James Kirk Wall critiques Matt Dillahunty vs. Sye Ten Bruggencate debate

God told me to tell you the following comes from him. If anyone disagrees with anything I’ve written, they’re not disagreeing with me, they’re disagreeing with God. If there are any grammar or spelling mistakes in any of this article, god meant for that to happen and has his own reasons which are sufficient for him.

Is it reasonable to believe in god?
mattsye
On May 31st, 2014 an atheist and presuppositional Christian apologist were given approx. 2 hours to debate this question.

Meet the contestants!

Matt Dillahunty is host of the Atheist Experience, a weekly cable access show in Austin, Texas.
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Strengths:
Highly intelligent, educated, and well spoken
Cool, calm and collected
Stunningly good looking

Weaknesses:
Follically and vertically impaired.

Sye Ten Bruggencate is a presuppositional Christian apologist.
sye
Strengths:
Confidence

Weaknesses:
Arrogant and condescending
Shamelessly ignorant
Blind to any worldview other than his own
Whiny

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Sye – Round One!
I know I know that I know there is a god
I know I know that everyone else knows there is a god
Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe there is a god
Matt can’t prove he’s not a brain in a vat.

Matt – Round Two!
An individual’s certainty of knowledge does not equate to actual knowledge
The god claim hasn’t been demonstrated to be reasonable.
Therefore, it’s not reasonable to believe in god
There is a history of apologists instead of a history of evidence
Not all perceptions of god can be right, but they all can be wrong.

Sye – Round Three!
Matt can’t prove he’s not a brain in a vat.
I don’t present evidence because that would make you the judge instead of god
Matt claims his arguments are chemical reactions of the brain. That would mean our debate would be a fizzing Dr. Pepper vs a fizzing Mountain Dew.
Matt says we should never own humans. But then he says humans are animals. And Matt owns animals and even eats animals.
The Christians that call into Matt’s show make me want to puke. It’s garbage. It’s garbage.
I wanted a free exchange, but the debate organizers didn’t. You didn’t. You didn’t.
Matt can’t hang up on me here.

Matt – Round Four!
There are things we believe based on the evidence and our reasoning
Sye doesn’t prove anything, he only claims it
My definition of truth is that which conforms to reality
Sye claims to know the truth of god, but provides no evidence that his god exists
Saying we can’t know anything without god has no foundation of evidence or explanation
An argument needs to be supported by evidence to be reasonable

Back and Forth
Sye - Matt can’t prove what is true
Sye - Matt can’t prove he’s not a brain in a vat.
Sye – You’ve admitted you could be a brain in a vat
Matt – No I haven’t. I’ve stated that I can’t prove I’m not a brain in a vat.
Matt - The fact that something cannot be proved to be false doesn’t mean that it’s true
Sye - You trust your senses and reason to determine what is real in your reality?
Matt – Yes
Sye – but how do you know those are reliable?
Matt – On there continued reliability of effective results
Sye – It’s circular to use your reasoning to validate your reasoning
Matt – It’s a necessity
Sye – What do you know?
Matt – How do you define know?
Sye – I wanted a free exchange, but you didn’t
Matt – I did
Sye – But she didn’t and she started it
Sye – How do you know rocks would exist without humans?
Matt – Because a rock is a rock now and there’s no evidence rocks are effected by human minds.
Sye – But you don’t know so that’s an argument of ignorance
Matt – Whatever
Matt – How can god reveal himself to you where you can be certain?
Sye – Because he’s god
Matt – You say that we all know god exists and you’re convinced that this is true
Sye – It’s not that I’m convinced it’s true, it is true
Matt – And it’s impossible for you to be wrong about that
Sye – About that, yes.
Matt – Do you believe that babies and people of religions that don’t have a god know that god exists?
Sye – Yes, why don’t you
Matt – Because that’s not where the evidence is
Sye – Evidence presupposes truth and truth presupposes god
Matt – How can someone know that god exists but not be certain?
Sye – Because they’re suppressing the truth
Matt – Why doesn’t god reveal himself to everyone and make it obvious?
Sye – For reasons that are perfectly acceptable to god
Sye – Inductive reasoning is looking back
Matt – We’re not claiming that inductive reasoning is absolutely certain
Sye – What are you absolutely certain of?
Matt – I’m not absolutely absolutely certain about anything, I’m maximizingely certain.
Sye – You can’t prove you’re not a brain in a vat
Sye – You claim to have solved solipsism
Matt – No I haven’t
Matt – I can’t account for logical absolutes and neither can you, you just claim to. Please provide proof that you can.
Sye – That’s a logical fallacy
Matt – Provide proof that you can
Sye – Logical absolutes come from the revelations from god in the scripture
Matt – OK, I’m done
Sye – I’m going to continue
Matt – No you’re not, this is my time and I’m done. We’re going to the audience now.
Sye – I’m answering
Matt – No you’re not, this is my time and I’m ending this
Sye – So you’re hanging up on me
Matt – You bet your ass I’m hanging up on you which you said I couldn’t do

Q&A
Q for Sye – How do you know that god is true when he lies in the Bible? God said Adam and Even would die if eating from the tree of knowledge but they lived for hundreds of years afterwards.
Sye – They died spiritually

Q for Sye – Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest in the world, but we know poppy seeds are smaller.
Sye – I don’t do Bible studies with non-believers. I won’t discuss the truth in scripture.

Sye’s best moment
On how to know that the Quran is not the word of god.
The Quran is not the word of god. The Quran says the words of god cannot be corrupted which means the Bible is true. And if the Bible is true, the Quran is false.

Sye’s worst moments
I believe that a Christian theocracy is the best form of government.
(So let’s throw away all progress and move the clocks back 1,600 years)

What does it require to doubt the existence of god? It requires god to doubt the existence of god.
(What does it require to doubt the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It requires FSM to doubt FSM. What an absurd and meaningless statement.)

Matt’s best moment
On historical references in the Bible:
If archaeologists dig up New York in the future, it doesn't mean Spiderman existed.

Matt’s worst moment
Unable to give a specific example of an advancement attributed to philosophy that’s helped society.
(Um…. Socratic Method, the United States Constitution, Secular Humanism……)

Summary

There are people who are shamelessly ignorant. You can expose their ignorance, you can rub their face in it, but it doesn’t matter. They’ll remain completely unfazed and continue to babble what they think they know, but do not know. They will make no attempt to cure their own ignorance or apologize for spreading miss-information. A presuppositional apologist by definition is one of these people.

No apologist should ever get away with claiming to speak for god. They don’t. They claim to speak for a man who over two thousand years ago (as is the case with the Old Testament which is the foundation of Christianity and Islam) claimed to be speaking for god. They are claiming that their guy thousands of years ago spoke to god more than the tens of thousands of other men making the same claim, and whose writings contained knowledge that was no more and no less than what was known at the time that they lived. They don’t speak for god, they speak for a man claiming to speak for god. The distinction is important and should be repeated often in these debates.

In matters of epistemology, specific examples should be used to bring sanity and general understanding to the discussion. Much of this debate was centered on vague philosophical definitions and arguments regarding the definition of knowledge and logical absolutes. In matters of knowledge there must be a specific question. There are many methods of obtaining truth such as mathematics, scientific method, The 5 Ws, simplification, engaging subject matter experts, common sense, and personal experience. The method used to determine the truth depends on the question being asked.

I believe too much of this debate from Matt was academic. For the philosophy freaks out there, including myself, that’s great. I enjoyed the moments where Matt verbally backed Sye into a corner where his only way out was to cowardly say something absurd like “god did it with reasons acceptable to him.” For the general audience, there were not enough specific examples of knowledge IMO that would have brought the discussion into the main stream aptitude of epistemology. Matt does bring up the knowledge that rooks don’t move diagonally per the rules of chess. This was a great example of what we know and why, I think there should have been more.

In regards to believing or knowing what is true, there's also ordinary vs. extraordinary claims. I have a Dr. Pepper in the fridge. There’s no reason not to believe this claim. It’s an ordinary claim that can be satisfied with ordinary evidence. I have a zombie (not the drink, but as in living dead) in my fridge. There is no reason to believe this claim. It’s an extraordinary claim that would require extraordinary evidence.

I would like to have witnessed Sye being challenged on all the knowledge he has outside of the Bible. The scripture in the New Testament is a light and fluffy source of knowledge. Does Sye know 1+1=2? If so, does this knowledge come from god, or did he figure this one out all by himself? What about a sense of fairness that our species and other animals have demonstrated to have? Did we get that from god? Do the other animals get that from god? What about mathematics? It’s not in the Bible, how do we know the formulas are true? Does math come from god? What about quantum physics?

I would also like to have witnessed Sye being challenged on what he specifically knew from Biblical scripture. How do you know scripture is from god? Who wrote the book of Mathew? How do you know he wrote it? How do you know his work, if it was his, wasn’t altered or edited from the original message when history clearly demonstrates that it was? And what about Old Testament vs. New Testament? If god is perfect and his words cannot be corrupted, how is the words of god in the Old Testament different from the words of god in the New Testament? What words of god in the Old Testament can be ignored because of Jesus, and which ones should still be followed?

Thou shall not kill? Is this Commandment followed, or do we ignore it because it’s in the Old Testament? What does it mean when god orders Moses to kill people after giving the commandment? If someone is threatening your daughter with a knife and you have a gun, do you shoot the arm or the head? What about killing Nazi’s in WWII? When does thou shall not kill apply, and when does it not? Where is this detail explained in the Bible, if it’s not, where do we get it? If we acquire some guidelines around killing outside the Bible, does that knowledge come from god? If not scripture, where does it come from?

In closing:
Atheist – So Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness?
Christian – Yes
Atheist – So what happens to everyone who isn’t a Christian?
Christian – They burn in hell for all eternity.

Note – I humbly acknowledge that Matt Dillahunty is a far better known atheist than myself. In providing ideas in what I think he could have done better, I’m in no way insinuating that I personally would have done a better job in trading dialog with someone as delusional as Sye. I would love the opportunity to publically debate theologians, but am not claiming to be better skilled in rhetoric than Matt.

-James Kirk Wall

Shorter version with brilliant imagery of debating soda bottles.

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