What I Learned From Debating Dinesh D'Souza

After looking at the debate myself I didn't do well. I did okay, but not well.

One thing was that Dinesh simply dismissed my opening statement and forced me to play by his rules after that. I should have defended it better. I should have summed up that case in my final statement. It was NOT irrelevant to the issue before us. And he interrupted me several times at the beginning. I should have stopped and said, "Did the organizers ask me to come here to listen to you give a speech, or do you want to let me respond?" Then he insulted me which put me off guard. And he monopolized the time whenever he could. One way to win a debate is not to give your opponent a chance to speak. Then during the Q & A when we were both asked the same question and Dinesh followed me, he responded to what I said rather than answering the question. All of these things caused me to second guess what I was saying as I was saying it, and so I didn't give many clear refutations as I had planned. I wanted to play nice because people think of atheists as rude people and Dinesh took advantage of that with me. But atheists have faulted me for this. One of them said "they aren't debating to make you seem like a nice guy, they are doing it to prove your a fool." That hit hard.

While none of his arguments were any good at all, and I mean none of them, he has mastered the art of debate and I learned a great deal from doing so. Nothing can prepare you for such a thing until you personally experience it. I am now a better debater because of it and I hope to show this in the future. So in terms of debate strategy Dinesh definitely won, but I think I was still able to throw out some good doubt producing arguments. Nonetheless, he's unleashed a beast, not that I plan on being rude, but I will be firm, and I will make my opponents play by my rules from now on if I can.

73 comments:

Sherry said...

John, your arguments are weakened by your penchance for whining.

John W. Loftus said...

I'm not whining. This is what I learned.

Franklin said...

good post. Here's another thing that might be helpful for future debates: I'm pretty sure somewhere in there, D'Souza brings up how Hawking advocates the whole "creation of the universe was a singularity" thing. Hawking did say this, but it was in his first book, and in his second one he corrected his mistake and said the evidence points to it NOT being a singularity, and that he was incorrect in his previous book.

I'm sure you know, but then you can respond with something like, "I'm sure that isn't purposely trying to deceive you, but it seems like he only read Stephen Hawking's first book and assumed his views would never change, because in the next book he corrected that statement...etc."

Looking forward to watching the debate on the 13th.

Brian_E said...

Excellent John! Keep at it, and keep learning. Know you are appreciated for all your efforts, and all your work will transcend your own existence. The rational future has you to thank as a founding father!

Sherry - get bent.

Ajay said...

I think Sherry meant "penchant" for whining. And noting what one learned is a little different than whining...which is kind of what Sherry is doing now that I think of it.

normajean said...

John—part of the problem with your performance is what I take to be mostly a defensive apologetic strategy. Guys like me take it that theism is a kind of default position (I know that’s wild, right?)—Thus, even in the case that you are successful at casting doubt on theistic arguments, the fact that you offer limited positive arguments in favor of atheism makes me wonder. You’re obviously within your epistemic rights to doubt positive theistic claims. But I think there’s more to convincing people than poking holes in buckets. Now, you may believe you’ve offered positive arguments. I say bring more to the table.

John W. Loftus said...

normajean, I understand your criticism but the topic of the debate was "Does the Christian God Exist?" One need not be an atheist to make that case.

normajean said...

very well.

John W. Loftus said...

Franklin, Dan Barker called Dinesh out on this in a previous debate, so Dinesh knows he's wrong. I was going to do so as well. Vic Stenger will do the same thing when he debates Craig, as I will when I debate David Wood. We're going to hit apologists with this in every debate until they no longer use it.

Chuck O'Connor said...

John,

You've inspired me. One of the benefits of leaving god, sin, heaven etc . . . behind is the acceptance that progress can be made if I choose to accept that there is no perfect standard. This comes from an honest and detached evaluation of the data. You've modeled this with yourself and that's inspiring. Thanks. Much better than concluding that your performance skills were lacking as evidence you not "elect". LOL.

normajean said...

Franklin- Re. singularity, do you have a statement from Hawking that states as much? I'd like the exact quotation and cite. That's interesting.

shane said...

I have watched D'souza debate Dan Barker and now you John.

One thing i noticed is that he takes the long way around most questions, and ends up coming to a point that doesn't even answer the question!
He just tries to persuade his audience by trying to sound abrasive!

Downeast Fly Merchant said...

D'Souza is so transparent! If you take away his eloquence and authoritative style of speach you are left with nothing more than the same back woods BS you get from any southern P.H. preacher.... You did just fine! I guarantee you gave the believers in the crowd something to chew on. Keep up the good work.
JFC

Yo said...

You are whining John. That's all you do!

I thought that you said you were going to go and get a job or something to make some money?

Quit goofing off on the internet so much and go and pay your bills John!

Oh yeah, I checked out the debate. And, I don't see you becoming a "beast" anytime soon John.

Bud said...

Instead of using reason to attempt to explain why John's evaluation of D'Souza's tactics is inaccurate, you people are going to resort to ad hominem attacks by saying he's "whining"? Your words are a discredit to whichever god you claim to serve.

AlexandElaine said...

So, let me get this straight... you lost the debate but still hold to your position? Who's ignoring the evidence now?

shane said...

I dont get it?
What evidence did D'Souza give?

Tony Hoffman said...

John,

I haven't finished watching most of the debate, but at this point you have slaughtered that little guy. Hand's down.

I think you have publicly gone put yourself through too much hand-wringing over your performance. I believe you come across as earnest, and excited, and intellectual, and engaged with the discussion and the questions.

I just watched you both handle the question about which would you rather have: a christian in church, or a christian for the rest of the week?

It's a pretty odd question, and you deal with it best by saying, "Listen, I'm against faith based reasoning. That's what I'm saying here." Fair enough, and an excellent answer to an oddball question.

D'Souza throws up a strawman ("Atheists say they know there is no life after death." WTF?!)

I stopped it right there, and I don't care if you hammered him on that or not; he's an idiot for saying that, and he loses on substance right there.

Good news. This just out. You won. Sure, you could do better on reflection, but you didn't drop the flag. Not by a long shot.

I strongly, strongly encourage everyone who follows this site to look at the video.

PS. You have a slightly crazy, Dennis Hopper fervency to you, but I find it completely charming and winning. Good on you.

Wade Anes said...

@ normajean,

I posted it in another thread, but here you go....

"A Brief History of Time" on page 53 that...

"So in the end our work became generally accepted and nowadays nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a big bang singularity. It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe-as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account"

@Yo
All I have seen YOU do on this board is whine about how atheists & theists make you sick, then why spend your time on the internet reading & watching atheist/theist debates? Why don't YOU go do something that doesn't make you ill & stop whining, if you're not going to say something with some content, if you don't have arguments, then you should sit down & shut up.

Tony Hoffman said...

Okay, sorry to be redundant, but I've watched another 20 minutes of this debate and D'Souza is losing every part of it.

He is asked about God of the Gaps, and he basically misrepresents everything about it -- that science is satisfied with a gap, that the difference between Newtonian physics and Einstein's relativity represents a chasm of difference, etc. It's textbook misrepresentation and strawmanning.

You deal with it as a gentleman, simply pointing out that science is solving gap problems, and religion is not.

Somebody might say you should have hammered D'Souza with a one-liner and done something theatrical, but I think your instincts (despite all your second guessing from what you perceived as the crowd or post debate reaction) were correct throughout.

I also have to say that a Ficus plant could have won this debate against D'Souza. He is obviously fighting a rearguard action, and has adopted the credible delivery of a carnival barker.

Mike D said...

The reactions seem to prove one thing: that few people are actually persuaded by debates. Really, it's a lousy format for critically scrutinizing opposing views, and most people seem to be aware of that.

Ross said...

John,

I think normajean's point about positive argents is valid. In these debates, the point is not to preach to the choir but to preach to your opponent's choir. You are in the difficult position of not only making negative arguments debunking their argument, but also make positive assertions supporting yours. "There is no Christian god" is negative. "The x argument is fallacious because blah" is not only negative, but unconvincing to a believer whose default position is belief. You must positively argue a negative, if you will. "I can prove the nonexistence of blah". A hard case to make thoroughly but possible if you control the parameters. "X can only be true if no loving god, x is true, therefore no loving god.". An easy example but you get the idea. HTH

Peter said...

John, I think you did a pretty good job and D'Souza is a tough opponent. You already know all the arguments so more you debate better you get. Remember to call out your opponents shifting the burden of proof. You don't need to first explain where the universe came from if your opponent claim God/fairy/unicorn created it. Make them explain why/how they think their particar supernatural entity did it. Good luck with the next debate and don't be nice next time ;-)

Toby said...

John,

I love your work and all you do here. This is my approach on how I think you might win on presentation. There is research that shows first impressions, (before a person speaks even), sticks with a person. You are incredibly intelligent with great arguments, but I would guess your hat and dress in mostly peoples minds are a detractor. I personally don't mind, but even if it is only a small disadvantage, you might want to considering letting the hat go for debates and dressing like Craig or D'Souza. Secondly, never let your anger shows, always smile, and deliver insults like they are compliments. When angry, lift one foot ever so slightly off the group. This balancing act seems to increse neural-electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex (logic and reason center) and lowers activity in the amygdala (fight or flight/anger center).

Third, only get excited when you giving an exciting anecdote. People love stories they can relate to. Always tell a story with charm, people love that.

Forth, tell people what they are thinking. Make the logical conclusions for them. For example, "I know what most of you are thinking right now. You're thinking that this atheist is a down-to-earth guy with really good points. I want to ignore him, and pretend that he's just angry at god, but he made a really good point when he said [insert good one-liner here]. Here's the one-liners I would use, "I know what you're thinking. "I don't want to believe this guy, but how come prayer almost never works? How come no one has ever regrown a limb? How come medincine works so much better and more reliably than prayer? If God wanted someone to be healed, why do they have to take medicine to do so? Why can't I pray a cavity away? How come Christians suffer the same rates of sickness, death and illnesses that the rest of America does?"

Toby said...

Fifth, carry over every untouched point. If your opponent doesn't address a point, point out that there is no real defense against your argument. Make a big deal of it. Make sure you point out the weakness of your opponents argument with a cute anecdote. For example, "You know Dinesh's argument about God reminds me of when I was in high school. We were certain we had the BEST basketball team in the state even though we were a Class C (small school) team. We were winning most games by more than 30 points per game, which for high school basketball is decent. We thought we were unbeatable and would whip any team, even Class A teams. Dinesh's argument for Christianity are just like my highschool, all talk, but no evidence to backup what he's really saying. His arguments are the equivalent of us saying, "Look at how badly we beat all these other teams!" That was solid proof to us because we new those other teams were pretty good because we had been playing the same kids our whole lives. The problem is, like Dinish, we believed what we WANTED to believe. Dinesh doesn't have solid evidence, nor did we. We would have to play the best team in the State to prove our claim. I challenge all Christians hear tonight to prove therr claims by simply taking Jesus at his words, "Whatever you ask in my name, it shall be given!" I want you all to pray tonight for this soldier (show slide of soldier missing limbs). Gather with 2 or more and pray that God will regrow his limbs lost fighting for our country. If God regrows his limbs, I will re-convert and spent my days preaching that Jesus is the "Way, the Truth, and Life." God is not willing that one should perish... Elijah had faith and was able to call down fire from heaven. Do any of you Christians here have even the smallest, tiniest bit of faith? Without faith it is "impossible to please God." Yet Jesus also said a person with even the smallest bit of faith could cast a mountain into the sea. If you believe Jesus, prove his words to be true.

6. End every speech pointing out your opponents weaknesses. Like, "Or you could follow Dinesh's example. Don't look at evidence too closely, dimiss everything that proves your point wrong. Only listen to people who agree with you. Pretend that your arguments are SO compelling it doesn't even take faith to believe in God... Wait... why doesn't it take faith to believe in God. The reason it takes faith is becuase their is no real evidence. People make things up because without their made up evidence they have trouble mustering enough faith.

Okay, I probably didn't offer anything useful, but I thought I would try!

Good luck John!

Toby said...

I should have proof read those...

Tons of mistakes.

The really confusing line (if you can limit it to just one) was "lift one foot off the group." I meant off the floor.

I'm very tired!

D. said...

It was none of the things above, you just can't do it. You can write books but you can't do debates, you talked like a guy from the street half sure of what he's talking about, just your mannerism cost you major points right there. You don't know how to do debates. My advice is don't do debates, stick with the books. And trust me I know these things.

Oh I'm no christian BTW.

John said...

Who cares who is right! We will all see one day! Or maybe We won't see! However you want to view it. OMG... I just proved that... different views from the same side. All of it is crap! Nothing matters! Live how you want. Let people live how they choose! Get along. If Christians start to preach, say that you don't care. If Atheists start to "preach" their thoughts and you don't want to hear those, Say that you don't care! Why devote so much time to degrading what people believe. Do whatever drug brings your happiness. Read what books YOU want. (Even if it's THE Bible) This whole life is a choice. Choose to get away from the people who bug you. And again, we may or may not see who is right! Kinda like John said with the challenge for Christians, "What do you have to lose?" Only ONE knows!

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. "D" I cannot trust you. I do not know who you are to trust you. Surely you are not that dumb to think I will trust anyone who says "trust me" when I have no clue you you are.

Christian Agnostic said...

Having listened to the debate I thought you were both equally dogmatic with your points of view. You called the other side 'brainwashed' and Dinesh called you a whiner. I can imagine the sore throat you had didn't help either. So it is not fair to make a final judgment on the limited evidence of that one debate. That said, I felt you lacked fluency and confidence in your delivery. Your speech was hesitant. Dinesh, by way of contrast, was confident and assured (regardless of content). So I call the debate for Dinesh but I would like to hear you without a sore throat, and if you could debate as clearly as you write then I'm sure you will do better next time : )

DamienL said...

D'Souza likes to talk over people. I'm impressed you managed to get through it without going crazy!

The best way I've found to handle people like that is to keep exposing their ankle-biting tactics whenever they use them. It won't make them stop, but it will prevent the audience from thinking that you're letting him speak because you love the sound of his voice. Haha

Gandolf said...

John said... "Who cares who is right! We will all see one day! Or maybe We won't see! However you want to view it. OMG... I just proved that... different views from the same side. All of it is crap! Nothing matters! Live how you want. Let people live how they choose! Get along. If Christians start to preach, say that you don't care"

John it sounds great, but isnt it kind of a utopian view.

Its fine saying who cares nothing matters,let everyone simply live how ever they wish

But it just doesnt really work out so well,it causes problems

John said.."Why devote so much time to degrading what people believe. Do whatever drug brings your happiness. "

Did you ever stop to think life for everyone is not always about choosing whatever brings your happiness.

Did you ever stop to think faiths and beliefs often have an effect on us all,often without us even choosing it.

If you happen to be a Muslim woman,how much choice do you have about what clothes you are allowed to wear?.
If born children of JW,how much is it really your choice about blood transfusions?.
If born children of a Russian cult,how much choice do you have of whether its safe living out in winter in a cave?.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews
/1569468/Russian-cult-threatens-mass-suicide-in-cave.html

If so happens your gay,should it be quite ok that certain faith groups tend to totally despise you?

Should it be thought quite ok, that we allow groups in our societies to freely teach teachings of segregation and shunning,and segregate and shun family members who dont agree with them to cause them harm?

John how degrading is your type of view? of matters, to the future hopes of some others of ever obtaining rights of a better future along with more of this drug you call happiness?, that for many all to often gets buried under the weight of abuse of peoples rights to do as they please?.

Serriously John hopefully dont honestly believe the only reason John Loftus and many others here could ever likely have for bothering debating these matters,is for reason of fun ...Do you?

Lets keep it real John you are very very wrong,it really does matter a lot

nearenough said...

I watched the debate and carefully reviewed the first 5 parts on You Tube and wish to make detailed comments. This is just a test.

nearenough said...

OK. My test appeared.

I just listened to D'S on his radio interview, and he claimed we cannot ask "what is the cause of God" because "we have no experience of God or gods." Huh? What happened to the argument from religious experience? Mystics who regularly see God? Jesus who talked about God throughout the NT?

Statements like this from D'S is pure bait and switch. I'll have more later.

nearenough said...

A point seldom brought up. What IS the God we are debating? A man in the sky? No, D'S would say (but I'll bet every Christian thinks it is, or was when they started). It's a "spirit." This is tantamount to saying it's invisible and undetectable, in other words, God is God circularity. A spirit could be anything -- Allah, Brahman, or the Holy Ghost. What are the criteria for distinguishing spirits? Whatever you wish to project onto the sky. This thought should be developed and posed at every debate to put the opposition on the defense.

Franklin said...

normajean- sorry, I actually don't have the exact quote, but maybe someone here does? Google might help out too.

John- good to know. I assumed Dinesh knew, and bringing up the fact that he's actually been corrected in previous debates would (hopefully) make it embarrassing. But he probably has a way to shrug it off.

Glenn said...

You lost this debate. Still keen on that debate with Bill Craig?

John W. Loftus said...

Sure Glenn. Want to set it up? I'm not afraid. I'll debate any Christian any time. Are you game? Why should anyone under any conditions listen to naysayers about one time at the bat? If I listened to the naysayers I would not be as effective as I am with my books and Blog. You remember them at TWeb a few years back, right? What if I listened to them? There are very few people in life who would ever accomplish much in life if they listened to naysayers. It's the people who rose above these circumstances that made a difference, and I'm making a difference.

Glenn said...

John, "any Christian any time"?

Presumably you mean on a very carefully selected subject, because you did in fact decline to debate me on some pretty basic subjects.

If you lost this debate (and you did), how do you think you'd do against a more worthy opponent like Dr Craig?

John W. Loftus said...

Glenn, what are you talking about? I have no recollection of this. I have declined to have many written debates since I am challenged so much to do so. But if you want a written debate then here is my opening statement. If you want a face to face debate then set one up.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Glenn, with regard to Dr. Craig I'm gonna get better and better at doing what I do. I've learned from Dinesh. I think I would do well, very well. Why shouldn't I think this? Oh, that's right, you're a naysayer. Sorry, I don't listen to them. One time at bat does not tell us how good someone is at batting. Many good batters do poorly at bat if you want to judge one time at bat. The real question is why I debated Dinesh in the first place. I earned the right. Whom have you earned the right to debate?.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn

Which argument of D'souza's did you think was so good? I mean a man of your stature with the CV you post at your blog should help enlighten us where John failed and Dinesh succeeded.

nearenough said...

"Is there a God and is the Christian God the right guy?" -- D'Souza

RIght away God is a man; a sky man. He's called a "guy."

If not, D'Souza says Loftus is required to offer another explanation for the universe.

Answer? Ahem, no he's not. The word "God" does not explain anything. Science studies possible answers, not mystical urges pulled from a hat labelled "God did it." The atheist is not in a position to explain the universe scientifically or otherwise. This is the job of cosmologists, physicists or other scientists. We have a burden of proof here and it's on D'Souza to prove his case for a magical sky-being, and not Loftus's burden of contriving an alternative explanation or proving a negative (although many such critiques are available, beyond this scope of these comments).

Right away D'Souza appeals to Jesus as being the Son of God and a miracle worker, yet he insists he's not going to appeal to the Bible. Loftus did not challenge this. What does Jesus, a Jewish preacher 2000 years ago have to do with a creator of the universe, a magical sky-creature, or a "God"? D'Souza is obligated to provide the connection, not Loftus's obligation to prove a negative.

He says Loftus's long list of Christian sins is digressive whining and is a mark of atheism. If there is a true Christian God and it is a moral lawgiver, Christians following this god have the responsibility of living up the its moral codes. The moral codes should be reasonable, exemplary and "good" in the sense of beneficial. The Bible is chock full of atrocities done at the behest of this God; D'Souza can't dismiss them with an ad hominem flourish.

(more to come)

Glenn said...

No recollection huh?

Let me jog your memory then.

Like I said, I guess you want a debate on other subjects than those I presented. But be careful that you don't give the impression that you would debate any Christian, anywhere, anytime.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn

What argument won D'souza the debate. Since you are such a learned Christioan I assume you are telling the truth when you say he won. Please provide the honest evidence (based on argument) this is so. Thanks. I warn you beforehand that D'souza's theology and faith would not consider your religion a true church. He sees you as you see us. Illegitimate in the eyes of God.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn

Maybe John forgot about you becausw when he asked how to debate on PalTalk, you never responded. You are a garden variety theist son. You demand status and seek moral control without offering others the type of respect you demand. I'm sure John would have considered a debate if you would have honestly answered his question on technology but, you didn't, And you think this is evidence that John wouldn't debate you? No wonder you think D'souza won. I suggest everyone read Glenn's arrogant post and the comments between he and John. You will see how theology offers one the fruits of warped logic.

John W. Loftus said...

Chuck, I love ya man.

Glenn, I said I would debate any Christian, anywhere, anytime, but I didn't say I would debate any topic.

Now run along and tell Dr. Craig to quit hand picking his opponents and the topics he will debate before you ever think of chiding me.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Back at you John.

Your work has helped save my life and sanity.

If we get to meet face to face someday I'll fill you in how.

Be well.

nearenough said...

Loftus rightly says he can't know if a religion is true because there are so many of them. The place of birth -- the culture -- yields different gods, so which one is correct? Why is not this a valid point? D'Souza says the majority opinion of the existence of any one particular god doesn't make it right or wrong and to bring up the fact of that god depending on where you were born and what your parents believed is a fallacy and is to be discounted. He says origin has absolutely nothing to do with its veracity. Asserting something is false based on its origin is the so-called "genetic fallacy."

But Loftus is not trying to prove any individual god is the wrong one simply because it comes from country or culture "A." The general "God" claim is questionable because various cultures contradict each other. Each "god" is different; they all can't be right.

Analogy: There are a dozen different cures for disease "a". This probably means that none of them work because if there was one that did work very well, that would be the real thing; the other 11 "cures" are fake.

nearenough said...

My comment on culture and fact-finding: The fact that different countries produce different gods and different religions puts the lie to the claim that serious investigation, inquiry and fact-finding are involved in finding out anything true about a real god. People simply adopt the religion of their parents, in a blind fashion. How many of you out there have spent, say, 6 semester hours considering the merits of a dozen major religions before deciding on the faith of your parents? I say less than 1 % of the audience here.

Later D'Souza glosses glibly over the differences between the major faiths. He blithely says, with a waft of his hand, Judaism = Christianity = Islam. Since they all believe in the same god, therefore God exists. Why does this prove the existence of a god, any god? How does this make it a Christian god?

No they don't all believe in the same God, and, no, God is not proved to exist by the ad numeram argument. The debate is first over "God," and in particular, the CHRISTIAN God. How does invoking Allah support this argument? Yes, Allah is supposedly "God" but unfortunately for D'Souza's point, a god utterly different from the Christian one. Muslims DENY Jesus was resurrected from the dead and they deny Jesus is any God; they DENY the Trinity; they say God is one, not three. The Koran is their holy book, not the New Testament. Loftus did not dispute this as he should have.

How does invoking Judaism prove the CHRISTIAN God? It points to Yahweh, the Jewish God. Jews do not believe in Jesus. They still await the "true Messiah." They reject Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore they, the Jews, do not provide evidence for the Christian God; as shown neither do the Muslims. D'Sousa would like Jews and Muslims to support his case but ignores crucial details and fails.

nearenough said...

One of D'Souza's major confusions is his dismissal of the ad populum fallacy -- that the majority opinion is the correct opinion, while wanting to retain it. Counting noses in certain situations suggests a possible answer that usually has to be verified by other means -- science and the evidence (which Loftus did emphasize). Yet D'Souza relies on the ad populum fallacy in counting the many noses concerning god belief. He says, the vast majority of the people in the world believe in God. He appeals to the belief in god of hundreds of the main figures in the world; the greatest statesmen, scientists, and philosophers all believed in God. He asks, is it reasonable to write off the best of humanity? I'll reply that the world's culture was dominated by religious agencies for centuries; heretics were burned; blasphemers were tortured and given death; unbelievers were promised hellfire. All of this requires a major essay, but Loftus could has been a bit more vocal about the punishments for being religiously contrary.

