Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cliff Knechtle vs Jeremy Beahan - Is Christianity Rational? October 2010 BEST

This debate ( audio | video | 1:33.25s ) took place in 2010 at Michigan State U between Reasonable Doubt's Jeremy Beahan and Give Me An Answer Ministries Pastor Cliff Knechtle and centered on the topic: "Is Christianity Rational?"

4.5 stars: Beahan lets Knechtle get away with little and less in this quick and snappy debate that should be listened to by all interested in the topic. BEST

APF review: 4.5/5

This is probably the best debate I've heard in terms of concise counterarguments. Beahan comes off as a little too mild-mannered and it didn’t help that Cliff is very forceful and charismatic, but if I need to think of quick ways to discuss any of the topics brought up in the debate (free will,* objective morality, textual reliability, and the resurrection) then this debate is a great reference.

Here are the topics that came up:
Free Will, Hell, Contradicting attributes of God, Morality, The Resurrection, Teleological Argument, FTA, Design Argument, Atheism is practice, Christianity in practice, etc, etc.

Beahan is very laid-back sounding and clear. He also offers more interesting objections than what I've heard from many other atheist debaters. He could have been more detailed in his objective moral argument, but then again the format of this debate required pretty short presentations.

Cliff comes off as a non-douchey Todd Friel. That is, he’s more preacher, than apologist and would probably do very well as a radio host. Unfortunately, Knechtle doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table in terms of arguments for why Christianity is rational. He also continuously gets his presentations cut off which makes it seem like he didn't really prepare his material for the debate format.

He does seem like a nice guy and could be an interesting preacher. His presentation gives the impression that he is interested in updating and forming his talking points to a more liberal crowd. Like I said, he's a non-scumbag Todd Friel. I mean, I liked when he tried to demonstrate how Jesus appearing to women first went against the horribly sexist culture of the day...of course it's more likely to be a reference to the whole "the least shall be first" motif running through the gossips.

This is a great debate and a pretty unequivocal win for the atheist. I don’t usually say that but I think that theists would agree with me if they don’t put too much into the fact that Cliffe was the more extroverted sounding guy.

Great AQ dunno if there is a video, the one I link to is a YouTube vid with audio only.
*In the debate,
RE: 8-3-2013; I lowered the score and formatted some. The reason for the lower score is that I don't think Knechtle is too great of an opponent.
8-9-2015; I revised the wording a bit and added a slight caveat about Free Will.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Paul Nelson vs Kenneth Miller - Science, Religion, and Intelligent Design 2005

This debate ( audio | video | 1:20m ) took place around the end of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trials about teaching Intelligent Design in Kansas high school biology classrooms. The topic was teaching Intelligent Design (ID) and what ID was all about, and featured Paul Nelson, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, an ID think tank, vs Kenneth Miller, a cellular biologist and writer of high school and college level textbooks on intro biology.

4.25 Stars: Though one-sided, this is a great debate that allows one to get a feel of the most current Creationist objections to Modern Evolutionary Theory and how vacuous they are. What's keeping this from a perfect score is that Nelson isn't a strong debater and nothing compared to Miller who's been doing this since the early 80s.

Nelson begins with a cogent though content-sparse opening 20 minutes. He gives a vague discussion of what ID proposes and complains that academic freedom is essentially being suppressed not only in the scientific community but also in high school-level classrooms.

For example, Nelson asks us to consider a high school student who after reading a biology article wants to use it in a class discussion about current concerns in evolution. If the teacher allows this then she might lose her job because it goes against the dogma of evolution and thus any sort of critical inquiry of the theories we force upon our young scholars is suppressed and not encouraged.

This is a common argument from the ID crowd and indeed Miller got the same argument three years earlier from Steven Meyer. At first I'd say its disingenuous for Nelson to still use this argument because it has a perfectly cromulent answer but then I realized that I overlooked the beauty of bringing the argument up again and again. Bear with me here...

The education system in the US is a mess. Our country has regions that are comprised of states that are in turn are comprised of districts. Education curricula change from region to region, state to state, district to district and even within districts themselves. Kids who live in Shermer, IL but go to school A or school B could be getting two completely different educations.

It might be that among each different district, there is one that would take offense to a student talking about a 'controversial' article. I doubt it, but like I said, the school districts are a mess.

Well when Meyer brought this argument up against Miller in 2002, they were talking about a different school district than the one Nelson and Miller are debating here. If Miller is honest, which he is, then he can't use the EXACT same defense he used earlier because the Dover schools might have a different standard. Dover might have more vague language or something that Nelson could exploit if Miller isn't careful. 

And that's the beauty of such an argument: new school district = new context to rehash it over and over again.

Kenneth Miller gives his presentation and it flies by comparatively. Miller is a very charming and well-spoken promoter of science. He makes a living, among other ways, writing books for people with little background understanding of science which give an accessible description of science.

