• About TWIM

    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.

    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.

    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.

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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

     An Apostate's Chapel
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

     Debunking Christianity
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

     Evangelical Realism
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

     Daylight Atheism
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

     Daylight Atheism
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

     Daylight Atheism
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

     Evangelical Realism
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

     Evangelical Realism
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

     Evangelical Realism
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

     Evangelical Realism
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

     Daylight Atheism
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

     Reason vs. Apologetics
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

     Daylight Atheism
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

     An Apostate's Chapel
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

     She Who Chatters
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator

Now Taking Suggestions For A Credible Debate Scoring System

Well this whole PZ Myers Memorial Debate sure sparked quite the fiasco, but it’s really got me thinking. A few commenters both here and at VoxWorld have tossed out some pretty decent ideas as far as judging debates are concerned. If you were to judge a debate, what would you look for? What sort of things would you award or penalize? Have you seen any successful debate scoring systems before? What sort of scoring do you think would be fair? Based on what we’ve seen in the recent judging, what sort of things would you advise for or against? Where did the judges do well? Where could we have done better? Was there anything you wanted to see, but didn’t? Let’s see what we can come up with.

23 Responses

  1. For every round award points for arguments and counter arguments.

    If an argument is given in a round and a judge finds the argument to be relevant to the debate and coherent a point should be given. Likewise if an argument is given but it is incoherent or irrelevant a point should not be given. Notice here that the judge should still give a point even if the judge does not agree with the premises or the conclusion of the argument.

    Restrict the maximum number of points that can be given out to 3 per round (so that there is no flooding of arguments). Do the same for counter arguments.

    A debate topic is chosen (and the relevance of the arguments is judged relative to it).
    In round 1 each person gives arguments where they argue their case.
    in round 2 they give counter arguments to the opening case of their opponent.
    in round 3 they give counter-counter arguments

    If this form is broken no points should be given. Example: if in round 3 new arguments are introduced this should not be given points by the judges, it should just be ignored.

    After 3 rounds bonus points should be given if the opponent dropped an argument (they failed to give counter arguments). This should not be per-judge, the judges should award this as a group.

    In the end, the one with most points wins (the point of giving out points per argument is to avoid the issue of the judge having a personal favorite).

  2. Common sense is correct in this case. The integrity-having scoring system is one where each correct point gets +1, each unsupported or irrelevant point gets 0, and sophistry, fallacies, and other corruptions get -1.

    Though come to think I don’t want to conflate debate integrity with logical integrity. So I’m going to use a 2D system. One for points and one for rating how epistemically reliable the debate is likely to be.

  3. I vote for: None.

    In fact, put me down as voting against debates. Conversations are superior, happen more rarely, and obtain only in the best situations.

    Too many goddamn debates nowadays.

  4. cl, not being a vox apologist, but, you do know he never said his scoring system should be adopted, and was merely saying how the debate turned out so far, right?

  5. Heuristics,

    My original Round One write up experimented with a scoring system pretty similar to what you layed out. I’d propose limiting opening arguments to three. This would prevent flooding of arguments and also allow for more flexibility, point-wise, if necessary. Would you group all fallacies together and give each a “-1” or would penalties vary by severity? If the latter, which types of fallacies do you think merit more penalty than others?


    Common sense is correct in this case. The integrity-having scoring system is one where each correct point gets +1, each unsupported or irrelevant point gets 0, and sophistry, fallacies, and other corruptions get -1.

    I tend to agree, although I’m open to awarding more than a single point for rewards and penalties. I think that might allow for a more nuanced score. Any thoughts?


    I think there are legitimate pluses and minuses for each. What I like about conversation is that it happens more or less spontaneously and tends to wander, which means one has to be quick on one’s feet (as opposed to having days or weeks to prepare formal arguments). OTOH, conversations don’t have as much accountability as debates, and debates tend to be a little more rigorous. So, I think both formats have advantages that can potentially yield breakthroughs, or, if nothing else, interesting conversations and debates. Would you ever a judge a debate?


    cl, not being a vox apologist, but, you do know he never said his scoring system should be adopted, and was merely saying how the debate turned out so far, right?

    No worries. It takes more than simple questioning to deserve that label, i.e., deleting any and all comments that don’t portray Vox Day in a positive light. Yes, I realize he never actually said “this is the scoring system” but I think he compromised the integrity of the whole thing and really, as a contestant, I think he should have left all mention of scoring to the judges. Or at least spoke with us before announcing his scoring system. Or, he could’ve waited until after the debate to say, “Hey, here’s how I scored it.” None of those things would have bothered me. It just kinda cheapened the whole thing IMHO, to the point where I didn’t really want anything to do with it anymore. It’s no big deal, they’ll get Markku and move right along.

    If you have any suggestions regarding the judging questions above I’d love to hear your take.

  6. Come to think, I’m more on Crude’s side in that debates tend to cost more than they’re worth. Nonetheless, a good scoring system interests me epistemically.

    I was thinking about non-sequiturs. It’s an honest mistake, so maybe one point for that, pushing really good points up to two?
    Also, there’s suggestive arguments vs. conclusive arguments and egregious fallacies vs. natural errors.

    But I my system gives the non-sequitur a zero. One point for a supported argument, minus one point for a fallacy.

    There’s always going to be fudge and judgment. Basically every debater thinks they were the winner; else they’d have to change their mind. So if you really think a point deserves extra points, break it down into sub-points and award one for each. Exploit the judgment factor instead of fighting it.

    And yeah, it’s by this system that both Vox and DS are way in the negatives. I think Vox is in a deeper hole but I’ma do a rough tally and I’m sure it’ll surprise me in some way.

  7. “If you have any suggestions regarding the judging questions above I’d love to hear your take.”

    A scoring system similar to what they do in Boxing matches would be the best. Here, at least, people can see not just who won a round, but how much better the winner argued his case.

  8. cl,

    What I like about conversation is that it happens more or less spontaneously and tends to wander, which means one has to be quick on one’s feet (as opposed to having days or weeks to prepare formal arguments). OTOH, conversations don’t have as much accountability as debates, and debates tend to be a little more rigorous

    Well, a lot of conversations are just debates. In fact, especially on these topics, having an actual conversation is downright rare. The Cult of Gnu doesn’t “do” conversation, nor do a sizable number of Christians. And the moment you call something a debate, you pretty much rule out the ability to say “Hey, that’s a good point.” or pursue a line of thought.

    I’d be willing to agree that in some contexts a debate can contribute something. One side-effect is you can at least suss out guys who completely melt-down when challenged. (Like… man, don’t say his name – he shows up, like Beetlejuice. That jackass in the hat.) But, especially on the internet, and especially on these topics, it’s done to death. In my ever humble opinion.

    Would you ever a judge a debate?

    Probably. Would depend on the debate, the participants, and the format. I’d even debate, but I’d prefer conversation and some back and forth over the debate format every time. And I’d only debate someone I personally had intellectual respect for.

  9. Personally, I like the format done in The Wanchick-Carrier Debate at Infidels.org.

    Basically, the two debaters agree on a joint statement about the precise topic they are debating, and the precise statements each side will be defending.

    Then a side (or both sides) creates an opening statement outlining arguments that demonstrate their position. After this, no new arguments may be made. The remaining is a rebuttal to opening, counterrebuttal, and counter-counterrebuttal on the arguments made during the opening statements.

    On an argument by argument basis, judges say who they think won that specific argument, and points are averaged among all judges.

  10. Peter,

    Thanks for your input. Check your email, if you haven’t already…

  11. Thanks for the link Peter Hurford.

  12. As long as our virgin born, blood sacrificing, never-had-an-erection Lord and Savior is glorified, I don’t care what the scoring system is.

    Praise Jeeezus!!!!

  13. Someone please give TruthOverfaith the attention he seems to be begging for.

  14. “Atta boy, try not to pooh on the rug”

  15. Suppose one were to make a fallacious or unsound argument and the opponent fails to recognize it, or misses the problem. Should the judge deduct points from both sides such that it is a wash?

  16. TheistDude,

    Someone please give TruthOverfaith the attention he seems to be begging for.

    NO, please don’t. There’s enough of these types at VoxWorld. This person should go there, where they’ll get much more mileage out of their trolling.



    I’m inclined to say no. Let’s say we’re debating phil. of mind, and “Bob” offered something like, “materialism is probably true because the majority of neuroscientists accept it” as an argument. As a judge, I would penalize that argument for both lack of validity and presence of fallacy [appeal to authority]. I wouldn’t penalize Bob’s opponent for failing to note the lack of validity or presence of fallacy, but I would grant Bob’s opponent points for successfully rebutting Bob’s argument. After all, if Bob’s opponent wishes to use their time supporting their own arguments as opposed demonstrating the errors with Bob’s, they shouldn’t be penalized for that approach. What do you think?

    The tougher questions for me involve identifying when a claim is fallacious. On the one hand, I definitely think debaters should be able to cite scientific consensus as support for their arguments. On the other hand, any given argument needs to be supported with more than scientific consensus, which is known to change, often to the point of 180 degree reversal. I mean, look at the new CERN data in favor of tachyons. If ever there was a statement accepted as gospel truth by most scientists and laypeople, it’s the so-called speed limit of light. It seems tempting to grant the truth that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, but is it really a truth?

    Ultimately, I think debaters should be awarded when their arguments respect cross-disciplinary consensus. This is why I rejected Dominic’s argument that “causality might not always be linear.” It’s similar to the speed of light thing. Sure, it *MIGHT* be true that causality is not always linear, just like it *MIGHT* be true that tachyonic speeds exist. But judges shouldn’t award points for mere plausibility, they should award points for high “probability” supported by cross-disciplinary consensus.

  17. cl,

    So I guess it would work out such that if one were to make a fallacious argument, one would be penalized and also open up the opportunity for ones opponents to gain points by calling attention to the fallacy.

    I also agree with you that identifying an informal fallacy can be somewhat tricky. The fallacy of arguing from authority should be referred to as the argument from illegitimate authority, as I don’t take the appeal to authority itself to be intrinsically fallacious. An authority is illegitimate if the authority is (a) irrelevant, (b) unreliable, (c) unnecessary, (d) dogmatic, and/or (e) uncritical.

    Most of our knowledge is passed on to us from authorities rather than from direct experimentation and observation. I’d have to admit that almost everything I know is second hand. But, that’s ok because argument from authority is, in fact, a weak form of inductive reasoning, i.e. in the past such experts were shown to be reliable and credible when speaking about the X, so in speaking about Y, which is similar to X with regard to a,b, and c, their assessment is trustworthy. It is not the best source of epistemic certainty, but for a mere mortal with three score and ten on this planet, it will have to do.

    I am not sure what to make of this neutrino business, but it does sound like we are going to have to reassess or refine what “C” means! I think it perfectly illustrates why science is so powerful and “scientism” is so stupid –the latter I understand as the unbridled worship of science as an omniscient source of all knowledge (note that such a person is likely to take science as an authority dogmatically, uncritically, and apply the authority’s claims to irrelevant fields of inquiry, e.g. ethics, and metaphysics).

    Finally, I agree with your assessment that Dominic’s use of “might” is fallacious. “Might” is a classic weasler that trivializes most claims. The only exception I can think of is if you are making a point using a modal system of logic where logical possibility, impossibility, or necessity are the points in question.

  18. Daniel,

    I agree with you on scientism. It’s just a [hopefully] dying fad, a pendulum swung too far the other way.

    An authority is illegitimate if the authority is (a) irrelevant, (b) unreliable, (c) unnecessary, (d) dogmatic, and/or (e) uncritical.

    That sounds like a usable metric. I would also penalize for poorly-worded claims, i.e., the difference between “nothing can go faster than the speed of light” vs. “the current scientific consensus is that nothing can go faster than the speed of light.” The former may or may not be true. The latter is undeniably true. As much as possible, opponents should aim for undeniably true claims.

    Finally, I agree with your assessment that Dominic’s use of “might” is fallacious.

    I didn’t say it was fallacious, I just said I rejected it because of its irreverence for cross-disciplinary consensus. Though, maybe I’m wrong. Which fallacy do you think he committed?

  19. I didn’t say it was fallacious, I just said I rejected it because of its irreverence for cross-disciplinary consensus. Though, maybe I’m wrong. Which fallacy do you think he committed?

    Right, I think that an appeal to cross-disciplinary consensus would strengthen an appeal to authority. However, I took the use of the word “might” to be an instance where Dominic was linguistically hedging his bets by watering down his claim so that it is trivially true. Depending on context, adding qualifiers like “might” can be legitimate. The key is that if he is going to appeal to logical possibility in his premise, his conclusion cannot suddenly have a stronger modality attached to it. Modalities can be very misleading.

    In terms of taxonomy, some logicians call something like this weasling (c.f. Moore & Parker 2009, Critical Thinking, 154-156) or innuendo.

    However, as I go back over the debate, I don’t see Dominic using the word “might” as a weasler. That is to say, my point only relates to the use of “might” and not to how you actually evaluated Dominic’s argument. So he is not guilty of committing this fallacy as far as I can tell.

  20. What saves him, in your opinion? You wrote,

    The key is that if he is going to appeal to logical possibility in his premise, his conclusion cannot suddenly have a stronger modality attached to it.

    Didn’t he use the “might” as a supporting argument for his claim the cosmological argument fails? Wouldn’t that be a “stronger modality?”

  21. As I read him, he is saying that the cosmological argument depends upon it being axiomatically true that all causes precede their effects in time. He then provides counter-examples to try and disprove this axiom. So the passage I am looking at right now is:

    Each exhibit presented here is evidenciary support to dissuade one from automatically accepting that either cause necessarily preceedes effect or that time is linear in the strict sense, upon which the cosmological argument and the necessity of gods rests. Time is usually linear and cause almost always preceeds effect, but not necessarily, the universe seems to be trickier than that.

    Dominic is trying to disprove the claim “Necessarily all causes precede their effects in time” by providing evidence for “It is possible that some causes do not precede their effects in time”. There are two senses of possibility operating in his argument: epistemic possibility, and metaphysical possibility. His evidence makes it somewhat epistemically possible that it is metaphysically possible that some causes do not precede their effects in time. But I don’t think this succeeds in actually disproving the cosmological argument. The problem is that we must assess how likely it is that these are legitimate examples of non-linear causation, and that is a difficult task. We might say that the degree to which the cosmological argument is put into question is the degree to which it is epistemically necessary that it is metaphysically possible that some causes don’t precede their effects in time. So he cannot conclude from the plausibility of these counter-examples to a stronger conclusion that it is known or certain that non-linear causality is metaphysically possible or that it is known or certain that the cosmological argument fails. So if he asserts a strong conclusion, he has fallaciously overstated his case by shifting from the possibility that his examples truly exhibiting non-linear causation to the claim that they actually succeed in doing this.

    HOWEVER, Dominic says that his critique would do damage to all forms of the cosmological argument because they all depend upon linear causation. Unfortunately, WLC’s Kalam Cosmological Argument not only does not depend upon linear causation, it explicitly rejects temporal linear causation in specifically the case of God creating the universe. Craig is actually in Dominic’s position of providing examples of non-linear causation. According to Craig, God created time, so the kind of causation must not be temporally linear at all. Since Craig is explicit about this and Dominic cites Craig directly, I think it is fair to say that Dominic misrepresents Craig’s claims, or misunderstands Craig’s arguments. Ironically most atheists and skeptics attack Craig for positing non-linear causation, so I am surprised that Dominic would make this move. So, I would say that it is at least false that all defenders of the cosmological argument believe that linear causation is axiomatically true.

    Needless to say, there are a few problems with his argument, as I see it.

  22. Now I want to derive the correct method for using the ad authoritam.

    Epistemically, how should I use authority?
    Stephen Hawking knows a lot more about black holes than I do. Therefore, since he thinks singularities and event horizons exist, so should I.
    Seems reasonable to me. Rather than undeniable, the opposite; the statements are all falsifiable, and hence supportable and confirmable.

    Therefore, in debate. “Hawking knows more than you do, therefore you should believe as he does.”

    My reply in that case would be, “Hawking has not run a dynamic model of black hole formation. It is true that the event horizon is a solution to General Relativity, but forming one is impossible – as density approaches the critical density, time dilation increases without limit, meaning it would literally take eternity for the in-falling matter to hit the critical density.” Again, falsifiable. (I believe in whta I call grey holes; objects arbitrarily similar to black holes, but without a singularity.)

    Seems to work.

  23. Alrenous,

    From the judging perspective, I would say that the use of relevant expert authority is legitimate. After all, the whole idea of a debate is to bring experts together and decide whose testimony and arguments stand up. That is to say, the whole point of a debate is for the debaters to make a convincing case that their authority is trustworthy. So suppose person A were to off-handedly reference Hawking’s theory of black holes without any references and without demonstrating competent mastery of the theory itself, that would weigh very lightly against an person B who is herself an expert theoretical physicist propounding a contrary theory to that of Hawking.

    This does not mean that the more expert debater wins by default. Consider the debates WLC has had with Vic Stenger and Francis Ayala. Craig was debating physics with a physicist and evolutionary biology with a biologist and yet he was able to put in a good showing for those debates (perhaps even winning them).

    Craig is successful not because he simply quotes experts. Often he will quote authorities sympathetic to his opponent’s position, or even quote the opponent himself. Craig’s expertise as a philosopher is in logical, linguistic, and conceptual analysis. So he is able to make effective use of authorities to reach conclusion that even those authorities might not explicitly or implicitly accept. The philosopher is the expert analyzer and synthesizer and so has a certain authority that the biologist and physicist lacks.

    So long as the appeal to authority is relevant, up to date, well researched, and the speaker clearly comprehends what the authority is saying, it is the burden of the opponent to give us good reason to doubt the truth of those claims.

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