Another debate review:  Justin vs. Steven vs. a Barbarian


I had a lot of fun reviewing the Matt vs. Sye debate on my Twitch channel a couple of months ago, so I thought I’d do it again. Justin Schieber, of the very excellent podcast Reasonable Doubts, debated Christian apologist Steven Kozak on the topic “Does the Christian God exist?” You can watch the original debate video here, or just listen to it straight up by subscribing to Reasonable Doubts. But my preferred method of watching a debate is to kill some minions of hell in Diablo III, while commenting at the same time.

During the stream, someone in the chat room asked why I do it this way. My answer: Because neither my debate commentary nor leveling up my character is interesting enough to make a show of on its own. But you put them together, and hey! Content!

Justin himself tuned in for the first bit of streaming, and seemed interested enough in my feedback to argue in chat. I’m hoping he will finish watching the video, so maybe sometime next week we can get together in a Google Hangout and discuss our different approaches a bit. You should consider keeping an eye on my Twitter feed or Justin’s, if you want to be notified when this happens.

In any case, here are the 2.5 hours of gaming and commenting goodness, if you’ve got time to kill.

Please forgive me for having some fiddly bits early on where I adjust the sound levels for everything that’s going on. Getting a good balance is still tricky for me, so you may want to skip ahead a few minutes to where the debate actually starts going in earnest. Things get moving correctly right around the ten minute mark.

Also: It feels like I might do more of these in the future, and I don’t have an all-encompassing catchy title for the general topic of gaming + debate reviewing. In my first round I used the hashtag #ReaperOfSyes, which I thought was mildly clever, but that obviously only worked on that one occasion. If anyone could come up with a good title / hashtag for this format in general, I would be most grateful.

Comments

  1. Monocle Smile says

    I’m with you, Russell. The debate is on a matter of existence. Philosophy has little to no bearing on the subject, at least if we’re attempting to be meaningful and agree that we share some reality.

    Kozak starts out with an implied argument from ignorance and starts presenting straw men of physics. This is precisely why I generally dismiss philosophers when it comes to discussing truths about reality. Gazing into your navel will only ever reveal the color of the lint caught in there. Kozak predictably quotes Kant as if Kant knew his ass from his elbow about physics.

    And of course, Kozak doesn’t understand that philosophical “nothing” doesn’t appear to even be possible in reality. It’s pretty dishonest for him to portray reality’s version of “nothing” with philosophical “nothing.”

    Then he starts into a derivative of Kent Hovind nonsense where he oversimplifies the history of time and life from the Big Bang to today for the sole purpose of making it seem absurd to an uneducated audience. Speaking of which, every apologist seems to rely solely on appealing to the lowest common denominator. They seem to know that their arguments won’t have any effect on people who know what’s up.

    “The only two things in this category are abstract objects and A PERSONAL MIND”

    What the hell? This is why I don’t find debates useful. You’re allowed to just make shit up and no moderator will ever call you out on it. Debates favor the silver-tongued liar every single time. Kozak is straight-up LYING about this “mind” bullshit. I say “lying” because people in his position have doubtlessly been corrected on this nonsense dozens of times already.

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I really appreciate the perhaps unintended slight that the debate has such importance that you have to mix it with Diablo 3 streaming to get worthwhile content. Lol.

  3. Callinectes says

    I do that. My preferred method of listening to debates, podcasts, and your show, is to boot up a game and play while listening, occasionally pausing both to argue with the air to clarify my own thoughts. I find that it exercises multiple parts of my brain at the same time, which I enjoy, but I find that there are many games I don’t like playing anymore without something cerebral to listen to. I need both now. I wonder if I’m so used to that level of stimulation that I can’t sit down and do one thing anymore. My brother is the same way with his games and TV shows. I fear we’ve some kind of attention-based problem developing.

  4. Monocle Smile says

    @Callinectes

    That might be the case, but I think it’s mostly something else, and it has to do with the development of video games.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NintendoHard

    Today’s games are largely RPG-based, meaning the story is much more integral to the game than in the past. That makes the games more complex, but with the exceptions of certain first-person shooters and survival horror games, they take less constant single-minded focus than games in the past. Anyone who’s played a platformer knows what it’s like to sweat purely out of grueling mental strain. No further stimulation is required during such an ordeal.

    I agree that our culture has developed into one that glorifies multi-tasking and sensory overload, but I think there are other factors at play here.

  5. Russell Glasser says

    To be fair, Monocle Smile, I most often use my Twitch channel to stream pvp games of Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm. Neither one of those can be accused of being too easy or lacking complexity, IMHO. They require my full attention, which is why I would never try to play them while doing commentary. I picked Diablo III as the background activity precisely because it IS that kind of game, and it serves that function very well.

  6. says

    I always find it a big presumptuous that he starts out claiming that the question of God’s existence is one of the most important in life. It’s like some crackpot makes something up and insists to everyone around him/her that it’s a very very important question.

    Wouldn’t the question of whether God has a god be even more important? Wouldn’t the question of whether God’s God’s has a god be even more importanter?

  7. says

    What bothers me about the whole “perfection” arguments is that “perfection” is very relative. What would make for a perfect hammer would make a horrible feather duster, and vice versa. To just say that “____ is perfect” is leaving out a key component of what it’s perfect for.

  8. Narf says

    Jasper, as the Catholics would say, “Let us proclaim the my-ster-y of our faith!”

    No, really they say that explicitly. It’s the part right before they sing the crappy song, “Christ has diiiiiiiied. Christ is riseeeeeeen. Christ will come agaaaaaaaaaaain,” sung twice, to very slightly different chords. At least they still did that at all of the local Catholic churches, about 20 years ago, when I last had to go to mass.

    Essentially, if something makes no sense whatsoever, it must be that much greater evidence for their nonsensical, mythological being.

  9. says

    So basically, this is just Standard Apologetics Recycling #1,348

    More like #83,398

    The debate is on a matter of existence. Philosophy has little to no bearing on the subject, at least if we’re attempting to be meaningful and agree that we share some reality.

    I’m guessing by “philosophy” you mean using zero data, and just trying to use pure reason (“first philosophy”). Philosophy more generally (when it includes data) can comment meaningfully on the subject. It’s what every atheist argument is.

  10. Narf says

    It’s what every atheist argument is.

    Well, in our defense, the philosophical arguments that we present are in reaction to the philosophical arguments that Christians have been making up for a millennium or so, in an attempt to support their silly mythology. Most atheistic, philosophical arguments boil down to, “Your argument is crap. Here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole; here’s a hole. Your god is useless and doesn’t explain a damned thing.”

    The better arguments are evidence-based and mostly oppose fundamentalism. Cafeteria Christians will always be able to push their god-concept off into the void beyond the discoveries of science, if they persist in believing something that is useless beyond making them feel all warm and fuzzy.

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf
    I’d add one more. I’m a big fan of the moral arguments too, which apply to fundies and even most cafeteria Christians. You have to go pretty far towards deism or pantheism before you can avoid the moral arguments.

    The moral arguments in short: Your god is an asshat. Examples: Genocide, mass rape, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity just for a start. Then there’s eating your god’s flesh and drinking his blood in order to gain his magic power over death – classy. Living the cliche of cannibalistic barbarians. Don’t even get me started on the obscenity of substitutionary atonement and the required obscene basis of retributive theory of justice. The obscenity of hereditary sin. Infinite punishment for finite crimes. And so on.

  12. Narf says

    Yeah, there’s a lot of mileage in making people realize that their religion is the same as the primitive pagan religions that they look down upon. They tend to float up in this vague mysterious void, thinking that their god is so much more ethereal and amazing than all of the other religions.

    No, your god came from a pantheon just like that of the Greek and Norse gods, and his demands in the Old Testament were just as barbaric. When you view him in that light, all of the wonderful things you think about Jesus make so much more sense … and not the good sort.

  13. says

    @Narf, 11

    eh, I was already talking about evidence based arguments, if you read what I wrote.

    But yes, some counter arguments don’t exactly involve evidence (they just debunk slight of hand or bad epistemology), but those ones also fail to establish the non-existence of god as more likely than the existence of god.

  14. Narf says

    Your sentence structuring didn’t exactly make it clear, which statements applied to data-inclusive and data-exclusive arguments.

    Your statement about establishing the nonexistence of god as more likely than the existence of god has a few issues. First off, there’s the matter of evaluating claims. The religious are the ones coming to us with claims of the existence of their deity. We have to address their claims individually. There’s a reason that Matt, on the show, starts off most calls with theistic callers with, “Tell me what you believe and why,” or something similar.

    You’re doing the same sort of thing that the apologist William Lane Craig (not that I’m trying to insult you by saying that you’re like that idiot in any other way) does in all of his arguments. You’re conflating the claim of the existence of some god with the claim of the existence of a specific god. The argument from first cause, argument from design, argument from objective morality, argument from the dictionary (ontological argument), and any other theistic argument you’d like to bring up are all invalid, unsound, or often both.

    Most of them only get you to a deistic god, anyway. Hell, most of them don’t even get you to a deistic god, without slapping a colossal argument from ignorance on the back end: “And that first cause, we call God.” This is not how rationality works.

    Take the proposition of a deistic god, by itself. Why bother believing in such a thing? What does that deistic god explain? What does she get you, if you believe in her? Who cares whether she’s more likely to exist or not? The default position is to not believe in something, until you have evidence for it. Actual existence or nonexistence is a moot point, with this sort of proposition.

    If you’re talking about a theistic god, then the arguments absolutely do make the nonexistence more likely, with pretty much every theistic god I’ve been presented with. Okay, so you believe in a god who created the world in 6 days; flooded the world about 4,300 years ago; answers prayers at a rate statistically higher than chance; is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent; is ultimately moral, yet judges us after we die, based upon the acceptance or rejection of an immoral act (the sacrifice of Jesus) of scapegoating. Yeah, that god doesn’t exist.

    Give me another set of claims, and we can demonstrate why that god-concept is also self-contradictory and false. After discarding the 20th claim from a holy book as being bullshit, how much longer do you have to go, before admitting that the god referenced in that holy book is nonexistent?

    Moreover, when someone comes to us with claims, evaluating the methods with which they arrived at their conclusion is a very constructive approach. I would say that any god who expects us to believe in her with no rational reason is a monster. Again, existence or nonexistence is a moot point, when I wouldn’t worship her, anyway.

    Do you see somewhat what I’m getting at? Does an actual being exist out there somewhere, which someone would call a god? Don’t know; don’t care.
    Is there a reason to assign a positive believe to any such being, and is there any reason we should take the nuts seriously, when they come to us, telling us what the undemonstrated being wants from us? That’s a much more important question.

  15. corwyn says

    @ brianpansky 14:

    but those ones also fail to establish the non-existence of god as more likely than the existence of god.

    Atheists, in fact, have no evidence for the non-existence of gods. All of that comes from theists.

    A theist might ask an atheist, “What is your confidence in the proposition that my god exists?” (yeah right). The proper response for any atheist is “What is your god.” This is essentially the statement of a prior probability of 50/50 (or 50%, or 0 decibans). If the theist responds “My god is the all-knowing, all powerful, creator of the Universe.” All of that effects the probability of that god, and a rational atheist will update their confidence in accordance with the likelihood of that set of characteristics. A rational confidence in the proposition is now hugely negative (trillions to one against, -100 decibans or more). Now the theist must show evidence that supports that proposition amounting to that much (100 decibans) in order to even get back to a neutral position.

  16. says

    @narf

    oy…that is a long confused post.

    Yes, I used one god as an example, and I could have included all the other claims of different gods. Other than that, I’m not sure what you are trying to get at.

    most of them don’t even get you to a deistic god, without slapping a colossal argument from ignorance on the back end

    Indeed, which is what I was referring to when I said “sleight of hand or bad epistemology”.

    Your statement about establishing the nonexistence of god as more likely than the existence of god has a few issues. First off, there’s the matter of evaluating claims. The religious are the ones coming to us with claims of the existence of their deity. We have to address their claims individually. There’s a reason that Matt, on the show, starts off most calls with theistic callers with, “Tell me what you believe and why,” or something similar.

    Please note that my statement you are referring to here was about non-evidence based arguments….but then you exclusively talk about evidence based arguments. Your confusion is the problem here, not my statement.

    I’m not sure why you keep diving into the evidence side of things. We don’t have any dispute there O_o

  17. says

    @corwyn

    your big paragraph is correct , but it is evidence based (and it agrees with my defense of “Philosophy with data”). I wasn’t talking about evidence based arguments in the part you are trying to respond to. So that part of your response wasn’t needed.

    As for your first sentence, “atheists have no evidence for the non-existence of gods”…this isn’t correct. Even the inaction of gods is evidence against them existing. Also the history of these claims, we see invented fairy tales by humans as being very very likely to be what the origin of these claims was rather than actual contact with a god, and this is also evidence against the claims being true.

    Perhaps part of your confusion is thinking that absence of evidence isn’t itself evidence/data. But it is. Depending on the claim.

  18. says

    @corwyn

    though, of course, your first sentence is followed by “All of that comes from theists”, which sorta makes your first sentence seem correct, but it isn’t the evidence that comes from theists, it’s the definition of “god”.

  19. corwyn says

    @ brianpansky 18:

    Even the inaction of gods is evidence against them existing.

    Quite incorrect. Inaction of gods can only be evidence if such inaction is more likely if gods are not-existent than if they are existent. In other words, one needs to know if inaction is characteristic of gods or not. Which means one needs to have defined something about them. If some theists definition of god says that they perform no actions, then inaction is 100% compatible with that god, and inaction provides no evidence, one way or the other, for the proposition of that god’s existence.

    Your confusion could perhaps be that there is some minimal set of attributes which everyone uses in their definition of god. Or not understanding the level of ignorance which must be assumed to achieve a prior probability of 0 decibans.

  20. corwyn says

    @ Brainpansky 19:

    but it isn’t the evidence that comes from theists, it’s the definition of “god”.

    A definition IS evidence. Evidence is anything which differentially affects the probability of a proposition. That is, if P(God|definition) =/= P(God). This is why the provided definition of god is evidence, while inaction is not, until it is determined (or defined) that inaction would affect the posterior probability.

    Note: some people would say that the definition affects the prior probability rather than performing an update on it, but the math works out the same, so it is merely a matter of semantics.

  21. corwyn says

    @brianpansky 10:

    Philosophy more generally (when it includes data) can comment meaningfully on the subject.

    Can you give an example of this, ‘philosophy, with data, but not science’? I am not sure what you are trying to say with that. (And it is probably what is causing your confusion with Narf)

  22. says

    @20 yes indeed I said “depending on the claim”.

    @21 um…ya, that’s definitely not how I do the semantics, I’d just use the definition to find the prior probability.

    @22 hmm, well, reasoning about any matter, while also using data, where there is currently no science paper (or whatever) that you can just link to that establishes what you are concluding for you. Something like that.

  23. corwyn says

    @ brianpanskty 23:

    I said “depending on the claim”.

    You also said I was incorrect. But what I said was that it depended on getting the claim first.

    I’d just use the definition to find the prior probability.

    And do you find the prior by just using Bayes in reverse? So wouldn’t you just be saying that your (changed) prior is just your original prior, with the definition used to update?

    …Something like that.

    Pardon me for saying that that wasn’t very helpful at resolving the issue. Was Newton’s work on gravity, philosophy with data (before he published obviously)?

  24. says

    @corwyn

    Yes I said you were incorrect, at the time I might not have been fully understanding your semantics.

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say with the “Bayes in reverse” stuff, or what “definition used to update” means. I could interpret it in more than one way, but I need to run to work soon.

    As for “science” VS “philosphy”, it’s a mountain VS hill problem, which I don’t care to resolve.

  25. ah58 says

    Evidently I’m not the only one who listens to atheist podcasts while playing Diablo III. They seem to use 2 different parts of my brain.

  26. cddb says

    great idea combining game streaming w/ counter apologetics 🙂

    >>>Evidently I’m not the only one who listens to atheist podcasts while playing Diablo III.

    DARK SOULS

  27. says

    Russell,

    I, too, like to play mindnumbing levelgrinding dungeon crawlers while listening to prodcasts/watching debates. They’re mindnumbing to watch, so might as well kill some baddies and collect some goodies while listening. My current obsession is Titan Quest.

    Regarding philosophical arguments for God, the line I like to use is: Using philosophy to prove God is like using a schematic of a bicycle to ride across town. In other words, it might actually be useful to lay down as a methodology for your next course of action, but unless you back it up with practical application, it is functionally useless in achieving your goals.

  28. Narf says

    I lean more towards games like XCom: Enemy Unknown/Within and the Total War games, for my podcast listening. Those are a lot more mentally engaging than the level grinding sorts, but not so much so that I can’t listen to a podcast while playing them.

    Either that or I just stream them to my phone while wandering around the neighborhood for an hour or so. I can’t do this with anything on YouTube, since the freaking app shuts off if you turn off the screen. That makes it no good when my phone needs to ride in my pocket. Anything that I can pull on Stitcher or just download the audio for, though, works great.