Musings on debate outcomes

atheism Debates

This random thought was prompted by me hearing a radio interview with Dinesh D’Souza today. It seems to me that in the wake of obvious defeats in public debates, some atheists throw their former champions under a bus.

When Bill Cooke debated William Lane Craig on the existence of God, Dr Cooke very clearly lost. This was the assessment of those who observed on the whole, regardless of whether they wrere a religious believer or not. The New Zealand atheists (e.g. folks supportive of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists) who were keen to see the debate happen changed their tune and decided that Bill Cooke just wasn’t a good representative of their viewpoint, and that’s why the debate turned out that way.

When John Loftus debated Dinesh D’Souza on the existence of God – and Mr Loftus unambiguously went down in flames, the atheists who were keen to see the debate happen (e.g. those supportive of John’s labours at the Debunking Christianity blog) changed their tune and decided that John Loftus just wasn’t a good representative of their viewpoint, and that’s why the debate turned out that way.

When Raymond Bradley debated Matthew Flannagan on whether or not it’s rational to think that God is the source of morality – and very clearly lost, the atheists who were keen to see the debate happen changed their tune and decided that Raymond Bradley just wasn’t a good representative of their viewpoint, and that’s why the debate turned out that way.

I wonder what those same atheists would have thought had been established if, in any of these cases, they had thought that their man had won. Would the only telling oucome have been if the atheist won? Is there anyone who would be a good representative? It seems they think their spokespeople are just devastating – until they are actually put to the test.

My random thought for the day.

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

{ 61 comments… add one }

  • Craig L. Adams October 26, 2010, 4:37 am

    Well, on the other hand Christopher Hitchens was making theists (including Alister McGrath) look pretty silly there for a while — but that was essentially rhetorical skill.

  • Felix the Cassowary October 26, 2010, 6:20 am

    Indeed, having watched a few debates recently I think I have basically concluded that they’re fun, but all they do is show how good or bad an individual is at making the set of fixed points they like. I gather R. Dawkins refuses to debate W. L. Craig, but I bet you could combine parts of other debates featuring them and get exactly the same debate as you would if he did (modulo background ;)

    (Found you via one of the “Unbelievable” podcasts you featured in, about Christian physicalism.)

  • Haecceitas October 26, 2010, 8:08 am

    I’ve seen at least one atheist claim that Bradley won his debate with Flanagan (which I think is ridiculous).

  • Chris October 26, 2010, 10:00 am

    Hey, Felix. If you found Glenn’s debate on physicalism interesting, check out episodes 12 (“Let’s Get Physical”), 15 (“Soul Man”) and 16 (“Soul Meets Body”) of my podcast, in which I interview Glenn on the topic. He’s very nearly made a believer out of me :)

  • Pat October 26, 2010, 10:48 am

    I suggest you watch any debate between Peter Singer and Dinesh D’Souza but espically this one; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phgb67NAaHA. Nice to an atheist turning Dinesh into a stuttering and incoherent mess. What I would really like to see though is Singer debate Craig over morality.

  • Felix the Cassowary October 26, 2010, 12:08 pm

    Thanks Chris. I’ve just listened to ep. 12, and it’s interesting but it’s quite obvious that you hold a bunch of presumptions that I don’t—like that Christianity is true, and we should look to the Bible for our answers. I doubt I’ll listen to eps 15 and 16, but I might look at Glenn’s podcasts on the subject. I have a view that is dualist, but isn’t like the dualism that was taken for granted in the discussion. In particular, as someone with a background in the psychological sciences I take it as given that thought occurs in the brain. If I were to assume that Christianity is true, then in the time between death and resurrection my thought is that we would merely be aware of God’s presence or absence, and therefore perfectly pseudo-happy or pseudo-unhappy—but nothing more. I thought this was a fairly normal breed of dualism until I heard the podcast’s description.

    Anyway that’s completely off-topic, I suppose, so I probably should say less, not more. I do intend to look around some more in these here parts though, for a better understanding of our host’s view, because I like having my assumptions challenged.

    And a disclaimer: I have no intention to be a troll. In fact, I expect I’ll largely be a lurker. But I have no knowledge of evangelical protestant Christianity, and thought—in the spirit of open-mindedness—that I should add one to my blogroll so that I can learn about that particular point of view. (That is to say, the fact that he’s a philosopher of mind is what attracks me to Glenn, but the fact that he’s an evangelical Christian is why I want his on my blogroll.)

