A Big Problem With Presidential Debates

What needs to be done to change the debates? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve done debate before. Last year I debated Dan Barker on the existence of God. In many ways, I consider that debate more substantial than any presidential debate I have ever seen. I would say that about most debates I have seen on the topic of religion. Why is that?

I say this also as someone who enjoyed last night’s vice-presidential debate. I came in supporting Pence and on substance definitely, I think he won, but I also think he won on presentation and style. So this isn’t the case of someone saying “Last night’s debate was awful. Here’s what needs to be different” and having the reason because I don’t think my side did good. Now you can think Pence did terrible, and that’s fine, but let it be accepted that my thinking is not based on a disappointment and thus wanting to change the rules.

When Barker and I debated, we had a lengthy time to debate one question. Does God exist? After that, we then took live questions from the audience. If you have just one question and each of you has fifteen minutes at the start to make a case, you can make a substantive case.

So you sit down for last night’s debate and the first thing you hear is about 9 segments of ten minutes each. Sorry, but economic plans and matters related to climate change and abortion are not able to really be covered that substantially in just 10 minutes apiece.

Part of that is our culture has become a soundbite culture. We want an answer and we want it quick. If you want to give an economic plan, you need to be able to have time to explain why you think raising or cutting taxes will help and most people don’t read anything on economics to consider such a question.

What about health-care? Nope. You can’t really lay out a whole plan in that short amount of time. Not only that, we have to remember the other side has to have time to respond to that within a few minutes and then the original presenter needs to respond and wait, both of them are supposed to make a case in that time.

At the same time, I understand that especially in any case, the current president and vice-president are busy and won’t always be able to do a debate. What would I recommend? More debates from people that each party will say represents their side versus one on the other. Want to debate health care? Have a whole debate on that topic. Climate change? Racism? Yes. A whole debate.

Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen simply because most people don’t really have that kind of attention span anymore. We want quick and soundbite answers to questions and think everything should be able to be given in bite-size portions. It can’t be. That’s the nature of the beast. I don’t care who is giving the case. If this is a substantive issue, it requires work.

And dare I say it, maybe if you want to understand these issues, you will need to do that on your own some time. Watch on Facebook and when anything major happens, everyone becomes an expert on everything. We live in an age where we think we are worth listening to because we have an opinion. No. Your opinion might be right and valid, but you need to read up on it and give an informed reason for your case.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a public willing to better educate themselves. Unfortunately, I have no pipe dreams of this happening anytime soon. I also see no way to bring it about instantly. The best I would say is start with the churches being willing to educate themselves and hire preachers who know what they’re talking about and have educational credentials. If we want change to start with the world, it needs to start with us.

We could all bear to be more informed anyway.

Also, let questions come from the audience more often that’s there live. Let them tell us what is most important to us. Don’t let a moderator decide that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/14/2018: Abdu Murray

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If we went back a few decades, we would find many debates still, though not as common likely, and all of those debates would still have each side thinking there is an objective truth and it is worth knowing even if we can’t know it for whatever reason. Today, it’s not the same. We live in a world where truth is seen as just a matter of personal opinion. Feelings determine what you believe more and more.

Go on social media and you will often see people sharing stories. These stories are not even checked for accuracy. Many of them have been hoaxes. Some of our government officials have even shared such stories before thinking that they were true. People have had to ask if the Onion or the Babylon Bee can be fact-checked.

This has also come over into the realm of sexuality. Sex has been reduced to something that is more feeling-oriented instead of having a real purpose in society. We have reached the stage where people think they can mutilate their bodies and do whatever to them to match the true identity that they feel.

I don’t know how many times I have seen the story of a person who is married with kids and then leaves it all and proclaims himself a homosexual. Stories suddenly come about saying that this person has found their true self. It’s strange that those stories never work in the reverse when a person goes from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

How do we handle this? To discuss this, I’m having on Abdu Murray. He has written a book recently called Saving Truth. He will be my guest as we discuss it and what can be done to restore the concept of truth.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Abdu is the North American Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is the author of three books, including his latest book, the bestseller, Saving Truth – Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World.  For most of his life, Abdu was a proud Muslim who studied the Qur’an and Islam.  After a nine year investigation into the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions and views, Abdu discovered that the historic Christian faith alone can answer the questions of the mind and the longings of the heart.

