|A Hitch in Hitchens: Arguments From the Turek-Hitchens Debate
||[Sep. 11th, 2008|10:03 am]
EDIT: I will no longer be responding to challenges to my arguments from anonymous posters. If you want me to take you seriously, take 30 seconds to create a free account.
I apologize for the delay on this second part, but I do have a job and such. This is something I do out of a personal desire.
If you have not seen the precusor to this post, you should read it first.
In this section, I will be looking at some of the specific questions and arguments. It will almost certainly be updated with more arguments and details. I am not a journalist of any kind, and I was not taking notes. Thus, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things. If so, please let me know, and I will do my best to address them.
To be clear, when I refer to “God,” I am referring to the general conception of a theistic god.
Mr. Turek's Arguments
I would like to make a general observation about some of Mr. Turek’s arguments. There seemed to me to be the underlying implication that an atheist must be an expert on the sciences in order to justify their lack of belief. Many Christians take the stance, for example, that if an atheist cannot defend every step in the development of life through natural selection, then they should not accept it. This is silly.
Why? As a society, we have developed largely through specialization. You trust your mechanic to know what he’s doing (though maybe not to be fair with his price,) you don’t tell your doctor she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (though you may not always eat as healthily as she suggests,) and you confidently trust the zoologists when they talk about the behaviors of animals on the Discovery Channel (sharks, especially.) All of this seems to go out of the window when it comes to evolution, however. Now that they are contradicting our beliefs, the biologists can’t be trusted. Is it a conspiracy, the devil, or are they all just too blind?
This is patently absurd. It is not the duty of every atheist to be able to defend the theory of evolution. All the atheist is doing is accepting the consensus of experts, which we all do, all the time, on most other subjects. It is the duty of the creationist to demonstrate that the experts are wrong.
That being said, Christopher Hitchens, as a somewhat professional debater, has more responsibility when it comes to understanding the various arguments. I do wish that his responses to some of the scientific questions had been more salient during this debate. Cosmological Argument
There is another analysis of his arguments here, with many insights I did not have.
How did something come from nothing? An age old question, which will be asked until the end of human history. There are a few things I would say in response to the implication that because something cannot come from nothing, it must have been god.
It is impossible for any of us to conceive of the Big Bang. We can understand it mathematically, but never really grasp it. Both debaters tonight were guilty, I think, of brushing over this point. The idea of time expanding is one that baffles human comprehension. We don’t know that the Big Bang was the beginning of everything. All we know is that it is the beginning of the observable universe, the beginning of what we understand and that we will never be able to know if anything preceded it.
I am not a scientist, but there are many who postulate ideas of the state of things before the Big Bang. None of these are scientific theories, because we cannot test them, but it’s quite possible that the universe was always here, in one form or another. You may say this sounds far fetched, but it is no more far fetched than a god who has always existed.
The other point, and I think a stronger one, is that one cannot speak of anything “coming into being” if there is no time. Remember, our current knowledge says that time as we understand it did not exist before the Big Bang. The act of “coming from nothing” is one that acts through time. We cannot imply these intuitive concepts to the state of existence surrounding the Big Bang. It defies all of our common sense.
Hitchens’ response to this was barely sufficient, I think. He pointed out that since he was not the one making a claim about the origin of the universe, the burden of proof was not his. While this is technically true, it is not a very effective, or convincing, debate tactic under these circumstances. He pointed out that the design of the universe was seemingly wasteful and cruel but that does not speak to whether there was a designer, only to his tastes in decoration.
Hitchens answers the concept of God as the prime mover well in this debate with Rabbi Boteach, from 14:40 to 15:10.
Mr. Turek made some sort of one sentence argument using mathematics to support the existence of God. To be honest, I think he tried to cram a little too many arguments in there (one of the weaknesses of his presentation,) and I did not get the gist of what he was trying to say here. If anyone wants to explain it in a comment, I will answer as best I can.
Hitchens did not address the question, though I cannot hold this against him, because it was not one that was sufficiently expounded upon.
I will give credit where credit is due here and say that Mr. Turek at least admits that one does not need religion to be moral. Instead, he makes the somewhat more sophisticated argument that although one can be moral without religion, there is no objective way to justify morality without God.
There are several things to be said about this argument. For one thing, as a defense of God’s existence, it’s a complete non-starter. I don’t think this to be the case, but it may be true that objective morality isn’t possible without god. What would this mean? Well, it would suck, but it would certainly not mean that God must exist just because we really want there to be objective morality.
The second argument against this line is to point out the fact that Christianity doesn’t seem to grant objective moral values. There are several things one can point to in order to back this up, such as the evolving stance of Christians on many moral issues such as slaves and infidels. An extreme biblical literalist (which I do not think Mr. Turek is) would likely wish to stone Christopher Hitchens rather than debate him. If Mr. Turek chooses to take Jesus’ command to “slay them before me” as a metaphor, I wonder what he uses as guidance to make that decision.
At a more philosophical level, one must ask the question: “Does God command acts because they are good, or are they good because he commands them?” When God commands murder in the Old Testament, whether singular or en masse, does this make the act good because God commands it? If you say yes, then you are saying that God can command anything and make it “good.” This, to me, seems a very arbitrary sort of objective morality, and I certainly do not want to associate with anyone who would think murder good if commanded by their lord. If you say no, or you say that God only commands good things, then you are admitting that there is a standard of morality outside of God, which means that God is not the source of objective morality.
I personally *do* think that morality can be justified without God but, as it is a very long argument, and says absolutely nothing about whether God actually exists, I will leave it for a later post.
Hitchens and Turek talked at cross purposes about morality for the entirety of the debate. Hitchens made some good points on religion and the religious being immoral, but didn’t really address the objectivity challenge. He makes some good points on the topic in this debate with Alister McGrath. Chapters 19 & 23 of the video address some of the same moral points.
“Fine Tuning” Argument This is an area in which Turek very effectively capitalizes on a lack of understanding concerning a topic. He says that the “constants” of the universe are especially tuned for life and our well being. If these constants were just a little different, we might not be here. What are the odds?
The biggest failing of this argument is it’s unsupported assumptions. It assumes that it is possible that these constants might have been different, a viewpoint that has not been proven. We have still not achieved a full understanding of the laws of the universe, what is often referred to as a Grand Unified Theory. If and when we do so, it’s more than possible that we will see that the constants could not have been any different.
There are many other, and better stated arguments against this line of thinking. I do not have time to summarize them all, but a number of articles on it, both for and against, may be found here.
Mr. Hitchens did not address this question directly at all, which is a shame because there are many ways he could have.
Abortion / Fetuses
I may have been missing something here. If so, please point it out to me.
Both debaters agreed on the point that a fetus was a human being. Mr. Turek seemed to be criticizing Hitchens for not then, concluding that abortion was always wrong. Mr. Hitchens maintained that it was a complicated issue. While he thought abortion was a terrible thing, things like having an embryo stuck in the fallopian tubes of a mother (which makes the fetus unviable, and endangers the mother,) demonstrates that the issue is not cut and dry. I think he carried this point; if you disagree, say so.
Hitchens made an excellent point here, though. He said that the attacks by the religious on contraception weakens their attack on abortion. I think this is a very astute observation. Certainly, were contraception more widely used, and teenagers more informed about it, abortion would be much less frequent.
Some additional arguments have been put forth, both scientific and philosophical, and I will address them as promised.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
The idea behind this argument is that everything tends towards disorder over time. It would be more precise to say that the total amount of useful energy in a system decreases over time. Thus, a closed system, if left to itself for an infinite amount of time, would run out of usable energy. The theist concludes that if the universe was infinite, it would have run out of energy by now. Therefore, it is finite, and god must have created it.
There are two objections to this line of argument. One is that if the Big Bang is, indeed, the beginning of our universe, there is no reason to conclude that god did it. Again, I point out that time, as we understand the concept, was brought into being at the Big Bang, and therefore we can't even speak of anything existing before the Big Bang. It is an unfortunate limitation of our primitive mammalian brains that we can't really intuitively grasp the idea of time as anything other than absolute. Nonetheless, everything we have observed, including the Theory of General Relativity which Turek uses as an argument, points towards its extreme malleability.
The second objection is that it makes an unwarranted assumption: that the same laws which we have observed in our universe today operated at the Big Bang. We do not know if the Laws of Thermodynamics applied to the bunch of stuff which expanded outwards, or whether those laws were formed in the instance after the event. There is likely no way we will ever know this, due to limitations on what we can observe.
General Relativity & Radiation From The Big Bang
These seem to me just arguments that the Big Bang occurred, which no one is disputing. Again, I point out, that while it is possible that the Big Bang is the beginning of our universe, all we know is that it is the beginning of the observable universe, the beginning of what we can measure in any way. Thus, these arguments don't seem to favor one side or the other.
Great Galaxy Seeds
This is an argument given by an anonymous poster below. Read their post for the details.
The first part of this argument again seems to be that the Big Bang occurred. Again, you would have a difficult time finding someone to disagree with this nowadays. I will point out though, that as with most new theories in cosmology and others sciences, it was strongly opposed by theists for a long time.
The second part of the argument is just another facet of the fine tuning argument, which I addressed above. I would have to see the data before I'm convinced about what you are saying, and also check to see if anyone else has commented on the discovery, or updated it in the last 16 years (which seems likely.) Even if I accept what you are saying fully, you still have to answer the charges laid out against the fine tuning argument.
The idea here is that absolute truth cannot exist in a materialistic world. This seems to me to be very transparently silly, but I will address it as best I can.
To start with, events occur. Even if there is nothing but matter, energy and void physical and chemical events still occur. We can observe a chemical reaction and say what happened. Now, you can be pedantic and argue that the words we assign to the event can never really represent the truth of the event but, nonetheless, the words are representative of an actual occurrence. Extreme subjectivists say that that nothing really exists outside of our conscious observation, that everything is an "illusion" as it were. While this is arguable possible, it's very silly as it is an unnecessary hypothesis meant to explain that which is better explained by a physical reality.
The second, and I think more damning indictment of Mr. Turek's point is this: He says that objective truth does not exist without god, and yet he uses objective evidence to conclude that god exists. The conflict is this. You cannot use god to support evidence of god. This is called circular reasoning. You cannot say, "I use objective evidence A to show that god exists, and I use god's existence to support the evidence's objectivity. If objective truth does not exist without god, then perhaps you are just being fooled by subjective experience into thinking that God exists.
Finally is a similar point I made concerning Absolute Truth. There are two possibilities for the Christian who claims that God is the source of objective reality. One is that God creates the truth of things by his will. If this is the case, then he can choose to make anything true, and truth then becomes arbitrarily dependend on the will of a supreme being. If he wants to say 2 + 2 is 5, he can, and it will be. This is not a very pleasant form of absolute truth, and it is malleable. The second possibility is that he is operating by a standard of truth outside of himself, which means he is not really the source of it. That is, "Are things true because God says so, or does he say so because they are true."
Mr. Hitchens' Points
The great problem with many of Hitchens' points is that, although they were often clever and incisive, not many of them addressed the question of the existence of a deistic god.
He had some good arguments against the Christian conception of god. Unfortunately, he often brought them out when they had little to do with the question being asked of him. In the end, he made a good case that Theism was undesirable. This, however, was not the topic of the debate. Nonetheless, I will go over some of these points, and link to a good example of them on video.
I am unavoidably biased, because this is the side I agree with, but tell me if you think my assessment is unfair.
Argument From History of Humanity
This is what I personally think to be Hitchens' most powerful argument from his various debates. Hitchens begins by pointing out how many tens of thousands of years homo sapiens has been around. He details the horrors humanity went through in its prehistory, and points out that any God must have allowed this state of affairs to continue before finally deciding to intervene a couple thousand of years ago. This is not an argument against a Deistic worldview, but it is an argument against the conception of a benevolent God.
A strong example of this is in this debate with Rabbi Boteach, from 16:00 to 19:20.
Argument From Abjection and Solipsism
In this argument Hitchens describes what he refers to as the "sadomasochistic" nature of monotheism. He says that religion appeals to our masochism by saying that we are base unworthy creatures, and also to our solipsism because it says that God has a plan for us. This is weak as an argument against the existence of God, but it is a strong argument against the desirability of the religious mentality.
See Chapter 5 of this video for a good example.
Argument From Totalitarianism
This is an argument against the desirability of the Theistic worldview. Hitchens points out the totalitarian aspects of religion. You are under constant, never ending surveilance. You can be convicted of thought crime. The authority involved is unappealable, and you have no say in being placed under its jurisdiction. He concludes that the desire for a Theistic god is the wish to be a slave.
Argument From Immorality
The argument here is that religion has nothing to do with morality, and often in fact encourages immorality. "Name me a moral action performed, or a moral statement made, by a believer, that you cannot imagine being performed or made by a non believer," asks Hitchens. But, he points out, many wicked things can only be done by believers (i.e. suicide bombing.)
This is a strong line of argument, but it fell flat in this debate, because Turek conceded most of these points from the beginning. He did not argue that Theism led to greater morality.
See Chapter 2 of this video for an example.
Sleeplesslongnights below made me realize that I had been somewhat unclear in my assessment of this argument. I think this is a strong rhetorical argument against the practical value of theistic belief systems in this world. It is not, however, at all a strong argument against the truth of theistic belief. They are correct to say that it would be more convincing with proper behavioral studies to back it up.
Hitchens' is at his strongest when arguing against the desirability and practical value of theistic belief. When it comes to arguing about the truth of those beliefs, there are other, much better writers and debaters.
What would it take to convince you... An audience member asked what it would take to convince each contestant that they were wrong. The answers from both debaters were terrible.
Mr. Turek said, essentially, that if all the evidence that he saw for God was not there that he would change his mind. This is an answer to “What would have caused you to come to a different conclusion,” but it is not an answer to what would change your mind. In the eyes of an observer, the meaning of the question is, “What reasonably conceivable event or evidence would change your conclusion.” Turek as good as said that nothing would.
Mr. Hitchens was even worse, as he didn’t really answer at all. He said that, if he *did* come to the conclusion that God existed, then he would consider himself condemned to totalitarianism. I happen to agree with this, but it would have been better if he’d answered the question that was actually asked.
I will add more arguments and details as I remember them, or as they are pointed out to me.
Holy tits, you're still alive! Long time no chat, old friend - let me know what you're up to sometime!
Yes, I decided to reboot my livejournal to new purpose. I'll send you a message, as perhaps this post is not the ideal arena for a casual conversation =D
2008-09-11 11:22 pm (UTC)
Turek on Mathematics
Hi Rudy. I believe Turek was trying to say the mere existence of Mathematics is evidence for a creator god. What he fails to realize is that numbers and Mathematics aren't natural things but inventions of humans. Numbers weren't really "discovered" either. They were invented as a means of representing objects. It is no secret why our number system is base ten.
2008-09-12 09:26 am (UTC)
Re: Turek on Mathematics
I think your comment is a sufficient rebuttal of this argument then, unless anyone disagrees. Thanks.
I agree with many of your points, and I think you were fair.
One point on which I do disagree is Hitchens's morality bit. He played a very careful game here: name him one moral act that a theist but not an atheist can do, and name him one immoral thing an atheist is very unlikely to do that a theist might. Though it could be said the switch in phrasing is a strength, as it draws attention to the fact that there are immoral actions atheists could do and don't but that religious people do, it really does little to demonstrate differences in morality between believers and non-believers. Only properly sampled research on moral attitudes and behaviors (which I am sure has been done, but a very quick search didn't bring up for me) could do that effectively.
Ultimately, I think that the point of morality is among the weakest arguments against theism. Whether god is a pragmatic idea has little to do with whether it is a sound idea. Such arguments tend to degrade into disputes over who is "better." Suggesting to someone that he or people like him are less good than I or people like me is a poor way to win people to my point of view.
Hitchens certainly could have spent his words better in this debate.
2008-09-12 02:58 am (UTC)
I really appreciate that you pointed that out. I don't think debates should ever be over "who is better and who is worse" because that has nothing to do with whether or not there is a God and as you said only turns into a pointless debate. Besides it is an ad hominem fallacy argument which are void in formal debates. I would rather debate the scientific evidence and logical evidence rather than who built more hospitals or who killed more people in the past in the name of religion or not in the name of religion.
For the scientific arguments from Turek (about the beginning of the universe) here they are very summarized from his book (and since Turek was not challenged on any of the scientific points during the debate, he was not able to further expound and explain his points):
1) The Second law of thermodynamics (aka the law of entropy) - basically nature tends to bring things to disorder as with time things naturally fall apart. Since we still have order left, and some usable energy left, the universe cannot be eternal because if it were eternal we would have reached complete disorder (entropy) by now. The First law of thermodynamics states that the energy in the universe is constant (has a finite amount of energy).
2) General Relativity - predicted the universe is expanding, but the Hubble telescope actually confirmed that the universe is indeed expanding from a single point meaning that the universe came into being with a "bang" or rather suddenly.
3) Radiation from the big bang - in 1948 three scientists predicted radiation would be out there if the big bang occurred, and 20 years later Penzias and Wilson accidentally discovered the radiation afterglow. This proved the universe had a sudden beginning and as Agnostic astronomer Jastrow stated, "Supporters of the steady state theory have tried desperately to find an alternative explanation, but they have failed. At present time, the Big Bang theory has no competitors."
4) Great galaxy seeds - If the big bang actually occurred, scientists believed that we should see variations (ripples) in temperature of the cosmic background radiation that was discovered. In 1989 COBE (Cosmic background explorer) a $200 million satellite was launched. In 1992 COBE discovered that the variations were so precise and showed that the explosion and the expansion of the universe was precisely tweaked to cause just enough matter to congregate to allow galaxy formation, but not enough to cause the universe to collapse back onto itself. The ripples are so exact down to one part in one hundred thousand that George Smoot (astronomer project leader) stated they were the "fingerprints of the maker".
5) Einstein's Theory of General Relativity - there is an absolute beginning for time, space, and matter and that they are interdependent (you can't have one without the others).
That was a very simple summary of scientific discoveries that prove the universe was not eternal but finite with a definite beginning point. I would definitely recommend you read the book (chapter 3 to be exact) if you want to actually understand the points because I only summarized some of it and I don't want to misrepresent what the authors were saying...after all I'm not a science major. The book goes on to explain why a beginning proves there is a "beginner".
"Now why would Jastrow and Eddington admit that there are 'supernatural' forces at work? Why couldn't natural forces have produced the universe? Because these scientists know as well as anyone that natural forces - indeed all of nature - were created at the Big Bang. In other words, the Big Bang was the beginning point for the entire physical universe. Time, space, and matter came into existence at that point. There was no natural world or natural law prior to the Big Bang. Since a cause cannot come after its effect, natural forces cannot account for the Big Bang. Therefore, there must be something outside of nature to do the job. That's exactly what the word supernatural means."
The authors then go on to discuss the Atheist theories and rebut them. See the book for all of that. They address "the cosmic rebound theory", "Imaginary Time", "Uncertainty" and they explain and tie in the "law of causality."
2008-09-12 03:16 pm (UTC)
Hey, I don't have an account, but this is Nicole here. Thanks for the link back to my article! I love your analysis of both arguments. I, too, was disappointed, at the lack of scientific rebuttals from Hitchens, but it seemed in my 30 second chat with him after the debate that he had heard it enough times to be sick of it. Maybe that's where we need new blood such as ourselves to stand up against these arguments?
I realized in thinking about it later how much Hitchens may have turned off the theistic audience, too, from his standpoint on "monotheism as servility," but I think it needs to be said. Many may be turned off, yet there are certainly a few, I would hope, in whom that planted a little seed. I think it would have when I was religious.
I'll have to check out some of his other debate videos. Thanks!
Thank you very much. =D
I have no problem with the potential offensiveness of his monotheism=servility argument. My objection is that, in this debate, he sometimes brought it up when it wasn't relevant to the question being asked.
It did seem that he was sick of the same old arguments but, despite my admiration of him, I have little sympathy. He is not doing this pro bono, this is his job (or one of his jobs, at least.) He was paid at least several thousand dollars to do this event (I heard 7,000 from one source, but I am unsure of its accuracy.) In my mind, he thus had an obligation to give his best effort, and I don't think he did.
Now, I don't want to jump on him too harshly, because it is possible that some outside event influenced his poor performance. However, being sick of Christian apologists is not sufficient excuse.
So what would cause you to change your mind?
You know, I started thinking about that shortly after typing that, and it's a difficult question. In many seemingly obvious answers, such as an "angel of the lord" appearing before you, you have to ask the question: "Which is more likely, that an all powerful creator has singled me out for a special visitation by an angel, or that I'm developing some sort of mental condition?" Statistically, the later is far more likely.
I suppose if I saw tangible "miracles," that could not be explained by other causes (perhaps the regrowth of an amputated limb,) and were also witnessed by other people than myself I would have to concede that it was very likely that something supernatural was going on there. Of course, even then it's more likely that I'm crazy, but if I was that crazy I might as well run with it.
There are other things that could cause me to doubt a bit, if not change my mind instantly. For example, if properly run, reproducible studies showed that prayers from Christians, but not other religions, got results, I'd have to think that there was something to Christianity. The studies that have been done show nothing of statistical significance, of course.
2008-09-13 02:47 pm (UTC)
Frank Turek's moral argument
I've talked at length with Frank on his morality argument. He's unfailingly pleasant and polite, but I don't think we got anywhere.
A couple of things I learned:
1. He believes that anything God does is by definition moral. The problem here is that one can't call God a moral abitrar if there is no act He could hypothetically do that would stop him being moral.
2. Frank isn't saying that there must be a God because he doesn't like the moral consequences of there not being one. He takes the fact that there IS an objective morality to be evidence of God. When asked to prove that this objective morality exists, his evidence is that there are some acts that we can all agree are wicked.
He doesn't accept that there are good evolutionary reasons for us to have developed a universal aversion to rape and baby-torture. He further says that the implication of this opens up the possibility that we one day might evolve to a point where rape is considered OK. This is where he moves into the area of arguing from consequences.
2008-09-14 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Frank Turek's moral argument
Andrew, I don't understand your conclusion is statement #1. What disqualifies God from being a moral arbiter by your reasoning?
These are posts I left on Frank's Crossexamined site that he never gave answers to. I accept that he's busy, and that we'd already spoken at length. However, these posts summarised questions that he'd failed to answer before.
"Frank, my premise is that all the evidence you offer that there exists ‘objective moral value’ would exist whether there was a God or not. To show me otherwise you’ve got to show that none of the evidence would apply in a universe where God didn’t exist.
So imagine two universes. One in which God exists, one in which he doesn’t. Obviously you believe that the first is the one that we are in. Tell me how the second would differ from ours.
According to you, it would be such that the following would no longer work: “1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist, 2. Objective moral values and duties do exist., 3. Therefore, God exists.”
What would this ‘Godless universe’ world be like if ‘objective moral values’ did NOT exist? How would you tell, how would it differ from the world we live in today? If you can’t show me how it would be different and why, then it means you’ve started with an unfalsiable premise.
2008-09-14 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Frank's moral argument 2
Can I take a stab at this? You seem to hold that objective morality does exist. But if this is a purely materialistic reality (the natural is all there is), isn't morality merely an illusion? Altruistic, unselfish love is nothing more than chemical forces? There is no moral difference between acts of cruelty and acts of kindness. Cruelty and kindness are illusions. People make mechanistic choices based on evolutionary conditioning, etc., and there is no good or evil about it. It is just a computer program running itself out.
Final reposting post:
"First off you can only explain why objective morals are important if you start from the position that having them is a desirable thing. And you can only show they are desirable if you already have a concept of ‘desirable options’. If you already have that concept then you are admitting that consequences are important. And given that, we have a starting axion for assembling a system of ethics, one that didn't require God.
Furthermore, any discussion of morals BEGINS with the axion that morals are important. That’s pretty much an indivisible starting point. Questioning that very axiom is equivalent to asking why pain hurts or why pleasure in nice. Morality is by definition ‘doing the right thing’.
But let’s go there, down the path of asking why we should even ‘do the right thing in the first place’. Unfortunately this either brings you to a dead end, or with a circular argument.
Frank asks why we should back Mother Theresa over Hitler. He rejects as a reason that Hitler caused more unhappiness. So he's ruling out consequentialism as an reason, or as a basis for ethics.
So what’s your next move? You can seek an answer that allows you to logically pick Theresa - and his answer is God. But if you’re going down the reductive route, why should that be preferable to an answer that allows you to pick Hitler? Or preferable to admitting that you can’t pick? You're not allowed to cite Objective Morality as the reason, as that's what you’re aiming to prove in the first place. And you've already rejected an argument from consequences. So why is it a problem if we can’t pick between Hitler and Theresa and call both equal?
So we've seen that offering God as an answer isn't actually an answer at all as on this reductive route you can’t explain why choosing God is better than choosing Satan. If it’s because one way leads to heaven, then you’re back with the very consequentialist argument that Frank wanted to avoid. And by now you’re in such a reductive loop that you have to then ask why one should attempt to pick the ‘better’ option in the first place. Why not pick the ‘worse’ option?
Let's pull ourselves out of this hole. If you accept that the ‘better’ option is by definition ‘better’ then you should be able to accept that the moral option is by definition more moral and therefore better. If you accept that backing God leads to a better outcome than picking Satan, then you allow that consequences play a role, in which case we’re back to where we started - you're allowing for consequentialism, which is a moral system open to believers and non-believers alike. Therefore you can assemble a system of ethics without God, and poof goes the whole argument.
And this is my last post! Sorry about the length, but it's a complicated problem he set, and the solution is complicated too.
Frank is making an unfalsifyable premise that our morality can't have come from our DNA, can't be explained through naturalism. But he can't answer this: if you lived in a world where our morality only came from ‘chemistry, physics, DNA’, than how would you expect it to be different?
Frank only offers strawmen of what he thinks science would predict. He says that rape would be permissable, but I’ve pointed out that this is incorrect. Rape is bad for the human race. One would expect the species to develop a sense of this being immoral. Ditto his other examples such as baby torture.
If Frank's argument is that all morals come from the bible, then one can falsify this by thinking of just one moral idea that originates from somewhere else. I challenged him on this, asking him to explain which part of the bible allows him to say that baby torture was worse than stealing a loaf of bread. I was trying to get him to admit to using some kind of consequentialist thinking - ie baby torture causes more harm. He couldn't point to the basis of his 'moral heirarchy', but also never admitted to using any kind of consequentialist calculation.
All in all, quite frustrating.
2008-09-13 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Frank's moral argument 4
Well, thank you for your insight. It seems the primary failing is that he assumes an objective morality without being able to demonstrate that there actually is one. In my view, differences in moral values among cultures is just as strong an argument *against* objective morality, as the similarities are for it.
2008-09-17 04:40 pm (UTC)
You stated "it’s quite possible that the universe was always here, in one form or another." Not possible the Big Bang was the beginning of all space and time. Therefor, the universe in no way could have existed before the Big Bang.
I'm afraid that that isn't accurate. The Big Bang is the beginning of the observable universe, the universe as we understand it today. It is the beginning of everything we can see and measure. We have no way of knowing what may or may not have existed before it.
2008-09-30 09:15 am (UTC)
"Certainly, were contraception more widely used, and teenagers more informed about it, abortion would be much less frequent."
Statistics show just the opposite. Whether it is contraceptives or PlanB, statistics clearly show just the opposite. A good case in point: The recent testimony in Congress by a gay man who said his school only taught monogamous heterosexual relationship between a married man and woman as the norm and didn't discuss homosexual relationships or use of contraceptives. At the age of 17 he was lured by a 23 year old man into unprotected sex (despite requests to use a condom) and now has HIV. The failure was not of the education system. Clearly he had the knowledge to ask the older man to use a condom but it was his emotions that got the better of him. No amount of education will change that. That is the bottom line here. Teenagers are not mature to deal with the emotions and feelings in a high-pressure, hormone filled environment.
Ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages don't make the "abortion" position complicated just as road accidents and heart-attacks don't make it acceptable to murder people!
2008-09-30 11:56 am (UTC)
Re: Some counter-perspectives
Please let me know what statistics you are referring to. I'm afraid that case studies don't prove anything about general trends.
2008-09-30 09:33 am (UTC)
Counterpoints to Mr. Hitchen's arguments
"Argument From History of Humanity"
I come at this from a purely Christian perspective (either one of the religions is true or none of them are; all are not true; the details are a totally different apologetic). If you go by the young-earth creationist perspective, this argument falls flat. There were no homo-sapiens around for 100,000 years developing from apes in a survival of the fittest contest. So I can reject this argument. There is a lot of evidence for the young-earth view (cambrian explosion; fossils of modern animals with so called pre-historic animals; comet decay and their current existence, etc.). To not hold the young-earth creation perspective is to put the central doctrine of first-sin and death following sin in jeopardy.
"Argument From Abjection and Solipsism"
Christianity doesn't label mankind as "base unworthy creatures." Quite the opposite it puts the God of the universe sending his only Son to pay the penalty that we richly deserve. That endows us with value.
I don't quite understand the argument related to solipsism. It is highly disingenuous of Mr. Hitchens to claim so. In a naturalistic worldview you are living with no particular purpose. The universe is going to die a heat death. When you make the argument of lack of any purpose, every atheist will always retort "but you can make the world a better place, you can fulfill the potential of man; we can perhaps alter that basic fabric of the universe and prevent the heat death" - all pointing to a desire to build ourselves a plan.
Basic issues here: Why does mankind even have to thrive? Perhaps just as dinosaurs went extinct and led to the eventual development of man, mankind should go extinct to evolve a higher being that is more adept at survival!
"Argument From Totalitarianism"
"You are under constant, never ending surveilance. You can be convicted of thought crime. The authority involved is unappealable, and you have no say in being placed under its jurisdiction."
Ahem... lets see here, if this is God's universe you either live by his command or not. The God of the Bible is just and more than just - he has also provided a way to salvation through the greatest virtue of love. If
"Argument From Immorality"
"Name me a moral action performed, or a moral statement made, by a believer, that you cannot imagine being performed or made by a non believer," asks Hitchens.
The question here is - so what if an atheist cannot perform the same action? No one is claiming that an atheist cannot. In fact, it only goes to affirm what Paul says in Romans - everyone has the law (of morality) written in their hearts. However, if God is the supreme being and it is a moral act to worship him (lets face it - everyone makes an idol out of something and pursues that), then the atheist cannot do so!
2008-09-30 12:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Counterpoints to Mr. Hitchen's arguments
Well, if you come from a young earth view, you are showing yourself to be completely willing to ignore mountains of scientific evidence when it goes against your faith. You are essentially telling me that you are immune to rational argument, and that nothing could change your mind. To prove me wrong, tell me what could convince you that the earth was actually 6 billion years old? If nothing could, then there is no point in my discussing it with you.
Incidentally, you realize that Turek is not a young earther, right? All educated apologists have realized how completely untenable that position is.
You're absolutely right; perhaps mankind will go extinct. The solipsism comes from those religious people who think we are so great that we are the purpose of the universe. The atheist recognizes that we are not, in anw way, important in or to the universe. The universe will not care if we die. And I have not heard anyone claim that we can prevent the heat death of the universe. Do you have a source on that?
Explain to me how, to take just one example, killing all of the innocent firstborn children of egypt to punish one wicked pharaoh if just to those children. This is an argument against the desirability of a celestial dictatorship, not an argument against its likelihood. Those who wish it to be true are wishing for slavery.
Your last point is especially weak. You cannot demonstrate that worshiping anyone is a moral act without first proving that they exist. Even if god existed, how could you possibly classify not grovelling before him in the grouping as murder, theft and rape?
2008-10-06 04:36 pm (UTC)
Rudy - Have you read the bible?
Twice, though on the second read I skimmed some things, like genealogies.
2008-10-12 06:15 am (UTC)
Refuting with unwarrented assumption?
"The second objection is that it makes an unwarranted assumption: that the same laws which we have observed in our universe today operated at the Big Bang. We do not know if the Laws of Thermodynamics applied to the bunch of stuff which expanded outwards, or whether those laws were formed in the instance after the event. There is likely no way we will ever know this, due to limitations on what we can observe."
Isn't it way more unwarranted to assume that the laws of the universe were somehow different during the big bang than what they are now? Is there any indication that they have changed, or that they could have changed during the big bang, which would make your response any more valid?
Of course not. According to you it cannot be observed, so it cannot be proven. You've taken the active role of fabricating (in the sense: making up) something that we cannot say ever existed. We can, however, say that the current laws of physics have existed at one time or another, because they exist right now!
Personally, I'd take the observable over the unobservable.
-MT (Not interested in signing up at this website)
2008-10-17 07:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Refuting with unwarrented assumption?
I hesitate in responding to anonymous comments, only because its unlikely that you'll ever know that I have responded. However, I'll give it a go.
I'm not assuming anything about the Big Bang. I am not saying that the laws were different, only that they might have been. I am not saying that something existed before the Big Bang, only that it might have. I am making absolutely no positive claims about the nature of the Big Bang. It is you that is saying that we know, absolutely, that the laws of the universe were always the same, and that we know, absolutely, that nothing existed before it. I am merely pointing out that we do *not* know these things, as any physicist will tell you.
2008-10-17 03:53 pm (UTC)
Burden of proof
I just wanted to respond to this statement made in the first half of your analysis. You said:
"He made, I think, a good defense on the point of how he had no burden of proof to explain the origin of the universe, since he was not making any claims about it."
If someone claims to be an atheist and enters into a debate as such, he is making the "claim" that there is no god. Isn't it legitimate to ask for proof of this claim with respect to the origins of the universe? Doesn't that "no burden of proof" answer seem to you like a cop out?
False. An atheist is *not* necessarily claiming that there is no god (though some atheists do make that claim.) All you need to say to be an atheist is that you do not believe in any gods, because there is no evidence for them.
I am fairly certain, in fact, that Hitchens has said that he is not claiming he knows there is no god. He just knows that there is no evidence or argument supporting the existence of a god.
2008-10-18 03:48 pm (UTC)
'slay them before me'
I wanted to comment on something that you wrote:
"If Mr. Turek chooses to take Jesus’ command to 'slay them before me' as a metaphor, I wonder what he uses as guidance to make that decision."
This phrase is taken from the book of Luke 19:26
With all due respect, You have cut and pasted this comment out of context and thereby distorted its meaning. This phrase, when you read it in context, was about a parable (a fictitious story to make a point) about a king and his servants. It would be helpful to start reading the passage at Luke 19:11 (the beginning of the parable).
From the way that you have used the phrase 'slay them before me' you make it sound like Jesus was commanding the people around him to literally "slay" some other people before him. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I am not sure how you came to this conclusion?
Mr. Turek is under the responsibility to keep statements like these in there proper context. That would be one of his guiding principles that really all of us are under. Not to belabor the point, but you and I both want our comments to be kept in their original context so that their meaning is preserved and not distorted.
likewise any responsible treatment of the Bible would allow for both metaphor and literal passages. The genre of the passage should help us knowing which to apply.
2008-10-24 05:21 pm (UTC)
Re: 'slay them before me'
Unless you tell me exactly how one can determine which parts are metaphor and which are literal, I'm forced to reject your claim that one can pick and choose from the Bible. If it isn't all to be taken literally, you need to specify how one determines what is metaphor.
If you wish me to reply to any more arguments, take 30 seconds to make a free account here, so I know that you will be notified when I reply.
2008-10-21 06:53 am (UTC)
My view on abortion is that it is wrong. Period. It is bold, I know; but until I am presented with a case in which I can see it happening morally correctly I will keep this opinion. My view on the fetus hurting the mother and what not, is to induce labor. Give the baby a chance. It's not abortion. Because you're not purposely killing it. You're giving it a chance. The argument against contraceptives, although mostly distorted by the Catholic church, are that premarital sex is wrong. Period. So therefore contraceptive use outside of marriage is wrong. Within a marriage, some forms of birth control still cause a form of abortion. ie the morning after pill or plan b. Or maybe even regular forms in which it may kill even just the single cell before it can divide. On the use of condoms whilst in a marriage: My opinion is the it's pointless. Whether you use them or not, if God wants you pregnant you will be. Which is also my thoughts on abortion even if raped, God put the baby there for a reason. I admit I may be wrong in that im not sure that all forms of BC can cause an abortion, but I know some do. Author, please get back to me on this. email@example.com and leave a subject I will recognize, let's say...Abortion. Thank you.
A few questions for you. Is having sex outside of marriage with contraception any worse, in your eyes, than having sex outside of marriage without contraception? If not, then isn't it better to prevent the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancy?
Second, what is your logic for saying that sex outside of marriage is wrong?
Third, in most cases of abortion, which almost always happen very early in the pregnancy, the child has literally *no* chance of survival outside of the womb. What is the point in inducing labor?
Your point about condoms is rather silly. It's been shown that condoms work the vast, vast majority of the time. If you really believe what you are saying, then why wear a seatbelt? If God wants you to die, you will anyway. Why wear a parachute when you jump out of a plane? If God wants you to fall to your death, you will anyway? You see how silly that argument is?
If you wish me to reply to any more arguments, take 30 seconds to make a free account here, so I know that you will be notified when I reply.
2008-10-23 04:45 am (UTC)
trusting specialist and experts
On the topic of trusting the specialist and experts you wrote,
"All the atheist is doing is accepting the consensus of experts, which we all do, all the time, on most other subjects. It is the duty of the creationist to demonstrate that the experts are wrong."
You make it sound like the evolutionist should be trusted because they are experts, but have you read or heard of any scientific evidence that has convinced you that evolution is not just a theory.
There are legitimate scientist (experts) out there that reject macro-evolution as being unsubstantiated.
2008-10-23 05:00 am (UTC)
Re: trusting specialist and experts
Name me some such legitimate scientists that have *not* been funded by Christian organizations.
Macro-evolution is a made-up word for made-up scientists.
I've never been presented with this first thought, although it's a very humanistic one. You see, my view is that God does not do "would you rathers" It's like, "masturbation is better because it's not premarital sex" No, it's sin. Period. And God hates it. (not to be confused with the sinner) So from God's view, that isn't even a thought. From the human logic (which i believe is like looking through a cardboard paper towel roll while God is seeing everything) Sure, I would say that it is better to use contraceptive. But, the reason it is condemned is because premarital sex is condemned.
Jesus speaks on premarital sex. My logic comes from the Bible. I do however want to clarify that God is not against sex, He wants you to have sex! He invited it!! He just wants it to happen inside of marriage. The NT says the only time you shouldn't be having sex is when you both are in prayer, other than that it's basically fair game. Unless you take into account the old Leviticus law in which you shouldn't while she is on her period. Furthermore, sex is a very beautiful thing. It is the unification of two fleshes into one. Where the souls combine. Which is why it should be saved for marriage and not 'wasted' and given to just anyone.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (New International Version)
18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body
1 Timothy 5:2http://www.new-life.net/premarital.htm
There are many, many verses about sexual immorality. For example, but not limited to: premarital sex, adultury, homosexuality, lust, and beastiality...
That wasn't my point, what I was saying in the instance in which the mother is at risk. That, is when you induce. Other than that the induction should not happen. God performed many miracles. ie. Virgin Birth. Therefore with inducing labor, even if the child had a .00000000001% chance of survival, you never know what God will do. Perhaps he could perform another miracle.
I'm not knowledgable enough right now to answer this argument, while on the surface it seems logical and legitimate. I even thought it myself as recent as a year ago. But I read an apologetics book speaking on, "if I have enough faith in God, He won't let me get hurt by diving onto the pavement... That doesn't take enough faith... Let me jump out of a chair onto the pavement... No, i'll do something that takes more faith in God; I'll jump off my roof." In which it went on to explain that that's not the correct way to view it. I'll try and get back to you on this one, and i'm not going to act like I know soemthing if I don't. The book is by Lee Strobel. I'm sorry but I'm off at college and I don't have that book with me. My best answer for now is that, God knows when you will die, if you want to not wear your seatbelt, and you die; then that was God's will and He allowed it to happen. This one is really hard to explain. Basically He saw it was going to happen, and He allowed it. As apposed to Him actually doing it Himself. I'm not sure man. I think you'd like to check out whatandwhy.org and go under resources, then go under the essay on "How God decides when and how you will die." I hope and pray that will help. Also, the story of Job in the Bible in which he was, for lack of a better phrase; pulling out. So that he wouldn't have a child. In which that made God angry because you're supposed to be fruitfull and multiply. Almost as if he was undermining God. I need to do more research on this as well.
Sorry for such a long-winded reply. I hope it makes as much sense as I was attempting for it to. But this stuff is very deep, in which i'm sure you know. I hope and pray that it'll help.
“Does God command acts because they are good, or are they good because he commands them?” When God commands murder in the Old Testament, whether singular or en masse, does this make the act good because God commands it?"
I wanted to discuss this topic with you because you being up a fair point.
God is constrained by his own goodness. At the same time He cannot and will not commit evil.
So you may ask:
Is God right in telling Israel to go to war with the Canaanites?
My answer is yes , but I need to give you the logical reasons why?
1. God is holy and perfect (he is 100% and 0% evil).
2. Because God is perfectly good he cannot tolerate evil and eventually every sin will be judged.
Anyone who thinks that they got away with rape, molestation, murder is in for a rude awakening because eventually every sin will be met with justice.
3. Sometimes God judges people here in this life and he is just in every such instance (because of the sin that always precedes the judgment).
