Friday, September 27, 2013

Barker vs Rajabali Does God Not Exist? 2003

This debate ( audio | video 1, 2 & 3 | 2h24m10s ) took place between FFRF's Dan Barker and Brother Hassanain Rajabali in 2003. Earlier, I reviewed a team debate Barker did against Rajabali in 2004 featuring Richard Carrier and Michael Corey (the review is here). Compared with that debate, this one was much better in terms of cordiality, that's for sure.

3.25 stars CHECK

Richard Carrier's review: Rajabali won

First I should note that I am gonna say CHECK to all the Muslim vs a non-theist debates I'll review because they are rare compared to Christians vs non-theist debates. I have recently come across a few others and will hopefully review them in the near future.

Now, the debate. This debate featured a tweak on the normal debate topic and actually put the burden of proof on Dan Barker. Barker had to demonstrate that god did not exist and some of his arguments were more effective than others. Barker is a much better speaker, though he can still hold his own in a debate.

Despite Carrier's assessment, it seemed like Barker came out on top in this one. He was more clear and did a better job of pointing out the flaws in Rajabali's arguments.

Rajabali was certainly more polite and less caustic this time than he was later in the team debate but he still talked really fast and was incoherent in his responses. He would mention an argument brought up by Barker but then would either dismiss it or respond with something that would sound like a non-sequitur. For example, Rajabali would equate not being able to prove the existence of god to not being able to prove your own existence and thereby declare it is absurd.

Later on, during the Q&A, Rajabali admitted to it being impossible for him to think there is no god even if legit evidence were used to support such a claim. This explains why it sounded like Rajabali wasn't so on point and his arguments were rather superficial...or they would start out as sounding persuasive (he used the basic god of the gaps and teleological arguments) but fall apart after Barker countered and Rajabali would respond by being flabbergasted or hand-waving. He seemed to just get cheers when talking about how worthless life is on an atheistic worldview.

Barker also suffered from muddling his own position. He kept explaining the difference between Atheists and atheists...when morality came up, he had to explain that you don't look to atheism for morality and then near the end of the debate he stated it wasn't his intention to deconvert people - I agree with Carrier, all of this probably would have been unneeded if he just simply said he was talking from the naturalists' POV. Oh well...

The Q&A was pretty extensive, it wasn't great but there were some decent questions thrown around.

Technical: Good AQ but the moderator was really quiet for some reason. The audio skips a lot of announcements and the breaks...I dunno if the video does this, too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mark Mathis vs Scientific American Editors interview on the Expelled Documentary 2008 BEST CHECK

This debate ( audio 1 & 2 | 1:13.47s ) took place in 2008 between Mark Mathis, a producer for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed who screened the movie to editors of Scientific American, who recorded an interview with Mathis for their podcast.

4.25 Stars: Mathis is just in over his head in this interview with probably the most informed journalists on the topic he could possible meet. It's an uneven match, but a very good listen. BEST CHECK

This one is pretty brutal. It is just over an hour of legit scientific journalists grilling someone who obviously has no idea what he is talking about and apparently had no idea what he was getting into. To be fair, it was a bunch of people versus one guy who obviously has no background in science whatsoever.

The topics discussed ranged from the Wedge document, academic freedom, theistic evolution, Hitler, all the stuff that came up in that terrible movie. I've seen it. It's boring and cheap and Stein makes a very tortured comparison between himself and Reagan for some reason.

The editors questioning Mathis included John Rennie (pictured above) then Editor-in-Chief of SciAm and Steve Mirsky who hosts the mag's podcast called Science Talk. Both have backgrounds in science and journalism so they sure didn't pull any punches.

I suggest everyone gives this one a listen. Mathis barely keeps his head above water the whole time, I think he only gives one legit answer to a point I think that people on the side against ID/Creation often make: that the reason why it's not the Earth is round or flat teach the controversy or gravity is just a theory, teach the because evolution deals with issues more personal to humans, like the origins of life. But that's more of an explanation why evolution is a bigger target and not a negation of the point made by asking why IDers aren't attacking other science theories.

But that one point takes Mathis a very long time to bring up and if anything, I don't see why anyone wouldn't agree with that. Mathis gets pretty punchy near the end and so does Rennie. This is a very intensely fun listen.

Great AQ, it's a podcast! As of now, I am hosting the mp3s because I haven't found links to them on the internet, the iTunes archive of the show probably has them, though.

Revised 8-23-2015: Added a bit more flesh to the review and brought the score down in light of the uneveness of the match up.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blog Updates!

I am constantly changing and fine-tuning this blog. I have almost 20 debate reviews in draft form and at least one page ready to be published.

The Updates
I have decided to include a few things in my posts:

Debate Length - now you'll see: ( audio | video | length ) with all the posts I make.

I have also decided to note when the first speaker begins, some of these debates have 10 minutes + of introduction and it just gets too annoying.

Links to debates that might interest you if you enjoyed the debate review. This one I am still trying to figure out how to do properly, without cluttering up all my posts.

Links to the debaters' websites so you can read more about the debaters.

I have also decided to be more harsh about my scores, I have even gone back and lowered (slightly) my score for a few of the debates I have already discussed.

Changes of note

New Page: Good Places to Start

I fixed the dead links for the debates that I host.

I added a few more mini-reviews to my Craig Reviews post.

I link to a handout used by Arif Ahmed in this debate.

I will also try to add links to follow-up discussions relevant to the debates. In an email dialogue with Dr. Hector Avalos, he suggested I do this and gave me a bunch of links he wanted to see included to the reviews I have posted on his debates with Weikart. I have done this every now and then but I think I will try to do it more consistently in the future.

