Monday, August 31, 2015

Andy Bannister vs Ed Turner discussing whether or not atheism is a worldview on Unbelievable 2015

This discussion ( audio | 1:20s ) took place on the usually solid Unbelievable Christian radio show last weekend. It was between Andy Bannister, a humorous if rather cookie cutter Christian apologist and friend of the blog Ed Turner.



3 Stars: This was definitely more of a Justin and Andy show talking about the latter's new book with Ed Turner jumping in to remind the world that atheism doesn't make nearly as lofty claims as Christianity. 3 stars cause it's always good to hear Ed give a human voice to the more vocal atheists representing us.

Ed told me in an email that he felt he did well considering the skewed focus of the show and I'd agree with him, though I think he could have more explicitly linked his criticisms to Bannister's book in general. 

Every time I listen to a bunch of Unbelievable episodes and think that it's really improved in quality I hear an episode like this.

Most of the episode was an Andy Bannister interview about his book. The book comes off as uninteresting though not mean-spirited or sleazy like other apologist books I've heard of, but I was irked by Bannister talking about "atheist friends" of his apparently dumbfounded by the ironclad arguments found in the book.


Oh come on. I'm reminded of David Cross' stand-up where he reads from a Promise Keeper's book stories that sound absolutely fictional. It sounds really weak to say atheists were floored by your cutting edge book when there's an atheist in the studio who can speak for himself about the book.

Ed can speed read books, a trait I wish I possessed. Before debating David Robertson, Ed read Robertson's book, plus several of Robertson's references in an impressively short amount of time prior to the interview. I review the interview HERE where Ed gives a good show with all the specific citations to Robertsons' book.

Anyways, come on Bannister and Justin, why not get Ed to say something about the book? Well eventually...about 7 minutes into the program Ed is finally introduced. Now here Ed says some good things but it isn't until over 20 minutes into the show that any criticism of Bannister's book comes around. Ed makes the case that Bannister, besides being such a gosh-darn cut-up about presenting his case, essentially does nothing new and simply tries to shift the burden of proof from the Christian onto the atheist.

Ed's an atheist in the same way he is an a-unicornist, an a-astrologer, an a-Zeusist. Bannister then tries to claim these things aren't the same because Christianity worships a god outside the physical universe, unlike the Greek perception of Zeus which was a deity in the physical world. This is absurdly weak because Ed's argument isn't new and mentions Gods that are outside the physical universe, too...I mean, this is really silly on Bannister's part. This is also where Bannister apparently got an absolutely stupid counter to the argument that we can say a cat is an atheist or a rock is an atheist from an atheist professor. Again, come on. If that's how that anecdote went down then that professor is an idiot.

Ed does call Bannister out on the Zeus =/= Yahweh argument by giving a great comparison involving Conan the Barbarian but he said something I strongly disagree with. Conan's friend is more a Mongol-analog, no Icelandic. I think I'm willing to result to fist-a-cuffs about this, too.

Sadly, the conversation gets really scattered when they start talking about whether or not the self exists. Ed gives a pretty solid and pragmatic response to it and some back and forth happens but it didn't really relate to Bannister's book. Though Ed says that it actually does so I might have heard wrong but it might be the case that he just couldn't get to the argument.

Then it became a Behind-the-Ed show because Bannister and Justin started asking Ed about his recent personal journey away from atheism. I was interested to hear this because it seemed like Ed and I became disillusioned with the atheist community around the same time and then came back to it at the same time -- this made for some good radio, though not so much good debatin'.

But alas, many of Bannister's claims were sucked into the insipid interview vacuum unfortunately. Maybe Michael Ruse gets a bit more radio play than Ed was allotted.

About the Obvious Christian Bias on Unbelievable
Duh. I know, it's a Christian radio show. I get that. But if the point is to have Christians dialogue with non-Christians then at least introduce the non-Christian before 7 freaking minutes into the show, Brierley! Always like some Justin because he's a bit better at the radio recap than others due to his having a lot of experience but that issue was dwarfed by what seemed like just a plug for Bannister. If that's what it was fine, but it makes me bummed out for Ed who probably prepared quite a bit to articulate the opposite perspective.


Often I'll find good episodes by sifting through the atheist blogosphere and let those quality outliers curb my impression. I forget that probably the majority of episodes are like this one and that it's a good thing I don't download every single episode and depend on only them to comprise my reviews for this blog. Otherwise the posts will be as frequent as they were in 2014.

Update to make myself look less like a schmuck cause apparently Ed sent this post to Brierley and Bannister and thinking of the former reading my insignificant blog has got me wanting to clean up my act at make sure I don't sound like I dislike the guy. Maybe Bannister's an alright cat, too. But I think he should know he doesn't seem to be doing anything unique.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

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

Source.
















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


(Source)




















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...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Eben Alexander & Raymond Moody vs Sean Carroll & Steven Novella - Death is Not Final 2014

This debate ( audio | video | transcript | 1:43.05s ) was an Intelligence Squared Debate that took place in New York and featured Dr Eben Alexander Neurosurgeon and living proof himself that death is not final paired with Dr Raymond Moody, the man who first coined the term Near-Death Experience (NDE) versus Cal Tech Physicist Dr Sean Carroll and Neuroscientist plus noted awesome skeptic Dr Steven Novella. The topic was "Death is Not Final".

3.75 Stars. Easily 4 stars based on the performances of Carroll, Novella, and to a lesser extent Alexander but taken down a notch due to the rather one-sided debate topic and the overly domineering moderator.

Eben Alexander went first pretty much presenting himself as the penultimate case for his side's claim that death is not final. Alexander went into a 7 day coma and was essentially a vegetable but he astonishingly awoke and eventually recovered from the event. He further claims to have profound visionary experiences during his coma.

Alexander explains all of this he actually comes off very well and I could certainly see how his presentation could seem even persuasive. However he really just sticks to his own case and actually gets cut off by Donvan due to time.

Carroll follows and is very well spoken, though he gives more of a lecture and uses what I now know is one of his favorite lines about Kant and blades of grass. More substance appears to come from Novella in terms of opening presentations.

But even though Carroll's opening isn't as vigorous as I'd like it's still where this debate pretty much dies for the other side. Even with Alexander standing as an actual opposing anecdote right there with Carroll and Novella, and even if he was fairly impactful in his own opening, he's just one guy. Just one guy with a few others versus the rest of the scientific knowledge we've gained about the topic. So Carroll certainly gets the lance ready and aimed at the opposition and Novella sinks the death blow in deep.

Alexander never really has as much umhf as his opening displayed during the remainder of the debate and Moody seems pretty demure about the entire subject. Whereas Carroll gets stronger both in terms of arguments and rhetoric and Novella gets specific with Alexander's claims in a pretty persuasive manner.

