What to Look For in My Debate with Dinesh D’Souza

This week we're all hoping that my debate with Dinesh D'Souza will be available online. Here are my thoughts on what to look for as you evaluate it. I am NOT making excuses. I am NOT saying I won the debate. From all skeptical accounts it looks like I lost, although I have not heard from any Christians in the audience (maybe one). My problem is I need to see it objectively for myself. If you have ever been in a debate then you're thinking on your feet and cannot remember exactly what was said, and when it was said, to have a good judgment about it until you see it later, although people who say I lost are probably right. I am very interested in the comment cards from Christians in the audience since they are my target audience. In any case here are things to look for in debates, not only in mine, but in others as well.

Home Turf. An overwhelming Christian dominated auditorium is like playing an away football game. They will clap vigorously for their side and hesitate to clap when the other side gets finished speaking. They will laugh at their guys jokes and merely chuckle at the other guys jokes. This does have its effect on the debaters involved.

Adverse Circumstances. Dinesh arrived just in time for the debate while I was overdosing on sinus medications.

Refereeing. Did the moderator do his job properly during the one-on-one and during the Q & A? I maintain he did not. It was probably his first time doing this, I don't know. Both sides should have been given a chance to answer any question directed at the other side.

Debate Experience. No one can be a good debater without some debates under his belt and yet no one can become a good debater without doing them. Dinesh is one of the leading Christian debaters. I am not one for the other side, but if you know me I succeed when others have repeatedly told me I could not do so. I want to be, if possible. And I know of no one in my shoes who would not have agreed to debate someone like Dinesh.

Style. I think this is important but less so than substance.

Humor. I think this is important but less so than substance.

Confidence. I think this is important but less so than substance.

Insults. These things are ad hominems and should be ignored, unless one is in an insult contest.

Politeness/Rudeness. This is important but not as important as substance, although I don't think it does my side any good to be rude.

Dishonesty. When a debater is clearly dishonest with what his or her opponent said you know that he is not being careful with the facts.

The Arguments.Did the debaters effectively deal with each others arguments? Did they have a chance to do so? When they did respond was the response effective? FYI: I chose philosophical arguments rather than scientific arguments because I thought that was best for my target audience.

Who won? This is the overall judgment of who combined all of these factors into doing the best job for their side.

Who lost? If you think your guy lost the debate then kick him in the teeth. Tell him he is a bonehead. Discourage him. Tell him he should probably just quit doing what he is doing. Ignore all of the good he has done. Tell him his debating career is over. Vilify him so that you don’t look bad. Later on, claim you were only trying to offer friendly constructive criticism. Then once you have completely pissed your guy off, proceed by offering unasked for advice as if your guy is a bonehead who doesn't have a clue and cannot learn from his own mistakes by himself, or with the help of his real friends.

If you think your side lost then look for redeeming aspects in the debate which might make the debate worth it. Was it educational? Does it have the potential to provoke additional thought and dialogue from both sides on the topic? Look at the quality as well as the quantity of the arguments, and what the other side may think about them. There may be a few quality arguments that are crushing to the other side which the other side cannot answer and will provoke a lot of doubt.

If you think your side lost then publish a critically acclaimed work and become known as someone people will ask to debate others. Then get in the game yourself. See how you do the first few times out. See how you like it when people say about you the things that have been said about me.

But relax. The arguments are on our side. Christianity will fade in our society in the next few decades as more and more believers are confronted with the arguments. If nothing else keep in mind that Atheists Always Win in Debates.

Here is the comment card I'm interested to see the results from Christians in attendance: