Monday, October 6, 2008

Brandeis Humanists vs Brandeis Chabad in Boston, MA

This debate (video, mp3) was a student produced event featuring student debaters from Brandeis Humanists and Brandeis Chabad.

The religious side of the debate throws in a bit of natural theology (e.g. first cause) as well as arguments from revelation (e.g. Torah) and "morality" (i.e. blind obedience to Authority). It's the usual theological rubbish, and not even dolled up enough to look like philosophy.

The irreligious side talks too fast at first, so I may have missed a couple of their arguments. Eventually, the first speaker commits the genetic fallacy on a global scale, which is a common enough tactic from amateur debaters such as John Loftus. The second debater leads off with the graveyard of dead gods, implicitly makes the argument that, with so many gods on offer, the apriori probability of following the one true religion is fairly low. He also alludes to incompatible properties arguments and presents a highly particularized presentation of the argument from evil, which was fairly well done. He also makes a few other arguments rooted in the nature of Scripture. This final speaker is by far the most effective debater of the day, and he also has a lot of fun interacting with the audience, which is fairly unusual for such events.

Overall, this debate isn't worth watching. In case you are wondering why there are so few atheists and theists making the rounds around the professional god-debate circuit, this debate might help clear that up for you -- it turns out that it is hard to debate well and easy to debate badly. I think it is adorable and even admirable when amateurs take on great challenges, but not particularly enjoyable. Also, the audio quality is so poor that one ends up rewinding in order to hear poorly stated arguments more than once. Nonetheless, I praise both student groups for having a go at this, and I certainly hope more student groups attempt to put together such events. Consciousness raising can be its own reward.

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