However the debate seemed like it was just too weak a topic. There's a reason why (good) atheists debaters talk about the mind-body dependency argument amongst three or four other arguments and a reason why Craig will mention it amongst eight arguments...it's just not a whole lot to chew on for a full-on debate. Good for a radio discussion, sure...but not a two on two epic event.
So it seems like that plus the moderator pull this debate out of being a 4 star listen, especially when we consider the ultimately weak arguments from Alexander and Moody, too.

Concerning the moderator

This is the first IQ^2 US debate I've heard and in short I will check them out only if there are other great speakers in the other debates because the moderator John Donvan who was just unnecessarily barging in on everything, cutting off any of the debaters, repeating what one guy just said to the other side even though everyone heard the first guy speak already. He also apparently decided to cut off questioners or skipped their questions if he deemed them irrelevant to the debate. Noted skeptic Richard Spencer (I think) actually asked a question and Donvan cut him off and told him he's gonna skip his question. This wasn't the only questioner Donvan decided brought nothing to the topic, either. It seemed completely against the spirit of the structure of these types of debates.

To be fair, John Donvan is not the only moderator I have seen done this in the past. For some reason, people who have more extensive presentation backgrounds, like Donvan, think they need to be more prominent in debates in the same way they might be more active in a panel or for a Natural History Museum Event or something.

Gang, don't do this for debates. Even when moderators do this and support the side I support, it is annoying. One example was the last Dillahunty debate I posted and another absolutely dreadful example was a 2012 911 Conspiracy debate between Jonathan Kay and absolute crackpot Webster Tarpley. David Frum moderated and he was smug, obnoxious, and caused a lot of unneeded tension during the event. He didn't interrupt the speakers, though, which is nice.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sye Ten Bruggencate vs Matt Dillahunty - Is it Reasonable to Believe that God Exists? 2014

This debate ( video | 1:55.56 ) took place in 2014 between Presupper Sye Ten Bruggencate and AXP's Matt Dillahunty. The topic was "Is it Reasonable to Believe that God Exists?" but it seems Sye thought the question was, "Can I make people think I am a huge d-bag within 30 minutes of speaking time?"

1.5 Stars: Other than Matt's 2nd rebuttal this debate is an absolute waste. Remember, I loved the Charlie Check'em, Todd Friel, and Kent Hovind debates, too.


The debate format was a bit different: 10 minute openings, 10 minute rebuttals and then each person got a lot of Cross-Ex time. This was followed by 35 minutes of Q&A then 2 minute closing statements...though Sye insisted on receiving 5 minutes so he could preach.

So this debate actually started out alright. Sye went first and played a lot of clips of Matt from his time on the Atheist Experience saying certain things about the concepts of truth, knowledge, absolutes, etc. etc. At first this came off as playful to me in all honesty. I can see why others would see this as cheap and as a quote mining tactic and as perfect for poisoning the well of his opponent - but I figured that could be easily pointed out by Matt when his time came up and Sye seemed like he wanted to be a bit humorous. I should also mention that I am familiar with Sye's reputation in the secular community, but not familiar with his actual debate performances, so hopefully you can see how lofty I was in giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

One thing that was obvious in Sye's opening and rebuttal was that he wasn't interested in even attempting to present a case for his side. He does give one syllogism:
1. It is reasonable to believe that which is true.
2. It is true that God exists. 
3. Therefore it is reasonable to believe in God.
But that's it. That is apparently the presupper's schtick according to Sye. And after refreshing my knowledge on the position of presuppers, it appears that this IS their strategy and that just seems pretty stupid if I can be forgiven for being dismissive on the topic. Others more eloquent than I have explained their MO elsewhere so I won't try to do so here.

Matt's opening was about the usual for the other openings I've heard him give in other formal debates, though a bit more concise and it went by rather quick. There was a lot on how one knows something and all the paraphenalia of arguments relating to presup apologetics. I decided to listen on, because I know that Matt actually digs these types of arguments and puts a lot of time into addressing them.

Like I mentioned, Sye's rebuttal was uninteresting and this is where I started to think he was no longer being playful with his constant use of Virtual-Matt in his presentations. I kept thinking, you're wasting your time playing all these clips because now it looks dishonest since Matt clearly called the tactic out in his opening.

But now I feel that I was naive in thinking Sye concerns himself with whether or not he's being dishonest.

Matt's rebuttal was a rhetorical knock-out and it's too bad that it was followed up by the Cross-Ex because I think that presuppers are better called out when in a more formal setting. The Cross-Ex gave Sye the chance to pretty much dodge any of the force Matt's rebuttal had. And then there was just a lot of Cross Ex with at least a quarter of the time spent on Sye or Matt reminding the each other who's turn to ask questions it was. Nothing got through and it ended up coming to who could get in a rhetorical one-two over the other.


Comments on Sye
What is up with this guy?

I am quite serious in saying that it seemed as though his goal was to come off as a total prat in this debate. In his formal schtick he used cheap and lame tactics and cynically gave his position...but coupled with such a smug and mean-spirited disposition, that position was lost on everyone, it seemed. What's more, he didn't even seem to care. He kept on nodding or shaking his head during questions, audience shout outs and Matt's responses as if he was just surrounded by complete idiots or something...just waiting until that other organic meatbag stopped making noises so he could speak, if you will.

When Matt's questioning period happened, Sye was evasive and absolutely proud of being so. When even more sincere-sounding audience questioners asked him about the bible Sye was callous and rude, telling them "I don't talk about scripture with confessed atheists".

Sye even kept complaining about the format of the debate during the debate, saying that he wanted to go on as a guest on Matt's show or to at least have more of an informal back and forth. Sye even pointed to the woman who set up the event and got all pissy about it not being in the format he was hoping for.

Allegedly after the debate Sye refused to even take a picture with Matt and the woman who set the debate up...this isn't just being a douche, this is downright weird...

So again, what is up with this guy? 

Why do people actually engage him? He doesn't sound very pleasant and he also doesn't sound all that clever or interesting...I mean, people like Bahnsen, Hovind, and some of the more aggressive apologists are at least fun and interesting to hear...but that's not the case with Sye. He came off as petulant and repetitive.

So yeah, I gotta say that there aren't gonna be too many presuppers featured on this blog after listening to this guy. Bad taste in my mouth.

Quick Updates

Blog Apologetic Tract

I know it's lame but since I have been trying to make this a more actively running blog and trying to make my older posts not read like a 14 year old idiot actually writes these reviews AND since my awareness of the topics and the debates and debaters has grown significantly, I have decided to re-release older reviews as remastered ones on this blog.

I hate that WinteryKnight does this with his stupid "edgy summaries of debates" posts and because of that I've been holding off on doing this, but dang it, my mind has changed a lot on some of these debates too!

So the remastered posts are only going to be done if I significantly added a lot to the original review. And I know that the bulk of this blog is only from 2013, but that's the only set of reviews I'll consider remastering.

