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Monday, May 3, 2010

Dr. Matt McCormick Enters the Debate Ring

My friend, Dr. Matt McCormick, who is a professor of Philosophy at California State University Sacramento,debated Dr. Russell DiSilvestro, a colleague of his in the philosophy department at CSU. The debate on the resurrection happened on Tuesday (April 27, 2010) of last week. It was the first time for both men to formally debate the topic of the Resurrection of Jesus. I found it quite interesting and I really liked the approach that Matt toook.

Matt has one of the best atheist sites on the web. Its called, Atheism: Proving The Negative

The first part of the debate is below:


  1. I hope many of you will take the time to listen to this debate. I thought Matt did a fine job. I liked his approach that we should be very suspect of the historical data that we have rec'd. It had to pass through at least 5 major hurdles to get to us and each time it could be changed and no doubt was. As he said, even if you assume 80% got through each transistion in tact, that would leave us with 40% certainty today. I would say bump it up to 90% and that still leaves us with less than a 50-50 chance that the data we have today is reliable.

    I also liked his illustration in which he asked the audience: "How would you like to be on trial for murder and the two witnesses that are brought up to testify against you say, 'I was walking down the road and saw a bright light in the sky and heard a voice telling me that the defendant committed the murder.' The second says: "I heard from a person who heard from another person who heard from another person that the defendant committed the crime."

    What chance do you think the defendant would have of being convicted?

  2. I thought he did an excellent job as well. I liked his point about the ratio of verified to reported miracles at Lourdes. Even if miracles occur, there are too many people who misinterpret natural phenomena and too many people who pass on miracle stories uncritically even today to have any confidence of stories generated at a time when people were even more prone to magical thinking.

    Someone should have told DiSilvestro that Craig's tactics don't work if you honestly try to answer the points that your opponent makes. The key to the Craig approach is to talk fast and repeat your talking points whenever your opponent makes a good argument.

  3. Enjoyed it! His Lourdes point was very good. So was the signal degradation analogy.

  4. Vinny,

    You are right. Russell borrowed Craig's points but not his style. It shows how weak his points really are. Craig makes them seem stronger because of his style. It was also obvious that Russell really had no knoweldge of the issue other than reading or listening to a couple of Craig's tapes. Matt on the other hand was refreshing in that he had a somewhat new approach to the topic which I think was excellent.

  5. I visited Craig's blog after his "debate" with Bart Ehrman. He and his followers were positively gloating over his imagined victory, and quite dismissive of Ehrman - "I couldn't believe he tried to argue for that, he didn't have a leg to stand on", etc. It was an orgy of mutual validation. They need constantly to reinforce the belief system by assuring one another of how right they are.

    McCormick's point about evidence is spot on. Strobel's assertion that the "evidence" for Christian claims would pass the courtroom test is laughable. It's tragic that so many find his arguments so convincing.

  6. Vinny,

    Strobel not the only one to make that claim. He has quoted a number of historians/law experts who have, for instance.

  7. John,

    I am not sure which claim you are referring to since I did not mention Strobel here.

  8. I think he meant me.

    John, the only "historians/law experts" I've come across who agree with Strobel are the ones he interviewed; i.e. they're evangelicals and are already convinced. The notion that the "evidence" would pass the courtroom test seems reasonable only to those who share that view.