April 23, 2009
Advice for Debating William Lane Craig, part 4 (answering Loftus)
In the comments section to part 3, John Loftus — who would like to debate Craig — weighs in again:
I’m wondering what is mean when you say that someone is ”not qualified to debate William Lane Craig,” since some people seem to misunderstand what you mean.
Sure. Here’s what I mean: when I say that someone is “unqualified” to debate Craig, I mean it in exactly the same sense that the very best high school baseball player is unqualified to play in the majors.
That prep star may have all the “tools” necessary to be a star in the major leagues; he might have a great batting eye, power, speed, you name it. But the one thing he’s missing is experience standing in against major-leaguers. That’s why even Hall of Famers start off in the minors and generally struggle for at least a little bit when called up to the Show.
Let me be clear: John, I love your book, and I think you’re exactly like that prep star. I think you’ve got all the tools to be one of the great ones. What you’re missing is experience, and I find it odd that you seem reluctant to take the necessary steps to get it.
Here’s my proposal to you: instead of inveighing against me, why not spend the rest of this year learning how to do a formal debate? Why not become our side’s William Lane Craig?
If you’re trying to issue an imperative that would prohibit non-qualified people from debating Craig, then what reason do you have for issuing such an imperative? Is it because you think non-qualified people who lose to Craig somehow do your position less than justice?
“Imperative” is a strong word. What I would like to see is for atheists who tackle Craig to be experienced with the practice of formal debates. The reason I have for it is really simple: I want my position to be reflected in the best possible light.
If so, what reason should a potential debater have for obeying your imperative?
Presumably, they share my objective of representing atheism well to theists.
Would YOU obey your own imperative if Craig emailed you and invited you to debate him?
Yes, of course. Remember that my “imperative” (as you call it) is no such thing. I’m not saying “don’t debate Craig.” I’m saying two things: (1) don’t debate Craig without doing your homework and getting the best possible preparation; and (2) you’re probably underestimating the kind of preparation you need to do (1).
John, if you have an .mp3 of a formal debate you’ve done and you want to email it to me, send it to email@example.com, and I’d be happy to give you a full critique and coach you on ways to improve. (I’ve checked the debate archive, and I can’t find one of yours that occurred in a formal setting as would be the case in any debate against Craig.)
What obligations does a potential debator have toward you if he wants to debate Craig, since it’s an honor to do so?
This is kind of silly rhetoric. I think it’s arrogant and stupid to pretend that Craig isn’t a very good debater. The obligation I think one has when debating a very smart, well-prepared, experienced opponent is to take that person seriously and do the kind of preparation necessary to make that exchange worthwhile.