Ultimately I justified this decision by realizing it will mean that this blog well definitely have at least ONE debate review per week. So I've scheduled most of the posts I've remastered for weeks in advanced when I think I might not be able to push out a legit new review.

Speaking of new reviews...

Oh boy the new debates that will show up!

I have debates for Loftus, more for Ahmed, Carroll, Novella, Beahan, Price, and Barker! And...

Concerning my debate challenge
I've been having a lot of troubz getting someone to debate me. So I'm thinking of just releasing three videos which each have a 20 minute presentation on a various debate topic and see if people want to respond to that. The problem with that is that I want to do an audio/video debate and if I'm LUCKY my videos will only illicit written mentions on some blog.

So there are some updates. More reviews! For now, laugh at how funny it is that Hamza Tzortzis turns out to have been one of the leaked Ashley Madison accounts. I need to do a review of one of his debates. I wish the Arif Ahmed debate he did was actually available.
 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Look what I've been doing instead of making this blog more presentable...

I drew this picture to go along with my lame point I made in my review of the Matt Dillahunty vs John Figdor...I also thought of a funny drawing I could crap out that might be less dumb about a recent Richard Carrier debate and thought maybe that's what I can do to spice up my reviews, other than posting lame pictures and poor-ass writing.

So yes, this picture is proof that such a creature actually did exist, btw.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blog Quality Purge PLUS Meta Updates!

Hello ad bots that index key words I incidentally use on a regular basis, I have a few minor announcements concerning a major change I plan on starting right after posting this...post.

I am going to be editing/revising a lot of my reviews on this site in response to various concerns that have cropped up in the years since I wrote several of them.

Basically, I have found Jesus and -- just joshing. But seriously, basically, I want to make sure I don't sound like an incoherent idiot in my reviews and I want to be a bit more harsh with my ratings. Also, some formatting decisions that I apparently was quite committed to following back in 2013 just seem really annoying. For example, I rely too much on having initiallisms or shortening terms/words which seems dumb when I look at this blog with 2015 eyes.

In terms of harsher ratings, I have decided that some of my favorite debates are usually my favorites for entertainment value. I don't think that's bad, but I do think that if I keep rating debates like the Hitchens vs Boteach debate with 5 stars while at the same time rating the 2d Craig vs Dacey debate a  4.5 seems rather weak. It also kind of renders a perfect 5 star rating meaningless.

So for now all the fun debates like the ones with Hitchens won't be given a rating higher than 4.25 UNLESS they are also highly thought provoking.

Lastly, I'm sure there's some language stuff I should probably purge if I also want to start interacting with others about these topics. So yeah, I'll keep this place more PG-ish, though I maintain that douchebag is so useful an insult that it should be taught to little children in schools...aannnnnnd it almost feels like clusterfuck is too great a word to only use in my other "Debates After Dark" adult-themed debate site.


Now some announcements
Despite being pretty sure no one reads this blog, I still wanna say: I hope all of you have noticed the more consistent blog posting for the past 2 weeks!

Like I've mentioned elsewhere, I'll keep trying to review more recent debates over others and try to curb the Craig-only debate posts. But I'll try the last thing a bit less because what I am trying to do is to make sure I have at least one review scheduled for publication every week (I wish two but I'm a big ol' flake) and frankly, I've already heard a lot of Craig debates that I should review so my blog is at least active.

I had ONE other point to say but I forgot it! Such a bummer. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Arif Ahmed vs Ayyaz Mahmood Khan - Atheism or Belief: Which is Evidence Based? April 2015

Source.

This debate ( video | 2 hours ) took place in 2015 between Arif Ahmed and a new guy to me, Ayyaz Mahmood Khan. This was sold as more of a discussion with a more informal tone. The topic was Atheism or Belief: Which is Evidence Based?

3.25 stars: A cordial debate but rendered underwhelming by the still youthful, unsophisticated state of Muslim apologetics.

Arif Ahmed goes first starting off with a fullproof debate approach: he asks what evidence would we expect to see if there was a God and what evidence would we expect to see if there wasn't a god. Ahmed spends a little too much time fleshing out the purpose of such an approach and defining the theistic god. He then goes on to examine a few types of evidence often presented by theists: personal experience, divinely-inspired revelation, and I think one more. He also discusses the problem of evil and the types of evidence one could present that would sway him from atheism to belief.

Ayyaz Mahmood Khan begins his presentation very well, coming off as quite open-minded and articulate. However this is where the debate really kind of falls out of sync if you will. Earlier I was surprised by the arguments Ahmed focused on because IMO, a savvy apologist would tackle the debate topic with the more sciency-sounding theistic arguments in their arsenal, e.g. KCA, FTA, and the Design. Muslim apologists can rely on a lot of the more polished material presented by Christian apologists like WLC when the debate topic is properly vague. However Ahmed's opening and the focus on the concept of evidence such arguments seem more germane and this becomes more clear when hearing what Khan rests most of his case on.

Khan almost exclusively focuses on the prophecies fulfilled by the Quran and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. In the Quran, Muhammad is alleged to have articulated the concept of cars and airplanes and Ahmad supposedly predicted the First World War and the fall of the Russian Empire.

Now, even Christian apologists, who have been at this stuff much longer, get make biblical prophecies sound reasonable. Khan's arguments for such fulfilled prophecies sound like the arguments made by psychics or people who think that the prophecies of Nostradamus were correct. Khan also makes pretty weak and vague attacks on the arguments brought up by Ahmed and the format of the debate, unfortunately, seemed to sweep any discussion about that stuff under the rug.

Ahmed makes the solid arguments against prophecies and it seems like the audience was on his side according the questions. But Ahmed is just such a stellar speaker, debater, and critical mind. This debate, like his last few recent debates seem to be a waste of such an awesome guy.

Khan also might have come off as well-spoken and charming, but his argument game was pretty lacking. I'd like to see him do more stuff but that might not be so great if he's committed to steadfastly defending the vague predictions of his favorite Muslim teacher.

Technical
Very nice, clear audio. I didn't watch the debate but I'm sure it's solid quality, too.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Craig vs Law - Does God Exist? October 2011 CHECK

This debate ( audio | video | transcript | 2:15 ) took place in 2011 between Craig and English Philosopher Stephen Law. The question was: Does God Exist?

4.25 stars: Law gives a good show considering his more subtle style, making for a more fulfilling debate experience.

BEST CHECK

Other Reviews
Hallq discusses the debate
JJ Lowder review: Law won
SkepticInk review: part 1, 2 & 3
WK review: Xians always win
JW Wartick review: Craig won
Almost Atheist review: Craig won
CoaDT review: Craig won?
Randal Rauser review
Think Matters: Craig won
ApologiaPad review: Law won

As you can see...a lot of people had a lot of opinions on this debate.

