Via a comment from reader Curtis Cameron:
Next week (on Darwin Day), Dan Barker will debate Kyle Butt on the specific question of the existence of the God of the Bible.
And from the linked web site:
Barker will affirm, “I know the God of the Bible does not exist”…
Okay, seriously, this is getting ridiculous. In fact, it’s rapidly becoming my number one pet peeve about theist/atheist debates. I’m going to try to make this real simple.
Attention debaters: Stop falling for this! Theists who challenge you to a debate are not representatives of the National Forensics League. They are not a neutral party trying to set up an objective and fair confrontation for both sides. They are deliberately trying to stack the deck against you. They want you to lose the debate before you set foot in the room.
How in the world did Dan Barker fall for this? One of the strongest tools that atheists have is attributing the burden of proof to the theist. I don’t know that unicorns do not exist. I don’t know that Russell’s Teapot orbiting beyond Mars does not exist. I simply don’t have any reason to believe that they do.
By accepting this ridiculous topic, (a) Dan Barker is forced to defend a position that he probably doesn’t hold; (b) he’s now locked into a position where the theist can just spout vague pseudo-philosophy about knowledge and epistemology, and not defend the concept that a god exists at all.
This is important, guys. Pay attention to the format and the topic before you agree to a debate. Tell your friends. Don’t make me keep repeating it.
Will somebody please pass this friendly advice along? This trend must be stopped.
If I were Barker, I’d try to salvage this bad situation by making a self-deprecating joke about it. First thing you say is, “Let me tell you right away I’m going to lose this debate. Why? The topic is set to a position that is not mine. I don’t ‘know’ that there is no God, any more than I know that there is no FSM. So recognizing that I’ve already lost my case, I’m going to turn this debate into a draw by making sure my opponent loses right along with me. He doesn’t know that God exists because…” etc.