Showing posts with label debating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label debating. Show all posts

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Atheist Conference Is Dead

As some of you may have read, here or elsewhere, I was co-organizing an event this upcoming summer called The Atheist Conference, or TAC for short. It was supposed to be the first major atheist event held in New York City.

I was supposed to participate in two events there. The first was to moderate a debate between atheist Justin Schieber, and Christian David Wood on the existence of god. The second was to host a panel discussion called Make Atheism Great Again, about how atheists can respond better to the arguments for god, and improve their critical thinking skills. It was to be shared with Justin again and the Counter Apologist. It would have been a fucking awesome panel.

But none of this is going to happen now because the event has just been canceled. The reasons why are complicated, but it started out difficult enough. The atheist community has splintered into a million shards in recent years. There are the atheist feminists and the atheist anti-feminists, the social justice warrior atheists and the anti-social justice warrior atheists. The pro-PC atheists and the anti-PC atheists. There are pro-Trump atheists and anti pro-Trump atheists. Atheists are split over gamergate, elevatorgate, whether we should organize, or whether we should even call ourselves atheists at all. The divisions go on and on.

Early on we invited atheist YouTuber Steve Shives to speak at TAC on a panel about YouTube atheism. We gave him the ability to control who's on the panel, as he wouldn't participate on it with anyone who strongly disagreed with him. Naturally, he picked people whose ideology was very much in line with his own. And immediately we got slack by the anti-SJW wing of the atheist community who all told us that our speakers were very one sided in the pro-SJW direction.

There is no doubt about it that Shives's panel was very pro-SJW. No doubt. But it would have been moderated by Lee Moore, TAC's founder, and the plan was for him to be the sole voice of criticism against some of the shadier tactics Shives is guilty of. Also, Shives's panel was just one event at the conference. It wasn't all we were about. We weren't going to put on a social justice warrior conference. Social justice issues weren't going to be the focus of the conference. Trying to patch the atheist community's rifts to focus on getting us united on what we agree on was. There were going to be panels with secular politicians, speeches about critical thinking and the problems of group think, speeches about science, a comedy show with Mike Lee, and of course the debate between Schieber and Wood, which would have been our opening night special.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sacerdotus Too Scared To Debate Me

A known charlatan and fake "philosopher" who goes by the name of Sacertodus tried to challenge me to a debate online recently. He made a list of unwarranted demands, like to see my full ID with my name and birthdate (apparently to prove I'm not a minor, because he's a Catholic and Catholics are known pedophiles).

I said sure, but on the condition that he provide his ID so that I can verify who he is and find out if his supposed degrees in philosophy and science are real, because anyone can fake a screenshot. I'm positive he has no degrees because he is so insanely ignorance on both science and philosophy it's impossible he can have a degree. Impossible.

For example, after 3 weeks of debating via our blogs he still doesn't know the difference between presentism and eternalism, and is still confusing eternalism for the steady state theory. He still doesn't know eternalism is derived from special relativity, and that it's just the philosophical name for the ontology of spacetime. On top of that he makes dozens of errors on ethics (asserting Catholic dogma as fact) and evolution (asserting that there was a genetic Adam and Eve who lived at the same time who we all descended from). There's no way someone with even 1 year of college education can be so ignorant on this.

And so because I didn't send him my data he claims I forfeited the debate. Please. I don't debate pathological liars (which he has a reputation for). I would easily whoop his ass in a debate and eagerly look forward to it. He'll be a piece of cake. All he has to do is email me his ID information and I will send him mine. He refuses to do that, and so he forfeits the debate. I have standards too. I don't waste time with charlatans.

If Sacerdotus isn't too scared to debate me, he can send the information any time. Or if he refuses, then he must drop any requirements for me to prove who I am. Ball's in his court.

Here's some links to my latest refutation of him showing how I easily refuted him without any effort:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sacerdotus Is Stupid

A gay theist (gaytheist?) on the internet attempted to refute my recent post explaining why I'm an atheist. He claims it was "easy" and that I show a lack of understanding of science and philosophy! Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. It's he who lacks in-depth understanding of physics, philosophy, religion, and atheism, and a refutation of his "refutation" was really easy for me, albeit just time consuming.

But since I'm off work for the next few days and I'm bored at home (it's freezing outside!) let me for the record refute his pathetic attempt at a refutation.

Here's his attempt at a refutation of my argument number 1. My original arguments can be read here.

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent

He responds:

The author here runs on a strawman argument. He simply does not understand the concept of God. The author assumes that God is subject to his terms or the terms of the understandings of man; that is to say, how we perceive and understand everything. He claims that theists resort to special pleading to address what he claims to be contradictions. However, he is doing exactly that. He argues that change requires times and fails to back this up. We know from cosmology that there was no time prior to cosmic inflation. Time is a product that came into existence after the "big bang." Despite this, a change did take place. If change did not take place, there would have been no "big bang" event. Moreover, the author fails to understand that God is a being, not a mere concept. This being is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him. St. Augustine tried and experienced a vision of his angel as a young boy who was at the shore trying to put the ocean in a small hole in the sand. The boy went to and fro collecting water in a shell until St. Augustine stopped him and inquired as to what the boy was trying to do. The boy said he was trying to put the entire ocean in the hole he dug. St. Augustine brushed it off as a something that came out of a babe's mouth and explained that it was not possible for the ocean to be poured into a small hole. The boy replied that neither can he put the entirety of God into his mind.