This debate at first annoyed me and I put off finishing it. I am so used to Craig's debating style and find it to be pretty persuasive sounding. A perk of this style is that if the opponent doesn't follow the same style or isn't as structured/organized, then they usually come off weaker. In essence, Craig is great at framing the debate - he's great at guiding the format in his favor. This is pretty effective because it meant that I immediately became disgruntled when Law started his presentation.

However after looking over all the reviews of this debate I was surprised by how many thought Law came out on top. Even theists thought Craig dropped the ball on this one. There wasn't even the usual qualifying that Craig sounded better or was more organized, either. So I listened to the debate again and came to the conclusion that Law (without some faults, or course) pulled ahead in this one.

But how?

First I'll explain what I didn't like about the debate when I first heard it. Law mumbles so much. I was listening to the debate in the car and could barely hear him. So this bugged me and of course I couldn't hear everything he said. Also, Law didn't address Craig's arguments in a structured manner. And Craig actually narrowed his arguments down to just three, something I am sure people like Carrier or Craig's resurrection-debate opponents would have killed for.

But then I re-listened to the debate and went through JJ Lowder's review of the debate and, more important to changing my mind, the comments in that review, specifically Keith Parsons' comments.

The debate was on the existence of god. It wasn't specifically on the existence of the Christian god. Craig often employs the following clever maneuver (terms Tooley): Craig presents arguments to support the existence of the Christian God or a theistic concept of God (KCA, FTA, Ontological Argument, DCT, the resurrection, and personal experience) but will retreat to claiming he is defending a more vague conception of God in light of his opponent's arguments. He contends that it's a cumulative case in total, that taken together, his argument supports the existence of a God and that said deity is the Christian God.
 
Now, Law's entire presentation rested on presenting his articulation of the evidential problem of evil and then busting out his Evil God Challenge. In short, any arguments that support the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good god can just as easily be used to support the existence of an evil god.

Basically, after hearing this argument, it appears that Law has given us a nice and simple argument we can make to render the apologists' arguments that attempt to prove the existence of some generic deity. This is because the KCA, FTA, all that stuff, who's to say that such a celestial being guiding it isn't just a total douche? Well, theists do have arguments that attempt to say such a being isn't a douche, but they're pretty lame. That's unfortunate, however, because the EGC means that those are the arguments the theist have to rely on.

Now this argument is slightly less forceful sounding against the vague philosopher's god, than it is for the Christian god. Craig knows this and that's why he does the clever slide mentioned earlier. However, Law is pretty steadfast in his claims throughout the debate. Several times he mentions that Craig has failed to account for key points made in the EGC and he even presents a pretty good, if a bit belated and simplistic criticism of the resurrection. He also gives a good argument against Craig's moral argument, though I think he could have spent a bit more time on it.

Craig just seemed a bit perplexed after his first rebuttal, too. As the debate went on, he kept upping the rhetoric, saying several times that Law's form of atheism is unworthy of the title if it's fine with positing the existence of a creator being behind the cosmos that might be good, evil or indifferent. However it started to become comical that Law came back to his make his responses seemingly uninterested in addressing Craig's criticism.

Ultimately though, Law probably would have came off a lot stronger if he made it more explicit that Christians (at least those that Craig is arguing for) are required to reject the idea of an evil god as absolutely absurd. If you read the reviews I posted, a lot of people didn't understand how Craig screwed himself over. I didn't even, at first and it wasn't until I gave the debate a second try that it became a bit more obvious. But it isn't a great public debate strat to debate for people who have the time to relisten to it again and again.

But one last thing that made Law come off strong was that Craig didn't perform with his normal A-game. He made a few mistakes and came off as unable to address certain points. Specifically, he spent too much time on his weird animal suffering views and as always, he floundered in the more informal Q&A part of the debate. This last part was pretty crucial because it was pretty long and unstructured. It was moderated by Justin Brierley, who pretty much moderated the way he does on his Unbelievable radio show. Informal debate would seem to be the bane of Craig...though to be fair, I should listen to more of Craig's informal debates to officially conclude that.

So there you have it, I'd say Law came out stronger than Craig but that he could have done more damage and been more rhetorically persuasive.

Technical: Great AQ and I am sure the VQ is pretty good, too.

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

Edits
7-20-2013: I decided that Law's style caused me to think so much that it should get a .25 higher score.
8-4-2015 Tightened the review up and took it out of the drafts grave in my blogger dashboard.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

William Lane Craig's Debates (Mini-Reviews) UP-DATED: 8-4-15

The guy had a gnarly beard...and interesting ties.

Purpose

Craig is a formidable debate opponent. Luke Muehlhauser, formerly of Common Sense Atheism fame, wrote extensively about WLC's arguments, debate style, and influence. He has one page with mini-reviews of Crag's debates found here.

Though I disagree with Craig and think he holds some atrocious views and has been pretty cheap in some of his debates, I think is a brilliant rhetorician and debater. If you look at his CV, Craig was doing high school debate before becoming an apologist and actually received an undergrad degree in Communications, which surprised me seeing as I figured he got it in philosophy or the like. This is not a knock on Craig at all, just an admission that things make a lot more sense knowing this and knowing my friends who also have degrees in that field.

Again, I don't agree with many things the guy says. In fact, unless people tell me he makes new arguments in his openings, I rarely listen to those, tbh. If it makes you feel better, I do read them if their transcribed.

However where Craig becomes the perfectly honed debate missile is in his rebuttal periods and conclusions. The guy has a gift for condensing complex points and arguments into short and easily digestable statements and making each of his points relevant to those made by his opponent, who's points Craig also happens to devastate.

Even if he still makes dubious claims in his rebuttals it cannot be said that Craig doesn't know how to nail his opponent when they make dubious claims. Rarely is it that things slip by Craig, because calling out such things is one of the ways he's able to make most of these debates seem like he's the clear winner.


Craig against Michael Tooley...look at all those notes Craig has! Plus he uses ppt. The man is a machine.
And it cannot be said that this is just a skill Craig was born with. The guy does his homework and it's clear a lot of time is placed into his presentations, even if he uses the same arguments he uses them emphasizing different parts of these arguments with respect to the relevant parts of his opponent's case.

Since the early 90s he's been a barracuda, and now that the internet has made his debates more accessible it might be the case that he'll receive more challenging opponents, but of the last 5 years only three of the sixteen debates he's done have been at least tough calls for Craig, if not at most losses for the guy.

Because he usually sticks to the same arguments, I think a super post (one that is constantly updated, too), with mini-reviews of his debates would be more useful. I will still dedicate whole posts to a given debate of his if I think it will contain interesting content (or if people request it).

So enough gushing, here are the reviews.


Following in Luke's footsteps I have decided to stick to the same categories he used (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). I have also decided to grade slightly harsher, something you'll notice when you look at my full reviews for some of these debates.

