I see Feser chimed in on the Dawkins-Craig debate fiasco. And at this point it really is a full-fledged fiasco, at least in an intellectual sense. Anyone who'd stumble on this blog doesn't need a recap of the events - but what may be necessary is a convenient distilling of what's been going on since William Lane Craig's UK tour.
Here it is: Dawkins is afraid of debating Craig because all odds favor he'll get his clock cleaned, which will harm both his reputation and his cause. He's tried to think up multiple excuses why he's ducking Craig - none have been even remotely believable, and some have actually been inconsistent with his other statements.
Now, the reflex is to say that the above is a biased view of the situation. I'm a theist, I'm a Catholic - shoddy of one as I am - so I'm giving Team Theism's version, which is in conflict with the current dogma of the Cult of Gnu. But frankly, I don't think that holds up. Except for the real slow-wits among them - not to be discounted - most of the Cult of Gnu realize the summary I gave is correct as well. They just see it as strategically unwise to admit it.
There's a line from a Steven Seagal movie which differs from all the other lines from Steven Seagal movies in that it's actually worth repeating: "Guangzhou is a chemical weapons plant masquerading as a fertilizer plant. We know this. The Chinese know that we know. But we make-believe that we don't know and the Chinese make-believe that they believe that we don't know, but know that we know. Everybody knows."
That's the line that keeps coming back to me whenever I see atheists and theists discuss Dawkins ditching Craig. The theists know that Dawkins is ducking Craig to avoid an assbeating. Atheists know that Dawkins is ducking Craig to avoid an assbeating. And the theists know the atheists know, and the atheists know the theists know that they know. But the theists make believe they don't know, and the atheists make believe they don't know. But, as the quote says... everybody knows.
Now, there are a few reasons why theists - even reflexively - would make believe they don't know. For one, it involves psychoanalysis. And even if you have good reason to believe the psychoanalysis is true, it's bad form to bring it up in debate. It's a conversation stopper, and it gets the discussion nowhere. And for some of the Cult of Gnu, there's always the possibility that they really are just that credulous. (Remember, the prime effect of the appearance of the Cult of Gnu has been to pick up some of the slower, less stable individuals from Team Theism.) Also, these debates tend to be carried on by people who just plain have an addiction to arguing at length, and the one thing deemed most important is to just keep the conversation going at all costs.
Of course, the Cult of Gnu has their reasons for pretending they don't know as well: Dawkins is the closest thing the Cult particularly, and atheists generally, have to a leader right now. Certainly he's a, even the, figurehead. (Dennett's a philosopher embracing ideas which sound nutty if they get drawn out, Hitchens isn't respectable beyond being a good trash-talker, and Harris is too much of a punk and controversial besides.) If Dawkins is viewed as losing to a theist, or almost as bad, avoiding any particular theist in an intellectual capacity, it's a defeat for the most central idea of the Cult of Gnu: that theism is not only wrong, but irrational to believe. As Dinesh D'Souza noted, the Cult of Gnu has framed the question such that if theists or religious people so much as argue atheists to a draw, the Cult loses badly. Theism, period, in any form, is supposed to be irrational and crazy. Lunatics shouldn't be able to pull a draw in discussion. And if they actually make the better case? Disaster. I congratulate D'Souza for noting this, which is impressive since really - I can't help but look upon the guy as the Scrappy Doo of Christian Apologetics.
There's more to this - hey, humans are complicated and psychology is multifaceted - but the short of it is, what you have here is an opportunity to see the cultier aspect of the Cult of Gnu in full play: the protecting and attempted promulgating of a pious lie for a certain brand of atheists. Everyone knows why Dawkins is ducking Craig. But the Cultists of Gnu, God bless 'em, have to pretend they don't know why, and that no one else knows why either. And little demonstrations like this are educational - they let you see how supposedly secular, irreligious and even atheistic groups can, easily can, take on the nastier modes of thinking and behavior that are normally attributed to the worse forms of "religion".