9/28/09

Debate 101: the Schooling of Dan Barker

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s debate category

17 comments:

  1. I'm not surprised that Dan Barker said something dumb in debate, but how he did it this time just amazes me. The new atheists are always defining their religion as a lack of belief in a God so as to avoid having to defend their worldview. But now, Dan Barker, who has a book IN PRINT on the subject he's debating, is trying to say that his book can't be brought up in that debate.

    These new atheists are getting awfully desperate to find ways of avoiding criticism, and I think we just saw Dan Barker taking it to a whole new level. "I may have changed my mind in the book." Yeah, right. I guess it was James White who was going to the trouble of bringing copies of Dan Barker's book to sell at the debate. Dan Barker knows darn well his book is relevant, he most certainly has NOT changed his mind in the book, and his pathetic attempt to avoid criticism only made him look like a fool once more.

    Gosh, why do atheists even listen to him? This must be the umpteen-millionth time he has made himself look like an idiot in debate!

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  2. Barker hasn't debated 100s of times. But many dozens, yes. And he usually loses.

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  3. Alright Rhology,
    According to the FFRF, he has engaged in "60 formal public debates."

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  4. ? Where is part two?

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  5. Dear Lord, This is just plain painful to watch. Atheists must surely be cringing at having to explain this. I certainly would be embarrassed at such a pathetic attempt to avoid criticism.

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  6. YES!!! I love it. Now the atheists know what its like for us to watch the banana-is-proof clip with Ray and Kirk. Sweet.

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  7. I'm afraid I don't really see the problem.

    The topic was 'Was Jesus a Myth?'. Barker's position is 'Yes', and White's position is 'No'.

    Barker opened with why he thought Jesus was a myth. White started opening with problems in Barker's book, and stated that he would address this instead of the case Barker presented on the night!

    I can see how Barker objecting to this would rile White. After all, he had thoroughly prepared an opening based on points from Barker's book, and wouldn't like to have to change it! However Barker is quite right - the debate is about the issue, and not a review of his book.

    However, I think that Barker should have done what William Lane Craig would have probably done in the same situation. That is, sit quietly during White's opening and in the rebuttal say something like "White failed to present a positive case to think that Jesus wasn't a myth, and instead spent the time attacking claims that I didn't even make tonight!". That would meant that White couldn't make his rhetorical points like "I'd love it if people quoted my books", or "Isn't the book on sale here?".

    Saying that, Barker would probably prefer not to just "win" the debate with such easy tactics, and that (I assume) is why he tried to stop White going down a completely irrelevant route. A debate is far more engaging if the debaters aren't merely there to try to "win".

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  8. @ Notung

    I believe you may be mistaken about the relevancy of White's reference to Barker's book. The book covered some of the same material as the debate, and White's reference to it was very pertinent to the debate at hand.

    White showed that Barker's sources were extremely dubious and that he was unable to back up any of his claims with legitimate arguments from apprpriate sources. He failed to present a rational case and came across as something of a lunatic.

    Furthermore, Barker made some embarassing historical blunders that he tried to cover with a pathetic show of bluster.

    Overall, it became apparent that Barker is a charlatan that doesn't know much at all about the subject that he was debating. I actually felt sorry for him.

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  9. --White started opening with problems in Barker's book, and stated that he would address this instead of the case Barker presented on the night!--

    In his opening statement, yes. But James White very clearly said that during his own rebuttal period he would address Dan's Opening statement.

    --However Barker is quite right - the debate is about the issue, and not a review of his book.--

    Um, Notung, Dan Barker makes arguments about this issue in his book. It wouldn't matter if it were an audio except, a video, or a book. The point is that this is Dan Barker's position. I mean, this is so obviously clear that I don't know why you can't see it.

    I don't listen to William Lane Craig very often, but I would hold Dr. Craig to the same standard that I'm holding Dan Barker if what you say about Dr. Craig is true. It's nothing less than a cop-out to say, "Yeah, I made that argument in my book concerning our subject tonight, but I didn't enounciate them just now, so my opponent hasn't scored any points and my position still stands."

    Baloney. You may not have used them in your speech, but they're no less a representation of your position, and the only way in which to act like your position remains unshaken is through self-deception. Be a man and stand behind your words.

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  10. I realise that the subject of the book is relevant to the debate, but I feel that somebody should be allowed to make other arguments than those espoused in their book. Barker obviously decided to go down a different route for the purpose of the debate, and White wasn't prepared for that.

    Matt, I'm not saying Craig would do exactly the same, but what I meant was that Craig is very technical about which arguments are or are not relevant to the debate. Craig is also adamant that each debater's opening statement should be a positive argument for their case.

    Perhaps an illustration would show what I mean. Suppose I wrote a book about why God does not exist, and the book contained the 'Problem of Evil' as my main contention. I then accept a debate challenge from a theist on "Does God Exist?". When I open I give my argument for God's non-existence; the lack of evidence. Now suppose that the theist says "now, I didn't expect to hear 'lack of evidence' as a reason, so I will instead address the 'Problem of Evil' as that is what is in his book, then I will address the 'lack of evidence' in my rebuttal".
    The atheist would rightly say "don't bother with the PoE - for the purpose of this debate I'm talking about lack of evidence!" Not only that, but when it got to the atheist's rebuttal, the atheist could say "I didn't hear any positive reasons for God's existence, merely just apparent flaws in the PoE. I didn't even present such an argument tonight, and we've heard no good reason to think that God exists".

    I think White should ask next time for the debate topic to be changed to "In Dan Barker's book 'Godless', does he make a good case that Jesus is a myth?". Debates should be microcosms of reason, so that the audience can be fully aware of what is going on. When one quotes a book or a scholarly paper it is so easy to take things out of context and mis-convey the author's intention. The audience does not have the works in front of them, or the time to read the full passage.

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  11. @ Notung

    You're not making any sense. The section of Barker's book that White references contains the same arguments that Barker presented in his opening statement. White referenced the book because he wanted to draw attention to the fact that Barker had used sources that were extremely dubious to support the arguments he was making in the debate.

    There's nothing off topic about that.

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  12. White says "None of the sources just Dan used, he used in his book".

    ...whereas Anonymous claims that the book contains the sources Barker used for the arguments in the debate.

    Barker used different sources in the debate to the ones he used in his book.

    My analogy was with "arguments" rather than "sources", but the point is the same.

    Interestingly, the first time I watched this video, as White said that he was going to refute Barker's book instead, my thoughts were "That's so dishonest!". When White was caught unawares by Barker he shouldn't have just reverted it to the opening he wished Barker had given!

    Anyway, even if you disagree and think that Barker didn't really have a point, it's hardly the "embarassment" that some people think it is.

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  13. --Barker obviously decided to go down a different route for the purpose of the debate, and White wasn't prepared for that.--

    No duh he wasn't prepared for it. People don't expect their opponents to back off from their own published work while selling it at the same time!

    --Craig is also adamant that each debater's opening statement should be a positive argument for their case.--

    And I say once again that if Dr. Craig had said what you think Dan Barker should have said, then he would be just as guilty of a cop-out. And you can refute arguments from the other position while making a positive statement, unless you're saying that James White didn't present a positive case for his position just because he criticized a particular group of Dan Barker's arguments. Is that what you're saying?

    --Suppose I wrote a book about why God does not exist, and the book contained the 'Problem of Evil' as my main contention. I then accept a debate challenge from a theist on "Does God Exist?". When I open I give my argument for God's non-existence; the lack of evidence. Now suppose that the theist says "now, I didn't expect to hear 'lack of evidence' as a reason, so I will instead address the 'Problem of Evil' as that is what is in his book, then I will address the 'lack of evidence' in my rebuttal".--

    Um, that sounds perfectly fine. James White wasn't ignoring what Dan Barker said. Plus, Dan Barker doesn't have the right to restrict James White's arguments to addressing just one particular argument, much less when the arguments addressed are made available by Dan Barker himself as a credible and relevant source to the subject.

