My concern is that D’Souza is an accomplished polemicist, while Dennett is rather playful and easygoing in conversation.
That is a concern, but I think that an “accomplished polemicist” is really just a type of semantic slight-of-mind stage magican. I expect that Dennett will be easily able to “see thru” his tricks as easily as a James Randi can spot a Uri Geller bending spoons “with his mind” (sic).
Even so, it is a serious concern because even if Dennett prevails by the standards of a critical thinker reading the transcript in hindsight, that does not correlate with the perceptions that are created in the debate. Delivery of the points is important.
Take a look at this excerpt from a website called “Contra Craig”, which is devoted to debunking the Christian Stupor-Star Apologist Dr. William Lane Craig:
Debating is a skill that has to be learned and requires experience to perfect. Dr.Craig is a PROFESSIONAL debater- he has both 8 years of debate experience and training from High School and college, and has probably gotten in dozens upon dozens of debates each and every year since then. He could probably show up for a debate suffering a major hangover, unshaven, unslept in 24 hours, and still kick the other guy’s ass. Compare this to who he usually goes up against: some academic recluse schlub who couldn’t debate his way out of a wet paper bag, having had no training or experience in debating, and to make matters worse, arrogantly underestimating the opposition (Craig) as evidenced by the usual lack of preparation. Time after time after time, Craig blows these people out of the water, and any non-Christians who think otherwise are just being loyal to the party flag. Freethinkers have GOT to get over their naiveté in thinking that all it takes to win a public debate, is being right. Putting up some professor who’s had little or no debate experience to debate against Craig is like taking someone who’s never even ridden a bicycle before and entering him to race next week one-on-one against the winner of last years Tour De France. It’s not really a long shot to predict who’s going to win, is it?
In support of my contention above, I ran across the following in one of my web searches. It was written by a professor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Edwin Curley ( http://www-personal.umich.edu/~emcurley/backgrnd.htm ) who had gone up against Craig in a debate on February 5, 1998. Dr. Curley writes
Early in January one of my former students - a Christian, who had taken my introductory course in the philosophy of religion - came by my office to ask if it was true that I was going to engage Dr. Craig in a public debate on the existence of God. When I replied that it was, he asked whether I had any previous debate experience. I said “no.” My student had had considerable experience as a debater in high school, and had seen transcripts of some of Dr. Craig’s previous debates on the internet. He knew that experience in debating can give the debater who has it a powerful advantage over the inexperienced, and that careful preparation is essential. Out of a desire to see each side make its case as effectively as possible, he provided me with valuable advice about the tactics I was likely to encounter and with information about how to find transcripts of Dr. Craig’s previous debates.
Even though Dr. Curley admits to having zero experience in debate, he nevertheless went up against Craig. Would Dr. Curley have done likewise in a boxing competition against Mike Tyson- having maybe never boxed a day in his life? Of course not- he (I hope, at least) would have the common sense to know that boxing is a skill that takes years to learn, plus a whole lot of natural talent to boot. To even pretend that an average man, inexperienced in boxing, has even a snowball’s chance in hell of going a few rounds against Mike Tyson (and live to tell about it) is pure utter idiocy. Lunacy. Stupidity. And yet “us Atheists” continue to send sucker after sucker into the ring to face the “Mike Tyson of Theological Debate” and “us Atheists” continue to pretend that 98 lb weaklings stand a chance against Craig. Please! Wake up, fellow Atheists! Get your head out of your ass long enough to be able to see clearly what the hell is happening here. If we expect Christians to be honest about anything, we as a group need to be honest as well, and honestly face the fact that Craig is kicking our collective ass and we’re apparently too dumb (as a group) to even know it! Hell, we’re so dumb we’ll continue to send in our Herkels against their Mike Tyson, and expect a miracle. Hey! We’re Atheists, remember? We don’t believe in miracles!!! (For a full transcript of the debate between Dr. Curley and Dr. Craig, go to http://sitemaker.umich.edu/emcurley/craig-curley_debate )
Take a look at the website Contra Craig for more info, and a look at some of the bag of tricks Christian Apologists use when debating:
Transcript of the Bart Ehrman - William Lane Craig debate on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus: