Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Craig's List And The People Of The Law

Sometimes it's nice to start from a point of idle curiosity. In a previous installment I prepared a word cloud of the Twitter biographies of those who follow Stephen Law and William Lane Craig. I drew no conclusions from it; there really wasn't enough hard data.

Stephen Law was kind enough to take an interest and we had a brief Facebook chat. I showed him another post of mine on the Discovery Institute. For that one, I'd pulled a list of everyone who follows the Discovery Institute. They're an anti-evolution group with delusions of science, saying their belief in an Intelligent Designer is not motivated by prior theological conclusions. Taking this list of their followers I then found out what each Intelligent Design fan followed. I put the results into a matrix and found that the majority of Discovery Institute fans have a pronounced primary interest in Christian apologetics and no interest in science.

Much as I enjoyed writing that post I find it hard to approach Craig's followers in a similar manner. For one, it would be ludicrous of me to point out that their primary interest is in Christian apologetics and present it as some sort of unexpected finding. Secondly, having met a few fans of Craig I find they tend to be doing their best to work out this mystery called life and are in the main pleasant folk, willing to converse with those of different viewpoints and generally open-minded. That I do not share their conclusions does not mean I do not hold them in some respect.

Let's look at the top twenty for each. First we'll look at those accounts that are most popular with William Lane Craig followers:

Ravi ZachariasFounder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices worldwide.
John PiperPastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN. Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
Lee StrobelFollower of Jesus. Husband, father, grandfather. Author of 20+ books, including The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. Free newsletter: LeeStrobel.com
C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis Quotes Everyday
Mark DriscollA nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody
Rick WarrenI dont wear socks. I mentor young leaders. I lead the PEACE Plan globally, serving the poor, sick & those with AIDS. I serve Saddleback and support pastors.
Apologetics 315Latest good stuff from Apologetics315!
Desiring GodGod is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
Tim TebowThe Official Twitter of NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow
Frank TurekPresident, Campus & Church #Apologetics Speaker, (co)author: I Dont [sic] Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist; Correct, Not Politically Correct; & Legislating Morality
Tim Keller WisdomTim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. I promote all things related to Tim Keller here - quotes, sermons, blogs, news, & books.
Christianity TodayChristianity Today is an international evangelical magazine. Billy Graham founded the magazine, which has about 140,000 subscribers.
C. S. LewisClive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) is one of the world's most influential Christian thinkers and beloved authors. Tweets by @harperone.
Biola ApologeticsThe Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University.
Lecrae"Living to know God, dying to make Him known. **Booking** http://tinyurl.com/bookcrae"
JPMORELAND.COMOfficial Twitter Account of JPMORELAND.com. J.P. Moreland is a Professor, Philosopher, Author, Speaker, and Mobilizer.
Josh McDowellFormer agnostic turned Christian. Now author/speaker on authenticity of Bible & sex, love & relationships.
Matt ChandlerGrace addict, husband to @laurenchandler, father of three, Lead Pastor The Village Church
Louie GiglioStoryteller, Idea shaper, Sail hoister, Door holder.
Max LucadoMinister. Author. Husband. Dad. Counting on heaven to make sense of this earth. (I try to read all tweets but haven't the time to respond. Hope u understand.)

You can spot the trend, but at the risk of labouring the point it is not unexpected for Craig's followers to be united primarily in their interest in Christian apologetics. I'm heartened to see my fellow Irishman (C. S. Lewis) represented, and a mite disappointed to see Strobel riding so high. While I've read Strobel's work I found it too hackneyed and hyped to warrant review (check my book review tag), and I shudder to think I may have to once more force myself through The Case For Christ. I must confess ignorance of many on the list. If you have any interesting titbits, do comment below.

What of evolution? While it may be premature to say that Craig has taken himself off the fence and declared as an evolution denier, it is clear from his recent Q&A section that the fence at best no longer bears his full weight.

I wish him a speedy recovery.

What are his followers' views on the subject?

William Dembski and the Discovery Institute come a gratifying 160th and 161nd respectively - of 6005 accounts that met the threshold of having at least five followers in common with Craig. (I worked off a sample of 1,600 of Craig's 6,026 Twitter followers.) Extrapolating from the sample I see about 441 of Craig's followers with an active interest in the Discovery Institute and the same number for Dembski. I imagine the overlap is significant.

Disappointingly the rather good theistic evolution advocates biologos.org fared poorly, netting only an estimated 105 common followers. Worryingly this falls below those that believe the earth is under ten thousand years old: shared followers with Answers In Genesis are roughly 366. More favour the Old Earth Creationist position, with 731 enjoying the tweets of pseudoscientific old earth creationists @RTB_Official. While I don't greet the appearance of so many falling for the follies that are Intelligent Design Creationism, Young Earth Creationism, or generally treating Genesis like an inerrant science textbook, I do take some small measure of comfort when I see that most don't seem to hold a strong opinion on the subject. Here's hoping that in matters of science they favour scientific consensus.