  • Chris October 26, 2010, 2:37 pm

    Fair enough, Felix :) Thanks for listening to ep. 12, though!

  • Ken October 26, 2010, 3:02 pm

    Yes, I thought Hitchens when he debated Craig and three other apoloigists at the same time made them all look silly. Craig in particular was really lost – becuase it was not his format.

    And that is the thing, isn’t it. Debates are a sport – they are not about truth. More put downs. And debates can only really be good when the participants are evenly matched (in debating skills) and have the same area of expertise.

    And judgments are in the eye of the beholder.

    For example – the only one of these four debates I watched was the Cooke/Craig one (on video).

    I was disappointed (as a scientist) that Cooke didn’t take on Craig’s arguments (because Craig is a fraud when he opportunistically uses science – as in the cosmological argument and the fine tuning one -[and the moral one]). But then again I don’t think Cooke could – he does not have the scientific expertise required. I suspect Stenger did a far better job here. (I have yet to watch that debate).

    On the other hand I was disappointed that Craig did not engage with Cooke’s arguments about the need for cross-belief unity and common action between theists and non-theists. A more political area that certainly interests me.

    They were poorly matched because of their different interests.

    There is no doubt that Craig is an excellent debater (he specialises in that sport) but I suspect the gets really lost when he cannot use the arguments he specialises in. Hence his inability to engage with Cooke’s political points.

  • Glenn October 26, 2010, 8:35 pm

    Ken: “Craig in particular was really lost”

    I submit that this assessment stands out like a sore thumb. Few share it. The same is true of the debate between Hitchens and Craig. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks Hitchens got the better of the debate. But this is quite off the point (see below).

    Ken, as for what you call Cooke’s “political” points, what Craig excels in is staying on topic. The topic of debate was God’s existence, so that is what Craig continually spoke about. Cooke was uncomfortable and wanted to go elsewhere – and we can see why. But it’s not fair to say that Craig was “unable” to go off topic. He just didn’t take the bait, and he reminded Cooke what they were there to discuss.

    And Craig Adams – I reviewed Hitchens’ debate with McGrath. The reality is, Hitchens was mauled (on a logical level). He just shook it off and laughed and made it look like nothing happened. His skill is not engaging the issue, it’s performing.

    On the whole, folks, my point was not that these Christians won these debates. I tried to be clear about that (which is why Ken’s comments about Craig and Hitchens – even though I think they’re wrong – are simply a diversion). My point was that it strikes me that before each debate the supporters of the debates were championing their man and setting him forth as a worthy opponent. After the debate, they threw him under a bus and said that he wasn’t a very good person to have taken part in the debate. Doesn’t anyone else find that odd?

    [Incidentally - although an off topic tangent, here's a link to the panel discussion that Ken referred to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SIexOmdPX8
    If any want to check for themselves and take their comments on that discussion to that Youtube clip comment thread, there it is.
    OK, back to the subject. :) ]

  • ropata October 26, 2010, 11:45 pm

    I think Austin Dacey put up the best challenge to WLC that I have seen.
    Cliff Knechtle is a skilful apologist, worth checking out vs. Michael Newdow, the guy who tried to remove “under God” from the US oath of allegiance & currency [snippet here - full video not online anymore :( ]
    Also, here’s a great list of similar debates.

  • ropata October 27, 2010, 12:10 am

    Further notes on Cliffe Knechtle vs. Michael Newdow:

    This 2002 debate was headlined as “The Great Debate” on “Atheism vs. Christianity” and was broadcast to 1,500 sites and 250,000 people across the US.

    Many viewers were surprised that Dr. Newdow seemed unfamiliar with the Bible, with Christian beliefs, and with the common atheist and Christian arguments. They felt that he did not take the debate or Christianity seriously.

    Both atheist and Christian viewers shared this opinion. With no disrespect to Dr. Newdow, we can all learn a valuable lesson from the aspect of the debate. To show respect and courtesy to the one you are debating, as well as to your audience, you have an obligation to study both sides of the issue as well as you can so that you make an informed presentation and persuade people with the truth rather than mere subjective, emotive experience. Careful preparation and serious study may have personal benefits as well … “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

    In my personal discussions with atheists they generally have a serious attitude problem which undermines their credibility and ability to make a proper case…
    a) overconfidence in their intellectual superiority – lack of preparation
    b) strawman assumptions of Christian belief drawn from silly TV hyperbole
    c) appeals to emotive fallacies – long lists of moral accusations

  • The Atheist Missionary October 27, 2010, 12:43 pm

    I’ll take Stephen Law and Peter Singer as a tag team against all theist comers.

    I realize that D’Souza is not a philosopher but I commend a reading of his “Why Christianity is Great” to anyone interested in Christian apologetics, regardless of your views. Basically, D’Souza defends Christianity by melding the argument from ignorance with constant dashes of “going nuclear” with skepticism. Because atheists can’t explain everything … because Kant reasoned there must be a dimension beyond human comprehension … because Hume’s own argument results in miracles being possible … By now I trust you get the drift.

    It’s notable that D’Souza didn’t call title his book “Why Christianity is True”. While miracles are certainly possible, I’m still trying to figure out why Christians think they are probable. Based on Glenn’s most recent debate/discussion with Arif Ahmed (which I’m listening to now and quite enjoying), I think I know the answer: wishful thinking.

  • Glenn October 27, 2010, 4:47 pm

    T.A.M., if – according to you – D’Souza’s book isn’t a good one, why do you recommend it?

    As I’ve indicated in blog posts since getting back, in a sense I would have preferred an actual debate in London, but it was not to be. Maybe another time.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 27, 2010, 6:01 pm

    D’Souza is considered by American Christians to be one of their top gun apologist debaters. For that reason alone, his book is a worthwhile read. It’s kind of like reading Reasonable Faith or Warranted Christian Belief. Is this really the best intellectual defences Christianity has?

    I should add that I had the pleasure of meeting D’Souza last month when he debated Singer at the New York Society for Ethical Culture’s Socrates in the City. Although he really laid the boots to Singer during the debate, he is a thorough gentleman and easily passes the “beer test”.

  • Glenn October 27, 2010, 8:37 pm

    T.A.M., so you consider D’Souza’s What’s So great About Christianity to be comparable with Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief.

    I am stunned. The comparison barely even makes sense. Have you actually read the latter book? Even a small part of it?

  • Eric October 28, 2010, 12:02 am

    “D’Souza is considered by American Christians to be one of their top gun apologist debaters. For that reason alone, his book is a worthwhile read. It’s kind of like reading Reasonable Faith or Warranted Christian Belief.”

    J.K. Rowling is one of the top selling Western authors. For that reason alone, her books are worthwhile reads. It’s kind of like reading Austen or Shakespeare.

  • Curtis S October 28, 2010, 8:16 am

    Thanks everyone for linking to debates I can watch or listen to. I’ve only seen Dawkins/Lenox and a Hitchens/can’t remember (and does it really matter) ;) I look forward to viewing more.

    As I first began viewing debates of these sorts, I was surprised on two levels. First, I thought, wow I’m smarter than I thought! I knew the problems and solutions in the Dawkins debate since I was a teen. This led me to my second surprising thought, this is the best they (non theists)have?

    Great way to summarize the aftermath from the loosing side, Glenn. I’ve noticed that myself.

  • Ken October 28, 2010, 11:05 am

    I guess your comment, Glenn, confirms my assertion that winners of debates, like sore thumbs, are in the eyes of the beholder. One could hardly have expected otherwise than that we would disagree on this. We after all have different interests and world views.

    Ropata, thanks for the link to the debate with Austin Dacey. I thought his book was excellent, so may watch it. However, my point stands that debates are hardly about truth, or discovering the truth. For that you must look at the real world and decide which view corresponds best with reality, and is therefore providing the best service to humnaity in its struggle to adjust to that reality.

    And the barracking of support for ones own side (whichever that is) in a debate is perfectly natural in a sport like this. it’s one of the weaknesses of our species.

    A general comment on these debates – they really have become rather tired and divorced from real issues. Frankly I think one should have a look at the London debate in which Stephen Fry and either Grayling or Dawkins, absolutely massacred the catholic side. Not becuase they are great debaters – but because they were sincere, were discussing human rights, and had humanity on their side.

