Thursday, September 3, 2015

William Lane Craig vs Richard Carrier Resurrection plus a note on Craig's sources BEST CHECK


This debate ( audio | video 1 & 2 | 2:31:26s ) took place in 2009 between Craig and Richard Carrier and was on the resurrection.

4.5 stars. Carrier does better than most against this content-packed resurrection debate and Craig is pretty good too. BEST CHECK

This debate is underrated, IMO. Listen to the debate and you can really hear Craig struggling to stay on the ball throughout it.

Craig's opening for this debate gets into the pretty specific detail on some of the NT scholarship. It seems a lot more academic in nature, actually. I don't know if that was a good thing for his audience if it mattered but judging by the crowd responses it probably didn't. For me it kind of became tedious and out of place. Craig will get technical/specific/dense with his presentations but usually in his rebuttal periods. Because rebuttals are shorter than the opening, he presents this stuff are a much faster pace so it was odd to hear him kind of take his time with specific and recent scholarly insights on the book of Matthew. Finally though, I don't remember him calling on all these specifics in his rebuttals. Usually that would lead me to think that Craig made a miscalculation to preempt something he thought Carrier would argue against but if he did it didn't phase him too much.

Carrier gives a very solid opening. In his post-debate write-up he mentions that he liked it and wouldn't change anything from the script and that's something I would agree with. The only issue is that he definitely was nervous sounding, which is a shame. Another issue is one that Carrier is now quite notorious for and seems pretty unapologetic* about and that's his repeated mentions of how in this book or that book he's authored he goes into detail about certain arguments. In the questions later at least two of the audience members reference this with a bad impression of Carrier's plugging.

Carrier sticks to bringing up more and more parallels as his presentations go on and a few things kind of happen that are related to this tactic. Positively, it is giving a lot of information for the audience to hear and upon a more recent listen to the debate quite a lot of the examples themselves Craig doesn't actually respond to. Craig instead sticks to general criticism of the patterns seen in the parallels and when Craig does talk about specific parallels Carrier does respond to or they're actually not mentioned by Carrier. Negatively, it started to look as if Carrier was spending time he should have allotted to pointing out things he felt Craig didn't address or needed to give a better account for giving more literary examples.

I also feel that Carrier was able to hold his own quite well against Craig's shotgun approach though he didn't address all the things Craig said and made some blunders (stating that Craig used Habermas as a source and not Jacob Kremer and still going with that mistake)** and let a lot of things go unchallenged. However I think he was able to give just as much as he took from Craig. At the very most he came out to a draw, though I am perfectly fine with saying this one went to Craig because while Carriers' case began to sound like longer and longer lists of examples, Craig gave a better impression of synthesizing his case making it more impressive for lack of a better term.

Craig also made one of the better points of criticism I've heard about Carrier's case. At times Carrier sounds like he is speculating a lot of his assertions and some of them, like the one that Craig pointed out, do sound unfalsifiable, at least at first blush. Craig's a good speaker so I'll just quote from an interview of his,
...Because if you say, “Look at these differences between, say, the Iliad and the Gospels,” what they will say is, “Ah, but that is actually evidence for dependence because it shows how Mark changed the Homeric narrative so as to conceal its dependence. So the similarities are taken as evidence of literary dependence, and then the differences are taken also as evidence of literary dependence. So it becomes utterly unfalsifiable and vacuous. Therefore, this is a terrible method of literary interpretation (SAUCE. Emphasis added and lack of closing quotes on the second quote is not my fault and really annoys me).
I don't think this is falsifiable but I can't even think of a nice concise reason to explain why now (partially because I've been up for over 24 hours as of the most recent update of this review) so I wonder if in a debate Carrier would be able to come up with one on the fly. Buuuuuut I think this accusation has been leveled at him before so I dunno.

Why such a high score? Well as I mentioned in previous reviews on Carrier's debates: Carrier makes a more interesting case against the resurrection, the most novel I have heard so far and all of Craig's responses (sans one) to the evidence Carrier presented for the literary aspects of the resurrection story were pretty weak because as mentioned earlier, they were sweeping or not pertaining to the examples given by Carrier.

