Monday, October 19, 2015

My Interview and Debate with Vocab Malone on Urban Theologian

Well it was recorded awhile ago but it's out now!

Here is the interview: EPISODE 40;
and here is the debate: EPISODE 41

More information on the stuff I mention in the debate first:

Hindu Milk Miracles
Ahmed's Debate handout
Buckhout's Eyewitness Testimony Article
Some sources I used.

The Debate: In detail and scored

Vocab's Opening

Vocab made two arguments:
1. Scripture is sufficient and reliable evidence to accept the resurrection.
Basically, regarding the EWT is formulated in a way that emphasizes the historicity of the event. That is, if this were legendary or not an account of actual events then Mark's gospel would not be the important gospel because of his minor place as a disciple. Peter's account would be the important gospel because he was a key figure. Furthermore, God guided the process of composing the gospels so it must be accurate. Also, the scribes who copied the gospels later must have been faithful because they did not embellish or update Jesus' words to address hot button issues contemporaneous with the time range given to a particular manuscript.

2. If we "discount, diminish, dilute, dismiss, or deny" the resurrection as an historical fact, then we could not explain other historical events. We would only be able to deny the resurrection and get saddled with a bunch of unanswered questions.
In short, the conversion of the disciples, the change from established Jewish traditions to radical Christian ones and the like do not make sense unless the resurrection actually occurred.

Before the debate I actually heard Vocab going over another common argument: the martyrdom of the apostles but that never came up. I don't think it's a strong argument but Christians certainly do. I would have mentioned the 911 attacks as a counter-example but I recently mentioned that in another discussion with Christians and they were not impressed. I'm not sure if actually showing that the so-called accounts of the apostles' gruesome deaths are dubious in and of themselves is something that would be worthwhile to address either, though.

Anyways, when I heard Vocab's opening I was actually a bit surprised. I did not feel it was really strong though it was not what I was expecting at least. In an earlier debate he had, he went the natural vs supernatural worldview route. He also even brought up the problem of induction. So I did have some stuff ready for that, but it wasn't needed in this debate.

Later I realized why Vocab presented this weaker case: it seemed to be more inline with a debate about whether or not Jesus actually existed. I think the last few debates Vocab has been in have been on Jesus Mythicism, and he might have been dipping into that pool of arguments. The issue is that I actually do think that Jesus can be demonstrated to have existed through historical evidence and within an ancient historical context. To put it bluntly, showing that isn't an outrageous contention with respect to the evidence presented, but showing that someone rose from the dead with the same evidence, that's a buttload harder to pull off.

My Opening

As Vocab rightly noted, I used the first argument and one of the sources from Arif Ahmed's 2008 debate with Gary Habermas which I have a long review of HERE.

Unlike Ahmed, I went a bit more critical and didn't grant too much of the resurrection argument for Vocab. I decided to do this for time purposes, as I was a bit worried that granting for the sake of argument that the Res eye witnesses were trustworthy would not work with only one of Ahmed's arguments instead of the three he uses in his debate.

So I essentially said this: The resurrection is cool to believe on faith alone. However if you want to say that we can actually accept that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and that there's evidence for such a claim then the evidence offered by the apologist simply doesn't cut it. Why? It's eyewitness testimony, and that's being gracious. It's actually pretty weak eyewitness testimony and there is more substantial eyewitness testimony to other supernatural events that the apologist is obligated to accept if they are credulous enough to accept the eyewitness testimony for the resurrection.

I gave roughly two examples of supernatural claims evidenced by eyewitness testimony (EWT), both of which, are more concrete than the EWT offered in the New Testament: 1. The Hindu Milk Miracles; 2. Alien Abductions.

In hindsight I should have stuck with the former example AND I should have explained it in my opening. I only mention it in my opening and explain it later. I also should have referred to it as I do above, in the debate I say the Ganesh Milk Miracles, which might sound odd to people not familiar with the deity. I also should have left out the alien abductions. The thing with the alien abductions is they are technically naturalistic but still highly unlikely. As such, they're a good example to mention because it deflates the argument that I have a bias against the supernatural. In the past Vocab has gone that route but he didn't in this debate, so I should have stuck with Ganesh, especially since it was completely foreign to him.

The Rest of the debate

After both of us made opening statements it was more of a back and forth. Listening to it I noticed that I was actually more on the defensive, or rather, Vocab was asking more of the questions. I think I answered them well but not persuasively.

First, we went on about the divinely inspired part of the bible and I was lucky in that I recently became interested in the argument over God telling lies and knew a bunch of associated bible passages.

The ones I mentioned are:
2 Thessalonians 2:11
2 Chronicles 18:22
1 Kings 22:23

More passages are found here. I had a friend tell me that he was impressed with how quickly I responded to the question. I also felt this point technically would "flow" to me as well, especially since 1 Kings pretty much shows that God is willing to send both truth (John 16:13) and lying spirits to deceive people for theological purposes.

Second, I finally do detail the Hindu Milk Miracles. I go on for a bit, but I think I do make it clear and I think I do address the point that Vocab brought up about the supposed non-EWT evidence. I have a friend who said he liked Vocab's Spider-Man argument but I never made that argument and maybe I should have made that clear. Because my response sounded a bit vague and because this wasn't an argument I didn't bring up I call this argument a draw.

Third, faith, evidence, the importance of the resurrection and milk doin' a body good. Here the focus was on Vocab's second argument. I told Vocab I'm fine with people accepting the resurrection based on faith and Vocab took issue with that, elaborated on his second argument, and said that I failed to explain the data he mentioned to prop up his second argument. Here again I think I gave a good response, but upon relistening and not hearing others agreeing with my assessment, I can see that I just wasn't effective and might have been a bit glib. This one I flow to Vocab.

Fourth, I say that Vocab failed to demonstrate which of the premises in my argument he disagreed with. I messed up and said that he agreed with all of them, but of course he doesn't agree with the one about our never seeing someone rise from the dead. The issue is that he is begging the question, but I didn't call him on it because I was to thickheaded. Here I think Vocab kind of floundered, though. He brought up a more nuanced argument that reminded me of one William Lane Craig has made. That is, no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead. People saw him die, found an empty tomb, and then saw him again in his resurrectioned bod.

When Craig mentions this argument it's for a different point, however. In a nutshell, Craig mentions that the resurrection claim isn't extraordinary because it's based on two rather mundane lines of evidence: is it extraordinary for people to watch someone die? Nope. Is it extraordinary to discover a previously occupied tomb empty? Nope.

But when Vocab mentioned the fact that the EWT actually doesn't mention seeing Jesus rise from the dead, he did so with regards to my 3rd point (we've never seen bodies reanimate), and I say something that I thought was a lot more of a NOICE argument but I guess wasn't. I said "It sounded like you were saying because they don't describe,--actually seeing Jesus resurrect, that gives them more credibility as eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection?" I felt that Vocab gave a weak response to this and moved on. Though my point should have been a bit more punchy, I'd flow this argument to me.

Fifth, historical issues with the gospels. Here I actually was a bit confused because I thought that Vocab was more of an evidentialist. At this point he was speaking about the EWT as actually coming from Mark, Luke, Matthew, etc. and not just being the works of anonymous second generation Christians. A bit of a miscommunication on my part messed up the argument though. I said no biblical scholar disagrees with me on the issue when I shoulda said, most. Vocab got hung up on that a bit and I didn't catch it at all. However, this is the one part where someone did say he thought I was really on point. In my friends' words "The Bart Ehrman stuff is where you did really well". The problem is that this is a really short part and I should have stuck with my own arguments instead. Still, I think I'd barely flow this one to me because Vocab didn't really address my point about the anonymity of the gospel authors besides taking issue with my universal negative.

Sixth, bringing it on home. Though I failed to outline the Hindu Milk Miracles in my opening, I think this part of the debate is when I really made it clear that Vocab was not consistently treating the type of evidence for supernatural claims. Here I think Vocab fell into a tangent talking about the interesting historical background of the NT and the authors and everything and in so doing inadvertently made the eyewitnesses he felt were credible enough to accept that a miracle occurred seem even more dubious. Here I now realize that I think Vocab was still hoping for a historicity debate and he might have been annoyed that I brought Ganesh back into the mix. It sounded like he might have been thinking "Hey man, I told you I don't think that's a persuasive argument. I thought we were talking about historicity now!" However because of some awkward language on my part and the blunder of mentioning alien abductions, I'm going to give this one to Vocab. Again, I had friends tell me they thought I was bringing up irrelevant points and maybe just sticking to the milky miracles should have been my only strategy to curb this issue.