Like I mentioned earlier, he's also been doing this since the 1980s. Another debate I will eventually review from 1981 features Miller DEVASTATING Henry Morris, one of the leading figures in Creationism. Almost 20 years ago Miller rocked Buckley, Dembski, Johnson, and Behe in a Firing Line episode on ID, too. So Miller knows how to do this thing.

He's also actually a cellular biologist who regularly contributes to the field. And he's also a practicing Roman Catholic.

Anyways, Miller notes that ID have only half-assed described what ID actually contends but because they don't want to alienate all the people who support their case they often fail to really get into the science of the matter. For example, even simple questions like how old is the Earth are mostly dodged, given lame excuses, or offered up meekly. This is because if they say 6000yo then they're obviously going against the scientific consensus, and not even the consensus of a field dependent upon evolution. If they say the established age, which is 4.5 Gya, then they have some 'splainin' to do to the more conservative folks that fund their think tanks. This issue comes to a head beautifully in the discussion that follows the openings.

Miller also presents several examples which show contrary evidence to the claims of the ID poster scientist Michael Behe and reminds us that Behe essentially said that the same criteria that establishes ID as a scientific theory would also have to call Astrology a scientific theory. Finally, Miller demonstrates that ID is really just Creationism find and replace by showing the Creation missing link, Cdesign proponentsists.

After his opening both guys did a bit of back and forth and then the audience asked a lot of questions. It was clear that Nelson was in Indian Country here as even the moderator kinda cracked a few jokes about how smart Nelson must be and how weird it is that he still thinks that evolution is a bogus theory despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Overall a friendly and lively discussion. Nelson wasn't too formidable and Miller was just too good of a debater to let Nelson get away with anything.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A CC'd Email to William Lane Craig, jesus4punx@bible.tru,, glitterkitty989...

A few days ago Jeffery Jay Lowder, former pres of the Internet Infidels, made a blog post asking William Lane Craig to take up his offer on a debate on whether or not God exists or on God-based morality.

HERE is the post. Following his message to Craig, JJL lists all the people who support the debate.

Don't worry Lowder, I know you read this blog. I got you too, man. Add me to the list. I have an MA.

Dear Dr Craig,

Bill, can I call you Bill?

Look Bill, Jeffery Jay Lowder has been talking a lot of talk over the years about his debate abilities. He definitely devastated Phil Fernandes in their debate on Theism vs Naturalism. But that debate was against Phil Fernandes, in 1999, Lowder went first, and was preaching to the choir at a skeptics convention or something.

JJL later debated Kevin Vandergriff, but that debate was a bit of a let down ultimately, though extremely informative. Also, Vandergriff seems to be a minor leaguer, the debate was in a format that allowed an entire week between segments to prep, and JJL still got to go first. I also think JJL picked a pretty liberal Christian to take on (or vice versa, I dunno how the debate was set up). In that debate, JJL was pretty much given evolution and morality and the latter topic I think you Bill are very good at tackling in a debate setting.

Anyways, JJL did come out well in those debates but he doesn't seem to have too much experience going head to head against apologists like yourself. I want to see him debate more but he seems to be waiting to get into the thick of things only if he can debate you (or has a life and doesn't want it to just be debating apologists everywhere unless it counts).

Come on, you debated Hitchens because he has a lot of clout and you're not gonna get a chance against Dawkins and for the obvious reasons. Plus, the Horsemen are old news, anyways. Why not take on the guy who despite not having a lot of religious debating experience does have a lot of experience interacting with the topics AND does have experience in high school debate.

Just debate the guy. He's willing to do it at a college campus and debate the topics you want to debate. Weren't you stoked when you went up against Jesseph awhile ago? He too had high school and college debate experience. Come on Bill!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Brief Post-Debate Recap

Okay so I went on the show yesterday and thought I did okay. I think I did alright in the Resurrection debate but was too scattered or didn't have the best delivery.

I also felt overall I came off as too much of a pushover. It'll make sense when you listen to it. I get the impression that Vocab Malone read my last blog post because he was extremely gracious about giving me time to say some things and we even went over time. In general 30 minutes is not enough time to debate such an interesting issue.

Also, Vocab totally did his homework and recognized that my argument was pretty much a reworded presentation of Arif Ahmed's first argument from his debate with Habermas, specifically I used the same article. Totes felt lame about that but not so much because right before the debate Ahmed said it was cool the way I put it and that I used it.

Still, I KNEW it felt kinda lame using the same article but after looking for ever for another (especially one more recent) I couldn't find one that did just refer back to the Buckhout 1975 article. It's pretty influential and the experiment it describes is just so perfect for getting the point across.

The other hosts were very cool, I'm glad I got to interact with them in the first episode but I think I just came off way too awkward in that episode so I haven't listened to it since I first converted the audio.

I won't release the audio until they do because it's their show but I'll let you know when it comes out. It won't be for almost a month though, I think in October.

Word of the day for all of us: "tease". I think I heard Vocab, myself, and the cohost Vermon all say that word at least once.

