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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Battle Islam - Judges' Comments

The closings are posted, the debating is done, Battle Islam is ovah!

On the Panel this week:

On the Left, Joel of Nightmares For Sale and Stacie of The Vast Dairy State Conspiracy.

On the Right, Jimmie of The Sundries Shack and Urthshu of Urthshu.

Opening Arguments

Joel:
This Opening Argument is a failure, unfortunately. The Challenger has an interesting and very possibly a defensible position, but he does very little to defend it. He provides us a summary of his argument when he could have simply provided the argument he is supposedly going to bestow upon us in the First Rebuttal. He gives us unsourced summaries of passages from the Quran, but does not bother attempting to give us a broader context of those passages and does not try to show that they are the predominant themes of the religion. He makes statements of facts without giving any links or sources to back up those facts. He does not provide a single link. The style is okay. He does not waver in his position and makes forceful and bold statements. He certainly comes at the argument with conviction, but gives little to back up that conviction. A huge missed opportunity.
An excellent opening argument. The positions set forward by the IBR are clear and logical and Dan does a great job of backing up those positions with examples and logical conclusions. I had a problem with his claim about “true religion” at the beginning, as that was more opinion than fact, as it is presented. I also had a problem with the supposition that fundamentalists practice a religion that no longer exists, as their practice of it and the textual backing they use for it would suggest that it does indeed exist, even if it is unpopular and practiced by a minority. However, those were not crucial components of the argument. Citing the Quran’s more violent passages and then countering them with the arguments about the true tenets of Islam was an excellent approach. Of course, the juxtaposition of Islam with Christianity is an excellent approach that really serves to make Dan’s point. The style and structure of the argument was sound and the sourcing and education was outstanding, giving the reader many different sources through which to
learn about Islam.
Stacie:
I appreciate the Challenger's willingness to argue what is no doubt an unpopular viewpoint. The post was easy to read, solid structure. With all due respect to the Challenger, there wasn't a whole lot to like in this pos. Islam=Bad. QED. Absolutely no links, no citations at all except for the Quran. I have to take his word for it that Islam is responsible for mre bloodshed than any other religion. I do appreciate the warning that the Challenger isnt intending to play by the rules -- it will make later scoring that much easier; however, the Iron Blog scoring system does require, in large part, that you follow the rules. And the Challenger did not.
Overall, a strong opening on a difficult subject. The post was well-supported with a variety ofsources, ranging from the mainstream 9/11 report and the Quran to 365gay.com (which was nice to see in a Republican post) to Army of God (which wasn't, so thanks for the warning). The Iron Blogger also mentions his own personal experience -- that he is a mainstream Baptist pastor-- which I appreciate. Style also was strong -- this is a tough topic to tackle with any sort of humor, but he integrated it well into a tactful post. It's probably a bit presumptuous to suggest that fundamentalists practice a religion that no longer exists -- if someone's practicing it, it exists within them, doesn't it? Also, the Iron Blogger took a little longer than necessary to make the point -- Christianity has its warts, Islam has its warts, but what we doesn't know seems, well, wartier (he put it better than I did).
Jimmie:
I like the direct nature of this post. It doesn't mince words and tells you exactly what to expect. He keeps his arguments simple and limits it only to the topic. The "laser beam" focus of his opening makes it difficult for the IBR to drive a wedge into the argument.
I like that the IBR can take on a serious topic with a more casual flair than the Challenger. That goes a long way toward diffusing the explosiveness this debate could produce. At times, the IBR is too breezy. I would expect a Baptist minister to be a little less flippant with his theory as to the origin of religion and to the religions of Christianity. That annoyed me at several points. He also, as part of that, made the same unproven assertion as the Challenger. He additionally, IMO, misidentifies what Fundamentalism means to many Christian religions: lumping the Southern Baptist Convention among the "crazies" shows a lack of knowledge in that regard.
Urthshu:
The Challenger stated a clear opinion and stuck to it. He outlined what he intends to do, yet there was no obligation for him to do so. He took a risk. No links, even where there should have been, such as for the Surahs mentioned. That was a risk he should have avoided. There was little requirement for the Disclaimer or closing paragraph. I would have liked a deeper exploration of his views. Seemingly, the Challenger is obscuring those views on purpose, which is a novel strategy.
The IB takes a direction that isn't commonplace. The opening paragraph left a little to be desired. I don't particularly like Dictionary links, myself, finding them a dry way to open a topic. I find comparison of Christianity to Islam to be repulsive, yet I suppose it was done to address potential pitfalls.

First Rebuttals

Joel:
Thankfully, The Challenger actually makes a case in this post rather than just summarizing. He does a good job of bringing up some compelling
examples of violence within Islam, even as a driving force in some regards. However, he does not do a good job of providing a more complete and overall sense of the religion. He virtually ignores the peaceful elements the IBR brought up in his opening argument, leaving the reader to wonder if he is truly providing a clear and complete overview of Islam. He has shown that there are violent elements to the religion and that it has a history of violence, but has not done much to show that the violence is the predominant aspect of the religion. The structure and style were sound in this post, though not overwhelming, either. The linking was decent and The Challenger provided some interesting information. Overall, this is a much better post than the opening argument, but there are still some obvious flaws.
This is a very nice first rebuttal. Dan does a good job of bringing in still more points showing Islam to be a religion of peace and rebuts much of Chris’s argument nicely. He continues to make effective use of comparing the violence in Islam’s past with the violence in Christianity’s and Judaism’s pasts. I do wish the IBR would try to provide a more complete picture of Islam, as I feel I am only getting pieces of the puzzle from each of the combatants. However, bringing in the words of Huston Smith was a nice move, as he seems like a solid source and it does help to establish the sense that Islam is indeed a religion of peace. This post has nice style and structure, with Dan doing a particularly good job of keeping a light tone that can be used in both a joking and serious manner, making it versatile and entertaining. Finally, using Chris’s own words against him was an excellent twist, though it really only adds marginally to the argument.
Stacie:
As a "history of violence in Islam" post, it wasn't half bad. It was readable, decently organized. The Challenger made a half-hearted attempt to rebut a couple of IBR's points, and then veered off on his own, thus not respecting the format of the game. If one looks in the scoring guide, one will find that many, many points are awarded based on how well the combatant follows the rules, even if the post itself is terrible. And while this post isn't terrible, it loses most of the rules-based points. Sourcing was minimal; more links are needed.
A refreshing and utter lack of partisan rancor. IBR's posts continue to be tactful and educational about a difficult subject. He rebuts what there is to rebut quite well, and even turns The Challenger's own posts on his own forum against him. The structure is easy to follow, and the style is straightforward and calm. There's also a great variety of links -- Newsmax is there, sure, but it's not being used to promote a partisan point. I'm still not entirely sure I understand the logic in parts of the post. IBR seems to be implying that Islam isn't violent because its legal system isn't really that much worse than ours is, but I don't see how that's not still violent; ditto for a hand for theft. Even if it works, it's still violent.
Jimmie:
The Challenger is still keeping things simple and isn'tcluttering the topic with other issues. It would be very easy to do that. He's starting to sound "human" in this rebuttal. I like that, and it's going to make him more believable. The Challenger cannot prove Jesus' existence as a person? Assuming he's not making some weird metaphysical statement (who among us can prove anyone's existence, or some such rubbish), he may be the wrong person to debate an issue so closely fused with religion. There are enough historical writings out there that the sufficiently curious can find a satisfactory answer. The Challenger also let the IBR get away with several definitions at the beginning of his opening that he shouldn't have. One of the first rules of debating is that if your opponent sets up a definition, you should look carefully at it for signs of weakness. Chances are that you'll find something there. The IBR left plenty of weakness not only in his
"history" of Christianity, but also in the definition of Fundamentalism as practiced by various Christian religions.
This, so far, is the best post of the lot. He took on the existence of Jesus question directly and killed it flat dead. There are still places the Challenger can go, but not very many. The IBR has pulled back a bit on the sarcasm and managed to pull me toward his side. He's still floating his initial definition of Fundamentalism for Christianity as a prime argument. I think that's a weak pillar, and he could do a lot better.
Urthshu:
The Challenger is getting clearer in his position, stating it forcefully. The post did a decent job flowing through the various points. He did show how Christianity differed from Islam, yet not why- partial rebuttals get partial points, but it was welcome nonetheless. What I didn't: Aside from one of the links not working, the post was a little muddled, jumping subjects at times. There should have been far more linking done than was the case, especially at the close. The Challenger needs, very much, to get away from apologizing for his positions and simply state them outright. We understand: He doesn't like Islam. That's fine- give us your reasoning. He did not explain the 3 houses of jihad concept at all.
It was well-written, well-argued. The IB is getting a free ride. I take personal exception to many many many of his positions, yet I can't answer them here. What didn't I like? All of it, from the equating of Islam as "one of the big 3" to "the 9/11 hijackers were not practitioners of Islam", to the equating of Christianity with a history of violence to rival Islam's. What can I say about it? Nothing.

