• 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

False Argument #34: John W. Loftus On Mind/Brain

A while back, I asked:

…shouldn’t an atheist limit themselves to belief in brains only?

John W. Loftus took a stab, and here’s what he concluded:

Science repeatedly disconfirms that there is a mind.

Does it? I wish John would define his terms and cite evidence to support his claims. As we’ve seen elsewhere, why does he show such a penchant for bare assertion and undefined language? His claim seems ambiguous, and contradicts his statement that we should ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true. As I’ve demonstrated several times before, why does John W. Loftus hold himself to a different standard? At any rate, if by mind he means something like “what the brain does,” then his claim is obviously false. Will anybody really agree that science has disconfirmed what the brain does? Since the answer is–or at least should be–an unequivocal no, I submit that John appears to be using mind analogously to the dualist soul, in the sense of an immaterial entity that either communicates and/or interacts with a physical entity.

Moving along, I noticed that he travels the road countless atheists and skeptics travel in this discussion:

Drugs, strokes, electromagnetic probing, and a nail through the brain can and does change a person’s emotions, ideas, thinking patterns, and a man’s personality itself.

A man’s personality? What about a woman’s? More to the point, so what? All of the time? This is a crucial question. Atheists like Loftus, dguller, Ebonmuse, Luke Muehlhauser, Sam Harris, et al. seem to misunderstand that this is not incompatible with dualism. Similarly, damaging hardware can and does alter software function. Does that mean software doesn’t exist, or that there’s no need for hardware? Folks, if there is a link between brain and mind–a premise I support–then it should be expected that brain damage can alter mental function. Loftus has not provided any evidence against the mind, and he attacks a straw man: no dualist I know claims that changes to the brain shouldn’t affect mental function. However, there is a subtle detail that needs to be parsed out.

In my experience, conventional materialist theories predict that brain damage necessarily alters mental function. Dualism, on the other hand, predicts that brain damage can alter mental function, but does not do so necessarily. IOW, if conventional materialist theories are true, it would seem that we should never find an instance where brain damage doesn’t alter mental function. If dualism is true, it would seem that we should find instances where brain damage alters mental function, but we should also find instances where brain damage does not alter mental function. Indeed, this is what we find. While this in no way proves dualism, it puts burden on the materialist to explain when and why brain damage shouldn’t alter mental function. Of course, all of this is subject to revision, but the take-home point is this: if the mind is what the brain does, why would the effect of brain damage on mental function be sporadic? To simply say that we don’t know enough about the brain seems like a cop-out, not to mention a tentative defeater for proponents of materialism. Consider the following remarks from John R. Searle, both taken from the same paper:

…we really do not understand how brain processes cause consciousness.

The key points of disagreement are that I insist that from everything we know about the brain, consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes… [Why I Am Not A Property Dualist]

I can’t help but chuckle, and ask: if we really don’t understand how brain processes cause consciousness, on what grounds can we sustain the presumption that brain processes cause consciousness? Back to Loftus:

In fact, as neurologist Sam Harris has said, if there is a mind there is no reason for God to have created us with brains.

First off, how about a citation? How do we know that John paraphrased Sam Harris accurately? Even if we presume he charitably interpreted Harris, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Why should we accept this as true? Because Sam Harris can’t think of a reason? The argument from incredulity is a logical fallacy that essentially relies on a lack of imagination in the audience. This is an argument from incredulity, and, again, Loftus contradicts himself by failing to provide any positive evidence for that which he accepts as true.

If the mind tells the brain what signals to send to the arm then it can by-pass the brain altogether and simply send signals to the arm.

This is another bare assertion with no evidence to support it. Where’s that positive evidence you demand for every claim a theist makes, John?

The burden of proof is on the theist to show why unnecessary things were created.

Incorrect. The burden of proof is on John to show why the brain is unnecessary given dualism. That John lacks the imagination to conceive of a need for the brain is not evidence of its contingency. This is another argument from incredulity. Literally, it’s fallacy after fallacy here, from he who fancies himself on the intellectual highground.

If there is a mind we do not need our senses. Get it? If there is a mind that can interact with the brain then it can control the brain. If it can control the brain then it knows what the brain is doing. How it does this is left unexplained, but if we take that position seriously it can. Now if it can sense the brain then it can sense the outside world and so we do not need the five senses.

Yes, I get it: John can’t think of a reason for X, therefore X is not necessary. Again, John simply leaps to his conclusion. Can you count the unsupported assertions there? Nearing the end of his piece, John’s conclusion is a perfect example of the fallacious reasoning that supports so many of his arguments:

The mind supposedly has the characteristics of memory storage, critical thinking, decision-making and so on. What need then of a brain? I simply don’t see it based on theistic grounds.

Yet another argument from incredulity, rinsed, washed, and repeated. That John W. Loftus can’t wrap his head around a concept is neither evidence nor cogent argument against that concept.

So, to wrap it up: it is false to argue that since brain damage can alter mental function, dualism is false. Materialists need to burn the straw here.

Debunking Christianity: Index

I’ve been commenting at Debunking Christianity since the beginning of this year. As I did with Common Sense Atheism, here is the index of my substantial conversations there [substantial meaning more than just a passing comment or two]. As was the case with the CSA index, this list is not exhaustive, and I’ll be updating as the discussions proceed. I provide these lists for a few reasons: 1) They help me keep track of my arguments and meta-debate; 2) They provide an easy reference for anyone who wants to investigate my arguments; 3) They indicate good faith and confidence in my own arguments. I want to be held accountable, and a list such as this is an invaluable aid to anyone interested. So, I encourage people to make the most of it. Let me know where I do well. Let me know where I do bad. Let me know whether you think comments like this and this respect the art of critical thinking. Get involved, that we might all learn!

1. What Positive Evidence is There for God’s Existence? 1-13-2011

2. Quote of the Day, by Desertbarry 1-15-2011

3. The Mind/Brain Problem 1-15-2011

4. The Debunking Christianity Challenge, Part 2 1-17-2011

5. CFI Extraordinary Claims Panel: Christ 1-22-2011

6. A Listing of Cognitive Biases 1-25-2011

7. Why Religion is Persuasive by Adam Lewis 1-25-2011

8. Science Based Explanations vs. Faith Based Explanations 1-26-2011

9. The Gloves are Off Now! Slavery? NO, A Thousand Times NO! 2-08-2011

10. Deceptive Apologetic Strategies 2-09-2011

11. Quote of the Day 2-12-2011

12. Another Failed Attempt to Disabuse Me of the Outsider Test for Faith 2-12-2011

An Open Challenge: Why You Should Be Skeptical Of John W. Loftus

A few months ago, John Loftus claimed that science debunks Christianity.

I’m not a fan of these types of claims, which are essentially sweeping generalizations that contain what I’ve referred to in the past as “the precision of 2×4” as opposed to, say, that of a sharpened #2 pencil. Of course, any (a)theist who’s spent even in a minute in the trenches knows that both science and Christianity are usually emotionally charged keywords that carry more baggage than a bellman at Luxor Grand. The author’s choice of words literally begs the reader to plunge headlong into a frenzy of racing and polarized analysis, fueled on reaction determined by the color of one’s glasses.

Talk about fodder for the culture wars.

Nonetheless, I’d like to focus on a few of Loftus’ claims, and specifically challenge Loftus to take responsibility by supplying the necessary emendations to justify his arguments as needed, and/or admitting their lack of cogency as hitherto presented. Of course, the challenge is open, which means I’m interested to hear your input as well. In fact, I suspect Loftus won’t even respond, but… we’ll see. May he prove me wrong.

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