Final score: Vocab: 2 Joe: 3 Draw: 1

So technically, I won, though I'm willing to bet that I am being to generous. Rhetorically however, Vocab came off a lot better. I'm still cringing at how nervous I felt and how many pauses, ums and uhs and awkward phrasings I used. I need to get better at this.

So there's a long review of the debate and some more info on things brought up. I'd like to know what others think but no one reads this!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Duane Gish vs Ian Plimer - Creation vs Evolution 1988

This debate ( video | 2:42m ) took place in Australia between the infamous Dr Guane Gish and pre-Climate Change Skeptic Ian Plimer. It was on the topic Creationism vs Evolution and was quite heated and filled with low-blows.

2.75 stars: Both sides engage in some pretty underhanded tactics here, making for an entertaining but unilluminating spectacle.

Heads up: the introduction is so freaking long that the link I provide above skips it. Also, I usually mention this at the end of the review, but the audio quality is pretty bad. The dated feel isn't helped by the fact that both speakers sound like they time-traveled from other time periods - Gish being an Antebellum gentleman and Plimer being a 30s/40s newsreel narrator.

Because Gish is what the Gish Gallop is named after I never bothered to listen to his debates because I would rather listen to more skilled Creationist debaters. Now I know that that's rather silly and so I finally decided to check him out. In Plimer seemed to handle himself well when he went up against George Monbiot and Tony Jones, in terms of rhetoric so I wonder how'd he do if he also had the facts on his side.

Well Gish brought up the usual stuff and didn't really support Creationism except by default. Plimer on the other hand came up and almost pointedly decided to attack Creationism itself. He listed several of the absurd implications to the story of Noah's Ark, accused Gish of lying in his own publications and cited specifics, cleared up some common Creationist misconceptions and ended with a pretty good anecdote about Creationism taught in public schools in the US.

The issue with Plimer's pointing out the weird parts of the Ark is that he does get some basic things about the ark story wrong, making it unsure whether or not he has attempted to go through the arguments. However, Gish's rebuttal seems to have just been an appeal to outrage at the underhanded tactics and he spent most of his time trying to clean up Creationism's image rather than pointing out the facts. The only specific correction he made is that God brought the animals to Noah, Noah didn't need to go all over the world to get them. Of course when Plimer comes up for his rebuttal, he rightly points out that that makes Creationism not scientific. The problem is that most people see the dogmatic prohibition of God in the science lab as unappealing or narrow-minded, which is a shame.

Again, a lot of heat was generated in this one. It was nice to see a Creationist having to deal with an underhanded opponent for once, though. Usually it's a befuddled scientist unaware of the weird Creationist arguments trying to talk about how awesome science is, instead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

David Robertson vs Matt Dillahunty Why I'm a(n) Atheist/Christian Unbelievable Debates 2014 First Debate

This post and a future one will be about these two Unbelievable episodes linked below.

Part 1 ( audio | video ) "Why I am Not An Atheist" episode where Robertson gets to defend his position.

Part 2 ( audio | video ) "Why I am Not A Christian" with Dillahunty on defense.

NOTE: The videos are audio only but Matt (DarkViper8888) edited out the usual Unbelievable filler. This makes the whole thing a little under 2 hours.

How Robertson's own org. decided to depict the two debaters.

The First Debate Round

Oh man, this one will get your blood a-boiling. I've sat through one debate with David Robertson (DR) before and labeled him a right-douche. Such a label still stands.

DR is not an atheist because:

1. Art requires an artist - Creation requires a creator
2. He wouldn't be able to say concentration camps were terrible unless god existed
3. Because he's a skeptic - doesn't have enough faith to be an atheist
4. Because of the community generated by organized religion
5. Personal experience with the Holy Spirit
6. Because of Jesus Christ...but he doesn't go into why exactly cause that's part of Matt's defense

I don't think I've misrepresented what DR says here. In fact, I'm being generous because I made the most persuasive point IMO (4) sound more forceful than DR. It's just they are that obnoxiously pop-apologist sounding.

DR's list is presented with gobs of snark and pokes at Matt for making false or weak points before he even says a word. Once Matt does respond to DR the latter gets quite ruffled and caustic lickety-split. I can't remember if that's DR's MO or if the more acuminate counters we all know and love coming from Matt threw him off.

