have not discussed elsewhere. I have discussed in some detail what I consider a “fact” in The End of Biblical Studies, pp. 113-121.

I also go through one example (the assassination of Julius Caesar), especially in light of the approaches of Keith Windschuttle and Karl Popper to historical epistemology. I also gave my definition of “facts” in my opening statement of the Craig debate.

If you read my epistemological discussion in EOBS, you will see why “Jesus was crucified” cannot be considered a “fact.” Thus, Craig’s famous facts about the resurrection are also no such thing.

Besides, they are based on misleading readings of some of the documents that he uses to support his so-called facts (see my Josephus example on my comments on the Craig debate on DC).

I will have a separate post on the ad hominem issue and debate protocols.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Prior to the debate Dr. Craig’s intermediaries and I agreed on the title, format, and protocol of the debate. No changes were to be made without
the mutual consent of both parties.

This protocol was supposed to be announced by the moderator when he made his remarks. The exact positions to be debated were also distributed in printed programs available to the audience. This is what each of us was supposed to argue:

Craig: “Yes, there is sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus resurrected from the dead.”

Avalos: “No, there is not sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus resurrected from the dead.”

In his affirmative opening remarks, Dr. Craig was supposed to adhere to what he, through his intermediaries, had agreed to do. His opening remarks should have been devoted to establishing that there was sufficient historical evidence. Period.

Certainly, the announced position to which Dr. Craig agreed WAS NOT: “Yes, Dr. Avalos committed many instances of misconduct in a debate on the resurrection with Dr. Rubel Shelly in 1998.”

Yet, he devoted nearly half of his opening remarks to this.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

To understand the extensive nature of Dr. Craig’s ad hominem tactics in his opening remarks, you have to understand that:

1. Most of the audience was composed of believers,as churches had helped to organize an attendance that reached over 2700 people, a record for any debate at ISU. I don’t mind that as long as I get fair treatment.

2. Most of the audience did not know me personally. Now, the main introduction I had to the audience was the one that Craig gave them. A picture of a person who used trickery and unprofessional debating tactics.

3. Most of the audience had not seen the Shelly debate in 1998, and so the only report of that debate was the distorted one Craig gave them in the first place.

4. I now had to either devote my time to the Shelly debate or keep to what I had agreed to do (and I mostly did—I did not expend that much time other than to say he was wrong about that Shelly debate).

So, yes, if an ad hominem is supposed to redirect attention away from the merit of arguments and toward my character as a person, then his remarks would be consistent with that purpose.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

The idea that Craig was simply trying to prevent some trick on my part is not very credible. First, there was no unprofessional conduct in the Shelly debate. That is Dr. Craig’s version of events.

Second, even if he regarded what happened in the Shelly debate as something he had to fear, he did not have to respond the way he did.

The main instance of supposed misconduct was when I asked Shelly to describe the manuscripts he had cited for evidence as complete or incomplete.

Dr. Shelly could have refused to answer. If I had asked the same or a similar question, then Dr. Craig could have just said that such a question was unfair, and he was not going to answer it. Simple.

After all, according to the protocol he could use his time in any manner he chose as long as it stuck to the subject of arguments for and against the historicity of the resurrection.

Craig did not have to respond to any question he deemed out of the topic agreed upon. I myself did not spend a lot of my time responding to his Shelly comments, which I thought were inappropriate.

Moreover, if he thought me so unscrupulous, he could have refused to debate me in the first place.

If I presume that Dr. Craig is an intelligent student of psychology of his audiences, then he was bound to recognize that painting a bad picture of an opponent before the opponent even gave an argument would have some effect.

If you don’t think so, then just put yourself in my place. Let’s suppose, you, Eric, have a debate in which your opponent goes first. Your opponent then uses about half of his opening remarks to tell the audience how unprofessional and unscrupulous you are. The audience cannot verify anything at that moment about the truth of those remarks.

Now, would you think that audience would have a totally neutral picture of you or would you think that Craig is trying to set up the audience against you before you even speak?

Some of my professional colleagues thought his opening was bizarre, to say the least, because they had seen the announced question and the Shelly debate of 1998 was not at all in the picture.

And, empirically, we can show that he did deflect attention from the actual merits of my arguments by refocusing them on this supposed misconduct in 1998. That is what an ad hominem attack is supposed to do ---deflect attention from arguments to the character of the person.

For example, when fundamentalist bloggers (like the Drcraigvideos or Atheism Sucks) talk about that debate, they often focus on the Shelly part, not the part where Craig had trouble answering why he does not regard the resurrection story in Matthew 27:52-53 as historical.

They usually don’t talk about how Craig misrepresented Josephus, or try to pass off late or even Medieval Aramaic as first century Aramaic in order to establish his date for Mark 16. All those impinge more directly on Craig’s bad arguments.