Every time I'm told that a person has "refuted" atheism I'm sadly disappointed. This is one of those times. Here I'm clearly saying god is subject to logic. As I clearly wrote in the post, "god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible." These aren't my terms and conditions, or the limitations of human intellect, this is our ability to be logical. Deny this, and you throw all of logic out the window. That includes your ability to logically "prove" atheism false - or anything else. That change requires time is obvious and certain. To change requires two states of being that cannot exist at the same time, otherwise you'd get a contradiction: A = ¬A. This is logically impossible. That this guy doesn't understand that means he fails logic 101, and that means his assessment of the rest of the argument fails. This is why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. I do this because - exactly as I predict - theists resort to special pleading to explain away god's inconsistence. When he says god "is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him," he is resorting to special pleading. If you can't coherently explain god, you can't coherently say god exists. This guy fails to do that. His response to argument 1 completely fails and did exactly what I predicted.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Thomism Can't Even Stay Consistent With Its Own Principles

I've been embroiled in several comment threads over at Strange Notions, a Catholic apologetic site, on a variety of issues related to metaphysical first principles and brute facts. There, I've tested out my argument that brute facts are unavoidable to the many Catholic apologists on the site, including Dr. Dennis Bonnette, a retired professor of philosophy who now teaches free classes at the Aquinas School of Philosophy, and is contributing author on the site.

As a reminder, that argument is:

  1. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.
  2. All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state.
  3. That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe.
  4. Our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it.
  5. The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact.
  6. There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary.
  7. Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

I think my argument is irrefutable, but I'm not so cocky that I'm unwilling to debate it. In fact, debating it is exactly what I need. I wish to put it up against the best minds in Thomism to see how they respond. And after a week of debating the argument back and forth with Dr. Bonnette, I basically got him to tacitly admit that god's eternal desire to create our particular universe, and not any other universe, or no universe, is a brute fact. He didn't acknowledge it's a brute fact of course, and he denied that it was, but he had to ground his explanation in circular reasoning.

First, one of the metaphysical first principles that Thomists like Dr. Bonnette argue cannot be denied is the principle of sufficient reason, which states that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground for its existence. Furthermore, this reason will either have to be contingent or necessary. That is, it's either going to be dependent on something else for its explanation, or its explanation will be contained within itself, meaning, it's logically necessary.

Dr. Bonnette's view is that god's substance is identical to his will. This means that a god with a different will is a god with a different substance, and in effect, is a different god. So god with eternal desire A is a different god than god with eternal desire B. For simplicity I said let's just call them god A and god B.

There is no logically necessary reason why god A exists, rather than god B, since both are logically possible and neither is logically impossible (assuming god is not incoherent). So Dr. Bonnette's metaphysics (if granted) only covers one aspect of this: that there needs to be a god. But it doesn't demonstrate why there needs to be god A vs god B, or any other god with a different eternal and unchanging will (which again, will be a different god).

Since there is no logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, the reason why god A exists and not god B/C/D/E... etc, cannot be based on a logically necessary reason. Hence his metaphysics fails to explain why we have the particular god we have. Given this, only non-necessary, contingent reasons can explain why. They will all necessarily be reasons that could have been otherwise, and ultimately when drilling down to why any particular answer explains a non-necessary aspect of god's will (and therefore his substance) he must terminate in a brute fact at some point since there is no logically necessary reason available to him.

A few comments later he says,

The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A. You are again trying to go back in time and think of two possibilities. God is outside of time and there never was an actual possibility of any God but him.

The explanation in his first sentence isn't a logically necessary one, and so he's admitting god A is not logically necessary. And saying that god A exists simply because god A does, can be applied to the eternal universe: The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

It makes the logical grounding of god A no more justified than the atheist's grounding for the universe. The Thomistic theist in this sense has no edge over the atheist.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Atheist Vs Accutheist Dialogue

In an email thread, a person who describes himself as an "accutheist" is debating several other atheists and I on the existence of god. He's a pantheist turned theist who created the term accutheist to mean accurate theist, or one whose idea of god is accurate. I wrote to him about how his logic for his belief in god is weak and filled with dogma and how one cannot see their beliefs as dogma when they believe it. Here is a section of that email below where I summarize what our lengthy 2 and a half week debate was basically like:

You see, no one can tell they're being dogmatic when they sincerely believe what the dogma is about. Then, it appears as "logic" to the dogmatist. 
Accutheist: God is defined as everything.
Atheists: That's your definition, most other theists disagree with you.
Accutheist: No here's a wikipedia article saying this.
Atheists: We've checked, wiki doesn't say that. It says pantheists define god as everything, not all theists.
Accutheist: But the Bible says god is everything.
Atheists: No it doesn't, and even if it did, it wouldn't prove god is indeed everything because you cannot define something into existence.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.
Atheists: Again, you're just defining god as everything, you need to prove god is indeed everything.
Accutheist: God is defined as everything. Everything exists. Therefore god exists.
Atheists: THAT DOESN'T PROVE GOD EXISTS, NOR DOES IT PROVE GOD IS EVERYTHING. You cannot just assert god is everything and claim you've showed it is.
Accutheist: This is the definition everyone knows.
Atheists: No it isn't. It is a particular pantheistic definition you are asserting is true.
Accutheist: You don't understand logic, God is defined as everything.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Debate: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Well, it turns out that I forgot to upload my debate on political correctness from a few months ago. I thought I had published it, but I guess I forgot when I went on vacation. So, here it is: Has political correctness gone too far? What do you think? Who made the better argument?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Back From Vacation...

