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April 09, 2013


The only liability of relying on "muscle memory" in our interactions with people is that sometimes people put twists on otherwise common arguments, and if we're not listening closely to what they're saying, we're prone to just spout a rehearsed response to the usual argument, not the one they're actually making. Most of us wannabe apologists have had that happen to us. We'll make an argument we've thought through, but the person we're talking to doesn't hear what we're saying. They hear something else they've heard a gazillion times before, and they instinctively give their pat response to what they've heard a gazillion times before. And that's a little off-putting. So I think we should be careful not to do that to other people. We ought to listen carefully to what they're saying and not rely heavily on "muscle memory."

Sam, you're the man!
Muscle memory only speaks to lack of originality and creativity. I quickly loose interest when it all becomes a kind of formula. It is like painting by numbers, I find it hard to appreciate such a work while I appreciating real art and the artist behind it.

A true master of debates can adapt to the ever changing landscapes being presented and adapts to these new situations without compromising his core arguments. Unfortunately, I see some that are way to set in their ways to adapt.

I think that analogy with the dummy round is another failed analogy. When you are in a real debate situation, you encounter things that you never trained for and that is where muscle memory is utterly useless. You have to think quickly on your feet and deal with the new situation and quickly acquire new skills and new ways of looking at things.

The only thing that J's example tackles is how to prepare for and deal with the expected unexpected, not the unexpected unexpected. The real world doesn't work that way. I'm all for training, but frankly, sometimes it takes more than that to prevail. It requires something that some older folks tend to have less of...flexibility.

J. Warner Wallace wrote: "When the pressure is on, you end up resorting to training."

If we are experiencing great pressure to perform well in a debate, that's just an indicator of our own bias. It reminds me of a rule of thumb I use.

Occasionally it will happen that I am convinced of an error, and then the polite thing to do is to acknowledge this to the person I am debating. I try to always be on the lookout for correcting any false beliefs I might have, and that's one of the reasons I engage in these debates. It takes a good deal to convince me, but it does happen from time to time.

But sometimes the person I'm debating will piss me off so much that I become unwilling to concede any points. Such people are usually willfully obnoxious and unlikely to be able to convince me of anything anyway. But it bothers me that even if they were able to do so, I would be so irritated with them that it wouldn't matter. So my rule of thumb is this: Whenever I realize I have reached that point, I withdraw unequivocally from the discussion.

In other words, when the pressure is on, that indicates to me that the debate is doomed to failure, and I have no reason to continue it. So I'll never need any special "muscle memory" skills to fall back on in those situations.

And in any case, as Sam already pointed out, rehearsing lines is a poor way to prepare for an honest debate. In general, if an apologist expresses interest in finding ways to avoid thinking things through, that's a very bad sign IMO.

Ben, sometimes it is the truth that irritates people too, but that is different from what you describe. It might even irritate them to the point of censorship and just wearing a label of Christian doesn't make one exempt from that.

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