    I would hate to be opposing Fry in a debate on real issues.

  • ropata October 28, 2010, 4:06 pm

    Ken
    The debate you refer to was quite recent – it was Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. The moot was “Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?” The African Bishop defending had some good things to say but didn’t really make his case. The Catholic woman politician was quite disappointing. Fry and Hitchens ate them for breakfast :S

    For the Austin Dacey debate, his opening statement is the 4th video in the series (WLC opens with his usual 5 points – meh).

    But this is a debatable point:
    Not becuase they are great debaters – but because they were sincere, were discussing human rights, and had humanity on their side.
    They had a long list of emotive complaints against the RCC and unfortunately the Catholic side was not well prepared.

    I find it bizarre that you characterize religion as anti-human, when it has always been a part of human cultures everywhere.

  • Glenn October 28, 2010, 5:37 pm

    “One could hardly have expected otherwise than that we would disagree on this.”

    Ken, I actually don’t think we need to cave into relativism like this, where everything is just what we make of it. When I said that your assessment stands out like a sore thumb, I didn’t mean that it’s different from what Christians think. I have yet to meet another person – atheist or otherwise – who thinks that Hitchens did well against Craig. It’s generally accepted even by avowed atheists that Hitchens just didn’t do well.

    But I again stress – the point here is not who won the debates I’m mentioning (although in fact there is a broad consensus about that). That is absolutely not the issue I am attempting to highlight. What I have highligted is the way that the atheists who were keen tos ee these debates happen then turn around and walk away from their hero, saying that he was never really a good person to put up against the Christian anyway.

  • Manuel Labor October 28, 2010, 5:50 pm

    I find it a bit amusing to see Ken and TAM talk about effective and ineffective debaters when the brunt of their posts dabble in sneering condescension and ad hominens. Ken tries to temper that tone at times but it doesn’t take too long for it to resurface.

  • Manuel Labor October 28, 2010, 6:01 pm

    “absolutely massacred the catholic side” how? Because they were sincere and had humanity on their side. Look at that, the one debate Ken mentions where one side was being genuine they just happened to be on his side of the issue. This right after declaring general skepticism towards debates. Very telling verb used, Ken …massacred. You should be thanking that Catholic Church for maintaining that humanity you so cherish. The Franks would have been a very different folk without the Churchs influence.

  • Manuel Labor October 28, 2010, 6:14 pm

    Sorry, I just can’t get enough of this: Ken keeps on claiming that debates have very little to do with the truth of the matter. He even tries to sound uber reasonable by advising “find the answers on your own”; but in all of his portraits of ‘the other side’ Ken paints his subjects in very unflattering terms. Catholic Church massacred and devoid of humanity. WLC looking lost and silly in his debate with Hitchens (making Ken the first person I have heard claiming this).
    Ken, is it that strong urge for unfettered humanity that leads you to the least gracious view possible?

  • The Atheist Missionary October 29, 2010, 1:17 am

    Glenn, I have read WCB and usuallty describe the experience as something like trying to follow The Origin of the Species after having six beers. I am going to reread it before I listen to the upcoming discussion between he and Stephen Law on Premier Christian Radio.

    I agree that WCB is not in any way comparable to anything written by D’Souza.

    If you are looking for article suggestions, I would love to hear your defence to the great pumpkin objection. I also thought you would like these gems from blogger Steven Carr:

    [Plantinga] just unleashed the Doomsday device of Christian apologetics.

    You can use Plantinga’s methods to show that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that we have one leg.

    The mere fact that we can see two legs is not a proof that we have two legs, as we just Alvinise it and claim there is a possible world where we are mistaken about the number of legs Homo sapiens have (just like there is a possible world where people are mistaken about how many legs a millipede has)

    As Plantinga has now shown that there is no logical proof that you have two legs, he has cut away the legs of everybody trying to debate rationally.

    This is Christian apologetics – go nuclear when you are trapped in a corner,ignoring the fact that you kill your own beliefs while doing so.

    ……

    PLANTINGA: “if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused – as most of the world’s people believe – you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically.”

    CARR: I’ll take that risk.

  • Glenn October 29, 2010, 1:37 am

    T.A.M says [on D'Souza's book]: “It’s kind of like reading Reasonable Faith or Warranted Christian Belief.”