Second Rebuttals

Joel:
The Challenger’s argument has evolved and become more convincing. I like the focus on the three houses of Jihad and I think much of that is what was missing in Chris’s earlier posts. They help to focus the aspect of war within Islam, while also specifying that in many regards, Jihad is not truly about war, but rather about a “struggle,” as Chris puts it. This is a good point and really helps the case. I also liked the distinction between moderate Muslims and “true” Muslims, even though I don’t personally agree with much of what The Challenger said about that. However, the reasoning behind his distinction seems sound and it is an important point for his argument. The sourcing and linking needed to be much better, especially when talking about the houses of Jihad. The points there needed to be backed up with some more analyses or commentary to really convince the reader that Chris has the better understanding of Islam.
A strong, convincing and entertaining post from the IBR. There is a lot of rebuttal in this second rebuttal. Particularly, Dan does a good job of casting doubt upon The Challenger’s two best points from his second rebuttal: the nature of “true” Muslims and the nature of Jihad. On top of this rebuttal, the IBR brings in a great argument about the evolving nature of God’s will. It is something more of an emotional argument than a factual one, but it certainly is persuasive, adding to Dan’s case while casting doubt upon Chris’s case. As before, this is an entertaining and good read, easy to comprehend and very enjoyable. The crack about typing slowly and the dig at Jay’s blog were both excellent (and I would say take it as a complement, Jay.) The sourcing is not quite as strong as in previous posts, but it still is good.
Stacie:
A much, much stronger outing by the Challenger this time. More active rebuttal, less rule-breaking. He clarifies his argument in a
nutshell, modern Islam, as practiced by the millions of peaceful people who call themselves Muslim, isn't actually Islam. It was much more clear this time. Partisan sniping also was kept to the minimum, even with an exceedingly unpopular viewpoint. I'm not sure I buy the central argument, even if it was presented properly. There also was too heavy a reliance on dictionary/definition quotes, and less on other sources. The writing was a bit dry, although I'm not sure how one would balance peppy writing with this viewpoint.
IBR continues to play the game well, offering an active challenge to The Challenger's argument. The humor level is tactful, even as the snark level increased a bit. And, yes, IBD is my friend, I've known him for years, but he is indeed nuts. Overall, this post wasn't as strong as IBR's previous outings. It was a bit harder to understand, for me especially as someone relatively unschooled in Christian and Muslim theology. IBR didn't fully connect the dots between "God's will changed between the Old and New Testaments" and "God's will has evolved in Islam."
Jimmie:
The "Three Jihads" argument is effective, and your definition of "true" Islam using the clergy to set it is effective. Truth is a squirmy thing in religion and much of what you rely on is what the clergy is saying and how it is being publicly practiced. You could ahve made that point overtly, but I don't know that it was necessary. This should have ben part of your opening. You have something powerful and worth developing and you waited until the end to bring it out. I know you had a structure overall in mind, but you could have put this in your opening, then expanded on it later.
The whole "rebuttering" thing made me laugh and brought me well into the post before I realized that he actually was delivering a rebuttal. That's clever and effective. But the post was way too flippant and has more than a couple "loose" theological points. Yes, I understand that the IBR is a Baptist minister but when one of the judges spent his entire life in a Baptist church and at one point was thought to be a Pastor in training, there's stuff you can get away with and stuff you can't. Blithely tossing out the word "fundies" is one of them. Also, the Challenger hasn't made the 9/11 hijackers an issue, so I'm wondering why the IBR spent as much of his rebuttal fretting about their numbers compared to the rest. This could have been a much better post, but I think maybe the IBR was more interested in being entertaining than he was informative.
Urthshu:
Turned the focus back on the IB, answered some previous questions I had about his positions. Style-wise, it was a much stronger piece than the previous ones. One of the links, again, was non-functioning. He did meander a bit, so the post could have been made clearer. I get the impression that he isn't writing second or third drafts of his posts; if not, he should do so- I'm certain he would do a better job of things with a bit more patience. This post, taken with the ones previous, explained for me what the problem might be for the entire debate: Chris is an Atheist, the IB is a self-described Humanist. Therefore the Battle itself takes on the substance of Farce. Neither mention the niceties of Mosaic Law vs. New Testament Law vs. Islamic Law, what the errors of the Koran are in regards to Christianity, what Christianity has to say regarding Islam, the shades of meaning between Apostasy and Heresy, etc. etc. While I'm quite certain that each combatant believes they are being very studious
& deep, they don't appear so. To me, this is a notably weak battle.
IBR had a good flow & decent, appropriate humor throughout. It showed a strong point of view, revealing where the IB's stance is coming from. He's viewing Islam through the lens of his own personal Faith, and that vision of his Faith is one at odds with common Christian worshippers. He does a good job saying how God is some kind of relativist and gives out of context quotes [without links, mind] to 'prove' that. And yet, in the links provided for defending Islam, a primary argument is that the detractors use quotes out of context in order to prove their own vision of Islam- which is taken to be unchanging! He thus undermined his own case.

