Now after my Dennett debate, what's the verdict? Well, the audience was full of Dennett supporters who began with enthusiastic applause for him but, as the debate went on, fell largely silent. Several came up to me afterward and told me that I had won. Dennett himself seemed dispirited after the event. Even so, when I posted the debate on my blog, the atheists went into damage control mode. The debate was instantly posted on atheist sites, and atheists rushed to my AOL blog to vote Dennett the winner. This effort gave atheists an early lead, but when the votes were tallied I was the victor. Interestingly my margin of victory was even bigger than that for the resolution, suggesting that several people voted that "God Is a Man-Made Invention" and still thought I won the debate.
A good way to assess a debate is to see what the partisans on each side say. Among Christians the verdict is unanimous. Here’s a sample comment from a Townhall reader: "My heart went out to Professor Dennett because he was so totally over-matched in this debate You totally demolished him as you have the other atheists you have debated." But all you have to do is to go to atheist sites to see that many atheists also think that I won, although this is sometimes very grudgingly admitted.
Here is a sampling of comments that I've taken from richarddawkins.net. "I was at the debate and thought Dennett did not prove his point." "I'm so tired of these D'Souza debates. The more people we send his way the larger his smile grows." "I feel such debates should stop." "I love Dennett's ideas about atheism but I do think he handled this debate poorly against Dinesh." "Ok, Dennett sucked...Dennett's type of responses just made him look like an ass." "Dinesh is an amazingly talented orator, considering how hopeless a case he is arguing." "Hitchens has had a shot, as has Dennett, and neither has succeeded in demolishing D'Souza. D'Souza has a very effective debating technique. Not only did a lot of atheists get up and fire straw-man arguments at D'Souza that he was easily able to counter and make them look foolish, but Dennett...lost his composure and his train of thought." "Let's face it, this guy has taken our best shots and still come out looking good. Maddening."
So where does this leave the atheists? These guys now seem to be 0-3. Some of the blog posters on Dawkins' site are calling on Sam Harris and Dawkins himself to step into the ring. Harris seems willing, although he has approached me about doing a written rather than an oral debate. Dawkins continues to avoid my invitation to debate on a secular West Coast campus, leading one atheist to dub him Richard the Chickenhearted. I really hope that Dawkins proves he has the courage of his convictions. (How brave is it to beat up on former televangelist Ted Haggard?)
Otherwise the self-styled "brights" are going to face the empirical fact that when it comes to defending their views, atheists are basically losers. Remarkably, the "party of reason" is simply incompetent to vindicate those claims against an advocate of the "party of faith." Now what could be more embarrassing than that?