3.5 stars - Scharp was brutal and essentially met the wishes of all us Craig critics who are tired of seeing his opponents drop the ball debate after debate. Craig's less compelling performance and Scharp's over-zealousness and other tactical issues ultimately hold this back from being a great debate albeit a compelling one.
Billed as a discussion, each speaker gave 15 minute openings followed by a botched 20-30 minute dialogue and then questions from the audience.
Craig went first and gave his usual arguments emphasizing the contingent argument and adding his lame IBE from math to God argument in the mix. He focused a bit more on knowledge and experience which I think was Craig tapering his case to Scharp's background. Polished and easy listening as usual and no curve balls.
Scharp came in with a head full of steam - prepared and intense. It was refreshing as hell to see him give such an organized presentation with specific points, arguments, refutations, and even a ppt. He starts off by explaining how he would gauge the evidence for God, compares it to Craig's weird probability claims - 51% likeliness that evidence points to God - gives general arguments against theism, including something new (in public debates) called the Argument from Divine Psychology to undercut Craig's FTA, KCA, and math argument. He then continued with the same criticism Tooley and Law leveled at WLC in their debates about his half-assed moral argument. After this he critiqued Craig's approach, apologetics in general and Craig's socially dubious positions.
There was a lot of content in Scharp's presentation and it's clear that he took seriously what people have been begging for years that Craig's opponents do - prepare a case that is relevant to current concepts in the great debate and freaking research WLC's arguments and tactics.
The only issue which I think plagued Scharp is that nothing was really hammered home in his opening. Good stuff was mentioned but quickly and though it certainly is a feat to fit in ones' own case and refutation of Craig into a single opening, it seems like the latter could have been condensed in order to make parts of the former glaringly clear for the audience.
During the discussion WLC certainly took advantage of the Scharps' fast and furious opening and Scharp was able to clarify things but another thing holding Scharp back came into light during this part of the debate: Scharp was like a caged puma. After every one of Craig's statements Scharp would go "yes - yes - yes - mmhm" not in a rude manner but in one that belayed someone who decided to double his Red Bull consumption to prep for the debate. He didn't come off as mean-spirited or obnoxious though, it just made me want to side bar and say "reign it in, bruh, let the points sink in - contain your argument boner."
One thing that was a bit new to me was that the moderator was especially crappy and biased towards WLC. The bulk of the conversation was either of the two talking and Scharp playing defense. When Scharp brought up an argument mentioned in his opening the mod actually shut it down after a bit saying it wasn't relevant to the debate. Usually the Veritas 'bates I've seen are exceptionally fair and I'm not even against bias mods but the moderator seemed more interested in guiding Craig to make his more rhetorically enticing points we've all fallen in love with. The thing here though is Scharp really nailed Craig on the poor explanatory power his arguments yield which is crucial since Craig ran them all as inference to the best explanation arguments (IBE). Craig never responded and was saved by the moderator a few times.
Craig's less forceful performance also keeps this debate back from being stellar. The debate ultimately gets a high score because of the novel arguments (in terms of public debates) Scharp ran and that despite being a spazz at times he certainly was an engaging speaker.
I hope more are able to throw down as well as Carroll and Scharp have done in these last few years because I wouldn't be surprised if Craig (with legit reasons) retires from his more competitive debate gigs. It seems like he kind of is considering this is billed as a discussion.
ETA 5-21-2016 Found a pdf of Scharp's presentation with his script which was neat so I linked it.
ETA 7-17-2016 Lowered the score because the debate seems to get more and more flawed the more I think about it. Mostly the criticisms I have for Scharp just seem to get heightened and the format wasn't ideal to say the least.