D'Souza says many have had an "experience" of God (video 5/13, 2/3 way through). He asserts, "let's have a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." I would agree if the treatment of "pagans," "heretics," and "unbelievers" had been slightly more sanguine than Church history provides. Later, in defending the "first cause" argument for God, he reverses his position and says we don't know anything about this first cause, "God," drawing an analogy with purported aliens, who might have left arcane messages on a strange planet. He flip-flops between knowing and not knowing anything about this first divine. Strange.

nearenough said...

D'Souza invokes the three core questions of existence:
1. Where did we come from?
2. What is the point of our lives?
3. Where are we going?

D'S answers that science says we "don't have a clue" to all three. This is rhetorically impressive, but....

This is flat-out wrong. We "came from" a process of evolution. We, as human beings, arrived in the world over a period of several million years ago from ape-like forebears. The evidence is overwhelming and needn't be recounted now.

The point of our lives and where we are going is no different than any other life form. We survive and reproduce, and then, because we can think, we ponder all the rest and try to figure it out even though the scientific answers are uncertain as of yet. D'Souza prefers a magic, childish "God did it" explanation, which is not an explanation. The burden of proof is on he who asserts; D'S doesn't explain what God IS or the hard evidence for it. That the Christian God has nothing going for it is a reasonable answer. Evolution is the BEST explanation for D'Souza's questions, not the Christian God.

He says science gives us clues as to the best available explanation -- the "God did it" theory. Yes, SCIENCE! Space and time had a beginning. Wow, he says. The universe has a beginning. Everything that had a beginning has a cause: there are only 2 possibilities, natural and supernatural. How did "nature" bring itself into existence? D'Souza implies this is not possible. So it might be supernatural -- a really powerful being (read sky-man). He even has the gall to invoke the ancient Hebrews claims and says they knew about the origin because God told them! This is supposedly consistent with modern science's secular explanation! In other words the ancient Jews somehow knew all about the big bang. Other religions' creation accounts say similar non-specific things. Loftus could easily get into Genesis' confused and muddled account, say of the creation of the "days," the "separation" of light and dark, and then the "sun" and have a field day. But he didn't. And he overlooked stressing the "we just don't know the answers to many origin questions." Why not be humble and admit we atheists don't have all the answers?

nearenough said...

In all of this first cause argument, D'Souza repeats the claims of William Lane Craig (his mentor), that everything that has a beginning needs a cause of that beginning; the universe had a beginning; therefore it had a cause. And, guess what? That cause just happens to be "God." The "God did it" explanation. "God" is not described. And "God" is exempt by fiat here; it would lead to endless regress and theists like D'Souza can't have any of that, so the discussion is arbitrarily cut off at this point. "God" is declared without any evidence at all that he or it did not "begin to exist." But truly endless discussions on this do exist; John Loftus should mention this arbitrarily dismissing the origins of "God," sneaking "Him" in as the best answer. But he didn't.

The other major point not stressed at all is the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years. Why did "God" wait 13.6 billion years, or longer to produce "man" -- the pinnacle of his creation? This situation is a theistic absurdity. Do the math. Theists have no answer (except the inane claim that the universe is 6000 years old).

Then there's the old chestnut Fine Tuning Argument, concerning the alleged vast improbability of precise numerical values for the physical constants. Scientists are trying to develop a "theory of everything" using physical and mathematical evidence, logic and reasoning. This also goes by the name of the "grand unification theory" (GUT). The outcome is uncertain but they are trying. D'Souza appeals to a character at a console with dials, making changes in the values needed. How ridiculous.

In 4/13 (You Tube video numbering) D'Souza make one of his periodical statements that he's not going to refer to the Bible, but on secular reasoning alone, to prove "God," yet he repeatedly invokes Jesus as if Jesus' name alone proves anything about a supernatural creator. D'S is not appealing to the Bible and IS appealing to the Bible.

Things are not the way they ought to be, he says. A higher way, a perfect this or that exists. There is a chasm between the human level and the divine level. "Divine" level? This ASSUMES a God, not just idealism, or philosophy. Christianity says the chasm is too big, and God needs to descend to close this gap. Jesus is the answer; he's the emissary and ambassador. If anyone is a liar, I question that D'Souza isn't one here. He flat out says this is not to rely on any revelation, sacred texts, or authority [half way through video 4/13]. "Jesus" automatically fills in the gaps in any problem. What's the origin of of this "Jesus"? Revelation, sacred texts and authority!

There's more to discuss, and I will make later postings.

nearenough said...

D'Souza'a barking the slurs, "a lot of bull"; verbal "diarrhea," digressive "whining," and finally "liar" against his opponent is vicious and disappointing.

