Pharyngula

An ugly debate in Edmonton

Kirk Durston is a cunning wretch. How did he open his part in the debate here in Edmonton? By claiming that atheism was an amoral philosophy that led to the corruption of society, and to prove it, he cited a political scientist named Rummel, who he claimed, had shown that cultures built around a core of atheism had killed the most people in all of history.

If you actually go to Rummel’s site, Freedom, Democide, War, you’ll discover that he said no such thing. His thesis is that democracy is the critical factor in reducing war and the slaughter of civilians. This, of course, I could not do during the debate.

You will quickly discover that Rummel does not talk about this strange “atheist core” to murderous societies like Stalinist Russia or the Pol Pot regime. It’s nonsense; atheism is not the core of Marxism, for instance, and these were autocratic societies with a tyrannical cult of personality. It requires a distortion of history to make this argument, and imposing a personal bias on the data to make up this correlation. Pol Pot was a monster who killed millions, including religious people, in a reign of terror; Mao exterminated any institution, including the religious, to secure a monopoly on power; when I pointed out that Hitler was Catholic and Germans were Catholic and Lutheran, Durston replied that he might have been formerly a Lutheran (?), but he was an atheist. Why? Because anyone who was not doing as Jesus taught was not a true Christian. It’s an interesting piece of circular reasoning. It’s also an interpretation of his own.

He just ignored the fact that the only time in history when you could even describe any society as atheist was in the 20th century, coinciding with the emergence of industrialized tools of mass destruction. There are smart takedowns of the amoral atheist claim, but I was not prepared at all to deal with Durston’s simultaneous poisoning of the well and argument from consequences.

Durston is not stupid. He studiously avoided discussing any biology in his major points. Most of his argument for a personal god consisted of 1) atheists are bad people, 2) cosmology requires a beginning, and that beginning had to have been a god, and 3) the truth of the biblical accounts of Jesus. Would you believe he actually claimed the Flavian testimony of Josephus was valid historical evidence for the divinity of Jesus?

He’s a good debater, because he relies on a powerful tactic: he’ll willingly make stuff up and mangle his sources to make his arguments. I’m at a disadvantage because I won’t do that.

The lesson for me is to pin these guys down much more tightly on the precise subject of the debate. This one was all over the place, especially since Durston consciously avoided any topic on which I might have some expertise.


There is some confusion about what my argument in the debate was. Here’s my first slide, which outlines the two points I tried to make in 20 minutes.

Do gods exist?

  • There is no evidence of intervention by any supernatural force in the history of life on earth, and god-based explanations are inconsistent and incoherent.

  • Every biological phenomenon that we have examined in sufficient detail has been found to be explainable by purely natural causes.

Therefore, probably not.

I picked this approach because it does address the question in the debate (about the existence of an interventionist god), it was actually relevant to the major arguments for intelligent design creationism that Durston has a reputation for making, and I thought it would be a way to introduce some real evolutionary biology into the discussion. Contrary to the assertions of others, I did not open with any insults to Durston at all — it was to be a discussion with some actual evidence.

It was Durston’s first words that were insulting and illogical — a shot at calling atheists evil. I suppose if I’d opened by announcing that Christians were all stupid, we would have had equivalency…but I did not.

And yes, we talked past each other the whole time. The debate topic was far too broad, I thought we were going to argue about the evidence for design, but Durston wiggled away and talked about anything but.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds ugly. Was it pure avoidance by not focusing on anything you might have knowledge or did he mix some Gish gallop in there as well?

  2. #2 David Lee
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds like you did OK. Just didn’t wipe the floor with the lying SOB. Good work.

  3. #3 Deepsix
    January 27, 2009

    “…he’ll willingly make stuff up and mangle his sources to make his arguments. I’m at a disadvantage because I won’t do that.”

    And this is why creationist/religious nuts shouldn’t be debated.

    It’s like debating a monkey. You can make valid, rational, reasoned arguments. The monkey however, just slings handfuls of poo. In the end, you get covered in crap and the monkey thinks he won the debate (and the audience may think so too).

  4. #4 Canuck
    January 27, 2009

    Yeah, we have some religious crazies here in Canada too. Luckily for me, most of them live in Alberta, and I’m way out on the far east coast.

  5. #5 Danimal
    January 27, 2009

    So, in your opinion, who won the debate? Based on your tone, it sounds like Durston did.

  6. #6 Zeno
    January 27, 2009

    It’s not really a lie if you do it for Jesus. In fact, Christians are exempt from most of the Ten Commandments as long as their violations are God-motivated. It’s a useful loophole that nonbelievers just don’t understand, calling it hypocrisy instead of cleverness. Didn’t Jesus instruct his followers to be as “subtle as serpents”? There you have it.

  7. #7 Nerd of Redhead
    January 27, 2009

    A theist lying. What are the odds? And, of course, they are required to Lie for JebusTM.

  8. #8 Raymond Ingles
    January 27, 2009

    There’s one other factor in the ‘kill counts’ of both Stalin and Mao that Dr. Myers has some passing experience with – those regimes went with Lysenkoism instead of Darwinian evolution. The resultant famines killed many (most?) of the millions they are ‘credited’ with when reality didn’t match up with ‘workers science’.

    Should you be in such a position again, make sure to point that out.

  9. #9 FlameDuck
    January 27, 2009

    This one was all over the place, especially since Durston consciously avoided any topic on which I might have some expertise.

    Well obviously he wanted a level playing field. Like the old adage goes, never argue with an idiot, they’ll drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience.

    What is a political scientist by the way? To me politics seems about as scientific as theology.

  10. #10 Ricahrd Eis
    January 27, 2009

    -Because anyone who was not doing as Jesus taught was not a true Christian.-

    I would have asked him if all those pedophile priests magically turned atheist as soon as they started raping young children.

    It’s a double but cheap return shot I know but…he started it.

  11. #11 cervantes
    January 27, 2009

    Well PZ, you don’t need a Ph.D. in history to point out inumerable examples of religion itself, and specifically the Christian religion, being the motivating force behind genocide, ruthlessly depraved oppression, and the general slaughter of innocents. The depredations of the Catholic Church are quite the equal of those of Stalin and Hitler; the only new development in the 20th Century was the emergence of totalitarian ideologies that didn’t rely on classical concepts of God. But they weren’t otherwise anything new.

  12. #12 NewEnglandBob
    January 27, 2009

    This is what you can mostly expect from creationists or religion fanatics.

    They have no reason or logic to use so they know they can not win a debate without lies.

    It is usually those whose shrill cry about morality are the most immoral of all.

    Political ‘science”:
    – One who wins writes the history.
    – politicians will do almost anything to win.

    That is the entire basis of that ‘science’.

  13. #13 G. Tingey
    January 27, 2009

    What saddens me is that Durston appears to be atrined engineer (like me) ugrrr …
    He’s also a deliberate public liar, (for Jebus) but …..

    Shudder.

  14. #14 Adam Cuerden
    January 27, 2009

    This is why you DON’T DEBATE CREATIONISTS. Seriously, if ever Gould was right, it was when he said that, and he was right an awful lot.

  15. #15 Dr. J
    January 27, 2009

    It’s an interesting bit of “reasoning”, once anyone that does anything I don’t agree with, they are no longer “true christian” (TM). Makes it pretty difficult for an ‘christian’ to ever do anything wrong.

    The post is a little unclear, what was the supposed topic of the debate? After all, if it was intelligent design, we all know god had nothing to do with that and it is not just a front to get religion into public schools.

    I guess I fail to understand why people agree to do these debates – the likelihood of changing anyone’s mind is near zero. Even if you ‘win’, what do you really win?

  16. #16 Gerald
    January 27, 2009

    You play pretty fast and loose with the truth, don’t you? If Hitler was a Catholic, he was an ex-Catholic. Otherwise, why did he publicly vow to destroy the Catholic Church? And many, many, many Catholic Priests and nuns were executed in the Camps. The current Pope’s first position was as a parish priest, taking over a parish after the priests there were executed by the Nazis.

  17. #17 Theodore
    January 27, 2009

    The notion that Hitler was an atheist is so easily refuted with this one question.

    If Hitler was an atheist, why did he kill Jews?

  18. #18 Sili
    January 27, 2009

    Someone needs to get you an Iphone (:spits:) so you can factcheck on the spot.

  19. #19 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    By any objective standards Stalin WAS an Atheist.
    By any objective standards Hitler WAS a Christian.
    They did have one thing in common.
    Neither was a Hindu.
    (Well it makes better sense than the standard religious explanation).

  20. #20 Bueller_007
    January 27, 2009

    I was there. Durston won due to three factors:

    1) Bait & switch. He brings out the biology during his debates with other scientists, but doesn’t bring it out when debating a biologist? Totally dishonest tactic.

    Things would have worked out much better if PZ had presented first. He set up a whole talk about Hox genes to show how nature can build complexity, in anticipation of Durston’s ID claims. But because Durston spoke first and gave cosmological arguments, it looked like PZ was off-topic.

    In addition PZ didn’t clearly state the conclusions of the Hox gene talk: nature can build complexity, we start simple and build up. (Therefore likely no God, a la Richard Dawkins.)

    2) Willingness to lie. The atheism ‘core belief’ & genocide thing was blatant, and it was actually Durston’s OPENING ARGUMENT. His reliance on an Arabic version of Flavius Josephus (unaccepted by virtually all scholars) is another example.

    3) PZ didn’t lay down the ground rules. He should have stated during the opening talk the two key points: a) “My OPPONENT is the one making the claim, not me. My position is the default. Therefore HE is the one who needs to provide the evidence.” b) “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

  21. #21 Alyson Miers
    January 27, 2009

    Otherwise, why did he publicly vow to destroy the Catholic Church?

    Because he didn’t want to compete with any church for power over the minds of his subjects.

    Hitler thought of himself as a Christian and he thought he had God on his side. Therefore, one cannot put his insanity at atheists’ door.

  22. #22 Dave Wisker
    January 27, 2009

    One wonders what the death toll would have been in the Thirty Years War had the population levels been like they are today, and if they had the weapons technology available now.

  23. #23 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2009

    The current Pope’s first position was as a parish priest, taking over a parish after the priests there were executed by the Nazis.

    What do you think about the current pope reinstating a Holocaust denier into the church effectively helping to put a huge dent in the attempts to heal relations with the Jews done by Pope John Paul II?

  24. #24 SteveL
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds like the notorious tactic used by the mathematician Euler when he was asked by the Tsarina Catherine the Great to debate the atheist Diderot–“Sir, a+b to the power of n =x, therefore god exists. Reply!” Diderot knew no math and fled in disarray.

  25. #25 Clare
    January 27, 2009

    #16

    The point is not that Hitler was or was not a Catholic, or an atheist, or liked beans or wore his cap inside the house, the point is that that is not even remotely relevant. When people point out that Hitler was, in fact, a religious man, in response to the ‘Hitler was an atheist therefore atheists suck, yo!’ it’s not in order (usually, but we’re not dealing with complex discussion here, this is more like establishing basic brain scaffolding to support a coherent thought) to suggest that the reverse is true.

    It’s to point out the absurdity of the argument.

    Because we all know that Hitler killed people because he was a crazy bastard and it is opposition of crazy bastardry that leads people to denounce it in all its forms.

    The ‘you liar, Hitler was/was not a Catholic!!!!1′ arguments are, in a word, boring and I do not care to be bored when I’m trying to entertain myself in the middle of my working day, Gerald! > : (

  26. #26 Libbie
    January 27, 2009

    Boy, what a total dick.

    At least you took away a good lesson from this fiasco. Next time you’ll knock him dead.

  27. #27 Lana
    January 27, 2009

    It amazes me when theists point to Hitler, Stalin etc. in a discussion of whether there is a god. I try to counter by saying those guys are evidence there is no all powerful, all loving god.

    Either god couldn’t stop them, meaning he’s not all powerful. Or he could stop them and chose not to, meaning he’s not so good. Theologians then start chanting “free will, free will”. I can’t believe that millions of innocent lives were less important than those monsters exercising their free will.

    I point out that Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic but didn’t blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City because he was a Catholic. He was an evil, deluded man who happened to be Catholic.

    I offer not to blame them for Timothy McVeigh if they don’t blame me for Pol Pot.

  28. #28 Norman Doering
    January 27, 2009

    …By claiming that atheism was an amoral philosophy that led to the corruption of society,…

    At least were not getting that bigotry as bad as these guys:

    http://perfectlyhuman.multiply.com/video/item/8/What_Islam_is_Not.

  29. #29 No One Of Consequence
    January 27, 2009

    You sir, need an iPhone or other decent smart phone, or a Laptop with Wifi or a some means of internet access to use during these debates. A projector would be nice too. Whenver these bastards misrepresent what someone said, you could bring it up on the projector or browser and point out this misquoting, etc.

    Even better, you could have a team of researchers in the audience texting you as they read through all the crap that your opponent is spouting off.

  30. #30 g
    January 27, 2009

    To find out what Rummel actually thinks about atheism and genocide, see here: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/QA.V2.HTML#race

    There’s one comment that could be quote-mined: “Most contemporary democide, far greater than any historical cases, has been by free thinkers”. This is the start of response to the question “Haven?t established religions been the greatest killers?”, whose actual answer is: Not particularly, and if you do the statistics you find that it is totalitarianism and unrestrained power that produce mass killing by governments.

    He actually addresses atheism specifically: “I find that religion or its lack — atheism — have hardly anything to do in general with wide-scale democide”.

    Did Durston say that Rummel blames atheism for mass killing? (If so, Durston is a big fat liar.) Or only that Rummel’s statistics show that atheism is to blame for mass killing? (If so, Durston “merely” thinks he knows how to interpret Rummel’s statistics better than Rummel does.)

  31. #31 Robin Brown
    January 27, 2009

    It pisses me off as an atheist to be lumped with Stalin and Mao in the bodycount comparison argument. The ONLY thing I have in common with those guys is something which we both don’t believe.

    By the same logic I can add together the bodycounts of Hitler, the Inquisition, Saddam Husein and the US in Vietnam as being caused by non-Communists in order to show how an absence of Communism leads to way more deaths than Communism, so Communism must be good.

    I am opposed to dogmatic ideologies in general and see religion as merely a special case of that. The fact that it includes a deity is not the reason for opposing it. It is the dogma, the intolerance, the belittling of rational enquiry, the authoritarian denials of freedom and the potential for inspiring evil acts which I object to. In fact precisely the same things which lead me to oppose Stalinism, Hitlerism and all the rest.

    It is why I don’t like to label myself as an Atheist (although according to any sensible definition I clearly am such). It allows theists to draw distinctions between God v Non-God rather than the far more important one of rational scepticism v dogma. And that is to play on their turf walk into the “Stalin was an atheist” type nonsense.

  32. #32 Bart Mitchell
    January 27, 2009

    I’ve never debated a creationist on a stage, but on the occasions I have conversations I have developed a tactic that seems to work well for the lying.

    I lie back, but very obviously. “Atheism is responsible for all the mass genocides.” I chuckle as though they were just joking, and reply with “Ya, and christianity is responsible for AIDS, the flu, bot flies, and bad grammar.”

    By treating their obviously false statements as jokes, it puts them on the defensive. When they try to defend the ludicrous positions, you can point out easily why they are false.

    To the people listening to the conversation, it leaves you with a win win. If they let you treat their argument as a joke, the argument looses validity. If they have to defend the position, you deny them the ability to jump from topic to topic rapidly. This denies them their greatest tactic, and lets us use our greatest strength, rationality.

    Ridicule is a powerful tool, if used tactically. It can make the other person retreat to a defensive position where its easier to pick apart their arguments.

  33. #33 Jamie
    January 27, 2009

    Well I was really mad that I couldn’t attend, but now I’m kind of happy I didn’t, it sounds like I would have left in a very bad mood. This is the worst province it seems for creationist bs, we even got the first creation museum. Its so sad that such a great province with great science from our University, and with our amazing museums like the Tyrell has been blinded so much by religion.

  34. #34 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    By Jove, I think No One Of Consequence is on to something! Fight equivocating bullshit with technology and a posse. If there are paralegal assistants, why not paradebater assistants?

  35. #35 nmcvaugh
    January 27, 2009

    I use a simple strategy for this, with mixed results. I calmly explain that Christianity is impossible because there’s no way that Jesus could go down all those chimneys in one night to deliver Easter Eggs to the Trick or Treaters.

    This often brings them up short. Allow them to point out that this isn’t Christianity. Agree with them, and then launch into how creationist ‘problems’ with evolution are just as distorted. You now have a talking point ‘Jesus delivering eggs’ that you can touch on whenever he starts to spout nonsense.

  36. #36 charley
    January 27, 2009

    I think atheism is an amoral philosophy. Where’s the morality in not believing in god? That doesn’t make atheists amoral or immoral; it just means their moral code comes from outside atheism. Humanism, for example, is consistent with atheism.

    As for the atheists = murderers thing, can’t it be argued that modern countries that have the most atheists are among the most peaceful?

  37. #37 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    The most fruitful response to the Stalin line of argument is to use the scientific method.
    Atheism leads to genocide is therefore the hypothesis.
    Next test the hypothesis by examining predominantly atheistic countries.
    Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland should therefore be full of genocidal murderous individuals which should be reflected in the crime statistics of these countries and recent historical records would be expected to show mass invasions and genocidal massacres carried out by these nations.
    Does the evidence support the hypothesis?

  38. #38 CoffeeJedi
    January 27, 2009

    @Dr. J #15
    “It’s an interesting bit of “reasoning”, once anyone that does anything I don’t agree with, they are no longer “true christian” (TM). Makes it pretty difficult for an ‘christian’ to ever do anything wrong.”

    Its nothing new, that’s simply the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

  39. #39 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    pararhetoric?

  40. #40 Ivan
    January 27, 2009

    He’s a good debater

    perhaps even a master debater, you might say.

    I’ll get my coat.

  41. #41 Goheels
    January 27, 2009

    “Kirk Durston is a cunning wretch.”

    Cunning wretch or wretched c**t?

  42. #42 Matlock Bolton
    January 27, 2009

    I too was at the debate and not only did Mr. Dursten’s manner of conduction disgust me the blatant bias exhibited by the moderator did as well. Now he is a chaplain, but that is not a valid excuse to prevent any attempt by the atheist side to point out that Mr. Dursten was using blatant lies to sway the people of the audience. Which apparently didn’t work so well. I wanted to ask Mr. Dusten a question during the debate about how he would explain the whole concept of leadership worship as a key tenet replacing the idea of deity worship?

    The idea of atheism is essential to these countries not because they want to be atheist but they don’t want to compete with an actual deity. Leader will save you not God, worship Stalin, Mao, Lenin, whoever. Atheism is not the goal in these cases by the tool. The mass murders committed under these people were committed under these people not under the idea of Atheism. Atheism is a side effect of wanting to be the ultimate power. I see no difference in this and Jesus claiming to be the son of God, the Pope being God’s representative on earth or some Southern preacher proclaiming God has spoken to him. It is not an excuse for killing or doing harm.

    In the case of the religions they claimed justification in their crimes through God’s word. For the so-called atheist countries, they justified it because they were Gods among men whose God had been replaced. You can blame atheism if you want by saying I don’t believe in eternal punishment for crimes. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.

  43. #43 andrew
    January 27, 2009

    Do you ever get a chance to talk backstage or outside with the person you debated?

    I would have laid a verbal smackdown on that bastard

  44. #44 bootsy
    January 27, 2009

    Hitler being catholic or Atheist personally, is neither here nor there. The fact that Hitler, the Nazis, and all the germans could do what they did to other human beings is proof there is no god.

  45. #45 BdN
    January 27, 2009

    @24

    A Concise History of Mathematics, Third Revised Edition, Dover, 1967, p. 129:

    “There exists a widely quoted story about Diderot and Euler according to which Euler, in a public debate in St. Petersburg, succeeded in embarrassing the freethinking Diderot by claiming to possess an algebraic demonstration of the existence of God: “Sir, (a+b^n)/n = x; hence God exists, answer please!” This is a good example of a bad historical anecdote, since the value of an anecdote about an historical person lies in its faculty to illustrate certain aspects of his character; this particular anecdote serves to obscure both the character of Diderot and of Euler, Diderot knew his mathematics and had written on involutes and probability, and no reason exists to think that the thoughtful Euler would have behaved in the asinine way indicated. The story seems to have been made up by the English mathematician De Morgan (1806-1871). See L. G. Krakeur and R. L. Krueger, Isis, Vol. 31 (1940), pp. 431-32; also Vol. 33 (1941), pp. 219-31. It is true that there was in the eighteenth century occasional talk about the probability of an algebraic demonstration of the existence of God; Maupertuis indulged in one, see Voltaire’s Diatribe, Oeuvres, Vol. 41 (1821 ed.), pp. 19, 30. See also B. Brown, Amer. Math. Monthly, Vol. 49 (1944).”

  46. #46 raven
    January 27, 2009

    when I pointed out that Hitler was Catholic and Germans were Catholic and Lutheran, Durston replied that he might have been formerly a Lutheran (?), but he was an atheist. Why? Because anyone who was not doing as Jesus taught was not a true Christian.when I pointed out that Hitler was Catholic and Germans were Catholic and Lutheran, Durston replied that he might have been formerly a Lutheran (?), but he was an atheist. Why? Because anyone who was not doing as Jesus taught was not a true Christian.

    That is one of the most common and easily demolished lies of the fundies.

    1. Hitler stated constantly that he was a xian.

    2. More importantly, his millions of followers were all Catholics and Lutherans. Hitler probably never killed anyone. His willing and xian henchmen did all the work. Without them, he would just be another loon waiting for the internet to be invented so he could become a troll.

    The No True Scotsman fallacy is getting old. If no True Xian does evil, then NO TRUE ATHEIST does either.

    Some of the bloodiest wars in history were started by xians. The Taiping Rebellion, started by a Xian convert, killed close to 20 million people a century ago. Few no about it for some reason, perhaps because they were all Chinese and no one cared.

  47. #47 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    I was at that debate and it was quite a pathetic display by both “debaters”. I was quite disgusted watching PZ. He really made a fool out of himself. When he first stepped up to present his opening arguments he started off by insulting Mr. Durston. Right from start go you made himself look like the typical ugly atheist throwing out insults and calling the bible “bullshit”. I understand you’re simply playing to your typical atheist audience and putting on a grand show for them BUT THIS WAS A SCHOLARLY DEBATE! Why should anyone from the theist camp take anything you have to say seriously when you start off my insulting them? Think about that for a minute. If someone walks up to you and starts insulting you –do you give a shit what they have to say next? NO!

    Next you spent your entire 20 minute opening argument stuck on 2 slides about insect genomes and didn’t actually get your point across. You ran out of time and had to quickly summarize your last 8 slides in one sentence. I have to wonder if this was your first debate of this nature because you were excruciatingly boring in your delivery of even dryer material. But that I can forgive… what I can’t forgive is the fact that Mr. Durston was actually trying to have a debate about -Does God Exist- and you seemed to not understand that and were having a debate about religion and the bible. And even on that front YOU HAD NO ARGUMENT! Mr. Durston during his opening statement asked us to all assume that the bible was just a bunch of Fairy Tales to avoid any other arguments. So what did you (PZ) do as soon as it was your turn to reply? You made yourself out to look like a complete fool by saying you reject all arguments and notions of God because the bible is bullshit.

    So after Mr. Durston said to assume the bible is bullshit and to move on and not argue that fact YOUR ONLY ARGUMENT WAS THAT THE BIBLE IS BULLSHIT so therefore you reject any arguments. At this point anyone with half a brain was done with that sad little debate. I’m embarrassed to call myself an Atheist or an Agnostic or anything that your ilk might call yourselves because your the reason people hate us so much and think we’re ignorant monsters.

    Quick bit of advice Dr. Myers. Don’t do anymore debates unless you’re prepared to debate a point of view with more then insults. You can not argue a point of view by simply rejecting your opponents point of view. This makes you look ignorant, pig headed and you only hurt your point of view in the long run.

  48. #48 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    Its nothing new, that’s simply the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.

    Funny how we keep reiterating the same arguments and identifying the same logical fallacies over and over. It’s like the Sisyphus myth or a remedial version of Groundhog Day.

  49. #49 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Re 27:

    Theologians then start chanting “free will, free will”. I can’t believe that millions of innocent lives were less important than those monsters exercising their free will.

    It is not that God is protecting the monsters’ free will, but that if He were to make his presence known, then people would not be able to rationally choose whether to believe or not. That is, if God were to act to prevent all suffering and hardship, that would be clear proof of His existence and so it would be irrational to not believe in Him. Hence interfereing with our free will, not actually negating it. This is the great “Catch-22″ of religion, religion must be true because it can not be proven; faith, belief without proof. So the believers claim victory by the very fact that there is no proof of God, because that is how God wants it to be. So God has to let the “monsters” act in order to protect everyone else’s “free will”.

  50. #50 John
    January 27, 2009

    That sucks, PZ. But I’ve long thought that debates are a poor way of teaching – it’s just two people yapping in front of an audience with no way to corroborate the claims made, and therefore lying and piss-poor evidence go unnoticed by almost everyone except the opponent.

    A written debate would be much more interesting, and much fairer. Not to mention it’s much easier to consume at the audience’s leisure.

  51. #51 AnthonyK
    January 27, 2009

    OT, but interesting:
    BBC4 ran an, I think very interesting, documentary last night What Darwin Didn’t Know, by the evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00h6sbt/What_Darwin_Didnt_Know/
    I’d be most interested to know what you experts think. He’s very keen on Haekel, and there’s some neat footage of Bernard” “peppered moths” Kettlewell. Hox genes and evo-devo are much to the fore. I suspect there’s some contoversy in there somewhere, but don’t know where.
    Is this worth a post on its own, PZ, seems right up your street

  52. #52 Frank Lovell
    January 27, 2009

    “The lesson for me is to pin these guys down much more tightly on the precise subject of the debate. This one was all over the place, especially since Durston consciously avoided any topic on which I might have some expertise.” — PZ

    Dinesh D’Souza does the exact same thing (as do anti-evolution creationists and IDers generally). And you are exactly right, the only way to prevent (or at least somewhat choke-off, and maybe make some “folks, my opponent’s reply was totally off-subject and irrelevant to the focus of this debate” hay with) such tactics is to narrow-down the focus of the debate proposition precisely and tightly — or else do not agree to a live debate.

    (Written debates make such tactics harder to get away with.)

  53. #53 Ivan
    January 27, 2009

    Durston is not stupid.

    As a mathematician, I beg to differ.

  54. #54 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis #47
    Are you sure you were there? Your description of PZ sounds like Christopher Hitchens overdosing on crack and crystal meth! Anytime I’ve heard him he’s sounded more like Kermit the frog after a nice toke of some rather mellow weed.

  55. #55 Africangenesis
    January 27, 2009

    ?My arguments will not be proof in the logical or strictly mathematical sense; rather they?ll be rational justification for the belief in the existence of God,? Durston said.

    Hmmm, this is not an open and shut case.  He isn’t trying to provide a
    rational justification for the existence of God.  No, he is trying to
    justify "belief" in the existence of God.  It is logically and empirically
    possible for belief in the existence of God to be justified, without God having
    to exist at all.  I think this is an old time tested idea, the argument
    that if God didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.

  56. #56 Aaron
    January 27, 2009

    If you lost (I haven’t seen the debate, so I’m just judging by the context of your post), then it’s because you let him frame the context.

    When I get involved with debates, I never let my opponent frame the context, because it gives them home-field advantage. Of course he’s not going to voluntarily move into biology (obviously not his strong field, and obviously yours) — particularly when he can herd you into his strong areas.

    One thing I always bring up when an apologist mentions the Stalinist regime was that, prior to the Bolshevik revolution, Russia was dominated by a Theocratic state (the czars). In order to properly have a real regime change, they essentially needed to take religion out of the equation and try to dismiss the idea of god, since that was one source of power for the Czars. Atheism wasn’t a cause, it was just a casualty; a side effect; of the rise of communism in the face of theocracy.

    Just out of curiosity, how much studying and preparation did you do w/ regard to your opponent’s debating style / history? I always make it a point to find out as much as possible about my opponent — his areas of expertise, past debates he’s engaged in, his personal life, etc. The better you know your opponent, the better prepared you’ll be to keep the debate in your corner. Never let them get home field advantage, or you just get pwned. Like Sun Tzu said, win first, THEN go to battle.

  57. #57 Jimbob
    January 27, 2009

    I humbly submit that the mistake in these debates is to fail to assert that religions are simply dogmatic ideologies–just like Stalinism, National Socialism, etc. What they all have in common is the requirement of blind faith in, and rigid adherence to the dogma. The penalties for heresy and/or apostasy are similar.

    Hitler actually was impressed with catholicism and islam because of the way they demand faith in the dogma, even in the face of contrary evidence.

    I further submit that a better debating tactic than defense is attack! We should start by asserting that faith in dogma is usually an impediment to humanistic morality. Given the evolutionary advantages of humanistic morality, plus the abundant examples of dogma-driven carnage, it’s an easy assertion to argue!

  58. #58 bootsy
    January 27, 2009

    @27: Whoops, I didn’t realize you had made my point earlier (trying to read more closely).

    @47: Are you saying that this Durston guy said that the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales at the beginning? Then WTF was he arguing for?

    (And then how could he claim the Testimony of Josephus as evidence for the divinity of Jesus? Why bother if the Bible is ‘fairy tales?’)

  59. #59 michel
    January 27, 2009

    the whole argument that something historical happened *because* of atheism, christianity, etc, never made any sense to me. sure, those things can facilitate, but they can hardly be the sole cause of something as complex as the holocaust.

    maybe hitler was a christian. but whatever his belief system, he was also a politician, a german, somebody who had a bad youth, etc. and the holocaust didn’t happen just because of him. there were millions of others involved. all with their own motives.

    selectively picking one cause and turning it into the main reason for all consequences is denying the complexity of history. i like dawkins, hitchens, et al, but i always stop listening when they try to attribute something historical to a certain religion. just as when bill o’reilly or dinesh d’souza mindlessly mention hitler, stalin and pol pot to make their point.

    atheists should make it clear that the ‘stalin was an atheist’ argument is as lame as pascal’s wager and the watchmaker argument. and as lame as the the ‘hitler was a christian’ argument.

    so….. wtf is a ‘core of atheism’??? pz should have asked dunston what a ‘core of atheism’ is.

  60. #60 Doug
    January 27, 2009

    The most disappointing thing about Durston’s avoidance of bringing up evolution, or anything related to biology, was that the poster for the event cleary presented biology as the area of expertise for both debaters. I was there to hear PZ speak on evolution and wasn’t able to get much of that after his opening statment. I certainly wasn’t interested in pulling my hair out while the fulfillment of prophecies was cited as a major argument for god’s existence.

    Durston is a skilled debater but he has many sleazy tactics. He is very good at referencing obscure papers in order to avoid qualifying his statements. After looking at Rummel’s website it’s clear Durston is a good liar too.

  61. #61 ArchangelChuck
    January 27, 2009

    I don’t even think we should be debating these idiots or paying them any mind whatsoever. We should be asserting that science is fact and that evolution is science, not giving these crackpots attention they don’t deserve…

    So the question is, why do we bother? Are we not only empowering them?

  62. #62 ChrisKG
    January 27, 2009

    Is there an MP3 of this debate?

  63. #63 Ian
    January 27, 2009

    I think its worth pointing out that the Q&A was much more balanced, however PZ got lots of 2-part questions.

    At least we got to hear on at least 3 occasions PZ call the bible either crap or bullshit.

  64. #64 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Sigmund #54
    I don’t mean to paint that type of a picture of PZ at all. He was very relaxed, almost too relaxed. And I don’t mean to say that he didn’t have more arguments then what I stated. In fact PZ had a few good arguments that he would have been better served focusing on more so then what he did mainly focus on, which is what I was commenting on in my original post… just to clarify.

  65. #65 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2009

    The No True Scotsman fallacy is getting old. If no True Xian does evil, then NO TRUE ATHEIST does either.

    I guess I have to disagree here. Atheism makes no claims that would keep someone who is atheist from doing bad things.

    But the fact someone is atheist does not mean they will necessarily do bad or good things. Being atheist really only means lacking a belief in god(s).

    /dons the flame retardant Internet suit with matching thong and viking helmet.

  66. #66 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    I’m embarrassed to call myself an Atheist or an Agnostic or anything that your ilk might call yourselves because your the reason people hate us so much and think we’re ignorant monsters.

    Aha! Now we’ve come to the crux of your tirade. So ilk, do we have Dennis’ number or what?

  67. #67 Matlock Bolton
    January 27, 2009

    I personally loved PZ’s opening statement about Leprechaun’s. If we don’t debate their existence why the hell are we debating something like a god’s existence… this day in age?

    Oh, and the debate is supposed to be posted on Youtube eventually, although I’m not sure exactly when.

  68. #68 A Hermit
    January 27, 2009

    I hate that stupid “Body Count” game.

    A couple of points that have to be made when they start playing it:

    1) Even if they don’t think he was a “real” Christian, Hitler was not an atheist, and neither were the millions of Germans (and others in places like Austria, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania) who followed him.

    2) These “body counters” tend to ignore the millions killed by Western colonialism, for example the ten million Congolese who died under the rule of Leopold II, the good Christian King of Belgium…http://www.moreorless.au.com/killers/leopold.html (The practice of cutting off people’s hands as punishment, used by African tyrants like the Evangelical Christian Charles Taylor of Liberia are a legacy of Leopold’s…)

    3) Rwanda used to be known as “the most Christian country in Africa…”

    4) Christian opposition to the use of condoms is killing people at a rate comparable to the Chinese famines under Mao’s misrule. If they’re going to count one, they should count the other…http://www.thebody.com/content/art9571.html

    But finally, the whole “Body Count” game is an exercise in character assassination; a dishonest and despicable attempt to smear one’s debate opponent with the crimes of others. It’s the kind of thing someone who has no real arguments to offer relies on. (and I don’t like it any better when atheists use that “religion kills more people” line either…)

  69. #69 notherfella
    January 27, 2009

    I’m of the opinion little is to be gained from this sort of live public debate. It’s sort of like an intellectual boxing match, and once you get hit in the stomach you immediately feel like hitting someone in the face! Naturally this makes a creationist who’s happy to play dirty more trouble than they’re worth.

    I think the whole form of discourse needs a bit of a rethink.

  70. #70 phantomreader42
    January 27, 2009

    Gerald @ #16:

    You play pretty fast and loose with the truth, don’t you? If Hitler was a Catholic, he was an ex-Catholic.

    If Hitler was an “ex-catholic”, then why was he never excommunicated? Why were none of his followers ever excommunicated?

    The catholic church has an established procedure for declaring someone an “ex-catholic”. They have for centuries. They chose not to use this procedure for the most monstrous catholic mass murderer of all time. Apparently they think it’s important to save that option as punishment for the horrible crime of disrespecting baked goods. Excommunication over such a little thing as genocide would somehow cheapen it.

  71. #71 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    bootsy #58
    Durston did not say He believed the bible was a bunch of fairy tales. He simply said that for the sake of argument –it was. My assumption is that that statement was about the New Testament and not the Old Testament in which he quoted verses to prove the divinity of Jesus and therefore the existence of God.

  72. #72 Jeff Clement
    January 27, 2009

    I attended both the debate and the talk in Calgary. As for the debate, I can’t believe how sleazy these guys are. How is someone supposed to defend when a guy just makes up stuff? The irony is that while he’s busy lying through his teeth he is simultaneously telling us atheists that we’re immoral monsters. Screw you buddy!

    PZ you did a great job. Thanks for coming up to Calgary and Edmonton!

    PS: If you even want to come back to Calgary and finish your talk about Homeobox genes I’d love to hear it!

  73. #73 raven
    January 27, 2009

    Gerald lying:

    You play pretty fast and loose with the truth, don’t you? If Hitler was a Catholic, he was an ex-Catholic. Otherwise, why did he publicly vow to destroy the Catholic Church? And many, many, many Catholic Priests and nuns were executed in the Camps. The current Pope’s first position was as a parish priest, taking over a parish after the priests there were executed by the Nazis.

    Hitler invoked god and jesus constantly. In Mein Kampf, he mentioned god and jesus 33 times. He mentioned evolution, atheism, and Darwin, 0 times.

    More to the point, his millions of willing executioners were all catholics and lutherans. He would have gotten nowhere without their support.

    Gerald is just lying. This has become the guiding principle of a certain toxic variant of Xianity. “We lie therefore god exists.”

    Adolph Hitler:

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. .. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.”[27][28]

    It is well established and incontrovertible that Hitler was a xian. He said so often. So much so that the only answer xians have is to lie continually about it.

  74. #74 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 27, 2009

    BUT THIS WAS A SCHOLARLY DEBATE!

    If PZ’s description of Durston’s tactics are accurate, and I have no reason to think they aren’t, the “scholarly debate” (capitalized or not) was thrown out the window immediately upon Durston taking his first turn.

  75. #75 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    phantomreader42 #70
    “If Hitler was an “ex-catholic”, then why was he never excommunicated? Why were none of his followers ever excommunicated? ”

    That’s not true.
    Josef Goebbels was excommunicated for a most terrible offense against God.

  76. #76 The Petey
    January 27, 2009

    The current Pope’s first position was as a parish priest, taking over a parish after the priests there were executed by the Nazis.

    so the fact that a Nazi (the current pope) was put in charge of a church where the priest was killed by Nazis (The current pope’s youth hang out) is supposed to prove that Hitler wasn’t catholic?

    Wouldn’t he have just killed the priest and razed the church?

  77. #77 Bureaucratus Minimis
    January 27, 2009

    It may not seem relevant to us whether Hitler was an atheist, but it certainly seems relevant to them as they hammer on this at every opportunity. Catholicism is a hierarchical organization with strict membership rules, and a formal system for dismembering (as it were) those who don’t conform. There are two pieces of evidence that would settle this: record of Hitler’s confirmation (the ritual whereby one formally joins the church as an “adult”), point us; record of Hitler’s excommunication, point them.

    As far as the commies, we’re just going to have to suck that up, and go with the fine arguments about cult of personality, and the need for those movements to delegitimize the religio-political power structure which had supported the previous regimes.

    Agree that it may ultimately be counterproductive to formally debate these people, at least not without extensive formal training in debate, and rehearsals with mock opponents to practice not letting them get your goat…or squid.

  78. #78 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Rev. BigDumbChimp #74
    PZ’s description wasn’t entirely inaccurate, but that’s not the point. The rules of a debate don’t suddenly fly out the window because one of the parties doesn’t follow them. Then chaos erupts and nothing is learned in the end… which is exactly what happened.

  79. #79 Callie
    January 27, 2009

    I was also there and I think Dennis (#47) summed things up perfectly. I was disappointed by PZ’s argument/lack thereof.

  80. #80 ErikJ
    January 27, 2009

    @71
    If Durston is going to use arguements from the Bible to prove the existence of God is not the burden of proof on him to prove that the bible is 100% historically accurate, and thus a viable source of debate material?

    Simply quoting scripture is not an honest debate tactic as it makes a tacit assumption that the source material is accurate. Any religion could use this tactic to prove the existence of their particular god.

  81. #81 Evolving Squid
    January 27, 2009

    Why? Because anyone who was not doing as Jesus taught was not a true Christian.

    There are many possible debate answers to that assertion, but should you ever encounter it again, a good response would be “Do you love your family – wife, children, parents?”

    If he answers “yes”, he is directly violating the will of Jesus as told in Luke 14:25-26, and therefore cannot be a true Christian. That should leave him obviously grasping to recover.

    It’s also good to remind people pushing the “True Christian” argument that Jesus requires (Luke 14:33) his followers to give up EVERYTHING they own.

    If your opponent is thus demonstrated not to be a True Christian, but still considers himself such because he professes Christianity, then Hitler et al. can also be considered Christians.

  82. #82 ArchangelChuck
    January 27, 2009

    I’m of the opinion little is to be gained from this sort of live public debate. It’s sort of like an intellectual boxing match, and once you get hit in the stomach you immediately feel like hitting someone in the face! Naturally this makes a creationist who’s happy to play dirty more trouble than they’re worth. I think the whole form of discourse needs a bit of a rethink.

    I agree entirely, but I don’t think this form of discourse needs a rethink, I think it needs to be thrown out. Debating god is idiotic, and I find it incredible that real scientists have been castrated to the point that they’re being forced to waste their time on such an irrelevant non-issue.

    Where the hell are our flying cars? What about our cure for AIDS? But no, instead of searching for the solutions to humanity’s problems, we have to talk about that damn God guy again! Lunacy.

  83. #83 Andyo
    January 27, 2009

    I think people are going at this from the wrong angle. Atheism is not an ideology, isn’t it? You know what ALL of the genocidal regimes were? A-unicornists. Unicornism is therefore the moral thing to be.

    There isn’t even a need to justify atheism by denying it had anything to do with the evil regimes. That’s why I don’t like the word, it just plays into the religious’ presumptuous self delusion that theism is by default, and then it is to be denied.

  84. #84 Andyo
    January 27, 2009

    Posted by: ArchangelChuck Author Profile Page | January 27, 2009 10:45 AM

    Where the hell are our flying cars? What about our cure for AIDS? But no, instead of searching for the solutions to humanity’s problems, we have to talk about that damn God guy again! Lunacy.

    Well, there’s the 4-hour erections. Credit where credit is due.

  85. #85 ArchangelChuck
    January 27, 2009

    @Andyo (#84): Good point… Kudos to science!

  86. #86 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2009

    The lesson for me is to pin these guys down much more tightly on the precise subject of the debate.

    The lesson, IMO, is that public one-on-one debates are not used for addressing serious matters. They may be entertaining, but don’t expect more than that.

    Written discussions are used for important issues.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  87. #87 IST
    January 27, 2009

    @47> Calling a book of stories bullshit is not a personal insult. Make the attempt to separate your faith from you as an individual.

  88. #88 J_w23
    January 27, 2009

    @Andyo (#84): Touche! Nice one.

  89. #89 Kathleen
    January 27, 2009

    My husband and I were at the debate last night. PZ did ok; it was quite obvious that he was more popular with the audience. Durston used professional debating tactics (and yes, being a believer, they were typical things like misinterpreting data and using logical fallacies) but still failed to present a good argument for believing in the existence of God.

    Ultimately, Durston lost because it was him making the premise and failed to prove it (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence). PZ wasn’t really strong in response but I think that was just being unprepared for the unethetical ways professional Christian debaters debate.

    It was still a real joy seeing PZ in person.

  90. #90 Steven O
    January 27, 2009

    I was at last night’s debate, and I must say, neither side won. Durston is just as described in the blog entry. Dishonest! His first point to prove god’s existence was that “Atheists are responsible for ~150 million murders in the 20th century”. Irrelevant to the existence of god!

    That being said, PZ didn’t do any better. He claimed (which I agree with) that it is a silly question, however, if you are going to go into a debate titled “Does God Exist”, you need to at least argue about it, rather than dismiss it and dive into a discussion of biology.

    I basically found both debaters not discussing the issue. I am very happy however that PZ called Mr Durston on his false claim about atheists being responsible for that many deaths.

  91. #91 Chris
    January 27, 2009

    Commenter 47 wrote:

    “Quick bit of advice Dr. Myers. Don’t do anymore debates unless you’re prepared to debate a point of view with more then insults. You can not argue a point of view by simply rejecting your opponents point of view. This makes you look ignorant, pig headed and you only hurt your point of view in the long run.”

    I was at the debate as well, and as ignorant as #47 comes across, I have to agree with him on this issue. I am a big fan of P.Z, and I came to the debate in full support of him. The other debater was a dink, and he did poison the well, but Mr.Myers was simply not on his game last night, and I think he knows it. The overwhelming consensus was that the Xians won the debate. He at least had the veneer of a well put together argument, never mind the fact that most of what he spouted was toxic waste.

    I still have, and will continue to have, immense respect for P.Z, but it is true that in this instance he was pwned.

  92. #92 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds like PZ was trying to make the case that from a biological standpoint… there is no need for a god because whether god exists is irrelevant to the question “how did we get here?” Because the answer is.. science shows we evolved to “here”.

    We can point to ourselves and say…”see, got here without any omnipotent meddling”

    We can point to a book and say..”see, just words created by us.”

  93. #93 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    “Kirk Durston is a cunning wretch.”
    Still, she wasn’t bad in the Spiderman movies.

  94. #94 Lurker (usually)
    January 27, 2009

    NewEnglandBob (and FlameDuck, to a lesser degree)

    You’re sounding just as ignorant as creationists when you bash political scientists, like myself. Just because you don’t understand something don’t make it stupid. I’d give you a primer but Wikipedia’s article is very good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_science

  95. #95 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    *sniff* *sniff*
    Hmmm, I distinctly smell the odor of sockpuppets…

  96. #96 HumanisticJones
    January 27, 2009

    Almost seems like we need to lay out the ground rule that any source referenced during a debate either be brought along or be available for immediate reference. I’ve seen this dishonest use of sources in so many debates with creationists it seems like we should demand this on principle and offer it in return. After all, the side of science/reason has nothing to hide in regards to our sources, and if they’ve done so much research into nailing our arguments, certainly it wouldn’t be troublesome to bring along a book, paper, or link that can be projected for the whole gathering to see. I wouldn’t be surprised to see how many of them would be genuinely shocked that their sources don’t say what they thought they said (having just heard from someone that it was an excellent refutation of atheism).

  97. #97 Vole
    January 27, 2009

    #83 The answer is to define them in terms of our own philosophy. When I get seriously fed up with Christians/Creationists, I start calling them irrationalists. The debate inevitably becomes less well-mannered, but it does make me feel a lot better.

  98. #98 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    IST #87
    That’s funny because when Durston was making his opening argument about Atheistic societies being more destructive PZ took it as a personal attack against his Atheistic beleifes when it was clear Durston was speaking about -Atheistic Societies- and NOT -Personal Atheists-. This point seems to be lost on many people. In fact Durston at one point tried to clarify this very point, but it seems Atheists are as thin skinned as Theists.

    And just so we’re clear –I have no faith. I do not beleive in God NOR do I have faith in the absolute disbelief in God. I clearly have far less bias on this subject then some of the replies I’ve read… and I realize I may have just opened a bigger can of worms, but please let’s stay on topic.

  99. #99 raven
    January 27, 2009

    The current Pope’s first position was as a parish priest, taking over a parish after the priests there were executed by the Nazis.

    This might be another of Gerald’s lies. I looked it up in wikipedia and couldn’t find this.

    wikipedia:

    Following repatriation in 1945, the two brothers entered Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein, later studying at the Ducal Georgianum (Herzogliches Georgianum) of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. They were both ordained in Freising on 29 June 1951 by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Munich. Joseph Ratzinger’s dissertation (1953) was on St. Augustine and was entitled “The People and the House of God in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”. His Habilitation (which qualified him for a professorship) was on Bonaventure. It was completed in 1957 and he became a professor of Freising College in 1958.

    Ratzinger wasn’t even ordained until 1951. I can find no information that he was ever even a Parish priest.

  100. #100 Brownian
    January 27, 2009

    Yeah, it was a pretty ugly debate.

    Besides poisoning the well, all Durston really did was trot out the cosmological argument and the anthropic principle, then proclaim Jesus is Lord of all, QED. He also displayed a talent for three-card Monte by positing that some variable must have created time, a variable he called, oh, I dunno, for convenience we’ll say ?, and then goes on to realise that OMG! WTF! BBQ!! God himself said “I am the alpha and the omega” therefore God invented time! Glory, hallelujah!

    I had to leave before the Q&A, knowing I would’ve flown into a rage and probably bitten the head off a live theist if I had to hear any more such crap. It was precisely this kind of bullshit that made me ashamed to believe in the same God that these dipshits believed in (and who apparently rewarded them for their dipshittery), and thus was directly responsible for my apostasy. Thanks, Kirk.

    Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to tip a few pints with PZ afterward.

  101. #101 Aaron Luchko
    January 27, 2009

    Argh, I had a cold and couldn’t make it. I would have loved to go if for no other reason than to get in a good question during the Q/A.

  102. #102 Burke
    January 27, 2009

    I was at the debate last night and I look at it in two ways. The first way I?ll use the analogy of a boxing match where two fighters are given points at the end of each round and the fighter with the most points at the end of the fight is the winner. Mr. Durston out-pointed Mr. Myers.

    The other way that I look at it is that Mr. Durston lost the debate not so much because Mr. Myers won but because the burden of proof was on him and he failed to make a convincing argument.

  103. #103 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    I clearly have far less bias on this subject then some of the replies I’ve read.

    Yeah, your opinion of yourself is coming through loud and clear.

  104. #104 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    The point is that Dunston was pointing at “atheistic societies”. I would take offense too.

  105. #105 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    wasn’t being the screw up in the post above.

    the USSR wasn’t atheistic… it’s a massive oversimplification… and stupid.

  106. #106 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    E.V. #103
    Negate the points I’ve made how ever you choose and cloud them with your personal opinion about me based on how I choose to write/reply. I don’t really care. After all, this is just a reply to a blog post and nothing said here will actually change anyones preconceived opinions. :P

  107. #107 fb
    January 27, 2009

    #4 No religious crazies in the east coast?

    How come no Sunday shopping out there then?

  108. #108 Lance
    January 27, 2009

    Meh, same lame arguments are used in the Faith Matters blog of the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com). This, combined with the smear campaign against atheism and the numerous logical fallacies, gives me a headache. Why can’t people just let stupid arguments die?

  109. #109 Africangenesis
    January 27, 2009

    I’m not sure why the expectations for a debate would be so high. An internet exchange can be much more thoughtful, especially if people are intellectually honest enough to acknowledge points, and correct mistakes and mischaracterizations, and justify their characterizations and agree on definitions, and acknowledge when they are using different definitions and seek to discern how the other might be defining something differently.

    It must necessarily be an iterative process and an attempt to communicate, so that even if one or the other doesn’t “win”, their positions and points of agreement and difference have been clarified. Some disagreements may remain unresolved to noone’s satisfaction.

  110. #110 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    FB… never been to New York have you?

  111. #111 rs
    January 27, 2009

    Rummel is a crackpot anyway.

    By extension, anybody who cites him as an authority cannot be taken seriously as well.

  112. #112 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    t was clear Durston was speaking about -Atheistic Societies- and NOT -Personal Atheists-.

    ???

    So you’re saying PZ wrongfully interpreted Durston’s stance which you took to be as “atheism is evil in the plural sense but not in the singular sense.”

    It’s an argument like ” we hate homosexuals, but you Gay Bob have no right to be pissed at us for declaring that we hate homosexuals because you’re a homo we actually know and like, it’s all those other fags, or just queers in general.”

  113. #113 Brian D
    January 27, 2009

    I was at the debate (I asked the last question to Dursten — which he dodged), and the way I see it is that both debaters were talking past each other.

    PZ came prepared for a science debate, which is only to be expected since Durston evidently always brings up biological arguments (he brought one up in passing in response to the last question — a pike eats his young therefore humans are special). Durston came prepared for a logical debate, possibly because he realized PZ’s tactics and changed (one of the guys who brought him out here, from Campus for Christ, mentioned that he’d been revising something furious earlier). I will even grant Durston superior technique: Given his premises, his conclusions followed in all places except one (that “time” needed a beginning; any physicist — and he has a degree in physics — can tell you there is no “beginning” in the same sense as there is no 1/0.). There were, of course, critical flaws in his premises which also opened him up to severe fallacies (especially the poisoning the well), but during his conclusions he followed logic surprisingly well.

    The result is that both sides talked past each other, and Durston seemed more composed. In the theatre of debate, that meant he probably came across as the ‘winner’.

    This was, however, reversed in the Q&A session, where PZ came across as prepared, collected, and honest, while Durston dodged almost every question thrown at him while appending lengthy comments to PZ’s responses. (My own question — ‘if none can be more moral than God, and God orders genocide, is genocide moral? And, by what criteria would you judge such orders to come from God?’ — was answered through doubletalk that I’ve since deciphered to mean “Genocide is moral if God tells me so but I won’t listen if God tells me so.”) PZ clearly came out on top during the Q&A; as soon as it’s up on YouTube we’ll get links.

    The only point I am willing to give Dursten a lot of credit for is that he actually provided a citation (and through it, a definition) for the term “information” in biology. A creationist defining ‘information’ is fairly important, no?

    Matlock @42: The original folk we approached to moderate were the university’s debate club. They refused to touch the subject because it was, and I quote, “controversial”. I should probably mention that our debate club is a group of political scientists and lawyers looking to pad their resumes. My second choice was the campus Unitarian chaplain, but Campus for Christ insisted on the Presbyterian.

  114. #114 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Re 110:
    FB… never been to New York have you?

    I think “fb” was referring to the east coast of Canada, presumably Quebec which has a pretty strong Catholic heritage.

  115. #115 Andyo
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis, you’re not a believer, and you’re not a disbeliever? Is there such a thing as a half-believer? You’re probably “agnostic” then, huh? Which god are you agnostic about? ALL of them? Most of them? The christ-y god? Do you think it’s 50-50 that the christ-y god exists? And what about all the other gods? Surely you’re an atheist about at least some of them, no?

    I am an atheist as I am an unicornist, as I am an unastrologist, as I am an a-bigfootist. I don’t feel the need to call myself the latter three, so why should I give a crap about the first one? The default position is not believing until evidenced. If you think there is any evidence for god, why don’t you believe in it?

  116. #116 Paul R. Welke
    January 27, 2009

    Thanks for coming to see us here in the Great White North! Durston did a shit job of debating last night, but to be fair, the question was a bad one for both of you, and more suited to debaters with stronger backgrounds in Philosophy.

    Instead of the question “Is there a personal god who affects the world today”, a Creation vs Evolution type question would have kept both of you on topic a bit better, imho.

  117. #117 John
    January 27, 2009

    Hey. Could you write up a full reply to Durston’s claim in regards to proteins? I’ve encountered it myself, but I don’t even quite understand what he’s claiming.

    “He also questioned Myers? ability to explain the origins of the systems that produce the background for proteins like the ones that operate within the hox gene.”

  118. #118 Andyo
    January 27, 2009

    Of course I meant “a-unicornist”, I don’t believe in unicorns! And forgive me for using that word 3 times in this thread.

  119. #119 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    E.V #112
    Durston’s stance was a rebuttal to the held Atheist assertion that more people have been killed in the name of God then for any other reason in human existence. He was attempting to claim that in fact it was Godless Atheistic Societies that have been far more destructive. He took the atheistic assertion as an attack against him and his belief in God. Which when he turned the tables is exactly what PZ and most Atheists replying here today are doing. Taking the assertion as an attack against themselves.

    So in that context when Atheists are making those specific claims, if they are not making a personal attack against a believer then in this context the same should be applied to the argument in reverse… I’m heading out the door here, so I hope that makes sense. No time to re-read. Sorry.

  120. #120 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    fb @ 107

    What was once called the Blue Laws prohibited sales on Sundays. That was thrown out in the early 1960’s if I recall correctly. Where have you been all this time? In a monastery?

  121. #121 DiscoveredJoys
    January 27, 2009

    But, but, but…

    what is wrong with (alleged) atheists killing all those (alledged) godly people? Sure a True Christian would be pleased to go early to meet his God?

    “Tuez-les tous; Dieu reconnaitra les siens.” [Kill them all; God will know his own. Abbé Amalric Arnaud, at the siege of Beziers]

    Of course no True Atheist would behave so – if only by definition.

  122. #122 Annick
    January 27, 2009

    I was at that debate and was appalled by the amount of stuff he pulled out of his ass. Not to mention the fact that the debate was moderated by a chaplain. And as someone who holds an undergraduate degree in theology (it’s a long story) his claim that he uses the Arabian translation of Josephus is pure idiocy. Josephus wrote in GREEK and relying on a translation to fix the fact that someone inserted something into the original is laughable.

  123. #123 SteveF
    January 27, 2009

    r.e. 113, Durston seems to be doing at least part of his PhD on trying to quantify biological information. Here is an excerpt from one of his essays:

    Darwinian theory also requires another prediction:

    P2- Since an average, 300 amino acid protein requires approximately 500 bits of functional information to encode, and even the simplest organism requires a few hundred protein-coding genes, variation and natural selection should be able to consistently generate the functional information required to encode a completely novel protein.

    Functional information is information that performs a function. When applied to organisms, functional information is information encoded within their genomes that performs some biological function. Typically, the amount of functional information required to encode an average, 300 amino-acid protein is in the neighborhood of 500 bits and most organisms contain thousands of protein-coding genes in their genome. Most combinations of amino acids will not produce a stable, three dimensional folded protein structure. Furthermore, the sequence space that encodes a stable folding protein tends to be surrounded by non-folding sequence space. Thus, to generate a novel protein with a stable fold, an evolutionary pathway must cross non-folding sequence space via a random walk, where natural selection will be inoperative. Thus, it requires functional information to properly specify a biological protein with a stable secondary structure. Recent computer simulations have failed to generate 32 bits of functional information in 2 x 10^7 trials, unless the distance between selection points is kept to 2, 4, and 8-bit steps. Such small gaps between selection points are highly unrealistic for biological proteins, which tend to be separated by non-folding regions of sequence space too large for the evolution of a novel protein to proceed by selection. Organic life requires thousands of different proteins, each requiring an average of 500 bits to encode. 32 bits is far too small to encode even one, average protein. An approximate and optimistic upper limit can be computed for the distance between selection points that could be bridged over the history of organic life if we postulate 1030 bacteria, replicating every 30 minutes for 4 billion years, with a mutation rate of 10-6 mutations per 1000 base pairs per replication. The upper limit falls between 60 and 100 bits of functional information, not sufficient to locate a single, average folding protein in protein sequence space. The Darwinian prediction P2, therefore, appears to be falsified. Variation and natural selection simply does not appear to have the capacity to generate the amount of functional information required for organic life

    http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Origins%20and%20Explanations.pdf

    Here’s more formal examples of his research:

    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/pdf/1742-4682-4-47.pdf

    http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Durston&Chiu%20paper.pdf

    There was an interesting debate with Jeff Shallit at Shallit’s blog:

    http://recursed.blogspot.com/2008/06/oh-inanity-slack-in-scientist.html

    He concludes one post by saying:

    In general, biology is about 50 years behind the rest of science when it comes to information theory and how it relates to protein structure and function. Hazen’s paper, simple approach as it is, should have been published 50 years ago, within 10 years of Shannon’s original paper. Leon Brillouin actually published a similar paper to Hazen’s albeit more rigorous, in 1951. The Darwinists saw the implications and abandoned ship. I’ve personally, on several occasions, run into Darwinists who deliberately recommend against applying information theory to biopolymers.

    He also recommends papers by a few other people on the “information” front:

    Szostak, J.W. (2003) Functional information: Molecular messages. Nature, 423, 689.

    Hazen, R.M. et al. (2007) Functional information and the emergence of biocomplexity. PNAS, 104, 8574-8581

    http://www.pnas.org/content/104/suppl.1/8574.full.pdf+html

    I would have been interested to see PZ debate him on these concepts. Also, since he attacks the AVIDA program for not producing biologically meaningful quantities of evolution through it’s simulations of evolution, the response of the AVIDA group (maybe Wesley Elsberry, who now works there).

  124. #124 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    nothing said here will actually change anyones preconceived opinions.

    That’s not true for me, Dennis. There are other’s who attended the debate and have given a critical account without the hubris and jacked up logic. If PZ did not debate Durston, well it is of no consequence to me personally. It’s a game, and sometimes even the brightest are outplayed. What is of consequence is how any anecdotal account is presented. I don’t care if you’re an non-theist or a Raelian, your initial post was a swaggeringly dickish. I couldn’t get past the demeanor to qualify the content.
    The Nisbetian framing arguments earn you no respect here.
    And the “atheist society vs. personal atheist” crap is ridiculous.
    It’s alright to be critical, it’s even encouraged when you have valid points, but if you thought your post as critically constructive, then you’re tone deaf.

  125. #125 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    Edit text, must remember.

  126. #126 Manderz
    January 27, 2009

    That whole stuff about the computer program that disproves that life could have happened on its own was really something. I wish there would have been a longer question and answer period so I could have asked him if he really thinks he has a computer program that anyone can download and run on their computer, as he claimed, to show that it was impossible for proteins to form on their own or wherever he was going with that. That man has a remarkable amount of faith in someone’s computer model to tell us with a straight face that there is a 1 in 10^143 chance of life forming on its own.

    It seems to me that one of Durston’s tactics is to continuously re-define things and add more and more boundaries until he has created a system wherein his is the only plausible explanation. For example, the part about useful information or whatever as opposed to just regular information.

  127. #127 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    What a waste of time debating these religious morons when the topic is other than proving their imaginary god does not exist. Let’s get right to a real debate and demand these morons produce their god up front, right here, right now. No god, no debate. Screw this bullshit. That recent debate with Dinesh D’Crappa that had the topic of whether we can be good with or without a god is a prime example of never getting to the gist of the whole bullshit fiasco, but going off on tangents to other inane crap that get’s us nowhere. Let’s get a real debate going by proving your god is physical as you.

  128. #128 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    What was once called the Blue Laws prohibited sales on Sundays. That was thrown out in the early 1960’s if I recall correctly. Where have you been all this time? In a monastery?

    Here in Massachusetts the Blue laws persisted well past the 60’s. I think it was the 80’s when they loosened a little, allowing stores to open after noon on Sunday but no alcohol sales. Since then they’ve eroded bit by bit so now, everything is available all day Sunday.

    But here, the argument for keeping the blue laws was not about religion so much, but about mom&pop stores vs chain stores; sunday closing lets small stores have at least one day off without risking losing their customers to the chains that stay open 7 days.

  129. #129 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    It’s called moving the goal posts.

  130. #130 Slaughter
    January 27, 2009

    “The lesson for me is to pin these guys down much more tightly on the precise subject of the debate. This one was all over the place, especially since Durston consciously avoided any topic on which I might have some expertise.”

    Wouldn’t work anyway. They’d still lie, just as the radio station did with Ray Comfort (if I recall correctly). They’ll say one thing then do another.

  131. #131 NewEnglandBob
    January 27, 2009

    Lurker @94:

    Your wikipedia reference proves my point:

    Political science is often described as the study of politics defined as “who gets what, when and how”.

  132. #132 Gary
    January 27, 2009

    Meanwhile (same day of the debate) the University of Alberta changes god reference in convocation speech: http://tinyurl.com/b5deve and http://tinyurl.com/d8wha8

  133. #133 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Durston’s stance was a rebuttal to the held Atheist assertion that more people have been killed in the name of God then for any other reason in human existence. He was attempting to claim that in fact it was Godless Atheistic Societies that have been far more destructive.

    Which is the stupid response because it does not adress the Atheist assertion. The debate was about the existence of God, what people do based on their belief in God (whether good or ill), is no proof or disproof of God’s existence. Just saying “no atheists killed more people” does not prove god exists.

    Second, atheists do not use that argument as a disproof of god, but to question the value of religion. Just as our response to “Stalin was an atheist”, is that he merely substituted one religion for another (a religion of himself). “Religious wars” is a valid response to the argument that you can’t be moral without religion or belief in God.

    It sounds like Myers was prepared to debate the existence question (with examples of how God is not necessary for our existence), while Durston was there to debate the value of religion. And even so, I think it is a pretty poor argument that says religion hasn’t killed quite as many people as atheism.

  134. #134 Ian
    January 27, 2009

    If atheist nations are fundamentally evil, why didn’t the Soviet Union nuke all the religious nations?

  135. #135 Sarah T
    January 27, 2009

    I felt like the debate was best summed up by a professor next to me “I’d give one of them a C and one a C+”

  136. #136 Grant
    January 27, 2009

    Made comments last night here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/i_made_the_faith_and_reason_se.php#comment-1353499

    But, I concur, with some of the attendees comments above, that neither PZ or KD really addressed what was reported to be the scope of the “Does God Exist?” question in any depth.

    Essentially from the Gateway link above:

    For the purpose of the debate, it was agreed upon by both debaters that God would be defined as “a personal, supernatural being; one that created the universe and actively intervenes in it.”

    It would have been nice to have heard something along the lines of V. Stenger’s latest, “God: The Failed Hypothesis”. Just reading it now and he treats the subject above and others with exacting scientific clarity, providing, so far, a few new insights of his own.

  137. #137 CJO
    January 27, 2009

    The truth of the biblical accounts of Jesus? What was his argument there?

    Josephus as proof of the divinity of Jesus? The interpolation(s) in Josephus isn’t even good evidence for the existence of a historical person, much less anyone’s divinity!

  138. #138 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Just saying “no atheists killed more people” does not prove god exists.

    lost an important comma:
    “no, atheists killed more people”

  139. #139 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    Umm… Ian. Because the U.S. also has nuclear weapons.

    There are no atheist nations.

  140. #140 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    If atheist nations are fundamentally evil, why didn’t the Soviet Union nuke all the religious nations?

    never heard of “Mutually Assured Destruction”?

  141. #141 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    and if you think about it, deterrence would seem to work best against atheists as they know there is no “afterlife” nor “heavenly reward”. That it is in their best self interest to make this life, the best it can be.

  142. #142 FlameDuck
    January 27, 2009

    Otherwise, why did he publicly vow to destroy the Catholic Church?

    Did he? That’s odd. I would have thought that the Swiss Guard wouldn’t have been much of a challenge for the German Wehrmacht. I mean seriously they invaded France in 2 weeks, and you think 120 guys with pointy sticks served as a deterrent? If Hitler had wanted to destroy the Catholic Church he would have burned the Vatican to the ground and pissed in its ashes, and it would have taken him 2 hours.

    And many, many, many Catholic Priests and nuns were executed in the Camps.

    As were many Nazis. They weren’t sent to concentration camps for their beliefs. They were sent there for their lack of loyalty. Here are a few quotes for you. From Mein Kampf:

    Page 65: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    Page 161: “Even today I am not ashamed to say that, overpowered by stormy enthusiasm, I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time. A fight for freedom had begun mightier than the earth had ever seen; for once Destiny had begun its course, the conviction dawned on even the broad masses that this time not the fate of Serbia or Austria was involved, but whether the German nation was to be or not to be.”

    Page 214: “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.”

    Page 436: “It may be that today gold has become the exclusive ruler of life, but the time will come when man will again bow down before a higher god.”

    There are more, but I think this quite clearly gets the point across that Hitler was anything but an Atheist. You’ll notice many of the same ideas repeated by the religious right. Yet the Bible is clearly a excellent moral compass.

    By the way, Hitler was also a strict vegetarian. So maybe batshit insane is a result of eating disorders, rather than religious beliefs.

  143. #143 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    PZ and Brownian in the same room….sigh…

    OK, back to the fray.

    “Christ was the greatest early fighter in the battle against the world enemy, the Jews…The work that Christ started but could not finish, I – Adolf Hitler – will conclude.” Hitler 1926 There are other quotes of Hitler on jesus, but that’s my favorite. I always wonder why Hitler didn’t think jesus was a Jew?

  144. #144 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    Actually, in spite of the citations from Mein Kampf, I still think that Hitler was an atheist:

    http://stairs.umd.edu/236/meta-atheism.html

    Have a happy day! :-p

  145. #145 AllanW
    January 27, 2009

    Religiot lies for Jeebus in public debate with atheist?

    Who’da thunk it?

    PZ, hopefully this will have shown you why it is just not worth it to try to debate these liars in public.

  146. #146 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    I always wonder why Hitler didn’t think jesus was a Jew?

    Was Martin Luther a Catholic?
    Was George Washington British?

    Yes, they were, originally, but then rebelled and are better known by what they became. Jesus was the first Christian, and that overrides his Jewish background (to today’s Christians).

    Its like Durston’s argument, Jesus wasn’t really jewish because he rejected it and did not behave like one.

  147. #147 Sven DiMIlo
    January 27, 2009

    Plus Jesus loved a good ham sandwich. Can’t remember where I read that…Josephus (in Arabic, of course)?

  148. #148 llewelly
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds like you lost, PZ. Not only is being right not good enough, it doesn’t help hardly at all. Worse, honesty is a liability. That’s why debates have extremely poor value as teaching or decision-making events.

  149. #149 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    Yah, but even if you “lost” I’m sure many of us appreciate the effort dude! Thanks.

  150. #150 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    The question of whether god exists or not does not depend on whether Hitler was an atheist, catholic, buddhist or whatever.

    Even the question of whether religion itself is a good thing or bad thing does not depend on Hitler’s personal belief. If he was using religious belief to justify his actions, then religion is indicted regardless of whether Hitler himself was an atheist or a believer.

  151. #151 Kichae
    January 27, 2009

    Long time listener, first time caller. I had the great pleasure of attending the debate last night. I wish watching it was as much a treat.

    Durston’s arguments have been described really rather well already. They went rather like this:

    1

    A. Atheists kill people.

    B. In logic, you can’t assume your conclusion. This is a circular argument. Therefore nature must have arisen from something not natural (??)

    C. Time had a beginning. Therefore time was created.

    Therefore Jesus.

    2

    A. Jesus claimed he was God.

    B. Jesus was God.

    Therefore Jesus.

    PZ was more coherent, I think, but seemed to have prepared a presentation that, following Durston’s, didn’t really strike the mark. It was “This question is silly. Here’s something that’s not silly. Oops, I’m out of time.” Losing the coin toss really hurt there.

    The Q&A was pure gold, though. Over the course of it, Durston had to admit that (most – presumably he believes there’s at least one exception) religions were invented by people, that the only way you can be sure which is correct is to “know God” – and he “knows God”, and if he heard God telling him things in his head (that he didn’t want to do), he’d seek help for mental health problems.

    Meanwhile, atheists “make up” their morals (not stated: everyone else believing in the wrong religion had their morals made up for them by someone else, but he knows God, and the voice in his head hasn’t told him to do anything he has a problem with yet), have no worthwhile meaning to their lives, and should kill themselves.

    For me, watching that kind of mental aerobics was worth the price of admission.

  152. #152 Lurker (usually)
    January 27, 2009

    NewEnglandBob @130:

    I’m not sure about how that quote proves your point exactly, but ok whatever. MY point is that political science is not some kind of front for creationism. It has exactly zero to say on the validity of any supernatural belief, dealing instead with how that belief may impact a political system. If a political scientist says anything about it, it’s coming from outside their area of expertise.

    Besides, if you read PZ’s post at all you’d see that while Durston used Rummel to back himself up, there actually seems to be no evidence that Rummel had anything to say about creationism at all.

    So why are you slagging a valid social science?

  153. #153 vhutchison
    January 27, 2009

    I must agree with many who stated above that debates with the creotards and those of similar ilk are usually a waste of effort. They will use every attempt to frame the debate to their side, etc. However, I think the main point is that they will use any agreement to debate them as ‘proof’ of the significance of their views – ‘See, we are important enough that they pay attention to us and our opinions.’

  154. #154 mas528
    January 27, 2009

    Posted by: Dennis | January 27, 2009 10:00 AM

    I was at that debate and it was quite a pathetic display by both “debaters”. I was quite disgusted watching PZ. He really made a fool out of himself. When he first stepped up to present his opening arguments he started off by insulting Mr. Durston. Right from start go you made himself look like the typical ugly atheist throwing out insults and calling the bible “bullshit”. I understand you’re simply playing to your typical atheist audience and putting on a grand show for them BUT THIS WAS A SCHOLARLY DEBATE

    This is why this sort of debate is pathetic.

    There is not such thing as a “scholarly” debate with a two-three hour time limit.

    A “scholarly debate” would require time for fact checking, time for reasonable response, and no time limit.

  155. #155 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    SteveM – but jesus told his followers to obey the old laws, as well as refuting them later. Oh wait…er, I forgot the bible is inerrant.

  156. #156 AM
    January 27, 2009

    PZ,

    I was present at the debate last night, and couldn’t believe his opening arguments neither. Regardless of his sources, a non-belief in a god cannot lead directly to genocide. It was clear from his presentation that he linked “societies which did not have an official religion” to genocide, which is ridiculous as the ones he cited, as you correctly pointed out, requires necessarily no official religion as they put their leaders (for example Kim Jong Il,) as gods themselves. Those weren’t “atheist” societies, they were societies worships their own ideologues and leaders.

    His second argument was just wrong. Just wordplay. Nature requires the supernatural, therefore, a timeless being exists. Who is the timeless being? He purposefully used a Greek symbol Omega to preface the Bible of “Alpha and Omega”, then it was just Bible quoting afterwards. And I can’t believe his referenced Josephus. That was just intellectual dishonesty.

    The atheist attendees were all in shock, to tell you the truth, at the level of amateur debating tactics Durston put forth; we were there for a debate, instead we got a earload of shameless proselytizing to the Christian portion of the audience. Durston wasn’t there to change minds, he was there to preach to the choir. What a disappointment.

    I wish the Q&A section could be longer so we’d have gotten a few more questions in; I had a pretty good question about that I could’ve asked.

    It was nice to see you there PZ; please visit our city again, maybe next time we’ll get a real debate going.

  157. #157 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    Actually, I think it’s a good learning experience. I don’t think PZ has done many debates of this type. He needs the practice. He’ll learn to come with a plan B and a plan C too…

    Also it’s good to have some good comebacks to set them on their heels…

    “If there’s a god then why is he such a cold uncaring bastard?”

  158. #158 L. Howard
    January 27, 2009

    As far as lying to protect religion goes, the Mormons go everybody else one better. For good examples see http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon329.htm. Here is an excerpt: “My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors.”
    – Apostle Dallin Oaks, footnote 28, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon, Introduction p. xliii

  159. #159 Curtis
    January 27, 2009

    I feel your pain PZ, I was at that debate. I couldn’t believe the guy called Hitler an atheist, and I also don’t think I’ve heard someone make up so much stuff for the sake of trying to come out on top.

    Hopefully our little ballots will show that you won the debate.

  160. #160 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 27, 2009

    Curtis, the “Hitler was an atheist” meme is just as common as “Evolution leads to the Holocaust” meme. There have no backing in reality but they are popular among creationists and christian fundamentalists.

  161. #161 Ann
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis @ #47 “I’m embarrassed to call myself an Atheist or an Agnostic or anything that your ilk might call yourselves because your the reason people hate us so much and think we’re ignorant monsters.”

    And then Dennis @ #98 “And just so we’re clear –I have no faith. I do not beleive in God NOR do I have faith in the absolute disbelief in God.”

    Does anyone notice a bullshitter? Are you in reality Kirk Durston or just someone with a severe mancrush?

  162. #162 Orac
    January 27, 2009

    I used to like Rudy Rummel a lot, but of late I worry that he may be drifting into wingnut territory. For example, he’s listed as a contributing editor over at Dean Esmay’s blog. He’s also been a bit of an apologist for the Iraq War.

    I can only hope he doesn’t know what he got himself into.

  163. #163 Shaden Freud
    January 27, 2009

    Of course Hitler was an atheist. Look at the clearly atheist slogans on these Nazi belt buckles.

  164. #164 CJO
    January 27, 2009

    Jesus was the first Christian

    Just absolute nonsense. Even Paul, superstar apostle of the 40’s and 50’s CE, was at pains to emphasize his Jewishness. The self-identification of Christianity as other than a Jewish sect, among Jews, is a Second Century phenomenon. Of course, there were gentile Christ cults, but the overriding controversy of the 1st Century was the question of whether full conversion to Judaism was a precursor to joining the Elect. That controversy makes no sense if the supposed founder of the sect was believed to have been anything other than a Jew, albeit one with an idiosyncratic theology.

    And the doctrines of orthodox Christianity weren’t established until three hundred years later. Even indisputable Christians of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries followed beliefs and practices that bore little resemblance to modern Christianity.

  165. #165 BdN
    January 27, 2009

    Slightly OT but not completely.

    We’re lucky (or not)! We’re gonna have none other than William Lane Craig in Montreal!

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, it’s not going to be a debate but only a lecture organized by our friends at Campus for Christ..

  166. #166 Ivan
    January 27, 2009

    @BdN

    Not OT at all. Durston likes to parrot Craig’s insanely garbled understanding of the mathematics of infinity all the time.

  167. #167 Joe Cracker
    January 27, 2009

    Woot?
    2) cosmology requires a beginning, and that beginning had to have been a god ???

    People need to update their knowledge on cosmology, there are various scenarios in which the universe does not require a beginning. This argument simply does not stand because we don’t really know how the observable universe came into existence. The “creation” hypothesis is one of the many and cannot be experimentally tested right now.

  168. #168 Jody
    January 27, 2009

    I’m not too terribly worried by PZs poor showing. If he’s in this for the long haul, to become an enduring voice for reason and science, then to be frank, I think he needed a sharp slap to his game.

    From every lecture of PZs I’ve seen or heard, he’s been faced with rather stupid opponents. This was the first time he’s encountered someone smart and crafty.

    I doubt the good doctor is giving up after this. I imagine at this very moment he’s reviewing all the problems with his debate analyzing responses and vowing to rise again from the ashes, a reborn nightmare to the superstitious set.

    :-D

  169. #169 matt
    January 27, 2009

    I too was at the debate and was astounded at PZ’s lack of arguments. I really wanted to hear why there is no God, but you did not even state that. You only said that there is probably no God. Does that mean you are not sure?

    Secondly, this is a university, not a bar so next time please leave the insults and swears at home.

    And lastly, I suppose it would be fairly hard for an atheist to argue when you don’t actually believe in anything. Is that why you had no argument. Stating that God probably does not exist and therefore there is nothing to talk about is not sufficient.

  170. #170 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    Matt you are an idiot.

  171. #171 Siamang
    January 27, 2009

    LOL!!!!

    Sorry PZ, but really, REALLY you should have known better.

    As a wise man once said Mfume, ain’t gonna get fooled again!

    You really, REALLY should have known this was going to happen. REALLY. And INSISTED on time for fact check, a fact check squad, etc. You should have insisted on strong moderation.

    And then, you really SHOULDN’T have agreed to the debate unless you saw a way to really fucking nail him to the wall if he tried any bullshit at all.

    Of all people on this planet, *YOU* should have known.

  172. #172 BdN
    January 27, 2009

    @Ivan

    Thanks for the link. Unfortunately a little bit over my head, but interesting nonetheless!

  173. #173 Hal
    January 27, 2009

    A couple of possible responses to dog-soaked moral posturing:

    I know far too many religious people who aren’t good and good people who aren’t religious to think that there is any necessary connection between religion and morality.

    Religious ethics are a small and extremely uninteresting part of ethics as a whole:
    -Why is something right or good or, conversely, wrong or bad?
    -Because God says so.
    -What are God’s reasons for establishing this standard?
    -Oooooh, mustn’t inquire. That’s theology.

  174. #174 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    Matt [#168] writes: “I suppose it would be fairly hard for an atheist to argue when you don’t actually believe in anything. Is that why you had no argument?”

    Well, here (once again) are the arguments you’re looking for Matt:

    http://stairs.umd.edu/236/meta-atheism.html

    Let us know how they strike you.

    (PZ — you should ‘borrow’ them. I think they work nicely…)

  175. #175 Northern Observer
    January 27, 2009

    Wow.

    I’ve read a few brief reviews/critiques of the debate from people on both sides.

    It’s pretty clear you lost. Badly.

    This blog entry to justify the loss is childish and dishonest. The fanboy comments are worse.

    There was a comment about monkeys throughing poo. PZ had trouble even pinching one off during the debate.

  176. #176 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    Wow. You weren’t even there Northern. But go ahead and disregard the whole part about how the guy lied, Talk about throwing poo. Go wash your hands… it’s time for your nap.

  177. #177 Tricia
    January 27, 2009

    I was there too – instead of heading to the pub with PZ et al, I hung around because I really wanted to ask Durston some questions. Man you should have seen him bob and weave. The man would be safe hunting with Dick Cheney. Highlights included:
    – the horrible things that have happened in history, God allowed to happen because they prevented something even worse
    – even though Christianity is the only real religion, anybody who lives honestly and well should go to heaven (boy do I ever wish I’d brought up John 14:6 at that point)
    – a biology student bringing in a few of Durston’s papers and asking for clarification of the relationship between the fitness functions in Durston’s work and real life. At that point it got a bit too esoteric for me, but what I came away with is that the student wasn’t buying Durston’s explanation
    – something that kept me up all night about how stuff can only be caused by natural causes or free will so clearly the universe was caused by free will because we can’t have natural causes outside of the universe. (there was a digression here about Godel and incompleteness and logic only being useful for minds) So I was up all night trying to figure out how you get hardware for a mind to run on (since Durston likes computer metaphors so much) when all there is, is nothingness, and how one goes about willing anything when there is no time in which to be undertaking any action.
    – he argued that it’s impossible for the universe to have always been here (expansion and contraction, for example), because if the past is infinite then you can never get to the present. He said that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_regress would explain it better than he could, but there’s not a word in there about that, nor is there in any of the “see also” linked articles.

  178. #178 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Andyo #115
    I’m an Apatheist. The results of the big question make no difference to me and ultimately my life. Intellectually though, I find both sides quite stimulating.

    E.V. #123
    If my arguments earn no respect then why are you even bothering to continue to reply to me? FAIL
    And since you’ve decided to continue to use personal attacks against my character I no longer have any interest in directly addressing you as you’ve done nothing to earn MY respect. Double FAIL

    SteveM #132
    I agree that he did not properly address the assertion. Nor did it have anything to do with the actual debate question. This is something that PZ should have directly challenged, but unfortunately he went about it the wrong way. Lesson learned.

    mas528 #153
    I don’t necessarily disagree with that. But with the format that was presented it should have been better organized. A better moderator and better rules should have been set forth as others have already stated.

    Ann #160
    LOL! Why is it that because I don’t share the same beliefs you do that automatically you assume I’m not genuine. I was at the debate. I went with a friend who is familiar with PZ. I honestly did not know who PZ or Durston were until this debate. So my opinion is that of a complete outsider coming to watch a debate about God’s existence. You’re not the first person here to choose not to take me at my word. That’s your own prerogative. I was warned not to get started in an online debate like this and now I understand why. Yeesh.

    Northern Observer #174
    Actually it’s pretty clear NO ONE won the debate. Both sides failed in their arguments. That’s the only thing that’s clear if you’ve read ALL of the reviews/critiques.

  179. #179 James F
    January 27, 2009

    Despite the multiple “don’t debate creationists” admonitions above, we should keep in mind that this was not a creationism vs. evolution debate. As PZ showed with his radio debate with Geoffrey Simmons, he is devastatingly effective in that format. This debate was on the existence of God, which is a philosophical free-for-all by comparison.

  180. #180 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    I think atheism/theism debates are worthwhile, regardless of whether or not the atheist “wins.” Theists are in the majority, and one of the main ways they maintain that status is by pretending that the existence of God isn’t really questionable. Everyone believes. God is a given, a fact accepted by all reasonable people, and there is no legitimate ‘other side.’

    Thus, for this topic, the atheist is in a position similar to the creationist. Just the fact that there is a debate seems to suggest that there is, in fact, a debate. There are not one but two sides, both supported by reason and argument. The audience is invited to make up their own mind, and some will go one way, and others the other way.

    What works against the scientist, work for the atheist.

    It’s very common in debates on the existence of God for the theist to work on an outline of 4 to 6 “reasons” to believe in God. William Lane Craig usually gives his standard 5-point argument, with 2 or 3 alternative substitutes. I agree with the comment above on the importance of knowing your opponent. I’d add that it’s also important to study some of the other major theist debaters, because they’ll frequently borrow from each other. The more experience, the better.

    What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. You did not get killed. You will be stronger.

  181. #181 Nathan
    January 27, 2009

    Northern Observer oh brother!

    I was at the debate and I can assure you that Durston’s entire argument consisted of logical fallacies and as PZ put it “Biblical Bullshit”

    I particularly found it amusing that he tried to argue that atheists were supposed to be evil murderers while he tried to justify the Canaanite genocide

    and Patrician, OM, It was awesome to meet both PZ and Brownian.

  182. #182 Wilson Fowlie
    January 27, 2009

    Hey, PZ, were you at the University of Alberta for all this? (I can’t remember from your previous posts.)

    Did the University scale back the references to God in a convocation speech, thanks to the protests of an atheist/agnostic group, while you were there?

    Well done, the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics!

  183. #183 Ivan
    January 27, 2009

    @Tricia

    he argued that it’s impossible for the universe to have always been here (expansion and contraction, for example), because if the past is infinite then you can never get to the present. He said that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_regress would explain it better than he could, but there’s not a word in there about that, nor is there in any of the “see also” linked articles.

    Funny you should mention that pile of complete crap. (that’s the last time I post that link, promise)

    This isn’t that hard to understand. All you have to do is ask, “you can’t get to the present from when?” No matter what time in the past you pick, arbitrarily far back (38 kajillion years ago), it’s still a finite time away from the present.

  184. #184 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    “He was attempting to claim that in fact it was Godless Atheistic Societies that have been far more destructive. He took the atheistic assertion as an attack against him and his belief in God. Which when he turned the tables is exactly what PZ and most Atheists replying here today are doing. Taking the assertion as an attack against themselves.”

    Well, I tend to get annoyed when people imply that those who believe as I do are genocidal monsters, and that is exactly what he was doing, if not intentionally, then there’s no way it wouldn’t come across as such. At worst, it’s character assassination, at best, it’s dishonest baiting. How you can defend him for that is beyond me.

    And I, for one, would REALLY like to know what these supposed “insults” were that were so very debate-ruining.

    matt:
    “And lastly, I suppose it would be fairly hard for an atheist to argue when you don’t actually believe in anything.”

    Not believing in fairy tales =/= not believing in anything. Your mind must be pretty limited if that’s what you think.

  185. #185 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    I’ve watched every debate posted on YouTube by Dawkins, Dennett, PZ and Hitch, the one thing I would love to see one of them do is have a running list of gawds crimes on the display screens behind them when they weren’t using a specific slide to prove a point. Sort of like a background score board.

  186. #186 Smidgy
    January 27, 2009

    Northern Observer (@174), yes, PZ appeared to get beaten, in parts, but that was because PZ was too honest – he wasn’t prepared to make things up, pull things out his arse and quotemine/misquote people. Durston was. Because of this, and the fact that audiences in debates like this are willing to give the speakers the benefit of the doubt (and assume they’re being honest, unless proven otherwise during the debate), it seemed to them that PZ was off-topic and got skewered quite badly by Durston (and then got skewered back due to his inadequate knowledge of biology). It’s only when you actually check up later as to the accuracy of what Durston said that you realise this.

    Personally, without the knowledge of the fact half of what Durston said was pure and utter bullshit, from what I saw of it, it was pretty much a draw. With that knowledge, PZ clearly wins.

    Oh, and Matt @168, it’s the religious folk that are making the claim that there’s a magical, invisible Sky-Daddy. Why should atheists have to postively disprove that any more than they should have to positively disprove the existance of unicorns, faeries, elves or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  187. #187 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    Sastra @ 179

    No, I will not agree on your premise, no matter how hackneyed and debatable it has become. Your last three sentences would have been a great default condition for the Inquisition.

  188. #188 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Rey Fox #183
    I’m not defending Durston. I just understand where he was coming from and the point he was trying to make. I don’t agree with it at all, but it was a debate after all with two very different points of view. It was PZ job to pin him to the wall for those statements and at the time he did not.

    If you can’t understand how insulting someones point of view during a scholarly debate can ruin said debate and dilute your own arguments then I honestly don’t know how to explain it to you… If all you bring to the table is childish name calling then you really have no argument. I don’t care what you think about the Bible –YOU DON’T CALL IT BULLSHIT DURING A DEBATE. Save that for the bar after the event is over. In a room full of educated adults only a low person with no real arguments resorts to name calling. How can you not agree with that? And PZ did have good arguments, so he really did not need to shoot below the belt like that. Irregardless of how Durston was acting PZ should have been the bigger man. Stick to your points and don’t allow yourself to get distracted by your own ego. That’s how you conducts yourself during a debate.

  189. #189 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Nathan – OK, so just how cute is Brownian? I promise I’ll keep my school girl squeals down to a dull roar if he looks like a young Indiana Jones.

  190. #190 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 27, 2009

    when I pointed out that Hitler was Catholic and Germans were Catholic and Lutheran, Durston replied that he might have been formerly a Lutheran (?)

    Bullshit in the philosophical sense of the word. It’s wrong and extremely improbable (rural Austria is completely Catholic), and Durston evidently doesn’t care.

    If Hitler was a Catholic, he was an ex-Catholic. Otherwise, why did he publicly vow to destroy the Catholic Church?

    Did he? All I know is that he said privately he’d get even with the churches “after Final Victory?”.

    And many, many, many Catholic Priests and nuns were executed in the Camps.

    Yes, but not for being Catholic, let alone for believing in a god.

    If Hitler was an atheist, why did he kill Jews?

    Wait. He didn’t use a religious definition of “Jew”, he used one of ancestry. To him, it was a matter of “blood”. Converts to Christianity were still killed, and their children too.

    One wonders what the death toll would have been in the Thirty Years War had the population levels been like they are today, and if they had the weapons technology available now.

    Don’t. Don’t ever think about it.

    By the same logic I can add together the bodycounts of Hitler, the Inquisition, Saddam Husein and the US in Vietnam as being caused by non-Communists in order to show how an absence of Communism leads to way more deaths than Communism, so Communism must be good.

    No, because you won’t arrive at 80 million that way, let alone 100 or 120 million.

    this day in age

    In this day and age.

    Josef Goebbels was excommunicated for a most terrible offense against God.

    Namely?

    a Nazi (the current pope)

    I have yet to see evidence of that. What I’ve seen points to the contrary. Remember that before 1938, not joining the Hitler Youth made the parents highly suspect; afterwards, not joining it was simply illegal.

  191. #191 fb
    January 27, 2009

    @ Steve_M 114
    Yep I was referring to eastern Canada, the maritimes specifically. (the original post from “Canuck” should have given that away

    @ Holbach #120
    Ontario did not allow sunday shopping until 1991, Nova scotia & PEI 2006. Alberta allowed sunday shopping since 1982.

    Alberta may be a “Con” province, but it does not have a monopoly on crazy religious fundies. They are scattered across Canada

  192. #192 Smidgy
    January 27, 2009
    Josef Goebbels was excommunicated for a most terrible offense against God.

    Namely?

    Marrying a Protestant.

  193. #193 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    fb @ 190

    Thanks for the info.

  194. #194 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Way to get your panties in a bunch Dennis. Calling bullshit what is bullshit is just telling the truth. You better run from here if the word bullshit offends you. Sissy.

  195. #195 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    Patricia, OM @ 193

    And I second and third that bullshit, and with additional bullshit on top of that. Bullshit forever.

  196. #196 PZ Myers
    January 27, 2009

    Did I lose the debate? In a sense, yes. My opening remarks were aimed at making two points: that religious stories about godly intervention in the universe were incoherent and inconsistent, and that we had powerful natural explanations for the origin of biological information, using the example of gene duplication in the Hox cluster. That last bit was set up to bring people up to speed on the basics of molecular information, and included several examples of material that could be used against Durston’s usual arguments about the impossibility of information. He very effectively scuttled that discussion by using his time to make accusations of amorality against all atheists (we are apparently supposed to just commit suicide because we have no purpose in life), babbling about first causes at the beginning of time, and then going off with a lot of biblical pseudoscholarship ala CS Lewis.

    He was tactically smart in the way he maneuvered the debate into subjects that he could trust I would be unprepared for — I will concede him that. He was strategically stupid in that relying on dishonesty and evasion in a debate is contemptible.

  197. #197 IST
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis> Firstly, I didn’t ask, nor can I be convinced to care, about your credentials. My point was that if you call an attack on the basis of someone’s argument an ad hominem attack, you’re lying. Perhaps PZ’s reaction to the intro was thin-skinned, perhaps it wasn’t. Since I failed to hear how the comments were actually framed, I can’t make that judgement. Ironic or not, it still invalidates your whining about personal attacks.

  198. #198 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Patricia, OM #193
    You guys crack me up. I never said I was never offended by PZ’s choice of words. I was offended by his lack of tact and civility. Was I expecting too much in a University setting?

  199. #199 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    he argued that it’s impossible for the universe to have always been here (expansion and contraction, for example), because if the past is infinite then you can never get to the present.

    I’ve seen that argument before and I think it begs the question [and I think I’m even using that expression correctly] of a beginning to the universe. Since the idea of having to “travel” from an infinite past to the present is assuming that you “started” travelling (at minus inf). But infinity is not a “position” that you can start (or end) at. If you are able to “start” there then that implies there is nothing before it, but that contradicts it being infinite.

  200. #200 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    So as long as PZ lied through his teeth nicely with decorum… you’d be cool with it.

    Dumb. Debates aren’t always nice… especially when dealing with liars.

  201. #201 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 27, 2009

    There is not such thing as a “scholarly” debate with a two-three hour time limit.

    A “scholarly debate” would require time for fact checking, time for reasonable response, and no time limit.

    Let me just repeat that. And again. And again. And again?

  202. #202 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis, yes you certainly were.

    We are the front line veterans. We’ve heard it all before, and we are heartily sick and tired of the constant harangue to be kind and gentle with the damned lying, cheating, loudmouthed arrogant assholes that call themselves godly. That’s more bullshit, and we aren’t going to play nice.

  203. #203 Frank Lovell
    January 27, 2009

    “…I don’t care what you think about the Bible –YOU DON’T CALL IT BULLSHIT DURING A DEBATE. Save that for the bar after the event is over…” — Dennis

    Good point! Um…how ’bout “vacuous piffle?”

    Yeah, that might be a tad redundant…but only a tad.

    “…yes, PZ appeared to get beaten, in parts, but that was because PZ was too honest – he wasn’t prepared to make things up, pull things out his arse and quotemine/misquote people. Durston was…” — Smidgy

    Good point! Based on the factual and logical content of what both presented, PZ wins handily, but (alas) most in the audience score points just on rhetoric and style without even questioning (let alone thoughtfully weighing) during the debate (nor even later/post-mortem) the factual claims or logical content.

    Again, unless one can get agreement to debate a proposition that very narrowly limits the subject of the debate’s focus, it is better to not debate creationists/theists (at least not in real time — some written debate formats allow more opportunity to dissect the opponent’s presentations and tease-out straw man and red-herring arguments, fallacious logic, and false assertions for special attention).

  204. #204 Joel
    January 27, 2009

    I was there too and when PZ called bullshit on his bible crap and called his functional information stuff crackpot or whatever I almost got up and clapped. Why is it that people think they can pass off crap and get respect for it. I think it was good that PZ started with the leprechaun comment too. Having a debate on the existence of god is the exact same thing – it’s just a stupid topic. It should have been on intelligent design vs evolution coz clearly that guy was a DI kool aid drinker.

    My favorite part of the debate though was when PZ got into some cool science stuff. It’s too bad that he couldn’t get to the core point he was trying to make in the time he had.

  205. #205 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    Holbach #186 wrote:

    No, I will not agree on your premise, no matter how hackneyed and debatable it has become.

    Which premise?

    Your last three sentences would have been a great default condition for the Inquisition.

    I agree that “what does not kill you, makes you stronger” is not only a lousy general life philosophy, but it’s often empirically false. It can still be useful as a motivational frame, though. I only meant that a debater can learn from their mistakes, and use that knowledge to improve.

  206. #206 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Next time you’re personally in a debate with someone and you insult them in a tactless ignorant manner –watch their face– and then think to yourself if what you’ve done was in service of supporting your argument or if in fact you’ve not only hurt the point you were trying to make, but also your own personal reputation. You’d be surprised how showing respect can make people who would otherwise ignore you suddenly listen to everything you have to say.

    This is the last time I’m going to address the insults issue. If my point isn’t blatantly obvious by now then I will never be able to make it with this crowd. Perhaps being Canadian and at least a few years older then the University crowd in attendance has given me a different perspective on how one should conduct themselves in public?

  207. #207 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Thanks Holbach! That cracked me up. ;o)

  208. #208 Rob
    January 27, 2009

    Sounds like the usual debate strategy of the “New Scholars Society.” I was a member of this group during the mid-90s, used to know Durston, have read just about everything written by William Lane Craig, and witnessed or helped organize about 10 debates.

    So, for next time, and I hope there will be a next time, here are a few tips you may find helpful:

    First, It’s not good enough just to know your stuff. You have to know how to *debate* which is a separate skill set. You went up against a guy who has probably debated in that format 50 to 100 times. You’re right that he avoided topics where his knowledge was weak, but that’s what skilled debaters do. Yes, it’s unfair, but this is what these guys do. They’re hired guns for Jesus.

    Second, the main arguments used by Wm Craig and his acolytes have been around since the early 90s and most are based around Craig’s own debates and scholarly works. Much of this stuff is on the web now, including full debate transcripts. Get your hands on it. Learn it backward and forward. If you had done your homework, you’d have seen the “atheistic core of societies generating evil” argument coming ten miles away and had your reply ready for your first rebuttal, rather than here on the blog.

    Third, make sure you have both positive arguments for your position, negative arguments against its denial which are *distinct*, and have a slam-dunk rebuttal ready against the main lines of argument from your opponent which does not depend on your principal arguments. Make your arguments look good *and* make his look bad.

    Fourth, and most importantly, don’t get frustrated on stage. If a Scholars debater senses you getting tense, or if in a moment of frustration you belittle him or his position, he will chide you with good humour, maintain his cool, and immediately win audience sympathy. It’s a key psychological tactic, and I saw it employed with tremendous effect by every Scholars debater but never once by an opponent. They’re very good at getting their opponents upset or tense, and they know how to use it.

    Fifth, quite often, these events will have heavily packed audiences who are Christian. The Christian debate organizers market aggressively, and it bears fruit. Don’t let that phase you. Advance marketing by a local campus skeptics group or secular society can make a big difference. It’s no fun feeling like you’re debating as the “away” team in front of the home crowd.

    Sixth, decline all opportunities to discuss the debate in advance. Stay totally tight-lipped about your main arguments. Giving that away *will* lead to last-minute cramming by your opponent. Dirty? Yeah. Effective? Hell, yeah!

    Here’s a link to many of Craig’s key debates:
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/debates.html

    Here’s another Durston debate, where you’ll see many of the same moves he likely pulled on you:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/02/jeffrey-shallit-debates-ider-kirk.html

    These guys are very good at what they do, and we’ve got to be as good as them, or they make us look like uptight sputtering grumps.

  209. #209 Brownian
    January 27, 2009

    Was I expecting too much in a University setting?

    Uh, since the topic was on the existence of leprechauns writ large, yes.

    However, next week, when I host a similarly scholarly colloquium on whether the magic contained in my earwax is earth magic or water magic, I’ll ask the speakers to refrain from referring to my lengthy treatises on the subject as ‘bullshit’ in the name of civility and decorum.

    Noting that even the most cursory study of history reveals that all genocides have been perpetrated by societies that have at their core refused to accept the magicality of my earwax in an attempt to tar and feather the other debater is, of course, completely acceptable.

  210. #210 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Patricia, OM #201
    Fair enough. That I understand 100%. Just don’t be surprised when no one listens and the media paints you in an unflattering light. The Theists are media savvy and know how to work a room. I’m not saying you need to agree with it, but that’s something to learn from.

  211. #211 Joe Cracker
    January 27, 2009

    I’m getting tired of people having problems with the line:
    “There is most proabably no God”
    This is the only honest position because:
    1) the default position is “There is no God”
    2) you cannot prove a negative
    3) all pro-God arguments have either been refuted or they don’t make sense

    So! There is most proabably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

    This should be the only avenue for atheists to debate theists. State the above and then wait for their arguments and refute them one by one.

  212. #212 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    “I don’t care what you think about the Bible –YOU DON’T CALL IT BULLSHIT DURING A DEBATE. ”

    Well you see, PZ was just bringing an argument against a book. If anyone chooses to take that assertion as a personal attack, then he’s just being thin-skinned.

  213. #213 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis, we already know what they will say about us. We hear it almost everyday. Janine gets called a vile bitch, I get called a crack whore. PZ’s blog is ground zero for the christians. PZ got death threats over a cracker. I think he has earned the right to say bullshit any time and any where he chooses.

  214. #214 Holbach
    January 27, 2009

    Rey Fox @ 211

    The analogy would be the same if I yelled out “bible” if the other debater claimed atheists are immoral. Call that pathetic dreck of superstitious nonsense bible, bullshit, or cracker, and the meaning, inference and inherent idea is still unchanged. I think the dictionary should incur a new meaning, preferably right after the initial meaning. ” No 2: bullshit, meaning all that it means to convey and all that it hopes to convey.” As I say again, “bible”.

  215. #215 Nerd of Redhead
    January 27, 2009

    Poor Dennis is concerned. Personally, I am concerned that he is concerned about PZ’s languge. We have names for wusses like Dennis who can’t stand other people calling a spade a spade. And honest ain’t one of them.

  216. #216 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    If my arguments earn no respect then why are you even bothering to continue to reply to me? FAIL

    Okay junior cadet, just make up a quote and then dismiss it? You were DISRESPECTFUL and then went on an emoticon rampage and a little sock puppetting for damage control, and then you overreact and fabricate straw man arguments?
    NOW, you’ve lost any respect I would have had for any of your schtick. Come back when you can argue coherently, doofus.

  217. #217 raven
    January 27, 2009

    In these sorts of “debates”, The calmest person usually does the best.

    1. No one has ever been able to prove the existence of god(s).

    2. No one has ever been able to disprove the existence of god(s) either.

    Even atheists like Bertrand Russel and Dawkins just say god(s) are very unlikely. You could say the same thing about invisible pink unicorns, teapots around Jupiter, or leprechuans.

    So it all comes down to style and arguments. Having been there myself (not about gods, other controversies), keeping ones head helps enormously. If you tense up, the fight or flight reflex kicks in. Your mind stops working, except for the reptilian hind brain.

    Just repeat the mantra, “The calmest person wins” and learn to keep calm and this works suprisingly well.

    Wasn’t in Edmonton* of course, sounds like Durston was long on bafflegab and lies and short on truth.

    *On a map, Edmonton seems improbably far north in the interior of N. America. Hard to believe people really live that far north, must be really cold and dark during the winter. Down here, if it gets below 40 F., people think it is cold.

  218. #218 Brownian
    January 27, 2009

    There’s something to be said for coming across as being pleasant, but keep in mind some of the most popular conservative and Christian pundits are anything but. For all the vituperation Hitchins receives, he’s still sold more copies of God is Not Great than Nisbet has jars of pomade. You could debate them dressed like a Care Bear, and the theists in the audience would still be picturing Hitler and Stalin aborting Mother Teresa under the suit.

    I say we use their fear against them: the next time a theist makes an Atheism = Hitler argument in a debate, eat his face right in front of his horrified audience, screaming “Where is your god now?!” in your best Al Jourgensen voice. Better yet, involve the audience by simply standing there clinking three beer bottles and chanting, “Theists, come out to pla-ay!

    Man, that’d be a debate I’d like to kick some ass in watch respectfully.

    It was good to meet you too, Nathan. I’ll make sure to give blood with you guys the next time you go.

  219. #219 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    Irregardless

    Dennis -FAIL

  220. #220 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    Rob #207 wrote:

    Fourth, and most importantly, don’t get frustrated on stage. If a Scholars debater senses you getting tense, or if in a moment of frustration you belittle him or his position, he will chide you with good humour, maintain his cool, and immediately win audience sympathy… They’re very good at getting their opponents upset or tense, and they know how to use it.

    Yes. Which is why I agree that PZ should refrain from “bullshit” and the like in a debate. It will be used against him, to make him appear as if he is frustrated because he and his arguments are outmatched. This is a competition.

    Saying it when giving a talk or lecture is a different situation.

  221. #221 Jenn
    January 27, 2009

    Thanks for coming to Edmonton! I thought it was a great debate. Absolutely hilarious beginning!!! Your response to the morality and god question made my January.

    All the talk about Hitler’s religous beliefs was irrelevant filler. How did it answer anything about the existance of God? That was Durstin’s main problem. I’ll give him that his first argument about timlessness was at least interesting, but thereafter he talked a lot, but didn’t manage to communicate a whole lot of anything.

  222. #222 Eamon Knight
    January 27, 2009

    I find it interesting (in the insinuative sense) that Durston avoided talking about biological information, given that’s his big research schtick, and he’s been known to bring it up in comments at Sandwalk and Recursivity. You’d think he’d be proud of his baby. Or did he think that PZ would beat him on that topic?

  223. #223 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    I’m curious… at what point did PZ call bullshit?

  224. #224 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    My last word to Dennis:

    I I was quite disgusted watching PZ. He really made a fool out of himself…
    I have to wonder if this was your first debate of this nature because you were excruciatingly boring in your delivery of even dryer material.
    At this point anyone with half a brain was done with this sad little debate. I’m embarrassed to call myself an Atheist or an Agnostic or anything that your ilk might call yourselves because your the reason people hate us so much and think we’re ignorant monsters.
    Quick bit of advice Dr. Myers. Don’t do anymore debates unless you’re prepared to debate a point of view with more then insults. You can not argue a point of view by simply rejecting your opponents point of view. This makes you look ignorant, pig headed and you only hurt your point of view in the long run.

    So your lesson to PZ about opening with an insult…?

  225. #225 Brownian
    January 27, 2009

    On a map, Edmonton seems improbably far north in the interior of N. America. Hard to believe people really live that far north, must be really cold and dark during the winter. Down here, if it gets below 40 F., people think it is cold.

    Raven, I’ll have you know that the average wintertime temperature in Edmonton is about -10°C (14°F)–it’s actually 0°C right now–and as for winter darkness, we’re actually south of Belfast, Leeds, all of Scotland, Copenhagen, and about equal with Hamburg, so, like, there.

    We do have a dearth of buildings that aren’t characterless beigey-gray abominations built in the 1970s, so the city’s aesthetic leaves a lot to be desired when not clothed in summertime green. As a result, I try to open my eyes as little as possible in February.

  226. #226 Marcus Ranum
    January 27, 2009

    If Hitler was an “ex-catholic”, then why was he never excommunicated? Why were none of his followers ever excommunicated?

    Christopher Hitchens once pointed out that only one of the Nazi Party elite was excommunicated — and that was Goebbels. He was excommunicated for marrying a divorced protestant.

  227. #227 Tim
    January 27, 2009

    As far as I am concerned, anyone who actually wanted to witness a debate on this topic would agree with the main point made by Dennis in #47 (it is in there), regardless of the time alotted for the process. Growing up in a (Canadian) Pentecostal home as a pastor’s kid, I only accepted the fallacy of my childhood’s enforced indoctrination relatively recently, after 30+ years of being “a believer”. Being new to investigating and claiming atheistic views, I wanted to hear some clearly-defined, properly-presented, and even well-rehearsed (or well-used) debate material from PZ Myers. PZ should have been prepared for the debate whether he was the first or second presenter (despite the obvious bias of the moderator). The leprachaun reference to begin his opening statement was more than acceptable, one might say genious. It was pertinent to the topic, humorous, and left the listener waiting for more (at least this listener). Unfortunately, what followed was not debate material…more like ‘undy-bate’ material. To use the analogy used in #3, PZ wasted the time alotted for his opening statement – intended to present his material – and chose to sling handfuls of poo for far too long before professionalism got the better of him. Surprisingly, it was my long-time atheist friend who recommended that we leave shortly after Q&A began…he was more tired of the debacle than I was.

    Unfortunately, Durston seemed more prepared and stuck with the debate program better than PZ, despite Durston’s tactics. As a person who makes even a part of his profession travelling the continent (and possibly the world?) to participate in these debates, PZ really should have presented his position and left the indignant comments for rebuttal, if they were necessary at all. I wasn’t impressed and the more I think about last night, the less impressed I am. I still find PZ Myers interesting and informative, often expressing my similar views in a way I would not (eg: crackergate), but I think I will stick to checking out this blog every once in a while. If the opportunity arose again, I would not sit through another of his “debates”…at least not unless/until someone convinces me that he has improved his technique.

    @ Joel, #203 => By talking at a regular pace while remaining on topic, PZ could have made it to the core point in the time he had. I was looking forward to that.

    Incidentally, “my long-time atheist friend” and I questioned whether perhaps PZ had a few sips from his flask shortly before the debate began. It certainly would have explained a lot and claiming “I was drunk…” would be good enough for me. 8)

  228. #228 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Rey Fox #211
    To us it’s just a book, but to them it’s so very much more. I know you know this. That’s the context in which I am using.

    Patricia, OM #212
    As I stated earlier, I’m a total noob to this. Up until last night I didn’t know who PZ was, so I am unaware of that past history. It’s my fault for coming in here with a level of ignorance. Thanks for helping me understand a tiny bit.

    As for the lame insults still coming from some of you… like I said before, I was warned about the level of childishness that some of you bring to the table. You’re just as bad as those Theist you hate and clearly don’t understand. Live and learn. :)

  229. #229 Qwerty
    January 27, 2009

    Many posters have said “Don’t debate creationists” or something to that effect. They may have a point in that trying to have a “rational” debate with someone who thinks “irrationally” may be futile.

    But I don’t think we shouldn’t debate at all as these same self-serving irrationalists will say: “See, I won, they won’t even debate me!

    So, PZ, have at it.

  230. #230 Lowell
    January 27, 2009

    Holbach #213,

    I like your new meaning of bible. As in, “Durston’s argument was a steaming load of bible.”

  231. #231 mezzobuff
    January 27, 2009

    I agree with Querty #228: Have at it, practice makes perfect. Sounds like this was a rough one, but way to hang in there PZ! Hard to debate those who bring up obscure “facts” that end up being fallacies… and it sounds like you rocked the Q&A afterwards!

  232. #232 Norman Doering
    January 27, 2009

    Bart Mitchell wrote:

    “Ya, and christianity is responsible for AIDS, the flu, bot flies, and bad grammar.”

    You should add “logocide,” they destroy the meaning of words.

  233. #233 Silver Fox
    January 27, 2009

    I had never heard of Kirk Durston, so I’ve prowled around and found a lot of material on him. He seems to be a top gun for intelligent design. Many of the postings note that he avoided biological evolution issues, but, I did find this attributed to him and wondered about it.

    “Natural processes, over the history of the universe, have the potential to produce up to 70 bits of information. Unfortunately, just one, average 300-residue protein requires about 500 bits to encode. The simplest theoretical life form would need somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250 protein-coding genes.”

    Is this correct?

  234. #234 Snark7
    January 27, 2009

    One can’t debate a liar who’s ruthless enough. True believers are the most experienced and professional liars in the world. They have an amount of practice you can’t hope to match as they are lying to themselve every second.

  235. #235 SteveF
    January 27, 2009

    r.e. 113, Durston seems to be doing at least part of his PhD on trying to quantify biological information. Here is an excerpt from one of his essays:

    Darwinian theory also requires another prediction:

    P2- Since an average, 300 amino acid protein requires approximately 500 bits of functional information to encode, and even the simplest organism requires a few hundred protein-coding genes, variation and natural selection should be able to consistently generate the functional information required to encode a completely novel protein.

    Functional information is information that performs a function. When applied to organisms, functional information is information encoded within their genomes that performs some biological function. Typically, the amount of functional information required to encode an average, 300 amino-acid protein is in the neighborhood of 500 bits and most organisms contain thousands of protein-coding genes in their genome. Most combinations of amino acids will not produce a stable, three dimensional folded protein structure. Furthermore, the sequence space that encodes a stable folding protein tends to be surrounded by non-folding sequence space. Thus, to generate a novel protein with a stable fold, an evolutionary pathway must cross non-folding sequence space via a random walk, where natural selection will be inoperative. Thus, it requires functional information to properly specify a biological protein with a stable secondary structure. Recent computer simulations have failed to generate 32 bits of functional information in 2 x 10^7 trials, unless the distance between selection points is kept to 2, 4, and 8-bit steps. Such small gaps between selection points are highly unrealistic for biological proteins, which tend to be separated by non-folding regions of sequence space too large for the evolution of a novel protein to proceed by selection. Organic life requires thousands of different proteins, each requiring an average of 500 bits to encode. 32 bits is far too small to encode even one, average protein. An approximate and optimistic upper limit can be computed for the distance between selection points that could be bridged over the history of organic life if we postulate 1030 bacteria, replicating every 30 minutes for 4 billion years, with a mutation rate of 10-6 mutations per 1000 base pairs per replication. The upper limit falls between 60 and 100 bits of functional information, not sufficient to locate a single, average folding protein in protein sequence space. The Darwinian prediction P2, therefore, appears to be falsified. Variation and natural selection simply does not appear to have the capacity to generate the amount of functional information required for organic life

    http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Origins%20and%20Explanations.pdf

    Here’s more formal examples of his research:

    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/pdf/1742-4682-4-47.pdf

    http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Durston&Chiu%20paper.pdf

    There was an interesting debate with Jeff Shallit at Shallit’s blog:

    http://recursed.blogspot.com/2008/06/oh-inanity-slack-in-scientist.html

    He concludes one post by saying:

    In general, biology is about 50 years behind the rest of science when it comes to information theory and how it relates to protein structure and function. Hazen’s paper, simple approach as it is, should have been published 50 years ago, within 10 years of Shannon’s original paper. Leon Brillouin actually published a similar paper to Hazen’s albeit more rigorous, in 1951. The Darwinists saw the implications and abandoned ship. I’ve personally, on several occasions, run into Darwinists who deliberately recommend against applying information theory to biopolymers.

    He also recommends papers by a few other people on the “information” front:

    Szostak, J.W. (2003) Functional information: Molecular messages. Nature, 423, 689.

    Hazen, R.M. et al. (2007) Functional information and the emergence of biocomplexity. PNAS, 104, 8574-8581

    http://www.pnas.org/content/104/suppl.1/8574.full.pdf+html

    I would have been interested to see PZ debate him on these concepts. Also, since he attacks the AVIDA program for not producing biologically meaningful quantities of evolution through it’s simulations of evolution, the response of the AVIDA group (maybe Wesley Elsberry, who now works there).

  236. #236 Steve_C
    January 27, 2009

    It’s an interesting question Silver Fox because Durston didn’t bring any of that up in the debate and that’s why PZ was there… he’s a biologist, and Durston makes ID claims.
    Except in a debate he knows he’s outgunned.

  237. #237 Wowbagger
    January 27, 2009

    He seems to be a top gun for intelligent design.

    Which, in real terms, makes him a rusty Crimean War era musket with no sights, firing minié balls made out of tuna salad.

    At an M1 Abrams.

  238. #238 NewEnglandBob
    January 27, 2009

    Lurker @151

    I never said political science is some kind of front for creationism.

    I disagree that it is a mature social science.

  239. #239 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    “To us it’s just a book, but to them it’s so very much more. I know you know this. ”

    Well what if it’s just as much an insult to me to be compared to Stalin and Mao? Calling the bible “bullshit” is bad form, but I still fail to see how it’s any more an insult than anything Dunston said. To me, an insult is directly calling someone an idiot, or a dupe, or a tool of the papacy. And so far, no one has convinced me that PZ actually insulted anyone during this debate.

  240. #240 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis, We do know what the christians think of their bible. Many here are former christians of many sects. I am from a long line of tongues speaking, floor rolling, snake kissing lunatics. I was a fundie probably longer than you’ve been alive, if you are a student.

    If you hang out here for awhile you’ll see that the christians come trolling here looking to convert the evil atheists, not the other way around. And yes, it will turn into a bar-fight, no Marquis of Queensbury rules.

  241. #241 Nerd of Redhead
    January 27, 2009

    Silver Fox, you are dumb if you believe anything any creationist/IDer says. They just are not not capable of telling the truth.

  242. #242 raven
    January 27, 2009

    “Natural processes, over the history of the universe, have the potential to produce up to 70 bits of information. Unfortunately, just one, average 300-residue protein requires about 500 bits to encode. The simplest theoretical life form would need somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250 protein-coding genes.”

    Is this correct?

    No, it is bafflegab. Durston makes incorrect and obviously dumb assumptions and then proceeds to generate erroneous conclusions. No one takes him seriously in science.

  243. #243 Wowbagger
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis wrote:

    As for the lame insults still coming from some of you… like I said before, I was warned about the level of childishness that some of you bring to the table. You’re just as bad as those Theist you hate and clearly don’t understand. Live and learn.

    Well, maybe you should tell the person who ‘warned you’ about the mean, scary Pharyngulites that we’re even less accommodating to assclown douchebag concern trolls than we are to idiot theists.

    Oh, and also that calling someone an idiot (or, for that matter, an assclown douchebag concern troll) ? hate.

  244. #244 T_U_T
    January 27, 2009

    One thing I don’t understand is, why PZ took part in a shouting match/demagoguery contest like that at all

  245. #245 Ann
    January 27, 2009

    Re: Dennis @ #177

    I wasn’t debating with you. I wasn’t calling your arguments bullshit, but I was rather calling you a bullshitter because you contradicted yourself after claiming inclusion in the same “ilk” as us “monstrous” atheists and then saying that you weren’t in another comment. It takes a real bullshitter to contradict oneself, though I guess calling yourself apatheist after the fact works out nicely.

    Also, your comment of “faith in the absolute disbelief in God” (at #98) is an incorrect assessment of what atheism actually is. Atheism is NOT faith. Faith is blind. Faith is stupid. Atheism is doubt in faith and a need for proof.

    If god magically appeared in front of me I?d first get my head checked. If all goes well with my head and god is still around doing miracles or other god stuff, yeah, I?m going to start believing in him. Thus, I, as an atheist do not have absolute disbelief in him. I just highly doubt his existence until proven otherwise.

    In regards to a comment you made to Patricia, why bother with the dire warnings? Theists ALWAYS paint non-believers in an unflattering light regardless of being media savvy or not. Everyone needs a bad guy, everyone needs a scapegoat, and atheists get to be it.

    I do however agree with you to an extent. PZ shouldn?t have used that kind of language in a formal debate. If that?s your only argument, we get it. If you?re going to just continually whine about how you were warned against going into such a childish forum, why are you still here?

    And please ?forgive? my doubt in your honesty and your character. Doubting is just what I do.

  246. #246 Sigmund
    January 27, 2009

    Silver Fox #232
    The creationist probability argument involving proteins is based on the assumption that the earliest functioning lifeform was a bacterial cell. IF that were the case then they actually would have a reasonable point. The probabilities are far too small that something of this nature could spontaneously form as the first replicating lifeform.
    What the creationists studiously fail to mention, however, is that modern molecular evolutionary thinking places this proto-bacteria not at the beginning of evolution on Earth but somewhere around the mid-point in the timeline of evolution. We consider much simpler molecular structures (catalytic polynucleic acid chains, for instance) as the most likely beginnings of biochemical evolution. The probability of these forming is certainly within the limits of time and conditions we have expect from the geological record.
    As for Tim #226
    “Incidentally, “my long-time atheist friend” and I questioned whether perhaps PZ had a few sips from his flask shortly before the debate began.”
    Come on people, out with it.
    Did someone here advise PZ to debate in the style of Christopher Hitchens?

  247. #247 Dennis
    January 27, 2009

    Rey Fox #237
    Then we will just have to agree to disagree. I have no problem with that. At this point I do understand your point of view and I hope you might understand mine. I can ask for nothing more.

    Wowbagger #241
    *yawn*

  248. #248 Chris Bradley
    January 27, 2009

    IME, one of the most effective practical arguments when a Christian brings up “atheist atrocities” is to point out that every one of the people that they bring up were religious. Stalin is particularly fun because he was a seminarian. They go, “Stalin killed millions of people!” and I go “he learned it in seminary”. They go, “Pol Pot killed millions of people!” and I said “he learned it Catholic school”.

  249. #249 samuel black
    January 27, 2009

    The argument that religion is needed for morality defeats itself. The premise is that morality is desirable, and if the religious assume that this premise is automatically accepted by everyone, including atheists, then they admit that religion is not needed to desire morality. Case closed.

    To put it in the present context, by assuming that atheists agree that Stalin was evil, the theist admits that you don?t need religion to reject genocide.

    On the other hand, the bible specifically advocates many things atheists and theists agree are immoral, including genocide.

  250. #250 Wowbagger
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis,

    *yawn*

    Oh, is it time for you to go to bed, Dennis? Nighty-night then. Maybe when you’re a few years older your Mommy will let you stay up late and play with the big kids.

    Either that or you’ll crack the NetNanny porn filter…

  251. #251 E.V.
    January 27, 2009

    And Dennis evades my point on #223.
    Those were your insults Dennis.

  252. #252 Suzanne
    January 27, 2009

    I’ve been following this with my atheist knitter friends and I’m appalled that you were invited all the way there just to be ambushed by Teh Crazy. :( Sheer cowardice on his part. Boo.

  253. #253 Ivan
    January 27, 2009

    “Natural processes, over the history of the universe, have the potential to produce up to 70 bits of information. Unfortunately, just one, average 300-residue protein requires about 500 bits to encode. The simplest theoretical life form would need somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250 protein-coding genes.”

    Is this correct?

    Do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?

    “Bafflegab” hardly even begins to describe it.

    Consider the following two strings:

    (1) bababbbabababbbbbbaababbaaabaaab
    (2) aaaaaaaaaaaaaabbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

    Which one contains more information? And which type of string do you think is more common in the universe (well, an abstractified universe that produces such strings, subject to entropy)?

  254. #254 aratina
    January 27, 2009

    Durston seems to have quite weak logic. I am watching his opening to the debate with Jeffrey Shallit, and Durston essentially has two arguments: 1) Nature creating nature would be circular, so a supernatural thing created nature, and 2) Genetics are too complex to have happened randomly with respect to the finite amount of time that has passed in the universe, so an intelligent thing created life. These positions would work fine if reality was a simple random mess of whatever, but it isn’t. There is an order to the universe and to reality that we like to call physics.

    He throws around the number of bits of information that genes encode to buttress his second argument.

    The amount of information required to encode the first 100 prime numbers is much less than the amount of information required to encode for the average stable three-dimensional protein… Natural processes themselves produce very–only low-level information… and I’m being generous when I say 50 bits here… it is probably closer to 30 bits or less. But the average protein requires between 400 and 600 bits of functional information to locate [he means in comparison to locating intelligent life by identifying a cosmic broadcast of prime numbers]… Intelligence [alone] can do this [nature cannot].

    Then Durston lays it bare and admits that

    One night as I was laying in bed, I decided, “Wait a sec. If he [Jesus] loved me enough to do this for me [take responsibility for Durston’s human failings], then I can trust him.” So I just asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and take away the barrier of my own moral violations and separate me from God and give me that relationship with him. And that’s when I began to first experience a supernatural intervention in my life. It started small and slow and grew more powerful over the years. And I would have to say at this point in my life that it is–my relationshp with God is the most intimate relationship I’ve ever experienced with anyone (and I have an excellent relationship with my wife, good relationships with my kids and my friends, but this goes far deeper). I am aware of his presence with me throughout the day. I talk to God; he talks to me… It is by far the most fulfilling thing I have ever experienced. So you’ve got three choices. Number one, I’m telling a lie to get my point across–but I can tell you, if I was lying about that there is no way I would be here tonight. I have better things to do with my time. [Number two] I could be insane, and that’s a wise option… All you’re hearing is me telling you this. You have no reason to believe it’s true.

    Number three is his personal account of physical miracles, in particular one where he asked God for help stopping a bull from getting wild with the cows in the pasture and the bull calmed down for which he has “no scientific explanation” after years of thought about the incident, and a second miracle where a couple of “stone cold dead” pet rabbits were resurrected when his nieces asked god to bring them back to life.

    I would choose options 1 AND 2: Durston is insane and he is lying.

  255. #255 RickK
    January 27, 2009

    I can’t believe the Evolution=Atheism=Genocide thing was allowed to get airtime in this debate.

    There are so many good soundbytes to plant with the audience in that situation:

    “9/11 was a faith-based initiative”

    “How is Stalin, the atheist-murderer, any different than the nice fellow on the bus who chants ‘God is Great’ before igniting his C4? If you gave the guy with the C4 an army or an H-bomb, he wouldn’t use it because of his faith?”

    “Scientists built the A-bomb, but it took a Southern Baptist to use it.”

    You can’t out-debate someone who does not use logic. But you can leave the audience remembering that you had the more memorable quotes.

  256. #256 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    “Then we will just have to agree to disagree.”

    Fine with me.

  257. #257 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    aratina #252 wrote:

    I would choose options 1 AND 2: Durston is insane and he is lying.

    In the situation you’re describing (personal evidence of God), I’d choose what is probably option 4: simple human self-delusion. It is so very easy to persuade oneself that “miracles” have occurred, or that there is some other presence constantly watching and caring about your life as if it was a play, and you the main character. You don’t have to be crazy. It takes some effort and education to look below the surface of what habit is taking as clear and obvious, and consider the possibility that you’re wrong.

    Theists are so willing and eager to trust themselves when it comes to subjective verification, and what they think they can be sure of.

  258. #258 'Tis Himself
    January 27, 2009

    a second miracle where a couple of “stone cold dead” pet rabbits were resurrected when his nieces asked god to bring them back to life.

    If Durston told this story to me I’d laugh in his face. I then tell him that proves his god is a capricious asshole if he ignores millions of prayers to heal or otherwise save dying people but resurrects a couple of rabbits to make a couple of girls happy. This story doesn’t even pass the giggle test.

  259. #259 J_Brisby
    January 27, 2009

    This is why a debater of creationists should always ignore evolution altogether on the grounds that everybody has heard every argument on both sides already, and simply argue the point that their opponent is a liar. Be prepared with multiple examples. And be prepared to respond to the counterargument that this is ‘ad hominem.’

    “Ever notice that as soon as you call creationists on their honesty, their morality, their decency, the first thing they do is lawyer-up?”

  260. #260 Andyo
    January 27, 2009

    Dennis,

    I’m an Apatheist. The results of the big question make no difference to me and ultimately my life. Intellectually though, I find both sides quite stimulating.

    Besides not finding theism intellectually stimulating at all, the above is what we “atheists” here would all be if it weren’t for religious and in a lesser extent, new-agers, trying to pervert politics, education, science, and morality, among other things. Many even try very successfully to legislate their nonsense into law. If you’re apathetic about that, then so be it.

  261. #261 Tom L
    January 27, 2009

    I don’t get the “atheism leads to human atrocity, therefore it must be wrong” argument. That’s kind of like saying nuclear physics must be incorrect because it led to Nagasaki.

  262. #262 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Suzanne @251 – Atheist knitter friends? Where?! Can I come over and play too?

  263. #263 Kendo
    January 27, 2009

    SteveM #49

    So God has to let the “monsters” act in order to protect everyone else’s “free will”.

    The free will argument is totally bogus. If some god really did design the universe, then it designed the universe in such a way as to seriously limit my free will. There are many things I would do that I can’t, because of how the universe works. So much for free will.

  264. #264 Michael X
    January 27, 2009

    I don’t mind that PZ lost this debate. Knowing him, he’ll bust his ass next time so as not to be caught off guard in his next debate. Debating is a skill. That’s ok. But I don’t think that the situation is evidence for why no one should debate a creationist.

    Already having an advantage in terms of empirical truth, what PZ must work on now are debating skills. If PZ can gain some rhetorical panache and accustom himself more to adapting to, and pointing out, his opponents more glaring (and preferably laughable) flaws then he’ll mop the floor with these guys more often.

    In the end, PZ can’t just focus on being right because this isn’t a forum for objective truth finding. It’s a forum for swaying popular opinion. He has to beat the other guy to win. And like I said, PZ is already right so he’s way ahead. Now he just has to be interesting to his audience and withering to his opponent. I think he’s perfectly capable of learning to be both.

  265. #265 Facilis
    January 27, 2009

    I wish Durston had pointed out the inability of atheists to account for logic , reason and science. That gets those atheists every time I use it.
    You should watch some of Greg Bahnsen’s debates. He is excellent at doing that kind of stuff.( His debate with Gordon Stein was complete pwnage)
    I love Bahnsen’s version of the argument from morality too.
    “Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate. If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate”
    It’s a sure-fire way.

  266. #266 Facilis
    January 27, 2009

    The argument that religion is needed for morality defeats itself.

    that isn’t the moral argument. It is that if objective moral laws exist that they derive their existence from a transcendant mind (i.e. God).

    To put it in the present context, by assuming that atheists agree that Stalin was evil, the theist admits that you don?t need religion to reject genocide.

    But what objective moral standard do you use to judge stalin? Can it change?

    On the other hand, the bible specifically advocates many things atheists and theists agree are immoral, including genocide.
    Are these things OBJECTIVELY immoral? or is your standard just arbitrary?

  267. #267 Feynmaniac
    January 27, 2009

    facilis,

    I love Bahnsen’s version of the argument from morality too.
    “Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate. If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate”

    WOW…facilis, now you are just getting creepy.

    I like how believing in God doesn’t stop the theist from shooting the atheist.

  268. #268 John Morales
    January 27, 2009

    Facilis, you’re trolling – putting the very same (stupid) claim in every thread. It’s been addressed ad nauseam and comprehensively in other threads.

    Soooo boring.

  269. #269 Patricia, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Time for facilis to get his blankie and go night night.

  270. #270 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Re Kendo @ 262:
    There are many things I would do that I can’t, because of how the universe works. So much for free will.

    Free will is not freedom to do anything you can possibly think of. Did you read the rest of my comment you snipped? The “free will” that god is concerned about (according to Catholic doctrine anyway) is the freedom to believe in god. And that’s all. Free will in this case is freedom to believe, not freedom to act.

  271. #271 Feynmaniac
    January 27, 2009

    For those interested in facilis’ “arguments” see the pilot to Fallacious .

    Emmet also summed it up:

    Shorter Facilis: solipsism therefore Yahweh.

  272. #272 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Are these things OBJECTIVELY immoral? or is your standard just arbitrary?

    You keep using that word “objective”, I don’t think it means what you think it means. You seem to think that if anything is objective then it has to be granted by god. That is not what it means. It just means that it is independent of the observer. Morality can be derived rationally and objectively as behaviors necessary for people to live together in productive society. Behavior that disrupts that is immoral. This does not make the rules of morality arbitrary any more than the rules of, say, poker. Yes, there are many variations to the rules of poker, but you could not have just any arbitrary rules and still have a playable game.

  273. #273 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    Re: “Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate.”

    So, suppose I think that there are moral facts. That makes me a moral realist. And suppose I also think that there are no deities. I guess that makes me an atheist. Now, why exactly am I involved in a self-contradiction?

    Incidentally, if you want a pretty good version of moral realism spelled out, check out J.S. Mill’s *Utilitarianism*. The proposal is that actions (like shooting people in the face) are morally good just in the case that no other action you could have performed would lead to a greater balance of happiness over misery. Seems like a decent, first-pass story to me. Every bit as good as the 10 rules you go by, anyway.

    And so, you see, the atheist can be a moral realist too. If you had taken an intro to philosophy class before spouting off, you’d know that.

  274. #274 Kendo
    January 27, 2009

    SteveM #269

    The “free will” that god is concerned about (according to Catholic doctrine anyway) is the freedom to believe in god. And that’s all.

    Ah, ok then. So why does the bible mention acts of God that are reported to be for the sole purpose of showing not only that God exists, but that God is all powerful. Read what God reportedly says about the motive for “hardening” Pharaoh’s heart, in the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. God reportedly changes Pharaoh’s mind. Free will in thought negated. God changes Pharaoh’s mind because God wants to show everybody how mighty he is. Freedom to believe or not, negated by direct demonstration of existence. Are you saying that the bible is bullshit and that you have a much better knowledge of God’s motivation?

  275. #275 heliobates
    January 27, 2009

    That gets those atheists every time I use it.

    Until you ask the presuppositionalist to direct you to the full, formal explication of the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic and their full theory of truth, so that you can use the same rules of inference to determine whether or not the believer has reasoned correctly.

    [crickets]

    Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate. If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate

    In other words, Christians aren’t moral. The only thing preventing them from killing people who disagrees with them is that they believe they’ll be punished by God.

  276. #276 maxamillion
    January 27, 2009


    Facilis
    I love Bahnsen’s version of the argument from morality too.
    “Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate.

    Actually Objective morality denies god not the other way round.


    If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate”
    It’s a sure-fire way.

    Thank you for confirming my long held opinion that faith-heads do not have any morals. OH, btw you do not win the debate you just become a murderer.

  277. #277 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    Facilis #264 wrote:

    I wish Durston had pointed out the inability of atheists to account for logic , reason and science.

    Durston is not a presuppositionalist; he’s using evidentialist arguments. You’re wishing instead that it was someone else up there.

    that isn’t the moral argument. It is that if objective moral laws exist that they derive their existence from a transcendant mind (i.e. God).

    Depends on what is meant by the term “objective.” Every person’s view is “objective,” in that it can be known by other people, whether they accept it or not.

    The only way a “transcendent mind” is going to matter for universal invariant purposes is it is supposed to account for why there is an inter-subjective agreement among all human minds. However, if you have this inter-subjective consensus to point to, then there is your standard. It could have “come from God” (though that’s a vacuous statement.) But you don’t require God to explain it: it could have evolved naturally.

    If there is no basic universal moral agreement, then there is no way to argue that God gave it to everyone. Nor is there any way to argue for why God’s subjective opinion should be the standard if you don’t already hold to it. It’s just one view among many.

    As a presuppositionalist, you’re really stuck when it comes to apologetics. Bottom line, God’s existence is supposed to be a “self-evident” truth, as clear and obvious as A=A.

    Self`-ev”i*dent\, a. Evident without proof or reasoning; producing certainty or conviction upon a bare presentation to the mind; as, a self-evident proposition or truth.

    Clearly, you can’t reason someone into a self-evident truth.

    And, also clear is that you can’t have wide-spread disagreement with a “self-evident” truth. That would mean it’s not self-evident. So the more you argue, the more you acknowledge that belief in God is something that is reasoned towards as a conclusion. It can’t be a necessary presupposition.

  278. #278 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    SteveM: I think there is actually one important difference between poker and moral codes. It seems plausible that moral codes ground out in facts about human psychology and biology. (Prohibiting free speech is wrong because it hurts humans psychologically–which is why dictatorships ultimately chafe. Rape is wrong because it maims and humiliates. Etc.) If our biology and psychology were (objectively) different, a different set of rules would be (objectively) the right ones to live by. The poker analogy seems to me not to capture this.

    But in any case, the idea that an atheist can’t be a moral realist is just plain ignorant.

  279. #279 Kendo
    January 27, 2009

    Oops! I owe SteveM an apology. Sorry Steve, I totally misread where you’re coming from. I still believe the free will argument is bogus. The bible has many examples of God proving his existence. How many stories end with the phrase “So that you may know that I am your God and you are my people”, or words to that effect. Anybody who uses that free will argument (which I now believe that you are reporting, rather than advocating) has to ignore a large part of their own mythology.

  280. #280 aratina
    January 27, 2009

    I didn’t look at it that way, Sastra. You’re right, Durston probably only meant to give three options for how to view his personal testimony of his relationship with his god, but I took them to apply to everything he had said during his opening statement. In the case you make, I agree with you. It could be that Durston groups self-delusion with insanity, otherwise why not allow for that option?

    ‘Tis Himself, the resurrected rabbit story comes up about 22.5 minutes into the debate, and he used a little trick that allowed people to laugh but laugh with him not at him; he described how the rabbits were so far into rigor mortis that you could use them as a pointer.

  281. #281 Wowbagger
    January 27, 2009

    I apologise for facilis – he still hasn’t gotten used to the correct terms he need to use. What he should have said is this:

    I wish Durston had pointed out the inability of atheists aSideshowBobists to account for logic , reason and science. That gets those atheists aSideshowBobists every time I use it.

    and

    that isn’t the moral argument. It is that if objective moral laws exist that they derive their existence from a transcendant mind (i.e. God Sideshow Bob).

  282. #282 Nerd of Redhead
    January 27, 2009

    Poor Facilis the Fallacious Fool, (mostly the fool) just can’t grasp we destroyed his argument and he has nothing. He appears to be too stupid to go away on his own.

  283. #283 Wowbagger
    January 27, 2009

    Poor Facilis the Fallacious Fool, (mostly the fool) just can’t grasp we destroyed his argument and he has nothing. He appears to be too stupid to go away on his own.

    It’s quite bizarre isn’t it? It’s like he just pretends that his argument is valid and repeats it over and over again.

    I guess that he’s like most theists and is riddled with doubt about his full-of-holes faith. What he’s really doing is trying to convince himself – not us – that what he’s saying is true and that if he can maybe get someone to accept his argument then that’ll magically bring back his love for Jesus.

    Like I said on one of the other threads, it might be a great argument to have with other Christians, because they also won’t allow for the option to be any other god (or Bob). But since we aren’t required to play by his rules he’s just wasting his time.

  284. #284 Kel
    January 27, 2009

    Is facilis still going on about logic? I guess the irony in all of it is that his position is logically circular, but apparently because logic can’t just be an inherent property of the universe we can’t call him out on his bullshit. It’s like not being able to use a light if one doesn’t know where electricity comes from…

    [sic]fail is such a tool

  285. #285 Boletus
    January 27, 2009

    Re: “I wish Durston had pointed out the inability of atheists to account for logic, reason and science.”

    If you want a decent account of science and how it ‘works’, read Philip Kitcher. I’d recommend ‘Science, Truth and Democracy’ as a good start.

    If you want a decent account of how logic ‘works’ read some computer science. If we didn’t know how logic ‘worked’, we’d not be able to design the logic gate on which the machine you used to type your post is based.

    If you want a decent account of how human reason ‘works’, take a look at ‘Mind Design II’ edited by Haugland. Also take a look at Dennett’s ‘Consciousness Explained’ for good measure.

    The trouble with you godly lot is that you never stick your noses out from your Holy Books long enough to realize that a lot of pretty smart folks have worked on these issues for a while now. Happy reading.

  286. #286 SteveM
    January 27, 2009

    Boletus:I think there is actually one important difference between poker and moral codes. It seems plausible that moral codes ground out in facts about human psychology and biology.

    I agree. Also agree that the poker analogy was far from perfect and was only intended to illustrate that even though morality is “invented”, it is not “arbitrary”.

    Kendo: yes, I was reporting, not advocating. I agree that there is this bizarre discrepancy between the “free will” argument and all the explicit miracles in the Bible. It is all just so much tap dancing that it is amazing so many buy into it.

  287. #287 SteveL
    January 27, 2009

    #277, #285:

    It seems plausible that moral codes ground out in facts about human psychology and biology.

    Yes indeed, otherwise you’d have the blank slate fallacy. There’s actually this great book “The Moral Animal” by Robert Wright which is about the evolution of human morality. Plus he uses anecdotes from Darwin’s life to illustrate his points.

  288. #288 NateL
    January 28, 2009

    I read an article recently defending the actions of the catholic church during the holocaust… namely Pope Pius XII and his yearly birthday wishes to Hitler.
    The last line was something like “Today, there are Catholics who support abortion, assisted suicide and artificial birth control. In the next century will society falsely accuse the church of being silent during this ‘culture of death’… Sick people indeed..

  289. #289 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Mr Myers,

    What you’ve added to this blog post is partially untrue.

    Here is a briefly paraphrased version of Mr Myers’ opening comments at the debate:

    “Do leprecauns exist? This is the same thing. This is crap.”

    One supposes that Mr Myers believes that expressing sheer contempt for the beliefs of others doesn’t qualify as calling them stupid so long as he doesn’t say so in those explicit words.

    That isn’t entirely honest.

  290. #290 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick, PZ’s comment contempt was for the question they were asked to debate. This fact has been stated many times through the thread.

  291. #291 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “I wish Durston had pointed out the inability of atheists to account for logic , reason and science.”

    You mean that crazy assertion that you repeat here again and again and again? I doubt that would convince anyone not thoroughly brainwashed.

    I didn’t get a chance to read the whole debate on that other thread, but is the definition for presuppositionalist “One who makes shit up and presupposes it’s real?” Seems to sum up the worthlessness of Facile’s arguments pretty well.

    “If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate”

    And you’ll know they are Christians by their love.

    Patrick Ross:
    “This is crap.”

    Did you bold that part because you were actually quoting it rather than paraphrasing it, or did you bold it to denote that you were EXTRA paraphrasing that part?

    “One supposes that Mr Myers believes that expressing sheer contempt for the beliefs of others doesn’t qualify as calling them stupid so long as he doesn’t say so in those explicit words.”

    Boo hoo.

  292. #292 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Uh, no. I emboldened that part because it was EXTRA relevant to the distruthfulness of Myers’ claim.

    The idea that the “this is crap” quote is contempt for the debate topic doesn’t wash. He accepted the topic of debate, and he showed up.

    Not to mention the constant contempt that Myers shows for the beliefs of others. Were this an isolated incident, that would be a workable response.

    But it isn’t an isolated incident, and it isn’t a workable response. It’s a cop-out — just as big a cop-out as claiming that the UAAA and Campus for Christ should have gotten someone else to debate the topic.

    As for Myers’ whining about Durston labelling all atheists as evil — isn’t that precisely what Christopher Hitchens did when he came up with the “religion responsible for the most death” argument (clearly in ignorance of a little thing the rest of us like to call “disease”)?

    I think the most appropriate response would be:

    Boo hoo hoo.

  293. #293 Graham
    January 28, 2009

    I would venture to say that attempting to explain hox genes and the natural causes of the universe in 20 minutes (and using 5 of those minutes to make bad jokes and swear about the bible) was a bad start to the debate.

  294. #294 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Trying to make the debate about hox genes was a bad move.

    But I would personally encourage the U of A to formally invite Dr Myers to give that lecture at the University of Alberta.

  295. #295 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    Not to mention the constant contempt that Myers shows for the beliefs of others.

    I fail to see how this is a problem. They believe in a magic sky fairy for which there is no more evidence than there is for leprechauns, Smurfs or the boogeyman. Contempt is what such beliefs deserve.

    You know how they could avoid people showing contempt for their beliefs? It’s easy: stop holding beliefs people have contempt for.

  296. #296 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “The idea that the “this is crap” quote”

    So which is it, a quote or a paraphrase? You’re waffling. And anyway, saying that the notion of a god is “crap”, even if said with naughty words, is just stating a position in the debate (the “God does not exist” position).

    “Not to mention the constant contempt that Myers shows for the beliefs of others. ”

    So what? Beliefs don’t have to be respected.

    “isn’t that precisely what Christopher Hitchens did when he came up with the “religion responsible for the most death” argument (clearly in ignorance of a little thing the rest of us like to call “disease”)?”

    I read that whole book and I don’t remember Hitchens claiming that religion had killed more people than disease. A pretty glib assertion anyway, especially considering the overlap between the two (people not getting proper treatment for disease because of some religious objection or religious treatment).

  297. #297 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Then one supposes that Myers himself doth protest too much when he insists that he didn’t stoop to simply calling Christianity stupid.

    That’s precisely what he did — not in as many words, but he did it nonetheless.

    It’s precisely what he did, and apparently zealots like yourself quite approve.

  298. #298 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “It’s precisely what he did, and apparently zealots like yourself quite approve.”

    You seem to think that you’re shaming us somehow.

  299. #299 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    And Reyfox is dodging the point.

    You’ve been given an opportunity to be intellectually honest about this matter. Seeing as how you’ve declined, there’s really no need to attempt to engage you any further.

  300. #300 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    It’s precisely what he did, and apparently zealots like yourself quite approve.

    ‘Zealots’? Hardly.

    But even if we were it’s still better than being a whiny pissant concern troll who’s too stupid to have realised that playing nice hasn’t worked so well in the past.

    You can move to the back of the bus now.

  301. #301 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick, what argument are you making exactly?

    You’ve repeated the claim that PZ was speaking about people and not the debate topic, but you’ve added nothing relevant to that claim. PZ’s accepting the debate topic is irrelevant. He can accept it and still think it’s poorly phrased. He also isn’t the one who proposes the topics, increasing the likelyhood of getting stuck with one you think is less than good.

    Your opinion of PZ’s past history in regards to peoples beliefs is also irrelevant in regards to what PZ was talking about.

    Lastly, be thankful you’re arguments about Hitchens arn’t said within earshot of the man. I can only imagine the ripping you’d receive. Instead, I’ll just remind you that claiming that the religious have killed more people is not the same as claiming that all religious people are evil, nor to my knowledge is that something Hitchens have ever claimed.

    So please begin again, stick to the topic that you yourself raised, and avoid bad logic this time.

  302. #302 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “You’ve been given an opportunity to be intellectually honest about this matter. ”

    What matter?

  303. #303 Conor H.
    January 28, 2009

    I can’t believe we still have “swear words”. It’s pathetic.

  304. #304 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Michael X’s rebuttal is pure fantasy.

    PZ accepting the debate topic is not irrelevant. The argument that you have raised is tantamount to a six year-old child accepting the rules of a game of Pictionary, then pretend the outcome should be treated differently because they didn’t like the rules.

    If you accept the rules, you play by them. If you don’t, then don’t play.

    PZ’s past conduct, as it pertains to his demonstrable contempt for the beliefs of others shown in the course of the Durston debate, is not irrelevant. It erases your ability to insist that Myers was contemptuous of the debate topic, rather than of religious — more notably, Christian — beliefs.

    Not to mention this additional quote:

    “I?ve read the Bible, trust me, it?s crap.”

    Myers’ contempt for these beliefs is well-established, and it certainly is not irrelevant.

    And last, but not least, if claiming that religion has killed more people than anything else (despite the fact that this isn’t true. Ever heard of natural causes?) isn’t the same as calling reglious people evil then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion isn’t the same as calling atheists evil.

    Considering that Durston — and being someone who was actually present at the debate, I can speak to this — didn’t ever combine the words “atheism” and “evil”, you can’t have this both ways.

    I’ll take Christopher Hitchens on regarding that particular argument of the week.

  305. #305 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Ok Patrick, I’m only going to spell this out one more time.

    1) A man can accept a debate topic and still think it is crap.

    2) He can accept that topic and at the same time (stay with me here) think that the belief the topic highlights is also crap.

    3)Now if you’re still reading, here is the kicker: He can hold both those beliefs while only expressing one of them at a time!!11!!!1eleven!!

    Thus, PZ can think people like you are deluded beyond any reasonable doubt, while only pointing out how horribly phrased a debate topic is. And he can do that without expressing his belief about yours or anyones mental state, regardless of the how badly you seem determined to prove him right.

    As for your lightspeed goalposts on the “who killed more” question, well honestly, I couldn’t care less about an illogical argument from consequences and the fact that you’re stuck to it says more about you than PZ.

  306. #306 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    Man, your whinging is tiresome, Pat. You haven’t yet explained how having contempt for others’ beliefs is at all relevant to the debate. PZ explained why he thinks there are no gods. That’s what the debate was about. Unless you dispute that he did that, then there’s not a single “rule” he broke.

    “And last, but not least, if claiming that religion has killed more people than anything else (despite the fact that this isn’t true. Ever heard of natural causes?)”

    Nobody has claimed this. I don’t know why you insist on harping on it.

    ” isn’t the same as calling reglious people evil then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion isn’t the same as calling atheists evil.”

    Fine. Can we still call it a cheap, well-poisoning argument that has nothing to do with whether gods exist or not?

  307. #307 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    I should add that there’s really no way one can argue against the existence of gods without coming off as “contemptuous” to at least a few people. So I see all these attacks on PZ’s character are pretty worthless.

  308. #308 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Michael, just because you want these things to be irrelevant doesn’t make them so.

    I’m not sure what you think you’re accomplishing by suggesting that it’s OK for PZ Myers to be such a child about this.

    If you accept the topic of debate, debate it, but be an adult about it.

    And if you think I’m going to even take you seriously when you whine about “lightspeed goalposts”, spare me the trouble.

    Don’t expect me to feel bad if you can’t keep up.

  309. #309 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Fuck it I’m bored

    And last, but not least, if claiming that religion has killed more people than anything else (despite the fact that this isn’t true. Ever heard of natural causes?) isn’t the same as calling reglious people evil then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion isn’t the same as calling atheists evil.

    1) To get away from silly generalities: Not all religious/atheists are evil regardless of who wins the body count. Not every Nazi sympathizer was evil as well. Some could have just gone with the flow or with little regard to the ideals themselves.

    2) But religion or atheism could be shown to be evil depending on what kinds of actions follow from its teachings. And we can say that if such teachings turn out to be evil that they can cause many people, maybe even a cultural majority, to act in evil ways. We would call these people who did so, “evil”.

    3) Durston is claiming that if atheism were allowed to spread through a culture it would make the culture, or majority of people, evil and he tired to argue that it had in certain cases.

    4) As an aside, since you put it in the middle of your statement, natural causes do not have a will or conscious thought and thus are naturally ruled out in a debate about people and which worldviews they should adopt in order to be good. Naturally. So your repeated point about them is trivial. Stop making it because no one is saying that natural causes didn’t kill the most people.

    5) Yet, naturally caused death proposes a problem for the religious as they are now required to explain why a loving god would create a world in which the most people would die simply by living in the world he created. So, claiming natural causes gets you no where. Another reason to ditch the argument.

    6) Returning to the issue of what our beliefs lead us to do, atheism has no proactive moral commandments and can by definition not be the catalyst of anyones actions. It is simply a lack of faith in a deity and everyone is atheist about some deity. I’ll assume for the sake of argument that your lack of faith in Amon Ra has kept you from committing any atrocities today?

    7) Religion does have proactive moral statements that require violence. Read leviticus.

    8) Thus it is impossible to say that atheism had anything to do with 20th century mass murder. In other words, none of those people did what they did because of atheism. But the muslim who kills the apostate could only be driven to do that because of his “divine holy book”.

    9) So lets clear up the argument here. “Certain worldviews could cause people to act in evil ways.” Does atheism hold any particular tenants with which people could use to justify evil? No. Atheism has no tenants. Does religion? Yes. And many people are using those words to justify genocide and atrocity this very day.

    10) Have a nice day.

  310. #310 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Man, your whinging is tiresome, Pat. You haven’t yet explained how having contempt for others’ beliefs is at all relevant to the debate. PZ explained why he thinks there are no gods. That’s what the debate was about. Unless you dispute that he did that, then there’s not a single “rule” he broke.

    Which is an ironic statement coming so soon after Michael X’s whining about “lightspeed goalposts”.

    I never accused Myers of breaking the rules — I pointed out that his whining about them is childish. He accepted the rules, so what does he think crying about them afterwards accomplishes?

    Maybe it convinces a few individuals like yourself to help him wipe his nose, but it doesn’t change the result.

    It certainly doesn’t change the fact that he’s being dishonest about his comments after the fact.

    Nobody has claimed this. I don’t know why you insist on harping on it.

    Really? Nobody at all? Are you going to suggest that no atheist in the world has ever made this claim?

    You’re dead wrong about that.

    Not to mention the fact that your argument is invalid by your own standards. If claiming that religion has killed more people than “anything else” is not the same as calling religious people evil then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion is not the same as calling atheists evil.

    Your argument. Why are you so desperate to get away from it?

  311. #311 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    And if you think I’m going to even take you seriously when you whine about “lightspeed goalposts”, spare me the trouble.
    Don’t expect me to feel bad if you can’t keep up.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about do you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moving_the_goalpost

    For example, you just moved the goalposts again.

    I’m not sure what you think you’re accomplishing by suggesting that it’s OK for PZ Myers to be such a child about this.

    I never attempted to say that PZ was or wasn’t being petulant, childish, or whatever, because it wasn’t the topic at hand. I was responding to this comment of yours claiming that PZ was expressing contempt for beliefs instead of the debate topic.

    “Do leprecauns exist? This is the same thing. This is crap.”
    One supposes that Mr Myers believes that expressing sheer contempt for the beliefs of others doesn’t qualify as calling them stupid so long as he doesn’t say so in those explicit words.

    I’ve pointed out numerous times how this is not the case.

    Argument: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

  312. #312 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick, quoting a solo nutter in a comment thread is not proof about the worldviews of atheists.

    We’re not under one single dogma like you my friend.

    All you’ve done is manage to find the second who thinks such a silly argument is worth stating. The other person of course, being you.

  313. #313 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Which is an ironic statement coming so soon after Michael X’s whining about “lightspeed goalposts”.

    You really do have no idea what you’re talking about do you?

    YOU are changing the goalposts Patrick, with your arguments against PZ’s conduct. Rey is simply pointing out the fact even if he did say christians were stupid, it makes no difference and you have given us no reason to change our minds about that.

  314. #314 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “You’re dead wrong about that.”

    Oh whoop de doo, you found one exaggerated comment on the comments section of a news article. I guess I’m totally wrong and you win a cookie.

    “Not to mention the fact that your argument is invalid by your own standards. If claiming that religion has killed more people than “anything else” is not the same as calling religious people evil then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion is not the same as calling atheists evil.”

    I already conceded this mind-numbingly irrelevant point in comment 305. That’s two concessions in one comment, so I guess I’ll just slink off to bed and leave you to your pompous wankery.

  315. #315 Ritchie Annand
    January 28, 2009

    I might point out Larry Moran’s experience of Kirk to those who might doubt PZ’s description of Kirk’s debating style.

  316. #316 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    If claiming that religion has killed more people than “anything else” is not the same as calling religious people evil{,} then claiming that atheism has killed more people than religion is not the same as calling atheists evil.

    Durston made the claim that atheism was an amoral philosophy that led to the corruption of society. That is why it’s evil in his opinion and calling Atheists amoral is what PZ was referring to when he said Durston began with taking “a shot at calling atheists evil”.

    It has nothing to do with death rates.

    Again, I’ve previously differentiated between religion being evil and the religious themselves at the beginning of 308.

  317. #317 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Oh, my, Michael X just invoked the lolcatz. I guess I’m really finished now.

  318. #318 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    lolcatz=QED.

  319. #319 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Not to mention that Michael apparently doesn’t understand that very few topics regarding religion are objective.

    Has he never stopped to wonder why there is so much difference between the religious beliefs of Martin Luther King and the KKK? Between Benazir Bhutto and Osama Bin Laden?

    Of course he hasn’t. Likewise, he intentionally overlooks the fact that most religious texts also have positive moral commandments as well — “thou shalt not kill” being a good example.

    Atheism, meanwhile, may not have moral commandments telling people to kill. But it doesn’t have any commandments telling people not to kill.

    Sheesh. Think, Mikey, think.

  320. #320 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    Atheism, meanwhile, may not have moral commandments telling people to kill. But it doesn’t have any commandments telling people not to kill.

    Are you a poe?

  321. #321 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    … my long list of comments already address your first point.

    Positive commandments in a religious book do not prove its truth, not are any of the Abrahamic religions original in their ethics. If you think “thou shalt not kill” wasn’t thought of before Moses stood on a mountain, well, I’m sorry for you. Also, the golden rule was around far before Jesus. More evidence that religion is not needed in order to form a moral code and again, is no evidence of its truth. This fact also answers your implication that without religion, we’ll have no reason not to kill people.

    As for me, I know not to kill people, steal or lie AND I don’t have to kill someone who picks up sticks on the sabbath. I think I’m winning.

    Shit, Patrick, I’m like six beers down and running circles around you.

  322. #322 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    It doesn’t take much of a religious scholar to answer some of the more basic of Michael’s questions:

    First off, the Bible does contain a story that offers an explanation for aging and death. It has to do with a garden, an apple and a snake? Sound familiar?

    A parent may discipline their child if they break the rules, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love their child anymore. God made his rules pretty clear in this particular story out of the Bible.

    Durston never said anything about atheism being evil. He did, however, remark at length about a particular moral hazard that atheism confronts us with due to its lack of moral commandments.

    Once again, there is a big difference between speculating about a moral hazard and insisting that atheism is inherently immoral or even amoral. Morality is very much in the hands of the individual, including religious morality.

    To answer my previous challenge regarding the differences in beliefs within the same religion, it comes down to how one chooses to interpret particular commandments of that religion.

    Religion is as much about interpretation as anything else. Not all religious believers agree with this, but the existence of different demoninations within nearly any religion is proof.

  323. #323 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    Durston never said anything about atheism being evil. He did, however, remark at length about a particular moral hazard that atheism confronts us with due to its lack of moral commandments.

    This is what I find absurd. Does anyone actually expect atheism to have moral commandments, or say anything at all for that matter? Atheism is not anything more than a word to describe one who doesn’t believe in a deity, of course it has no moral commandments or say anything at all. This is why saying that the atrocities committed by Pol Pot or Stalin was done in the name of atheism is absurd.

    Why is it that theists try and make atheism to be something that it’s not, by criticising the absence of concepts that aren’t meant to be there in the first place?

  324. #324 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Apparently, Michael lives in a fantasy world.

    Let’s start from the beginning here:

    First off, he insists Myers’ “this is crap” comment was about the debate topic when we have another quote referring to the Bible.

    Secondly, he insists that Kirk Durston described atheists as evil. Those words never passed his lips.

    Michael wants to insist that Durston’s discussion of atheism’s lack of moral commandments as a potential moral hazard as taking this same position by de facto. But that position fails according to Michael’s own stance claiming that claiming religion has killed more people than anything else is not the same as calling religious people evil.

    Then Michael turns to some extremely basic questions about theology.

    And still won’t admit the most fundamental issue taken in the original comment:

    Myers is lying when he suggests he didn’t say religion is stupid. At least one commenter here was willing to admit that, yes, he did.

  325. #325 Twin-Skies
    January 28, 2009

    @Kel

    Doesn’t look like it. A quick scan of Patrick’s site indicates he’s been giving PZ’s debate a serious readover.

  326. #326 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Not to mention Michael’s attempt to unilaterally dismiss Myers’ previous conduct as irrelevant.

    Conveniently for Michael, it’s Myers’ previous conduct that most strongly supports the idea that, yes, he probably was referring to Christianity.

    “I’ve read the Bible. It’s crap.”

    He said those words. If Michael were actually present for this debate, Michael would have heard them yourself.

    It’s time to pony up. You can try to move the goalposts all you want. You can whine and try to accuse someone else of doing that all you want.

    But none of that makes it true.

    You should have foregone the beers. I’m paying closer attention to an episode of House and I’m still wiping the floor with you.

  327. #327 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Well. Um, what does one do with what you just wrote Patrick? The garden of eden? Unless you really wish to take the time, I don’t think such an argument holds any weight to the average observer here. In short, god still created it and is responsible for it. Little apple loophole and all.

    I also assume all the people who read this blog, can in fact read. The answer to your “challenge” is in 308 and probably elsewhere. Yet for your benefit I’ll clarify; religion includes Jains and Fundamentalist Muslims, true believers and cultural followers. But in the end, they all believe some amount of nonsense, due to their religion. Religion is an evil because it can produce said Muslims and cannot be given a pass because some turn out to be Jains.

    My sentence structure above may have been shoddy, but when I said “That is why it’s evil in his opinion” I was referring to PZ. In other words PZ sees accusing atheists of being “amoral” = atheists being evil. I never said that Durston came right out and said “atheists are evil”. But let it be remembered that Durston wasn’t speculating about the moral standing of atheism. He came right out and said atheism is amoral. And judging by his use of “proofs” to back that, amoral and immoral can be taken as synonymous.

    Lastly, the interpretation of religion is one of religion’s greatest downfalls as a moral code. Things can be interpreted to suit whoever is in power, taking for granted the fact that the “perfect word of god” isn’t clear enough on its own. The other downfall is the words themselves; “shellfish is an abomination” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Nor does the command to kill anyone who tries to get you to worship another god lend itself to a gentle interpretation.

    It is here, that I’ll leave you. I’m quite buzzed and it’s very late. I raise a glass to you bucko. You’re the answer Voltaire’s Prayer.

  328. #328 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Myers is lying when he suggests he didn’t say religion is stupid

    Sorry I couldn’t miss this.

    to quote PZ

    I did not open with any insults to Durston at all

    Reading is helpful. PZ could have ended with calling you all a bunch of cunts. It matters little. You simply can’t accept that PZ did not begin his debate with an insult to people but rather a criticism to the topic thrust upon them.

  329. #329 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Oh, and House is an atheist.

  330. #330 John Morales
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick @323:

    Myers is lying when he suggests he didn’t say religion is stupid. At least one commenter here was willing to admit that, yes, he did.

    Can you provide a citation (or a quote, or a link) to support this assertion?

  331. #331 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    ROTFL

    I’m well aware that House is an atheist. He’s also a fictional character.

    Fictional. Character.

    Well. Um, what does one do with what you just wrote Patrick? The garden of eden? Unless you really wish to take the time, I don’t think such an argument holds any weight to the average observer here. In short, god still created it and is responsible for it. Little apple loophole and all.

    And parents create their children through the procreative act and are responsible for them.

    You asked how the Bible addresses the issue of aging and death. This is how the Bible addresses the issue of aging and death. I’d never pass this off as science, but it is what the theology says, and it does offer an explanation.

    Religion is an evil because it can produce said Muslims and cannot be given a pass because some turn out to be Jains.

    Then by the same standard atheism would be evil because it can produce amoral and immoral people. By the standard of your own argument atheism cannot be given a pass just because some atheists are neat people.

    I never said that Durston came right out and said “atheists are evil”.

    That’s not true. You said approximately the same thing in 308.

    Lastly, the interpretation of religion is one of religion’s greatest downfalls as a moral code. Things can be interpreted to suit whoever is in power, taking for granted the fact that the “perfect word of god” isn’t clear enough on its own. The other downfall is the words themselves; “shellfish is an abomination” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Nor does the command to kill anyone who tries to get you to worship another god lend itself to a gentle interpretation.

    Whoever said the Bible, in terms of being the word of God, is perfect?

    We’re led to believe it’s the word of God written by men, then re-written by men throughout history.

    Even if we accept the notion of God being infallible — I personally don’t accept the conventional notion of God, so I actually don’t — we still have to admit the fallibility of human beings, including (and in my opinion especially) the Pope.

    I’d advise you not to assume very many things about my religious beliefs, Mikey. You don’t know a fucking thing about them.

    Can you provide a citation (or a quote, or a link) to support this assertion?

    “I’ve read the Bible. Trust me, it’s crap.”

    It’s right there in black and white. And having actually been present at the debate, I can attest that Myers did, in fact, say those words.

  332. #332 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    And there goes Mikey again, trying to move them goalposts.

    I suppose if I’d opened by announcing that Christians were all stupid, we would have had equivalency?but I did not.

    Except that he did. And apparently Mikey wants to conclude that if Myers didn’t insult Durston directly, then he didn’t insult Christians, even if he did, you know — directly insult Christians.

  333. #333 John Morales
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick: Myers is lying when he suggests he didn’t say religion is stupid.
    Me: Can you provide a citation (or a quote, or a link) to support this assertion?
    Patrick’s link quotes PZ: ?There is no evidence of intervention of any supernatural force in the history of life on Earth. God-based explanations are inconsistent and incoherent. They make absolutely no sense. I?ve read the Bible, trust me, it?s crap,? [quote from Kirsten Goruk]

    Well, I appreciate the response, and I’ll accept that PZ said the above or close enough.

    But your contention is that PZ “is lying when he suggests he didn’t say religion is stupid”. Again I ask, can you substantiate that allegation?

  334. #334 Wayne Robinson
    January 28, 2009

    I am always bemused that the best evidence Christians can proffer for the existence of Jesus is the obvious forgery in Josephus, who was born after the supposed death of Jesus anyway, and cannot provide a single written account dating from during his lifetime. I would have thought that the Romans might have just been interested enough to have written some reports back to Rome about a charismatic preacher travelling around Palestine drawing crowds in the thousands for 3 years. If not, then the total solar eclipse, the earthquake and subsequent resurrection of many corpses at the exact time of Jesus’ death (as described in Matthew 27:45-53) might possibly have generated a little interest? I would imagine that the Romans would have been absolutely paranoid about the possibility of a revolt anyway, particularly after the disastrous defeat in Germany in 9 CE.

  335. #335 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    Why is a comment about one particular holy book being stretched as an insult of everyone in that religion, and indeed of all religions? Saying the bible is crap is, well, honest.

  336. #336 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    If you’re going to be intellectually dishonest, John, I’m not going to bother with you.

  337. #337 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    So, let’s see if we can follow Kel’s reasoning here:

    To suggest that the scripture on which Christians base their faith is “crap” is not an insult to Christians?

    Most Christians believe that their belief in and adherence to the Bible is what makes them Christians. (There are some other scriptures in which Christ actually seems to refute the need for a Bible or organized religion, but most Christians are largely unaware of their existence.) Myers denounces that they believe makes them what they are, and you’d suggest this isn’t an insult?

    Whether or not you believe it to be true (or “honest”) is irrelevant.

    For example, when I say that Michael X is a hypocrite who is unable to argue his way out of a paper bag, and unwilling to adhere to the same rhetorical standard he demands of others, I’m saying what I believe to be true. I’m just being honest.

    Do I expect that Mikey won’t be insulted? No. I expect the opposite, that he will be insulted.

    I may not care that he’s insulted because I believe what I’ve said to be true. But I don’t pretend it isn’t an insult.

  338. #338 John Morales
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick @335, huh?

    Did I pick the wrong quote?
    If not, do you really consider it tantamount to insulting Christians, or calling them all stupid?

    You’re making a pretty serious claim, that PZ is lying, but you won’t support it, and then call me intellectually dishonest when I ask you to. Right.

    Personally, I think you’re being dismissively evasive.

  339. #339 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    John, I’m going to give you one more opportunity to be honest about this before I just ignore you completely.

    You couldn’t possibly have missed the relevant quote. That’s because I quoted it. You know, these funny looking this: “?

    PZ Myers dismissed the scripture from which Christians draw their identity as a faith community as “crap”. This shouldn’t require nearly as much explanation as I’ve already provided, unless you’re either making a terrible attempt at being Socratic, or simply being willfully obtuse.

  340. #340 Aquaria
    January 28, 2009

    How absolutely typical of a Christian lunatic except to make up shit in nearly every post.

    Congratulations Patrick Ross. You are today’s Most Disgusting Liar for Jeebus on Pharyngula.

    What lies?

    Well, first you LIE about what Christopher Hitchens said about religion’s death toll.

    Second, you lied that PZ “insulted Christians.”

    Fucking wanking twit.

  341. #341 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    To suggest that the scripture on which Christians base their faith is “crap” is not an insult to Christians?

    You are personalising the issue. You are basically saying that “by insulting what is important to me, you are insulting me.” And this is the very problem that comes with being an atheist, no matter how valid a criticism of religion, the personalisation that people like you do over certain concepts mean that you use your own indignation to silence criticism.

    Now if you were to say Australia is shit at cricket, should I personally be insulted because I’m a huge fan of our cricket team? Should I take it as an insult to all people who support the team? Of course not. It’s a depersonalised comment that I would make personal by tying myself to the outcome.

    Just another whiny Christian who wants to feel personally persecuted over comments that had nothing to do with you. Get over yourself, you are not the centre of the universe.

  342. #342 John Morales
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick @338, I see where you’re coming from, but I think you’re employing a jaundiced interpretation.

    In my experience, PZ doesn’t mince words and says what he means. If, in that talk, he’d wanted to express the sentiment you accuse him of expressing by implication, he would’ve, and I very much doubt he would then have denied doing so.

    Clearly, you think saying the Bible is crap and that Goddiddit is non-explanatory is equivalent to calling all Christians stupid.

    I, however, don’t, any more than I think that stating that “rap” music is crap is calling everyone who likes rap stupid.

  343. #343 Frank Lovell
    January 28, 2009

    “I don’t get the ‘atheism leads to human atrocity,
    therefore it must be wrong’ argument. That’s kind of
    like saying nuclear physics must be incorrect because
    it led to Nagasaki.” — Tom L

    Whoa…that’s good, Tom — I am going to have to steal that!

    As Steven Weinberg is said to have said:

    With or without religion, good people
    can behave well and bad people can do
    evil; but for good people to do evil,
    that takes religion!

  344. #344 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    Well, Patrick, the bible is crap. Read it for yourself. I’ve read it twice and I know. Guess what, reading the bible started me toward atheism due to the bible being such a terrible book. You can believe that crap if you want, but take your fake concern elsewhere.

  345. #345 ChrisKG
    January 28, 2009

    Last request (I don’t want two posts about the same thing to be considered spamming).

    Does anyone have an MP3 or audio file of this? I’d love to hear it and I think it would clear the air on a few issues.

  346. #346 Walton
    January 28, 2009

    In the vast majority of cases, I don’t think having a public “debate” about religious issues, or the intersection of religion and science, is all that constructive.

    In the end, to be able to assess the truth or falsehood of a particular religious claim, one needs to do some detailed research into the relevant facts – whether it’s biblical history and archaeology, natural science, or cosmology – and read all the pertinent material with an open mind before coming to a rational conclusion. The audience in a public debate generally doesn’t do this, and isn’t equipped to do so; the question of who “wins” or “loses” the debate, therefore, usually comes down to rhetorical skill, style and point-scoring rather than factual accuracy and completeness. An audience simply won’t be equipped to review and assess the claims made on both sides. I certainly wouldn’t, for example, be able to assess the accuracy of any claim made in a debate about biological evolution, because I simply don’t have the factual knowledge.

    To be honest, in my experience, most debates about religion just devolve into mudslinging and fallacious arguments-from-consequences on all sides.

  347. #347 Eric MacDonald
    January 28, 2009

    If anyone has bothered to look at Kirk Durstan’s web site and his New Scholars Society, it is clear that there is no point debating this man. This kind of thing is fortunately rare in Canada, which does not have the deep fundamentalist traditions of the United States (Alberta being something of an exception). Durstan’s ‘society’ is clearly intended to bring this kind of know-nothing fundamentalism into Canada, and mainlining him at university campuses is just what he wants. He wants someone to show that he is to be taken seriously. But anyone with the Statement of Faith of the so-called New Scholars Society has made it clear, right up front, that there is nothing to be taken seriously. The bible inerrant – in its original manuscripts?! Come on folks. Get serious! This man, for all his redundant degrees – degrees only count if you have something intelligible to say – is a dud. Let him play his games, but don’t give him a place to play them.

    As for Walton’s point about audiences being able to assess both sides. The real problem here is giving this man a side. He hasn’t got one, so let him wither on the vine. Deborah Lipstadt refuses to debate Holocaust deniers. She thinks it gives them credibility. Yes, it does. And without that credibility the only people Kirk Durstan will appeal to is his fellow know-nothing fundies. Well, you’re not going to change their minds either.

  348. #348 Smidgy
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick Ross, it seems to me that you’re getting very upset because PZ suggested the Bible was crap, and you’re taking this as a personal insult. It’s not. PZ was making the startling suggestion that a book talking about a magical Sky-Daddy was fiction, rather than non-fiction (and, in my opinion, not very well written fiction, at that, considering that the first two chapters contradict each other on several points, amongst other things). Considering the debate was about whether or not God exists, and the idea He does is based almost exclusively on the belief that the Bible is true, this is dealing directly with the subject of the debate.

    In contrast, we have Durston, who basically tried to smear atheism by trying to say it leads to people like Stalin and Pol Pot (in much the same way as certain creationists try to smear evolution by saying it led to Hitler). This argument (like the evolution to Hitler one) has three problems with it:

    1) It’s simply not true.
    2) The source used to back this argument up, in fact, says no such thing.
    3) It’s an example of the logical fallacy, ‘argument from adverse consequences’, and is therefore entirely irrelevant to the subject under discussion.

  349. #349 phantomreader42
    January 28, 2009

    So, in addition to being utterly incapable of listing these “absolute, invariant, universal, immaterial laws of logic and reason” that he claims prove the existence of his imaginary friend, on top of totally failing to define his imaginary friend in any meaningful terms whatsoever, after spending weeks babbling solipsist bullshit, dodging every question, and hiding in abject terror from the complete shredding of his idiotitc arguments, Facilis has now not only admitted that his argument is founded entirely in circular reasoning, but he’s admitted that he’s a murderous sociopath.

    Facilis, you are a total, complete, and utter failure. You’re even failing at convincing YOURSELF. You’ve admitted that your arguments are a load of bullshit. And you stand as a living counterexample to several common christian apologetic claims, including your own. You’re full of shit.

  350. #350 Boletus
    January 28, 2009

    …well, I’m so glad we had this little talk. I learned so much.

  351. #351 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Boletus:
    Really?

  352. #352 Marc-Julien Objois
    January 28, 2009

    Here are the photos I got of the event and the subsequent get-together at the bar:

    http://marcjulienobjois.com/gallery/FunShoots/PZMyersUofA/

  353. #353 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    You are personalising the issue.

    Clearly, Kel is making some very poor assumptions, and should have kept in mind my warning to Michael X about not making assumptions about something you know nothing about.

    Personally, I do consider myself to hold Christian beliefs. However, I also reject the Bible as an imperfect book written by infallible people in the first place, corrupted by various historical re-writes, and purely metaphorical anyway.

    I couldn’t possibly be personalizing PZ’s demonstrated contempt for the Bible. I’m not a believer in that particular book.

    What I take issue here is that Dr Myers is claiming — and the rest of you refuse to admit, despite the fact that it’s apparent — that he didn’t do something that he clearly did.

    You are basically saying that ‘by insulting what is important to me, you are insulting me.’

    Uh, no. If you’d paid close attention to the argument, you’d know this to not be the case.

    The argument is “by insulting something by which someone defines their very identity, you insult them.”

    Do you make racial jokes at a black man and expect him not to be insulted? Do you tell a black civil rights activist from the 60s that Dr King deserved to die and expect them not to be insulted by that?

    Of course you don’t.

    Because these aren’t merely things that are important to such people, it’s part of their identity, just as the Bible is central to the identity of the average Christian.

    And this is the very problem that comes with being an atheist, no matter how valid a criticism of religion, the personalisation that people like you do over certain concepts mean that you use your own indignation to silence criticism.

    Uh, no. This isn’t a problem with being an atheist, this is a problem with being a proselytizing douchebag.

    You don’t need to call religious people stupid in order to be an atheist. All you need is to not believe in God. You don’t even need to justify your non-belief in God. Anyone who insists that you do is, likewise, a douchebag.

    But sadly, people who most passionately follow individuals like Dr Myers and Richard Dawkins have made “religion is irrational and stupid” their primary tack in proselytizing atheism to others.

    I can’t tell you that you shouldn’t say such things. But what I can tell you is that you can’t say such things and then try and pretend as if you didn’t.

    Such as the case with Dr Myers here. The issue isn’t that he said it. The issue is that he said it, and denies it.

    The facts speak for themselves.

  354. #354 Steve_C
    January 28, 2009

    Religion IS stupid. All of them.

    Is that insulting to people? Maybe. But tough shit. But it’s not the same as saying ALL theists are stupid.

    Patrick, your examples are stupid too.

  355. #355 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “But what I can tell you is that you can’t say such things and then try and pretend as if you didn’t.”

    PZ has done no such thing. All he said in his addendum to this post was “Contrary to the assertions of others, I did not open with any insults to Durston at all.” And nobody has yet been able to cite any insults. Since atheism is, by itself, merely the negation of religious belief, then it is pretty much impossible to argue for it without busting on religion in some way. That’s just the way it goes.

    Your concern is noted. And incredibly tedious.

  356. #356 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    You’re being dishonest, Rev.

    Shall I quote Dr Myers again? Sure, why not:

    It was Durston’s first words that were insulting and illogical ? a shot at calling atheists evil. I suppose if I’d opened by announcing that Christians were all stupid, we would have had equivalency?but I did not.

    Again, not only did Durston not call atheists evil, but Myers did call Christians stupid.

    What Dr Myers says here is fundamentally untrue.

    The ironic thing is that I don’t need you to admit this in order for that to be the case. It really just confirms that you, yourself, are dishonest as well.

  357. #357 Eric MacDonald
    January 28, 2009

    I’ve been reading along the thread that involves Patrick Ross defending his right not to be treated insensitively for his religious beliefs. I think he needs to say what he thinks is included in the sensitivity required. Here’s what Patrick says:

    The argument is “by insulting something by which someone defines their very identity, you insult them.”

    What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that, in a debate about religious belief, a nonbeliever is not allowed to say that religious belief, in his view is childish, simple-minded, not based on evidence, depends on unreliable sources, is in conflict with other religions which claim that spiritual reality is different than held by, say, in this case, Christians? Or does it mean that a nonbeliever should not come up to you in Starbucks and call your religious beliefs crap and your scriptures of dubious value?

    You see, Patrick, in churches across this country, and around the world, I should think, Christians and Jews and Muslims and others get up, on a fairly regular basis, and say some not so nice things about nonbelievers. It’s quite common. Indeed, the number of books that have appeared since Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, some of them, on the face of it, quite offensively titled, such as The Dawkins Delusion, are none of them particularly friendly to the foundational ideas of nonbelief. Do nonbelievers also qualify for your prohibition of insult and offence, or are they, somehow, unentitled?

    There is an added point that needs to be made, Patrick. You have admitted that you think of the bible as the words of god in the words of men. Now, would you like to explain to us how this is done? Without producing crap, I mean? After all, how do we know, when we are told by “Moses” (although of course we know the Pentateuch was not likely penned by a man by that name) that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation, and by Ezekiel (and Jeremiah, too, I believe) that we are not to let it be said in Israel that the fathers ate sour grapes and their children’s teeth are set on edge. How do we winkle out the bit that comes from god here? And since the Jews decline the invitation to hold the documents of the New Testament true, and claim that the Christians have misappropriated their (Jewish) scriptures, what is and is not offensive here? And to whom is the offence given? Or should we just proscribe scriptures altogether as a source of undoubted offence to someone?

    Besides, after having claimed that you have a right not to be offended, is it altogether true to say that the real issue here is not that PZ Myers said something, but that he said it and denies it? After all, the claims you are making are far more complex than that.

    Care to try again? (Facts, by the way, don’t speak.)

  358. #358 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick Ross:
    Your website is Nexus of assholery?
    Wow. After reading it I’ve come to the conclusion you are seriously disturbed much like Starbuck who haunts these threads.

    A Troll, that’s all you are. *killfile*

  359. #359 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 28, 2009

    You’re being dishonest, Rev.

    Huhwaht?

  360. #360 Eric MacDonald
    January 28, 2009

    Thanks EV. I was taking the man seriously. Obviously, he’s a Troll. And he wants people to respect his beliefs! Well, live and learn. Hey all. Forget about Patrick Ross. He’s pure poison.

  361. #361 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    Does it mean that, in a debate about religious belief, a nonbeliever is not allowed to say that religious belief, in his view is childish, simple-minded, not based on evidence, depends on unreliable sources, is in conflict with other religions which claim that spiritual reality is different than held by, say, in this case, Christians? Or does it mean that a nonbeliever should not come up to you in Starbucks and call your religious beliefs crap and your scriptures of dubious value?

    If Eric MacDonald weren’t too stupid to understand the issue here, he’d realize that, no, that isn’t it at all.

    The point is that you can’t call people stupid for having beliefs that are “crap” and then claim that you didn’t.

    Pay attention.

  362. #362 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    Yes, let’s do analyze the quote again.

    “I suppose if I’d opened by announcing that Christians were all stupid, we would have had equivalency?but I did not.”

    IF he had opened by announcing that Christians are all stupid…but he didn’t. Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. He insulted them implicitly by belittling their book. Weaksauce.

    But I’ll go ahead and call myself “dishonest” anyway, hell I’ll even go ahead and call PZ dishonest (he can take care of himself, after all), if it will let you reach the climax of your mental masturbation. I do aim to please.

  363. #363 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    “is it altogether true to say that the real issue here is not that PZ Myers said something, but that he said it and denies it?”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I let myself get distracted by ancillary points, but no, Pat is pretty much just out to score some incredibly cheap rhetorical point against PZ.

  364. #364 Patrick Ross
    January 28, 2009

    He insulted them implicitly by belittling their book. Weaksauce.

    Only if you’re incapable of understanding the central importance of that book to the identity of a Christian. Which, apparently, you are incapable of.

    Pat is pretty much just out to score some incredibly cheap rhetorical point against PZ.

    Please. If this were about scoring points, I’d content myself with Dr Myers’s mischaracterization of Hitler as a Roman Catholic, and with his claim that atheism isn’t a core belief of Marxism.

  365. #365 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    And as for people denying the connection between communism and atheism
    Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned by the communists in Romania for 14 years for being Christian said

    The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.

  366. #366 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    I could image what would happen if PZ’s opponent came up and said “I’ve studied evolutionary biology. It’s crap.” in response to PZ’s points(without providing evidence). I’m sure everyone herewould have said that it was a great insult to all the evolutionary biologists who study the subject. Why now defend PZ when he tries to insult believers?

  367. #367 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    I think one of PZ’s failings was that he did not present any positive arguments for his position. He made some sort of argument against intelligent design in biology, but that was about it.(I myself don’t believe in intelligent design because I think God has better stuff to do than tinker with flagellums)
    And before everyone says something about default position,read philosophypages online to find out what the default position is and atheism is not it.
    http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/

    atheism

    Belief that god does not exist. Unlike the agnostic, who merely criticizes traditional arguments for the existence of a deity, the atheist must offer evidence (such as the problem of evil) that there is no god or propose a strong principle for denying what is not known to be true.

  368. #368 Sastra
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis #364 wrote:

    “The Communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’

    I don’t really know the situation involved here, but this is rather strange. The danger of the Communist ideology — as in any dogmatic ideology — was that it allowed people to do evil, while believing they were doing something good. They were helping the proletariat, working for justice and the State and a Glorious Future.

    Just as those who tortured heretics during the Inquisition sincerely believed they were helping souls escape eternal torment, and doing the noble work of God. That is what makes it frightening.

    I think it’s rare for anyone in the grip of a Noble Idea which trumps the needs of the individual — or demonizes The Other — to claim that they’re “doing evil.” They’re doing a Good that only looks like evil, to those who haven’t been enlightened into the Wonderful Truth, or who don’t belong to the Master Race, or the Elect, or whatever. So I’m rather skeptical about this quote, that it’s accurately reported.

  369. #369 Alyson Miers
    January 28, 2009

    If you know the state has your back, you will get away with doing horrible things while knowing that your reward will be in this, finite, life.

    If you know the Church has your back, and God is on your side, you will get away with doing horrible things while knowing that your reward will be in heaven for eternity.

    It’s a choice no one should have to make, but I’d rather live under the Commies. There’s only so much motivation to cause pain and misery when you only have the rest of your life to get be pleased with yourself for it.

    Oh, and I’ll believe that an atheist actually said this:

    ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour

    when Facilis the Fallacious starts making sense.

  370. #370 Sastra
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis #366 wrote:

    I think one of PZ’s failings was that he did not present any positive arguments for his position. He made some sort of argument against intelligent design in biology, but that was about it.

    Well, I wasn’t there (so this is risky), but I suspect that PZ’s argument there was that the scientific approach to the world has lead us to think in terms of a different type of explanation. Once you understand how complexity grows mindlessly from things that are not complex, God is not only an unnecessary hypothesis, but no longer consistent with what we know. Minds (and intelligence) are the result of a long process of evolution: we wouldn’t be likely to start out with one.

    Of course, that’s an evidentialist argument, and I suspect you’d not be happy with it even if you agreed.

  371. #371 Patricia, OM
    January 28, 2009

    I wish gawd would come and get facilis, he needs to be changed.

  372. #372 Eric MacDonald
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick Ross, I know you’re a Troll, but you don’t have to be so cretinous. You said, and I quoted you:

    The argument is “by insulting something by which someone defines their very identity, you insult them.”

    The claim that PZ said something and then denied it is not an argument. It’s a statement, and it’s either true or false. You say it’s true. I wasn’t there. And I don’t much care either way. The bible is pure crap, if the claim is that it’s the word of a god. There are, though, some quite good things in it. The Song of Songs is passibly good erotic poetry. The book of Job is a clear statement of the problem of evil, and makes god look, as one commentator has said, like a primitive cave dwelling cosmic bully. Ecclesiastes understands that human life is ephemeral, and that we should make the most of the life we’ve got. And some of the prophets make a fairly good stab of understanding what justice might be. But it’s all human, through and through. Some of if all too human.

    Clearly Kirk Durstan is a bit of an intellectual non-entity, since he believes the bible is inerrant. And you may be too. Nevertheless, the statement that I quoted from you is, or at least pretends to be, an argument. So make up your mind, and stop blowing smoke out of your ass.

  373. #373 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    I’ll offer my thanks to facilis for finding another line of argument.

    That being said, facilis, you’re still missing one of the very significant points about what atheism is, and all your attempts to tell us what we do and don’t believe isn’t going to change that.

    Imagine, if you can, someone brought up by parents who never allow that child access to any information about the possible existence of gods – yours or any others. Say there is a community of such people who have their own school and sources of information, none of it with any mention of Gods. Literature, the internet, film & television is only that which is sans gods.

    Yes, it’s far-fetched to the point of being ridiculous, and certainly not a scenario which I would advocate, but that’s not the point – it’s a thought experiment, not a proposal.

    How is the atheism of those children not the default position? It’s an atheism of pure ignorance. They haven’t chosen to disbelieve in gods; there’s never been a god concept for them to reject.

    Does that make sense?

  374. #374 Steve_C
    January 28, 2009

    Geeze facilis you’re foolishness is bordering on insanity.

  375. #375 PZ Myers
    January 28, 2009

    Wait…someone doubts that Hitler was a Catholic?

  376. #376 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    Wait…someone doubts that Hitler was a Catholic?

    PZ, you’re so naïve. He was probably just saying those things so he could infiltrate the church and bring them down from the inside. God, of course, knew of this plan and after He had let Hitler wipe out enough of God’s enemies (the Jews and the Communists – though they’re pretty much the same thing to God), he sent True Christians? to stop him.

    Well, eventually. Hey, it’s ‘God works in mysterious ways’, not ‘God works in expedient ways’…

  377. #377 Smidgy
    January 28, 2009

    Patrick Ross @352:

    Personally, I do consider myself to hold Christian beliefs. However, I also reject the Bible as an imperfect book written by infallible people in the first place, corrupted by various historical re-writes, and purely metaphorical anyway.

    by insulting something by which someone defines their very identity, you insult them.

    If the Bible is ‘imperfect’ and ‘corrupted’, then why the hell would you rely on it to ‘define your very identity’. Moreover, it seems that you have just insulted and criticised the Bible. By the logic of your own argument, by extension, you have also insulted all Christians, including yourself. Additionally, you seemingly fail to understand the whole topic of the debate was ‘does God exist?’ By your argument, basically, the ‘no’ side is not allowed to actually make a case, of any kind, at all, because Christians, due to the core of their religion being a belief that God does exist, would be insulted.

  378. #378 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Y’all need to visit Nexus of assholery and see Patrick’s little homage to Wingnut Conservatism. I’m sure the female readers will love his attacks on Pro-choice stances. There’s something offensive for everyone on his site. Enjoy. (Just use his name clickback)

  379. #379 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    I’m sure the female readers will love his attacks on Pro-choice stances.

    You do know that more women are pro-life than men, right?

  380. #380 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    @Kel

    facilis is such a too

    I know. I am just God’s tool to spread his word.Thank you.

  381. #381 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool. Since everything you say is a lie, why should we pay any attention to it other than to mock you. In order to get any credibility, you need to stop posting here for a few years. A century sound about right. Maybe then you will have reached a normal IQ.

  382. #382 Smidgy
    January 28, 2009

    I know. I am just God’s tool to spread his word.Thank you.

    Really? Well, if what you’re spreading is ‘God’s word’, thanks. It makes atheism seem ever more correct.

  383. #383 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    By your argument, basically, the ‘no’ side is not allowed to actually make a case, of any kind, at all, because Christians, due to the core of their religion being a belief that God does exist, would be insulted.

    No one can make a case without being insulting. I was polite in the other threads when I presented my evidence that atheism was wrong.

  384. #384 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    He was probably just saying those things so he could infiltrate the church and bring them down from the inside.

    For once you are right wowbagger
    Look at the Nazi documents released from the Nuremburg trials.

    The first installment, entitled “The Nazi Master Plan; The Persecution of Christian Churches,” shows how the Nazis planned to supplant Christianity with a religion based on racial superiority. The report, prepared by the Office of Strategic Services ? a forerunner of the CIA ? says: “Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked ? complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion.”
    1. The National Reich church is determined to exterminate irrevocably and by every means the strange and foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany in the ill-omened year 800.

    2. The National Reich church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany as well as the publication of Sunday papers
    , pamphlets, publications and books of a religious nature.

    3. The National Reich church does not acknowledge forgiveness of sins. It represents the standpoint which it will always proclaim that a sin once committed will be ruthlessly punished by the honorable and indestructible laws of nature and punishment will follow during the sinner’s lifetime.

    – “Nazi Trial Documents Made Public.” BBC News, Jan. 11, 2002

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=60019

  385. #385 Steve_C
    January 28, 2009

    But facilis, you never presented evidence, only assertions and circular arguments.

  386. #386 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    facilis wrote:

    I was polite in the other threads when I presented my evidence that atheism was wrong.

    You didn’t insult anyone directly. However, you forgot that assertion ? evidence. To demand we assume otherwise, as you did, is an insult to our intelligence.

  387. #387 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis, we just presume you are a liar. You have presented no evidence to the contrary. In fact, almost everything you have presented backs up that theory. So to get some credibility, you need to stop posting for a few years.

  388. #388 heliobates
    January 28, 2009

    And before everyone says something about default position,read philosophypages online to find out what the default position is and atheism is not it.

    Um, what exactly makes the Philosophy Pages online authoritative? If we read them backwards, do they spell out the full Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic? Are the chock full of Transcendentalistic Goodness. If I listen to them with the lights off and a single candle burning, will I achieve satori?

    My citation can beat up your citation:

    One thing that will not differentiate the theist from the atheist is to say that God, if he exists, is necessary in the sense of not being dependent on anything else for his existence. The atheist will say that the universe fits this bill because the universe contains everything that there is and so is not caused by anything else. It is indeed hard to see what an adequate conception of God and his necessary existence could be.

    If God cannot be shown to be necessary, then the theist cannot lay claim to belief as the default position.

    Or are you finally going to present the full explication of the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic and the accompanying theory of truth (with answers to Gettier problems)? Yanno, the stuff that you and Sye T. run away from?

  389. #389 Feynmaniac
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis,

    The fact that you cite World Net Daily (and article from Vox Day no less) just shows how deluded you are.

  390. #390 heliobates
    January 28, 2009

    And before everyone says something about default position,read philosophypages online to find out what the default position is and atheism is not it.

    Um, what exactly makes the Philosophy Pages online authoritative? If we read them backwards, do they spell out the full Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic? Are the chock full of Transcendentalistic Goodness. If I listen to them with the lights off and a single candle burning, will I achieve satori?

    My citation can beat up your citation:

    One thing that will not differentiate the theist from the atheist is to say that God, if he exists, is necessary in the sense of not being dependent on anything else for his existence. The atheist will say that the universe fits this bill because the universe contains everything that there is and so is not caused by anything else. It is indeed hard to see what an adequate conception of God and his necessary existence could be.

    If God cannot be shown to be necessary, then the theist cannot lay claim to belief as the default position.

    Or are you finally going to present the full explication of the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic and the accompanying theory of truth (with answers to Gettier problems)? Yanno, the stuff that you and Sye T. run away from?

  391. #391 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    He cites articles from WingNutDaily’s quote mine machine and he wants us to accept it as fact? Crap, the National Enquirer and Star Daily are more credible sources of information.

  392. #392 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    Well, it appears Facilis is too dumb to know he has nothing, will never will have anything, and is only being a dunderheaded godbot for making any further posts. Delusions galore.

  393. #393 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    For once you are right wowbagger

    Why, thank you for that concession, facilis – I hope one day I can return the favour :)

    Look at the Nazi documents released from the Nuremburg trials.

    In all honesty I can’t say that I believe that Hitler was acting in the best interests of the Catholic Church – not directly at least; they did of course benefit from it financially, and probably enjoyed seeing the hated Jews get the punishment they felt they deserved – hence why they never spoke out against him very much at all, and even when they did it was far too late.

    But he certainly took a lot of inspiration from them, and used the lessons he learned about how to control the credulous to great effect. Hitler’s own inclinations were far less a problem than the religiosity of a people who were already brainwashed to worship and accept the illogical.

    The first installment, entitled “The Nazi Master Plan; The Persecution of Christian Churches,” shows how the Nazis planned to supplant Christianity with a religion based on racial superiority.

    Emphasis mine. That they were going to replace one religion with another says a great deal about the Nazis and religion; obviously, they weren’t stupid and knew they still needed a means to control people, and they knew religion well enough to realise it’s the best way to achieve that. Lies and false promises.

    Some things never change.

  394. #394 Smidgy
    January 28, 2009

    I love how you selectively read and only show what you’re looking for, Facilis. The full quote of the first bit, with the convenient question marks removed:

    Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked to meet this situation by a complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion tailored to fit the needs of National Socialism.

    The ‘situation’ in question being that, although the Christian Churches in Germany agreed with the Nazis on certain things, it disagreed on others, such as the idea that the Church should be totally subservient to the State, and the Nazis wanted to solve this problem by supplanting Christianity with a Hitler’s version of it. Moreover, the document makes reference to this apparant ‘anti-Christian position’ by referencing Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Der Mythus des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts’ (The Myth of the Twentieth Century), which, it says, is, ‘generally regarded, after Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as the most authoritative statement of National Socialist ideology’. Rosenberg’s book is NOT an atheist one, or an evolutionary one, even by a supreme stretch of the imagination. It actually talks about the modern version of Christianity actually being a ‘Judaized’ and ‘corrupted’ version of true Christianity, which Germany needs to get back to.

  395. #395 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    If God cannot be shown to be necessary, then the theist cannot lay claim to belief as the default position.

    It’s pretty clear you don’t understand what they are talking about. It has to do with modal logic and possible worlds. A necessary entity is an entity that exists in all possible worlds.
    It has nothing to do with whether belief in God is necessary to explain anything.

  396. #396 Facilis
    January 28, 2009

    If God cannot be shown to be necessary, then the theist cannot lay claim to belief as the default position.

    It’s pretty clear you don’t understand what they are talking about. It has to do with modal logic and possible worlds. A necessary entity is an entity that exists in all possible worlds.
    It has nothing to do with whether belief in God is necessary to explain anything.

  397. #397 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool. Your imaginary god doesn’t exist. That makes everything you say a lie. That also creates a huge problems for your logic? That is why you are both a fool and a liar.

  398. #398 Boletus
    January 28, 2009

    Hey Facilis,

    I agree with at least some of what you say. (And I don’t think you’re a fool.) Agnosticism is indeed a sensible default position. Interestingly enough, Dawkins says more or less that in one of his interviews. Also, since it’s awfully hard to conclusively demonstrate a universal negative proposition (outside of math) atheism is hard to prove if we want a fully conclusive proof. If you lower the standard of evidence to what counts as ‘reasonable’ however… well… then it becomes an open question. I, for one, think that atheism can be defended as a more reasonable view than any alternative. But it sounds like you disagree on that. Fine.

    Notice this though: meta-atheism can be defended. Meta-atheism is the view that even people who say that they believe in God, like you, in fact don’t. So you (in spite of what you may think or say) do not actually really believe in an invisible, benevolent dude in the sky. How do I know this? Well, your so-called ‘beliefs’ in a god just don’t have the right features to really count as proper beliefs. Here’s one example: people can choose to believe in god or not to. They can choose to have faith. (In fact, that’s one important reason atheists are supposedly morally blameworthy: they have turned their back on the lord.) Well, once you think about it, that’s an awfully strange thing. I mean: try choosing to believe that the Continuum Hypothesis is true or that there is life on Mars. It seems silly to try. Choice just doesn’t enter into real factual beliefs. (And when it does, we call it delusion.) There are other reasons. I can spell them out for you. But the long and the short of it is that religious faith is really a kind of pretense play: we play at believing that there’s a god. We choose to speak a certain way. We hang out with girls who say the same stuff and feel awfully guilty for… Well, you get the idea. ;-)

    So, you see, there may not be conclusive evidence for atheism. But there’s decent evidence that we’re all atheists anyway.

    By the way: good on you for not being discouraged by being called an idiot. You’re dead wrong about a number of things. But I doubt you’re an idiot.

  399. #399 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    Boletus,

    If you’re new here (I don’t recall seeing your handle before the last few days) then you probably haven’t seen facilis at his worst. Start here and read on through his posts to get an idea of what he was pushing and how it was received.

    Despite my occasional vitriol, I’m happy to engage him when he’s not just repeating the same baseless nonsense over and over again – but I can also understand why some posters have a low tolerance for him and call him fool and idiot; those are apt descriptions for a person behaving as he was and presenting the arguments he did.

  400. #400 heliobates
    January 28, 2009

    It’s pretty clear you don’t understand what they are talking about. It has to do with modal logic and possible worlds. A necessary entity is an entity that exists in all possible worlds. It has nothing to do with whether belief in God is necessary to explain anything.

    Oh goody. Now you toss out another formal logic when you have yet to deliver on your first assertion that you’ve been reasoning using Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic (a formal explication which you steadfastly refuse to provide).

    Okay, so God is a proven necessary entity with modal logic. Let’s see your proof of that. (You’ll get to that just as soon as you finish typing up the UULL and formal model of truth… I’m crossing my fingers but not holding my breath).

    What’s clear in this is that, like your buddy Sye, you are just parroting an apologetic script.

  401. #401 Boletus
    January 28, 2009

    Thanks for the warning WowBagger. I’ll bear it in mind. And I’ll try not to feed the trolls. :-)

    As for the modal logic stuff: the best you can get is the conditional claim that if G exists then G exists necessarily. Still, you can’t establish that G exists from the axioms of any modal logic. And the conditional claim by itself is irrelevant in this discussion.

    Finally, you can think that the foundations of mathematics are real, objective, non-negotiable (not to mention pretty cool) and yet still not think they have anything remotely to do with a deity or with a platonic realm of ideal objects. Kant has one good story to tell. Penelope Maddy has another. Read more, spout less.

    Hope that helps.

  402. #402 Feynmaniac
    January 28, 2009

    Boletus,

    I have to second Wowbagger. Facilis has been repeating the same fallacious arguments for weeks now and it’s getting annoying. Please read the link Wowbagger provided (or at least some it, I know it’s long) before making up your mind.

  403. #403 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    facilis hasn’t, on this thread at least, brought up that particular argument, and for all I know he may have given up on it. Only time will tell.

    This whole logic business is almost completely alien to me and I’m not really in a position to learn it well enough to be able to argue with anyone about it – well, not anytime soon anyway. It’s going on an already long list.

    But my ignorance of logic doesn’t prevent me from seeing the problem with claiming that, just because it can be argued using logic that a god exists, we have to accept that that god in question must be the god of the person arguing.

    Is there an expression in logic to convey that?

  404. #404 Boletus
    January 28, 2009

    You know, Feynmaniac, I actually think that Facilis is onto something. Of course, he’s not onto what he thinks he’s onto. But that’s another story. One of the best scientific accounts of where mathematics comes from is Stanislas Dehaene’s “The Number Sense.” It’s a really good attempt by a competent neuroscientist to account for our facility with basic arithmetic. But, as any amateur mathematician will tell you, it falls far short of an explanation of our ability to do analysis, abstract algebra or set theory. Some philosophers, including Maddy, have tried to do better. But we still have no proper, scientific account of the nature of mathematics. So, insofar as Facilis was pointing to a domain in which we’re ignorant, he was right.

    The tiresome thing is that theological arguments often take the form: you don’t know how X works and so there is a God. This is one more instance of the kind. I think the right response (as usual) is just to go do the science and figure out how X works. :-)

    But again: I don’t think what he says is wholly worthless.

  405. #405 Anomic
    January 28, 2009

    ChrisKG @#344- I haven’t heard anything about an mp3 but the moderator did mention that the debate should eventally be posted on youtube. and yes, hopefully it’ll clear up a few issues. In the meantime;

    Full Disclosure: I am the friend who went with Dennis to the debate While Dennis *is* an agnostic (hard as that is for a few of you to believe :-P) I myself am a deist, which no doubt coloured my perception.

    That being said- I was at the debate and would like to weigh in on a few things, specificly if and how durston and pz were insulting towards each others view points.

    First off Durston never directly insulted athiests. Not once. In his opening argument he gave several reasons for believing in god.

    1. Logical/Metaphysical (In short nature cannot account for nature. If the universe does have a begining there must be something outside of nature which first created it, something which by definition must be both supernatural and beyond time, and since we would expect god, as a maximally excellent being, to have these properties and be the creator as the universe we can therefore count this as evidence towards his existence.)

    2. Historical. Durston believes Jesus was god incarnate, intervening in history through human form. He specifically
    asked PZ if he could provide an explanation for the massive and sudden explosion of Christian Belief shortly after the death of Jesus. Durston believes that this phenonmenon could only have occured if Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead and appeared before great numbers of people, and that this is therefore strong evidence of his divinity.

    3. Existential. Durston Believes that any meaning given to life that doesn’t originate outside of humanity is empty.
    This is where the “toxic waste” and “suicide” comments derived from. Later on in the follow up response he said
    “The problem with choosing your own meaning is that ultimatly you can choose to believe in whatever you want. You can Believe in Humanity, you can believe in tin cans, you can believe in toxic waste, you can believe in anything” and later (mis)*quoting camus he said “Camus thought the ultimate question every atheist has to ask himself is “why not commit suicide?”. Since God gives life meaning it is therefore worthwhile to believe in god.

    *(For those interested, the actual quote, a famous one from the myth of sisyphus, is this “The only truly serious philosophical problem, is that of suicide….” implying it’s a question we *all* have to ask ourselves.)

    4. Moral. Dunston, for the similar reasons, believes that any morality that doesn’t originate outside of humanity is empty, and that since God can provide an ultimate basis for morality, it i therefore worthwhile to beleive in god. This is when things became most controversial. To counter the claims “often made by atheists like Hitchens and others” that religon is in fact an immoral force and responsible for most of the destruction in the world, Dunston brought out Rummel’s research, suggesting that countries with an atheist basis have a worse track record.
    The examples Dunston used were the USSR, North Korea and Pol Pot. He I don’t remember him bringing up Hitler at this point at all. (I recall PZ doing so, later on, in response to Durston, causing the two of them to argue over whether or not he was catholic.) When his argument is considered in this context its hard for me to see how durston could have intended to insult atheists, and in fact, in response to myers objections later, he made a point of making it clear that this was not his intention.

    After Durston was finished, PZ began. Unlike Dennis, and the gateway I don’t remember PZ making any outright derogatory statements about the bible during his opening. He did call it “Crap” and “Nonsense” numerous times afterwords, and did indeed at one point call it “Bullshit” but I only remember taking place later on.

    With his slide reading “Do Gods Exist?” he began this way:

    “Really I have to express my unhappiness with the question, I mean ‘Do leprechauns exist’ come on people, this is the 21st century… we’re grown ups,how can we possibly believe this nonsense.”

    he then turned to his slide and (in a comical way) pretended to be surprised

    “Oh, do GODS exist, well…come on people, this is the 21st century, we’re grown ups how can we possibly believe this nonsense…” etc.

    Though PZ was clearly trying to be funny, the overall tone of his presentation did seem condescending, and I can understand how some could find it insulting.

    PZ then went on to compare The Genesis Creation Myth to the hindhu creation myth and scientology’s creation myth, asking why we should consider one any less absurd than the others. (which, good a question as it may be, seemed beside the point, since Durston had said in his opening statement that for the sake of the argument he was going to assume genesis was all myths and fairytales. I didn’t realize that durston usually takes a standard creationist route and now understand why PZ said this, but at the time it did seem like a pointless dig.)

    PZ then went on to describe Hox Genes, what they were, what they did, and the mechanisms by which they functioned. At this point things became extremely messy. I’m not sure what happened, if PZ was simply unaware of how much time he actually had, or simply got caught up and excited by what he was explaining and didn’t realize it (I got the impression that he enjoys working in his field very much), but in any case the moderator eventaully had to tell him that he was running out of time, forcing him to speed through the rest of his presentation, (based on the number of slides left, it looked likeonly gone through about a quarter of it). If PZ’s goal here was to, as he put it,

    Every biological phenomenon that we have examined in sufficient detail has been found to be explainable by purely natural causes.

    Than I’d say he managed to set up his point, but not really make it.

    It was when Durston got up to respond to PZ that things started getting uncomfortable. He took issue PZ’s opening jokes, saying that he thought the question of gods existence was extremely important, and accusing pz of commiting the fallacy of the laughing donkey (something I had never heard of before), his point being that the fact that a point of view can be made laughable does not neccessarily make it untrue. He seems pretty insulted by PZ’s attitude to the subject. He then repeated his original points not believing that PZ had addressed them.

    PZ shot back that he himself felt insulted by D’s insinuation that atheists had meaningless lives and were amoral homicidal maniacs (a gross misrepresentation of D’s point IMO) and accused him of poisoning the well. It was at this point that he brought up the topic of hitler (again, he was the first to do so) being a catholic saying something to the effect that by D’s Logic we might as well blame the holocaust on catholicism. He also pointed out that there were complex sociological causes behind these “Atheist” mass killings, and that atheism probably had very little to do with them. I agree with PZ here, but I also think that this very same point could be made about the various religious atrocities that some atheists use to condemn faith, which was at least part of D’s original point.

    Things REALLY devolved after this.
    Like PZ said above after this both men began talking past each other almost completely, so its hard to remember exactly what was said, but Neither seemed to fully address, or comprehend the others point. They both seemed to get caught up in minor points (was hitler really catholic? is josephus really a reliable historical source? Are the evolution of genetic proteins really too improbable to be accounted for by nature? ) completely forgeting the larger question they had come to debate.

    By my lights, both men did poorly, but if forced to choose I would definitely give the debate the Durston. He may never have adequately addressed PZ’s arguments, he at least seemed to try, while PZ was mostly dismissive. He also seemed the most off topic.

    Whether this was because Durston had “Durston consciously avoided any topic on which [PZ] might have some expertise.” I guess only Durston knows. But he clearly won.

  406. #406 Patricia, OM
    January 28, 2009

    Facilis is a fool and a liar. He has gone on for weeks, and continues to commit dungeon worthy sins. PZ must have the patience ‘of a saint’ to put up with Facilis.

    I’m willing to make up a sugar tit for Facilis, but somebody else is gonna have to change his diaper.

  407. #407 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    This thread has been a constant IV of wanking. As soon as Patrick retires from making the same tired claims over and over again, Facilis jumps in to resume his own.

    It’s a dictionary worthy example of “Wankery” that can make your brain melt just from reading it.

  408. #408 aratina
    January 28, 2009

    It will be interesting to see the video of this debate between PZ and Kirk. From what has been reported here and other places, it has a number of similarities with two other debates Kirk has done, one with Jeffrey Schallit and another with Sahotra Sarkar.

    At each of these debates, rules were slipped in that prohibited the scientists from responding to Kirk’s ludicrous opening statement (although Jeffrey wasted no time going right after Kirk). All three times, a coin toss allowed Kirk to go first, and none of the scientists were prepared for the twisted logic and misconceptions Kirk would use in his 20-minute opening statement. It threw each of them off, causing all of them to get a little perturbed and give poorer than expected performances, even coming across as unprepared during the opening statement.

    Yet, Kirk apparently argued the same drivel each time, going from original causation to computational genetics and personal testimony/biblical literalism, adding little flourishes here and there. Kirk’s numbers for the amount of “functional” information produced by nature differed in each presentation–it is highly probable that he is just making these numbers up as he goes along. Hopefully PZ’s run-in with this guy will get the word out and ensure no one ever meets Kirk again on such lopsided debating terms.

  409. #409 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    The argument is “by insulting something by which someone defines their very identity, you insult them.”

    Do you make racial jokes at a black man and expect him not to be insulted? Do you tell a black civil rights activist from the 60s that Dr King deserved to die and expect them not to be insulted by that?

    I didn’t say they wouldn’t be insulted, I said they have no reason to be insulted. If you are going to complain that I’m misrepresenting your arguments, the least you can do is not misrepresent mine.

    To say “all n*ggers can fuck off” is an attack on a particular people, it’s a personalised argument. To say that Martin Luther King’s speech is boring and bland might be a better analogy. People may take it personally, people might find it insulting, but it’s not a personal attack. Calling the bible crap is not an insult against those who hold the bible dear, and to take it personally is to personalise a non-personal argument.

    Uh, no. This isn’t a problem with being an atheist, this is a problem with being a proselytizing douchebag.

    You don’t need to call religious people stupid in order to be an atheist. All you need is to not believe in God. You don’t even need to justify your non-belief in God. Anyone who insists that you do is, likewise, a douchebag.

    Again, you lying sack of shit, no-one called religious people stupid. The comment was that the bible is crap, which is not equivalent to calling religious people stupid. You are putting a bridge up on a non-personal issue and saying anyone who dares criticises it is insulting anyone who holds it dear. No-one is calling religious people stupid, criticising religious text is not calling those who believe in it idiots. By even suggesting that calling the bible crap is calling religious people stupid, or that Myers and Dawkins are calling religious people stupid (I know they both call creationists stupid, but that’s another story) is trying to take offence and anyone who dares to criticise the particular mythology that people hold dear.

    If you want to call me a douchebag, that’s fine. But that doesn’t stop the bible being a collection of poorly-written myths, impossible and incredulous tales, abject cruelty, and is a mostly poor moral guide for life. Nothing against you, nothing against other Christians… but seriously the bible is crap.

  410. #410 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    Oy, did I say wanking earlier? I meant Insipidity. Though there was a bit of wanking going on.

    Trolls come up with so many ways to screw a thread, it’s hard to keep them all straight.

  411. #411 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    I know. I am just God’s tool to spread his word.Thank you.

    lol, at least you occasionally bring the lulz, even if you are a failed blowhard who thinks that asserting things enough times makes it true.

  412. #412 Kendo
    January 29, 2009

    Hey Patrick, the bible is crap and even the christians know it’s crap. That’s why, contrary to your unfounded assertion, they don’t actually “adhere” to it. Name one christian who actually follows the bible’s rules.

  413. #413 Geoff
    January 29, 2009

    HumanisticJones, I was thinking along the same lines (your post #96).

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to build a database/wiki/something of sources, as a resource for future debates for all atheists. Put down basic points made, summaries of arguments, other basic data that would help in the debate. If possible, include links to those sources.

    Definitely agreed, though, pin them down before the debate as to available sources and rules for introducing new sources during the debate. Have all sources available for reference, and displayable, during the debate (so when you quote someone, you can show it). If a source cannot be referenced during the debate, be willing to have a second debate – but don’t rehash what’s already been said in the first one!

    Third, let’s evaluate *both* of the debaters afterwards. By analyzing our tactics and their tactics, we can develop logical traps by which to make them look silly, and avoid traps they may set or pitfalls of our own (one person I watched debate used an electricity experiment as an analogy to proving evolution, only to be laughed out of the room when the creationist responded that electricity was ‘observable and repeatable’, thus scoring a point with the crowd). If one of us is liable to making mistakes in our reasoning (or doing something equally fatal, such as boring the crowd), we should be attempting to fix that error.

    I’m sure I haven’t thought of several other equally effective actions, but I think the above three rules would serve the effect of allowing for, if not forcing, a logical debate wherein we can readily build a coherent and fair argument, with no . . . well, “monkey games”.

  414. #414 Geoff
    January 29, 2009

    HumanisticJones, I was thinking along the same lines (your post #96).

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to build a database/wiki/something of sources, as a resource for future debates for all atheists. Put down basic points made, summaries of arguments, other basic data that would help in the debate. If possible, include links to those sources.

    Definitely agreed, though, pin them down before the debate as to available sources and rules for introducing new sources during the debate. Have all sources available for reference, and displayable, during the debate (so when you quote someone, you can show it). If a source cannot be referenced during the debate, be willing to have a second debate – but don’t rehash what’s already been said in the first one!

    Third, let’s evaluate *both* of the debaters afterwards. By analyzing our tactics and their tactics, we can develop logical traps by which to make them look silly, and avoid traps they may set or pitfalls of our own (one person I watched debate used an electricity experiment as an analogy to proving evolution, only to be laughed out of the room when the creationist responded that electricity was ‘observable and repeatable’, thus scoring a point with the crowd). If one of us is liable to making mistakes in our reasoning (or doing something equally fatal, such as boring the crowd), we should be attempting to fix that error.

    I’m sure I haven’t thought of several other equally effective actions, but I think the above three rules would serve the effect of allowing for, if not forcing, a logical debate wherein we can readily build a coherent and fair argument, with no . . . well, “monkey games”.

  415. #415 Kendo
    January 29, 2009

    Geoff:

    I’m sure I haven’t thought of several other equally effective actions, but I think the above three rules would serve the effect of allowing for, if not forcing, a logical debate wherein we can readily build a coherent and fair argument, with no . . . well, “monkey games”.

    You also mention pinning them down to available sources, that’s a good strategy. There’s no need for rules about introducing new sources; the bible either is or is not the word of the One True God. If it is, then consulting that source at Jeremiah 8:8 tells us that it’s crap. I can almost quote that verse from memory (I really can’t be bothered to look it up, but I’m sure I’m close enough.) It goes something like: “How can you say ‘we are wise for we have Yahweh’s law’ when, look how it has been falsified by the mendacious pen of the scribes. Their only source says that you can’t trust that source. Game over, I would have thought, by any rules of debate.

  416. #416 phantomreader42
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis the fallacious @ #364:

    “The Communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ “

    Sastra in response @ #368:

    I don’t really know the situation involved here, but this is rather strange.

    What’s strange about it? Facilis is just making shit up. How is that in any way unusual? The fuckwit has nothing but lies and plagiarized bullshit. The strange thing is that anyone takes anything he says at face value. He’s admitted to being a murderous sociopath in this very thread. Frankly, I’d assume every word out of his mouth is a baldfaced lie until he offers evidence to the contrary. And assume his evidence is fabricated until proven otherwise. There’s no reason whatsoever to trust this tiresome, insane troll.

