Matt’s debates and podcasts and upcoming schedule…

So, I’ve been busy.

I did a debate in Frisco, TX at the NTSSC. JT Eberhard and I teamed up against John Ferrer and Sloan Lee. That video is now up here:

I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or been more pleased about the heavy lifting he did. It made room for my meta-level strategy and sermonizing. 🙂

I also did a debate in Binghamton, NY against Jay Lucas. That video is up here (for now, only the left channel is working):

Then I spoke at the Freethought Fest in Madison, WI. No video yet, but I had a great time!

Last week, I served as the officiant in a wedding for some friends of mine and then I ran off and got re-elected as President of the ACA.

This week, we’re going to try to do a Non-Prophets via Google+ hangout. No word yet on whether we’ll broadcast it…but there’s a lot to talk about.

Last night, I was fortunate to sit in as a guest on the Cognitive Dissonance podcast.

Next week, I’ll be at the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, British Columbia. I’m giving a talk and doing a team debate with Chris DiCarlo.


  1. Metaphysical Ham Sandwich says

    The strategy was awesome in the first debate. I was impressed that JT addressed every single point that was brought up (maybe not completely fully but when you Gish Gallop with 10 god-damned points…)

    I like that you guys had a plan of attack and executed it. Very nice.

  2. cafeeineaddicted says

    (for now, only the left channel is working)

    That’s ok, the right usually doesn’t listen anyways *rimshot*

    Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week…

  3. MichaelD says

    I was also impressed. Though if I recall the 10 points were part of his second of 3 larger points so its was even more gallopy 😛

    And of course now you’re going to steal 2 more hours of my day…. curses!

  4. Dustin Quigley says

    Looking forward to the Imagine No Religion 2 conference!

    One more week!

    See you there!

  5. Metaphysical Ham Sandwich says

    I blatantly stole it from one of your episodes. I’ll relinquish it if you want. 🙂

  6. Kevin says

    Just saying, I think this debate format sucked. Giving each person only 5 minutes to discuss 10+ different topics just doesn’t allow anyone to explain anything in detail. Why don’t more people use the conversation format where you can stop someone when you reach a disagreement or add clarification when someone misrepresent the other person’s position? Wouldn’t that format be more productive? We got a taste of it at the end, but I would much prefer that it be the entire format (maybe a small intro of just stating your own position and some Q&A). Am I alone in respect?

  7. Metaphysical Ham Sandwich says

    It’s not the format that sucks, it’s spending it doing the Gish Gallop that sucks.

  8. says

    Matt, thanks for posting more great debates with you. You’ve been doing AE for so long that often on the show I know your responses before you even make them, so it’s great to see you in a new format doing something different. I love it!

    Side note to the rest of the AE cast: I also love how Matt’s recent debate schedule has given us more chances to see team-ups on AE that we don’t normally get, like Jen and Martin; or ones that we don’t get to see as often, such as Russell and Martin/Jeff/Jen. If I had one thing I’d suggest for the show, it would be to mix it up the hosts a bit more like we’ve seen the last few weeks. I’d love to see more combinations of Jeff/Beth/Jen/Tracie/Martin, as we’ve never really had the chance to see them interact (excepting GB with Beth, Jen and Tracie).

  9. Kevin says

    Well then use a format where the Gish Gallop can’t be done. In other words, a conversation format where you stick to one issue until its resolved or you have reached a dead-end. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have your input/objection heard.

  10. says

    In the NTSSC video, retard number two with no hair color sounds so much like Crispen Glover playing the part of a crazy person, I can’t stop laughing.

  11. MichaelD says

    2nd debate vs Lucas.

    I have to admit I find his suppressing theist thing a bit offensive. I try not to impose a purpose on peoples actions for example I don’t turn it around on him and say that he’s a suppressing atheist trying to delude himself away from his real knowledge of the lack of a god. That seems asinine. To me it seems better to take him at his word that he actually believes what he believes unless there is good evidence against it. I don’t see why he can’t do the same.

    on a more meta level.
    I think I prefer debates with explicitly Christian opponents to deistic philosophers. The philosophers positions always seem more nebulous and hard to tack down where as the Christians always seem to have a more solid position you can approach.

    oh no not Ben Stein arrrgggggg looses an iq point at every mention of the name ;P

    Oh FFS the soviets…. always with the soviets.

    Ok last thing I’ll add and post this comment…

    The thing I don’t understand about the regulating slavery point. Is god says blended clothes are bad and doesn’t regulate their use. He obviously doesn’t have a problem banning things he doesn’t like so why did he regulate slavery and not my poly cotton blend?

  12. stubby says

    Thanks for turning me on to the Cognitive Dissonance podcast. I like those goofballs.

  13. Kevin says

    I like Matt’s intro in the second debate. Actually explaining the real world implication of what it means to say “God exists” and how it is incoherent otherwise would throw someone offering a nebulous concept through a loop to justify their position. Once they offer a meaningful hypothesis, you then ask for evidence. If they continue to be obfuscatory, you simply object that they have yet to offer a coherent concept. It undercuts everything.

  14. Drivebyposter says

    The only thing you can’t accuse the theists in the first debate of is being interesting.

    It was a shame they (seemingly at least) talked more than Matt and JT. I wish they would have gotten around to actually trying to prove god exists instead of listing vague things (none of which convinced them in god’s existence in the first place) and whining about which ones weren’t addressed.

    I got so annoyed that the theists kept pretending “lots of people have a concept of god/claim to experience god” = “they’re all experiencing the same god, thus we have tons of experience based proof.”

  15. Warp says

    “The concept of God is the concept of the greatest conceivable being. That is, an unsurpassable being. This is just as necessary as saying that triangles have three sides. Moreover, there are independent grounds for believing that it is greater for something to exist than not exist. That is, existence surpasses non-existence. It follows deductively from these two premises that God exists.”

    Could this be called an “argument from insanity”? This is probably one of the craziest “logical” arguments I have ever seen.

  16. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Gah. There should be a screen behind speakers that silently says INCORRECT.

    Select audience members, upon entering, could present credentials and get a button (its signal tagged as biology/physics/etc). As the debate proceeds, someone in a booth decides which field is currently relevant, and the screen lights up when when experts simultaneously call BS.

  17. Warp says

    I agree. Also I found this debate largely boring. It was also badly formatted and moderated.

  18. says

    They spent a lot of time on only barely tangentially related points. For instance, the “god isn’t incompatible with science” parts. Why was that even relevant to anything?

  19. KirikaSena says

    This might be a stupid question, but how would one watch/participate in a G+ hangout? Do we have to be friends with one of the Non-Prophets?

  20. says

    I guess I wasn’t really surprised either that the affirmative basically gave one argument from ignorance from another – “Science can’t explain this so that proves there’s a god”

  21. MichaelD says

    What no no didn’t you hear them? They specifically said they weren’t arguments from ignorance they were analogies! *eyes roll across the floor*

  22. says

    I guess I didn’t notice that needle in the haystack among all their earth-shattering antimatter missiles of reason.

  23. billybob says

    I watched the video and I have one question.

    What definition of morality are the debaters using?

    Without a definition you might as wll be debating the colour of air.

    It would be nice if in one of these debates someone put forward some definition, you can prove anything if the words are flexible enough.

    Please try a debate where the main words are defined on a board behind the debaters.


  24. Tomasz R says

    So god is something that “that nothing greater cannot be conveived”. By this definition god is a greatest conceiver, who can concieve more than humans. So this definition is in fact “god is somehting that is the greatest god can conceive”. Which means by this definition we can’t know what the god is before we know god’s limitations in conceiving stuff, which we can’t know because by this definition we can’t conceive it.

    Basically the guy was arguing that “we-can’t-know-what” exists.


    BTW. Married bachelors can exist. It’s enough that one country doesn’t recognize other countries marriages.