Before I continue, these are the two links I use to get WLC debates: PhilVaz and Apologetics315

The debates are in this rough order: best to worst. For example, the first debate listed in the Ugly section is the least ugly debate. CHECK the bottom of the post for updates!

The Good 

Keith Parsons vs Craig 1998 Why I am/am not a Christian (1st Debate) 
( audio | video 1 & 2 | review | 2h 11m 50s ) | Luke's rating: Good

This is the one debate I can say, hands down, that Craig lost. Parsons had Craig on every argument and is a fun speaker - lots of passion. Parsons also kept up with Craig, though he isn't as polished, he still was able to address the arguments Craig dished out. Craig couldn't rely on his KCA, MA and FTA for this one (look at the debate topic) and Parsons even nailed Craig on using his personal experience argument in a great way. Craig got a HUGE laugh from the audience at one point, it was too much, but Parsons recovered and definitely came away from this one as the victor. 

This is the best Craig debate, imo. 

Sean Carroll vs Craig 2014 God and Cosmology
( audio | video | review | 1hr40min )

Parsons is no longer alone, Sean Carroll really wowed me with this more recent debate he had with Craig. Craig had everything going for him in this debate but Carroll was extremely well prepared and charming as hell. Like Parsons it is seems that Carroll is really great at condensing more complex concepts for an audience, something that really made him come off better compared to Craig who went with a strategy which required him to talk about pretty technical stuff which wasn't explained well in the debate.

Shelly Kagan vs Craig 2009 Is God Necessary for Morality?
( audio | video | review | 1h 30m 15s ) | Luke's rating: Good?

Kagan is another guy who comes out of nowhere and devastates Craig. Besides the fact that Kagan knows his stuff, argues against the points made by Craig, and presents a positive case for morality without god, he also nails Craig on a lot of things that he usually gets away with in other debates.

Kagan also got some perks in this event rarely seen in a Craig debate: he goes first and it is mostly an informal discussion.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong vs Craig 1999 Problem of Evil
( audio | video | review | 1h 25m 57s ) | Luke's rating: Good (though he's referring to their book more so...)

S-A does a great job of explicitly laying out how morally bankrupt it is to deal out eternal punishment for finite transgressions. The debate has a slightly more informal setting, so S-A is further able to call Craig out on saying, "my opponent didn't respond to x and/or y argument..." during the dialogue portion. This makes me wish Craig was more open to doing informal debate events and at the same time remember why it is that he isn't too fond of them.

Bart Ehrman vs Craig 2006 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 1h 54m 56s ) | Luke's rating: Bad because...

Ehrman is full of passion about the topic and keeps his case nice and simple. He's one of the few debaters to really grill Craig for avoiding the issue of biblical inerrancy - in a way that doesn't sound borderline ad hom. He also presents scenarios accounting for the empty tomb that're more plausible than godidit - scenarios which are weakly dismissed by Craig. Craig also spends a bit too much time trying to explain Bayes Theorem that Ehrman promptly rejects.


Arif Ahmed vs Craig 2005 Is Belief in God More Reasonable Than Disbelief?  
( audio | video | review | 1h 50m 24s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Ahmed misses a few things but he still comes out strong in this one. Ahmed is very concise and precise, he also has a few good zingers throughout the debate. Not only does Ahmed know how to condense his arguments and lucidly discuss them, but he is also very impassioned and charming. He is one of my favorite atheist debaters and I would love to see these two go at it again. Two things stood out in his performance: his example against the resurrection and reply to Craig's argument that atheists cannot condemn the atrocities of the bible or religious folk if they cannot ground objective moral values.

Some possible reasons as to why Craig might have left this debate a bit stronger would be his more content-dense presentations (compared to Ahmed) and that some of Ahmed's responses might have seemed too dismissive, or in need of expansion.

Austin Dacey vs Craig 2005 Does God Exist? (2nd Debate)  
( audio | video | review | 2h 8m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Dacey does better here, he sounds a little less meek (compared to his 2004 debate with Craig). They do cover the same ground in the debate they had the year prior (listed below), but Dacey is able to address Craig's arguments a bit more because he consolidated his time a little better. The thing is that Craig actually does pretty well too, his first rebuttal is especially brutal and sometimes you wish Dacey would be a bit more punchy about some things but he remains pretty demure, instead.

Raymond Bradley vs Craig 1995 God and Hell
( audio | video | review | 1h 15m 16s ) | Luke's rating: Good

This is another one where Craig pretty much lost. To be fair, it's a hard argument to counter: how can a loving god send people to Hell - but Craig does do his best. The thing is that Bradley did his homework. He was prepared, lucid, passionate and didn't let Craig get away with anything. This one gets pretty technical; they talk about possible worlds, free will, compossible sets.... I'm still not sure if Craig's right that heaven isn't a pw, or if he conceded the point or managed to slip away from being called out on it. This debate was a little short but it emphasized cross-examination - the bane of WL Craig.

I agree with Luke that Bradley's concluding speech was especially weak, unfortunately.

Stephen Law vs Craig 2011 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 3m 37s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Law wins this is a very weird way. His tactics are very different from Craig's and it sounds like Law doesn't really address Craig's arguments all that much, at first. Law relies heavily on his Evil God Challenge, which certainly disproves the Christian god, but it takes a lot more fleshing out to disprove the philosopher's deity that Craig is so good at defending. Law still holds his own, and slams Craig a few times in the more informal back and forth at the end. I also think that Law's response to Craig's moral argument and assertion that atheism must account for some lame-ass morality based on evolution was great. Craig always describes this dumb evolution argument for morality and always gets away with ascribing it to the atheist. It's nice to see someone else like Tooley call him on it.

This debate has gone from almost the bottom-middle of the Bad section to Top Ten. I listen to it a lot, it really is a great one.

Eddie Tabash vs Craig 1999 Secular Humanism vs Christianity
( audio | video | review | 1h 42m 10s) | Luke's rating: Good

Tabash had Craig flip a coin to see who went first and won. Tabash comes out like a hurricane and he quotes Craig a lot from his previous debates.  Such a tactic and the fact that Tabash really drove home the immorality of the Bible made it so Craig barely kept up.  Craig had to address a lot of issues about Biblical atrocities that he usually gets away with avoiding, something which resulted in him wasting a lot of time and making some pretty terrible sounding arguments.

Tabash does a good job keeping Craig on the ropes but doesn't really support his own position: Secular Humanism, something Craig calls attention to.

Hector Avalos vs Craig 2004 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 1h 59m 57s ) | Luke's rating: Bad, though it sounds like he liked it when he interviewed Avalos.

Here both parties do well content-wise but suffer from poor form. Craig starts with a 5 minute attack on Avalos for arguments he made in a previous debate and Avalos' language sounded like he was attacking Craig rather than Craig's arguments. 

