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 Gunita 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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Me vs Evan Phillips (NephilimFree) - Does the Evidence Support the Biblical Flood Account? 2015

( video | 1:05m )


Don't worry, this blog won't just be my debates. To make up for it, I'm going to post my friend's score of the debate. He used to score academic and competition debates so it'll be good.

Briefly, a few days ago I debated a known YouTube Creationist named NephilimFree. He's known for being long-winded, self-absorbed, and having a pleasant voice. This isn't the first time I've interacted with him and those interactions have always gotten heated but he never holds a grudge. The other thing that I should say about Neph is that he does stick to empirical evidence. He doesn't like just saying a miracle occurred. He also likes geology, like myself. The issue is that instead of just saying God did it, he gets a lot of science wrong or ignores/fails to look into other science.

I've been jonsing for a formal debate and finally got it. The issue is that I bombed this debate. You can read that in my friend Cliff's assessment below. I think I only came off stronger near the last half, especially my concluding statement. The problem is that it was just more obvious that I left some things Neph brought up unanswered and again, I blew my cross examination section. I messed that up so much, a friend of mine refuses to listen to the rest of it.

Cliff's Score

Opening - NephilimFree : 10 mins

-cites the hermit formation (hermit shale) as an example of falsification uniformitarianism, argues that the silicates necessary require a flood
-distinct boundary layers in strata can not be explained by slow continuous deposition
-makes ad hominem remarks that uniformitarianism beliefs are irrational
-cites bed with diverging gradients are impossible by wind, have to be a flood
-there are numerous visual aids which are referenced but not visible in the YT presentation
-cites anticlines as evidence that the layers had to be fluidic to explain bends in strata
Joe - Cross : 3 mins
-cites the pryamid and tower of babel and gets agreement from Nephilim that they require large amounts of people (1000+)
-gets agreement that non-pre Cambrian events are flood caused
-asks for an explanation of the varves in the Green River shale (alternate very fine layers which are growing season/dark and dry season/light )
Nephilim - 8 mins
-asserts that the Green River shale can not be explained under  uniformitarianism, cites polystrata fossils in varves
-makes another ad hominem (asserts that uniformitarianism arguments are figments of the imagination)
-brings up numerous arguments Joe didn't raise and then attempts to disprove them

Opening - Joe : 10 muns
-argues the flood is not a good scientific model (simple, fits with what we know, explanatory power, makes novel predictions)
-the layers show examples of situations such as  desiccation, fossil charcoal in the layer caused by the flood, yet these cause large time scales
-the only way to explain these are to provide a complex - ad hoc ideas
-Egypt and other civilizations are pre-flood and as well population models are contradicted by the flood (where did all the people come from to build the tower of babel)
-explanatory power is poor, cites the specialization of elephants in very short timescales and rapid divergence (position wise) of the population
-novel predictions seems to be lacking, fossils are not mixed up, where did all the diseases come from, all where host in Noah's family?
Cross - Nephilim : 3 mins
-how can millions of tons of silicates be transported without evidence of transport (erosion)
-how can anticlines form
-explain gradients
-complete fossils in chalk
-could parasites be in the animals
-human footprint on trilobites

Joe - Response : 8 mins
-actualists don't argue transport is wind only
-anticlines form under high pressure / high heat
-claims that the footprint is debunked
-recaps that Nephilim has not addresses his points made in the opening however the formats doesn't allow it
-does not address all of the questions raised

Nephilim : 5 mins
-claims trilobytes are not refuted
-charcoal is caused by volcanoes
-burrowing (bioturbbation), claims it is missing, argues Joe is presenting false information
-elephants problem is based on secular timeline
-against asserts anticlines falsify uniformitarianism (rocks can not bend)

Joe : 5 mins 

-notes again anticlines can form under high pressure / heat and uplift
-cites multiple examples of bioturbation 
-notes no response to desiccation, volcanoes can't explain charcoal due to the presence of other bioforms, ignored the other arguments (population growth)
-the elephant timeline comes from answers in genesis, not secular timelines
-notes again a lack of prediction of the flood model

Summary :

Both participants have examples of poor form. Joe criticizes Nephilim initially for failing to address his arguments in Nephilim's first 3 min response but that was a question time, not a rebuttal. Nephilim accuses Joe of being dishonest with no references, makes implications character references which are not rational argument and at best logical fallacies of emotional pleas or appeals to incredulity. This is neutral.