But these pepper his generally distinct enunciation, and brassy, well prepared and loud confident oratorical delivery, so give him points for cutting demagoguery against Loftus's somewhat fumbling, watery and weak apologetic muttering plus some lame jokes and insistence on using "wrong, wrong" and "brainwashing, brainwashing" repeatedly with little if any detailed explanation; Loftus could benefit from a Toastmasters' tutelage. Hey, nothing personal here; I'm just trying to level constructive criticism.

nearenough said...

D'Souza complains that Loftus has overlooked God beliefs of many major personalities.

I answer, with regard to beliefs of scientists, Ebonmuse in Daylight Atheism posted this, within the last year or so:

The last definitive survey on this topic was published in Nature in 1998 by the historian Edward J. Larson. Questioning the several hundred members of the National Academy of Sciences, Larson found
near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists [including astronomers —Ebonmuse] it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers.
Eighty percent of NAS physicists and astronomers disbelieve in God - and, as Larson's paper (1998) shows, this number has actually risen over the decades.

===end quote by Ebonmuse===

In fact, the number of unbelievers or disbelievers in the general population, according to the latest Pew surveys is around 16%. Years ago Gallup was said to have counted 5% or less. So if numbers points to anything, perhaps defenders of "God" belief should keep an eye on smart people who are no longer swallowing their line unskeptically.

Glenn said...

Good grief John, are you begging for someone to put you in place? "Now run along"? For the love of God, John, you were made to look like someone who shouldn't even be int he debate circuit, and now you tell me to run along and tell Craig to be less selective in who he debates?

He can afford to be. You cannot. Big difference.

Narnian said...

John,

You didn't do well not only because you have no skills in debate but your arguments were poor. You actually made very few real arguments for anything and the ones you kept repeating were poorly constructed logically.

My advice for you is if you believe in atheism you should stop debating because more people will become theists by listening to your debates.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn,

You still didn't answer my question.

Does that mean you don't think D'Souza had good arguments and simply believe John lost due to style?

That seems a bit superficial from one with a Ph.D in Jesus and how that Ph.D is evidence of higher scholarship within the absolute truth of the universe.

Narnian,

I will refute your infantile inductive argument in a very simple way. John helped me debrief from Calvinism and, it was the comprehensive nature of his arguments that have helped me claim I am an atheist today.

John W. Loftus said...

Chuck, I think from the nature of Narnian's comment and the fact that his profile is unavailable that he is a Christian troll who is afraid of me and my arguments and trying to discourage me. Thanks for defending me. I don't think any skeptic who has read my work would be so harsh.

Chuck O'Connor said...

John,

I wonder if Glenn will ever get around to putting his Ph.D to use and let us know what arguments D'Souza had to defeat you?

Doubt it.

Love his soul patch though. He sure is one of them "edgy" Christians.

Glenn said...

Chuck, I'm sorry - who are you? You're acting like you warrant some attention.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn

Is that an answer to the question? Petty playground insults as a means of changing the point will not acquit yourself on this board. I am who I am and that is someone who sees you as presumptious and pretentious in claiming victory for D'Souza sans argument. Your Ph.D in superstition (ooops) "theology" places you in a unique position to be a learned public defender of Christendom (which you do at your edgy website. Did Jesus prefer the same type of handgun you endorse?). You arrogantly claim John lost. I want to know the arguments that led D'Souza to win because I'd like to see such a leading edge christian like yourself not be seen as just anothe garden variety superstitious narcissist claiming status he hasn't earned. As it stands I conclude you are an irrational egoist who has no good argument for your bluster.

Andre said...

John

I did litigation for nearly twenty years, and I still make my money arguing with people. If I had to make a list of say ten people who really impressed me over the years, and who did damn well in the process, there would be quite a few of them who were actually not great public speakers. The glitz and puffs of smoke that people like WellIAm Lame and others spout is like the polish on an old car - it makes it look good from a few yards away, but don't scratch the surface.

You did well. Your strong point is maybe not debates (or maybe just not yet). My strongest debates and arguments were always, without exception, based on the hard work of the backroom boys. Suck it up, not every slick operator speaks the truth, and not every speaker of the truth comes across like Cicero. Just ask Columbo :)

You play an invaluable role in the progress of reality over wishful thinking. See your strengths and play to it.

Regards

John W. Loftus said...

I'll say this about my speaking abilities. In the hot seat I tend to say "ahh" a lot. But am I confident? Hell yes! Remember, I'm willing to risk Pascal's Wager that I'm right. We'll see how my next debate goes, but I'm going to correct it. I know what I need to do.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Glenn . . .?

Glenn . . .?

Why don't you want to come out and play?

John W. Loftus said...

Chuck, you make me laugh! ;-)

Chuck O'Connor said...

LOL.

Narnian said...

John,

The problem that I saw was just that you had trouble articulating your arguments. The argument that they all argue about each other and you agree with them all when they fight with each other isn't really a good argument because someone could be right or they all could be wrong or since they could be squabbling over smaller issues then they could be just disagreeing over smaller issues but not the big ones. It really doesn't progress your argument whatsoever to state this because everyone agrees it is a fact that they disagree to some extent because they are all different systems of belief.