Avalos does get specific in this one and he uses arguments that had Craig scrambling while also making arguments that Craig weakly answers. But he doesn't address Craig's arguments as explicitly as Craig, something which Craig calls out several times. 

Also, despite Craig opening with a cheap shot, he just does really well in this debate, IMO. This is one of Craig's best performances.

Keith Parsons vs Craig 2002 Does God Exist? (2nd Debate)
( audio )

This debate is a damaged mess that a friend sent me and only the openings and Q&A are intact. Parson's opening speech is nearly flawless, however and one of Craig's rebuttals is complete and at least three of Parson's points remain unaddressed and obviously so, which is a rare feat. Further evidence that this was a good debate is that Craig starts one of his rebuttals off by saying "it feels as if I've been drinking from a fire hose tonight!" in response to one of Parson's rebuttals. He says this for his debate against Carroll and it seems like a good sign. Parsons has since said he felt he did well in the debate and JJ Lowder concurs.

The U of I Cru copyright people won't let me get the debate and it's such a shame! I almost got an mp3 CD of it but never heard back. It's been months. I don't care, I'll email them again. They have to at least make it available on their site!

Stenger v Craig 2003 Is There a God? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | 2h 32m 55s ) | Luke's rating: Good    

Stenger does the best job of showing the flaws in Craig's arguments concerning more mathy and sciency topics. Like Luke says, he doesn't let Craig get away with nearly as much stuff as he does in his other debates. Stenger also sounds very laid back and his arguments are pretty straight forward/interesting, especially his analogy about logical consistency and video games. 

Craig comes off stronger in this one because of his rebuttal-game, however. 

Pigliucci v Craig 2001 Does the Christian God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 34m 48s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Great debate. Both guys do a great job and Pigliucci really nails home the idea that Craig agreed to defend the Christian god so Craig couldn't fall back on hoping the audience gets the impression that when he uses the KCA, FTA and MA, he's not only presenting evidence for a generic god or gods, but for the Christian god. Pigliucci's morality argument is a bit weird or poorly relayed, though.

This debate is pretty fun too, lots of Q&A at the end with good back and forth.

The Bad


Tooley vs Craig 2010 Is God Real?
( audio | video | review | over 2hrs ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Tooley does a good job of explaining Craig's debate MO and even has Craig on the ropes a few times. What I mean by this is that you can tell Craig is working for his supper when he goes past the clock. The bummer is that Tooley's own arguments seemed really technical and it was obvious that Craig knew the audience probably felt so, as well. Craig plays that issue up in his responses and Tooley doesn't sound as forceful as one would hope.

Two things that stand out are that Tooley does a good job of pointing out how Craig hasn't taken the time to address better, non-theistic accounts of morality and drawing attention to Craig's slide from defending the Christian god to defending a more generic philosophers' god.


I would suggest checking this one out and would also mention that I am probably gonna give it another listen.


Draper vs Craig 1997 The Existence of God
( audio | video | review | 1h 26m 25s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

This debate is pretty decent, though a little short. Draper, officially an agnostic, brings up great arguments and sticks with them as well as sticks to calling Craig out on things. The main issue is that despite presenting wonderful and damning phil articles, Draper's public debate-game is pretty mild.

So in the end, Draper ultimately doesn't come out as strong as he probably would have if given more time and if debating against only the Christian god. His positive case for naturalism is one of the more cogent and explicit ones that I have come across, however.

Price vs Craig 1999 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 32m 20s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Price has a pretty no-BS first speech, but it mostly attacks Craig's apologetic motives and barely touches on the topic. Despite showing the dishonest goals of Craig's exegeses, Craig was still able to dismiss this assault by showing how it is irrelevant to the debate. 

Furthermore, Price doesn't follow it up too much and stays on topic for the rest of the debate making you wonder how much better he would have done if he shortened his criticism of Craig in his first speech and gave more arguments relevant to the debate topic. He certainly has Craig jumping through hoops in the rebuttal periods but Craig definitely swayed the audience.

Another kind of bummer with this was the Q&A in which Price really demonstrated his ability to dismantle the common apologetic line. But Price definitely had the odds against him getting skewered by the questioners and was followed up by Craig getting a bunch of softball questions and getting the last word...He gets to open debates and close them? Bummer City.

Carrier vs Craig 2009 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 31m 26s ) | Luke's rating: Disappointing

I think Carrier did better than he and others thought, but he still let Craig get away with too many things. Craig was also smarmy-er than usual in this one. Carrier runs out of time due to being flustered and not organizing his points enough, something you simply can't do against Craig. 

This one is better than what others have said about it though, that's for sure. Carrier's first speech was just about flawless and he definitely was able to clarify a few things in the Q&A section.

It's a shame that Craig won't debate him again.

Crossley vs Craig 2007 Resurrection 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Crossley does well, especially at first. He has a good opening and gets the audience on his side. He went with a more humorous approach but kind of dropped it in response to Craig's rebuttals. 

Again, the more content-dense presentations and organized structure of Craig's arguments has him pulling ahead. Craig's ability to give more specific and relevant arguments that cite the work of his opponents is very impressive and it is so rare that you hear his opponents do the same that it becomes frustrating. 

Of course Crossley is an academic in the field so it's easier to find his work and cite it in ways that could work to one's agenda, where as most of Craig's work is already written in an apologetic format. It is easier to find things in the former that would be difficult to respond to in a debate format than in the latter, the latter is already written to conform to such a format!

Brown vs Craig 2009 Does God Exist??
( audio | review | 2h 9m 37s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Brown starts off with a rambling opening speech. It seems like he knows what he's talking about, but he just wasn't sure what kind of debate he was in for with Craig. When Craig throws down in his first rebuttal, Brown figures it out and comes back and does a good job. He's just not focused enough to handle Craig and engages with the arguments too late in the game, however.

Cavin vs Craig 1995 Resurrection
( audio | review | 1h 33m 20s ) | Luke's rating: Bad (though interesting)

Cavin does a great job and comes at the resurrection with a more novel approach. He is kind of stuck with his pet hypothesis, the Jesus twin hypothesis, which he doesn't really defend too much and it seems like Cavin's point with that hypothesis is: that even something as weird as Jesus having a twin who made it look like he resurrected is still more plausible then god supernaturally raising him from the dead.* But this is lost on the audience and Craig makes sure of that.

*Much more recently he made this clear in a response to critics on JJ Lowder's blog. I recently listened to this debate however, and Cavin really dropped the ball in not making this obvious when debating Craig.

Dacey vs Craig 2004 Does God Exist? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | 1h 59m 33s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Dacey is a little more timid than he is in the debate he had with Craig a year later. He still gives a good show, addresses almost all of Craig's arguments and gives positive arguments for atheism. This one is barelyyyyy bad...maybe it should be labeled a good debate...I should give it another listen.

