A Quick Note to Eliezer Yudkowsky

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 23, 2009 in Debates,Eliezer Yudkowsky,William Lane Craig

Eliezer Yudkowsky – a blogger at Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong, and author of the best online tutorial on Bayes’ Theorem – recently wrote about “the sin of underconfidence.” He offers suggestions for building one’s confidence, including:

Cultivate a habit of confronting challenges – not the ones that can kill you outright, perhaps, but perhaps ones that can potentially humiliate you.  I recently read [that theist William Lane Craig badly defeated atheist Christopher Hitchens in a debate].  And so I wrote at once to the Bloggingheads folks and asked if they could arrange a debate.  This seemed like someone I wanted to test myself against… I decided not to [prepare for the debate], because I think I should be able to handle damn near anything on the fly, and I desire to learn whether this thought is correct; and I am willing to risk public humiliation to find out.

So, yeah. Yudkowsky isn’t going to take my advice to know the arguments and practice debate skills before debating William Lane Craig.

Well, maybe he will. Later, in the comments to that post, Yudkowsky wrote:

Depending on how formidable the opponent is, it might still be a test of my ability even if I prepare.

So, Yudkowsky, listen: William Lane Craig is more formidable than you can imagine. You could prepare for years and debating Craig would still be a challenge. So if you want to debate Craig, please do read his arguments in detail and practice formal debating first.

I’m not worried about you losing badly and embarassing atheists. I’d just like to see the best possible debate for you, for Craig, and for the audience. We’ve seen dozens of debates between Craig and ill-prepared atheists already. We can do better.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Eliezer Yudkowsky April 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm

You make a strong case.  I haven’t heard back from BHTV about Craig, anyway.  What you say does make me want to debate him even more – I’ve noticed that *most* people, including atheists and professional debaters, have no grasp of strong versus weak arguments, so that’s no surprise.  But if what you say is true then studying him doesn’t make it any less real a test of debating skill; I’d been assuming he won one episode by luck against Hitchens on an off day, but this would appear not to be the case.


lukeprog April 24, 2009 at 2:27 am

Glad to hear it, Eliezer! I hope you get the opportunity to debate Craig.


Dan Nelson May 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

it looks like William Lane Craig declined Eliezer Yudkowsky’s offer to debate him. 



lukeprog May 12, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Thanks for the update!


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