Sunday, March 22, 2009

Craig vs. Carrier

Apparently Carrier found a debate setting with Craig unhospitable to his verbose style. Why am I not surprised?

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just listened to the debate. Richard Carrier got the beating he deserved. It really wasn't a good day for him. But then again I never heard a debate that Carrier was good in. He sucks. William Lane Craig pummeled him into little pieces.

Anonymous said...

Btw, is there a link to the Craig Morriston debate that took place on the 16th? No link comes up on Google. I wonder if someone will post it. That's a debate I'd love to see (or hear, or read). I wonder if we'll ever get a chance to see it. It'd be a shame if the debate between Craig and the philosopher who has done the best evaluative work on Craig's kalam argument never gets posted.

Finney said...

He actually says that the time-constraints on the rebuttal (equal the time given for Craig's arguments) made it impossible to win. If that were the case, then atheists (in addition to incumbent candidates for presidency) should always be losing debates. and aren't these time restraints fairly universal?

Victor Reppert said...

Jeff Lowder is the most debate-savvy atheist out there, and his assessment of Carrier's performance should be interesting.

philip m said...

Anon2,

There was a videocamera there, however, the debate was only of moderate use. The format was a 20 minute opening statement from each side, and then a 40 minute dialogue in which they were supposed to ask each other questions. Craig said he had 22 questions prepared, and he probably got to ask about 3. They were extremely long-winded. I think they sort of forgot there was an audience and just started talking like two philosophers with all the time in the world to clear up each and every little point. Case in point: the first ten minutes or so in the dialogue was concerning what constituted a good argument. Heh. But it was still good.

As for the Carrier debate, you would think that Carrier would be a little more prepared. Craig has all his argument time-tabbed, so he knows exactly how long it will take him to read a certain point - Carrier could have done some run-throughs on basic points like that. I thought Carrier shouldn't have brought up the general reliability of the Gospels when there had been a controversy on how that was *not* going to be the topic. And it's also a point that's impossible to use in a debate. To argue that 1) The Gospels are unreliable in many cases, 2) The Resurrection narratives are in the Gospels, therfore 3) We cannot trust the Resurrection narratives, is unfeasbile in a debate. Premise 1 takes too much to substantiate.

I think Carrier was the gentleman in the debate, however. For how condescending Craig was being about the interpretation of Biblical passages, Carrier remained cool and calm, except for when he denied using 'Casper the Ghost' as an illustration ever in his writings, which he later remembered he had.

normajean said...

Victor, there's all this hype about Lowder but I've only seen one debate (Fernandez) online. What's the ruckus and where are all his debates?

Victor Reppert said...

I think Lowder is an excellent student of debate and understands why atheists sometimes flub up against WLC.

Anonymous said...

There was a videocamera there, however, the debate was only of moderate use. The format was a 20 minute opening statement from each side, and then a 40 minute dialogue in which they were supposed to ask each other questions. Craig said he had 22 questions prepared, and he probably got to ask about 3. They were extremely long-winded. I think they sort of forgot there was an audience and just started talking like two philosophers with all the time in the world to clear up each and every little point. Case in point: the first ten minutes or so in the dialogue was concerning what constituted a good argument. Heh. But it was still good.

Thanks very much for the information about the debate, Philip. I hope the video will see the light of day on the internet. For my part, it would be extremely helpful to see Craig's views on what constitutes a good argument. This would probably go a long way in explaining why Craig resists Morriston's criticisms of the kalam argument.

I think I already know Craig's answer, though: basically the defensive approach he explicated and defended in his 1997 F&P paper, "In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument".

Matthew said...

I expected that Craig would do much worse in his debates with Ally, Carrier and Morriston but as far as I can tell, Craig won against Ally and Carrier by a wide margin (he dominated both of them) and Morriston was the only one who was able to poke holes in Craig's case, mainly the impossibility of an infinite or the cause of metaphysical time.

I think the debate on the KCA is also the one which is most worth watching (I hope there will be a video soon).

dvd said...

Victor

You are really giving to much credit to Lowder. I don't see that many debates with the man, and I can think of other atheists who are far more better from what I have seen. He originally touted Jesseph as being a worthy debater, to me that man looked confused. Lowder back in the 90's implied Craig was hiding the Washington debate Transcript, Lowder was wrong on that.

