Monday, April 27, 2009

Debate Tactics

You think you're ready to debate William Lane Craig? Well, you're not.

Andrew over at Evaluating Christianity has advice for anybody that thinks they're ready. This is excellent material and very well worth reading if you are interested in being an effective debator. So far it's in 5 parts, all of which are linked at his latest addition.

I've learned a lot from calling in to Christian radio shows, and I think I've improved. Speaking is quite a bit different from writing. More challenging. If you ever want to consider doing it just remember that it's OK to lose. It's just like going to the gym and working out. If you've never been to a gym you're probably small and weak. You're intimidated by everyone else. But remember that everyone else was once small like you are now. Everyone had to go through the same thing. To improve you need to get in there and put up with it. You'll get better and you'll fit in eventually.

One area where I think I could improve is the fact that I sometimes let my opponent dictate what we're going to talk about. Take my recent talk with Bob Dutko. I started by laying out a basic case against torture based on the opinions of the founding fathers. Bob basically entirely ignored my argument. He went off into discussions about being searched at an airport. I allowed this. Eventually while listening to him I realized that he was turning the discussion away from torture entirely. It took me too long to realize this, but I did finally, and I brought the discussion back. But he never bothered to deal with my central argument about the founding fathers.

Of course this is a radio show so maybe this makes things a little different. I'm partly satisfied that I was simply able to express my point and maybe that's about the best I can hope for. It's not like an equal time scenario.

In my experience Greg Koukl really takes this to the extreme. He always seems to put me at the top of the hour where there will only be a few minutes and he can be done with me, and in the few minutes that I have he'll just talk over me even though he misunderstands me. So there's not much by way of tactics that you can do about that. For this reason I'm not very interested in calling him. Wait an hour on hold just to be talked over, misunderstood, and then swept aside at the top of the hour? Pretty lame.


John Piippo said...

Hi Jon - one of the problems for someone debating Bill is that, not only is he an excellent debater, but he's off-the-charts brilliant. No debating expertise or practice in debating can compensate for that. While being brilliant is not sufficient to do extremely well in a debate, it strikes me as necessary.

On another note, I confess to never have listened to Bob Dutko. What's his background?



Jon said...

Also Craig has been doing it for 40 years. To even approach a tie with him in a debate is a staggering accomplishment. Combine with genius and he's obviously a tough customer. You may find the advice I linked to interesting, as they (as atheists) talk specifically about what makes him brilliant as a debater.

Dutko's background? You know, I'm not too sure, except to say he's a young earth creationist. He's critical of the more extreme Word Faith types, but I'm not sure what he'd say about spiritual gifts. He believes healing occurs today, but he's not a name it claim it kind of person. I'd say that he's also just as dedicated to advancing Republicanism as he is Christianity. He's what you might call a typical Sean Hannity style partisan. Always advocating the party line.

Smart as can be too. My problem with him isn't his brains but his knowledge. His arguments are based on bad information. I can tell he reads a lot of the drudgereport,, etc. Right wing sources. He'd benefit from reading some leftists. He'd get caught off guard by me less often if he did that.

HispanicPundit said...

On a separate topic...what would you say to someone who said, yes, torture is unconstitutional but that disagreed that water boarding is torture?

Andrew T. said...


Koukl openly admits that he will use every trick in the book to "bring people to Jesus." Not surprising to me that his radio show would seek to minimize opportunities for his listeners to accidentally hear a well-reasoned opposing viewpoint.

jason said...

Just thought I'd throw in a bit more on Bob Dutko. "Bob is the former National Press Secretary for Christian Coalition of America" (direct quote from his profile on the WMUZ webpage).

He does accept tongues as being a current and viable gift of the spirit, as well as healing and prophecy (I just heard him explain his view on this in some detail the other day on his 4 PM pre-recorded show on AM 560).

If you've ever heard his testimony he also claims to have had a lot of paranormal experiences before he became a Christian in his late teens. This includes his own "psychic" abilities that he believes were demonic in origin.

Also, a girlfriend silently prayed for his irregular heartbeat to be cured and it was (he didn't even know she prayed).

Etc., etc., etc.