They go back and forth rapidly and it becomes obvious DR has a gift for blithely misconstruing his opponents arguments. One obvious example is after Matt points out the inconsistency between two reasons DR lists for why he's not an atheist - creation = creator and because he's a skeptic. DR's counter is to recall his youth where he realized how awesome Scotland is and wondered how did the world come into being. Scotland's awesome like awesome art and awesome art has an awesome artist, .: the world must have had an awesome creator. Matt argued if DR were really a skeptic he'd say he doesn't know how the creation was created, not simply conclude there's a creator.

Now when DR responds to this, he roughly says "and you're saying that it's wrong to ask how the creation came into existence" and it's like, where the hell did you get that from? I mean, apologists will attribute some pretty shotty ideas or claims to atheists but I've never heard the complaint that atheists don't think we should ask questions about nature so I don't even know how DR could have misheard Matt and mistakenly assumed that he was saying it's wrong to ask questions about the universe. It was weird but it worked because Matt had to clarify himself.

The first back and forth got pretty heated but was gripping and it was a shame the host interrupted it and kind of saved DR. It was a shame mostly because DR then proceeded to give an extremely tortured and overlong description of the find-a-message-in-the-sand-on-a-beach example and attributed it to John Lennox as if it was some cutting edge apologetic proof.

DR also busts out another word game with abortion after Matt asks how is it not obvious that human life has value. DR asks Matt if he supports killing a baby in the womb which Matt says no to and then DR asks if he's pro-life then to which Matt denies and then DR weirdly flips out saying A-ha! inconsistency!

Here is where someone could at the very least argue that DR knows he's being dishonest. He's a minister. He talks about these issues for a living. Abortion is a hot button issue that he should at least have a tiny inkling - an almost nonexistent awareness of the fact that some arguments used by pro-choicers don't consider abortions at a certain early stage as terminating an actual baby. If he doesn't know this then he's a crappy shepherd and if he does know this then he is totally playing word games to get out of the force of Matt's point and to pontificate.

But at this point I gotta say, even if Matt only had the first 30 minutes of the show making up his only familiarity with DR, he should have seen this coming. But now I feel like I'm blaming the victim.

But wait we forgot that DR has Godwin's Law as one of the reasons for why he's not an atheist so from Auschuwitz we get Hitler and another chance to hear DR give an overly long tired apologist talking point about how Hitler was no true Scotm-- err, Christian. Matt objects and though I think it was a bad idea to continue down this road what happens next is pretty funny because DR asks for a specific example of Hitler using Christianity to justify his views and Matt immediately does so with an almost verbatim quote. DR says that was just Hitler being a politician but that's rather weak. However Matt gives a weak response that DR interrupts and walks all over. Dan Barker has a great response to when people say hey maybe you just weren't a true Christian. Barker just retorts "by their fruits you will know them" (Matt 7:15-20).

Then AGAIN DR plays word games and says that Matt is pretty much saying if Charlie Manson said he thought he was a good person then we'd have to take him at his word but Matt NAILS DR on this deceptive move because we can more clearly establish who or what is GOOD but not who is A CHRISTIAN.

However DR interrupts Matt some more and then gets saved by Brierley again. Usually I like Brierley and any problems I have with him are a) the normal issues I have with radio hosts and b) that he lets the Christian guest talk a lot more. But this time he seems especially charitable. Maybe when DR gets all loud and intense he's actually shooting up from his seat and screaming into the mic and making everyone uncomfortable and Brierley just wants it to end.

Then Matt explains how he'd define good and kind of gives a confusing explanation. As with the last debate I reviewed of his it might just be because he mentions that it's a definition consistent with Sam Harris' morality that put me off, though.

Either way, DR seems almost admiralby committed to not understanding where his opponent is coming from and doing so in an expertly pompous manner.

A funny bit happens when DR asks Matt if he agrees with Russell that saying Dachau is wrong is not a fact in the sense that scientific regularities can be described as facts. Matt starts an answer by saying "I don't know" at first and DR flips. the. eff. out. at him for not being quick to give an answer, though it appears that Matt was cut off by the sac of pure bluster that is David Robertson.

As you can tell this is a frustrating exchange. But in the last ten minutes Matt does a great debaters tactic that surprised me and really threw DR to the sharks. Matt recapped DR's reasons for not being an atheist and pointed out how miserably he defended them. He also gave arguments against DR's points that never came up, like (4)-(6). 