    Then T.A.M. says “I agree that WCB is not in any way comparable to anything written by D’Souza.”

    I hope you’ll sympathise with those who find this confusing.

    The great pumpkin objection has been done to death, don’t you think? As someone who has looked into it, what have you found lacking in the many responses to that objection? I would have thought nobody took that objection seriously anymore.

    (I did blog on this a while back)

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 11:22 am

    Thats interesting, Carr seems to completely misunderstand Plantinga, nowhere has Plantinga said that because its merely possible that X be false it follows one can’t rationally believe its true. I note no citation is given.

    In fact Plantinga would distinguish between internal and external rationality. He would say that the mere fact of perceiving you have two legs means you are rational (internally) in thinking you have two legs unless one has a defeater for this belief: some reasons for thinking your perceptual experience is unreliable or some reasons for thinking you only have one leg that are more compelling than the experience is.

    Second Plantinga would say that ones belief is externally rational if the perception is produced by ones cognitive faculties functioning properly in a congenial environment. He would contend that no non circular proof is avalible that ones faculties meet these conditions, but this is not a problem because no one can verfiy ones cognitive faculties without relying on them. Plantinga has also said that people justifiably start off assuming the reliability of there faculties and are justified in doing so in the absence of defeaters.

    So in short Plantinga’s position would lead to the opposite of what Carr wrote.

    What Carr is doing is confusing Plantinga’s response to one particular version of the problem of evil, with his positive epistemology. In God Freedom and Evil, Plantinga rebutted the logical problem of evil by showing its possible that both God and Evil exists. In this context it was appropriate because the logical problem of evil contends its logically impossible for God to exist and evil exist, to rebut this particular claim one only needs to show that these things are logically possible.

    Nowhere, in making this argument did he claim it showed belief in God was rational. All Plantinga claimed was his argument showed one particular argument failed. As appears common skeptical commentators have taken an argument failed to understand it and ridiculed an invented caricature.

    I agree with Glenn the great pumpkin is nonsense, in fact it commits the equivocation fallacy quite blatantly.

    BTW, the book to read regarding Law and Plantinga’s dialogue is Naturalism Defeated. He barely discusses EAAN in WCB.

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 11:24 am

    whoops I forgot to change the photo from my wifes to mine on the last post.

  • Andrew October 29, 2010, 1:42 pm

    Ken,
    The claim that Craig lost in the debate is the most idiotic claim on this chain.

    Seriously! did you even watch the debate? In-fact any rational person that watched it would conclude that Hitchens lost by a freeking country mile!

    In conclusion, YOU FAIL!

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 1:49 pm

    Andrew, any time Hitchens or Dawkins says anything regardless of the forum it’s credible. All philosophical work to the country is jelly wrestling and can be dismissed without examination, if a scientific study says something negative about Christians this is credible solid science, disputing it makes you anti science and is playing the man not the ball impugning good scientists, any one who cites scientific studies to the countrary is enaging in “cofirmation bias”. Philosophers cannot address philosophical reasoning from scientists unless its published in a peer reviewed scientific journal. However, when a scientist addresses philosophical reasoning of a philosopher the absence of peer reviewed publications is irrelevant in fact its an advantage.

    Don’t you get it this is how credible scientific epistemology operates.

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 1:50 pm

    PLANTINGA: “if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused – as most of the world’s people believe – you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically.”

    CARR: I’ll take that risk.

    This is the most interesting, Carr essentially states that he suboridinates the search for truth to accepting naturalistic presuppositions.

    Good to see you approve TAM.

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 1:59 pm

    TAM, Singer might well defeat Craig on the issue of meta-ethics, Singer of course being a leading ethicist and Craig having next to no publications in that feild. On the other hand Craig would beat Singer hands down if the topic was the existence of God, particularly if the issue was the cosmological argument.

    Also I suspect Singer and Craig would probably agree on almost everything. Craig would contend you can’t have objective moral duties without God. Singer would agree and would claim there are no objective duties because there is no God. Craig would contend that human beings have no special dignity if there is no God. Singer would agree he argues that infants have no more special dignity than cows, and so parents can kill them if they want to replace them with a better one. Craig would argue if our moral intuitions evolved we can’t trust them, Singer would agree we can discount our intuitions about killing infants and human dignity and so on as unreliable.

