This debate ( video | 1:57m ) took place in San Diego, California on October 13, 2015 between Blake Giunta the guy behind the very well presented BeliefMap website and Matt Dillahunty of Atheist Experience fame. The topic was "Does God Exist?" and it was the second debate between the two, the first one I haven't seen.
2 stars: Giunta impressed me in this debate while Dillahunty showed a disinterest in becoming the atheist debater the community needs.
Giunta starts off very strong. He's very outgoing and likeable and correct when he says he makes great powerpoint presentations. In terms of context he's just as strong, starting off by noting that theism isn't a topic left behind in the realms of academic philosophy and that theist philosophers are still generating new arguments demonstrating the existence of God. Of course there are issues with this but it's a solid point that Matt should address: it seems like pop/new atheists are unaware that philosophers are still vigorously discussing theism at least in some academic venues. This is frustrating because despite this being the case, their arguments aren't hard to overcome.
He then does WLC's Kalam Argument and the design fine-tuning argument adding some current quotes and findings. This part comes off well, too. However Giunta ends with a lame argument from intuition. That is, theism intuitively makes sense while atheism does not and this is evidence for God's existence. He gives a few scientific articles as support and the argument is approachable but it's just so obviously weak that such a quality powerpoint presentation seems wasteful.
So Giunta's opening is fairly strong if a bit thin on content. His angle was to defend the philosopher's God - there was no explicit reference to Christianity or anything.
Matt starts out more casually. He was supposed to debate someone else and that fell through and Giunta was cool enough to step in. Dillahunty's opening is a bit muddled and he follows many tangents, which is a shame. For example he mixes religious confusion with divine hiddenness without really making them explicit. He also notes that Giunta was smart in sticking with theism and in order to prove this continues to attack the Christian God wasting more time.
The last part irked me a little because I disagree slightly with Dillahunty's contention that no one has ever tried to defend Christian theism in a debate against him. Usually Christians will bust out the resurrection against Dillahunty and I know for sure that was the whole point of his debates with David Robertson on Unbelievable. The better thing to say is that Christians start off defending Christian theism but usually retreat to a generic theism when they need to.
Anyways, he gets going and argues that theism and supernaturalism have yet to be confirmed through science. And theism has no explanatory power. But the former is emphasized more while the latter needed more elaboration...or should have been emphasized more because I think it's a power point. He goes somewhere with saying how one makes a powerful scientific explanation but doesn't connect things. Ultimately theistic explanations have failed while naturalistic ones have always been successful.
The first part of Giunta's rebuttal and the ending of it are brutal in the politest way possible. He nails Matt for not defining atheism in a digestible manner. I agree with Giunta that there's more to the definition but don't agree that Matt gave a poor one. The thing is, it seemed as though Giunta put a lot more effort into the issue and Matt was relying on speaking to a friendly crowd.
However the middle part is scattered and he forgets to make clear links to his own case. He also gives a weak response to the Hiddenness argument.
This part seemed to be a missed opportunity. I was surprised at how well Giunta controlled this part of the debate but that ultimately didn't amount to much. They both got into specifics and it was more casual - which isn't bad, but only is good if it isn't boring. This was boring sans my surprise that Giunta's understanding of the philosophical approach to assessing evidence and explanations.*
The closings were a bit weird and Giunta kinda showed some poor form by making a new argument to affirm Christianity. Matt again said he didn't prepare a closing and winged it.
Ultimately I'm giving this to Giunta. I don't think that Giunta's case was all that strong, but the fact that it was more fluid, polished, and a bit nuanced helped. What makes him the winner is my frustration with Matt Dillahunty. Dillahunty can be a contender, but it seems like he's not really interested in upping his game.
Debates are hard to prepare for, even ones on topics you're aware of. But if you've been doing this for awhile and have the ability to speak in public as well as Dillahunty then a debate on whether or not God exists shouldn't be too hard to prep at the last minute. The fact that Giunta beat Matt in this debate should be a wake up call. The problem is that I don't think he's gonna hear such criticism. Like the AXP and in many of the debates I have heard Matt engage in he's already established a routine that's catered to preaching to the choir. If you read the comments to the video, this seems to be the sentiment.
A very frustrating debate. Giunta mentioned JJ Lowder in his closing. I wish that dude would debate more.
*There is apparently an exclusive community of theists and atheists who regularly talk about the more advanced topics in the "Great Debate" community that Blake is apart of. Considering the fact that others who told me about this forum are familiar with Greg Dawes and Elliot Sober I am less surprised by Giunta's reference to these ideas. Yes I did feel slick for being invited to the community btw.