• 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.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [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,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [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.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...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.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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…

    -bbk
     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.

    -Dan
     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.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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.

    -Cipher
     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!

    -Parker
     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.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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.

    -Ebonmuse
     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.

    -Curtis
     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!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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...

    -Brad
     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.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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?

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

    -ThatOtherGuy
     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.

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

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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.

    -Eneasz
     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.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     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...

    -jim
     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.

    -OMGF
     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.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    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!

    -Lifeguard
     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.

    -D
     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
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

The PZ Myers Memorial Debate, Round One: And The Winner Is…

You can download the four letters that comprise Round One as a single PDF file, here [131KB]. If you don’t want to download it, simply copy the URL and paste it into your address bar. Or go check it out at VoxWorld. Be forewarned: Dominic’s piece is a bit sloppy grammatically, making comprehension a challenging at times. Vox, on the other hand, is at least articulate enough that intelligibility is not an issue.

This debate concerns the evidence [E] and logic [L] for the existence or nonexistence of “gods,” which are unfortunately defined loosely as, “superhuman beings worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes.” I’m disappointed that these guys didn’t nail down a specific God concept. By the current definition, ET’s, the traditional monotheist God and superintelligent AI are all fair game for “gods.” I consider it a waste of time to be discussing the mathematical probabilities for ET’s and other such distractions. Hell, why not Criss Angel? This debate should be about God, not some loosely-defined concept of “gods” that may or may not include Terminators and other carbon-based oddities produced by the very theory Vox dedicates so much energy to denigrating elsewhere. Oh well. I signed up for this sideshow, and I can’t back out of it now. For the record, I wrote this before reading the other judges’ pieces, or any of the commentary over at VoxWorld. I also rushed a little bit, but, real life takes priority.

Dominic argues that E/L ->no gods. Vox argues that E/L->gods. I’ll offer my summaries, followed by extended criticism. Bracketed strings indicated spelling corrections and paraphrases in the interest of brevity. By all means, please assume I’m a lying, deceitful snake, because if you don’t, you won’t fact-check to make sure I’ve accurately represented the arguments. Oh wait—that only applies to atheists! LOL!

Opening Argument Summary

It’s been said that a screenplay is underdeveloped if it cannot be distilled to a single sentence. I think the same is true of any good story or argument.

Hence, Dominic’s opening arguments can be summarized as, “E/L->no gods because a rogue study, deja vu and precognition provide sufficient grounds for rejecting the vast body of E/L suggesting that cause always precedes effect, and this undermines Prime Mover arguments, which I find too convenient and simple.”

Vox’s opening arguments can be summarized as, “E/L->gods because mathematical probability supports the notion, we have a plethora of E/L that no skeptic can summarily dismiss without committing egregious special pleading, and shadows require light.”

Extended Commentary: Dominic’s Opening Arguments

In the first half of his opening argument, Dominic expresses incredulity concerning the various “Prime Mover” arguments which he incorrectly lumps together as “all basically the same.” Seemingly sensing the strength of classic cosmological arguments, Dominic argues that, “the existence of the supernatural is necessary only by taking it as axiomatically true that cause [precedes] effect, and therefore space-time is causal and linear.” As Dominic himself concedes, “the majority of our experience confirms [that cause necessarily precedes effect] as self-evidently true, from daily living down to events only quantum physics can describe.” Given such a tacit concession, one would expect Dominic to give very strong reasons for overturning cross-disciplinary empirical consensus. He attempts to do so with a Matlockian appeal to four exhibits: Daryl Bem’s paper Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect, my post from 2009 titled A Precognitive Reality, the phenomenon of deja vu, and veridical dreaming. Dominic concludes, “Each exhibit presented here is [evidentiary] support to dissuade one from automatically accepting that either cause necessarily [precedes] 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 [precedes] effect, but not necessarily…”

LOL!

Dominic’s arguments fail for the following reasons:

1. In startling disrespect for scientific consensus and who-knows-how-many years of human observation, Dominic suggests that a rogue study, one which he admits lacks “rigorous replication,” is sufficient to overthrow the painstakingly-arrived-at conclusions of physics and everyday life. Big no-no. Even if it could be demonstrably proven that causality is not always linear, Dominic’s concession that causality is “almost always linear” is sufficient to leave the theist an out that is far more likely than not. After all, it only takes a single instance of linear causality to get a universe going, and if causality is “almost always” linear, then it’s “almost always” the case that any given causal sequence was linear. Promissory alinear causality is not sufficient grounds to doubt Prime Mover logic or the existence of the supernatural. Dominic would have to provide further argumentation demonstrating why this promissory alinear causality should trump Prime Mover logic, which seems to rest only the assumption that the initial causal sequence was linear [if anybody knows of Prime Mover logic which doesn’t require linear causality, speak up]. Dominic also seems to overlook the fact that a theist could use Bem’s paper in support of traditional theistic predestination and/or spiritual revelation. In short, Exhibit A is fraught with problems. Sans emendations, it deserves to be discarded.

2. That I had a precognitive experience amounts to little more than a hill of beans and doesn’t absolve Dominic’s argument of any of the problems mentioned above. Exhibit B is simply one of many anecdotes, none of which force the conclusion that time is not always linear. Exhibit B is also consistent with theistic predestination and/or spiritual revelation, and Dominic gives no reason to suppose that we ought to doubt linear causality on behalf of Exhibit B. To the round file it goes.

3. The most we can say with certainty is that deja vu is a subjective feeling of disorientation, hardly a phenomenon that favors alinear causality over, say, strictly materialist, spiritual or “parallel universe” conceptions of consciousness. Dominic asks, “If time was completely linear in all circumstances, then how is it that people can have two experiences of the same event bump into each other enough to disorient them?” Eh, I don’t know, but an unanswered question can hardly be sufficient to overthrow the painstakingly-arrived-at consensus of physics and everyday life. Pondering the plausibility of deja vu arising from purely materialistic means, Dominic digs his own grave: “While one explanation could be the processing delays in the brain that occur between a literal sensation and the [conscious] awareness of said event, such that at least two copies of the same sensory stimuli drift through the brain, this is, at best, idle speculation.” Unfortunately, the insinuation that deja vu *might* indicate alinear causality is also idle speculation. Six feet under, Exhibit C goes.

4. Exhibit D was basically a rehash of Exhibit B, and I grant Dominic that veridical dreaming and precognitive experiences have been provisionally demonstrated. Again, though, this bit of evidence simply isn’t strong enough to meet the objections raised in 1. Dominic needs to prove much more than “causality might not always be linear” to make his case.

In short, all four supporting arguments are laughable.

Dominic begins the second half of his opening argument by alleging that, “…the cosmological argument itself is an attempt to eliminate the problem of inifinite regress that suffers from inifinite regress.” Since an eternally existent Prime Mover undeniably solves the problem of infinite regress, I was expecting something spectacular in support of this assertion. Dominic didn’t fail to disappoint. Here is his treatment of the issue, in full:

Now, rather than thinking I’m resorting to the “Then what created God? Ha, gotcha!” nonsense, it’s better to look at the original structure of the argument first put forth, since the summary version that most people are familiar with is vague enough to define God as an unstable particle. God is more than just a source of energy, since the observation is that everything that has a direction was pushed that way, yet an immediately observable exception to this is the phenomenon of conscious intent as a source of motion. A body, (literally, a human body) can be completely at rest, yet spurred to motion through conscious effort. This led to the concusion that God, being defined as the unmoved mover, is by necessity a conscious entity who chose to create the universe, since thought itself is the most readily observable phenomenon that bridges the gap between the purely abstract and the material. And the purest thought, then, would be thinking about thinking, the first act that led to the creation of the universe and needs no material source to give it a push. This, however, does not alleviate the problem of infinite regression that was sought to be solved, as it only addresses infinite regress of particle motion. This first thought, the one about thinking… Thinking about what, more thinking? Infinite regress. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

IMHO, Dominic failed to demonstrate that any given cosmological argument fails to solve the problem of infinite regress. His argument is not refined enough to sustain his claim. Aristotle stands.

Dominic’s closing assertion is simply that he finds the statement “truth is stranger than fiction” persuasive. Big whoop. Dominic then claims that he finds gods “too convenient” of an explanation, using geocentrism and quantum physics as examples of “simple explanation[s] that turned out to be quite wrong.” Again, big whoop. What about all the simple explanations that turned out to be quite right, for example the vast majority of murder convictions sustained by forensic evidence? Dominic gives no reliable criteria by which one might differentiate a true simple claim from a false simple claim. That Dominic finds gods “too convenient” is an indication only of Dominic’s subjective preference and has no bearing on the veracity of God or gods. Dominic’s approach also seems to disregard the general principle that one should not multiply entities beyond necessity. IOW, Ockham’s Razor actually favors the “simplest” explanation, provided that explanation can account for the pertinent evidence. I find it odd that Dominic would seemingly throw Ockham’s Razor to the wind, but, whatever.

Extended Commentary: Vox’s Opening Arguments

Vox begins by supplying clear definitions for the terms evidence and logic. He then alludes to “a vast quantity of extant documentary and testimonial evidence providing indications that gods exist,” while remaining honest enough to concede that “the quality of this evidence varies considerably.” Alluding to cases of confirmed fraud in published scientific papers as a corollary example, Vox argues that the skeptic cannot summarily dismiss the entire body of evidence: “…at least some science is not fraudulent. Therefore, if one is willing to accept the validity of published scientific papers that one has not been able to verify are not fraudulent, one must similarly accept the validity of documentary evidence for the existence of gods that one has not examined and determined to merit dismissal for one reason or another.” This strikes me as cogent and fair, and a great way to force accountability and consistency on the skeptic.

Vox makes quite a few claims without any citation to support them, but this is more a minor annoyance than a major problem. For example, Vox tells us, “Since eyewitness testimony has been variously determined to be somewhere between 12 percent and 50 percent inaccurate, this means that between 50 percent and 88 percent of the testimonial evidence for gods should be assumed accurate, at least concerning the correctly reported details of the divine encounter.” Of course, lack of citation aside, the underlying logic is airtight, and Vox is again fair enough to concede, “The correct interpretations of the specific details, of course, are a different matter.” So far, so good.

Shifting gears, Vox writes, “Science itself lends support to the idea of the material existence of gods in this universe when astronomical evidence taken into account. According to the latest scientific consensuses, the universe is 13.75 billion years old, the Sun is 4.6 billion years old, the Earth is 4.54 billion years old, and homo sapiens sapiens reached behavioral modernity 50,000 years ago. As there are a conservatively estimated 200 billion stars in the galaxy and 100 billion galaxies in the universe, this indicates that there has been sufficient time for at least 7,891 billion alien races to appear, evolve, and reach a higher level of technological development than [man] given the current ratio of 1.18 planets discovered per star.” Unfortunately, we have no way to easily fact-check this, and Vox doesn’t supply any calculations. For all we know he might be pulling this out of his ass. Further, it seems odd for Vox to appeal to evolutionary probability here, as the string “sufficient time” clearly suggests. Again: are we counting “advanced, evolved beings” as gods? Is a highly revered, weather-controlling computer a “god” in this discussion? As I said in my opening paragraph, I’m not interested in debating the existence ET’s and Terminators. I think it is fair to assume the average person doesn’t mean “advanced, evolved beings” when they say “God” or “gods,” although, to his credit, Vox makes a distinction between “Creator Gods” and “gods” during his argument from moral evil. So, on we go.

Turning to the concept of moral evil, Vox writes, “I am not aware of a single individual who has denied ever experiencing any direct contact with evil. And by evil, I do not mean mere bad fortune, physical pain, or the application of the various principles of physics to suboptimal human action, but rather those self-aware, purposeful, and malicious forces which intend material harm and suffering to others and are capable of inflicting it.” Pure bluster. I know countless individuals who firmly deny that self-aware, evil forces exist. While I agree with Vox that “human evil is partly endogenous,” it’s a Saltarellian leap to go from there to God or gods. After all, many people disbelieve in “self-aware forces of evil,” most notably those people who believe “evil” is just a handy euphemism for desire-thwarting human behaviors like stealing, lying, murder, etc. Not a chance, Vox, not a chance. Your argument from moral evil requires emendations. Burn the dross and resubmit.

Still belaboring the point, Vox’s closing paragraph begins, “As a shadow requires the presence of a source of light in order to exist, evil requires the presence of a source of good.” LOL! Spare me. This is just fancy poetic metaphor designed to objectify what may in fact be purely subjective phenomena. It might be appropriate in one of Vox’s “cheesy sci-fi novels” [PZ’s words, not mine], but it is entirely inappropriate in an ostensibly serious debate. He needs to flesh this out quite a bit if he’s trying to make the WLC-esque claim that objective good exists, ergo one or more Creator Gods.

Extended Commentary: Dominic’s Response

The first half of Dominic’s response to Vox could be summarized as, “gods don’t exist, ET’s almost certainly do.” Disappointed? So was I.

In response to Vox’s “plethora of evidence” claim, Dominic rightly concedes that, “…no amount of handwaving theorizing that so many people throughout history have been merely dishonest, crazy, delusional, or suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy can stand up against the sheer volume of accounts made, so dismissal simply is not an option.” Damn straight, and I’m impressed Dominic didn’t take the denialist path there. He continues, “There is no denying that there is something, possibly of a distinctly external nature, imposing itself on people throughout history causing them to report visitations from gods, angels, demons.” Whoopee! Something, possibly of a distinctly external nature, probably exists!

Wisely, Dominic concedes Vox’s plethora of evidence and spends his next few paragraphs giving us a brief history of alleged extraterrestrial visitations, reminding us that some people see greys, others angels, others demons, etc. So, Dominic clearly accepts that “something is happening,” he just denies that it has anything to do with God or gods [then again, aren’t superhuman entities that can control nature “gods” by definition?]. After a bit of what basically amounts to mumbling, Dominic realizes, “Somehow, I doubt that proving other people exist, though, is the purpose of this discussion.” Exactly what I was thinking. This debate was supposed to be about God or gods, not ET’s, yet both Vox and Dominic spend at least a paragraph talking about ET’s. Oh well. Too bad we didn’t nail down a definition of “gods” or “God” like I suggested in the beginning.

Realizing the futility of arguing over ET’s, Dominic thankfully returns to the central issue, i.e., God. He then turns to Vox’s argument for moral evil, and, astonishingly for an atheist, he agrees with Vox on the existence of “objective” evil, but I think that’s only because Dominic uses objective unconventionally. He writes, “I believe we can all be in agreement that objective evil, as defined as a self-aware, purposeful, and malicious force which intends material harm and suffering to others and is capable of inflicting it, is quite real.” Really? On what grounds? I believe these forces exist, but that’s because I accept the existence of the traditional malevolent deities, i.e., Satan, demons and their offspring. What sort of “self-aware evil force” can an atheist possibly assent to?

Dominic then disagrees with Vox’s claim I dismissed as fanciful poetic metaphor, writing, “Objectively real evil is something we intuitively recognize by its qualities, and I don’t see how any of the qualities that defines evil requires a source of goodness to either enable or define it.” My thoughts exactly. As I said, Vox fails in his attempt to objectify what may in fact be purely subjective phenomena [human intuitions about “good” and “evil”]. Further, if Dominic is going to concede the existence of “self-aware forces of evil,” then, unless he means to imply that they are ET’s or Terminators, hasn’t he just conceded the existence of something like demons ala traditional Christian theology?

This is just a minor point, but Dominic writes, “Evil is always unpleasant for someone, that’s what makes it objective, but leaping to the conclusion that it couldn’t exist without the objective and definitive Good strikes me as awfully non-sequiteur, knocking the base out of the argument that our ability to recognize evil necessitates the existence of a custodian of the Good.” Mostly yes, partly no. Mostly yes, because the fact that we all dislike being stolen from doesn’t necessarily lead to God or gods, and this is an appropriate response to Vox’s argument. Partly no, because feelings of unpleasantry are always subjective in that they ultimately supervene on the mind of the subject [note that this does not negate the “mostly yes” logic]. Dominic seems to misunderstand the elementary difference between subjective and objective, as further evidenced by: “We all eat roughly the same things due to the fact we all need the same kinds of dietary input to survive due to the similiarity of our bodies (which is also why its safe so say we all see colors in roughly the same way, philosophers and their ‘what if my blue is your red?’ be damned). Sugar is sweet, 50 degree Farenheit water is cold, and someone who steals from someone else for purely personal gain is evil. The first two are readily accepted facts across the board (thus objective, the only thing subjective is “how sweet” or “how cold”) as being a consequence of our common biology, yet the third gets a free pass as a universal law that we know though our moral intuition, that would hold true even without us around. This makes no sense.” Indeed, Dominic, it doesn’t. Ever heard of Daltonism or any of the many other sense “disorders” in the literature? Farts don’t smell “bad” for everyone. Grass isn’t “green” for everyone. Mass murder isn’t “evil” for everyone. So I’m not sure what that latter bit was meant to accomplish, but it doesn’t matter because Vox didn’t make a strong enough case anyways.

Lest I be dismissed as too flippant, I agree with the meat of his claim. Dominic writes, “I’m not saying that our common biology is the definitive answer as to why we all perceive and recognize flavor, temperature, and evil, but it is just as good an explanation, if not better, than jumping to the conclusion that our recognition of evil is a window into some absolute moral law, much less saying that the very act of recognizing it requires some corresponding Goodness.” With the aforementioned minor reservations aside, I agree. Vox failed to make his case that “self-aware forces” of evil exist, much less that their existence proves the necessity of “self-aware forces” of good. Dominic concludes, “the existence of objective evil is not itself a definitive proof of a lawgiver, it could just as easily be a secondary consequence of our biological reliance on vitamin C or something equally unexpected.” Well-stated, Saltarelli. I concur.

Extended Commentary: Vox’s Response

In response to Dominic’s thoughts on cause and effect, Vox writes, “the assertion that the existence of the supernatural depends upon the axiom that cause precedes effect or that space-time is causal and linear is both incorrect and unsupported.” Yes and no. Yes, because the inference Dominic draws from the assertion remains vulnerable to the problems outlined in 1. No, because the Prime Mover arguments Dominic alludes to have typically been advanced using linear causality. So, Dominic correctly asserted that the traditional Prime Mover arguments require linear causality. There may be Prime Mover logic compatible with alinear causality, but that doesn’t seem to be what Dominic was talking about. Vox is also correct in another sense: although traditional Prime Mover logic seems to require linear causality, this does not necessarily hold for all things “supernatural” [whatever the hell that means, nobody explains]. Vox is justified in dismissing Dominic’s arguments in this regard.

WRT Dominic’s four exhibits, Vox continues, “although I find them intriguing, I have nothing to say here about the existence or non-existence of precognition, mystery butter, deja vu, or dreaming the future, because none of them are relevant to this debate given the nonexistent logical link between those four things and the existence of gods.” Well, not so fast. Dominic’s claim is that these phenomena justify doubt regarding the proposition, “cause and effect is always linear.” So, there is a link, but the connection just isn’t strong enough for all the reasons I described in 1.

Regarding Dominic’s persuasion by the axiom “truth is stranger than fiction,” Vox writes, “Nevertheless, convenience is not a serious argument against existence. 7-11 indubitably exists. Starbucks seemingly exists on every corner. Few things could possibly be considered more convenient than Internet porn, which is available 24-7 around the entire planet, and yet it too can be confirmed to exist.” Vox conveniently equivocates over Dominic’s intended usage of the word convenient. This is not the type of “convenience” Dominic is talking about, but this, too, is only a minor annoyance. Vox is correct to mention that Ockham’s Razor is “a useful rule of thumb and parsimony is usually considered to be a scientific positive when the relative likelihood of two competing theories is being compared.” Dominic failed to mention this. Vox writes, “While I can hardly question what is or is not obvious to Dominic, I can certainly point out that obviousness to Dominic is not [an] objective metric that is relevant in any way to anyone else.” Exactly. That Dominic finds gods “too convenient” doesn’t amount to a hill of beans logically.

Reiterating his previous appeal to possibility, Vox writes, “With the continued advance of technology and the concomitant changes in [man’s] future understanding of the universe that will come from that advance, it is entirely possible that a belief in the material limits of the universe which rejects the supernatural may well one day look as ignorant and crazy as a belief in Newtonian physics which rejects quantum physics.” Well sure, but you need something more than “X is entirely possible and may one day be discovered” to make your case. After all, the same could be said of unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters, interstellar teapots and all the other silly objects proffered by flippant atheists. Plausibility is certainly an important fact to point out, but ultimately worthless in forcing a positive conclusion for gods. Luckily for Vox, the “plethora of evidence” stands in his favor.

In Conclusion

Overlooking his neglect for citations, Vox’s arguments respected scientific methodology, consistency and consensus, whereas Dominic’s arguments showed flagrant disregard for the same. I’m not being harsh, but Dominic didn’t make a single forceful argument for the non-existence of gods. On the other hand, Vox’s argument from mathematical probability established plausibility, but that isn’t sufficient to force the conclusion that gods exist. Vox’s argument from moral evil wasn’t sufficiently developed to be relevant. The clincher? Dominic conceded the forcefulness of Vox’s “plethora of evidence” argument, which clearly tips the scale in Vox’s favor, but it gets worse for Dominic: Vox’s “plethora of evidence” is also consistent with Dominic’s “alien hypothesis,” and aliens are acceptable given the definition of “gods” we’ve been supplied. So, unexpectedly, both Vox and Dominic seem to have agreed that E/L->gods! Since Dominic was supposed to argue that E/L->no gods, it seems he didn’t make his case and actually conceded Vox’s. Since our loosely-defined concept of “gods” allows for any superhuman being worshipped as able to control nature, I don’t see how Dominic could successfully argue that E/L->no gods, unless of course he attributes Vox’s “plethora of evidence” to an uncannily teleological “Northern lights” -type phenomena. Or mass delusion, but both these guys are levels above John Loftus.

I reluctantly declare Vox Day the winner of round one, but not by much. In fact, it’s almost by default.

Addendum

As this debate proceeds, I’d like to see a narrower focus on the traditional God concept. The definition of “gods” as any “superhuman being worshipped as able to control nature” is simply too wide a goalpost, one that diminishes this debate’s relevance to traditional (a)theist dialog.

A Message To The Uber-Rationalist

I’ve noticed this thing where uber-rational people judge others as “irrational” based exclusively on whether or not the belief in question has **unassailable scientific evidence. When the uber-rationalist makes that move, they misapply a legitimate but isolated truth-criterion without consideration for the full context in which the “irrational” person holds their belief. I say “misapply” because I generally disfavor a myopic approach to reality and I believe truth is best demonstrated through multiple criteria.

Asteroids are perhaps my penultimate example. “Huge, flying rocks in space? That’s absurd!” the uber-rationalist pompously declared to the free-thinker of centuries past. “It’s more likely that you were just hallucinating when that little rock fell out of the sky and cut your head, and as far as that huge, round hole in the ground, you’re probably just seeing a pattern where none really exists.”

“Well…” the free-thinker replies with noticeable annoyance, perhaps at the subjective use of ostensibly mathematical terms. “I maintain that my position is rationally held. I saw what I saw and in my opinion, the only thing wrong with that huge, round hole in the ground is that it’s not big enough for you to bury your head.”

Despite it’s usefulness in making predictions and identifying false propositions, science necessarily plays catch-up with reality. If you are an uber-rationalist, you might want to remember this the next time you’re tempted to look down on others as “less rational” than thou.

** Existence debatable. An uber-rationalist can doubt anything.

Isn’t This Thoughtful Or Detailed Enough?

So I’ve been cleaning out my notes, and I came across the following accusation from somebody calling themselves Hermes:

Why spend time on a detailed and thoughtful response when the other person is unwilling and also unable to comprehend or even attempt to engage what you have said?

Of course, the implication is that I am unwilling and unable to engage Hermes’ points, but you can find evidence to the contrary, here. As JS Allen also points out, Hermes was directing all sorts of believers to this thread and challenging them to respond to the points, yet, Hermes seems to have disappeared, and it’s been over a year now. So who is unwilling and unable to engage what’s been said?

Materialism Is A Misnomer

Pardon me for asking a silly question, but here I go anyways: If you made salad dressing that was one part vinegar and 10,000,000,000,000 parts olive oil, would it be accurate in any sense of that word to label your dressing as vinegar-based? I’m going to bet that any reasonable person would say no.

Yet, physicists estimate that the atomic material/non-material ratio is akin to a single grain of sand in St. Peter’s Basilica [approximately 163,000 square feet]. So then, why do so many “materialists” assert that “material” explanations can account for all known phenomena when what they call “matter” is actually something like 99.9999999999999% immaterial?

Am I missing something?

Mysterious Ways

[Rust Belt Philosophy has offered a critique of this post, here]

I would imagine that most anybody familiar with (a)theist discussion has encountered a believer whom–when backed into a corner about, say, the unimpressive findings of various prayer studies–resorts to the rejoinder that “God works in mysterious ways.” Personally, I don’t endorse that as a legitimate response to the unimpressive findings of various prayer studies, but that’s not what I’d like to talk about today.

I’d like to talk about the viciousness with which atheists often handle the “mysterious ways” response, then suggest that atheists are often just as guilty of the essentially the same “mysterious ways” rejoinder themselves.

A writer at AtheistNexus asks,

What does it say about the individual who utters this phrase? Is this phrase a decent answer, or is it merely a cop out to cover ignorance and intellectual laziness? If there is anything that this phrase does not do is promote an intellectual endeavor to uncover an answer or test a question. This phrase merely shows an individual’s blind dogma and laziness to actually find a real answer.

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as a pretty harsh assessment! So, how are atheists often equally guilty of this impoverished rejoinder?

Consider the classical atheist position on the brain. Arguing against the idea of an afterlife, Sam Harris implies that when you damage one part of the brain, something about the mind and subjectivity is lost, and when you damage another part, yet more is lost… on and on etc. Harris’ argument prompted me to recall a discussion I had with Ebonmuse a few years back–before he banished me from his presence–in which he said:

Let’s say we enumerate all the various regions of the brain, labeling them A through Z, and all the various aspects of consciousness, labeling them A’ through Z’… when you destroy brain region A, you remove aspect of consciousness A’. Destroy brain region B, and you remove aspect of consciousness B’, and so on. Given these facts, I conclude that when all brain regions, A through Z, are destroyed, then all aspects of consciousness, A’ through Z’, are destroyed as well.  (Ebonmuse, September 17, 2008, 7:58 pm)

Those are some fairly cemented goalposts, which means Harris’ and Ebonmuse’s claim seems legitimately falsifiable. It would seem that one would simply need an instance of brain regions A – ? destroyed while their corresponding aspects of consciousness remain intact. Right?

Yet, when one confronts materialists with undeniable instances of “this part” and “that part” destroyed or missing, while “this function” and “that function” apparently remain intact, even up to the point of individuals with 50% to 75% of their brain mass missing, many people–perhaps even some of the same atheists who ridicule believers for using the “mysterious ways” rejoinder–will respond that unlike any other organ in the human body, somehow, the brain knows how to remap itself in ways we don’t fully understand. IOW, the brain works in mysterious ways.

Is it me, or is that just a little too convenient, not to mention ironic?

I mean, how in the world can we falsify the claim that mind is entirely reducible to brain if materialists pull the neuroplasticity card every time we show an apparently intact mind with a compromised brain? Precisely how much brain damage or absence is enough to falsify the materialist’s claim?

I Feel Your Pain, Neal Grossman!

I’ve often been dumbstruck by the similarities between hardcore materialists and religious fundamentalists. Along these lines, Neal Grossman wrote:

One of my earliest encounters with this kind of academic irrationality occurred more than twenty years ago. I was devouring everything on the near-death experience I could get my hands on, and eager to share what I was discovering with colleagues. It was unbelievable to me how dismissive they were of the evidence. “Drug-induced hallucinations,” “last gasp of a dying brain,” and “people see what they want to see” were some of the more commonly used phrases. One conversation in particular caused me to see more clearly the fundamental irrationality of academics with respect to evidence against materialism:

I asked, “What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?”

“Oh,” came the reply, “they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format.”

“Well,” I responded, “what about cases where people report veridical perception of events remote from their body?”

“Oh, that’s just a coincidence or a lucky guess.”

Exasperated, I asked, “What will it take, short of having a near-death experience yourself, to convince you that it’s real?”

Very nonchalantly, without batting an eye, the response was: “Even if I were to have a near-death experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain.”

He went on to add that dualism—the philosophical thesis that mind and matter are independent substances, neither of which can be reduced to the other—is a false theory and that there cannot be evidence for something that is false. This was a momentous experience for me, because here was an educated, intelligent man telling me that he will not give up materialism, no matter what. -Neal Grossman, Who’s Afraid of Life After Death

Later in the piece, Grossman coins the term fundamaterialist to describe such people. I almost wet myself! I may not agree with all of Neal’s conclusions in the paper, but he sure hit the nail on the head there. Grossman continues:

Now, the term “irrational” has a wide range of mean- ings, and there is no doubt room for differences of opinion with respect to what consti- tutes irrational and illogical thinking. But everyone agrees that the domain of rational discourse is structured by basic rules of logic. Those who, while defending their own cherished beliefs, violate these rules may be fairly said to be behaving irrationally. Fun- damaterialists, like fundamentalists, are so self-righteously certain of the truth of their beliefs, that they are often blind to the elementary logical errors they commit in defense of their beliefs…

Why is it the case that otherwise rational people, when it comes to discussing empirical evidence for dualism, cheerfully commit all sorts of logical errors—errors that they would never let their students or colleagues get away with. I think there are three interrelated factors, or causes, that converge to generate academia’s collective irrationality with respect to this issue: (a) resistance to paradigm change, (b) intellectual arrogance, and (c) social taboo…

It seems there is something very deep in us humans that causes us to dismiss and ridicule any way of thinking different from our own. There is a natural resistance to forms of thinking that differs from what was internalized during the educational process…

Academic philosophers matriculate within a paradigm that is largely atheistic, materialistic, and reductionistic. There is no God; only material objects and processes exist; and human experience and behavior are to be explicated mechanically in terms of brain states. Books with the terms “mind” or “consciousness” in their title, for example, tend to have as their primary goal the reduction of mental and conscious experience to neurophysiology. To one who has internalized this paradigm, this way of approaching things appears to be right, reasonable, objective, and sensible. The paradigm itself is rarely questioned; it is the very water in which the academic philosopher swims, which is why it is so difficult for one who is immersed in the paradigm to see it as a paradigm, rather than as the way things “must be.” Someone operating out of a different paradigm appears to be out of touch with reality, irrational, and so forth.

Lastly, the clencher:

For the fundamaterialists and debunkers would have us believe that the burden of proof is on us to first disprove every alternative hypothesis they can imagine.

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? This is nearly word-for-word what I’ve been saying to various skeptics in recent discussions on NDE and other things. I tip my next beer–God willing–to you, Neal Grossman.

Inconsistency & Personal Attacks: Why You Should Be Skeptical Of John W. Loftus, II

I suppose the question for tonight’s installment is, Where should I begin?

In his post, Listing of Cognitive Biases, Loftus states, unequivocally, the following:

We should all ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true.

Okay, if there’s one thing I admire in (a)theist discussion, it’s a firmly cemented goalpost, and I think the above certainly qualifies. How about you? If you agree with me, perhaps it won’t be much of a stretch to gain some empathy for my consternation at the transactions that follow. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, in his article, Top Seven Ways Christianity is Debunked By the Sciences, Loftus states, again unequivocally, the following:

[science] has also shown us there was no Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.

