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Is There a Better Debater Than W. L. Craig?

GeoLaureate8
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4/18/2011 3:29:47 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I still find it astounding that the best debater and most philosophically inclined is on the Theist side, William Lane Craig. Where's all the great Atheist debaters?

I think Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are great at debating the very topics they are given, however, admittedly I don't see them engaged in philosophical debate as much as I'd like them to.
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Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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4/18/2011 6:52:59 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Those individuals you mentioned being mainly academics, are extremely poor at debate as academic debate is not a all similar to public debate, Dawkin's in particular is actually quite poor at public debate and Hitchen's will come across to his audience as extremely off putting (unless they agree with him). The problem is that theist apologists preach and minister in public as a large part of what they do but academics do not and thus when you drag them out of the lab so to speak they under perform.

One of the most telling ones I have seen was Hovind vs Rainbow on Evolution. It is clear with even an introductory knowledge of biology that Rainbow was on another level than Hovind, but there was no ability to dialogue with the audience nor handle Hovind's constant stream of prepared attacks. The academics just dismiss that as - well he is an idiot and not worth the time. Which may very well be true, but then don't engage in debate.

If you want to see a positive performance against Craig then look at Kagan's recent debate. Kagan was comfortable, affable, likable and very confident in his responses and Craig could not control the debate as he usually does by hammering home his prepared argument (this is what I will contend, this is what my opponent must contend). Kagan could match Craig academically in the areas discussed, and was just as comfortable during the discussion.
Mirza
Posts: 16,992
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4/18/2011 11:08:47 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Shabir Ally is very eloquent and has done several debates, even with William Craig. Both are theists though.

Dr. Zakir Naik debates extraordinarily, but he has yet to debate an atheist.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/18/2011 2:14:15 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 11:08:47 AM, Mirza wrote:

Shabir Ally is very eloquent and has done several debates, even with William Craig. Both are theists though.

His knowledge of scripture is nothing short of amazing.
Mirza
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4/18/2011 2:33:19 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:14:15 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/18/2011 11:08:47 AM, Mirza wrote:

Shabir Ally is very eloquent and has done several debates, even with William Craig. Both are theists though.

His knowledge of scripture is nothing short of amazing.
Yes. He has demonstrated that very well in his debates with William L. Craig. I think Shabir won on most points. You know Jamal Badawi? He is also a good Muslim orator, and has debated Craig, although I think he made it no more than tie, but very good presentation on both sides.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/18/2011 2:43:39 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:33:19 PM, Mirza wrote:

You know Jamal Badawi?

Yes, and Ahmed Deedat as well, I have watched most of his presentations.
Kinesis
Posts: 3,667
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4/18/2011 2:48:25 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
@Mirza

Those were good debates; I think from a neutral perspective Badawi probably lost against Craig.

For debates where the atheist side did reasonably, see WLC's debates with Arif Ahmed and Keith Parsons. I'm generally incredibly frustrated with people's performance against WLC; Sam Harris did reasonably, though.
Mirza
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4/18/2011 2:51:04 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:43:39 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:33:19 PM, Mirza wrote:

You know Jamal Badawi?

Yes, and Ahmed Deedat as well, I have watched most of his presentations.
Yes, he was great. Zakir Naik found inspiration in him, by the way.
Mirza
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4/18/2011 2:54:43 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:48:25 PM, Kinesis wrote:
@Mirza

Those were good debates; I think from a neutral perspective Badawi probably lost against Craig.
That could be true. I think that's mostly due to the points Badawi did not get back to.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/18/2011 9:02:36 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:51:04 PM, Mirza wrote:

Yes, he was great. Zakir Naik found inspiration in him, by the way.

Yes, the thing I respect about Nail, aside from his knowledge, is the way he defends questions, even if the audience/panel actually complains or gets offended, Naik defends the right to question. I have not seen him get upset or offended, and this is very common with many of the atheist debaters, Dawkin's almost seems proud of his tendency to do it.
Indophile
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4/19/2011 1:48:59 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:51:04 PM, Mirza wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:43:39 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:33:19 PM, Mirza wrote:

You know Jamal Badawi?

Yes, and Ahmed Deedat as well, I have watched most of his presentations.
Yes, he was great. Zakir Naik found inspiration in him, by the way.

Wasn't Zakir Naik issued a fatwa by some religious institution in India?
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Mirza
Posts: 16,992
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4/19/2011 2:50:32 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/19/2011 1:48:59 PM, Indophile wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:51:04 PM, Mirza wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:43:39 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/18/2011 2:33:19 PM, Mirza wrote:

You know Jamal Badawi?

Yes, and Ahmed Deedat as well, I have watched most of his presentations.
Yes, he was great. Zakir Naik found inspiration in him, by the way.

Wasn't Zakir Naik issued a fatwa by some religious institution in India?
That he is a non-Muslim? Those were just people who were angered at his comment on Yazeed. He added "may Allah be pleased with him) after mentioning him. The sect called Shia have a different view and they were outraged by these words on Yazeed. Zakir Naik is not a non-Muslim. A fatwa is not necessarily a fact. It is a religious opinion, and these people have nothing proper to say about Zakir.
omelet
Posts: 416
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4/19/2011 9:07:03 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 2:48:25 PM, Kinesis wrote:
I'm generally incredibly frustrated with people's performance against WLC; Sam Harris did reasonably, though.

Harris did terribly, at least from what I saw. I watched most of it, and it seemed like Harris was letting Craig largely get away with some abusive tactics (equivocation). Here's Craig's argument, in support of the notion that morality comes from god.

1. Morality is objective [Sam agrees with this, therefore I don't have to demonstrate it in this debate].
2. Objective morality does not work if not given by a god.
3. Objective morality does work if given by a god.
4. Therefore, morality is given by god.

This would have been an adept argument against Harris, except for the fact that they disagree about the definition of "objective morality." When Sam says objective morality exists, what he means by that is not something Craig would consider to be objective morality, so it's equivocation to say that Sam agrees with Craig about objective morality existing, since they're each using different definitions.

Sam could simply have said "while I agree that objective morality exists, I do not agree with the narrow definition that Craig uses for the term. He has not demonstrated that by his narrow definition objective morality exists, and I do not agree that it does by his definition, so to uphold the resolution he must demonstrate that it does, which he has failed to do. I propose that by Craig's definition of objective, morality is in fact subjective, and here's why [insert the rest of Sam's argument here, and an explanation of why the conception of morality he defends is not objective by Craig's standards]." It would then be Craig's burden to show that morality is indeed objective in the sense he uses the word, which he would be unable to do.

Instead all Craig had to do was argue "my definition of objective morality is better than Sam's," when due to the equivocation that is not actually sufficient to demonstrate his side of the resolution as true.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/19/2011 9:20:05 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/19/2011 9:07:03 PM, omelet wrote:

Harris did terribly, at least from what I saw. I watched most of it, and it seemed like Harris was letting Craig largely get away with some abusive tactics (equivocation).

Assuming this is true, how is it abusive, it is debate not an academic defense.

In general concerning Craig and debating, here is a fairly decent reference :

http://commonsenseatheism.com...
omelet
Posts: 416
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4/19/2011 9:47:36 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/19/2011 9:20:05 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/19/2011 9:07:03 PM, omelet wrote:

Harris did terribly, at least from what I saw. I watched most of it, and it seemed like Harris was letting Craig largely get away with some abusive tactics (equivocation).

Assuming this is true, how is it abusive, it is debate not an academic defense.

In general concerning Craig and debating, here is a fairly decent reference :

http://commonsenseatheism.com...

From your source, "When debating him, atheists have [...] consistently failed to point out the flaws in Craig's arguments." This is indeed the problem I see here, and it's something I fault Harris for, which is why I said he performed poorly.

I fault Harris in the debate for not pointing out the need for Craig to demonstrate that by his definition objective morality exists, and his evasion of that duty with equivocation. As an intellectual who has thought at length about morality, Harris wanted to defend his own views on objective morality rather than accepting Craig's definitions as working definitions for the debate and arguing that by that measure, morality is subjective and thus Craig's argument shows nothing. It was certainly a solid way for Craig to take psychological advantage of him. Craig's tactics were not that of an debater who is trying to demonstrate honestly and validly that his side is correct - his tactics were merely tricks to create the illusion of a strong case when in reality his argument was missing an important foundation and thus was extremely weak. I think Craig knew that he was equivocating their views when he said they agreed about objective morality existing.

Perhaps abusive was not the right word; I suppose "dishonorable" would be a more agreeable term to describe it. I would probably even agree that he won the debate, though I should probably withhold judgement there since I didn't see the whole thing.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/19/2011 10:05:11 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/19/2011 9:47:36 PM, omelet wrote:

Perhaps abusive was not the right word; I suppose "dishonorable" would be a more agreeable term to describe it. I would probably even agree that he won the debate, though I should probably withhold judgement there since I didn't see the whole thing.

I would agree in an academic defense of a thesis or maybe even a challenge, though that is more arguable, I would ascribe to such terms, but in a debate it isn't about the argument as much as the presentation. In a debate, if you know that you can use a logical fallacy -but- you think the opponent will not realize it, then is it actually dishonorable to use it, or similar if you can make an argument which you know you can not source/support but you think the opponent will not be able to defeat it? Respect to you if you debate that way. That being said I am not 100% confident that was Craig's intent, again in a debate, live, you don't have the ability you do in a written debate here so take three days to research and respond.
omelet
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4/20/2011 9:15:00 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/19/2011 10:05:11 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
In a debate, if you know that you can use a logical fallacy -but- you think the opponent will not realize it, then is it actually dishonorable to use it, or similar if you can make an argument which you know you can not source/support but you think the opponent will not be able to defeat it? Respect to you if you debate that way.

I think there's nothing wrong with it in the "sport" sense of debating, but that's not the type of debating Craig and Harris were doing. Craig and Harris were not assigned their views on their topics - they actually believe their respective sides to be true, and the purpose of the debate is to broaden the social discussion and understanding on the issues, not to simply score points with a judge. In my opinion, it's not a place where 'tricks' need or ought to be used.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/20/2011 9:36:18 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/20/2011 9:15:00 PM, omelet wrote:

I think there's nothing wrong with it in the "sport" sense of debating, but that's not the type of debating Craig and Harris were doing. Craig and Harris were not assigned their views on their topics - they actually believe their respective sides to be true, and the purpose of the debate is to broaden the social discussion and understanding on the issues, not to simply score points with a judge. In my opinion, it's not a place where 'tricks' need or ought to be used.

I am not sure I agree, both sides were clearly trying to "win", if they were there to teach then it should not have been a debate but a round table with a moderator. In a debate it would be expected that the opponent would seize on a weakness and Sam should have retorted strongly, if he agreed with you, that his statement of objective morality is different than Craig's and Craig is leveraging a position that he (Sam) is really not stating.

I am confident that if I reviewed the debate that I could find instances where Sam, from the same paradigm, was also not honorable. For example when he brought up divine command theory which is severely out dated as a claim against objective morality from God, that is like bringing up Darwin's ideas to disprove evolution, and he should have opened with it, not attempt to close with it.

Out of curiosity, how do you stand on Harris's argument in general?
unitedandy
Posts: 1,173
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4/21/2011 11:21:46 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
On philosophy of religion, and taking everything into consideration, the short answer would be no - Craig is the best debater by far. The guy has won upwards of 90% of his debates, has debated experts of cosmology, history, evolution and philosophy in their own field, and usually beaten them in their own area of expertise and has great organisational skills and extensive knowledge on the topics at hand, with seemingly a ready-made rebuttal for every point. He's not quite the best debater I've ever seen, but he's definitely the best in this area - no question.

BTW, Dawkins doesn't debate religion well, Hitchens got absolutely destroyed by Craig and Harris is nothing special. But Craig has lost some debates IMO, those with Dacey, Kagan, Bradley, Parsons, Sinnott Armstrong were all loses for Craig. The debates against Stenger, Ahmed, and others were also very close.

The last point I would make is that despite Craig's superiority, he has notably refused to debate with some philosophers, most notably Doug Krueger an Jeff lowder.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/21/2011 11:28:36 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 11:21:46 AM, unitedandy wrote:

The last point I would make is that despite Craig's superiority, he has notably refused to debate with some philosophers, most notably Doug Krueger an Jeff lowder.

That is interesting as Dawkin's has received a lot of criticism for debating obvious boneheads while avoiding Craig.
unitedandy
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4/21/2011 11:36:00 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 11:28:36 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/21/2011 11:21:46 AM, unitedandy wrote:

The last point I would make is that despite Craig's superiority, he has notably refused to debate with some philosophers, most notably Doug Krueger an Jeff lowder.

That is interesting as Dawkin's has received a lot of criticism for debating obvious boneheads while avoiding Craig.