So, on Monday I got back from my vacation in Europe. I went to London, Paris, and Amsterdam, and spent a few days in the Dutch countryside too. Overall the trip was a success, and by success I mean that I achieved my goal of getting a cultural feel for Europe in a way that helped me understand it, along with having some fun of course.

London was amazing. I did many of the touristy things, but I also went bar hopping and talked with locals, and I went to an all day philosophy conference that showcased several talks by philosophers on the arguments for god. Afterwards some of us went for drinks and talked religion and philosophy, and they were buying me drinks all night long! Amazing.

After 5 days in London I took a train to Paris. I actually missed my train because I got lost in the St. Pancras train station, but I eventually made it. Paris is beautiful. It's every bit as beautiful as they say it is. I rented a bike to get around town easier and made my way to the Eiffel Tower, only to find that the line to go up was too long. So the next day I went to Tour Montparnasse, which has an observation deck and was almost empty. I took some amazing photos there.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Christopher Hitchens vs Larry Taunton | God or No God? Debate

I had gotten to the point where I thought I'd seen every video of Christopher Hitchens talking or debating about religion. But just yesterday I discovered a new one that I hadn't seen. Not long before he died, Hitchens had debated a Christian named Larry Taunton in 2010 who he'd become friends with in his last few years. The debate was never uploaded to YouTube, or at least was not easily findable. Recently, Taunton's company that hosted the debate and produced the video of it, Fixed Point Foundation, uploaded it to their YouTube channel for all to see.

I've actually had to do some studying on why religion is harmful to society because of my upcoming debate on it, and I needed to watch some classic Hitch as a refresher. So here it is, one of Hitchens's last debates. He will surely be missed. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drive By Blogging: Atheism Grows, Church/State Violations, 10 Commandments Destroyed, & A New Public Debate

As I've mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been much busier than usual. To make things worse I'll also be travelling in Europe for the second half of July. I'm going to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. In addition to that I'm still working on several side projects, like our upcoming atheist conference, and so I really haven't been able to blog at the frequency I used to.

That being said let me do a rapid "drive by" blog post on several issues I could have been writing about but haven't had the time to.

First, there was some recent big news that the number of atheists might be much higher than previously reported, which usually was down near the 3-5% range, even though PEW has recorded the number of people who do not believe in god at 9%. A new study claims that the real number of atheists in the US may be as high as 26%. The trick, it seems, is all about the questioning. Asking someone directly on a questionnaire if they're an atheist will lead significant numbers of those who are atheists to say that they aren't out of the stigma surrounding the term. So instead, two groups were shown a bunch of innocuous statements like "I own a dog," "I enjoy modern art," and were instructed to answer if they were true. But the test group had an additional statement: "I don't believe in God." When comparing the test group with the control group that didn't have the atheist question, the researchers conclude that about 26% of Americans do not believe in god.

This number seems closer to me to the real number. I meet so many atheists that the 3-5% range seems awfully low. It's well known that many atheists are in the closet. Atheists continue to be among the most disliked group of people in the US. That's why we have to fight the stigma, so that atheists aren't ashamed to openly express who they are. The study's results, although encouraging, has its critics. Even if the real number is less than 26%, if it's only 20%, I'd still be happy with the results. The trend is headed in the right direction after all.

In other atheist news, the Czech Republic continues to be one of the most atheist countries in Europe, if not the world, with only 29% believing in god according to a recent PEW Research survey. 66% of Czechs do not believe in god. The country is however, an outlier among Eastern Europe, where large majorities profess belief in god.

I plan on updating a rebuttal to the kalam cosmological argument with new refutations....eventually.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's Been A While...

So, it's been a while since I've written any blog posts. It's been nearly a month actually. That's the longest amount of time I think I've ever had in between posts. So what's been going on? Well, I've been really fucking busy.

First, last month I had a public debate on whether political correctness has gone too far and I finally managed to actually film this one. I just finished editing the video and it will be up online soon. I also participated in two panel discussions at the annual Left Forum where I spoke about combating the Far Right, and how we need to have honest conversations about Islam. Both of those events were filmed and I am currently editing them, with the hopes that they will be uploaded online by the end of the month.

I'm also going to be travelling through Europe this summer for a week and a half. I will be in the UK, France, and then Holland. I had wanted to do this trip for years with friends but every year plans kept falling through. So this year I was like fuck it, I'm doing this without anyone. So I will be travelling solo for most of the trip and then I will meet my sister in Holland for a "spiritual retreat," before flying back to New York.

