Wednesday, April 27, 2016

William Lane Craig vs Kevin Scharp - Is There Evidence for God? 2016 BEST

This debate ( video only | 1:17m ) happened this year and pitted apologist debate missile William Lane Craig and OSU Philosophy Professor Kevin Scharp against each other on the topic "Is There Evidence for God?"

4.5 stars - Scharp was brutal and essentially met the wishes of all us Craig critics who are tired of seeing his opponents drop the ball debate after debate. Craig's less compelling performance and Scharp's over-zealousness and other tactical issues ultimately hold this back from being a great debate albeit a compelling one.

Billed as a discussion, each speaker gave 15 minute openings followed by a botched 20-30 minute dialogue and then questions from the audience.

Craig went first and gave his usual arguments emphasizing the contingent argument and adding his lame IBE from math to God argument in the mix. He focused a bit more on knowledge and experience which I think was Craig tapering his case to Scharp's background. Polished and easy listening as usual and no curve balls.

Scharp came in with a head full of steam - prepared and intense. It was refreshing as hell to see him give such an organized presentation with specific points, arguments, refutations, and even a ppt. He starts off by explaining how he would gauge the evidence for God, compares it to Craig's weird probability claims - 51% likeliness that evidence points to God - gives general arguments against theism, including something new (in public debates) called the Argument from Divine Psychology to undercut Craig's FTA, KCA, and math argument. He then continued with the same criticism Tooley and Law leveled at WLC in their debates about his half-assed moral argument. After this he critiqued Craig's approach, apologetics in general and Craig's socially dubious positions.

There was a lot of content in Scharp's presentation and it's clear that he took seriously what people have been begging for years that Craig's opponents do - prepare a case that is relevant to current concepts in the great debate and freaking research WLC's arguments and tactics.

The only issue which I think plagued Scharp is that nothing was really hammered home in his opening. Good stuff was mentioned but quickly and though it certainly is a feat to fit in ones' own case and refutation of Craig into a single opening, it seems like the latter could have been condensed in order to make parts of the former glaringly clear for the audience.

During the discussion WLC certainly took advantage of the Scharps' fast and furious opening and Scharp was able to clarify things but another thing holding Scharp back came into light during this part of the debate: Scharp was like a caged puma. After every one of Craig's statements Scharp would go "yes - yes - yes - mmhm" not in a rude manner but in one that belayed someone who decided to double his Red Bull consumption to prep for the debate. He didn't come off as mean-spirited or obnoxious though, it just made me want to side bar and say "reign it in, bruh, let the points sink in - contain your argument boner."

One thing that was a bit new to me was that the moderator was especially crappy and biased towards WLC. The bulk of the conversation was either of the two talking and Scharp playing defense. When Scharp brought up an argument mentioned in his opening the mod actually shut it down after a bit saying it wasn't relevant to the debate. Usually the Veritas 'bates I've seen are exceptionally fair and I'm not even against bias mods but the moderator seemed more interested in guiding Craig to make his more rhetorically enticing points we've all fallen in love with. The thing here though is Scharp really nailed Craig on the poor explanatory power his arguments yield which is crucial since Craig ran them all as inference to the best explanation arguments (IBE). Craig never responded and was saved by the moderator a few times.

Craig's less forceful performance also keeps this debate back from being stellar. The debate ultimately gets a high score because of the novel arguments (in terms of public debates) Scharp ran and that despite being a spazz at times he certainly was an engaging speaker.

I hope more are able to throw down as well as Carroll and Scharp have done in these last few years because I wouldn't be surprised if Craig (with legit reasons) retires from his more competitive debate gigs. It seems like he kind of is considering this is billed as a discussion.

ETA 5-21-2016 Found a pdf of Scharp's presentation with his script which was neat so I linked it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Written Debate - Sinnott-Armstrong vs Craig and Updates

HERE is a link to a pdf copy of the book God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. It has been on the net for awhile in this format but because I don't want to get into trouble I never linked to it. But on Sinnott-Armstrong's website he links to the pdf himself, so I figured it's no big deal.

I suggest everyone check it out. It's based off of two of their debates on God's existence and the problem of evil. The former is not online and the latter is online but not as content rich - though very good.

Because it's based off of their public debates it's very accessible and easy to follow. Again, this is a great resource!

I have three different debates of my own I want to post. They are all interesting and very in content quality. I'll post them I swear!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Blake Giunta vs Matt D - Does God Exist - 2015 2nd Debate

This debate ( video | 1:57m ) took place in San Diego, California on October 13, 2015 between Blake Giunta the guy behind the very well presented BeliefMap website and Matt Dillahunty of Atheist Experience fame. The topic was "Does God Exist?" and it was the second debate between the two, the first one I haven't seen.

2 stars: Giunta impressed me in this debate while Dillahunty showed a disinterest in becoming the atheist debater the community needs.

Giunta starts off very strong. He's very outgoing and likeable and correct when he says he makes great powerpoint presentations. In terms of context he's just as strong, starting off by noting that theism isn't a topic left behind in the realms of academic philosophy and that theist philosophers are still generating new arguments demonstrating the existence of God. Of course there are issues with this but it's a solid point that Matt should address: it seems like pop/new atheists are unaware that philosophers are still vigorously discussing theism at least in some academic venues. This is frustrating because despite this being the case, their arguments aren't hard to overcome.

He then does WLC's Kalam Argument and the design fine-tuning argument adding some current quotes and findings. This part comes off well, too. However Giunta ends with a lame argument from intuition. That is, theism intuitively makes sense while atheism does not and this is evidence for God's existence. He gives a few scientific articles as support and the argument is approachable but it's just so obviously weak that such a quality powerpoint presentation seems wasteful.

So Giunta's opening is fairly strong if a bit thin on content. His angle was to defend the philosopher's God - there was no explicit reference to Christianity or anything.

Matt starts out more casually. He was supposed to debate someone else and that fell through and Giunta was cool enough to step in. Dillahunty's opening is a bit muddled and he follows many tangents, which is a shame. For example he mixes religious confusion with divine hiddenness without really making them explicit. He also notes that Giunta was smart in sticking with theism and in order to prove this continues to attack the Christian God wasting more time.

The last part irked me a little because I disagree slightly with Dillahunty's contention that no one has ever tried to defend Christian theism in a debate against him. Usually Christians will bust out the resurrection against Dillahunty and I know for sure that was the whole point of his debates with David Robertson on Unbelievable. The better thing to say is that Christians start off defending Christian theism but usually retreat to a generic theism when they need to.

Anyways, he gets going and argues that theism and supernaturalism have yet to be confirmed through science. And theism has no explanatory power. But the former is emphasized more while the latter needed more elaboration...or should have been emphasized more because I think it's a power point. He goes somewhere with saying how one makes a powerful scientific explanation but doesn't connect things. Ultimately theistic explanations have failed while naturalistic ones have always been successful.


The first part of Giunta's rebuttal and the ending of it are brutal in the politest way possible. He nails Matt for not defining atheism in a digestible manner. I agree with Giunta that there's more to the definition but don't agree that Matt gave a poor one. The thing is, it seemed as though Giunta put a lot more effort into the issue and Matt was relying on speaking to a friendly crowd.

However the middle part is scattered and he forgets to make clear links to his own case. He also gives a weak response to the Hiddenness argument.

Cross Ex
This part seemed to be a missed opportunity. I was surprised at how well Giunta controlled this part of the debate but that ultimately didn't amount to much. They both got into specifics and it was more casual - which isn't bad, but only is good if it isn't boring. This was boring sans my surprise that Giunta's understanding of the philosophical approach to assessing evidence and explanations.*


The closings were a bit weird and Giunta kinda showed some poor form by making a new argument to affirm Christianity. Matt again said he didn't prepare a closing and winged it.

Ultimately I'm giving this to Giunta. I don't think that Giunta's case was all that strong, but the fact that it was more fluid, polished, and a bit nuanced helped. What makes him the winner is my frustration with Matt Dillahunty. Dillahunty can be a contender, but it seems like he's not really interested in upping his game.

Debates are hard to prepare for, even ones on topics you're aware of. But if you've been doing this for awhile and have the ability to speak in public as well as Dillahunty then a debate on whether or not God exists shouldn't be too hard to prep at the last minute. The fact that Giunta beat Matt in this debate should be a wake up call. The problem is that I don't think he's gonna hear such criticism. Like the AXP and in many of the debates I have heard Matt engage in he's already established a routine that's catered to preaching to the choir. If you read the comments to the video, this seems to be the sentiment.

A very frustrating debate. Giunta mentioned JJ Lowder in his closing. I wish that dude would debate more.