I believe in the debate you made this statement about nobody agreeing 3 or possible 4 times filling your time with this poor argument. I could give you some more compelling arguments against theism or the christian God.

My honest feeling is that your delivery and style need to be changed. I am a Christian so I know you suspect i am entirely biased but i have seen William Lane Craig lose debates before and I admit it.

Your delivery came across as cavalier with the hat and the demeanor. Then when listening to your arguments you came across to me anyway as a fundamentalist atheist. what I mean by that is the Dan Barker type that can't get it that not all Christians are fundamentalists.

There were several points that i felt you insulted christianity for no reason... the whole brainwashing thing is absurd... we all have predsupps and of course we are all products of our environment but you are talking to people that do understand some of the problems with their faith. I know where my religion is weak and I know wear it makes sense. I know these things because I've had a chance to analyze it. Using terms like brainwashing insults your audience.

I don't mean to insult you but I really think you should debate some lighter weight opponents that are newer to the arena. Sean McDowell did a fair job the other night but that would be a good debate because the person he debated didn't understand philosophy and I believe you do.

Narnian said...

I reread my comments and i think i was a bit nasty.

John my advice constructively would be:

Don't make too many points. Not that your audience is stupid... just that if you stick to 3-5 well argued points then it is better than 20 quickly argued points. I know this sounds obvious but it is something that William Lane Craig has mastered.

After your opponent gives his statements rebut them but do your best to do this in light of your arguments so that it ties together. I know this is very difficult and sometimes impossible but i saw some missed opportunities for you to do this. This allows you to elaborate on your arguments. I felt like you had some good arguments but never had time to fully explain them with enough examples or evidence to support them.

Don't make fun or insult your audience EVER. It's ok to poke fun at the argument itself but you will instantly alienate everyone if you insult the audience. Using condescending words like brainwashing is a no no, even if you do believe it... notice one of your first questioners said i am one of those "brainwashed" christians.

Don't ramble and never repeat your argument. What I mean by this is don't restate it the same way. Use new examples and use the opponents examples to show how your argument is true.

I felt you repeated your argument word for word sometimes.

My final word on this is that I do think all of this is difficult from your point of view because I don't really think Atheism/Materialism/Naturalism/Determinism really makes much sense in the way we interact daily so you have a hard challenge on your hand trying to defend it. Partially because it really doesn't have a core set of thoughts. It is by it's nature very vast or varied in its precepts.

It might be easier to take one specific philosophy and put it up against Christianity like Utilitarianism vs. Christianity but I suppose those aren't always opposed to each other. God even appears to be utilitarian.

I've seen humanists debate Christians but that has been worse than the debates with atheists.

If there was a set of philosophies that you actually lived by .... i actually think Social Darwinism would hold up quite well against Christianity... interesting to think about the most consistent and coherent philosophies.

Good luck in your next debate. I actually hope you do better so we can hear you articulate your arguments better. For me it's not about who wins or loses it's about what is Truth.

-God Bless or
Blessings from the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Chuck O'Connor said...

Narnian you said,

"My final word on this is that I do think all of this is difficult from your point of view because I don't really think Atheism/Materialism/Naturalism/Determinism really makes much sense in the way we interact daily so you have a hard challenge on your hand trying to defend it."

That wasn't the topic of the debate.

The topic was, "Does the Christian God exist?"

Did D'Souza answer this question?

David said...

The problem with debates is they need to be firmly anchored in a sort of visual fabric. Unless they are, the details serve to fragment the main point.

It would have been interesting to respond to the question by saying "Of course the christian god exists-that is, in the thoughts and beliefs of its followers. Unfortunately for those wishing to debate, no external proof has been found."

Given the purported magnitude of this being, it is beyond rational thought to suppose there is not empirical evidence of its existence today, now. I anxiously await the debater who will provide the proof of the christian god's living existence today. I am singularly uninterested in proofs from antiquity or hypotheses which cannot be tested or anecdotal evidence which cannot be verified by objective parties. Have at it.

The burden of proof is always on the believer, especially in the absence of compelling evidence. It should always be framed in that manner. "Go ahead, prove this impossibly omnipresent, omnipotent god's existence using evidence objective parties can validate. Be my guest."

Once this point of focus is lost, everything else can and will be thrown into the mix and the waters get muddied. The question is about existence, not about proving the nonexistence of something which doesn't exist.

AGS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AGS said...

John...

I just watched the debate and I'm surprised by some of your perceptions of it.

For instance you write that you "..wanted to play nice because people think of atheists as rude people...", but strangely fail to realize that generalizing an entire group of people as brainwashed is pretty insulting as well as ignorant.

Furthermore, you seem to be suggesting that D'Souza engaged in some kind of "filibuster" strategy to overpower your contentions. This is nonsense, as you surely know. Any reasonable assessment of the debate would have to conclude that D'Souza simply presented his arguments more coherently and in more depth.