Here's why this move was so wonderful. Usually Unbelievable shows end up on tangents and topics often get set aside for spats or side bars. Also, DR clearly felt he needed to focus on stretching out his tired examples and spend time talking about Hitler rather than make his entire case. So it was just great to hear Matt take advantage of this and make DR kick himself for being a conceited twit enough to waste his time on describing his trips to concentration camps. At least I would think he should be kicking himself but instead of trying to salvage his case with the time he has left he asks Matt to give his account of morality instead of trying to close the show on his own terms. And by his own terms I mean his MO of misconstruing his opponent's arguments to crap on a weaker version of them.

Overall very solid performance by Matt, the best I've seen of him outside his show...though the sample size I'm citing is still small.

Throughout this review I have been trying and trying not to use the term strawman. Specifically I don't use it because it's comically overused by Alex Jones in his debate with Mark Roberts and Charlie Check'em on the Infidel Guy in 2009. Generally I try not to use logical fallacy terms because I feel it seems cheesy or try-hardish. I'd rather just say a comparison or some other description of the fallacy because sometimes there's a chance of getting into a side-argument about the definition of a logical fallacy.

But freaking DR and his strawmans, man...the guy is a machine perfectly assembled to have an argument shoved in one end and shoot a bastardized mess of an argument out the other. It's quite startling.

Concerning the image I posted. The actual organization DR works for made that cartoon. In the cartoon, they selectively edit a back and forth between DR and Dillahunty. And I mean, selectively. It seems DR's own organization felt that he sounded hysterical in the original recording because they there are parts where only a few seconds of crazy-DR are cut out in order to make him sound more calm and less crazed. So yeah, you can't make a cartoon of an 80 minute radio show, but edits like the one I described make me think that even DR's company would want him to get some anger management or something.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cliff Knechtle vs Jeremy Beahan - Is Christianity Rational? October 2010 BEST

This debate ( audio | video | 1:33.25s ) took place in 2010 at Michigan State U between Reasonable Doubt's Jeremy Beahan and Give Me An Answer Ministries Pastor Cliff Knechtle and centered on the topic: "Is Christianity Rational?"

4.5 stars: Beahan lets Knechtle get away with little and less in this quick and snappy debate that should be listened to by all interested in the topic. BEST

APF review: 4.5/5

This is probably the best debate I've heard in terms of concise counterarguments. Beahan comes off as a little too mild-mannered and it didn’t help that Cliff is very forceful and charismatic, but if I need to think of quick ways to discuss any of the topics brought up in the debate (free will,* objective morality, textual reliability, and the resurrection) then this debate is a great reference.

Here are the topics that came up:
Free Will, Hell, Contradicting attributes of God, Morality, The Resurrection, Teleological Argument, FTA, Design Argument, Atheism is practice, Christianity in practice, etc, etc.

Beahan is very laid-back sounding and clear. He also offers more interesting objections than what I've heard from many other atheist debaters. He could have been more detailed in his objective moral argument, but then again the format of this debate required pretty short presentations.

Cliff comes off as a non-douchey Todd Friel. That is, he’s more preacher, than apologist and would probably do very well as a radio host. Unfortunately, Knechtle doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table in terms of arguments for why Christianity is rational. He also continuously gets his presentations cut off which makes it seem like he didn't really prepare his material for the debate format.

He does seem like a nice guy and could be an interesting preacher. His presentation gives the impression that he is interested in updating and forming his talking points to a more liberal crowd. Like I said, he's a non-scumbag Todd Friel. I mean, I liked when he tried to demonstrate how Jesus appearing to women first went against the horribly sexist culture of the day...of course it's more likely to be a reference to the whole "the least shall be first" motif running through the gossips.

This is a great debate and a pretty unequivocal win for the atheist. I don’t usually say that but I think that theists would agree with me if they don’t put too much into the fact that Cliffe was the more extroverted sounding guy.

Great AQ dunno if there is a video, the one I link to is a YouTube vid with audio only.
*In the debate,
RE: 8-3-2013; I lowered the score and formatted some. The reason for the lower score is that I don't think Knechtle is too great of an opponent.
8-9-2015; I revised the wording a bit and added a slight caveat about Free Will.