    Where push would come to shove is this, Craig would hold a Divine command theory, Singer would reject it on the basis of caricatures of the theory and arguments out of date against it by 40 years or so. Instead Singer would advocate an to a divine command theory alternative, we ground right and wrong in the prescriptions that would be made by a perfectly informed impartial being if one existed.

    In otherwords take away the question of theism and athiesm and Singer would probably agree with many Christian apologists.

  • Ken October 29, 2010, 2:15 pm

    Andrew – and the others who are upset by my comments on the panel debate including Hitchens and Craig.

    What I saw was a situation where the other 3 on the panel (all apologists) and the chairman lined up to attack Hitchens. Silly, becuase as a “street fighter” he can hold his own in such situations – and the fact that he was able to against the other 4 was actually beautiful to watch – although hardly informative. Debates rarely are.

    Craig looked particularly lost becuase it was not the usual debate (1 on 1) situation he handles well. Consequently he was silent for a lot of the time and then pretended that there were valid arguments which Chris had ignored and he raised only briefly. (Another common debating trick, that). He was attempting to bring the discussion onto his own territory but failed.

    I think your reaction to me, Andrew, really is just an illustration of sore thumbs being in the eye of the beholder. As I often say – we are an intelligent species, but not a rational one. More rationalising. And in these sort of situations its just like supporters of a different teams in a sports match. We always start by claiming our own side won and the other side broke the rules or the ref was biased.

    No different.

    That’s why I find this sort of analysis of debates so childish.

  • Glenn October 29, 2010, 2:50 pm

    Ken, do you have a need to attribute emotional states to people who don’t share your beliefs, or is that an intentional tactic for some unstated purpose? I haven’t seen anybody get upset with you. I have, however, seen people think that you are mistaken. There’s no need to play psychiatrist like this. I find it childish.

    It’s all very well to say that it’s all relative and int he eye of the beholder, but it does look a bit implausible when you stand all alone as the sole advocate of one specific perception of how a discussion went and then just say: Well, the fact that everyone disagrees with me just shows that it’s all in the eye of the beholder!

  • Andrew October 29, 2010, 3:42 pm

    @Ken,

    I’m not “upset” with your comment re Craig and Hitchens. Your attribution of an emotional state to my comment is a remarkably unjustified and ad hominem inference.

    I wonder, even if I were “upset” with you, would you therefore infer that my comment (re Hitchens getting pwned) was false? Because that very much seems to be the direction of your last comment.

    I hope you realize that such inferences are known as “circumstantial ad hominem fallacies”. Although, I shouldn’t be so surprised by your use of fallacy, it’s become a trademark feature of your comments ;)

  • Matt October 29, 2010, 8:11 pm

    Glenn you forget that Ken argues that any time people disagree that means their position is relativistic. Except when its science, then its a sign of progress.

  • Ken October 29, 2010, 10:29 pm

    As I said, it’s like supporters of opposite teams after the match. But the way you guys seem to get so upset and quickly forget about the actual game does remind me io football hooligans arguing in the street after being kicked out if the pub on a Saturday night session post game.

    Abusive and incoherent.

    Just as well we are separated by electrons, eh?

  • Glenn October 29, 2010, 11:41 pm

    “Upset”? There it is again…

    Ken, I don’t know why you feel personally abused any time someone criticises your statements. Are your beliefs that fragile? Is this some sort of defense mechanism? Feel free to not respond, but to continue to play the mind reader is just silly. People who merely disagree with you or your tactics (as is often the case) are not showing that they are upset, nor are they abusing you. It’s called criticism.

  • Haecceitas October 30, 2010, 4:07 am

    Regarding the “debate” with Hitchens vs. 3 (or 4?) Christians, I actually think that if the debate doesn’t go very deep into technicalities in various areas, it’s an advantage to be the single representative of one’s position against a group of opponents – assuming of course that equal time is given to each SIDE rather than each PERSON. I usually like it when this happens in my discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.

  • Ken October 30, 2010, 2:19 pm

    Haecceitas, in this case part of the problem was the fact that the chairman was not neutral – he joined in! Effectively this created a Hitchen’s vs the rest situation. Rather than a panel discussion it became a 1 on 1 debate where 1 side was actually 4 people!