I really want to assess the political climate in Europe and see the people and experience the culture. I keep hearing that Islamism is so much more widespread and pernicious there when compared to the US, and I'm curious if this is really true. So I'll be spending a few days in London, Paris, and Amsterdam to explore the situation. I really want to go to several local atheist meetings to see what's going on. And I'd love to attend a taping of the UK show The Big Questions where they debate moral, ethical, and religious issues facing the country.

And lastly, I've been working with my local atheist community to put together the first ever atheist conference in New York City! Amazingly, there has never been one in NYC before, and that's about to change. It's simply going to be called The Atheist Conference, and I'm going to be hosting a panel discussion on how to debate atheism, how to improve our arguments, spot our flaws, and teach atheists important tips on what to say in a debate. I'm talking with Justin Schieber of Real Atheology and Jeffrey Jay Lowder of the Secular Outpost on being on the panel with me. Both of them are seasoned debaters who know their shit and it will be a pleasure discussing our favorite atheist debating topics, and a thrill for the audience as well. I don't think anything like this has been done to my knowledge, certainly not from my perspective. The working title of my panel discussion will be, you guessed it, Make Atheism Great Again. I'm very exited about this, as you can expect.
The date for the conference will be July 6-8th, 2018, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, a 4 star hotel that we got a great deal on where guests will be able to stay for $169 a night, a bargain in Manhattan for such a hotel. Tickets will go on sale in September. I will be posting much more about this in the future and hopefully get back to blogging at my regular schedule soon! Hopefully we'll still have a country by then!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Does Government Have A Duty To Educate Its Citizens?

Last week I attended a public debate on the proposition: It is the duty of government to educate its citizens. I was and am for the proposition, but the side arguing against the motion definitely made the better case for their point of view. It was a two-on-two debate, just like my recent debate over open source information, Thankfully, Chuck, one of the two debaters arguing against the motion, whom I know and spar with regularly, put up his opening speech on his site and what I want to do here is offer my critique of it.

Chuck begins his speech arguing that "duty" only applies to individuals:

To begin, I'd like to bring some clarity to the meaning of the proposition that we’re arguing against, which is that it's the duty of the government to educate its citizens. Regarding that proposition generally, it's important to note at the outset that the term “duty” is essentially a moral term that applies to individuals. Only in a metaphorical sense can the term be applied to the government.

With the crux of the debate over "duty" it is indeed important to say what we mean by the term. I'm skeptical of objective moral duties, but as I've written in the past, I think moral obligations and duties stem from one's self in adherence to principles, in addition to our various social contracts. But this means that it's important to identify what is the purpose of government. So what is it?

The purpose of government is to ensure the rights of its citizens are protected and defended by providing a police and military force, and a judicial system to adjudicate the law. Libertarians like Chuck would agree with that. But I think governments exist for more than that. In addition to police, military, and law, the purpose of the government is to protect its citizens against the harmful natural forces of unregulated markets. If a market is like a river, you need dams to regulate against droughts and floods that naturally happen in boom and bust cycles. A completely unregulated free market will inevitably result in increased concentrated wealth in the hands of a relatively few, and will leave millions at the bottom with little ability to climb the economic ladder. Government's purpose is to recognize that and provide the necessary regulations to prevent it. This isn't to go full on socialism. This is to allow the river to flow, but implement some common sense, rational checks and balances to ensure the river flows smoothly for the largest possible number of people. The US Constitution's preamble says one of the purposes of the US government is to "promote the general Welfare". This is to ensure the society runs smoothly.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Would Let Milo Speak On Campus, Under One Condition

A week ago the "dangerous faggot" Milo Yianopoulos was scheduled to speak at Berkeley University in California and some students violently protested and set fire to parts of the campus in opposition to him speaking there. This was widely reported in the news, and even the president tweeted that he'd withhold federal money from the campus if the university didn't allow free speech.

Much has been said about the kerfuffle, from how intolerant the Left is, to how all this protesting just raises Milo's profile, to how hateful his speech is. But I have a proposal. If I were the head of a university making the decision on whether or not an alt-righter like Milo gets to speak on my campus my policy would be this. I would allow Milo to speak on one condition. If he wants to speak on my campus, the format will be a debate. That's right. He can spew all his nonsense talk about how "Catholics are right about everything," but not in a way that it goes unchallenged. It's a debate or nothing. That's it.

I'm sure Milo wouldn't have a problem with that. Would he? The thing is, the Left indeed has lost the ability to debate and defend their views. They rely far too much on feelings and persecution complexes. The Left needs to learn how to debate again. And I'd use this as an opportunity to find the person who can best debate Milo and make it a must-see spectacle for all.

That just brings up one question: who's the best person on the Left to debate the dangerous faggot? I'd love to debate him, but I'm unfortunately a nobody. So this is an open question for me. Anyone properly debating him must be familiar with his arguments. Some generic Leftist who doesn't "get it" would be destroyed. Perhaps Kyle Kulinkski of Secular Talk? Hmm.

