Boston University Professor Runs from Debate
After agreeing over three months ago to debate Christian Philosopher Greg Bahnsen (Ph.D., USC) on the proposition "Does God Exist?" Boston University Professor Michael Martin (philosophy) backed out on Friday, October 14-less than two weeks before the scheduled date. The debate, which was to be held on Wednesday, October 26 at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, would have been arguably the best one of its kind in the past 50 years.
The reason Dr. Martin gives for his eleventh hour pull-out is that he does not want the debate recorded. This means the only people that Martin wants to hear the debate are those in attendance. But what is the problem with other people hearing the debate? Is there something magical about Dr. Martin's presence? We have difficulty understanding Dr. Martin's position; all a recording does is expand the walls of the auditorium.
At first Dr. Martin's ostensive reason for not wanting the debate recorded was that he did not want to
(indirectly) benefit a Christian organization by allowing them (in this case Covenant Tape Ministry) to sell tapes for profit. However, under the terms of debate, both sides have ownership rights. If Dr. Martin wants to sell or even give away tapes of the debate it is his right to do so. To this Dr. Martin rebutted that he did not have the capability to distribute the tapes. In light of this we went out of our way to arrange for an atheistic society to distribute his tapes. Martin's response to this work of supererogation was to offer another excuse (or as he calls it, "reason").
The new excuse was that distributing tapes is somehow below him. For some reason he thinks that scholars do not do that sort of thing (i.e. record their debates). But this is rather peculiar. Bertrand Russell, for example, allowed his famous debate on the existence of God with Father Copleston to be transcribed and distributed; so have leading contemporary atheist philosophers such as Antony Flew and Kai Nielsen. Were these men not serious philosophers? But even more to the point, if Dr. Martin did not want wide distribution of his defense of atheism why did he agree to the debate in the first place? Almost without exception, public debates are recorded for the benefit of the wider public. His position just doesn't make any sense.
Thus we are forced to conclude that Dr. Martin's "more scholarly than thou" attitude is a ruse to help him graciously back out of a potentially embarrassing situation. We believe the real reason for this abrupt about-face is that Michael Martin is afraid that he will be publicly humiliated just as his friend and fellow atheist, Dr. Gordon Stein, was when he debated Dr. Bahnsen at University of California, Irvine in 1985. The result was quite ugly: Dr. Stein was intellectually parsed. (For proof call 800/553-3938 and order the tape.) After witnessing Dr. Stein's public drubbing, Dr. Martin probably contracted the well known disease skeptics often catch before debating skilled opponents: atheisticus scaredicus.
Dr. Bahnsen will be in Memphis on October 26 whether Dr. Martin shows up or not. He is willing to put it all on the line and let the public decide for themselves. Why isn't Michael Martin willing to do likewise? The answer is that it is much easier for him to stay in the cloister of the classroom and attack a strawman rather than a live, philosophically competent opponent. Atheists should be humiliated by this cowardliness.
If you would like to see the debate take place please call the following numbers to register that desire.
Michael Martin (campus number) XXX/XXX-XXXXBoston University Philosophy Department XXX/XXX-XXXXSCCCS XXX/XXX-XXXX Fax: XXX/XXX-XXXX