Also, here's a sketch I made while listening to the show in case you can't wait to hear it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Me in a debate

Tomorrow I am going to do two 30 minute shows on Urban Theologian Radio with Vocab Malone, Vermon Pierre, and Bob Korljan. Vocab is the one I will be debating the resurrection about and I will also have more of a discussion with in the first show.

In their most recent episode about Mormonism they mention that there is another episode they are having with their Mormon guest that will air next week. So I think my episodes will not air for at least two weeks...if they're any good.

Stomach Butterflies

I am nervous as hell for this. I feel I know my stuff but after the past few weeks of talking with Christians and Muslims over Skype and teasing out the reasons why I am an atheist, I do not feel like I am very articulate or persuasive.

I wrote down all the stuff I want to say based on the email exchange I've had with Vocab and listening to some of his debates and reading a few things he's written. From what I can tell he is very sincere and charming but I think he holds some pretty dubious views about some topics. I don't think I'll change his views, but that's not really the point of going on the show.

Technical Things I'm Worried About

After listening to the debates from their past radio show, Back Pack Radio, it also seems like I'm going to have to deal with having less air time to state what I have to say and will have to worry about commercial breaks. But this will be worse for me because those shows were 45 minutes long and each show I'm on will only be 29 minutes long.

For example, in Nick Covington's debate with Vocab on the resurrection, NC made a case with multiple reasons to support it. But just before the break, Vocab came in and said that NC, as an atheist needed to account for the problem of induction and the fact that his worldview is skewing the way he goes about the resurrection debate. Then a break came and all of Covington's case was left forgotten or he had to repeat himself. And again, the problem of induction took up a lot of the dialogue.

I've prepared for defusing this but I don't know if it was a good idea to prep for it because it might not even come up for me.

Content Issues

I also think Covington made his opening too long. He mentioned a lot of good stuff, but you gotta make sure you're working with the clock, you know when the commercials might come. I'm going to listen to some more episodes and figure out the commercial pattern and even ask before we start the show what the schedule is and have a timer next to me. Let's see if that works.

Like Covington, some of the things I need to flesh out seems like they're going to be most forceful if I can say them all at once. I would like to mention eyewitness testimony but think it's important that I give the ramifications associated with it. But because this is an informal thing, I might have to stop and elaborate and/or respond for each point.

When I talk normally off a script, it takes me a bit to say what I want to say. I don't like it and it involves a lot of pauses. I also ummmm a lot more and say "like" and "I mean" a lot, too. Normally I'm used to talking to people and getting stuck on supplying a reason but just say "You know what I'm talking about, right?" I can't rely on that for these shows and even things that seem quite basic to me have turned out to be completely alien to the people I have talked to and it seems like I need to also be prepared to elaborate on things that seem more self-evident and have something written out in case that happens.

Presentation Issues

I have a pretty lame voice, which sucks. There's no combating that, besides building on the things I can control. But I think I come off as unlikable, too. Or rather, I come off as not too bright and don't make it clear enough that I'm joking. This could be elaborated upon but the point is that I need more time to become lovable, which sucks if I'm going to have less than a half an hour to do so.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Filler Post: Matt Dillahunty is thoughtful and has some great advice about debates

Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience has an on-going project which you all should check out and donate money to...because of many reasons but mostly because I told you to!

He also has a great video about debating HERE.

No review here, just a link to a video with tips and thoughts about debating.

It gives great insights into public, formal and informal and interpersonal debating. I'll hold off on reviewing it sans saying I actually wished he stuck to talking about the debate process itself, more. Near the end it seemed like he branched off to talking about how you should debate with your friends and family and people you care about. His advice on that was solid, but when I saw the video I watched it because I wanted to hear about how he approached public debates.

Dang it, I said I wouldn't review the video but I just did. I guess 5 Stars! Watch it!

Abbie Smith & Brandon Burton vs Lenny Horowitz - Is HIV Man-Made? 2007

This debate ( audio | little over an hour ) took place in 2007 between vaccine researcher Brandon Burton and then biology grad student Abbie Smith vs anti-vaccination snake oil salesman Lenny Horowitz. It was an episode of the Infidel Guy Show (I miss it) and they debated whether HIV was man-made.

3 Stars: If you can get past Horowitz massive ego there are some absolutely great points made against the guy that seem to completely fly past him.

Lenny Horowitz claims that the US Government started HIV in order to support Big Pharma and rake in all the money gained from charging victims for the medication offered as treatment.

He's long winded and appears to not really pay attention to what Smith and Burton mention, which is that the actual credible sources Horowitz cites as supporting his case, are not as concrete as Horowitz thinks and have actually changed their minds on the issue in the 5 plus years since Horowitz first used them as references.

This outdated position doesn't seem to phase Horowitz and things kind of go back in forth from there, slowly getting more waspishy as the short debate continues.

It's a fun debate but it's one of the few times where the complete obliviousness an opponent has to the fact that his arguments have been destroyed really kind of irks me. Horowitz is simply not a good human being.

Kind of quiet audio quality.

8-23-2015 Wrote the actual review, so I'm re-posting this!