4. In the Old Testament God decided that the excessive wickedness of the Canaanites he could no longer let persist.
In (Genesis 15:16) after God made a covenant with Abraham and he remarked that the iniquity of the Amorites “was not yet full." It was as if there was a level of wickedness that must not be exceeded; anything less was tolerated, but after that point, divine judgment ensued.
One of the many examples of how wicked the Canaanites had become is that they would offer up children as human sacrifices to the god of baal. And please don't think that God overlooked the sin of the Israelites. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Later in history when the Israelites adopted baal worship they were judged as well.
5. God executed judgment upon the Canaanites for this wickedness. He could have done it himself but he chose to use the Israelites.
6. Christians believe that since everyone has sinned we were all bound for God's justice/judgment. God knew that we had no way of being reconciled with him so he sent his son Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Jesus did so by taking the judgment of God upon himself and dying upon a cross for our sake... However, this forgiveness is contingent upon us having faith in Jesus.
So yes I would say that God is perfectly good, loving, and just.
2008-12-02 06:04 am (UTC)
Christian Position For God And Absolute Truth
Thank you for your summary of the debate. I recently viewed the debate, enjoying it much. Your summary is excellent also.
I'm not going to defend the Christian position on God being the author/source of moral law, only state that I believe you have misunderstood it, though perhaps it is me misunderstanding your understanding :). Feel free to critique the position in any way you wish, but I think there are more (at least one) possibilities for explaining God and morality than the two you presented above. And this one is the actual Christian position (again, I'm not making the claim it is true, only what Christians claim).
The Christian position isn't that God creates truth, nor that God is using a source outside of him. The Christian position is that God (manifested in human form in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ) IS the Truth. This coming from the Gospels - "I AM the way, the truth, and the life...". Also, "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God and the Word (Logos) was God. In other words, God isn't the source of truth, he IS the truth (i.e., the moral truth, etc., isn't a list of rules he has made nor an outside source he is passing down, it is by definition his very nature).
Again, not trying to persuade you. Just stating that in critiquing the Christian position you did not actually include the traditional Christian position (at least held by the vast majority of Protestants and Catholics) in your possibilities, and in fairness it should be before future critiques are made.
Again, thanks for the review/summary!
2009-02-07 03:01 am (UTC)
This is a no brainer.....
Atheist need proof of a God (Creator) Theist need proof there is no Creator...Everything you look at everyday should tell you (Creator). You look at a picture and know there was an artist (one who created the picture) you see a house and know there is a house builder (one who created the house) yet you walk outside and see the earth and think..Wow how lucky are we that this is here so we can walk on it and has everything we need to sustain life here..arn't them trees wonderful to give off oxygen so we can breathe..How lucky we are...Dont know what I would do if this here dirt didnt bring forth food so I can eat to sustain life..Wow how lucky we are...OH look there is an airplane going across the sky..How lucky we are..Get the point you just about have to be brain dead not to Believe in Something Bigger than YOU...We call him GOD the Creator of the Heavens and Earth your so lucky to live on..To prove my point if we took a watch and put it in a room and locked the door and killed everybody in the world except me and you and a million years later come back and open the door and look in the room do think we are going to see little watches running around or a whole world of watches running around..No of course not..Its not living and we killed the watch creator a million years ago..Do you really think life started on an earth of molten rock with temperatures that would kill any living thing if it existed and then cooled down and then Wow here we go again how lucky are we that an amoeba came from nowhere and from that all living things came about..Yes oh look a reptile formed and from them there came a lion and look there is a monkey and now there is something called a human and although he descended from us has more brains than us so we gave him the smart genes and we as animals who he came from kept the dumb genes..Listen people open your eyes..Anyone who debates there is no higher power among us who is a Creator of all living things (OUR GOD) whether he is a studied professor or not has got to be kidding himself and anyone one else who is listening to him or her...Be careful of what you believe because if these people can convince you of all of this hobgobbish you as a person can be convinced of anything...Next you will be calling the Ape in the jungle Pop Pop because Darwin says its so..God is real and the sooner you believe it and open your eyes to see it the better you will be for it here on earth and in the next life..
Boy how lucky are we...Yes how lucky we are we have a GOD who created us and all the things we need in life to survive and a GOD so loving He came to earth in the flesh to die for your sins against Him so that you could live eternal life with Him and how easy He made it for you..Seek and you shall find, Ask and you will recieve, Know and the door will be opened..If it sounds like Greek to you it is because it is Greek to you if you do not live in the spirt of God...
2009-11-23 04:27 am (UTC)
Re: This is a no brainer.....
There are problems with your post.
1. Intelligent and legible text structure. What you create is called a wall of text, and in the internet world negates your right to even be heard in the first place. This prevents anyone of respect from actually reading your whole post due to your inability to take a few seconds to properly set up your post to be readable.
2. You are making the assumption of a God without proof. Your logic is beyond poor. By your logic since an artist creates paintings, who then creates rain? Who creates rocks? These are things we know that a being does NOT create, but a process creates. That is because it goes beyond the existence of a creator. Scientists not only don't ask how did God create this planet because of the fact that there is no rational evidence of a God, but also because there are processes that we easily understand that create planets.
3. You are talking about how perfect everything is for the life we have on this planet, yet blatantly ignore everything that proves otherwise. Why do humans and other animal have organs, parts, and features that are not used one bit by them if they were made for this planet? You may be incapable of explaining that due to "only god knows", but science easily explains this with evolution, and can even make predictions about it that are backed up by fossil records and DNA.
4. Your watch argument is beyond out dated. There is a difference between a self reproducing organism and a non-self reproducing object. This is why the watch argument fails every time unless you somehow make watches self replicate, then you find out that your argument is proven wrong, especially if you factor in environmental factors.
5. You have absolutely no understanding of science, yet you make a post trying to refute much of it.
6. You didn't even create an account, so why waste my time logging into my to even continue this conversation. AKA, I hope people find this post useful for their own purposes. I will monitor this page for a week, then no longer care because I can spend the time creating a website that covers these items in extreme detail that people can more easily find.