Hoover vs Craig 2008 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 1m 46s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Hoover does a solid job of showing how the resurrection of someone as a concept isn't as amazingly radical (to contemporary Jews) and as groundbreaking as apologists make it out to be. But Craig is too organized and gives too many arguments for Hoover to keep up with. 

I mention the resurrection in Jewish thought thing because in other debates Craig tries to show how referring to other religions having resurrection stories is irrelevant to the "very Jewish" Jesus story, but instead Craig notes that all the resurrections Hoover refers to, show a reliance on a bodily resurrection. Heads I win, tails you lose. This eliminates the spiritual resurrection argument from Hoover's debate repertoire. CURSES!*

Hoover also squanders his cross-examination time, which is a shame because that and Q&A are when Craig is at his weakest.

*7-25-2015: I forgot that I had an issue with this and see here that I don't explain it too well...Now I can't figure it out from what past-Joe wrote as it kind of makes no sense. I'll come back to it eventually.

Ahmed & Copson vs Craig & Williams 2011 Is God a Delusion? 
( audio | video | review | 1h 31m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

I'm not sure where to put this as it was more of a debate between Copson and Williams. Ahmed and Craig don't really come in until the end and don't say all too much. Ahmed and Copson come off as charming whereas I can only remember Williams giving a weird analogy about socks and Craig having to deal with rather lame questions from the floor. 

I guess I do know where to put it, in the bad section. It seems like such a waste, too.

Antony vs Craig 2008 Is God Necessary for Morality?
( audio 1 & 2 | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Antony does a decent job of explaining how there are ways we can come up with a moral framework without relying on the supernatural, but she doesn't bring anything too explicit to the table (like Kagan) and it comes off as too obvious that she is reading from a script. That isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't look too hot when compared to Craig. Ultimately, her speeches sound more like lectures and she is just too vague.

Stenger vs Craig 2010 The Existence of God (2nd Debate)
( audio | video | review | 2h 12m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Stenger does alright in this one. He doesn't seem as organized as he is in their 2003 debate. Stenger especially becomes scattered in his closing speech, however. Overall, just a disappointing debate.

The Ugly 


Shook vs Craig 2008 The Existence of God
( audio | video | review | 2h 18m 26s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Shook certainly had Craig fighting for the audience's favor and was pretty zingy, but he just didn't really present his arguments or counter Craig's arguments too clearly. They were also kind of weak and uninspired. During the cross-ex Craig seemed flustered and timid despite the fact that some of the things Shook mentioned at times sounded non-sequitur.

Shook would also take awhile to say something that shouldn't take all that long, especially when answering a question near the end about certainty and testing.

Pyle vs Craig 2007 Does the Christian God Exist?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating:Unrated

This debate was supposed to be about Christianity, specifically, but Craig gets away with simply arguing for the generic philosopher's god. He's more organized and Pyle refuses to offer any positive cases for atheism/naturalism. 

Pyle does get Craig on one thing and he really slams him about it, it's too bad that it gets lost in all the other arguments because Craig responds to it miserably, I mean miserably. But like I mentioned, it gets lost amongst the other arguments. Here's a link to what the argument discussed.

Hitchens vs Craig+EVERYONE 2009 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig is barely in this one, it's all Hitch's show. When Craig does come in, he seems more like the fatherly voice of logic between the polemical Hitch, the bizarre arguments of the moderator, Doug Wilson and the other forgettable apologists. 

Craig does come in at the end and gets all condescending about Hitch not answering all the arguments and says he should prepare more in their up coming debate. Shame on Hitch!...for not answering all the arguments brought up by five different opponents in less than 90 minutes...Craig says something like, "I noted that there are 10 arguments Christopher wasn't able to address..." oh come on...

Millican vs Craig 2011 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 23m 19s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Millican is definitely new to this debate schtick but he has a decent opening and, though weakly, counters several of Craig's arguments. But alas, he, like many others, just can't keep up. An interesting side note: Millican gets pretty passionate during the Q&A about evolution. Maybe cause Craig wants to debate biologists so much (Dawkins and Coyne), he should face someone who at least has such a passion for the topic, like Millican if they're not taking him up on his offers.

Slezak vs Craig 2008? Atheism v Christianity
( audio | video | review | 1h 28m 19s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Slezak starts off strong but Craig is in good form for this debate. If it is the case that Slezak wasn't wishy-washy about his position on evidence against the existence of god, then Craig sure was convincing in arguing that he was. 

Slezak just loses steam as the debate continues, he's a decent speaker though, which was such a shame.

Harris vs Craig 2011 God without God?
( audio | video | review | 2h 3m 46s ) | Luke's rating: I think "Ugly"...

Harris is a good critic of religion and good at showing the absurd by-products of religious thought, but the debate was about morality, not about making fun of transubstantiation. Apparently Harris purposely chose to not conform to Craig's structuring of the debate, but it woulda been nice if he actually pointed that out in the debate.

Wolpert vs Craig 2009 Is God a Delusion?
( audio | video | review | 1h 47m 56s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Wolpert is all over the place in his first speech. When Craig slams him in the rebuttal Wolpert sounds down-right amazed and befuddled and just couldn't keep up and organize a defense or an offense. Another debate where someone lectures and the other guy debates.
 
DiCarlo vs Craig 2009 Does God Matter?   
( audio | video | review | 1h 38m 32s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

I agree with Luke, this debate was a mess. It was nice to hear Craig change up his schtick due to the different debate topic, but DiCarlo is just an awful debater and doesn't bring anything interesting to the table. DiCarlo drops the ball in another debate against other apologists, despite even having Matt Dillahunty on his side.

Rosenberg vs Craig 2013  Is Faith in God Reasonable? 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig gives eight arguments for this debate! Eight! I don't see why, considering Rosenberg just had no idea what he was doing and kept trying to shame Craig about something concerning the Holocaust for some reason.

This debate was brutal.

Barrier v Craig 2000 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 1h 30m 14s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Barrier only superficially touches Craig's arguments. Another agreement with Luke: Craig walks all over Barrier and Barrier just gets more frazzled and less coherent as the debate continues. Painful to listen to. 

Dawkins, Shermer & Ridley v Craig, Geivett & Wolpe 2010 Does the Universe have Purpose? 
( audio | video | review | 1h 43m 28s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

This debate is all over the place. I only listened to it cause it semi-fulfilled Craig's dream: a debate with Dawkins. 

The debate blew. The topic was stupid, the parameters were stupid, only the theists really touched on the stupid topic and it was short as hell, too. 

The only kinda interesting thing was the questions from other noted folk that attended the conference, but they all sounded like they just wanted to give good soundbites and make catchy zingers. Bleh.