Both openings lay out a foundation, Joe's is slightly more organized but Nephilim's is also clear that there are multiple claims of geological events which seem to require a global flood. Neutral here.

The first round of questioning is strongly in Nephilim's favor. Joe seemed to be setting up Nephilim for future discussion vs challenging him on points raised in the opening. 

In the rebuttal both participants ignore arguments raised by the other. Joe for example ignores Nephilim's parasite argument to explain the source of all disease in people. Nephilim ignores desiccation events. This is neutral, no advantage to either.

Closing, this strongly favors Joe. He does a well executed summary and notes all points left unaddressed from the opening, clarifies a mistake Nephilim made in thinking the Elephant speciation was from secular timelines and again notes rebuttal arguments which were ignored (anticline explanation).

In short, I see this as close, but a very slight margin to Joe. It was however very close and if Nephilim had not made the mistake about the Elephant timeline and provided a concise description of all arguments uncontested he would have closed that gap.

My review

In general it just isn't a good debate. Neph and I talked past each other, Neph also insisted on a messed up debate structure based on his inaccurate understanding of the format of a Policy Debate, and it seemed too rushed.

A policy debate has this format:
Neph 10m, Me 3m questions, Me 10m, Neph 3m questions, Neph 8m, Me 8m, Neph 5m, Me 5m.

But Neph made it:
Neph 10m, Me 3m questions, Neph 8m, Me 10m, Neph 3m, Me 8m, Neph 5m, Me 5m.

This was weird and made the rebuttals worthless. Also the first 21 minutes are a slog.


I should have prepared more. I sounded nervous and was a bit all over the place and let Neph get away with a lot of crap. I also agree with Cliff that it was poor form to say Neph didn't address my points, though I don't agree with him so strongly. I did it because I was William Lane Craig'ing Neph, AND because I was trying to establish that my points were so critical that Neph SHOULD have addressed them in his opening.

Speaking of William Lane Craig'ing, that's probably what saved me. Listening to so many of his debates made me have the stronger case if not the strongest specific response. Like Craig, I framed the debate by saying Neph needed to meet a criteria in order to make his case. Also like Craig, I kept arguing with respect to that framework. AGAIN like Craig, my opponent didn't object to my framework, nor did he speak about his evidence with reference to it so, like Craig, I brutalized Neph for not doing that. I felt so slick calling out the arguments Neph failed to respond to, the claims he dropped, all that good stuff. That's what saved me, but BARELY.

I also gave too many arguments. I should have stuck to fewer and fleshed them out more.

Neph criticisms

People were telling me that he would be difficult in a formal debate because he could shotgun arguments but I knew the guy would fall apart if he debated someone who knew how to play the debating game right. I don't yet, but I can ape those guys who do, like Craig. Anyways, Neph shotgunned me but failed to answer many of my arguments.

Neph also was mean-spirited and caustic. He said I was being dishonest and that uniformatarians are delusional. He also sounded belligerent.

Another thing I had a feeling would happen but was surprised it was so damaging, is that Neph doesn't pay attention. In a formal debate you have to pay attention so you are giving a relevant response. But Neph didn't grasp that I was using the Creationist Young Earth timeline in my argument at all. This crushed him because he felt he didn't have to respond to my arguments about ancient civilizations and population growth because he thought I was arguing from the secular timeline, which is wrong. The reason why he said it was wrong was because the fossil record and dating are circular reasoning. That's technically wrong, but I never called him on it, but it doesn't matter because I was using his timeline and if he was paying attention he would have realized that he shouldn't wasted him time on an irrelevant topic.

Even in the after debate discussion this didn't seem to hit Neph. Not until an hour into that discussion did he realize I was saying he had to defend the Answers in Genesis timeline did he freak out and say I was being dishonest and putting words in his mouth and kick me. That debate was a crazy one and I would post it but Neph hosted it and deleted it. I knew he would delete it because he realizes now that he contradicts himself in it so I downloaded it but I'll only make it public if he's okay with it or continues to call me dishonest.

Anyways, for my first debate I think people will let it slide that I dropped the ball, but I won't. I get on atheists for not preparing for their debates and I was just as bad. No excuse. Next time I gotta rock the debate. If I don't, then maybe I do just suck at this. I was told I'm a bit better in an informal setting, maybe I should stick to that, instead.

One things for sure. You want to win a formal debate then follow William Lane Craig's lead. Seriously. Here's some good advice on the issue: