A strange thing has happened: I’m getting all these debate requests now. You do one little debate (or two or three), and no one will let you forget it.
I am not a debater. Debating is a serious skill, and I’ve never been trained in it — all I’ve got is a pile of knowledge in my head and a snarky attitude, so I can disgorge heaps of information somewhat entertainingly. If that’s really what you want in your debate, OK…but I have to lay down some prerequisites.
I’m charging a fee for debates now. I’m a little tired of seeing my creationist opponent fêted, and the venue looking huge and expensive, while I’ve done my usual thing of waiving any honorarium. You want me, my fee is now $3000 (it may go up), plus all of my expenses covered.
Tell me about the organization running the event, whether it’s free or ticketed admission, if it’s for profit where the money will go. I don’t mind if you make money off the event, but I do mind if you’re going to use the cash for your gays-will-burn-in-hell campaign.
The question to be debated must be specific: none of this “Does god exist?” crap. Come up with an addressable topic that can be adequately covered in an hour of back-and-forth.
The question ought to be one I’m competent to answer: I’m a biologist, not a physicist, so don’t bother asking me to debate the implications of dark matter or the age of the earth (actually, that last one would be stupid no matter who you ask: it’s a settled issue.) Get someone else in the appropriate field.
Tell me exactly who I’m debating. Lately, there’s been a tendency to try and get me to agree, and then spring a ringer on me. Really, you don’t have to keep it a surprise — I’m not afraid of anyone, but some people I’d rather not associate with, because they’re nuts. Or evil.
The format must be clearly spelled out ahead of time. There’s no point to two half-hour segments, pro and con; short intro, thesis, and rebuttal is better, with time for actual discussion, and a Q&A.
Get a third-party moderator. No, the pastor of the church sponsoring my opponent does not qualify.
When you write to contact me, you should have all of that spelled out and ready for my consideration. If you don’t, why are you even trying to organize a debate? You are not ready.
Even if you meet all of my requirements, I might still say no. I’m not enthusiastic about debating. You could try offering more money…but even then, it’s the whole package I’ll be looking at.
If I’ve discouraged you from requesting participation in a debate, that’s fine. There are plenty of other godless debaters out there. May I recommend Aron Ra or Matt Dillahunty? They’re experts at this. Jamila Bey is also an experienced debater. Russell Glasser has been active on the Atheist Experience TV show. Mano Singham is a good choice if you’re looking at physics problems. Ed Brayton has been a debate coach, and has Opinions.
OK then? I’ll probably make this information a specific page in the header bar eventually, just to simplify my life a little bit. You want to invite me to debate someone? Read this first.