  417. #417 phantomreader42
    January 29, 2009

    Kirk Durston’s idiotic arguments for his imaginary friend, as quoted by Anomic @ #405:

    1. Logical/Metaphysical (In short nature cannot account for nature. If the universe does have a begining there must be something outside of nature which first created it, something which by definition must be both supernatural and beyond time, and since we would expect god, as a maximally excellent being, to have these properties and be the creator as the universe we can therefore count this as evidence towards his existence.)

    Bullshit. The old rotting “first cause” garbage, with a little misdirection to hide the fact that you flee in terror from answering or even acknowledging the question of where that god came from. If the universe can’t exist without a cause, as you claim, neither can god. You’re just introducing an unnecessary and ill-defined term that explains nothing at all.

    In short, god cannot account for god.

    2. Historical. Durston believes Jesus was god incarnate, intervening in history through human form. He specifically asked PZ if he could provide an explanation for the massive and sudden explosion of Christian Belief shortly after the death of Jesus. Durston believes that this phenonmenon could only have occured if Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead and appeared before great numbers of people, and that this is therefore strong evidence of his divinity.

    A claim totally unsupported by evidence. Look up cargo cults, John Frum, or the Mormons or Scientology (two religions started recently by known conmen). The fact that people believe something DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE! Not to mention that the church is known to have falsified records (Josephus) when doing so benefits their cause.

    3. Existential. Durston Believes that any meaning given to life that doesn’t originate outside of humanity is empty.

    Untrue, and rather sad for poor little Kirk. His life of fraud in service to an imaginary tyrant really IS meaningless, because he has chosen to invest his entire life in a lie.

    Also, the fact that Kirk Durston is incapable of finding meaning in his life without an imaginary friend DOES NOT MAKE THAT IMAGINARY FRIEND REAL! The existensial crisis of an idiot has no bearing on the facts.

    4. Moral. Dunston, for the similar reasons, believes that any morality that doesn’t originate outside of humanity is empty, and that since God can provide an ultimate basis for morality, it i therefore worthwhile to beleive in god.

    AH, so Durston is a sociopath! That explains a lot. Explains how he can lie in front of an audience without the slightest hint of remorse. He has no conscience. Again, Durston’s total lack of conscience or empathy does not make his imaginary friend real.

    (and if you REALLY want to put forth god as the ultimate basis for morality, you’ll be spending the rest of your life fleeing in abject terror from the facts about the grossly immoral acts committed through the centuries in god’s name)

    So, all of Durston’s arguments for his imaginary friend are totally worthless bullshit.

  418. #418 Boletus
    January 29, 2009

    harsh toke dude.

  419. #419 Silver Fox
    January 29, 2009

    Posted this on the wrong thread.

    But clicked over to Vox Day’s blog. He has a thread devoted to PZ’s debate titled: Why the ugly atheist ran away or something like that. His posters are having a field day. They refer to Durston as a second rate Canadian. Now from what I have learned about KD, they undervalue his talents; he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.

  420. #420 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 29, 2009

    Posted this on the wrong thread.

    And a similar response…

    Who fucking cares?

    Vox Day is a self important jackass who is wrong about so very much that the fact you keep bringing him up tells us a lot about what you consider good streams of information.

  421. #421 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 29, 2009

    If I want VD, I can damn well go to the site if I wanted to. I hardly need a silly old goat to spread VD for me.

  422. #422 Steve_C
    January 29, 2009

    Silver. Stop reading Vox. None of us are going over there to increase hit page hits.

  423. #423 Silver Fox
    January 29, 2009

    Steve: @ 422 “None of us are going over there to increase hit page hits.”

    That’s what happened to PZ. He wasn’t prepared for what the other side was going to say. What was that the Godfather said: “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”.

    That’s why they call me the Fox.

  424. #424 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 29, 2009

    That’s why they call me the Fox.

    “They”

    Who are “they” and what the fuck does that even mean?

  425. #425 Rey Fox
    January 29, 2009

    “he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.”

    A grade-A bullshitter?

  426. #426 E.V.
    January 29, 2009

    Silver Fox should be chained to his own hubris. A legend in his own mind.

  427. #427 phantomreader42
    January 29, 2009

    Silver Fox, please shut the fuck up. You’re an embarassment to the entire genus Vulpes.

    While VD manages to be an embarassment to, well VD.

  428. #428 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 29, 2009

    That’s why they call me the Fox.

    Silly old goat, I am not “they”.

  429. #429 phantomreader42
    January 29, 2009

    Rev Big Dumb Chimp @ #424:

    Who are “they” and what the fuck does that even mean?

    I believe “they” refers to the voices in his head.

    Hate to break it to you, “Fox”, but those voices aren’t real people.

  430. #430 Silver Fox
    January 29, 2009

    “Who are “they” and what the fuck does that even mean?’

    It means no one sneaks up on the fox.

  431. #431 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 29, 2009

    It means no one sneaks up on the fox.

    SF, not only are you epically wrong about so many things, you are also not clever or funny and I think you might have bought an early ticket to dementia land.

  432. #432 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 29, 2009

    It means no one sneaks up on the fox.

    Tally-Ho!

  433. #433 Sven DiMilo
    January 29, 2009

    I’m a little out of touch, but isn’t Silver Fox a Charlie Wagner sockpuppet? Or am I wrong?

  434. #434 Steve_C
    January 29, 2009

    Nope. He’s his own deluded genre.

  435. #435 Conversational Atheist
    January 29, 2009

    “had shown that cultures built around a core of atheism had killed the most people in all of history.”

    I wrote a short article a few days ago about countering this kind of “atheism causes bad things” argument. Here: Azeusism causes atrocities.

    It might have been an interesting response to give during the debate in response to his lame argument.

    Good luck in the future!

  436. #436 heliobates
    January 29, 2009

    It means no one sneaks up on the fox.

    No, “they” pretty much walk right up to you and club you like a baby seal.

  437. #437 Feynmaniac
    January 29, 2009

    Silver fox,

    It means no one sneaks up on the fox.

    Whew, that’s a relief. I thought it was a disgusting interpretation of the phrase “there are no atheist in the fox hole”.

  438. #438 Smidgy
    January 29, 2009

    Phantomreader42 @417:

    2. Historical. Durston believes Jesus was god incarnate, intervening in history through human form. He specifically asked PZ if he could provide an explanation for the massive and sudden explosion of Christian Belief shortly after the death of Jesus. Durston believes that this phenonmenon could only have occured if Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead and appeared before great numbers of people, and that this is therefore strong evidence of his divinity.

    A claim totally unsupported by evidence. Look up cargo cults, John Frum, or the Mormons or Scientology (two religions started recently by known conmen). The fact that people believe something DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE! Not to mention that the church is known to have falsified records (Josephus) when doing so benefits their cause.

    In addition to what you’ve said there, there is something else as well – the simple fact that Christianity was marketed well. One factor that contributed to that was, up until then, there simply was no religion that had such an easy and overriding get-out clause – that, if you repented your sins, you were forgiven by God. The closest that you had was Judaism, but, even in that, you could only be forgiven your sins after Teshuvah, and, even then, that was a process whereby you actually had to ask forgiveness from the ones you sinned against, not God (unless the sin was directly against God), and this includes an obligation to right the wrong you caused by the sin. In Christianity, God basically has a blanket authority to forgive all sins, against anyone, of any kind, and all you have to do is ask, and, indeed, by some interpretations of the Bible, Jesus actually did the whole crucifixion thing in order so that any sinners don’t even need to ask – they just have to be Christians.

  439. #439 Ian Pollock
    January 29, 2009

    I was there.

    Durston not only claimed that “atheist societies” killed a lot of people, he gave a number – 143 million.

    This is a “show your work” moment.

    Atheism has only been significant as an ideology for 100 years or so. I’m not sure 143 million have been killed by *all* ideologies since 1900, let alone only “atheist” ones.

    The moderator was highly annoying as well; he made it so rigidly structured that they couldn’t really challenge each other. PZ goofed with the timing and hadn’t come to his “therefore” moment when his time ran out.

    Overall, though, Durston was such a repellent man that even the theist beside me was shaking his head a little. Especially when he warped Camus to say that “the most important question for atheists is whether to commit suicide.”

  440. #440 CJO
    January 29, 2009

    up until then, there simply was no religion that had such an easy and overriding get-out clause – that, if you repented your sins, you were forgiven by God. The closest that you had was Judaism

    The mystery cults had most of the trappings of the Christian conversion in their rites: baptism and confession, forgiveness of sins and promises of eternal life. But these religions were largely the province of elites: it was expensive to be initiated. Early Christian groups, it would seem, took everybody, and they were probably expensive in their way: you would have been expected to give everything you owned to the church. The difference is, there would have been no set price or ongoing financial obliugations as there was with the mysteries. Whatever you had, it was enough. (But woe betide those who held back a stash, apparently: in Acts 5, Peter confronts Ananias about not forking over the whole sale price of his land, and he and his wife drop dead!)

    Anyway, Christianity grew so rapidly, in large part, due to the fact that if it was effectively marketed, as you say, (and that’s an apt term for religion in the free-market religious atmosphere of the early Roman empure), then it was marketed largely to peasants, slaves, ex-slaves and outcasts, basically the 95% of the population underserved by the other mystery religions. So it grew and spread fast.

  441. #441 Ian Pollock
    January 29, 2009

    Also, Durston’s main argument was (apparently) against abiogenesis. Reading between the lines, it took this form:

    -Evolution requires information to begin (400 bits)
    -I’ve played with evolutionary algorithms
    -“Turns out” (trust me on this) they don’t work unless I hard-code the first 400 bits (the hand of the creator)
    -After that, sure, “I’m prepared to grant” evolutionary processes
    -The words “Functional information in the genome,” repeated ad nauseam

  442. #442 Facilis
    January 29, 2009

    he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.

    Nah- to see a real apologist watch this lecture
    http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2009/01/defending-christian-faith.html
    He’s where I learnt all my arguments and approach from.

  443. #443 Facilis
    January 29, 2009

    he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.

    Nah- to see a real apologist watch this lecture
    http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2009/01/defending-christian-faith.html
    He’s where I learnt all my arguments and approach from.

  444. #444 Wowbagger
    January 29, 2009

    he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.

    He who shovels the most shit is still a shit-shoveller. We might as well give awards to snake-oil salesmen to congratulte them for the number of people who’ve died from using their product rather than seek real medical advice.

  445. #445 Nerd of Redhead
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis, you had a bad person as mentor. You have no arguments as they have been refuted. You have no god as he doesn’t exist. In short, you have nothing. Quit listening to people who lead you astray.

  446. #446 Facilis
    January 29, 2009

    he seems to be a smart top of the line apologist.

    Nah- to see a real apologist watch this lecture
    http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2009/01/defending-christian-faith.html
    He’s where I learnt all my arguments and approach from.

  447. #447 Nerd of Redhead
    January 29, 2009

    And Facilis shows further stupidity with a triple post. Can he do anything right? Like perhaps go away forever?

  448. #448 Facilis
    January 29, 2009

    How is that in any way unusual? The fuckwit has nothing but lies and plagiarized bullshit.

    By what standard do you claim lying and plagiarism is wrong?

    He’s admitted to being a murderous sociopath in this very thread.

    *cocks gun and looks at phantomreader*
    So phantomreader42. Make my day. Is murder objectively wrong?

    And assume his evidence is fabricated until proven otherwise. There’s no reason whatsoever to trust this tiresome, insane troll.

    The guy who I quoted ,Wurmbrand, has books out and stuff too. You can check it. He writes about his experiences and those of other Christains in the USSR persecuted by the horrible atheistic regime.

  449. #449 Patricia, OM
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis, no wonder you are such a fuckwit. That man is spewing nothing but tripe.

  450. #450 Nerd of Redhead
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis, more lies. When are your going stop? I know, when you stop posting your shit here.

  451. #451 Patricia, OM
    January 29, 2009

    More Facilis: wah, wah, wah.

  452. #452 CJO
    January 29, 2009

    By what standard do you claim lying and plagiarism is wrong?

    Round and round we go. By what standard is this tiresome godbot not in the dungeon is what I’d like to know.

    And Flatulence, before you get your martyr-panties in a bunch, I do not wish to censor your views. Your annoying, assinine, repititions of this “objective standard” bullshit are boring in the extreme. They do nothing to advance your position or counter anyone else’s. It’s grade school-level sophistry, and it’s BORING. I charge you with six bannable offenses: Godbotting, Insipidity, Slagging, Stupidity, Trolling, and Wanking. How do you plead?

  453. #453 Wowbagger
    January 29, 2009

    He writes about his experiences and those of other Christains in the USSR persecuted by the horrible atheistic regime.

    Excellent – facilis is using the ‘Christians are so pissweak and their god so ineffectual that atheists can kill them whenever they want’ approach. Also known as the ‘We’re history’s lamest losers; therefore, God!’ argument.

    Funny, you think that if Christians had a god on their side then that god wouldn’t allow it to happen. Perhaps the dodo believed in Jesus, too.

  454. #454 Sastra
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis #448 wrote:

    Is murder objectively wrong?

    Actually, that’s a trick question, because the answer is clearly “yes” — murder is defined as “wrongful or unlawful killing.” It’s wrong by definition, then.

    The arguments are always over when killing is wrong (and therefore murder), and when killing is justified (and therefore not murder.) Never over whether murder is wrong.

  455. #455 Sastra
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis #448 wrote:

    The guy who I quoted ,Wurmbrand, has books out and stuff too. You can check it. He writes about his experiences and those of other Christains in the USSR persecuted by the horrible atheistic regime.

    I don’t disagree that Stalin persecuted Christians horribly (he also seems to have made deals with other Christians.) He was in the grip of an ideology which allowed no dissent.

    What I expressed doubt about was the atheist guards saying things like “because there is no God, I can do all the evil I want.” People who kill for a cause usually claim that the Greatness of the cause justifies what they’re doing. They don’t think they’re evil. So the quote sounds odd to me. It doesn’t sound real. It sounds like the fantasy of what a Christian thinks an atheist would think.

    It would be like an atheist claiming that he was tortured by a Muslim or Christian, who told him “I love doing evil for God, because God lets me do whatever evil I want.” A Christian or Muslim wouldn’t put it that way. They’d say the atheist was evil, not them.

    Wurmbrand is a Christian who writes books for Christians to inspire them for Christianity. While he might have some incentive to lie, I don’t think I have to assume that. It’s more likely that he misremembers, because that’s the way he thought about it at the time. Our memories are often inaccurate, particularly under stress. That’s human.

    Or, I suppose, the torturers could have been telling him anything they thought would upset him. That’s human nature, too. But not a good way to access how atheists in general see morality. That wouldn’t be them being atheists; that would be them being torturers.

  456. #456 Anonymous
    January 29, 2009

    Are the results of the poll taken at the end of the debate known?

  457. #457 Feynmaniac
    January 29, 2009

    Facilis,

    *cocks gun and looks at phantomreader* So phantomreader42. Make my day. Is murder objectively wrong?

    Before you start killing people apply that same standard of belief to yourself. Do you believe the bible is inerrant? If so, take a look at Mark 17-18,

    17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

    If you really do believe you’d go pick up some snakes and drink deadly poison.

  458. #458 heliobates
    January 29, 2009

    He’s where I learnt all my arguments and approach from.

    What color is the sky in your world Facilis?

    Did Bahnsen happen to pass on a copy of the full formal treatment of the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic? I’m still itching to get my hand on it.

  459. #459 David
    January 30, 2009

    Dennis #47
    I can empathise with Dennis. I was not in Edmonton on the 26th but was at U of Calgary on the afternoon of the 25th to hear Dr. Myer’s talk “Voices of Reason”. I went to the talk in the hope that I would hear some reasoned arguments supported by evidence against specific claims made by I.D. supporters. I also hoped that I would hear the same for specific claims made by supporters of evolution. I heard neither. All I heard was ridicule and sarcasm and I quote from my notes “Ridicule is the approach we have to take”, “Scientist’s who are religious are flakes” and “Creationists are the most stupid people on the planet”. Some reasoned statements backed up evidence and discussion would have been much more productive, believeable and acceptable. Mockery does not win arguments it just reduces us to the lowest level and prevents anyone from achieving any respect and acceptance that we might want to gain for our particular arguments. Again, I was soooooo disappointed and felt cheated.

  460. #460 David
    January 30, 2009

    Dennis #47
    I can empathise with Dennis. I was not in Edmonton on the 26th but was at U of Calgary on the afternoon of the 25th to hear Dr. Myer’s talk “Voices of Reason”. I went to the talk in the hope that I would hear some reasoned arguments supported by evidence against specific claims made by I.D. supporters. I also hoped that I would hear the same for specific claims made by supporters of evolution. I heard neither. All I heard was ridicule and sarcasm and I quote from my notes “Ridicule is the approach we have to take”, “Scientist’s who are religious are flakes” and “Creationists are the most stupid people on the planet”. Some reasoned statements backed up evidence and discussion would have been much more productive, believeable and acceptable. Mockery does not win arguments it just reduces us to the lowest level and prevents anyone from achieving any respect and acceptance that we might want to gain for our particular arguments. Again, I was soooooo disappointed and felt cheated.

  461. #461 Wowbagger
    January 30, 2009

    Some reasoned statements backed up evidence and discussion would have been much more productive, believeable and acceptable.

    While I can appreciate your disappointment at not having this in the debate, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not as if PZ would have presented anything that any theist, on the stage or off it, wouldn’t have ever heard – and dismissed – before.

    Evolution is real, and has been public knowledge for over 150 years. And yet there are still people claiming it’s a ‘myth’ or a ‘fairy tale’ or ‘lies’ or ‘coincidence’ or whatever other way they try to spin it.

    As they say, you can’t reason a person out of a position they weren’t reasoned into.

  462. #462 Africangenesis
    January 30, 2009

    Wowbagger,

    PZ might have been speaking to non-theists, agnostics and inquirers as well. Many theists I’ve encountered are only aware of the “marvelous designs”, and not aware of the ad hoc “designs” limited by prior constraints, and the many things that a truly “intelligent” designer could have done much better. The listeners could have come out with things for those who are considering intelligent design to think about, that cause them to question whether the designer was involved at every step or whether hopes of intervention have to retreat to a less involved or less intelligent or less benevolent view. An overview of the evidence of the relatedness of all living things might also have helped, followed by thoughtful responses to questions.

  463. #463 Wowbagger
    January 30, 2009

    Africangenesis,

    What you describe would indeed be illuminating and probably effective – but I think to expect such a thing to have occurred in the kind of debate PZ had is wishful thinking indeed.

    It was a debate, not a forum. The winner is the best debater, not the most honest or the most informative speaker. As the event was described, it was poorly moderated and, the opponent was, in PZ’s terms, a ‘cunning wretch’.

    As it is I tend to support the general consensus on not debating creationists; the limitations outweigh the freedoms, and bias the outcome toward the dishonest. Unless we stoop to their level it’s not likely to be a productive exercise.

    That being said, I don’t really know why PZ a) agreed in the first place, and b) didn’t do his homework. By the sound of things he could have achieved more; however, I guess it counts as a learning experience for him.

  464. #464 Africangenesis
    January 30, 2009

    I was thinking more of what PZ might have done in the “Voices of Reason” talk. The age of informative 3 and 4 hour debates in a collegial and intellectually honest persuit of truth and mutual understanding is past. They are probably only notable in the past because they were rare even then. But even in the debate, appearing thoughtful and reasonable might be more persuasive.

  465. #465 Boletus
    January 30, 2009

    Really, why bother? “Debates” never really convince anyone. Religious belief is just not that sort of thing. It’s not like we’re discussing the economy, the school system, healthcare or some other sane topic. Anyway, some theists seem to make coming out to debates and trolling websites the focus of their sad lives.

    Let me offer one observation though: the crazed debating types are almost invariably men. This leads me to wonder whether one way to finish off this ugly hydra is to convince bright young women that religion has nothing to offer them: Not self-respect. Not equality. Not intellectual stimulation. Not prosperity. Not personal economic choice. Etc. All it offers is the myth of an ‘afterlife’. That’s it! I suspect that if we can manage to get more women into science, engineering, and the arts the sad little de’bating boys will eventually just die out. If anyone who has studied the sociology of societies (like Quebec) where religion up and died in the space of one generation has thoughts to contribute, please do!

    And enough with bating the trolls. They get off on it. (Since they’re not getting off on anything else.)

  466. #466 Africangenesis
    January 30, 2009

    Beletus, You will get further assuming good faith and actually trying to communicate. Trying to “convince” someone is not the only goal. When talking to the religious, rather than complete conversion, something has been achieved if you reduce the harm. I’ve had success convincing some that ID is not likely to be a productive avenue of persuit. Some may still choose to believe it, but are less likely to try to spread it if they realize the wealth of difficult issues they will have to spend half their life preparing an apologia for. I try to get them to stick to Jesus and Paul, and to notice how much more productive that has been in the past.

  467. #467 phantomreader42
    January 30, 2009

    *Blows Facilis’s head off*
    *hacks the corpse to pieces, douses it with gasoline, and sets it on fire for good measure*

    A discussion of morality with an admitted sociopath is pointless. Facilis has demonstrated that he has no conscience, no sense of empathy, no capacity to recognize other human beings as such. Therefore, he is utterly incapable of any moral reasoning whatsoever. He’s a serial killer in the making, just needs to convince himself that his imaginary friend wants him to start murdering random people. It’s only a matter of time before his delusion reaches that point, if it hasn’t already. He’s a danger to himself and others. The world is better off without such people in it. Hopefully he’ll kill himself first, or make one of his usual stupid mistakes and die by the hand of his first intended victim.

    Facilis, if your imaginary god is the source of YOUR morality, you are a living endorsement of atheism. Remember, YOU’RE the one who decided it was acceptable to murder someone to win an argument. Obviously because you’re incapable of presenting an argument that would convince anyone with a single functioning brain cell.

    Seriously, do the world a favor and die in a fucking fire.

  468. #468 Smidgy
    January 30, 2009

    For those who didn’t see it, the reason why Facilis is so ready to point guns at people is because he’s taken with Greg Bahnsen’s idea of an ‘argument from morality':

    “Point a gun at the atheist’s head. Ask him if there is an objective moral law to prevent you from blowing his brains out. If he says yes, he admits objective morality and has proven God so you win the debate. If he says no, moral are just subjective things up to opinion and convention, you shoot him in the head and he’s dead and you also win the debate”

    Unfortunately, he still hasn’t spotted the huge flaw in this. The very fact you are prepared to take the life of the atheist, in and of itself, proves that morality is subjective – you feel that the circumstances morally justify doing something that, according to the Ten Commandments, is not allowed, and, indeed, the vast majority of other people, atheists and religious folk alike, would find completely immoral.

    Of course, the other flaw is the idea that an ‘objective moral law’ is concrete evidence of the existence of God.

  469. #469 phantomreader42
    January 30, 2009

    Smidgy, there are too many flaws in Facilis The Fallacious’ bullshit for any human being to ever live long enough to list them all. He’s fractally wrong.

    He’s spent about a month claiming the “absolute, invariant, universal, immaterial laws of logic and reason” are proof of his imaginary friend. In all that time, not once has he been able to list these “absolute, invariant, universal, immaterial laws of logic and reason” he keeps babbling about, even after being asked multiple times. He just flees in terror from the question.

  470. #470 Facilis
    January 30, 2009

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture. he even predicts how atheists would respond to this argumentation *(which, surprise, surprise, is exactly the way you reacted)*
    That is how you can tell when you’re winning.

  471. #471 Nerd of Redhead
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis, irrelevant again. You need to break this habit. Go away for a while and learn some logic.

  472. #472 Janine, Supercilious Asshole
    January 30, 2009

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture. he even predicts how atheists would respond to this argumentation

    He can see into the future? He is a witch!

  473. #473 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 30, 2009

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture. he even predicts how atheists would respond to this argumentation *(which, surprise, surprise, is exactly the way you reacted)*
    That is how you can tell when you’re winning.

    I guess we’re winning then because nearly every time I see you’ve posted I know it’s going to be another in your long line of comments mimicking the childrens “why” game.

  474. #474 Facilis
    January 30, 2009

    I know it’s going to be another in your long line of comments mimicking the childrens “why” game.

    I keep asking questions to get to the heart of the matter and attack the foundations of your godless worldview.
    And this deals with epistemology too. every time someone claims they know something, I ask how they know that, and then ask how they know that. If they keep going back to this infinite regress , it is impossible to know anything. I can stop this regress because my reasoning starts with God’s revelation.I read it too and realised the futility of atheism
    biblegateway.com

  475. #475 Nerd of Redhead
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis, your stupid questions just show how ignorant your are. Your god doesn’t exist, so your continued proselytizing is annoying. If you don’t have any proof for your delusions, time for you to move on. Move on.

  476. #476 Facilis
    January 30, 2009

    Redhead. Can’t you see my proof is the impossibility of the contrary?

  477. #477 Nerd of Redhead
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis, your stupid questions just show how ignorant your are. Your god doesn’t exist, so your continued proselytizing is annoying. If you don’t have any proof for your delusions, time for you to move on. Move on.

  478. #478 Rey Fox
    January 30, 2009

    “I can stop this regress because my reasoning starts with God’s revelation.”

    How can you know that? You guys can’t even agree on what he said.

  479. #479 Nerd of Redhead
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis, you have presented no unrefuted evidence for your imaginary deity. We destroyed your logical construct. Until you provide the physical evidence needed, your logic is illogical, and you are a deluded fool. Put up or shut up.

  480. #480 phantomreader42
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious @ #474:

    I keep asking questions to get to the heart of the matter and attack the foundations of your godless worldview.

    No, you keep asking questions because you’re too terrified to even try ANSWERING the questions people have been asking you for the better part of a month. You’re a worthless coward hiding behind childish sophistry.

    And since you’ve obviously never been able to get this through your thick skull, the “foundation of our godless worldview” is the fact that there is not the slightest speck of evidence that any god exists. The one and only way to effectively attack such foundations is to provide evidence that a god actually exists. Death threats won’t do it. Whining like a little baby won’t do it. Babbling about “laws” you can’t even define won’t do it. Only evidence. And you’ve made it abundantly clear that you don’t have any.

    Facilis the Fallacious:

    I can stop this regress because my reasoning starts with God’s revelation.

    You mean, you can stop this regress because your “reasoning” is circular and completely unconnected to reality.

  481. #481 Feynmaniac
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis,

    Can’t you see my proof is the impossibility of the contrary?

    NO!!!!

    For fuck sakes, I have said this about a dozen times now but your argument isn’t “impossibility of the contrary” it’s an “argument from ignorance”. Stop insisting it is or in addition to charges of unlawful torure of logic the “impossibility of the contrary” will sue you for libel.

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture.

    Last night I was thinking of watching the guy you “learnt all [your] arguments” from, but I had a real analysis assignment I needed to hand in. As I was proving something I realized that if I used your standards of argument I would fail that class, and rightly so.

    If they keep going back to this infinite regress , it is impossible to know anything. I can stop this regress because my reasoning starts with God’s revelation

    This “infinite regress” can also be applied to “God explains logic”. Well, what explains God?

    To prevent this “infinite regress” you explicitly lay out your assumptions (i.e, axioms/postulates). You take these as givens and/or self-evident statements. If the system made with these axioms/posultulates seems reasoable, and are consistent with what we know, we keep them. Otherwise, throw them out or just label it as some interesting invention that doesn’t correspond to reality.

    Now, there is yet a shred of physical evidence of God. If there was an all powerful being interfering in the everday affairs of human beings there would be a ton of physical evidence. We have evidence for thing that only effect the world very slightly (e.g, weak force, time dilation of clocks at different heights, gravitational attraction from of between two balls) yet for something as powerful and regularly interfering as your supposed deity there is nothing.

    As for a deist God, it can at best be described as superfluous. There is about as much need to assume God’s existence as there is the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Destroyer of Rakes his Holiness Sideshow Bob, peace be with him.

  482. #482 Sastra
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis #474 wrote:

    I keep asking questions to get to the heart of the matter and attack the foundations of your godless worldview. And this deals with epistemology too. every time someone claims they know something, I ask how they know that, and then ask how they know that. If they keep going back to this infinite regress , it is impossible to know anything. I can stop this regress because my reasoning starts with God’s revelation.I read it too and realised the futility of atheism biblegateway.com

    You cannot borrow infallibility from God.

    If you ask how we “know” such things as basic logic, we run into statements that are self-evident. You cannot go back from there.

    No epistemic claim — such as “God exists” or “the Bible is true” — can be called “self-evident.” One reasons one’s way to the conclusion. And one might always be wrong. You can’t “know” an empirical claims with the same level of certainty that you can know A=A.

    You don’t get to borrow infallibility from God. Think about this, and repeat it to yourself. You will never be God.

    You know this, don’t you? It’s in the definition of God, and in your experience of being human. You don’t know you’re God — and if you were God, then you would know it.

    There’s the heart of the matter. Not the limitations of logic and reason — but our own limitations. Not even God’s revelation could make you God. And that’s what you’re claiming, when you get down to it. That you can’t be mistaken about a “revelation” — even though others have been, and others can be.

  483. #483 Smidgy
    January 30, 2009

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture. he even predicts how atheists would respond to this argumentation *(which, surprise, surprise, is exactly the way you reacted)*

    Interesting. So he acually worked out the flaw in his argument and predicted that atheists would point it out. Unfortunately for you, this fact utterly fails to make the flaw not a flaw. Instead, it merely gives you an opportunity to indulge in some hand-waving and flannelling. Which you took.

  484. #484 Smidgy
    January 30, 2009

    Facilis @470:

    You guys really should watch bahsen’s lecture. he even predicts how atheists would respond to this argumentation *(which, surprise, surprise, is exactly the way you reacted)*

    Interesting. So he acually worked out the flaw in his argument and predicted that atheists would point it out. Unfortunately for you, this fact utterly fails to make the flaw not a flaw. Instead, it merely gives you an opportunity to indulge in some hand-waving and flannelling. Which you took.

  485. #485 Konstantine Palanski
    February 13, 2009

    There was a recent debate with Kirk Durston at my University. I decided to film it for my blog, have a look:

    Does God Exist? Debate at uWindsor

  486. #486 Konstantine Palanski
    February 16, 2009

    I have done some research and deconstructed Durston’s argument regarding “atheist core beliefs” a little bit more thoroughly than Dr. Myers.

    Please follow this link if you would like to find out more:
    http://www.palanski.com/2009/02/does-god-exist-debate-at-uwindsor-part_16.html

  487. #487 hery
    January 25, 2010

    Sounds like PZ was trying to make the case that from a biological standpoint

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.