  25. Tomasz R says

    In any sports discipline the referees take care that no fouls play is used in real-time. This is lacking in debates. A debate rules could for example block gish-gallop or other debating techniques that are just for the winning rather than for the solution of the problem. But this should be actually enforced.

  26. terrycollins says

    I’m with JT in the first debate. I had no idea what John and Sloan were talking about most of the time. The “positive” side never gave a clear sense of what type of God they were defending, though I assume Christian. Anytime Matt and JT pointed out the impossibility of a traditional attribute ascribed to such a God, John and Sloan would simply respond that they made no such claim. They even went as far as to say it was possible that their god was not perfect. Who the hell worships an imperfect god?!? And how could the “greatest” entity be imperfect? Rather than making a case for the existence of god, they merely promoted that a god could somehow still fit with what we understand about the universe.

    Professors John and Sloan probably understand evolution through natural selection better than many of us. I would have really liked to have heard how they reconcile that theory with God. The only way I can think of that God could somehow guided evolution, would be by controlling the environmental changes that promote selection of the fittest. But there’s so many problems with that idea.

    The positive side were also were quite keen on using wordplay, reason #114 these debate formats suck. There can be no married bachelors – no shit Sherlock! They also used words that have fuzzy definitions, particularly “mind”. Mindfarking is what it was.

    Jay in the second debate was a nice guy. The kind of religious friend you wouldn’t mind hanging out with, though his arguments seem naive.

    Thanks for posting these clips!

  27. says

    In terms of the bachelor/married example of a self evident truth, he basically simply stated the tautologies are self evident truths.

    He pretty much just listed off the three basic laws of logic, “A=A”, “A != B” and “A != !A”… then for the fifth one, just threw out a mere declaration that’s essentially a black swan fallacy.

    He seems to equate “common sense” to “self evident”, without realizing that we already have examples uncaused events.

  28. says

    The reason I say the first one is a tautology is because it’s definitionally equivalent.

    I forget how he said it exactly, but it was something like “a bachelor is an unmarried man”. But if you substitute the definition in of what a bachelor is, his statement turns into “an unmarried man is an unmarried man”.

  29. terrycollins says

    “a minimally interacting deistic god”

    A disembodied mind responsible for creating our own minds apparently. I guess we are just figments of God’s imagination.

  30. Hypatia's Daughter says

    I liked the team debate with JT. As someone who sucks at philosophy and has to look up the meaning of “epistemology” every time I read it (because I forget what it means), having someone who brings the debate out of the rarefied atmosphere of deep thought into the real world (where most religious followers dwell, anyway) was a really a pleasure.
    I hated Jay Lucas. I wanted to punch the s.o.b. in the face so many times. Matt, I don’t know how you keep your cool around a shit like that.
    To imagine that god could command that men cut the end of their penis off, through which they pee several times a day, in an age before anesthetic and antibiotics, to run the risk of hemorrhage, infections, and possibly death, but he was unable to command them not to to keep slaves – or, at least, not to beat or rape them? What a big stinking pile of horse manure.
    When he asked to imagine the worst possible thing you could think of that we needed god’s morality to prohibit, the first thing I thought of was the massacre of the Canaanites by Joshua. God’s morality (“Do not kill”) seems to be more subjective than atheist morality. Would Lucas assure me that god’s justice will see the massacred Canaanites rewarded in heaven for their suffering on earth? Will they see their assassins punished in the afterlife?

  31. Andrew says

    The first debate was unfortunately rather boring except for the excellent points made by Matt and the impromptu opera by JT. The affirmative side seemed to be utterly disinterested in debating, especially Sloan. It was as if his attitude was that he was going to present his arguments, and it’s too bad if people can’t understand what he’s even talking about. I did however laugh when Sloan goes “All of the arguments against this have been debunked,” and then doesn’t elaborate. Yeah, nice posturing there.

  32. Drivebyposter says

    The second guy was an asshat. Even the audience (which I assume mostly sided with him) was aware he was making himself look bad on several occasions.

    I loved his “God didn’t say slavery was ok, he just said set up the rules for slaves” and his “god will fix all of the problems…EVENTUALLY. So him allowing slavery for thousands of years is not a moral problem”

    And I agree with Andrew that the team from the first debate didn’t care that it was a debate at all. They just wanted to ramble on about how deep and philosophical their christianity is compared to the form of atheism they are arguing against (which, I’ not even sure is the form of atheism Matt or JT support).

  33. MichaelD says

    Indeed. All of their self evident truths were tautologies or the logical absolutes. Nothing I would compare to the existence of god.

  34. MichaelD says

    Going with his (lame) explanation that slavery was bad but it was a social safety net that god had to regulate in the short term. It seems to beg the question to me why not make a new social safety net that wasn’t slavery. Or rephrased Why was god regulating slavery and not regulating bankruptcy laws?

    Honestly not impressed with his answer on this or his knowledge of slavery in the bible (Matt’s rattling off chapter and verse was hilarious). I’d also love to see chapter and verse where god says slavery is bad in Peter. The only thing in peter I see is where he tells slaves to obey their masters.

  35. rrpostal says

    It’s kind of dickish to mention this because we can all goof up. But when the moderator has no idea what part of the debate it is, then get’s flustered and makes the mistake even worse, it makes you wonder who’s running the thing. I was simultaneously uncomfortable for him and irked that he wasn’t even paying attention.

    I also wish every debate had a JT to bring people out of the pseudo deep jargon talking points and discuss these things more… coversationally. I understand most of the different arguments and what the terms are, because I’ve heard them scads of times. But people who aren’t familiar already could be lost in the nonsense talk.

  36. kirbywarp says

    The argument is a logical fallacy anyway, and I’m kinda proud of myself for thinking up this counter.

    Imagine the greatest beanie-baby collector, the collector that is greater than any other. Obviously such a collector would own more beanie-babies than any other. Let us suppose also that there is a beanie-baby that is a hippo in a tu-tu. The argument is as follows:

    1. There is a beanie-baby collector that is greater than any other.
    2. A collector that owns the hippo would be greater than one that doesn’t own the hippo.
    3. Therefore, the greatest beanie-baby collector owns the hippo.

    See the problem? Just as they argued that God isn’t perfect, the collector isn’t defined as owning every beanie-baby. There is indeed some collector out there that owns more beanie-babies than any other, but that doesn’t imply that they own a particular one. Since existence is considered just another property among many, what if the greatest being that ever existed, who clearly lacks some properties that would otherwise make it perfect, lacked existence?

  37. Andrew says

    No, you just have go to the YouTube channel page that they’re using and it’ll appear like a normal video except it’ll be streaming live. Unfortunately, I don’t know which channel is theirs.

    Speaking of which, I didn’t know that the ACA crew were G+ users. I will have to start following.

  38. Andrew says

    Regardless, defining a thing as something that exists doesn’t actually demonstrate that it exists. You can’t define something into existence unless that “thing” is just a concept in someone’s head. Like with math; it’s not a “thing” that exists, it’s purely conceptual.

    I don’t think these theologians would want to argue that their god is purely conceptual though. 😛

  39. Drivebyposter says

    But the thing is, I don’t think it was goofing up, as you put it. I think it was either part of their strategy to talk over everyone’s head with vague and high concepts to get a “wow those guys sure are smart” response. Or to give themselves tons of wriggle room to argue and defend and point out things Matt and JT didn’t know or refute.

    Either that or they really had no clue the terminology and dense crap they were spouting was well above the heads of the average audience member. If that was the case, then they didn’t goof up. They came woefully unprepared to debate. In that case it is a wild understatement to call it a goof up. If you’re doing a public speaking event and people don’t know what you’re saying for large hunks of time, that’s a complete communication breakdown. And for professors, people who make their living speaking to groups and getting them to understand all sorts of ideas, this is a bit tough to believe that they didn’t know how to talk to people clearly.

  40. Adam says

    Concerning the first debate.

    The affirmative guys are supposed to be professors, schooled in logic? Barely a sentence goes by that doesn’t have an obvious argument fallacy, it is embarrassing.

    Maybe this is what a “debate” is supposed to be, a showcase of arguments regardless of their quality. It would be interesting to know if the professors actually believed anything they were saying or if they just knew that these arguments would be “good enough” to win over the audience.

  41. fredericksparks says

    From the first debate. This:

    “We have no instance of a non-mind creating a mind”

    we also have no evidence of a disembodied mind. And is he really referring to human sexual reproduction as a “mind creating a mind”? that is bizarre

  42. Andrew says

    We do, however, know that minds exist. The affirmative is making the assumption that we can infer that minds must necessarily arise from other minds. It’s a baseless assumption that can be dismissed given the lack of evidence.

  43. NH says

    Sloan said “I didn’t show up here to try to confirm my biases”. This shows that he really doesn’t understand much about confirmation bias. It’s not something we actively work to achieve, but something we much actively work to fight against.

  44. davecampbell says

    My patience for these ‘god debates’ is running out. I still enjoy listening to Matt, who uses actual logic and tangible evidence to present his case; but I tend to fast-forward to avoid the other side’s gibberish about ‘absolutes’ and ‘moral compass’ without offering anything even remotely resembling evidence for the existence of their god. The best they can come up with is “I think my god should exist, therefore it does” then quickly turn the question around to ‘and atheists are a bunch of pooh pooh heads, so there’ (I’m paraphrasing, of course). I don’t know what ‘tautology’ is or ‘ontological’ (I thought that had something to do with birds) and I don’t care. If someone wants me to accept the existence of their god, than they have to show me that it actually exists – in the real world. The question was ‘Does God Exist?’ not ‘Should God Exist?’

  45. stovetop1987 says

    Can’t wait for the Madison video – it addressed some of the complaints davecampbell makes above re: rehashing of debate issues.

    Apologists are one-trick ponies, and Matt’s talk in Madison addressed how it always seems to boil down to a core issue of morality for them, yet they’ll dress up their arguments to obfuscate this underlying concern. There’s a good point to be made for getting to this fundamental source for their faith as quickly as possible in a debate – when it is revealed that morality need not have its origins in divinity to be useful and collectively beneficial, apologetic arguments fall apart. This is a good strategy in my opinion, as it removes the justification for the “I think my god should exist,” part of their rationale for belief. Why should it exist if there is a) no indication of its existence and b) no imperative or need for its existence?

    Cheers – and kudos to Matt for doing all of these appearances. Thanks for coming to Madison!

  46. Jay says

    I wish these debates were formatted more like the Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe debate. A more conversational debate, where the debaters are allowed to question and challenge each other’s points, and a moderator in the middle to keep things organized. Bringing up 10 points and then giving your opponent 5 minutes each to respond doesn’t allow for an in depth discussion. Also bringing up Sam Harris in the debate was probably a bad idea, because it gave those theists an excuse to just jump on these other things Sam does or doesn’t believe in rather than address with Matt just said.

    The second debate is another example of how that format allows one to completely reframe the argument rather than staying on topic. Like the recent “Under god” debate Matt had, the debate is supposed to be about one thing and theist makes it about something else entirely.

  47. curtcameron says

    I’m halfway through listening to the NTSSC debate, and I have a couple of points that just about had me screaming at the theists.

    By the way, I never have time to spend 2.5 hours in front of my PC to watch something like this, so I’ve converted it to an audio-only MP3 and listen to it in pieces when I’m driving around. If anyone would like the MP3 (of either debate) let me know here.

    The first thing that had me screaming was that one theist’s set of ten points. One of them was “most people believe in God” and the very next freakin’ point was “our brains seemed to be hardwired to make us believe in a god.” Does he not realize that the second point completely guts the previous point as evidence that a god actually exists? What can explain the fact that so many people have a belief in a god? Could it be that their brains have hardwired overactive agency detectors? Hmmm, could be!

    Do they even listen to themselves?

  48. curtcameron says

    And the next point that had me screaming, which came up in a big way in both debates, was the Moral Argument for God. I especially liked how that one guy said that he thought it up himself.