Just a thought.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Notes From My Debate On The Abundance Of Open Source Information

What my position is: Open source information is more beneficial than harmful to society. Why?
  1. Access to open source information is a free speech issue. Your ability to put information online and have other people freely access to it, falls under the category of open source information, is a form of free speech. 
  2. OSI can help expose corruption, it can help keep governments and businesses in check, and it allows legitimate criticism of them to become known.
    • We take for granted that we live in a country that has some of the most liberal laws on free access to information in the world.
    • In most other countries the government imposes limitations on access to information online. 
    • And in some countries criticism of the government, leaders, criticism of the state religion, and certain political views like “democracy” and OSI itself are suppressed, and information about them is restricted. For example:
      • The “Great Firewall of China,” blocks websites that are critical of the Chinese government or that promote democracy
      • Wikipedia - epitome of OSI - is sometimes banned, or censored.
      • Without OSI political and corporate corruption becomes much more difficult to expose, thereby enabling it.
  3. OSI allows for the spread of liberal values like free speech, human rights, and secularism around the world.
    • In Saudi Arabia in 2012 a blogger named Raif Badawi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 1000 lashes with a whip for the crime of starting a website forum that promoted democracy and liberal values and allowed people to debate it.
    • Saudi Arabia not alone --- In other countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Iran, they have laws against spreading information online critical of the state religion Islam, which is often used by govt to brutally oppresses women, homosexuals, non-religious people, and other minority groups.
      • Woman beheaded in Afghanistan last month for shopping without a male guardian.
    • Without OSI antiquated legal and moral policies can never be criticized, which enables them to persist. OSI allows for moral progress.
    • Hope I don't have to convince you this is good but consider the question:
  4. Why do so many countries around the world fear open source information?
    • Do you think ISIS is for OSI? Or Al-qaeda? Or North Korea? Cuba? China? 
    • It’s so that governments, and in many cases, corporations can control people by controlling what information they have access to. 
    • Free speech and OSI is absolutely fundamental to having a free society where ideas can compete in a marketplace.
      • Every society that isn’t free, restricts it
    • The suppression of OSI has always been aligned with dictatorship, of one form or another.
      • Even Donald Trump's been saying he wants to "open up the libel laws" to make it more easy to sue someone for defamation - by which he really means write anything critical about him.
  • Whatever harmful effects that OSI has, like fake news, is negated on the benefits it offers. 
    • We’re either going to have a censored internet (China, Saudi Arabia) where someone or some organization censors the information you have access to. 
    • Or we’re going to have a free and open internet, with a free and open flow of ideas. 
  • Ask yourself: Who would you trust with the authority to regulate free access to open access to information? Who gets to determine what information is harmful? Or too sensitive? 
  • Would you for example trust our new president Donald Trump with that power?
Final point:
  • Giving governments the ability the regulate free speech opens up a dangerous slippery slope that I don’t want to go down & I think ultimately be more harmful than good to society.

Review Of My Debate Plus Night Of Philosophy

So, what a week it's been. President Trump has banned refugees and residents from 7 Muslim majority countries, sparking outrage around the world, he revived the Keystone pipeline, and has introduced "alternative facts" into the dialectic. Oh yeah, and I had a debate about the abundance of open source information and attended the Night of Philosophy event at the Brooklyn Public Library.

First things first — the debate review. This was my first formal public debate and I hope will certainly not be my last, but I was not as experienced as our opponents were and it showed. They were both fairly experienced and formidable debaters. The format was two-on-two, with my friend Thomas Kim, who ran the NYC debate group for 5 years on my team. And on our opponent's team were two men named Avi and Lenny. Avi is an assistant coach on the debating team of a private K-12 school, and Lenny was on the debating team in college. They did a really good job debating for their side and we made some mistakes we should have looked out for.

First, Thomas and I didn't prepare as much as the other team did, and that was generally evident. Second, I wasn't as forceful as I should have been. I was just too reserved. I held back from trying to make the other team's arguments look bad. Third, since there was no rebuttal period, the closing statements acted effectively as a rebuttal period, but I didn't use my closing statement to do that. Instead I just reiterated many of the same points I made in my opening statement when I should've rebutted the other team's arguments. On top of that, Thomas's arguments were even less forceful than mine, making our entire case much softer and less polemic than our opponent's. And as a result of all these mistakes, we lost. And I really hate losing debates. How do we know we lost? The audience was asked before and after the debate and more people switched to the other side's view from ours.

So that's the bad. What's the good? I nailed my opening statement. It was nearly perfect and much better than any of my rehearsals. I was loud. I was confident. I gave great fucking opening speech. A woman even came up afterwards and told me how good it was. But unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. I will be putting up the bullet points from my debate in the near future.

Over all it was a good experience. I learned a lot and I can definitely see what makes a good public debater a good debater. I can see now why so many inexperienced public debaters just skip to their prepared speeches. That's the mistake I made. I didn't use my time to rebut my opponent's arguments as I should have. Also, many debaters just aren't aware of the format they're in. I made that mistake by failing to recognize there was no formal rebutting period. But I will definitely be better for my second debate. Here are some pictures:

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Will Be Publicly Debating Whether Open Source Information Is Harmful

I'm going to be publicly debating whether open source information is more harmful than beneficial to society this Thursday night at WeWork Times Square in Manhattan. If you're in the area and want to come, you can RSVP here. It will be a team debate, two-on-two, done in the style and format of the popular Intelligence Squared debates. The debate will be run by a group called Motion Debate who want to create a growing community where debate enthusiasts can learn the art of debate and the have the opportunity to put it to use. I'm all for it. We really need more public debating in our highly polarized country. And I'll say it again: nothing helps me learn a subject more than being forced to debate it.

