Monday, May 27, 2013

William Lane Craig vs Hactor Avalos - Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? 2004 BEST TOP TEN CHECK GTP

This debate ( audio | video (audio only) | 1:59.57 | Debate Starts: 5m47s in ) took place in 2004 between Craig and Biblical Scholar Hector Avalos on the Resurrection of JesuCristo. It took place at Iowa State U and was in front of 3,000 students according to Craig.

4.75 stars: Avalos and Craig both bring a lot to the table and make for an interesting debate on the resurrection filled with more impressive arguments.

Other Reviews
PhilVaz 2/5
CSA review: bad

This is an intense debate and one that I go back to a lot because of how detailed it was and the uniqueness of some of the arguments made. It's also one of Craig's best debate performances on this subject, IMO. That is, at least in terms of forcefulness and maybe not so much rhetoric.

Craig starts out attacking Avalos being “unprofessional” in a previous debate debate he had with Rubel Shelly. Craig spends a good deal of time doing this, too. I'll ramble about my problems with this later, though.

Avalos has a great opening and doesn’t let Craig’s attack phase him. This is Avalos’s best presentation in the debate but he kind of gets less and less persuasive for the rest of the debate until the Q&A. I agree with others that Avalos can come off as mean-spirited in his approach. His presentation made it seem like he was attacking Craig, for example, saying things like “yes, there are two Dr. Craigs”. I can see how the audience would think he’s just trying to discredit Craig rather than focusing on the historical "facts" Craig mentioned.

Craig also does the slickest (positive connotation) rebuttal I have heard him use so far. In his first rebuttal, Craig notes that Avalos has used biblical sources for his own published work on ancient healthcare. Craig argues that if Avalos wants to say the bible is an unreliable source, then it would undermine his own research which relies on such dubious sources. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised that Avalos used the bible to talk about a non-supernatural phenomena known as healthcare, not to prove the resurrection of a human being. The standards of evidence to talk about healthcare in ancient times are not the equivalent to the standards of evidence required to prove someone rising from the dead. I would also suggest that Avalos is a biblical scholar and professor at a university. The latter means that he is required to publish regularly to maintain his job while the former entails that most of what he publishes will somewhere have the bible mentioned.

But the important thing, debate-wise, is that Avalos doesn't address this and thus Craig definitely gets this point in his favor at least in a fridge-logic sort of way.

In fact, one of the criticisms I have of Avalos is that he seems to just talk past his debate opponents. This is evident in other debates of his and it’s a really easy thing for his opponent to point out which is what Craig does when Avalos doesn't respond to the criticism I mentioned just prior to this paragraph.

Another criticism I have of Avalos is I think he needs to be more explicit in demonstrating how the points he made are relevant to the debate. In this debate he brought up a linguistic issue which Craig was able to address only cursorily because he never used it in that specific debate so he deemed it irrelevant. It also didn't help that the topic was just simply lost on the audience because it required a knowledge of translating between ancient languages. In an email correspondence with Avalos he mentioned that in hindsight he agrees with this sentiment. Also, in his most recent debate, it seems like he's aware of this issue because when he does bring up some Hebrew translations it's done with a lot of hedging.

In sum, the good parts of this debate were: Besides Craig’s opening he had really good rebuttals and seemed very on point and forceful. Avalos did a good job of showing how Craig is picking and choosing which passages in the Bible to take as history and did a great job in the Q&A. I was reminded of how Price did in his Q&A segment against Craig where it seemed that Price (and here Avalos) where kind of forced to be more focused in their responses to some of Craig's criticisms due to the questions asked by the audience. I also felt like Avalos did a better job of summarizing his point and ended with a thoughtful appeal in his closing.

So there is a lot to take out of this debate and because of this, I'm making it a TOP TEN debate because of how strong Craig did in it again, despite his lame opening and the strength of Avalos' performance.

Okay AQ, a little low and it seems like a bit of Avalos' 2d rebuttal is cut off.
About Craig’s attack on Avalos

First off, that Craig can spend the first 5 minutes of his presentation attacking his opponent and still present his normal schtick is a testament to Craig's skill as a debater. But it was still a pretty cheap move to pull and it didn't go unnoticed if you go by the audience's impressions in the Q&A. In fact, when someone brought it up, Craig said he felt "uncomfortable" doing that, as if he wanted some sympathy for doing it anyways.

Elsewhere someone made a good point about this, too: Craig should have contacted Avalos about it before the debate if he was so worried about it. Or if Avalos did do that in this debate Craig should have simply pointed out that Avalos was being too critical about the quality of the ancient texts and sucked it up, but to be fair that's not an answer a perfect apologetic missile like Craig would consider. Ultimately maybe he shoulda offered another unique or interesting point to his arguments. Whatever.

Concerning the "printers errors" mentioned by Craig, there is more of a discussion about it here and here, if you're interested. 

LASTLY, through my university's ILL, I was actually able to get a copy of the debate audio between Avalos and Shelly. And I can say that Craig at least mischaracterizes the tone in which Avalos said the things he quoted in this 2004 debate and at most quote mines Avalos. I will claim that Craig misrepresents the context of the issue. I have been nursing over a critique of this attack on Avalos for awhile, now. I'll have a review of the Shelly debate (it wasn't too great) and the aforementioned critique hopefully soon. Oh, and I'll have links to the debate audio because both Avalos and Shelly said I could host it because they are both absolute mensches.

A list of mini-reviews of Craig's debates can be found here!
7-7-2013: I fleshed out some comments and added some more links at the end.
8-4-2015: I polished up the entire review to make it clearer and updated a view of my opinions on some matters.

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