I seriously don't see anything there.

Phritz said...
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Anonymous said...

Oh look, it's Perezoso again. How pathetic. In a lol sort of way.

Anonymous said...
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Andrew T. said...

Here's a link to the transcript of the debate between Craig and Bart Ehrman, for those who are interested.

Anonymous said...

The ONLY debate available out there with Jeff Lowder is his debate with Phil Fernandes. And, gee, he only debated with Fernandes thousands of times! No wonder Lowder is good at debating Fernandes. Personally, I'd like to see Lowder debate more formidable Christian debaters before he gets to Dr. William Lane Craig.

Anonymous said...

I worry about how much importance some are putting on these debates. They are not a substitute for the academic process of critical review among peers within the same academic discipline. People are commenting as though they have the academic research and training required to competently assess the issues brought up in these debates. But they don't -- at least most don't.

Duane Gish used to go around and debate famous evolutionists and argue for young earth creationism. He was pretty convincing, too. He was a very polished debater, like Craig, and would often leave his co-debaters sounding like idiots. How many of you, though, are young-earth creationists?

There are holocaust-denying debaters who debate famous university professors and historians about the historical facts of the holocaust. They often make them look like idiots as well, making a convincing show. How many of you are holocaust deniers? What, then, do these debates really show?

Legitimate critical evaluation regarding an area of specialized knowledge occurs among those who share the level of training, research, and expertise in the relevant discipline that alone puts them in a position to make competent judgements about the arguments and evidence. They are scholars who make contributions in their area of specialization where competent, truth-aimed evaluation can alone take place: in the standard peer-reviewed avenues of conferences and publications in reputable journals and academic presses.

But I fear that watching debates of the sort discussed here are, in essence, a way for novices who have a stake in the issues debated to obtain an ill-gotten sense of confidence in their assessment of the evidence of those issues: their religion requires a level of confidence in beliefs that go far beyond common sense and ordinary experience. This creates anxiety, and thus a desire to subdue it by getting the evidence required for that level of belief. Unfortunately, since the relevant evidence belongs to areas of specialized knowledge, they're not trained to competently assess it.

Their religious leaders are aware of this problem as well of course. So what do they do? They have para-church organizations, like Inter-Varsity, and Campus Crusade for Christ, who in turn hire people who get the relevant degrees to debate these issues with the relevant scholars. The laymen believers can then attend these, and watch the Inter-Varsity employees use their debating tactics to humiliate the scholar. Again, the result is an illegitimate sense of confidence about specialized knowledge that they are in no position to competently assess. But at least the problem of pumping up their faith to a level their religion requires is solved.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anonymous: of course these things are circuses, exercises in mass confirmation bias. Unless you look at them as spectacle, like the freak show at the state fair, I think you will be disappointed. It's all about the entertainment: the Christians coming en masse in their buses, shiney-faced and anxious. The excited and haughty atheists (usually overwhelmengly the minority), hoping the Christians will see they are wrong. Seeing that many of them think something will actually be proven or settled, that who wins really matters.

It is wonderful entertainment. Plus, if there is a good debater there, it is always fun to see that.

Of course sometimes there is something to learn at these things. Usually it could easily be learned by reading for 10 seconds rather than sitting throught the spectacle.

Hence, if you don't enjoy the spectacle, there is no reason to go.

Note I realize I've overstated the uselessness of these things, but not much.

Matthew said...

Actually, Carrier is as fringe as a holocaust-denier, because he doesn't think Jesus ever existed.

But hey, don't think that this somehow is a parallel, because only theists can be like holocaust-deniers. Carrier is perfect and awesome.

Shackleman said...

BDK said:" "The excited and haughty atheists (usually overwhelmengly the minority), hoping the Christians will see they are wrong."

This is something I truly don't understand. Why do atheists give an audience to such things as these? Why do they post on Internet message boards and blogs, trying to convert the faithful to their faithless world view? What could possibly be their motivation? I genuinely don't get it.

For a Christian, or Muslim, or Jew, a *possible* motivation of theirs might be to save the very souls of those who deny their claims. Well okay, that seems at least on the surface, to be a loving and noble motivation (save for tactics which involve coercion of course). But what then of the atheist's motivation?

