A Chat With Lifeguard

Over at Evo's blog, you said:

I've regularly commented over at cl's blog and, from what I've observed, I think his position essentially boils down to this:

"Given the present state of the evidence, neither theism nor (positive) atheism are logically compulsory positions. Therefore, atheist arguments that characterize theist positions as irrational, illogical, or not supported by evidence are often false."

I suspect he feels that this makes theism as warranted as atheism, and I have disagreed with him on that. He has meticulously avoided making a positive statement about his beliefs, religious or otherwise, but my guess is he's an open-minded liberal theist of some sort.

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.

To date, neither of us has convinced the other, but, if that's the point, then… what's the point? Methinks challenging someone and being challenged is a lot more satisfying (and productive) than chasing after the illusion that somehow someone's going to convince a theist blogger to openly admit defeat in an argument about whether god exists.

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Utterly Disappointed, Or, My Response To DD’s Evidence Against Christianity, Pt. 1

Beginning here, Deacon Duncan of Evangelical Realism (DD) offers a series titled Evidence Against Christianity which compares the predicted consequences of two hypotheses against real-world evidence to determine which hypothesis seems more likely to be correct. The first hypothesis represents how the world should look if God existed and is called the Gospel Hypothesis (GH). The second represents how the world should look if God did not exist, and is accordingly called the Myth Hypothesis (MH).

I see absolutely nothing wrong with DD's approach, and no believer I'm aware of has voiced a problem with DD's methodology. For example, DD says,

One advantage of comparing two hypotheses by measuring their consequences against real-world fact is that this approach allows us to make a clear, functional distinction between honest, unbiased inquiry and mere rationalization. (DD)

I agree. That's all fine and dandy – but there's a catch: When they assume pre-existing premises, hypotheses must be accurate, and I'm not the only one to claim that DD's so-called Gospel Hypothesis is no gospel hypothesis at all.

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The eBate: Rules & Guidelines

As stated in the introduction, the eBate is a real-time, one-hour long online debate between myself and another writer.

In the introduction, I said I would look for some folks to volunteer as moderators, but I've realized what I was really looking for were qualified people who can assess the debate once it has concluded, and pronounce judgment. So in essence, I was really looking for judges, it seems – but then again – maybe the distinction is mostly semantic. To me, a moderator describes an authority figure whose purpose is to control an open forum. I'm looking for qualified people to stay out of a closed debate until it's over, and then offer their reasoned opinions. At any rate, I've found what I think are three reasonable volunteers: Commenter Brad, MS Quixote, and Lifeguard, who recently resurfaced over at his blog, The Meme Pool.

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Two Quick Questions

Finals week is officially over, which means more time for life! And blogging. I have two quick questions for today, and by next week we should be back to the regular posting schedule.

I was taking out the trash this morning like I do every week. Every time I do this, our cats get scared, and I always get a chuckle out of watching them freak out. I know they're safe, but they can't seem to figure this out despite the fact it's happened once a week for their entire lives and nothing bad has happened yet. Still, they run the same program every time they hear the garbage man, and it's funny. Now here are the two quick questions:

1) Is it a violation of beneficence to behave in a way that frightens another sentient being if we know for certain they are completely safe?

2) Am I sick or twisted for finding amusement in my cats' fears?

False Argument #30, Or, MiracleQuest Continues: The Case Of Kayla Knight, Pt. I

False Argument #30 is a two-tier one coming from the chaplain and PhillyChief:

Well I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable.

Maybe all those who were healed by prayer never bothered reporting it to the newsies. I wonder why they kept their lights hidden under their bushels? It seems like their testimonies would be powerful stuff. Still, it seems strange that not even one person appears to have stepped up and told such a story.
-the chaplain

Now, there's certainly some non-committal posturing on chaplain's behalf here, but someone who's looked into this stuff for even a microsecond has to wonder: Are chaplain and PhillyChief merely being rhetorically successful? Are they taking themselves seriously? Or have they really not looked into this stuff for more than a microsecond?

Although I certainly don't expect either of them to think any miracle story on the news is actually credible, that's a different story, and .22 seconds on Google disproves their claims. Accordingly, a rational person has to wonder: Are the chaplain and PhillyChief reliable? Like John Evo said about my last little soiree with PhillyChief: Is he even doing any research? Is the chaplain? Or are they just voicing their opinions?

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On Atheists & Blind Faith, Or, False Arguments 27, 28 & 29: Why Prayer Studies Are Not Credible

So I locked horns with PhillyChief and John Evo, again, this time it was over the following comment from PhillyChief – who if I remember correctly – claims to be a scientifically-minded rationalist atheist:

Prayer helps no one but the one praying, providing a euphoria and calming effect, which could be comparable to ejaculating.

I felt that was an odd statement for a scientifically-minded rationalist to make, but was not surprised that it came from a sarcastic atheist who claims to be "almost always right", and so I replied,

How would you know? Where is that "demonstrable evidence" you're so fond of? Aside from being grossly unscientific, statements like the above appear contradictory alongside appeals to soft atheism as you've recently made on my site.

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A Chat With The Chaplain?

On a thread at DA, I remarked that,

..improving the condition of the human species and doing things for the
benefit of our fellow living beings is what true religion is all

to which the Chaplain from An Apostate's Chapel replied,

What is the basis of this proposition?

The following post intends to perfunctorily answer her question. Let's refer to the idea that true religion entails improving the
condition of the human species and doing things for the benefit of our
fellow living beings as the Good Will Hypothesis (GWH).

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False Argument #26: The Emptiness Of Theology

I will soon develop this into a detailed, point-by-point response to the source material, but for now, I would simply like to thank Professor Dawkins for providing me with the most easily refuted false argument in this series to date.

In a discussion concerning the "reconciliation" of science and theology, the following atheist sermon was ironically published in Free Inquiry Magazine, Volume 18, #2:

A dismally unctuous editorial in the British newspaper the Independent
recently asked for a reconciliation between science and "theology." It
remarked that 'People want to know as much as possible about their
origins.' I certainly hope they do, but what on earth makes one think
that theology has anything useful to say on the subject? …[T]he achievements of theologians don't do anything, don't affect
anything, don't mean anything. What makes anyone think that "theology"
is a subject at all?
Richard Dawkins

The first sentence is Dawkins' subjective opinion entirely, and by implying that theology is not a subject in his second sentence, the Professor reasons in a circle. If our definition of subject is the study of an actual phenomena, that theology is not a subject begins with assumptions about the very questions at hand. As someone keenly points out in the thread, even if God is not real, theology can still be reasonably considered a subject – as much a subject as art or creative writing or music.

What do you think?

Another Question For DD

I don't know if it's the full moon or last night's aforementioned adult beverages or what, but I simply cannot seem to stop thoughts of logic from forcibly invading my mind today. You implied that it's reasonable to want to be with those we love forever, and I agree, but assuming you accept stock claims of theism's irrationality, have you thought of the disadvantage this puts you at?

If loving others is at least a partial motivation for theism, are not the subset of theists who share said motivation at least partially sustained by a rational and reasonable proposition?

A Sustainable Conclusion?

I honestly believe that 99% of however many people actually read my posts are going to laugh aloud and dismiss this to the absurd quantity of beer topped off with a Jameson and coke that violated a cardinal rule last night, but if theism is irrational – what says the rationalist of denying the irrational?

Atheism must be irrational if its aforementioned premise is true! I know that sounds preposterous, but please give it a chance. I'm being dead serious, and if I'm arguing from some sort of fallacy or misunderstanding, I'll shamelessly swallow it like the aforementioned adult beverages.