Chris Hallquist: Does Dr. Craig Win All His Debates?

Chris describes himself as one having "a masters degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, but hates academic philosophy." I like that. From my experience there is either scientifically informed philosophy or there is scientifically uninformed philosophy. Scientifically uninformed philosophy is a crock, and that's my philosophy. The problem is that way too much academic philosophy is scientifically uninformed. That's why I don't place too much value on it as I've said. Now on to Chris on whether Dr. Craig wins all his debates:

Does Craig win all his debates? by Chris Hallquist.

Luke [of the blog Common Sense Atheism] has said that he thinks Craig wins all (or almost all) of his debates. Here, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that atheists need to declare a moratorium on ever saying Craig won a debate. The reason is that every time we say this, it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll be misunderstood, and all too often, “Craig wins all his debates” is used by his fans to deflect any and all criticism of him.

Misunderstandings are going to happen, because it’s not really clear what it means to say someone “won” a debate. In fact, I’m not sure I know what Luke means when he says Craig won a debate. I’m not sure Luke himself knows. Consider his mini-review of Craig’s debate with Robert M. Price:
A great debate between two people who really know their stuff. Price does a good job of pointing out the dishonesty of Craig’s approach, but as expected he does not organize his arguments as well as Craig and thereby loses.
I haven’t listened to this debate, so it’s possible Luke’s description doesn’t do the debate justice. But if all Luke had said was, “Craig was better organized, but dishonest, and Price did a good job of pointing out his dishonesty,” I would have assumed without a second thought that the debate was an embarrassing defeat for Craig. In what sense, then, does Luke think Craig “won”? No idea.

In general, I can think of a few things people might mean when they say who “won” a debate:

(1) Who won by debate team judging standards?
(2) Who was more rhetorically effective?
(3) Who presented better arguments?

If I declared a winner in a debate, (2) is what I’d probably have in mind. Some people (Luke?), however, seem to have more (1) in mind. This is understandable, since Craig relies heavily on debate team style tactics, and often gets a lot of mileage out of them. But I don’t see any reason to view (1) as interesting in and of itself. It’s a mistake to jump from “Craig’s style is often effective” to “all debaters should be judged by how much they sound like William Lane Craig.”

However, if you say Craig won a debate and you mean anything like (1) or (2), realize that Craig’s fans may hear you as saying (3). And I think this explains why Craig’s fans get so excited about him “winning” debates, to the point that some will deflect any and all criticism of Craig by saying “but he wins all his debates!” The thought seems to be, “All reasonable people agree Craig wins all of his debates, which means that Craig always has the better arguments, so I don’t need to think for myself about whether his arguments are really any good.”

I wish I were exaggerating here, but I’ve found this comment recently left on my review of the Craig/Harris debate to be fairly typical:
Wow. Such an emotional/irrational response. I guess this is what you get when Craig continues to embarrass atheist debate after debate. I’d encourage you to actually focus on the arguments, and better still, just read a transcript next time.
This is the entire comment. No support for the accusation of irrationality, just an appeal to Craig winning his debates. Craig himself encourages this kind of thinking:
While debate training (especially knowing how to manage the clock) is undoubtedly a great help in winning a debate, that’s just not a sufficient explanation for the impotence of atheists to offer refutations of these arguments—or to present a case of their own for atheism.
Charming how Craig jumps from “I win all my debates” to “atheists suffer from impotence to refute me or present a case for atheism,” as if it’s just obvious that no atheist anywhere has refuted him. Atheists really need to not encourage such nonsense.