Monday, March 27, 2017

The Dillahunty/Licona debate: A review

I watched the YouTube(d) debate (allegedly around the question, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?") between Matt Dillahunty and fundamentalist Mike Licona, and Matt took a full 57 minutes to start talking about the need for evidence, the need to demonstrate that it's possible for someone to rise from the dead, etc., etc.  This is the skeptic's single line: Show me.  I have no problem with asking for proof, but why not lay his cards on the table at, say, 57 seconds in, thus saving us all a lot of watching and listening?

The debate can be summed up as:

Mike:  The supernatural exists.
Matt:  We don't really know what the supernatural would be, and I'm not going to accept the existence of anything supernatural until the supernatural is demonstrated to exist.


Mike: (Paranormal claims)
Matt:  Proof, please.

Do we really need 2:29:20 of that?  (Who do I mean by "we"?  Anyone who hates him or herself enough to sit through such a thing, I guess.)

Licona took issue with Matt's application of Occam's Razor, so there's not much hope for Licona, who is intelligent but fundamentalistic to the core.  Matt is equally a fundamentalist, and by that I mean a Christian fundamentalist.  A dry fundamentalist, as it were.  (Apologies to Firing Line.)  He considers himself an atheist (he doesn't believe in God, after all), but anyone who considers the Resurrection the central fact (or fiction) of Christianity is a fundamentalist.  Matt's not simply stating someone else's point of view here--he's stating his.  It's the tiresome fundie notion that the truth, meaning, validity, etc. of scripture depends upon whether or not the miracles described in the text are real or made-up.  Yawwwwwn.

Two Christian fundies battling it out--one a believer, the other a nonbeliever.  I only put myself through this because I've questioned Matt's debating skills and felt, because of this, that I ought to watch him debate.  Enough.

Background: Matt put up a hilarious YouTube video in which he glibly dismisses ontological arguments as inadequate.  I questioned his qualifications to do so, which was not a response to any of his arguments, and certainly not an argument on my part.  "What are your creds?" is not an argument for anything.

Nevertheless, he accused me of committing the argument ad hominem fallacy, which I did not, in any way, do.  Kind of miffed me.  It's too bad I don't have the ability to laugh at such things; instead, I get annoyed.  But maybe I enjoy getting annoyed.  (Me, and countless other internet addicts.)

Matt's rambling style doesn't impress me--it gives every impression that his knowledge of fallacies, critical thinking requirements, the purpose of scientific skepticism, etc. is pretty superficial.  Sorry, but someone who finds a logical fallacy where it's not happening is not someone whose expert act is likely to fool me.

I'm not taking "sides" on the Resurrection, by the way--i.e., on the question of whether or not it really happened.  I regard it as what it is--a very important Christian narrative, one whose meaning is far more important than any "debate" over its historicity.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Words don't have meanings. Except when they do.

I'm watching this Matt Dillahunty video at YouTube: Debating Theists.  He's like a macho fundie preacher--the tone, the cadence, the "I'm the man" bearing.  But we can't be judging people by how they act and look, and by what they say.  Because, um....


So, early on, he asserts that words don't have meanings--they have usages.  Seriously.  Quote: "We inject meaning into words."

Later on, he talks about semantics (as a potential roadblock to debate!!).  He says, "Semantics--it's about what words mean, and it's important."

Cue the Spike Jones interlude.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Antony Flew vs. Matt Dillahunty

Welcome to today's installment of Antony Flew vs. Matt Dillahunty.

Antony: "What is true, or false, is propositions.  What is valid, or invalid, is arguments.  These notions and these distinctions are absolutely basic.  To say that an argument is true or that a proposition is valid is as uncomprehending or as inept as to say that someone got to first base in basketball or that someone made a home run in tennis."--How to Think Straight: An Introduction to Critical Reasoning, Antony Flew, Prometheus Books, 1998.

Matt, to caller: "The arguments are either correct or incorrect, independent of who said them, right?"--Atheist Experience, Mar. 12, 2017.

Yikes.  As my piano teacher would say, "Ouch!"


Thursday, March 16, 2017

I had the Matt Dillahunty experience

Who's Matt Dillahunty?  A skeptic/atheist/secular/whatever who can barely write, think, or speak, yet who considers himself a great debater.  Hate to be so rude about it, but he was rude to me, so, nyah.

My encounter with Matt lasted a fraction of a second--just long enough for him to access his app, or whatever you do with apps.  (Seriously--I don't know.)  Activate it, whatever.

At Youtube, he has a video in which he blathers about ontological arguments from philosophy. We'll start with the verdict of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on ontological arguments:

"Critiques of ontological arguments begin with Gaunilo, a contemporary of St. Anselm. Perhaps the best known criticisms of ontological arguments are due to Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason. Most famously, Kant claims that ontological arguments are vitiated by their reliance upon the implicit assumption that “existence” is a predicate. However, as Bertrand Russell observed, it is much easier to be persuaded that ontological arguments are no good than it is to say exactly what is wrong with them. This helps to explain why ontological arguments have fascinated philosophers for almost a thousand years."

Yeah, well, Matt is hardly fascinated by them.  Then again, Matt's not a philosopher.  I don't know what he is, actually, since his Wikipedia entry (you have to be pretty important to have one of them) doesn't so much as mention a high school diploma, let alone a degree in anything.  And, since I'm being a dick in the best cyber-atheist tradition (why should they have all the fun?), let me direct you to a pathetic piece of writing by Matt.  I, and a lot of other folks I can name, sounded more intelligent in sixth grade.

So, after watching Matt behave like an expert on everything (an especially pretentious expert on everything, at that) in his YouTube video, I commented, sarcastically asking what qualifies him to take on geniuses like Rene Descartes, especially after he assured us  he wasn't going to take on the great thinkers.  Saying you're not going to do something, then proceeding to do it, is one of cyber-atheism's special perks.  It's slick sleight of hand, by their standards.  By anyone else's, it's clunky and presumptuous and less than smart.

Matt's response popped up before I could count to three:

"Favoring ad hominems with appeals to authority instead of a substantive response or any attempt at an actual argument. It's nice when you make yourself so irrelevant, so quickly. Surely you're an amazing thinker. Keep it up, you're doing great!" (Matt)

More Matt-level punctuation, there.  ("Favoring ad hominems?"  WTF?  Maybe he meant "flavoring"?)  Ooooo.  Matt owned me!  Oooo, I am so owned.

So, here's the thing, and I think I've mentioned this before.  Cyber-atheists act like every exchange in the world is a debate in progress, and that's what Matt is doing here--a textbook example.  Dig the "any attempt at an actual argument" criticism.  Yo, Matt, I'm not making an argument--I'M ASKING A QUESTION.  Namely, who is Matt to take on some of the greatest thinkers in human history, especially after he promised not to?  That's an appeal to authority?  An ad hominem fallacy?  Uhh, no.

Here are my exact words:

"Descartes vs. Dillahunty. Wow. The Father of Modern Philosophy vs. a guy with no degree listed on his Wikipedia page. Gosh, Rene, you've met your match. I'd ask if Matt has ever considered becoming a comic, but clearly he's one already." (Me.)

Rude? Absolutely. An ad hominem fallacy? No way. I'm not making an argument; I'm making an observation. Did I say, "You're wrong because you have no degree listed on your Wikipedia page?" Nope. I did, like a good skeptic, question the probability that someone without a degree has the expertise necessary in the area of philosophy to tell Rene Descartes where to get off. Looking critically at someone's creds is RULE NUMBER ONE OF BEING A SKEPTIC.

I took no position on ontological arguments, except that they must be pretty damned brilliant to still rate as a topic after ten centuries. I think that's a reasonable conclusion, don't you? But I neither agree nor disagree with the arguments. (Philosophy goes beyond the realm of Agree/Somewhat Agree/Maybe/Slightly Disagree/Strongly Disagree.) But Matt's a psychic, I guess--he knows what I think. Glad someone does.

Anyway, let's say I declare Einstein's theories--all of them--to be malarkey. Someone's bound to ask me how I'm qualified to do so. If I say, "Hey, wait--that's appeal to authority. No fair," will anyone have any reason whatsoever to take me seriously?

So, I have no obligation to take Matt seriously. Do I have a right to call him out? Yes. And I just did.