Thursday, August 27, 2015

Arif Ahmed vs Gary Habermas - Did Jesus Bodily Rise from the Dead? BEST TOP TEN CHECK

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This debate ( audio | video | 1:28:46s ) took place between Philosopher Arif Ahmed and New Testament Historian Gary Habermas at Cambridge University (I think). It was on the resurrection of Jesus.


5 stars: Ahmed gives a devastating case against the Resurrection that remains untouchable. BEST TOP TEN CHECK


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Never ever have I ever heard such a sound victory of a skeptic over a proponent of the resurrection. The only thing stopping this from being an even greater victory is that Gary Habermas seems like the nicest human being of all time.

Let's get to the debate.

Arif Ahmed is a perfectly honed logic missile and easily one of my favorite atheist debaters. His background is in philosophy and it almost seems like he just decided he could take a stab at dismantling the resurrection while he's at this whole atheist business - and so he does, undeniably, and against one of the well-known defenders of a historical resurrection.

Ahmed exhibits all the debate tactics that I admired in his previous debates with Craig, he's concise and straight-forward. While in the Craig debates Ahmed sounded a bit dismissive about things (like mind-body dualism) which Craig exploited, here it's different. Every case he gives he fleshes out more by presenting a syllogism with examples and stating what he means otherwise.

Ahmed was able to go first, which I seems odd because this debate topic certainly suggests that Habermas should go first as he's making the argument under debate. But nonetheless, Ahmed goes first and proceeds to absolutely deflate Habermas's MO to appeal to the consensus of ancient historians and survey their stance on the resurrection. Ahmed does this by noting that positing arguments which appeal to the scholarly consensus and require long lists of citations are often inappropriate for this debate format which makes him stick to arguments one can immediately check and he only cites one easily available article.

Now Ahmed is rather slick when he preemptively dismantles Habermas' major tactic before Habermas has even spoken, but it's slick because it isn't even given as a preemptive move. Instead, Ahmed notes a very important issue in this debate which almost always becomes a point of focus for the apologist : the skeptic is just being too dismissive of miracles because of their atheistic worldview. However Ahmed subverts this accusation by giving a few simple philosophical arguments with a bunch of claims about the scholarly state of the field that we can't check on the fly.

So when Habermas came up for his opening he really took what Ahmed said to heart and spent a lot of time qualifying his statements every time he mentioned scholarly consensus. Unfortunately Habermas doesn't seem to be a very strong debater in my opinion. Even when he does mention a point you'd presume he's positing to support his case he does so with a lot of hedges and rather timidly.

In general what Ahmed cautioned against was his case. He said there are claims about the resurrection that biblical scholars agree upon and then continued to cite examples.

The one point Habermas makes that seemed undermining to Ahmed's case was that it's not just hey people had a mass hallucination, it's that multiple times there were mass hallucinations which works against the normal probabilistic argument for the likeliness that a mass hallucination occurred. Habermas did mention this point with a solid rhetorical delivery too.

I think this point is already addressed in Ahmed's 3rd argument (linked below) but it does come up in the Q&A to which Ahmed answers directly.

Habermas also talks about near-death and out of body experiences, too. I think that even Christians find this stuff kind of sketchy and it's a good call on Craig's part (and even to a lesser extent, Licona's part as well) to not talk about this kind of stuff if he wants to get souls saved. From this point Habermas also argued that at the very least if God does exist then the resurrection does have to look more convincing. 

After this the debate moved into a Cross-Ex mode with Ahmed asking Habermas and then Habermas asking Ahmed questions. Here Ahmed is surgical in his responses and questions. Every time he speaks he starts by saying "Well there's three things I have to say to that" and then proceeds to say some well spoken and damning counter that sounds as if it was prewritten and not made up on the fly.

Unfortunately the format just follows what I described. It was openings, then the cross-ex, followed by Q&A. It would have been nice to have the full legit structure but alas.

Again Habermas just came off so likable but he just wasn't prepared for the type of argument Ahmed used. In general Habermas like all the other folk who defend this claim do so with only a portion of their argument and defense focused on epistemic concerns. However, this is done with the assumption that the majority of their opponent's argument rests on historical topics. This was not Ahmed's tactic and so Habermas was left with a presentation containing a case mostly dependent on stuff Ahmed warned against and demonstrated was irrelevant to his own case anyways.

Dr Ahmed was also nice enough to send me a copy of the handout he gave out for this debate. You can download a pdf of it here.

Also Habermas mentions that in a debate about NDEs his opponent, Keith Augustine, conceded the debate to him when it was over. Here is an alleged claim to the contrary, though.

*It's "Eyewitness Testimony" by Robert Buckhout 1975. You can read I think all of it on Google Books here, but if you really want a copy, contact me and I'll share it with you!

Technical
Good AQ and there is a video, I dunno why I thought there wasn't...

Other Reviews
APF review 5/5

Big White Ogre reviews 1 & 2

Muslim review HERE

John Loftus's very short assessment HERE

Triblogue's Jason Engwer review HERE This review is a prime example of how apparent it is that Christians are not as critical about debates as non-Christians. If you look through the reviews of WinteryKnight (he shockingly doesn't review this debate), the judges for the Internet Infidel debates (ESPECIALLY that last one), and other Christians' reviews it seems like the BEST a Christian's opponent can do is DRAW. So when I see a Christian say a debate was a draw, I'm gonna assume they mean the Christian lost if they're going to be so blithely inept at self-criticism.

A very extensive review HERE I mean this in jest but the way he reformulates Ahmed's arguments looks like how Rube Goldberg would have written them.

HitchensCorner review HERE

Tim McGrew critiques Ahmed's opening speech HERE. I think it's weak and I'm thinking about maybe responding to it...dunno though.

Post Revision History
8-19-2013 I added a link to Ahmed's handout. 
8-25-2015 Added more detail, more reviews and a link to the article Ahmed cites. 
8-28-2015 Added EVEN MORE detail and more reviews and links. I think I added enough stuff to justify a remastered post, too. So guess what I decided to remaster...

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