    --The atheist would rightly say "don't bother with the PoE - for the purpose of this debate I'm talking about lack of evidence!"--

    That atheist would have no right to say any such thing if said atheist made that argument and continued to keep it in print. The fact that Dan Barker took the step to make it available RIGHT THERE is the thing that makes Dan Barker look so bad.

    --Not only that, but when it got to the atheist's rebuttal, the atheist could say "I didn't hear any positive reasons for God's existence, merely just apparent flaws in the PoE. I didn't even present such an argument tonight, and we've heard no good reason to think that God exists".--

    1. Like I said, that's a cop out.

    2. Again, are you saying James White didn't present a positive case for his position just because he criticized a particular group of Dan Barker's arguments?

    --I think White should ask next time for the debate topic to be changed to "In Dan Barker's book 'Godless', does he make a good case that Jesus is a myth?". Debates should be microcosms of reason, so that the audience can be fully aware of what is going on. When one quotes a book or a scholarly paper it is so easy to take things out of context and mis-convey the author's intention. The audience does not have the works in front of them, or the time to read the full passage.--

    On the contrary, quoting your opponent's printed material is an excellent means not only to look good in debate, but there's also the ability on the part of the person quoted to point out out-of-context remarks and misinterpretation and make the person quoting the source look bad.

    --Interestingly, the first time I watched this video, as White said that he was going to refute Barker's book instead, my thoughts were "That's so dishonest!". When White was caught unawares by Barker he shouldn't have just reverted it to the opening he wished Barker had given!--

    For the third time, James White said he was going to refute Dan Barker's opening statement in his rebuttal period. HE WAS NOT IGNORING WHAT DAN WAS SAYING.

    Honeslty, Notung, you need to stop defending Dan Barker. It's painfully clear to anyone (excepting you and die-hard atheists) that he desperately wanted to avoid having to defend his own stated beliefs about this issue, and his silly statement that he might have changed his mind about the book only betrayed that desperation.

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  14. If you will watch, or listen, to a few more debates you will see that the opening statements are usually independent of each other, unless the participants exchange opening statements beforehand. In this debate White probably would have given the same opening statement whether he was first or second to speak. Arguing that he can't think on his feet only indicates that one isn't very familiar with Mr. White, or with scholarly debates.

    James White is absolutely without question one of the best scholarly debaters in the business. He always does thorough, competent research on the subject matter and his opponent. And his opening statements will often involve quotes from his opponent’s most recently published work. There is absolutely nothing unusual about this debate except Dan Barker’s ridiculous behavior.

    But you shouldn’t be surprised by this. Mr. Barker often proves himself to be completely inadequate as a debater, incompetent as a researcher, and ineffectual as a speaker. His debate record proves that he has no real interest in his topics. After listening to many of his debates I am left with the impression that Mr. Barker is little more than a publicity whore.

    On the other hand, Mr. White actually has an interest (and an education) in the subject matter being debated. Whereas Mr. Barker just wants to be a celebrity and the only way that he can attract attention to himself is by playing this “preacher-turned-atheist” role.

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  15. I cant believe anyone is defending Barker here. The whole "I could have changed my mind" is irrelevant being as he is knowingly selling a book that apparently he believes is accurate. If he doesnt believe that, then one has to ask why he is still selling it. IF he is selling a book that he himself believes has shoddy research in it, then why in the world are people getting upset at white's comments when the person they are defending is knowingly deceiving his readers AND making money off of it. It baffles my mind what people will do to defend their poor arguments.

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  16. I have read Dan Barker's book, "Godless:....". His life story was very interesting, but later chapters were depressing. I am not an atheist and his book did not rattle my faith in God. His book had failed to convince me like he had hoped. I still have a strong belief in God and my Saviour, Jesus Christ. God still loves you very much. Dan Barker has missed a true, whole picture of God. How sad. God is much stronger and more loving than he thinks. His book is full of his opinions and false fantasies. He should try to read the Bible again!

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