Abdu has spoken to diverse international audiences and has participated in debates and dialogues across the globe.  He has appeared as a guest on numerous radio and televisions programs all over the world and hosts the podcast Embrace The Truth with Abdu Murray.

Abdu holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School.  As an attorney, Abdu was named several times in Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyer.  Abdu is the Scholar in Residence of Christian Thought and Apologetics at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.  

Abdu lives in the Detroit, Michigan area with his wife and their three children.

I hope you’ll be listening for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review. I really enjoy seeing them! Thanks for being fans of the Deeper Waters Podcast!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Studying Logic

How do you go about studying the topic of logic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been discussing lately with some fellow Christians the study of logic. We’ve often discussed the main ways that people study logic, such as reading the books on logic and listening to great teachers on logic. This is essential to the study and you should do this, but at the same time, I want to point out some fun ways you can put into practice what you are studying.

One place to go to is advertising. Someone is selling you a product. Why should you buy it? What claims do they make? Do they really convince you that this is a worthwhile exchange for your money, or do they do something else, say have a bikini wearing model advertise a burger for you? (And let’s face it, we all know that model never ever eats anything like that.)

Sometimes, businesses are less forward than that and try to sneak in an attitude. When we lived in Tennessee, a local bank would have commercials with a touching country setting emphasizing the goodness of home. Nothing was said about the bank itself, but the feeling you got thinking about the homey atmosphere was meant to carry over to the bank. Car insurance companies have been doing this as well using humor. How many of us laugh at the “Jake from State Farm” commercials or the GEICO commercials about cats, mothers, and the band Europe? You know what? They work, because we talk about these commercials, but many times you don’t really wind up knowing much about the product.

I have also been a stickler for pointing out to my wife Allie what it means when someone is referred to as a liar. Because someone gets a claim wrong does not mean that they are a liar. If that is so, every student who gets a false answer on a math test is a liar. A liar is someone who knows the truth about what they are saying and says the opposite fully intending what they say to be believed as the truth. We have to be clear because someone could say the exact opposite in sarcasm not intending to be believed at all. This kind of thing happens often in politics. It’s too easy to say someone is a liar for providing information that is false. Maybe they are, but it takes more than false information to show that someone is lying.

Speaking of politics, let’s look at the presidential debates we have going on now. This is a great place to go to to study logic because you can look at a question a candidate is asked and then look at the answer and ask “Did they really answer the question?” You can also ask how they did that with a question or challenge they receive from an opponent.

By the way, when you do this, it’s important to try to be as impartial as you can. Let’s say you’re a Ted Cruz supporter in the Republican primary. You might be looking to see what Donald Trump says that is an example of bad logic or an answer that does not follow or dodges the question. That’s fine. Do the same for Cruz also. If you’re a Trump supporter, you will do the opposite. You should also be willing to admit when your opponent does answer the question satisfactorily. You can debate how good the answer is how effective a strategy would be, but does he answer the question?

Humor is also a good place to go to. Comedians don’t try to be logicians, but they do try to point out the humor in our thinking. If you like puns, puns rely on ambiguity largely. That’s what makes them so funny. Much of our humor relies on taking people literally. My wife and I were just seeing someone and getting set to make another appointment and they said we can make it for whenever we want. I replied midnight would work just fine for us. Of course, that wouldn’t work for them, but that was the humor of it. On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper regularly does this sort of thing.

Finally, if you’re doing this from an apologetics perspective, consider watching to and listening to debates. One of my favorite programs for debates is Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley. Try to be impartial. Ask and see what side really makes the better case. I have heard debates where I had to say the non-Christian made a better case and some where sadly, the Christian case was just embarrassing in its defense. It does not mean that I think the non-Christian was right, but it does mean that I think they did a better job presenting their case. One mistake it’s easy to make is to think that if an argument agrees with your conclusion, it must be a good one. Christians and atheists both sadly have a habit of going to Google, finding the first thing that they think agrees with them, and sharing it because they think it agrees with what they already believe and so it must be a good argument.

Studying logic in this can be fun and eye-opening and prepare you for a world where people are going to be consistently trying to snow you. Many will do this unintentionally. Some will do it intentionally. If you can learn to think through what people say better, you will be a step ahead of the game. Even if you don’t know a topic well, you can at least see how well conclusions follow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters