I have an initial report from the Palmerston North Bill Craig v Bill Cooke debate held last night:
There was a massive turnout of 1399 exactly in attendance. The word is that Cooke stepped it up and performed better than in Auckland but that Craig still won. Feedback from those in attendance was that it was a fantastic evening, thoroughly enjoyed by all.
I have been promised a more thorough report later today so will update this post accordingly.
Author of Confusion wrote this review, reproduced in part below:
Last night (19th June, 2008) I attended the debate which I talked about in a previous post.
I was astounded at the attendance – the Regent Theatre in Palmerston North has a capacity of about 1,400 and it was easily 90% full for most of the night. There was an impressive diversity of age, gender, and race evident in the audience and I would say it was a fairly accurate cross-section of adult society (it certainly wasn’t an old white men’s club!). From responses to the speakers the audience was polite but predominantly Christian and this reinforces my impression is that there is a growing religious movement pushed by several of fairly active church groups in Palmerston North and it is something I am going to start keeping a closer eye on.
My overall impressions of the debate were disappointing, and pretty much match Damian’s initial impressions. Craig had a definite game plan in the debate, and it was clearly a game plan from a skilled formal debater. Set up premises and then defend them. Sadly Cooke’s game plan was to dismiss the moot, largely ignore Craig’s premises (begrudgingly discussing them, almost as after thoughts) and mostly talking to three points almost despite whatever Craig said. I will raise these first and then go on to discuss Craig’s arguments:
- Atheists do not assert there is no god but that they do not see the case for god as compelling or even a coherent claim (based on weak definitions). Unfortunately, while an interesting point, Craig never really tried to pin this on Cooke so it was really not a point worth making in the debate.
- He used Lloyd Geering’s idea that the notion of “God” is a barrier to understanding the world around us, and that focusing too much on god gets in the way of rational discourse and promotes undue authority amongst those who claim to understand it. This was an interesting tactic but it failed against the so-called “logic” of Craig because most people (including Craig) missed the connection.
- Cooke’s final point was that we should stop arguing about our differences and instead focus on our similarities and on solving real problems. This sort of argument, while noble, is not the way to win debates. He talked about how he was happy that Craig was a Christian and that he encouraged diversity of opinion. Again very noble, but in debates it is about point scoring not nobility (one reason I dislike the format) and this counted against Cooke especially in an audience of largely opposing views.
So overall it didn’t really seem like Cooke came to debate. The only life really came from him during the Q&A when some quick witted answers did score some points, but by then it was far too late. If the debate was scored he would have clearly lost.