Yet, such apologists focus on the Shelly debate, which has no direct connection to any specific argument I have used against Craig.

So, this again, makes the case this his opening remarks were ad hominem insofar as he tried to focus the debate on my supposed character rather than on my arguments.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

There were other irregularities before the debate began. For example, we had agreed that the debate was supposed to be titled:

“The Resurrection of Jesus: Fact or Fiction?”

Yet, about a week or two before the debate, Craig's representatives gave the title of the debate as follows in a story in our local paper (the Ames Tribune):

“The Resurrection of Jesus: Hoax or History?"

That makes a big difference because my position is not that the resurrection of Jesus is a hoax. I contacted Dr. Craig’s representatives to correct the title but it was already in the paper.

So, now many readers might be expecting a different burden of proof from me (i.e., that I would prove the resurrection was a hoax instead of there being insufficient evidence to show it was historical).

That Dr. Craig’s representatives changed the title without my permission was odd, to say the least.

A heckler usually interrupts a presentation. But the person who spoke after the debate rightly had the floor in the Q&A session.

He simply enumerated what he thought were fallacies, and the most abusive thing he said was “shame on you” (If I heard correctly).

Look at what Drcraigvideos has allowed to be posted about me, and you would see even worse.

Admin said...

Dr. Avalos

I enjoyed your victory in this debate with slick willy. You clearly showed his embarassing inconsistencies in how he goes about interpreting his fairy tale book's ressurection accounts. You also did a good job explaining how his facts are not facts at all (e.g. When he says his bible is 99% compared to the non existant originals.). Keep up the excellent work in exposing slick willy as the lying huckster he is.

UnBeguiled said...

Dr Avalos,

Thank you for your efforts.

It seems to me that the whole enterprise of apologetics is a dishonest one. These guys manufacture bad arguments to shore up beliefs they hold for other reasons. Craig admits this in his book Reasonable Faith. (Well, except he does not use the words "bad" or "manufacture".)

Certainly, apologists are not alone here. Human beings have a tendency to seek out evidence for things they want to be true. We should work hard to suppress our biases and follow the evidence where it leads, regardless of how we feel about the conclusion.

What stands out about apologists is that many admit that the arguments they present for their beliefs are not the reasons they themselves believe. It's weird.

The Uncredible Hallq:

Your book arrived this week, it's next in line behind Boyer's Religion Explained and Robert Wright's The Evolution of God.

I enjoyed your review of Feser's book. He's been nipping at my ankles of late. I have no idea why.

Rational Response Squad Jr. said...

These Dr. Craig apologists sure are stupid. Especially this guy who thought he took out Avalos.


I think you can beat Dr. Craig in a debate. Anybody can beat him. He's a lousy debater. Everybody who's honest knows that.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Hail Crom and UnBeguiled,
Thanks for your comments;

Rational Response Squad:
I thought this sentence was humorous because I had not heard of "PURE REVIEWED" research before.

"You have no pure reviewed article on astronomy or biology. I think you should apologize to IDquest, too."

In any case, the poster is plain wrong about that, and to say that you would have to have read my entire CV, anyway. There is no fact-checking of almost any sort in that response.

I also do discuss versions of ID in my article, "Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," in the Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1998), which passed editorial review of a major astronomy organization for which Dr. Gonzalez has also written via sister publications.

I discuss that article in one of the links I gave, but the poster apparently did not bother to check even that.

The ethical logic over at Drcraigvideos also seems to be very flawed, and runs something like this:

A. Dr. Craig says X about Dr. Avalos.
B. Dr. Avalos gives evidence that X is not true.
C. Therefore, Dr. Avalos is attacking Dr. Craig.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Just for the record, the more complete entryfor my article is:

Hector Avalos, "Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 27:2 (March/April, 1998) 20-24.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Here is another indication that “fanofdrcraig”
show_single_post?pid=34620000&postcount=7) probably has just been caught telling an untruth.

Fanofdrcraig says:
" ‘Heavenly Conflicts.’" Sure, I did. The article is only about three and a half pages long, typed in a rather thick font, with little cited references at all!”

Actually, what this person probably read is an abbreviated web version, as the longer and actual print version does not have a "thick font" at all.

Notice that Fanofdrcraig only mentioned reading this article AFTER I mentioned it. Thus, it is hard to see why Fanofcraig did not address this article BEFORE making statements about my publication record.

That article, furthermore, was evaluated by at least one astronomer before publication, and “fanofcraig” has not presented any credentials or peer reviewed research in astronomy or biblical studies.

As I said, this individual cannot say what I have written unless my full CV has been examined, and this person has not done that. This alone proves
that this person is speaking without facts.

And let Fanofdrcraig tell us what 4 words are written on the top of p. 23 of the actual printed article in Mercury by noon today (Tuesday, July 28), and that will help to clarify if Fanofdrcraig ever read the actual printed article BEFORE writing the relevant post.