*There is apparently an exclusive community of theists and atheists who regularly talk about the more advanced topics in the "Great Debate" community that Blake is apart of. Considering the fact that others who told me about this forum are familiar with Greg Dawes and Elliot Sober I am less surprised by Giunta's reference to these ideas. Yes I did feel slick for being invited to the community btw.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Richard Carrier's Counter-Apologist Debate Course

One of my favs is Richard Carrier and he will regularly run online courses in topics related to the Great Debate. Anyways, he is having a Counter-Apologetics course in January which teaches you how to tackle the arguments against God. I think John Shook is involved, too (in an email about Carrier's previous course on the topic Carrier mentioned that the upcoming one would have Shook helping him with the content).

The course will also cover Muslim apologetics, something I was interested in and I'm sure to enjoy as well.

The course is big on Bayes arguments but after a brief look over the course website I was hoping for more information on the art of speaking or debating persuasively. The required text, Atheist Primer reads well so far.

Well yeah so it was suggested to me to summarize my experiences with the course and I hope I can do that here. It costs 60 bucks if you all want to join so check it out!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This debate ( audio | 1:45m ) for whatever reason isn't on YouTube and only available in rm format HERE. At some point it must have been on YouTube because I have a huge Mp3 file (linked above) of it on my Mp3 player.

2 stars: More a set of lectures from two likeable guys but too many drawbacks make me not want to recommend this one. But read McCormick's book!

Each speaker gave a 20 minute opening and then took questions from the audience. It was very light-hearted and more of a lecture-for-the-kids kind of thing.

Both guys are good friends and professors at Sac State in California. A bit after his book, Atheism and the Case Against Christ was released McCormick and DiSilvestro had a bunch of debates with each other on various topics. The more known debate from awhile ago is the one they had on the Resurrection which are reviewed at CommonSenseAtheism HERE and AgnosticPopularFront HERE.

Because McCormick's ACAC is one of the wider-audience atheist books (sans Hitch but that doesn't count) that I really liked a lot AND the case McCormick uses against the Resurrection is also one that I really like, I decided to relisten to this one despite remembering that I didn't really enjoy it.

Unfortunately, I still don't enjoy the debate all too much. As a very causal point-counterpoint set of lectures, this 'bate works a bit better, maybe but even then I felt like something was missing.

DiSilvestro gives a couple of arguments for theism framed in the context of the arguments William Lane Craig gives but unlike Craig, who is an apologist and debate machine, DiSilvestro gives the more moderate case for theism and gives another thoughtful but vague or weak final argument about integrity.

McCormick starts and presents his case in the form of an extended Argument from Divine Hiddenness Case against God. It reminded me of Tooley's single Problem of Evil he gave against WLC in 2010 which was given as a single argument, only with a number of different references to other types of arguments atheists give, only all with respect to the POE. So though McCormick labeled his argument the ADH, it wasn't explicitly that given by JL Schellenberg. Instead it focused on a number of 'hidden' aspects of a theistic deity that shouldn't be hidden. This was followed by a discussion of morality that McCormick really dropped the ball on in terms of his example, which dealt with sex and abortion...This maybe a bit confusing but part way through I kind of forgot why he was talking about this due to cringing so much. Then he discussed how concepts of morality could have arisen through evolution.

There were no rebuttals and the rest of the event was an extended Q&A with thoughtful but not quite the best questions. The thing seemed more like a learning thing, not so much a debate which I like, but it just wasn't all that great or enlightening.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Does the Christian God Exist? - Me vs Maximus Confesses Nov. 2015

This debate ( video only | 2:26m ) happened in a Google Hangout on November 23, 2015. It was a formal debate with the topic: "Does the Christian God Exist?"

4 stars: Only because I think Max presented an interesting argument and addressed my arguments well and because I like the arguments I made, though I coulda made them better.

This will be the most self-assured statement I'll ever make: the arguments I made, if not made well by myself in this debate, are the best arguments nontheists should be using, imo. Especially the Argument from Divine Hiddenness. If a debater can perfectly make that argument in a debate I cannot see it being defeated.

Links to Check Out:

Maximus' Youtube Channel HERE 
Max's Blog HERE

Recently I had my first formal debate on the topic of whether or not the Christian God exists. It was against Orthodox Christian Maximus Confessus, who I consider a mensch and a friend.

This time around I'll give my own review. My friend who guest reviewed my last debate feels that if I won it was on the strength of my closing speech alone. That is, there were no closing speeches, he would be unsure who won.

He also felt that Max had the more straight forward case, relying on one argument but he messed up a bit with his opening (didn't finish it and floundered at a few parts). He also liked Max's way of grouping my arguments into one type of argument to respond to, and felt that my "success of naturalism argument" was thoroughly shut down with his argument that God would have wanted to make the world in such a way for us to understand it using self-contained processes.

