Reading the Reactions
Ever since Circular Sye slimed his way onto the podcast (the first two times as a last minute addition to the person we’d ACTUALLY invited), there have been numerous reactions from the Christian blogosphere.
Almost without fail these have taken the form of thoroughly mystifying self congratulation, whether it’s Dan Marvin at Debunking Atheists basically begging Sye to become his boyfriend, another Dan (a maniac who thinks abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape, and thinks that he can write about this in a ‘humorous’ and self satisfied manner) distorting the discussion’ so much that he paints Circular Sye and Dustin as might heroes out to smite the atheists, Choosing Hats claiming that Jim and I are ‘left without an excuse‘, Circular Sye himself patting himself on the back in a sickening display of egotism on Facebook, or Dustin Segers writing multiple posts to try and convince himself that his utterly circular arguments aren’t utterly circular (and getting no nearer to making his point several thousand words later), they have all been smug and self satisfied.
There are, depressingly, many more beyond the ones I’ve linked to, all similarly crowing in their tone.
But do they have any grounds to crow? I’d say ‘no’. In the four discussion about Presuppositional Apologetics, discussions that total a whopping six and a half hours talk time, that Fundamentally Flawed have hosted, alongside the thousands of words written on blogs in reaction, not once have the faithful made a coherent point. Instead Circular Sye, Eric Hovind (son of the Tax evading criminal Kent Hovind), Dustin Segers, and Alan Rhology have asked questions as witless as ‘what evidence do you have that evidence is a good way to find truth?’, as repetitive as ‘how do you know that?’ (I swear Circular Sye must have asked that about 50 times during my interactions with him), and as bafflingly meaningless as ‘how does your worldview account for knowledge?’. Once answered they have, without fail, claimed that no answer has been given (this is extremely evident on my final debate with Circular Sye, where I had to repeat my answers several times as, almost as if he weren’t even listening to me, he asked them again and again).
As is often the way, it’s very easy to start doubting oneself when faced with an onslaught of criticism, even if you’re confident that the opposition is absolutely wrong. And though I am certain of the non-existence of anything supernatural (due to the impossibility of such a thing existing) I found myself looking for things that I’d missed. Was Dustin right when he said of the Primacy of Existence –
Rand refutes her own “primacy of existence” argument by presupposing the primacy of her own consciousness in order to argue against the primacy of consciousness! In other words, if you claim you need something to be conscious of to be conscious, then you have to first presuppose that the conscious “I” or “self” is the one doing the conscious observing in order to claim that existence is primary over consciousness.
…or has he spectacularly missed the point that, even if the Primacy of Existence is recognised by a conscious mind as being the way things are, that doesn’t automatically debunk it, just as a square will always have four sides whether there’s a mind there to recognise that or not? And has Christian blogger, Paul M, got a point when he claims my argument that miracles render intelligibility impossible takes the following form
1. So the argument has a modal premise like this:
 God could work a miracle and cause us to have false empirical beliefs.
And a conclusion like this:
[C] Therefore, we can’t trust our senses.
But it seems that a modal fallacy has occurred. Consider this:
[1*] Jones could beat up his wife.
[C*] Therefore, Jones’s wife can’t trust her safety or her husband.
and then insists that his interpretation is right, even when I corrected him thusly –
A cornerstone of the argument that Sye and Dustin use is that the Christian god is necessary for intelligibility. Miracles cause a huge problem for this, as intelligibility relies entirely upon uniformity (that things will roughly continue to be as they were, and will be the same wherever they are). We are able to measure and interact with our reality purely because uniformity holds.
Now, if miracles could happen at any moment (say the water you’re drinking could be turned into wine by your god) then uniformity does NOT hold. Yes, scientist A and scientist B could do the same experiment a million times each and get the same result but they could never be certain that god wouldn’t change the result next time, or that the result they’d got those two million times weren’t the result of supernatural intervention. Intelligibility would be impossible.
It’s hard not to wonder whether I’ve missed something.
But then I read back through the posts made by these people, and I realise that, no, I haven’t missed anything. Their arguments ultimately rest entirely on faith, circular reasoning, and special pleading. These people are, almost to a man (I don’t know the view of Paul M or the chap at Choosing Hats), Young Earth Creationists and deniers of evolution. They believe that snakes and asses can talk, some believe that dinosaurs lived alongside man in some kind of weird Flintstones reality, and they all believe that everyone on Earth is descended from Noah and his family, who survived a global flood in a boat full of every living creature.
Let that sink in for a moment.
These people are actively denying reality, in ways that are demonstrably wrong. In the cases of Circular Sye, Dustin Segers, and Eric Hovind their living depends on the credulous giving them money to hear their shit. These people are heavily invested in maintaining an illusion of being right. If that curtain of surety drops, even for a second, all three would have to go and get proper jobs – they literally cannot afford to admit their errors, and are forced to plough on, regardless of how ludicrous their views are. They may claim repeatedly to be only interested in ‘truth’, but like all hawkers of religion who’ve ended up as professional preachers, in reality the very last thing they want to find is anything that might put them out of work. They debate to increase their profiles, not to learn anything.
So why take them on at all? Well, my hope is that the fence sitters, the unsure, those who think they’re alone in their church groups in their doubts, might listen to these encounters (aggressively pushed, as they are, by our opponents) and see through the multiple layers of crap being gibbered out by the professional apologists. If these debates enable even one person to successfully throw off the shackles of religious belief then I think they are worth the frustration caused by engaging with these people.
Feel free to comment, unless you’re Circular Sye who can just fuck off.