I originally planned to blog my thoughts about this oral debate while I was watching it. Then after I had a rather nasty exchange on Twitter with the atheist debater, I said I wasn’t going to write about him anytime soon. Then I thought about it some more. I realized the only reason I was going to engage in self-censorship was to avoid all of the drama associated with criticizing anything to do with this individual’s arguments, blog posts, books, or debates. “That’s a really bad reason to say silent,” I thought to myself.
About 20 years ago, the atheist community had another self-proclaimed atheist debater who delivered consistently incompetent performances in all or virtually all of his debates: Gordon Stein. At that time, it was something of a ‘trade secret’ among people in the atheist movement that Stein was just awful as a debater. It was a secret, not public knowledge, because no one had the courage to stand up to him and publicly point out the obvious. I’m not sure why that was the case, but I think it may have had something to do with his very senior role at the Council for Secular Humanism, now known as the Center for Inquiry.
The most famous of his very public failures was his ill-fated debate with Christian presuppositionalist philosopher Greg Bahnsen. Bahnsen exposed Stein’s incompetence in philosophy so decisively that recordings of this debate have been extremely popular in Christian circles (or at least presuppositionalist circles). For the record, I have no objection whatsoever to the facts that (a) Bahnsen debated Stein; (b) recordings of the debate were (and are) being sold; and (c) Christians proclaim Bahnsen as the winner. But once we reflect on the fact that Stein was philosophically incompetent, it becomes clear that Bahnsen’s debate victory is of very little–if any–philosophical significance.
Fast forward to today. Unlike Stein, the debater I am referring to IS philosophically competent. In fact, he has multiple graduate degrees relevant to the topics he debates. Furthermore, he is the author or editor of numerous books on atheism, Christianity, and science. His problem is not a lack of training or knowledge. Rather, his problem is a complete lack of skill at oral debate. This should become obvious, I think, after watching just his opening statement. His opening statement was so bizarre and ineffective–so bad–I couldn’t even finish watching it.
After the atheist debater reads this blog post, I won’t be surprised at all if he throws a temper tantrum and attempts to defame me on his blog or social media. I predict he will think I wrote this blog post because “I don’t like him” or “I’ve never said anything good about him.” If he does think that, he’s wrong. So why am I writing this? Simple. In case anyone watches the video of this debate and says, “Wow, if THAT is the best the atheists have to offer, then their debaters suck!” at least one atheist will have gone on record publicly as stating that this debate performance is one of the worst atheist debate performances; his performance is NOT representative of the best atheists have to offer.
I predict that any other objective person who watches this debate will agree with that assessment.
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