As you probably expect, I'm debating on the CON side of the proposition, that an abundance of open source information is not more harmful to society. I've been wanting to get more into the arena of public debating because, well, I love debating, and because debating online doesn't give you the full experience. So I hope I do good, and I hope there are more to come. I've been told the debate will not be recorded, but it will be photographed. Future debates, which I might participate in, might be recorded. So stay tuned. For now, I have to finish up my argument.

Debate description:

Is it beneficial for all people to access and contribute to an unlimited open source information platform? Should authorities censor potentially dangerous content, or does freedom of expression outweigh these concerns?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This Season Give In A Way That REALLY Matters

With the Trump cabinet shaping up to be a secular liberal's nightmare, this holiday season it's more important than ever to give the gift that really matters. And what gift is that you ask? That gift is donating money to any of the leading secular or atheist organizations that fight for our rights as atheists so that we're treated equally and free from discrimination, and that maintain the wall of separation Jefferson wrote of.

So just the other day I got out my credit card and I donated to three of the nation's leading secular organizations dedicated to keeping America secular and promoting and advancing the secular worldview. They need your money now more than ever. Secularists might be facing in the next presidential administration the toughest legal and policy battles they've ever had to fight in more than a generation.

These organizations will need money for lawyers, for outreach, for educational campaigns, and for fighting the numerous legal battles that are surely going to happen once Trump takes office on January 20th. I do my small part on my little corner of the web but the real soldiers on the front line maintaining the wall of separation are the activists in organizations like these.

So please consider donating even just a small amount of money, $10 or so, to help them fund the many challenges that the Religious Right, under Donald Trump and Mike Pence, are going to push.

This season please give the gift that really matters.

What's American Atheist's mission? From their site:

American Atheists, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state and church, accepting the explanation of Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was meant to create a "wall of separation" between state and church.

Their mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.

You can even donate in Mike Pence's name by clicking here.

What's the FFRF's purpose? From their site:

The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Response To Craig On Fine Tuning

On a question of the week over on the Reasonable Faith site a questioner asks Dr. Craig about Sean Carroll's response to the fine tuning argument he made during their debate on God and Cosmology back in 2014. Craig wrote a lengthy response to Carroll's rebuttal and I want to examine his response and show why I think it's wrong.

At one point during Carroll's rebuttal, Carroll argued that god doesn't need fine tuning; it's a necessity only on naturalism since only material beings could live under the right physical conditions but that god would be able to create life without physical fine tuning (like through perpetual miracles), very similar to what I wrote earlier this year in my short rebuttal to the fine tuning argument.

Initially, Craig is confused as to what Carroll's argument is an objection to. He doesn't know if it's supposed to defend physical necessity or chance, which are the only other options Craig says that exist, other than design. Craig writes,

Of course, the theist thinks that God could have miraculously sustained life or perhaps created a universe operating according to different laws of nature which were not fine-tuned. But how does that do anything to subvert the argument? When it is said that were the values of the constants and quantities found in nature to be altered, life would not exist, one is implicitly assuming ceteris paribus conditions—“all else being equal,” that is to say, assuming no miraculous interventions take place. This is, after all, an argument aimed at showing the explanatory inadequacy of naturalism, not at showing that God could have created the universe in only one way.

It's not really supposed to defend either physical necessity or chance. It's supposed to show the vacuousness of theism as an explanation of fine tuning. It's offensive, not defensive. The argument that god could have created a universe that wasn't fine tuned for life, yet still had life in it would literally be a miracle, and that would be good evidence for god since physical science wouldn't be able to explain how life could exist under such inhospitable conditions. On naturalism it's not an option that life exist without the right physical conditions for it, it's a necessity that it does. But a god wouldn't need to do this. God is not constrained by the laws of physics. If god wanted to leave us good evidence he exists, he had the option of creating life via some kind of perpetual miracle, inexplicable in principle to the natural sciences.

As far as assuming ceteris paribus conditions, doing so assumes that god isn't doing the very thing he could do to show naturalism is false: give us proof life is a miracle. And because debates of theism involve the potentiality of a miracle as an explanation, in this instant it's not wise to assume ceteris paribus conditions.

Contrary to what Craig writes, this inclusion of god's ability to create life via miracles does indeed help the naturalist's case because this would have been the best option for god to show us he exists because it would rule out all possible naturalistic means to explain life. That would potentially be a knock-down argument for theism. Instead, the theist is basically saying god chose to create a universe with life in the one way it would have to exist if naturalism was true: physical life forms dependent on the right physical conditions for them to exist.

Why would a god do this? Well, perhaps god had no choice. Since free will is logically coherent, that applies to god as well. Being all knowing and all powerful does not get you out of the logical dilemma that libertarian free will necessitates. And since a timeless being must have a mind that never changes, god's decision to create our world would have to have existed eternally, with no other option being possible. So on theism here we are! No other world was technically possible. It just is.