Yep, I would agree. I think Dawkins has probably seen what Craig done to Atkins and has thought twice about debating him about the existence of God. But Craig is still pretty selective. Doug Krueger for one has pestered Craig for years to debate, and there seems to be a new excuse each time. Krueger would give Craig a run for his money on the typical God debate, as would Lowder. There's also folk like John Loftus who Craig has publicly admitted he won't debate, but having seen Loftus debate, Craig would win easily.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/21/2011 11:45:59 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 11:36:00 AM, unitedandy wrote:

There's also folk like John Loftus who Craig has publicly admitted he won't debate, but having seen Loftus debate, Craig would win easily.

Has he given a reason?
CosmicAlfonzo
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4/21/2011 12:01:13 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I don't know why people care whether or not someone is a better debater than another. What matters is if what they are arguing is actually true or not, and the evidence they state isn't BS.

As long as you have a live debate with 2 people sitting across from each other, it is easy to just bombard the other person with obscure "facts" that are fabricated or interpreted in such a way to be fallacious.

Really, it is just a matter of who is more charismatic, consistent, and meshes with what the audience already knows.

The winner of a debate is who is right. Popular opinion is only a reflection of the opinion of the populace. The overwhelming majority of which is so fvcking stupid, ignorant, and linguistically retarded that their opinions are hardly worth anything at all.

To be honest, the people who debate these things are probably stupid too, because no one gives a sh!t, and no one is genuinely convinced by anyone other than the person they already agreed with. An effective debater gets those people to realize that they already agree with him.
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unitedandy
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4/21/2011 12:50:27 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 11:45:59 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/21/2011 11:36:00 AM, unitedandy wrote:

There's also folk like John Loftus who Craig has publicly admitted he won't debate, but having seen Loftus debate, Craig would win easily.

Has he given a reason?

He's given several. Loftus doesn't have a Phd, he' doesn't want to debate a former student, etc, but they're all pretty weak.
Cliff.Stamp
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4/21/2011 1:06:16 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 12:50:27 PM, unitedandy wrote:

He's given several. Loftus doesn't have a Phd, he' doesn't want to debate a former student, etc, but they're all pretty weak.

That's lame, I have a PhD I should ask to debate him, I am not one of his students either.
Meatros
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4/22/2011 12:05:40 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/18/2011 3:29:47 AM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
I still find it astounding that the best debater and most philosophically inclined is on the Theist side, William Lane Craig. Where's all the great Atheist debaters?

I think Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are great at debating the very topics they are given, however, admittedly I don't see them engaged in philosophical debate as much as I'd like them to.

Craig is one of the best debaters - hands down. He's not the best philosopher and his arguments are not very convincing.

I don't think any of those atheists are particularly great at debate. They are good rhetoricians, but not great debaters.
Meatros
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4/22/2011 12:07:54 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 1:06:16 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/21/2011 12:50:27 PM, unitedandy wrote:

He's given several. Loftus doesn't have a Phd, he' doesn't want to debate a former student, etc, but they're all pretty weak.

That's lame, I have a PhD I should ask to debate him, I am not one of his students either.

I think that if Loftus had more debates under his belt and was more of a 'name' Craig would debate him. I'm not sure though. I feel that Loftus' books are good, but he hasn't impressed me in his debates.
unitedandy
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4/22/2011 12:10:19 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/22/2011 12:07:54 PM, Meatros wrote:
At 4/21/2011 1:06:16 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 4/21/2011 12:50:27 PM, unitedandy wrote:

He's given several. Loftus doesn't have a Phd, he' doesn't want to debate a former student, etc, but they're all pretty weak.

That's lame, I have a PhD I should ask to debate him, I am not one of his students either.

I think that if Loftus had more debates under his belt and was more of a 'name' Craig would debate him. I'm not sure though. I feel that Loftus' books are good, but he hasn't impressed me in his debates.

Yeah, I completely agree with your assessment of Loftus in debates. He's obviously a smart guy, but Craig would absolutely pulverise him in a debate
J.Kenyon
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4/22/2011 12:32:34 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/21/2011 12:50:27 PM, unitedandy wrote:
He's given several. Loftus doesn't have a Phd, he' doesn't want to debate a former student, etc, but they're all pretty weak.

What if you have a Ph.D in something like...Music Theory? Or Native American Studies? Is that good enough, or does it have to be in a legit area of study?
Kinesis
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4/22/2011 12:37:36 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 4/22/2011 12:32:34 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
What if you have a Ph.D in something like...Music Theory? Or Native American Studies? Is that good enough, or does it have to be in a legit area of study?

Apparently not, considering he debated Peter Atkins with a PhD in Chemistry on the existence of God.