Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Atheists Are Wrong!!

Jerry Coyne has an article up directing his readership to a video of an intelligence squared debate (they have some good ones I have to say) involving Russell Blackford. For some reason, and not to put too fine a point on it, all of the speakers seem to be faking Australian accents, but I can live with that.

He wants to know what, if anything, anyone who's seen it thinks about it.

I haven't seen it, but I'm watching it now and I'll post my thoughts in real time!

Introduction: a heartwarming, time-prolonging dedication of the debate to the husband of someone who died, and whose son is in the audience.  Ian Carroll (spelling?), husband of Geraldine (co-chair of the whole shebang) died of cancer. :(

Anniversary of 9/11 being near is important to mention for some reason.

Pascal's wager . . . 'but of course this isn't a debate of Blaise Pascal and his argument of prudence."

Why bring it up?

Skipping ahead to debaters.

Remember the proposition under consideration for. this debate: atheists are wrong - full stop.

Debater 1: Most Reverend Peter Jensen:
He starts off noting he has an atheist mind and heart; he is, he says, skeptical of all gods. Except one. Christians and atheist don't believe in most gods, humans on steroids he calls them. He's thankful we atheists were around to get rid of those false gods. (I suspect we're about to bid farewell to the spirit of fraternity currently bouncing off his lips).

When he says atheists are wrong, he doesn't mean completely wrong - far from it.  We're just 'basically wrong', and tonight's debate is about the problems with atheism.  [ed note: No, the debate is that we're wrong, not that we have problems.]

Atheist bus campaign in England. Only the Brits would throw in 'probably' and god is notoriously hard to disprove in principle. 

Atheists (contemporary, not dead ones) seem to him like flat Earthers. We look at the universe and say it can be fairly explained on materialistic principles.  Um, does he disagree that it can be?

We're simplistic, seeing only gray on gray in this world of grandieur.

Galileo and Occam, we forget, are really 'theirs' and not 'ours'. Raucous laughter from audience

 How can something come from nothing? What is love, where does the moral law come from, what is the good life? How do we account for religious experiences? He asks the hard questions

And then he notes that we have answers for all of these because we're serious thinkers. We see an interim meaning of life, but not an ultimate one. We use how questions instead of who and why questions.

Evolution is an idolatrous explanation of all things. We confuse mechanism for agency.

All in all a tedious man who does little more than cart out tired arguments which don't bear one jot on whether we're correct, or incorrect.

Oh, and Christianity is a self correcting mechanism by its objective, absolute standards. Presumably, this includes the objectively morally correct position on slave-holding.

Here we go. We're wrong because we've overlooked the chief demonstration of reality: revelation.

Ok, skipping ahead to the next speaker.

Thomas Pataki (atheist!):
Opening line, "I've been listening very carefully to the archbishop's [that's Jensen] homily."
He should have concluded with that too since nothing Jensen said really dealt with the motion of the debate: atheists are wrong. I suppose perhaps some lip service to the stupid idea that 'revelation' is a pathway to knowledge might be in order. Otherwise, his opening salvo pretty much dealt with Jensen quite handsomely.

He goes on to explain that the religion issue is more important than the god issue.

Since that doesn't bear on the topic under consideration, I'm spending little time on it.

Short version: since all religions have the same claim to credibility, the proper course is to ditch all of them, and by extensions the gods they represent. It's an ineluctable conclusion, but is subject to revision.

Dr. Tracey Rowland:

She starts off with noting that this is a conversation about what it means to be human. On atheism, apparently, an account of love, reason, human rationality is so 'emaciated' that it is 'impossible to defend' human dignity by listening to those rascally atheists.  Richard Dawkins apparently agrees with her by noting that love is kind of an irrationality built into the brain by evolution that provided some selection advantage in mating and child rearing. Even worse, human beings are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as . . . wait for it . . . can you guess? GENES!

We're designed for our DNA, not the other way around.

We're only digital data.

Therefore, atheists believe in fate. And christianity liberated people from the fear of fate. Why, christianity itself revolutionize humanity by offering 'free will', and a 'rational intellect'.  It transformed our 'selfish cruelty' through some unstated magic of the gospel 'into a vessel of divine grace'. And, you know, gave us love.

Apparently, love for atheists doesn't exist (even though she says Dawkins seems to think it does, which she evinces by explicating Dawkins' explanation of the process by which it emerged, and how it functions). Clearly, she doesn't understand the difference between x exists and x is explained by y. To explain how x operates is to accept that x exists.

Widows, unwanted babies, female babies who were left to die on hillsides. Starts quoting wikipedia about how hospitals came about. QED I guess.

Clearly, she's a scholar of the first order who no debate would be complete without her penetrating musings.  I've heard quite enough of that. Moving on.

Jane Caro:
She starts off with a positive impression of being able to stay on point: 'the prima facie evidence that all gods are manmade is, of course (sung in a proper melancholy way), their treatment of WOMEN (also sung!)!"  [applause, laughter, couple of whistles]

I like her already (sorry to spoil my misogynist cred at PeeZus' place).

'The idea that women are fully human' she goes on to say is an idea that 'man-made religion' seems to have difficulty understanding. [love her] She loves the paradise offered to Islamic jihad warriors. 'Nuff said.

I take that back! Not enough said!  Holy shit, she's a pistol.  Let me back up and quote this as it is grade-A brilliant phrasing.