Theism fails to have any explanatory power over naturalism.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Can We Do About All The Misinformation Online?

Photo from @BlairReeves

A disturbing trend is developing. More and more people are getting misinformation on the internet by hyperpartisan news agencies that are shared on social media sites. Many of these sites peddle out baseless conspiracy theories mixed with half-truths or claims that are in some cases outright lies. They're basically click bait, geared towards appealing to emotion and confirmation biases rather than objective journalism based on facts and honest reporting.

And people gobble them right up. As BuzzFeed recently reported, "the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook — far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison." I deal with Right wing conspiracy theories in debates online all the time and I can't tell you how annoying it is. The Left is not immune to this either. Far from making us smarter and more knowledgeable, the internet seems to be having the exact opposite effect: it's making us less informed, more biased, and more partisan. Facts don't matter anymore. Any piece of data that doesn't confirm your already existing beliefs or that doesn't make you comfortable is just tossed aside in favor of one that does. And because sites like Facebook use algorithms that feed you what you've already liked, you're less and less likely to even see anything that you might disagree with.

So what, if anything, can we do about this? Well, I actually don't know, but I can offer two possible answers.

First, we can help flood the internet with well researched, fact based information that can debunk the lies that are out there. This should ideally be done by a non-partisan organization dedicated to honest, fact-based research that's not associated with any high profile or partisan people, because if they are, they're more likely to be dismissed outright. In psychology, the framing effect is a cognitive bias whereby people tend to immediately dismiss something if it's associated with a person or thing they do not like. I once linked someone I was having an online debate with to an article about Donald Trump being put on an allowance after one of his well known bankruptcies and he dismissed it outright because it was from Mother Jones. We need to take that into account when we debunk lies on the internet. Some people will go so far as to not trust anything that comes out of any mainstream media source, and will trust the "alternative news" sites instead, even though most of the time they're garbage.

Second, we can pro-actively mingle with people who share different views from us. Have friends that disagree with you on politics, religion, economics, and social issues. Don't retreat into the echo chamber where everyone thinks just like you. It's only going to reinforce your own biases (and we all have them). There are many people for whom I'm their token liberal friend, or I'm their token atheist friend. Put me in a room with 5 people who disagree with me on politics and religion and I'm happy. Hopefully, by becoming exposed to other people's views our bubbles will burst, and we'll be more likely to consider other views, or at least understand opposing views better, and that could result in us better understanding the issues. When people found out that one of their friends or relatives was gay, it tended to make people more understanding of homosexuality. Having friends of other political views might have the same effect.

Now this all might be a pipe dream, but at least it's something. We have to find solutions to this problem.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Reply To Steven Jake On The Last Superstition - Part 4: Aquinas’ First Way

Steven Jake over on the Christian Agnostic blog wrote a review of my review of Feser's book The Last Superstition. So let me now review his review of my review. This is part 4 on Aquinas’ First Way.

Aquinas’ First Way

SJ starts out saying:

Thus, Feser’s point in highlighting the importance of essentially ordered series is that of instrumentality, and not simultaneity. And therefore The Thinker’s claim that simultaneity is “crucial” for Feser’s argument is false—at least as Feser himself has articulated his position.

I'm willing to concede this, but I don't think it destroys all of my objections this argument.

The Thinker continues his objections by mentioning the philosophy of eternalism, which is supposedly entailed by a block universe.

Supposedly? Eternalism is the block universe. Let's look into SJ's objections of this.

However, these objections do not work. First, an eternal universe does not solve the problem—in fact, Aquinas actually allowed for the possibility of an eternal universe. The Thinker thinks this is a problem because “[i]t’s logically impossible that an eternally existing universe that never came into being couldn’t have existed.” But this is pure question-begging on his part. While an eternally existing universe cannot come into being in any temporal sense, this does not entail that it is therefore necessary. Why not? Well, because duration of existence does not alter the essence or nature of an existent, nor does it alter whether something is a composite of act/potency. That is to say, a thing’s nature does not all of a sudden become necessary simply because of how long it exists, whether it be for a second, or for an eternity. Therefore, if the reason for the universe’s existence is not contained within its nature—which it isn’t—or if the universe is a composite of act and potency—which it is—then the universe is contingent, and thus no matter how long it exists, it remains contingent.

I think Aquinas allowed for a universe with an infinite number of past events—which is different than the block conception of eternalism, which may or may not include an infinite number of past events. So I'm not sure Aquinas considered this. As for the question begging sense that SJ claims, I'm not arguing that our eternal universe is logically necessary and that it must exist a priori, I'm arguing that since it is eternalistic it is therefore impossible for it not to have existed, since something eternal like a block universe cannot not have existed. I'm making an a posteriori argument that because we've discovered the universe is a certain way, it therefore logically negates its non-existence. I'm arguing that this forces us to rethink the whole notion of contingency, existence, and the act/potency notions as they don't apply given the way the universe is. And here SJ applies act/potency to the universe as if he's just made a brilliant point. He hasn't. I'd like to hear him logically explain how god can create an eternal universe or sustain one in existence. The only possibility is to suppose god and the eternal universe coexist together and this opens up lots of conceptual problems I mentioned in the review of chapter 3. For one thing, if our universe isn't necessary, why does god coexist eternally with it and not another universe, or no universe? So merely claiming that it is logically possible for the universe not to exist (which if it is eternal is impossible) does not make the case that god is required for the universe to exist.