What of politics? Seems to be a 60% 40% split in favour of Romney, but these stats were run post election - some Romney fans may have unfollowed.

Gay rights? Craig recently advised a gay man to marry a Christian girl. While bemusing to those of us outside the situation I'm quite sure this will lead the potential couple to much emotional pain. I did a search for 'gay', 'homo' and 'marriage' through the accounts favoured by Craig's fans. The only hit of interest was @GayPatriot, self-described as "America's leading gay conservative voice". Nothing homophobic or even against marriage equality turned up. I was expecting at least a handful - it is a delight to have my preconceptions and biases crushed.

What of Stephen Law?

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins Personal Twitter Account.
Nigel Warburtonphilosopher, podcaster, writer
Stephen FryBritish Actor, Writer, Lord of Dance, Prince of Swimwear & Blogger - NEVER reads Direct Messages
Sam HarrisAuthor, neuroscientist, Co-founder of Project Reason
Brian CoxCurrently working on a book and lecture course at the University of Manchester. About to start filming Wonders of Life for BBC / Discovery Science Channel
Alain de BottonWriter; most recently of 'Religion for Atheists'.
Julian BagginiBig thoughts can come in small packages, or so Julian Baggini hopes
ben goldacre"Nerd cheerleader, Bad Science person, stats geek, research fellow in epidemiology, procrastinator. NEW BOOK: http://amzn.to/Prifc2 ben@badscience.net"
Peter SingerAuthor of Animal Liberation and The Life You Can Save, professor of bioethics at Princeton University and laureate professor at the University of Melbourne.
Barack ObamaThis account is run by #Obama2012 campaign staff. Tweets from the President are signed -bo.
New ScientistNew Scientist is the world's leading science and technology weekly.http://www.facebook.com/newscientist
Tim MinchinI'm a musician with a swollen sense of my ability to articulate my insignificance.
BBC Breaking NewsBreaking news alerts and updates from the BBC. For news, features, analysis follow @BBCWorld (our World edition) and @BBCNews (our UK edition).
Steven PinkerCognitive scientist at Harvard.
David MitchellThis is the David Mitchell who's in Peep Show and things, not the novelist or the former Tory MP.
Ricky Gervais"Writer, director, actor, PHILANTHROPIST... Creator of The Office, Flanimals, Derek, and co-founder of JustSayin - http://www.justsayinapp.com/rickygervais"
Neil deGrasse TysonAstrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History. Author: Space Chronicles, The Pluto Files,. Host: StarTalk Radio http://StarTalkRadio.net
Derren BrownPrince of Eternia and Defender of the Secrets of Castle Grayskull. Dislikes blue cheese.
Dara O BriainInfamous Brit-Licker; also been known to hand out free puppies
British HumanistsBritish Humanist Assoc: national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical & fulfilling lives on the basis of reason & humanity

I'm sure Law will be thoroughly disappointed to discover that his followers favour science, philosophy, comedy, humanism and atheism over his talents as a jazz musician. (For those curious, the first philosopher to appear in Craig's list was Paul Copan at spot 46.) Barack Obama makes the top 20, but Romney attracts the attention of fewer than 4% of fellow followers of Law. I found no evidence of enthusiasm for Creationism, homophobia or anything else that could raise an eyebrow. In fact I found the exercise a great way of finding new accounts to follow.

If anyone has specific questions about Law's followers (or indeed Craig's) I'll be happy to edit and extend the article, but in lieu of additional text I've made a picture of Law by appropriately arranging the profile pictures of his followers. Click for big.


Stephen Law said...

This is awesome. Thanks Geoff. I just posted it wholeslae on my blog with credits, links, etc. Hope that's OK.

Anonymous said...

Nice. Only obvious points I can think of are that following doesn't necessarily indicate agreement or support (I think half the people I follow on Twitter are complete douches), and that people's/organisations' ranking will be a function of both popularity among Craig's followers *and* general fame - so it is not really surprising that Answers in Genesis fare better than Biologos, simply because the former is a more well-known organisation.

Geoff said...

Stephen - no problem at all, and thanks for the publicity! I'll e-mail you Craig's spreadsheet and a high res version of the image used.

Geoff said...

Calum - fair point on the latter, that would probably be of influence. I think that also knocked Richard Dawkins up a few notches in Law's ranking.

On the former I would have been inclined to agree before getting in to this hobby. While it definitely is a factor, I find when looking at broad trends people tend to not stray too far outside the fold. For rough numbers, about 3% of Law's fans follow Craig, and about two thirds of one per cent of Craig's followers follow Law. (Craig has significantly more followers than Law I should add.)

Would you like the raw data? FB e-mail address accurate?