Apparently as man is for Allah they will receive their reward in heaven by [virginal rewards]. As one would put it, imagine all of those obedient, god-fearing Muslim women who keep themselves pure behind all encompassing clothing out of their devout worship of their god only to find that when they die, their reward for all this virginal vigilance is to end up as whores for terrorists.
That's good wordsmithing right there. Obviously, the crowd ate it up.

You MUST simply watch her. I'm not despoiling the rest of her brilliant delivery. Sorry, people, this is one of those you have to see and hear to fully appreciate.

She ends taking on Buddhism, "how come the Dalai Lama hasn't been reincarnated as a girl?"

Scott Stephens:

This gentleman starts off with the accusation that we've reached a point in public life where we can't agree on any minimal level of moral consensus. What are our common threat? What are the sources of immorality, perversion servitude that we must protect ourselves from, he asks with a straight face. Religion and its gods are a fairly good candidate for quite a lot of that evil I'd suggest.

I think I've heard this one before. Jane Caro has just spoken on the fear tactics of the religious, and how they always manage to identify a target of its source.

Stephens wastes no moment proving her point. It's pathetic. Where do they find these, ahem, deep thinkers? Trust me, it is quite deep in there.

Tedious, boring, intellectually deficient.

Nihilism (both in and out of the church) is the gas we breathe. He's quoting Flannery O'connor (from 55 years ago as he notes).

Somehow this fetishization of health, safety and pleasure bears on the question of whether atheists are wrong.

If he's not going to pretend to address the topic, I'm not going to pretend to finish listening to him.

Oh yeah, Twitter is evil, and without god there is no good. QED I guess.

Russell Blackford:
Before he starts, I have high expectations of him. I hope he lives up to them.

Ok, he's starting off delivering like Dominoes.  He's congratulating Jensen, the first speaker, on his skepticism with respect to all but one god. Jensen is, Blackford notes, 'getting there'.

Russell aptly sums up part of the affirmative side: they say we don't know yet what it is we owe to religion for how our world operates.  Russell agrees, but points out that "we're starting to suspect."

He goes on a missive about the history of the church. While always worth repeating, it doesn't bear on whether atheists are wrong. All of the evils of religion could be done and their claims could be true. Except that he ties it together nicely by pointing out it has every hallmark of being man-made, not that of an all-wise creator. Nice work, Russell.

And now Russell quite rightly addresses the claims that secular/atheist thinkers and organizations have done bad things. It is true. So have the religious. It is true. What's the difference? And this is central (and has been pointed out by many, many people): we godless folks don't claim to have access to an all-knowing, all-wise creator who is all-good, all-loving and what not. And it is here that the religious claims must fail. Nothing about any religion indicates profound wisdom, let alone the kind of eternal, perfect benevolent leader they declare they follow.

Russell did a commendable job.

But Jane Caro.  Wow.  I've never before heard of her and that is to my own discredit. If she's ever in a state near me giving a lecture, speech or participating in a debate, I will be the proud owner of a ticket to hear it.


Jane Caro said...

Hi Justicar,
Found your site ( shamelessly) googling my own name and IQ2. I am pink with pleasure reading your - in my not-so-humble opinion(obviously) - masterful response to the debate.
Next time I am heading to the US, I will let you know, and if you ever want a speaker give me a call.
You can reach me at @janecaro And we weren't faking our Aussie accents, tragically, that's how we sound!

The Justicar said...

Well, this was an unexpected surprise upon checking my e-mail this morning.

I entertained the idea of going back through this and beefing it up, and smoothing out some of the font switches and formatting errors, but leaving it this way I think more fully represents the 'live' feeling - I was typing it as the panelists we're talking.

Anyway, if you're ever in these parts, do be sure to let some of the more prominent atheists know (note, I'm not exactly one of them. I'm more part of the 'naughty' club here). We're the kind of atheists who respond to pointless whining about things with a ceremonial point, obligatory laugh and then a veritable fuck patois. Profanity, it's poetry in motion.

At any rate, I thought you did a fantastic job (obviously), and I didn't mean to sell short your 9 minutes, but as I said: it should be seen and heard. You were, in my estimation, the person who stayed most closely on the topic - certainly the other side was having none of that.

The 'misoynist cred' of which I earlier spoke deals with my being part of the 'naughty' club of women-hating, gender traitors, and those simpletons who are just so painfully unaware that we've been brainwashed by the 'patriarchy' and are 'parroting of misogynist thought' for not equating an untimely coffee invitation for a near rape.  Please see PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Paula Kirby (herself clearly sexist), Richard Dawkins (useless, tired, old, white, male, rich, and British, a relic of the past and inhibitor of equality for women the world over) in regards to elevatorgate.

So, part of being in that camp, if I'd known you were going to be reading this, I'd have called them Kiwi accents!

For whatever good it might do, I'll pass your name around to people I know who are actually involved in ways that I'm not. Perhaps CFI might come to its senses and starting culling their roving band of blowhards, and occasionally putting in a person whose master of the English language (such as Australian can be thought as such!) extends beyond opening remarks, "I'm still drunk." And then the middle portion, "Well, you guys invited me out here and then kept me in the bars all night." You know, a competent speaker!

Also, your link to your profile doesn't propagate. I'll send a test e-mail to your registered e-mail address though.