    Hitch being Hitch took advantage of that situation to take on all comers and set the agenda. So of course he “won.” And of course Craig was lost because he could not set the agenda and had very little chance to contribute.

    Mind you, I think his small contribution was significant in that he did reply to Hitch’s challenge to name one moral action a Christian could take which Hitch couldn’t. Craig’s answer – Tithing!!

    Really interesting given all the hypocrisy about materialism.

    This cartoon form Jesus and Mo is so appropriate:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/10/29/sell/

  • Glenn October 31, 2010, 12:55 am

    Actually in his 1 on 1 debate with Christopher Hitchens Dr Craig used this example or a moral act that a theist could do but not an atheist: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.

  • Ken October 31, 2010, 7:37 am

    I guess that and tithing are the same thing – crass materialism.

  • Andrew October 31, 2010, 12:19 pm

    Ken,

    Why do you attribute to us this emotional status of being “upset”?

    Like I’v said, the inference is completely un-warranted

  • Andrew October 31, 2010, 12:22 pm

    @Ken,

    I’m still confused as to how it is that somehow you contend that Hitch won. I seriously wonder if you even watched the debate, because Hitchens got seriously pwned.

    Like i’v said, fairly much everyone that watched the debate (most atheists in-fact) would agree that Craig won the debate by a freeking landslide.

  • Haecceitas October 31, 2010, 12:55 pm

    “Actually in his 1 on 1 debate with Christopher Hitchens Dr Craig used this example or a moral act that a theist could do but not an atheist: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.”

    This wasn’t a very good answer by Craig. There has been only one Theist in the whole of human history who’s been able to do this.

  • Andrew October 31, 2010, 1:10 pm

    @Haecceitas

    “This wasn’t a very good answer by Craig. There has been only one Theist in the whole of human history who’s been able to do this”

    I don’t see how it’s a bad answer on Craig’s behalf. Granted that no Christian can really truly live it out, but neither can anyone really truly live out any moral duty, we all fall short at some point and do wrong.

    Craig’s point was that there’s a moral duty that only theists can try to live out. No Atheist could try to live out this duty and remain an atheist.

  • Glenn October 31, 2010, 2:27 pm

    Haecceitas – it was a pretty good answer. The commandment was not issued as a kind of taunt, knowing that nobody could fulfil it. The issue is not whether a person can fulfil it impeccably or flawlessly. An atheist cannot even approximate obedience to this command.

    It was a very good answer. It highlighted the fact that what counts as a moral act will depend on which stance on God is correct.

  • Haecceitas October 31, 2010, 9:06 pm

    “The commandment was not issued as a kind of taunt, knowing that nobody could fulfil it. The issue is not whether a person can fulfil it impeccably or flawlessly. An atheist cannot even approximate obedience to this command.

    To say that a person doesn’t fulfill impeccably or flawlessly a command that requires a fulfillment “with all your heart, soul and strength” is just the same as to say that one does not fulfill it. This doesn’t take away from the good point that Craig did make while answering Hitchens’ challenge, I just don’t think that this was a good example. But perhaps I´m focusing on a detail that isn’t all that germane in a theist vs. atheist debate.

    “It was a very good answer. It highlighted the fact that what counts as a moral act will depend on which stance on God is correct.”

    That part was good. It’s been a while since I listened to the debate but as I remember it, Craig did point out that Hitchens’ challenge is eiteher easy to meet or becomes utterly trivial, depending on how one construes the question. It seems that I mistakenly wrote in my previous message that “this wasn’t a very good answer” when I should have written “this wasn’t a very good example”. I DID like Craig’s answer.

  • Glenn October 31, 2010, 9:36 pm

    OK. We’ll just agree that I’m right (that is the saying, right? Or do I have that wrong?)

  • Andrew November 1, 2010, 9:23 am

    @Haecceitas.

    Cool! so you agree! :)

    William Lane Craig is generally awesome! his work saved my faith many times! if it weren’t for God’s work through him, i’d likely be an atheist right now.

  • Matt November 1, 2010, 8:26 pm

    Ken, you quite regularly suggest Churches are just money grabbing materialist organisations. Do you have any empirical evidence that say they give less to charity that other organisations, or are generally wealthier than corporations set up to make a profit. or that they work less for the poor than other segments of society or is this just another case where you make an unwarranted assertion and then accuse everyone else of not being scientific?

