Quick thoughts on the Craig/Krauss debate

I haven't watched the entire debate, and after watching what I have I'm not sure if there's any particular reason to.

Craig trots out the same five pieces of "evidence" for God's existence, which are:
  • The existence of contingent beings
  • The origin of the universe [first cause argument]
  • The fine-tuning of the universe for life
  • The existence of objective moral values
  • The facts of the resurrection
This, in a nutshell, is why Craig is a fierce debater: he covers a very, very wide berth with these five topics. Any one of them could easily encompass an entire debate, and Craig is versed enough in esoteric subjects to say things that his opponents get distracted trying to correct or simply get confused by. Craig then claims that his five proofs either weren't disproved or weren't addressed, and *presto*, he's victorious.

But is he? I think that theists and atheists alike give him far too much credit. Obfuscating the discussion with a glut of information (for example, his esoteric ramblings on probability theorems) is a great tactic for avoiding a debate, not having one. It's worth noting that even among Craig's devoted fans, he's considered to have performed more poorly when the topic is more specific – e.g., his debate with Bart Ehrman on the historicity of the resurrection or his debate with Shelly Kagan on morality. Craig excels when the topics are sufficiently broad to avoid too much nuance.

Then there's the problem with whom he debates. Craig was on his high school forensics team, and has been debating his whole adult life. He's comfortable with the format and knows it very well. But he tends to debate people who are more or less eggheads – academics, scientists, etc. There are the occasional exceptions, such as when he debated Christopher Hitchens. In that debate, both parties ended up talking past each other. Generally speaking, Craig very rarely debates opponents who are themselves well-practiced debaters. Further, his wide berth of esoteric topics ensures that not all of them will be covered in detail. Krauss is great at cosmology, but he's not an expert on the historicity of Christianity or research in moral evolution. Craig is ultimately a philosopher by trade, and would best be dealt with by fellow philosophers. I'd like to see him debate, for example, the Oxford-educated philosopher Daniel Dennett.

Based on what I saw, Krauss was clearly a bit overwhelmed. He's a scientist whose field of expertise is about as esoteric as it gets, and he's not well prepared to talk about much else. Craig is a much faster talker, much better spoken, and – since the debate was one he'd done a hundred times before – better prepared. Debates are about who can present the most information the most quickly and coherently. I've seen debates where I thought Craig succeeded in his aims, and others where he failed, but neither has convinced me that his arguments are any good.


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