Thursday, May 07, 2015

How to Win Every Debate

Debating an atheist, a Muslim, a Mormon?  Here's my secret one-step method for winning every debate you engage in.

But wait a minute, you may ask first, do you win all your debates?  You might have done all right with Loftus and Price, considering you were over you head with the latter a bit, and that head had a cold.  And you may do all right on-line, can't say.  But it seems to me you got pretty tongue-tied a few times in that contra-temps with Carrier down in 'Bama.  And you didn't really answer Phil Zuckerman's Gish Gallop in Sacramento.  Are you really so arrogant as to claim to have WON all your debates?

Yes, uh, I am.  But let me explain.

Here's the secret to always winning: make finding truth the real goal of your debate.

Does your opponent put up a good show?  Great, we all like to be entertained -- let the audience enjoy themselves, let the peacock prance through the foliage and display his feathers.

Does the other guy stump you with an unexpected challenge?  Great, that gives you something to research after the debate, maybe learn something new, maybe find even better arguments for the truth of the Gospel.  (Just about every text Carrier cited in our debate proved to do this, whether I had examined it already or not -- and one of my goals was indeed to get him on record with the sorts of silly analogies he offered, because they do shed a powerful light on the uniqueness of the gospels.)

Is your opponent actually right about something, and show that you are mistaken?  Best of all.  Examine what they say carefully, and if it proves true -- you have learned something new. God is the Father of all truth.

And you have won another debate.

Let me suggest that this is the spirit we should try to adapt and model, and that may challenge many of our skeptical opponents (as well, of course, as ourselves) even more deeply than mere facts, argumentative coherence, or even a confident smile and a witty rejoinder.

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