Missed opportunities: earlier I mentioned that Carrier's opening was almost flawless and what makes it almost a perfect opening is that Carrier mentions the argument that if god wanted us to accept the resurrection she should have given us better evidence for it. Though I agree with this I also agree with Craig that this kind of argument isn't necessarily germane to the debate. Carrier makes the argument for why he disagrees but much later on during the Q&A. I think it would have been better if Carrier mentioned this in his rebuttal in an objection to Craig assuming that God exists during his historical facts argument. If Carrier's assertion doesn't belong in a debate about the historicity of the resurrection then neither does invoking god.

Another missed opportunity related to the audience Q&A. Someone claimed Carrier's describing the gospels as though they were written by highly literate people was absurd because the disciples were fishermen and unlearned. Carrier went on about how there is no proof that any of the disciples were fishermen or unlearned - which sure, whatever, there probably isn't - but probably the more important thing to wax on about is that the gospels were not written by guys named Mark, Luke, John and Matthew something Craig and anyone who looked into the NT more than two minutes would agree to. Poor Richard, it seems like people ask the snarkiest questions of him and he is just too nice of a guy to throwdown with such uninformed questions. Now I think he is just unaware of the underlying cheek of his questioners which actually might be a good thing.

One thing I'll conclude with is the pattern of uncharitable ruthless Craig followed in the debate:

-Craig is infamous for repeatedly calling out his opponent for not responding to his arguments. In his earlier debates he would even do this in his opening speech before his opponent even presented but nowadays he usually waits until his opponent has their first rebuttal but he doesn't let Carrier have this luxury. More annoyingly glaring than in his other debates, he also harps on points that Carrier never disputes as if they were points Carrier failed to respond to or account for, which seems obnoxiously persnickety (I like the word, too!). He keeps doing this about the women witnesses, Carrier explicitly addresses this issue multiple times.

-Craig underhandedly calls Carrier a crank, too. Craig has done this before with other opponents, most notably Ehrman and if you hear Craig resorting to this type of tactic then you know he's getting cornered. But with Carrier it's the most blatant I've heard Craig go, which means something but I'm not sure what.

Good AQ and solid VQ.


Bill Craig talks about it HERE

Richard Carrier talks about it HERE

DebunkingChristianity discussion HERE

Triblogue's Jason Engwer reviews it HERE

Victor Reppert's site discusses it in this post HERE Now I've heard Carrier called many things, both good and bad, but I've never heard him referred to as "verbose"...I vaguely thought that Reppert was one of the more thoughtful apologists. Either he's changed since 2009 (it's possible) or he seems depressingly uninteresting after seeing this post.

WinteryKnight gives a quick thought HERE but I'm including this because of what he says about the 2004 Carrier-Licona debate. WK said that Carrier "either won or tied" the debate...Well I've said a number of times that if you see someone like WK say a Christian vs [insert someone disagreeing with WK] was a tie then that usually means that the non-Christian won. But either won or tied!?! Jeez WK might as well stop calling yourself a believer after such a concession.

Ben from War on Error reviews the debate HERE and makes me jealous of not having my own picture with WLC.
I'd frame the photo.

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

*I don't mean this in a "get a load of this guy" way, in this more recent debate he mentions that there's a drinking game people play when listening to his debates. Whenever Carrier plugs his books you take a drink.

A Note on Craig's Scholarly Consensus Source

From what I've looking into it would almost seem like Carrier was being generous to Craig in assuming he cited Habermas for such a claim. Because as far as I can tell the citation is pretty old. Craig responds to this criticism, though HERE.

The question points out that the source is from 1977 which is ancient. It also argues that Kremer recently changed his mind based on an interview Kremer had with some student. Craig spends most of his answer talking about how the student mistranslated some German words and confused Kremer's theological views on the resurrection with his historical views. He also says the interview isn't credible.

He then goes on to claim that it appears Kremer hasn't changed his mind and his focus on this issue almost seemed especially drawn out so as to avoid some pretty big problems that still rest in this citation:

1. It's still really freaking old, and Craig even mentions that Kremer has actually died in 2010; and
2. MAYBE you can get away with doing this in print but in a public debate it is beyond cheap to cite a 1977 book written only available in German. ESPECIALLY for one of the claim and especially if a subsequent article has been published on the topic.

8-26-2015 Lots of added stuff. Lots of editorial changes too. Lots of lotsa. Didn't change the score on this one however so I guess that shows how this debate ages well.

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