Rhetorically persuasive, perhaps, but the problem is, in direct contradiction to his claim that we should all ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true, Loftus accepts this as true, without a lick of positive evidence! Worse, as I pointed out, John completely ignores bonafide positive evidence that challenges his claim, like the fact that we find references to a nomadic tribe of Israel in Egyptian epigraphy, for example the Stele of Merneptah, discovered at Thebes by Sir Flinders Petrie. Written in hieroglyphics, the stele records the boasting of Merneptah, who ruled Egypt in the early thirteenth-century BCE and claimed that he had “humbled Israel.” The omission of the customary determinative sign denoting “land” implies that the “Israel” Merneptah humbled was a nomadic tribe. This is significant because a nomadic tribe of Israelites in early thirteenth-century Egypt is most certainly a prerequisite for the Exodus. Further, if Merneptah conquered this nomadic tribe—as the stele records—is it unreasonable that a remnant fled? The point is, Loftus argues from the gaps, plain and simple, after hypocritically crucifying believers over and over for doing the same thing.

Of course, this was all covered in my opening to this series, so, I’d like to introduce a few more examples of Loftus making claims without any positive evidence to substantiate them. From Victor Reppert’s blog, in the context of miracles and their persuasive power:

Here’s a dilemna [sic] for the modern charismatic/pentecostal church: Either their experiences of miracles, speaking in tongues and exorcisms are the same as what the NT believers and disciples experienced, or they are not. If yes, then why is it those experiences do not convince anyone but those who already believe; that is, why is it these miracles have little or no convincing power? [John W. Loftus, comment January 30, 2006 2:43 PM]

You see what just happened there? Never mind what he said earlier about the requirement for positive evidence; Loftus simply asserts what he needs to bolster his case, and again, he ignores bonafide positive evidence that would challenge his claim. In that same thread, in direct contradiction to Loftus’ claim, we find the following two comments:

John, this may be true of your experience, but is certainly not true of mine. I am not a charismatic/Pentecostal, but I attended a Pentecostal church for six years. I went initially because a good friend of mine, a lapsed Catholic and a very intelligent and worldy person (basing his life, on his own admission, on “sex and drugs and rock n roll”) was invited by a friend to attend a vibrant and contemporary Pentecostal church. He was so impressed with the miracles and the apparent work of the Holy Spirit that he came to me as the only “regular christian” he knew to ask me questions. His first two questions were: “Do you believe in speaking in tongues?” and “Do you believe in divine healing?” He was very impressed and ultimately convinced by the things you have just suggested no-one is convinced by… [unkle e, January 22, 2010 5:34 PM]

First of all, let me say that my belief in the miracles of the Bible are not because they are written in the Bible, but because I have seen them today. [Anthony Fleming, February 15, 2011 12:56 PM]

Clearly, Loftus needs to admit he was wrong, retract his claim, make the necessary emendations, and try again. Has he? Not yet. Am I surprised? Not at all. Are you?

Moving along, here are two more examples illustrating why I believe you should be skeptical of John W. Loftus. In his post, Reppert on Ridiculing One’s Opponents, the Loftus tells us:

I totally agree with [Reppert] when he wrote: “I really dislike ridicule, from either side of the fence.” [Reppert] also said, “I consider the ridicule heaped on atheists that I see on some blogs to be a bad witness.” I think the same as [Reppert] does when it’s the atheists who are doing the ridiculing. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for some of it in some forums specifically addressed to the proverbial “choir” for venting and/or entertainment purposes. It’s just not something I pander to here at DC from either side of the fence. [John W. Loftus, emph. and brackets mine]

Really now? Granted, that post was from 2006, but, did John W. Loftus have a change of heart and conveniently forget to tell the world? I ask because, as recently as this month, he’s directed the following towards me:

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 of my deconversion at all. You’re too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. [John W. Loftus]

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 W. Loftus]

I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me that Loftus is more than willing to pander to that which he unequivocally claimed he was not. As for the whole “banning” thing, well… guess what? He banned me! Loftus writes:

…what made me decide to ban cl was his statement that he would come back here no matter what I did. I was not going to ban him until he said that. It revealed an utter disrespect for my wishes.

Oh, excuse me! I can’t help but wonder: did John think his insults revealed utter respect for my wishes? Again, we get a double standard. All of a sudden, the Loftus would have us believe that being respectful of one’s wishes is something he’s concerned about. If that’s the case, why did he contradict his stated position on insults by showering them upon me? I assure you, I did not wish to be insulted. Again, what’s good for the goose apparently is not good for the gander. Pure, unadulterated hypocrisy. You can read all about it, right here. I encourage you to comment, since I can’t defend myself anymore.

So, to summarize: you should be skeptical of John W. Loftus because he holds believers to different standards than he holds himself and his atheist comrades to. You should be skeptical of John W. Loftus because he eschews cogent rebuttals in favor of childish insults. Lastly, and most importantly in my opinion, you should be skeptical of John W. Loftus because, when held accountable to his own claims, he resorts to the aforementioned stratagems borrowed from fascists and other authoritarians throughout history.

Since when has denigration and censorship brought us any closer to truth?

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