Second, even if the block universe did exist and was a valid description of our own universe, this still does not make the universe necessary. For while there would be no change in the universe, the universe in itself would still not contain the reason for its own existence, and therefore it would still be contingent. In fact, The Thinker makes my point for me when he says that we can still imagine (read: conceive) of the block universe not existing. For if we can conceive of the block universe not existing then the explanation for said universe’s existence is not contained within its nature, and thus the universe is not necessary. So, even a denial of change in the universe altogether—which is extremely radical in itself—would still not lead away from the need for a First Cause.

I argue that the block universe is simply incompatible with any logical notions of a creator god, and certainly not creation ex nihilo, which many theists argue is a must for the Abrahamic god. There would have to be aspects of god that were brute facts, and once you allow brute facts, you can skip god altogether and stick with the universe, since after all, the universe's existence is a fact and god's isn't. (And ironically, denying eternalistic interpretations of Special Relativity might actually force you to accept brute facts, according to Yuri Balashov and Michael Jensen.) Here SJ appeals to the principle of sufficient reason, but he doesn't argue for it. He has elsewhere (and so has Feser) but I see no reason to think their arguments stick. SJ mostly reiterates Feser's arguments when he denies the possibility of brute facts. In fact, a lot of his blog is Feser's ideas reiterated. And I can imagine god not existing. In fact it's very easy for me, as all the "logical" arguments that try to show god's necessarily existence are flawed or contain word salads like SJ's favorite "God's essence just is existence." This can be ignored by any thinking person as nonsense. Lastly, the denial of change in the universe is not at all radical once you properly understand eternalism, which is logically entailed from Special Relativity. (Read here and here.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Reply To Steven Jake On The Last Superstition - Part 2: Final Causality

Steven Jake over on the Christian Agnostic blog wrote a review of my review of Feser's book The Last Superstition. So let me now review his review of my review. This is part 2 on final causality.

Final Causality

When it comes to final causality, if this goes, A-T metaphysics goes. On final causality SJ says:

Now, the final cause of a substance, as Aristotle articulates it, is the end or goal that it will reliably generate. For example, an acorn will reliably generate an oak tree, given certain favorable conditions. It will not generate a bicycle or a rock. Thus, the oak is the final cause of the acorn—note that a substance can have multiple final causes.

I maintained in the review that if final causality merely means causal regularity, then this is perfectly compatible with dysteleological physicalism. So even if it is true that I completely miss the mark that final causality must apply solely to substances and not events or process (which I don't) it doesn't mean all my arguments are therefore false. It is possible to not fully comprehend something in your criticism of it while your criticism is still valid.

Final causality, as Aristotle articulated it, is not predicated of events. That is, he didn’t say that events in life, like car accidents, have an end-goal, or purpose, in mind. Rather, Aristotle’s ontology of final causes was meant to apply to substances. So The Thinker’s comprehension here is simply confused, and since his argument is predicated on such confusion, it can likewise be dismissed.

When it comes to events, Feser did say that the "evolutionary process itself" would exhibit final causality if it were shown that everything in the biological realm could be explained in terms of natural selection, as a kind of fail safe that all the "followers of Aquinas" would take (p. 114). So if SJ is right here that final causality never applies to events or processes, then Feser is wrong on page 114 where he makes the point that final causality could apply to events or processes. Regardless of whether we're strictly talking about substances or substances + events, there is no teleological final causality Feser (or SJ) has demonstrated. They are simply asserting that the reliable effects of causes are the cause's "goal." This is a very weak argument to rest theism on. There is dysteleological "final causality" — if you even want to call it that, which I don't think we should. I think the term final causality is itself completely antiquated and full of misleading connotations, and the fact that Thomists have to keep explaining what it really means is evidence for that. We need to drop this kind of language altogether when talking about the world we live in.

Moreover, when this inadequate understanding was brought to The Thinker’s attention, yet again, in the comments section of his Chapter 2 post, he did not admit fault nor did he subsequently adjust his review so as to not argue against a caricature of Feser’s position. Rather, he simply stated that he had also addressed final causality of substances. But The Thinker seems oblivious to the fact that when you straw-man an individual’s position, this fallacy is not swept under the rug simply because you didn’t straw-man it in another instance.

We did debate that point about final causality applying to events and processes beforehand and I included it specifically in my review to prevent Feser's own attempt to claim processes would exhibit final causality, as he says in his book on p. 114. I wanted to include a rebuttal of final causality to processes and substances to cover both ends. So I'm not straw-maning Feser's position, although I admit I could have made it more clear what I was trying to do. He really did suggest evolution would exhibit final causality, and by that he meant teleological final causality—as distinct from dysteleological final causality, which is the crucial distinction SJ fails to fully acknowledge in his review of me. I find the notion of any kind of teleology in evolution absurd given the history of it. Nothing could be more dysteleological and more incompatible with omnibenevolence.


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