    Matt has a whole talk about the superiority of god-free morality, but that’s a big subject and doesn’t fit will as one point where a bunch of other points also have to be covered.

    I think there’s a quicker way to deflate the argument, and it’s hard for me to imagine someone having a valid objection. It’s this: point out that what we mean when we say “morality” is someone’s opinion on whether an action is desirable or not. It is, fundamentally, an opinion. What does it even mean to say that an opinion is “absolute”? And once you digest this, it’s easy-peasy to answer every objection that the theist has.

    “Is it immoral to torture babies?”

    In my opinion, YES!

    “So it’s just your opinion, and someone else’s opinion to the contrary is just as valid?”

    Well, all of us (I hope) share this opinion, and anyone who doesn’t, I don’t want to be anywhere near him. All opinions are not equivalent – I have a certain affinity for my own, as I’m sure you do for yours. In fact, when it comes to questions of how to treat others, the vast majority of people have opinions that overlap a great deal. We tend to code those into laws and other social norms. We share most of these because Homo sapiens is a social species of animal, and getting along well with others is necessary for our survival.

    I don’t even know what it would mean for an opinion to be “absolute.” Even if there’s a god, his morality is still just his opinion, and it could differ from my own (my opinion of morality differs quite a bit from the character God described in the Bible!). Assuming for the moment that a God exists, he has his opinion on morality, I have mine, you have yours – there are still no absolutes. Just because he can torture me forever doesn’t mean his opinion has some objective standard.

    “What about people like Sam Harris who claim there can be an absolute morality without God?”

    If you accept Sam’s axiom that our actions should be beneficial to sentient creatures and that we not do things to cause them suffering, then you can use science and reason to say that, according to the axiom you’ve accepted, some actions are measurably better than others. You’re free to accept that axiom or not, according to your opinion about it. Fundamentally though, it still rests on one’s opinion of whether you should be helpful or harmful to others.

    Morality is an opinion! Keep saying that until it sinks in.

  49. Steve_The_Thinker says

    Great work in these two debates. Matt, you are an excellent spokesperson and debater for the side of reason and logic. Bravo! And thank you very much.

  50. Judi says

    What is amazing, during the debate regarding slavery, Matt’s opponent, Jay, rationalized that slavery in Exodus was a “good thing”, that it took care of people who could not do for themselves and somewhat beneficial… One question, I was hoping Matt would have asked if slavery was as “beneficial” as you stated, why did God have to “free them” from Egypt?

  51. says

    The second debate.
    God gives us objective morals is bullshit. God is an individual if his thoughts are morals then they must be subjective by the debaters definition. If morals are objective then it is not the case that god objectively makes good and so makes moral. God must conform to morals outside himself to be good.
    If god defines moral and good then morals are subjective. The fact that morals are a function of existing in a society is what makes morals objective. Despite errors and flaws in the thinking of most members of societies, there is an objective moral. There is a lot of subjective declared morals, that are often not even morals.
    You will see strawmen thrown up against objective morals. I saw a nice one the other day, “which is moral red or green? Therefore objective morals don’t exist.” However red or green is not a moral question, and is a subjective preference. So its a double strawman.
    There are others such as “we all hold different views therefore morality is subjective” except this too is a fail. In mathematics which is objective, some equations exist where there are different subjective views of the answer despite there being one objective answer. This is due to some people being wrong about the equation, or the answer as yet eluding us. Mathematics is not now subjective due to these facts, and neither is morality.

  52. says

    I seriously don’t know how Matt can hold back when John and Sloan are making false statements in their allocated time. I was hoping Matt would say ” There you go and YOUR DONE!” lol.

    I don’t understand how they can say we have objective morals that came from a God. Is God slave to these morals or did God decide on morals? Because if God is objective then there must be some sort of force that affects the mind of God to be objective himself. Then if he is not ojective then God decided after figuring our the morals it wants in the universe making morals subjective.

    Please someone correct if my line of thinking is way off.