Do they participate in these things wishing to remove the hope, joy, love and dream of the believers? Why? Why not just let them have their little fantasies if it makes them feel better, if it causes them to better humanity (see Mother Theresa), if it causes them to live moral lives respecting the laws of the land and following the golden rule while donating to the food pantry? Why stop them? Why do they try to wake them from their good dream?

If the *committed* atheist is right, then none of it matters anyway. His Christian adversary is doomed to die. Annihilated for all eternity. Why then rain on his parade? Let him have his god if it makes him feel better, for when he's dead he won't even realize he was wrong since there will be no neurons left to signal to him that for his whole life he lived a fairytale.

I have my own thoughts on this---because I was once one of those atheists---Might they participate in these types of things because deep down they're in deep distress because of their own depressing world-view and might they therefore be hopeful that someone will finally bring to their attention an argument that will begin their own conversion?

Victor Reppert said...

I know people like Dawkins think that religion impedes scientific progress and a basis of fanaticism.

RD: Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful![76]

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: most of them have recently become atheists, so are in a phase where they are fairly vocal about it, getting a feel for their beliefs by denouncing what they used to believe. Nobody is more annoying than the newly minted Christian or atheist (or ex smoker).

When I was newly atheist, I would go to these things because I actually thought they would make a difference. I would distribute atheist literature there to all the Christians hoping it would help them see the truth, force them to question what I perceived as the dogma they were being fed. I wanted to liberate them from the shackles that I was held in for so long.

That is a bit of a caricature of my sophomoric self, but not too far off.

Now that I've been a nonbeliever for going on two decades, I'm pretty mellow about it. I am happy to admit that there are very smart, not brainwashed, people that are Christians for instance. :) I'm happy to do my science and think about how nature works, and they can do their prayer or whatever and try to convert me (which I find sort of adorable and I have learned to appreciate).

Your reason sounds like a stretch as it assumes they are basically deluded and know this at some level and want to be changed. Sort of like those bogus arguments that nobody is really an atheist deep down

Blue Devil Knight said...

PS I strongly agree with the Dawkins quote Victor gave. It doesn't actually necessarily lead to skepticism or atheism, but I find it odd that people's religious beliefs are often treated as some kind of "safe zone" that shouldn't be questioned.

Anonymous said...

CRAIG RULES!!!!!!!!! HAHAHA

exapologist said...
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exapologist said...

Wes Morriston has recently posted his opening statement and his powerpoint slides from his dialogue with Craig, here.

Shackleman said...

BDK: "most of them have recently become atheists, so are in a phase where they are fairly vocal about it, getting a feel for their beliefs by denouncing what they used to believe."

Of course, you have no evidence for such a claim. Especially your "most" qualifier. However I agree it's quite plausible that the motivation of some new atheists might be to have their fresh ideas reinforced or tested to see if they can withstand the attacks of a more expert and reasoned counterclaim given by a professional debater such as Dr. Craig.

But these pages and blogs like them are frequented by old-hat atheists such as yourself and docot(logic) and Mr. Loftus and others who are not discovering their ideas for the first time. They're quite obviously out to convert. And it's to *them*, and old-hat committed atheists like them, that my confusion is directed toward.

BDK: "When I was newly atheist, I would go to these things because I actually thought they would make a difference. I would distribute atheist literature there to all the Christians hoping it would help them see the truth, force them to question what I perceived as the dogma they were being fed. I wanted to liberate them from the shackles that I was held in for so long."

You are making no difference, because if you're right, in the end you, your Christian adversary, and *everything* is ultimately utterly annihilated. More importantly, what are these "shackles" you were so kindly trying to free them from? Having all the sex they ever wanted? Booze? Not loving their neighbors as themselves? Not giving a small percentage of their earnings to the poor? Obeying the laws of the land? Living by the golden rule? Knowing wrong from right? Not stealing, not indulging in gluttony, not being greedy or lustful? What? What so encumbered them, strangers to you, that you felt compelled, out of the goodness of your kind and atheistic heart, to free them from?

BDK: "Your reason sounds like a stretch as it assumes they are basically deluded and know this at some level and want to be changed. Sort of like those bogus arguments that nobody is really an atheist deep down"

Please, let's not build a straw man out of post. I gave one *possible* answer to the question "what are the atheist's motivations for giving an audience to events such as these?". I did not make a claim that the potential answer I posed was necessarily true, nor that it was the only one if it were true. Play nice, BDK.