Zindler v Craig 1993 Atheism v Christianity
( audio | video | review | 2h 17m 32s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Zindler gets slapped around in this debate. Craig has a bit more spit and vinegar in him in this one too so that doesn't help. He's also got a pretty heavy home court advantage and he is certainly able to take advantage of his audience with his statements concerning evolution and defining atheism. You can tell he is just trying to please the crowd when he makes fun of Zindler for musing on the existence of the three wise men in the nativity story, one that is rejected by most scholars...God impregnating a virgin with his son who is also god so he is also the father - that's perfectly reasonable. Three wise men visiting a manger a long time ago? Get real! 


Crossan v Craig 1995 Resurrection 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Again, I agree with Luke on this one. Crossan definitely came to the debate to lecture. What is worse is that Crossan is very incoherent, as well. He's absolutely scattershot, talks generally, and gives confusing presentations. Craig isn't too great in this debate either, he tries to paint Crossan into the naturalist corner throughout the debate and where a more sharp opponent would call Craig out on this, Crossan just muddles through his vague, wishy-washy view on theism. Maybe Craig knew that Crossan would miserably respond to his accusations? It still seemed like such a waste.

This debate was moderated by Bill Buckley Jr, too. The guy is certainly eloquent and sharp but his absolute reverence for god is kind of off-putting and certainly doesn't help in his ability to moderate. I don't mind if a mod is biased but they should still do their job and make sure the discussion is moving and not getting bogged down. Way too much time was spent on rather stupid questions like whether or not god existed during the Jurassic period...

Lawrence Krauss vs Craig 2011 Is there Evidence for God?
( audio | video )

I avoided this debate because of the review of it on APF. Krauss is merely petulant and uninteresting. Several times throughout the debate he assures us that Craig is wrong about something but gets too whiny to actually get around to showing exactly how that is.

I listened to this one to gear up for the more notorious later debates he has with Craig in 2013. I wish Craig could take back a crappy debate and replace it with another rematch instead...So rather than having three miserable debates against Lawrence Krauss, why not another Ahmed, Ehrman, Parsons, Carrier, and Carroll debate? Hell, give Loftus a chance instead...Whatever Craig calls upon to justify not debating those people* can't be more discerning than dealing with Krauss for four debates, right?

*Ahmed, Parsons, and Carroll I think Craig has no problems with, but I have heard tell that he won't debate Carrier again, will never debate Loftus, and I think there's something between him and Ehrman...not sure.

Discussion

Superficial observation

I've heard enough of these to have a hypothesis for how to tell if Craig is up against a challenging opponent. Craig is a great speaker and debater. One of his pieces of advice for debating is that you have to watch the clock and kept that in mind.

In the good Craig debates two things relating to his appreciation of timed debate are evident. One is that the mod will have to warn Craig his time is up and he'll have to quickly summarize. This happened in his debates with Parsons, Avalos, and Tooley. Lesser instances have occurred, like in the Parson's debate, Craig had to end a rebuttal on a specific claim Parsons made rather than what he usually does, which is reiterate his main position.

The second thing is that Craig will actually comment on the speed and amount of content delivered by his opponent in their previous presentation. In the Carroll debate, Craig states, "Perhaps you feel like you have been drinking from a fire hose this evening!" for example. He says the same thing in the 2nd Parsons debate. Less obviously, he started the Tabash debate by quipping "Wow, you'd think he didn't like me?"

Other examples of this second thing are in the Carroll, Tooley, and kinda in the Ehrman debates. In those debates he's actually noted some point brought up by his opponent but won't address them, qualifying that it was because his opponent went through it too quickly that he wasn't sure if he got it all or that his opponent brought up so much stuff in general that he's not sure if he addressed it all.

Concluding Thoughts

I do not think that Craig is as formidable as Luke and others claim he is - nor do I think he's won nearly all his debates. But as you can see from the above posts, I do think he is a very formidable opponent who has bested even some of my favorite atheist thinkers (example: Hitch and Carrier).  

Craig's debate style (aside from the more slippery maneuvers he utilizes) is also very impressive. It's one that I hope will inform the presentations I would make in future debates, e.g. always going first, keeping your opponent on the defensive, calling your opponent out on not addressing all of your arguments and having a denser presentation wrt content are very successful avenues to travel towards winning a debate - and Craig makes sure to always do these things.

Now, does that mean that Craig's arguments are right? No. Does that mean Craig has won most of his debates? No. Does it mean that Craig is a person who holds a worldview that we should all admire? Gods no. He's still fun to listen to, though!

I'm also not the only one who's reviewed a buttload of Craig debates, here's a few links:

Ed Turner of MSP isn't as impressed with Craig as Luke or others are.

Damion at APF is a little more charitable towards Craig's opponents.

Wintery Knight thinks that all Christians, ESPECIALLY Craig win all their debates, ever. I'll make a general comment about Christians that I am willing to take back if someone deems it as too much of a generalization: It's pretty rare that Christians will flat out say an apologist lost a debate. In fact, it seems that if you see a Christian reviewer saying the debate was a tie, that usually means that the apologist lost. With WK in particular, if you see him saying an atheist was respectful and on point and non-combative then that's a good sign that they think the apologist dropped the ball. He says this in his reviews for the Kagan, Sinnott-Armstrong, and Carroll debates. Why do I think this? Because in the debates where the atheist opponent is still respectful and on point, but gives a weak performance, he's perfectly cool with being uninterestingly mean-spirited, dismissive and snide towards the guy.


The Unseen

The following are debates that I have yet to listen to or watch. Some of them have been reviewed by Luke. Some of the above debates and those below might come up in a post if I feel they need more commentary. Be sure to check the reviews I link to for those debates I have already reviewed to see more of my thoughts and links to other reviews!

Kurtz v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Desouza v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Hardin v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Ludemann v Craig 1997 Resurrection (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Atkins v Craig 1998 What's the Evidence For/Against God? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Flew v Craig 1998 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Borg v Craig 2001 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Ludemann v Craig 2002 Resurrection (2nd Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Spong v Craig 2005 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Begon v Craig 2007 G?     
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Ayala v Craig 2009 ID
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Hitchens v Craig 2009 G?  
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Grayling v Craig 2005 G? PE
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Tannsjo v Craig 2009 Moral  
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Silverman v Craig 2010 G? 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Williamson v Craig 2011 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Kappel v Craig 2011 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Atkins v Craig 2011  G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Enqvist v Craig 2012 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig debates I hope to review in the near future

Silverman 2010 - I don't know anything about him as a debater, just that he is known for being the guy in this meme.


UPDATES
7-30-2013; I rushed this post out so I went through and revised a lot of the reviews.
8-13-2013 Reviewed the Zindler debate.  
9-19-2013 Reviewed the Crossan, Crossley, Tooley and Pyle debates. Of those guys, Tooley does the best.
7-25-2015 Reviewed the Krauss 2011 and Carroll 2014 debate and did A LOT of clean-up wrt content, formatting, and ranking of debates.
8-4-2015 More revisions here and there and added the Keith Parsons debate I've been sitting on forever.