ETA: A friend and I conversed and I forgot to mention that I do think Max spent a bit too much defining God, however in that definition he set up some preemptive points that probably made some things easier for him I suppose.

I disagree with the naturalism being shut down part of my friend's assessment but agree that it is something I need to prepare for. My friend also thought that two of the things I mentioned should have been saved for my rebuttals: the demographics of theism and Evil God Challenge. I agree about the EGC in the context of this debate but not in future debates if my opponent brings up arguments that do not speak to God's moral character. Because Max's whole argument was about God and morality, it seemed stupid to bring it up in my opening and waste time.

So I learned a lot from this debate. However I haven't heard too many other reviews of my performance, making me feel like formal debating isn't my thing, which bums me out. I'm told by others that I come off more articulate when in an informal setting and after hearing myself I agree.

What's frustrating is that this is something everyone says you need to keep at in order to get better. You shouldn't expect to be a rock star right away. But how many times do I need to fall apart at this kind of thing before I realize I need to just accept that I suck at it? I messed up against Neph, who is crazy, and I messed up against Max, who is very liberal. I guess I'll keep at it for now.

Good news is that next time I post one of my debates you won't hear the same argument coming from me, I know there are a few things I need to change. I'm also going to try and make it more my style to curb the issues I have in a formal setting...that might make for a less content-dense presentation but a more easily understood and well-presented one. I'll still use a ppt, which I think is a good idea.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

William Lane Craig vs Alex Rosenberg - Is Faith in God Reasonable? 2013

This debate ( audio | video | very biased transcript | 1:45 ) took place in 2013 between William Lane Craig and Scientism Philosopher Alex Rosenberg. 

1.25 Stars: Rosenberg is completely out of his depth and Craig has just been doing this for too long.

Craig’s still got it. He's debated over 10 other people since Kagan in 2009 and only Tooley, Law, and Carroll between then and now have given him a good debate. Rosenberg is completely scatter-brained and Craig is so focused and slick that he'll make even well spoken opponents cower.

Rosenberg gets a very bad deal, too, because Craig gives seven arguments in this debate, plus his "this isn't really an argument" experience argument. Usually Craig uses five at most and sticks to three depending on what he's vetted about his opponent.

He busts out:

(1) The Contingency Argument;
(2) The KCA;
(3) Fine-tuning;
(4) Conscious Minds;
(5) The Moral argument;
(6) The Resurrection;

Plus one newer argument than his usual material: (6) mathematics. Craig manages to fit all this in and critique Rosenberg's work. It seems like this huge number of arguments and his vague mentions to materialism meant that Craig wasn't as sure of Rosenberg's background as he usually seems to be in other debates. But that sure doesn't phase him and ultimately doesn't backfire on him.

Rosenberg very briefly started out okay by calling attention to the unoriginal arguments Craig brings to the table. And he also preempts any attempt to call on the Holocaust as an example in his future responses for some reason.

But Rosenberg fails to back up his first statement and doesn't convincingly demonstrate how these unoriginal arguments can be destroyed. Craig also steers away from the big H and sticks with good old Stalin, instead. And in general he just creams Rosenberg.

Another philosopher bites the dust. I’ll be honest, I just can’t see any of the other guys I see in my Craig debate queue throwing down. Nor can I see John Loftus, Dan Barker or Michael Shermer.

People I want to see debate Craig: Jeremy Beahan, Justin Schieber, Matt Dillahunty, Douglas Jesseph*, John Loftus** and Zombie Hitch. And rematches I'd like to see are Sean Carroll, Richard Carrier, Keith Parsons, Hector Avalos, and Arif Ahmed.

Good audio quality dunno about the video. Also note that I got the audio from the great GREAT PhilVaz site. 

Other Reviews
PhilVaz 4/5
WK review: Xians always win
Hallq has some thoughts
JJ Lowder considers this one of the worst atheist debate performances.
Edward Feser's brief mention of the debate
Jason Rosenberg's Review part other parts?

A list of mini-reviews of Craig's debates can be found here!

*There is a transcript of this debate but I am lazy and enjoy audio debates, they should just debate again, because I maintain such a stunning blog.
**I know I just disparaged the guy but I wouldn’t mind seeing a debate between these guys, Loftus certainly wants it to happen.

7-14-2013 Added another review.
8-23-2015 Cleaned up and fleshed out and formattededed. I think I've added enough to warrant a re-post, though.