BDK: "I strongly agree with the Dawkins quote Victor gave"

I find this line of reasoning given by Dawkins to be a complete canard. Of the approximately 5 BILLION people in the world who are in some form or fashion religious (half of which are followers of some form of monotheism (source) ) the fraction of them performing atrocities in the name of their religion approaches near zero. What, maybe .0001% are so far on the fringe that they'll blow themselves up in an attempt to kill non-believers, but the other 99.9999% of them are at best working at the local homeless shelter, and at worst think you're going to hell and tell you so. YIKES!!! RUN FOR THE HILLS, the religious are CRAAAAZY and are trying to kill everyone!!! {yawn}

Shackleman said...
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Shackleman said...

(deleted above for completely botched formatting)

BDK: "but I find it odd that people's religious beliefs are often treated as some kind of "safe zone" that shouldn't be questioned."

And I find it odd that methodological naturalism and/or Darwinian Evolution are given the same kind of "safe zone" you're referencing.

In the end, BDK, it's all dogma. Your precious science included. {grin}

Finney said...

"like Inter-Varsity, and Campus Crusade for Christ"

They hold debates between seasoned Christian and atheist thinkers. At Columbia U., for example, they recently had Alister McGrath speak to the chair of the philosophy dept. who's an atheist. It's not merely employing people with debating skills, because people of both sides have great merit to their knowledge and have sponsors.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman: On the contrary, methodological naturalism has been put to the test for over two centuries, and I'd say it's fared pretty darn well. When your alternative science produces some useful results, let's talk again.

Shackel man said:
"Of course, you have no evidence for such a claim."

It was an observation, which indeed is evidence.

Shackleman said...

No, BDK.

Methodological naturalism: refers to the metaphysical belief that the natural world (i.e. the universe) is all that exists and, therefore, nothing supernatural exists. In metaphysical naturalism's paradigm observable events in nature are explainable only by natural causes. {source}

That is not falsifiable. That is not testable. That is an assertion. That is dogma.

"It was an observation, which indeed is evidence."

This is laughable, BDK. You can do much better.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Shackleman, it looks as though you've conflated methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. This comes out in the Wikipedia reference you mangled. The passage you cited actually begins:

Methodological naturalism can be contrasted with metaphysical naturalism or ontological naturalism, which refers to the metaphysical belief that the natural world (i.e. the universe) is all that exists and, therefore, nothing supernatural exists. In metaphysical naturalism's paradigm observable events in nature are explainable only by natural causes.

It then goes on, in the very next paragraph, to highlight the very conflation you made:

This distinction between the two types of naturalism is made by philosophers supporting science and evolution in the creation–evolution controversy to counter the tendency of some proponents of Creationism or intelligent design to refer to 'methodological naturalism' as 'scientific materialism' or as 'methodological materialism' and conflate it with 'metaphysical naturalism'.

Oh, the irony...

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: exactly, otherwise I couldn't have been so dismissive of Shackledman's puffery.

Shackleman said...

Very well, anon. I stand corrected.

And yet, your pointing out my error does nothing whatsoever to address my questions or diminish my overall points. And BDK, your "observations" are still nothing but hand waving nonsense and I suspect you know it. Rather than dismiss me because of a category error, why not address my questions directly?

Jason Pratt said...

Back to the topic of the original post...

Victor: {{Apparently Carrier found a debate setting with Craig unhospitable to his verbose style. Why am I not surprised?}}

On the other hand, there is some merit to RC's post-debate defense (he pretty graciously acknowledges he technically lost, on his web journal afterward here) that the one who puts out the most (strictly speaking) unanswered topics will tend to win formal debates of this sort.

Whether that actually happened, I leave to the judgment of those who have already heard the debate. {s} (As also an actual evaluation of content on either side, whether answered or not within the debate.)

JRP

Blue Devil Knight said...

I also give Carrier props for not pretending he won the debate. That is extremely rare. Also, I have had friends lose debates and not be able to see it. They actually thought they had won! So double kudos to Richard for his ability to see this.

If only he could win a freaking debate (as I think we can all agree, public debates are the best way to decide the truth!).