  • Matt November 1, 2010, 9:06 pm

    For example Ken if this http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/an-ungodly-row-at-the-dawkins-foundation-2115632.html had been a church and involved a major evangelical leader how would you have interpreted it? What inferences would you have publically drawn about religion as a result.

  • Andrew November 2, 2010, 11:44 am

    @Matt,

    No doubt that Ken would make use of double standards and abjectly fallacious reasoning for which he’s renowned.

    Of course religion, they’re always wrong, they’re always hypocrites, but could Richard Dawkins ever be hypocritical or fractally wrong (as he is)? Oh God no! never! it’s necessarily impossible that Richard Dawkins (or any of the philosophically illiterate atheists for that matter) could be hypocritical or wrong!

  • Haecceitas November 2, 2010, 9:25 pm

    “but could Richard Dawkins ever be hypocritical or fractally wrong (as he is)? Oh God no! never! it’s necessarily impossible that Richard Dawkins (or any of the philosophically illiterate atheists for that matter) could be hypocritical or wrong!”

    Reminds me of how Alister McGrath said one atheist told him that though there may be sections of Dawkins’ The God Delusion that may appear to be mistaken, there are no actual errors in it. So perhaps some atheist believe in inerrancy too. ;-)

  • Andrew November 2, 2010, 10:32 pm

    “there are no actual errors in it”

    Other than the sea of logical fallacies and egregiously errant “facts”, no there are no errors ;)

  • Matt November 3, 2010, 2:40 pm

    Whats interesting is to see how Dawkins fans react on RichardDawkins.net.com. Dawkins links to a philosopher or theologian who has criticised his work, and you then see a flood of often hundreds of commentators who respond with (a) insults (b) claims the author is stupid dumb incompetent and finally (c) comments which show quite clearly that they do not understand the philosopher in questions writing.

    For example the regular response to EAAN on the grounds that, Plantinga is right our cognitive faculties are unreliable on N&E but that does not matter because we can use science to show our cognitive faculties are reliable. Ignoring entirely the fact that Plantinga addresses this very piont by noting such an argument is circular.

    Or the real funny one was when Swinburne’s criticisms of the God delusion were put up.The first response from memory was to call Swinburne stupid and then claim he like all Theologians has never offered any evidence for Gods existence. LOL

    Its very rare to find a comment by anyone who actually knows what they are talking about.

  • Rob R November 3, 2010, 4:06 pm

    I did not think that Dinesh D’Souza won against John Loftus. I didn’t think either side did very well.

  • Andrew November 4, 2010, 4:48 pm

    @Matt,
    What do you expect? As much as Dawkins likes to champion himself as a paradigm of reason and rationality, he and his cohorts don’t really know the first thing about philosophy and never countenance criticism.

    @Rob,

    I agree with the second comment. The debate generally was sub-class. However, Dinesh still pwned Loftus which doesn’t so much speak to Dinesh’s competence but Loftus’ incompetence

  • Matt November 17, 2010, 5:19 am

    Craig looked particularly lost becuase it was not the usual debate (1 on 1) situation he handles well. Consequently he was silent for a lot of the time and then pretended that there were valid arguments which Chris had ignored and he raised only briefly. (Another common debating trick, that).

    Ken, there are no valid arguments for evolutionary theory, sure biologists have written screeds of articles and books purporting to offer evidence for common ancestry, but all that biological jelly wrestling does not consitute evidence.

    When you respond by saying I have ignored the arguments can I dismiss your response as a common debating tactic?

  • Matt November 17, 2010, 5:21 am

    I guess that and tithing are the same thing – crass materialism.

    Know any scientists who got a university grant lately Ken, you know the ones that come from tax payer universities, you know compulsory tithing to science departments.

  • Leo June 15, 2011, 11:40 am

    I’ve seen a good atheist debater, Arif Ahmed, for example I think he handled you pretty well Glenn … :)

  • Glenn June 15, 2011, 6:25 pm

    *Chuckle* You think so Leo ;) Truth be told, I would have liked it to be a proper debate. Perhaps another time!

Leave a Comment

Remember: All comments should conform to the blog policy and you must use your real name. Comments that do not conform may be removed in whole or in part. You can review the blog policy here.

Current ye@r *

 Characters remaining