Monday, July 08, 2013

How William Lane Craig Wins Debates

Craig-Hitchens Debate
Chronicle of Higher Education
Biola University

I've read several of William Lane Craig's books of philosophy and theology, even used some of his explanation of Middle Knowledge in a paper on John Milton's conception of human free will, but I've never watched a video of Craig debating an opponent, though I've heard that he wins every time. Now, courtesy of an article by Nathan Schneider, "The New Theist," in The Chronicle of Higher Education (July 1, 2013), I know why he wins:
Craig generally insists on the same format: opening statements, then two rounds of rebuttals, then closing statements, then audience. He prepares extensively beforehand, sometimes for months at a time, with research assistants poring over the writings of the opponent in search of objections that Craig should anticipate. He amasses a well-organized file of notes that he can draw on during the debate for a choice quotation or a statistic.

In the opening statement he pummels the opponent with five or so concise arguments -- for instance, the origins of the universe, the basis of morality, the testimony of religious experience, and perhaps an addendum of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Over the course of the rebuttals he makes sure to respond to every point that the opponent has brought up, which usually sends the opponent off on a series of tangents. Then, at the end, he reminds the audience how many of his arguments stated at the outset the opponent couldn't manage to address, much less refute. He declares himself and his message the winner. Onlookers can't help agreeing.
He wins through rigorous preparation, sound strategy, and better tactics. This approach works particularly well against the New Atheists -- who are generally not particularly sophisticated philosophically -- but it would likely work well against any opponent.

More interesting, nevertheless, would be to see how he would fare against a philosophically sophisticated debater who uses the same preparation, strategy, and tactics, though that's unlikely to happen since Craig's particular combination of talents, skills, knowledge, and discipline is seldom found.

Anyway, the entire article is very interesting, well worth reading.

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At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree, His combination of talents make him a tough opponent. However he himslef has said that his debate with Doug Jesseph at North Carolina State was one where he felt that Doug as an opponent was really really tough. Hopefully more of those to come !

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll have to check out the Jesseph debate. Thanks.

Jeffery Hodges

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