Finally, I think I might switch to Wordpress or something. Blogger is too annoying, the formatting is clunky and on big posts (like my Craig reviews post) it gets glitchy and will say that an error has occurred in publishing or saving a post - it's so annoying. I also don't like how I cannot easily change the link-opening options...I dunno, school has a-started and I might not post so regularly so it might not be worth it to try and figure out a whole 'nuther blogging site like Wordpress. Whatever.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Crossfire! Yay?!

CNN in revamping Crossfire, a cheesy political debate show that was on from 1984 to 2005. Because it was a show about debating and this is a blog about debating, I think I should probably at least mention that it is starting up again.

So here we are.

The previous one is notorious for sucking. My hero, Jon Stewart, went on the show in 2004 and took on both hosts and devastated them. After his appearance, the show was canceled and it's end is often linked to Jonny Beefstew's destruction of the two hosts.

Here is the clip:

I dislike hosting videos on my blog (and prefer linking to them instead) but this one will be the exception.

Short Review
This is a great debate and Stewart does a great job of making Carlson look ridiculous. As in the debate between Louis CK and Bill Donohue, Stewart is lucky in that he is a comedian. His job isn't to present the tough questions and hard hitting news, it's to make people laugh at the fact that there is a town in Iran called Qum, for FSM's sake! The other guy just panders to the liberal audience, really.

But in the interview, Stewart mentioned that the concept of the show was great and needed to be apart of the MSM, but that the way it was functioning at the time, was awful.

Technical: Poor VQ and the AQ is alright. I think the syncing is off, a little.

Now Tucker Carlson and the other guy are gone and a new show is coming back on the 16th of this month. The new hosts will be Newt Gingrich and S. E. Cupp on the right, with Stephanie Cutter and Van Jones representing the left.

The only one I am familiar with is Gingrich and though I dislike the guy, I don't dislike the choice because he was picked to be a representative of the conservative side and in one interview, Hitch claimed that he was taken aback at how formidable Gingrich was as an opponent in a previous debate that had.

S. E. Cupp is original in that she says she is an atheist but apparently holds all the terrible positions the religious right are known for expressing. It's novel, but ultimately uninteresting. But I like the idea that there are women included as hosts. Maybe I will watch this, though I didn't watch the last one and it will mostly be on politics...

The Wikipedia articles mentions some changes that sound like they're at least trying for a more genuine show:
-There will be a "Cease Fire" round that has the two hosts trying to find some common ground at the end of every episode.
-As mentioned earlier, there are two women hosts.
-There is no longer going to be a studio audience because they don't want the folk to just "play to audience".

The latter one makes sense and all, and I complained about this very thing in my review above, but I still think there should probably be a live audience. Maybe because this is cable they're afraid of dealing with the types of audiences that frequent Bill Maher shows or something, so I can see why they'd opt to ditch the live audience.

Maybe I'll check the show out and tell you guys about it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Shermer & Prothero v Meyer & Sternberg

This debate ( audio | 1h58m21s ) took place in 2009 between Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero versus Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg. The debate topic was: Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?

DB: 8m53s! The intro is wayyyy too long.

3 stars

APF review: 4/5
Robert Crowther talks about how awesome the cdesign proponentsists were in the debate.
Shermer licks his wounds and is more forceful in print than he is in the debate.

I was waiting to listen to this one for awhile because I know that the evolutionists side did a bad job and I remembered the ID proponents doing a better job. I always find myself saying that I think Stephen Meyer is a solid proponent of ID and I would imagine that I could cite this debate as an example supporting that position. I probably still could, but I wouldn't think it is all that impressive of an endorsement after just hearing the debate.

In fact, the best way to describe this debate is to call it a hornet's nest. The best part was probably Shermer and Prothero's opening and then it just went down hill from there. Damion goes into some detail about their arguments which I suggest you read if you want to know them but don't want to listen.

Basically, the IDers came off as really whiny. They also came off as creepily interested in one another, too. Several times in the debate Meyer would stop everything and talk about how great of a guy Sternberg is and Shermer mentions this...later on, during the Q&A the mod had to ask Meyer to not ask his own questions of his debate was kind of weird...

There was also a pissing match over what the debate topic was about. Technically, only Shermer's side really addressed it. The debate was on whether or not evolution was able to address the origins of life. All the IDers did was complain that they weren't being taken serial and that whales evolved too fast. They started mentioning the Cambrian explosion but barely did so beyond quibbling and both sides messed this topic up: complaining about how long it actually took and whether it should be considered an explosion or a short fuse. I can picture a layperson in the audience, who is interested in the discussion, begging someone to relate this back to the topic at hand.

Meyer did get some good jabs in on Shermer, maybe this is where I thought Meyer did a good job. Shermer compared Sternberg's argument to the god of the gaps argument in his rebuttal and Meyer was pretty slick in calling out Shermer for using canned responses in his rebuttals. This is a major issue that I have with Shermer in general, he is just too vague of a skeptic, it would be nice if he did some more research and argued more on specifics.

But besides that, the IDers mostly just patted each other on the back, whined that they too, had PhDs and didn't address the arguments their opponents made that were relevant to the debate's topic. They got away with this, though and the audience seemed raring to clap at anything pro-ID, I think they even accidentally clapped for a talking point that wasn't that pro-ID made by Sternberg.

Both Richard Sternberg and Stephen Meyer are the guys who sparked the whole Smithsonian/Peer-Review Controversy, something that was later treated in Expelled. Their back-patting all night in this debate definitely fits in well with the circumstances that are discussed in the Wikipedia article I link to.

A pretty frustrating debate. I would like to hear Massimo Pigliucci debate Meyer, personally. I just remembered that there is a debate between Meyer and Ken Miller out there, but I haven't heard it in awhile, maybe I'll check that one out later...