Closing Arguments

Joel:
This is a much better summary of The Challenger’s position than the
opening argument was. The Challenger takes all his different points and really ties them together into a nice closing argument that does a good job of pushing his point of view. This post is a little lacking on details, though, even for what is just supposed to be a summary. Chris maybe should have spent another paragraph or two in a more detailed summary of the houses of Jihad and the supporting case for the violence in Islam. The style is good here, with Chris taking a solemn and low-key approach that fits the subject well. The post is clear and easy to read, flowing well and never splintering or feeling disjointed. A very good closing on a subject that was surely hard to tackle.
This is an excellent closing argument. The IBR ties up all his previous arguments into a very nice, convincing treatise, so to speak, on how Islam is a peaceful religion. I have little doubt that Dan drew on his work as a pastor for this closing argument, as it has the feel of a sermon. The approach is very effective, leaving the reader quite sympathetic to Dan’s argument. The style is very good, including the second dig at Jay, which I quite enjoyed. The language here is eloquent and persuasive. The biggest complaint I have is that the post seemed to end abruptly.
Stacie:
The Challenger has softened his rhetoric over the past week, and is following the rules of the game a little better, both of which have helped his case seem more credible. This conclusion offers a good summary of his previous points, but got my blood boiling only a little. Beyond the summary, the case still isn't fully convincing. I'm not pursuaded that cafeteria Muslims, who aren't violently beating their neighbors into submission to Allah, aren't following Allah's will and therefore aren't truly Muslims.
This entire battle's been handled with class from both combatants, even though it's clear that the topic represents a disagreement on a fundamental, human level (not just a policy or even a "what would I do in this situation?" disagreement). This has been especially evident in the IBR's last post. It has demonstrated, by example, the difference between 'fundies' and the peace-loving rest of us, in that the post lacks "my way or the highway"-ness. The post does work as a conclusion in a general sense, tying things together nicely and bringing the debate back full circle. This post can't exactly stand on its own, and lacks links to the previous sources. It wasn't as devastating to the Challenger as a conclusion needs to be. My own assumptions were challenged, but subtly. The post was a bit too focused on Christianity and not enough on Islam, the topic battle.
Jimmie:
This could very nearly have been your opening, too. As it stands, it's tight and hits your points (with pointers to where these points arose, important in your style of arguiing the topic). Nice job, Challenger. Not much I didn't like.
The flow was good and took us around a couple of IBR's more esoteric points. What I didn't like here was covered in much of the other sections.
Urthshu:
He stuck by his argument & countered the idea that Islam is 'evolving' & changeable, as the IB claimed in his 2nd rebuttal. It was, unfortunately, a weak post. It strayed a bit too much when it should have blasted the 'evovling' argument more thoroughly [yet, as a closing, he could not do so] and the post should have been tied together better overall. Again, he makes an apology for his views which was wholly uncalled for. If you wish to condemn or show the flaws of something, don't shrink from it- just do it, in no uncertain terms.
Not much in IBR's post I liked, actually. I literally had a sour taste in my mouth afterwards. Blech. The Cross as a symbol of prejudice? Give me a break. Nice creation of a substitute Bogeyman- the ooh-scaaaary Religious Right. The post itself wandered a lot, leaving me thinking that he was a] noodling over what he was talking about & b] self-assured of his winning & thus just 'going through the motions'.

The Judges have spoken - all that remains is to await the Verdict.

Stay tuned!

|


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