Barker vs. Miravalle

Here’s the debate between Dan Barker and John-Mark Miravalle from ReasonFest ’11. Thanks to commenter Rich R for pointing it out.

Rich says of Miravalle, “The first 1/2 hour his tone of voice was something I could only call “argument by whining” for the existence of god.” Yeah, he’s trying too hard.

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  • Sunny Day

    It’s an Hour and 26 minutes long?

    I’m sorry I cant watch anything that long unless there’s explosions, gunfire, kissing or at the very least a poop joke in there somewhere.

  • Thin-ice

    Aaargh! WHY can’t people plug the audio directly into the camera, instead of letting the camera’s microphone pick up the room speakers? This sounds like the microphone is in the bottom of a rain barrel. I’ll try listening anyway, but don’t know how long I can take it . . .

  • Thin-ice

    Sorry, I tried, but 3 minutes into I simply could NOT bear the high, whiney, pleading tone of the theist . . .

  • Adam Brown

    We had several cameras… one had the audio cord plugged into it. This camera did not. Sorry. It’s a great debate… watch it. BLUE TRIANGLES and WATER BOTTLES prove god!!! LOL

    • Thin-ice

      And I did tune in later, and discovered that about 2/3 the way through they did get direct audio feed. I apologize, I didn’t mean to insult real people!

  • Scooter

    Wow, this is painful, the theist is a linguistic gymnast and just loves to contort language to try and support his “argument”.

  • MahouSniper

    What an arrogant ass. The entire time he’s just condescending towards everyone and raving about how awesome his own arguments are. He makes vague, nonsensical arguments, then scoffs at Barker when he has trouble understanding his drivel. By the end of the debate I just had a seething hatred for his smug little face.

    • Aaron Ross

      “hatred”? Interesting comment from an atheist who calls himself “sniper”.

      • Scooter

        Yes, we are allowed to hate too sometimes, just like the christians are ok with hating gays, jews, muslims, mexicans, etc, etc. Westboro Baptist ring a bell? Except in this case the “hatred” is an internet comment about a video, not the Spanish Inquisition, witch hunts, picketing funerals of dead solders, bombing abortion clinics, lynching gays, etc, etc…. after all it was John-Mark who admitted he would have no issue with killing Dan Barker, classy!

  • bigjohn756

    In any discussion like this, the higher the tone of voice the lower the confidence of the speaker in his argument. Clearly, John-Mark Miravalle knew he had no chance at the outset to win his point.

    • Aaron Ross

      The higher the tone of voice? What an interesting “argument”.

      But there could be other reasons than your pop psychology allows.

      Amusingly, since we are making personal attacks, I got a kick out of the part where Barker was caught speechless muttering, “well…uh…you know…”.

      Seriously, I was not impressed by either of them.

      I though this Barker was supposed to be a formidable fire breathing atheist, and all I saw up close at the book signing was a stoop shouldered old man.

      Frankly, I was not convinced by him, either.

      • Custador

        Your sarcasm filter seems to be broken.

      • Rich R

        If you were expecting a “fire breather” then I think the problem was with your expectations, not Dan. My only problem with him was that he stuck pretty much on script. This was pretty much what he always does, no “fire breathing” ever that I have noticed. He’s basically a decent, if stoop shouldered, middle aged man. Why would you expect different?

        At what point was he flummoxed? I don’t remember. There were several points were I had to stop and think “what the heck is he talking about?”, But I’m not sure what you mean specifically. I really don’t think there was any significant point where he would have been “stumped”. It’s reasonable to be confused at blue triangles equal god, and not have a ready response.

      • Ty

        “I though this Barker was supposed to be a formidable fire breathing atheist, and all I saw up close at the book signing was a stoop shouldered old man”

        Why is his age or the set of his shoulders a notable factor in whether he convinces you or not?

        • Custador

          Those things are clearly more important than a ridiculous high-pitched voice that’s audible only to bats. Honestly Ty, did you not know that?!

  • jeff c

    What the heck was that first argument? It sounded to me like “let’s assume that there are these platonic ideal forms, therefore god!”

  • drax

    Word games as the proof for god? How lame. He also did an awesome job at dodging questions that undermined his argument.

  • zach

    lol it’s like a family guy joke. just gettin higher and higher and higher…

    • LRA

      Really, Zach? It keeps getting higher? As in really high? Higher, Zach? Is that a fact, Zach? Really, really factual, Zach? Such a high, high voice, Zach? It keeps getting higher?


  • Pantomime

    I’m going to quote a comedian right now.
    “Throughout history
    Every mystery
    Ever solved has turned out to be
    Not Magic.”
    - Tim Minchin
    and again
    “Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
    Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.”
    - Tim Minchin

  • Aaron Ross

    Interesting ad hominems about John Mark and his voice.

    • Custador

      A man like that deserves to be mocked. Deal with it or leave.

    • Rich R

      I think it’s a valid criticism. He was attempting to score points with his whinging incredulity. It was a tactic he chose in leiu of an better argument.

    • jeff c

      It’s unfortunate, but that is the first thing that jumps out at you about the debate. I found it made it rather hard to listen to, actually. Hopefully it was just nerves, and his voice isn’t like that all the time.

    • Ty

      Yet another person who needs ‘ad hominem’ explained to them.

      Interesting fact: making note of an annoying speech pattern is NOT ad hominem.

      • Custador

        Aaron will not be replying, I’m afraid. He dropped several steaming piles of troll-shit and then told me to kiss his ass. I think you can guess what happened next.

        • Ty

          *Dr. Zoidberg voice*

          “They’re on to me!!!”

          *sprays ink all over the room and runs away*

  • Custador

    Isn’t it interesting that the more likely a person is to insist on being addressed as “doctor”, the less likely they are to have a doctorate in an actual real subject from an actual real institution?

    And WTF is up with this guy’s voice? It’s audible only to bats at some points. Never mind how laughable his arguments are – Multiple logical FAIL. Never mind that he goes off on the famous “MAGNETS! How the fuck do they WORK?!” track. This dude’s an idiot.

    Also: Did he remind anybody else of the camp air-traffic controller from Airplane?

  • ctmvw26k

    I watched the whole thing through and I honestly wasn’t impressed with either of the debaters. Dan got too caught up in the “essential” vs “non-essential” debate and ensuing confusion (which really could have been rebutted with something along the lines of “what makes anything essential? I agree humans or life in general aren’t essential, but neither is the universe or existence outright. How does that follow to proof of god?”) and got off the topic of “does god exist” a few too many times and into “is the bible right” and “which particular religion is right” topics.

    Mark-Paul on the other hand used confusing semantics and a slightly derogatory attitude while dodging questions about morality and evil.

    • Rich R

      I agree that Dan got a little side tracked there. But I like that he pointed out that “existence” is not a property as it was being used. this is where his argument basically sneaks in a “dividing by zero” type trick that props up the whole argument.

      It’s one reason I hate the long winded and confusing ways of proving god through philosophical talk. Often it comes down to the inadequacies of the rhetoric. The whole TAG argument seems to say more about how we use language (or maybe just english) than if there is a god. Some people love looking at these subtle points and finding where the premises let them down. I find it boring. I hadn’t heard the exact argument that Mr Miravalle used, but it seemed obvious that he was simply defining god and then looking for ways to make that definition work. Or something…blahblah blah blue triangle..

      If anyone can explain better what he was getting at, I’m actually curious now. I may have to listen again.

      • ctmvw26k

        His main point seems to be the only source for a “something” is “someotherthing” that possesses the non-essential features of the “something” essentially.

        He uses the magnet as an example. The nail only becomes magnetized (a non-essential feature of a nail) when it is contacted by the magnet itself (an essential feature of the magnet).

        Therefore, since a “something” is a non essential feature of the universe a “someotherthing” has to have been the source of the “something”.

        Lets go back to his example and look at the nail. What are the essential features of a nail? This is where his argument falls apart. A nail doesn’t have any physical essential features. We could have a slender pointy metal object driven through a piece of wood… or we could have a fat concrete blunt object driven through the ground. An object to be driven through another object is the only essential feature which is really nothing more then an idea.

        Since the essential feature is non physical it doesn’t really follow that the source of the nail is something that possesses the non-essential features of the nail essentially. What is the source of the nail? Is it the nail making machine? A nail making machine doesn’t really have to have the feature of “an object to be driven through another object”, the nail could just be poured into a mold. It could be a stick you pick up off the ground which requires no machine at all. A tree certainly is not defined by the statement “an object to be driven through another object”.

        So the source of the idea of a nail is the human brain. Does the human brain possess the feature “object to be driven through another object” essentially? I would say no. He may say thats because god is really the source of the nail. Then he is given the burden of proof that god possesses the feature of “object to be driven through another object” essentially.

        • Todd Roberts

          I think the best way to respond to his piss poor features garbage would have been to challenge his explanation of what constitutes a non essential feature. He uses the example of “blue” being a non essential feature of a blue triangle because no matter what color it was, it would always be a triangle. A blue triangle, however, is a distinct concept. A blue triangle cannot be red, so blue is an essential feature of a blue triangle. A blue triangle could also be described as a blue shape, so increasing two of the angles and adding another side would make a blue rhombus. In this example, as per his reasoning, the triangularity is a non essential feature. He seems to inexplicably place more relevance on certain properties of an object completely arbitrarily. The same can be said of his magnetic nail example. Why is its use as a nail more relevant than its status as a magnetic piece of metal? A magnetic nail must be both magnetic and a nail, they are both “essential” features.

        • Rich R

          Thanks for taking the time for that summary. I just keep thinking there must be more to it, but aparently not.

          • Eric

            I just listened to the debate, and I think Miravalle demolished Barker. Indeed, I think that it’s incontrovertible that Miravalle demolished Barker. Heck, Barker didn’t even seem to *understand* Miravalle’s arguments, let alone rebut them, while Miravalle patiently tore apart every relevant claim Barker made. Here’s an analogy: If you’re at all philosophically literate, listening to Barker’s attempts to rebut Miravalle is like a biologically literate person listenting to the most benighted young earth creationist attempt to rebut Dawkins on evolution. Seriously, it was that bad. I mean, Barker doesn’t even seem to understand what a ‘god-of-the-gaps’ argument is, and that was his main criticism!

  • Todd Roberts

    To address the question, “How can something come from nothing?”-

    It can’t. If the implication of this question is that something can’t come from nothing, therefore everything must have come from God, then the question becomes “Where did God come from?” Why could not all the matter in the universe simply be eternal? To say that all matter is eternal is not to make a claim which needs substantiating. Our present evidence demonstrates that matter cannot be created or destroyed. The onus is on the person claiming that matter was created in the first place.

    As an atheist it’s insulting that we have to cater to the religious crowd by entertaining arguments by way of counterfactualism. We must grant several ridiculous premises in order to delve into the scope of what a theist knows. What happens when an atheist’s premise is granted? Well, the debate is over.

    “If someone could show me a round square I’d lose my faith in God. That shows how difficult your case is and how strong mine is.” What? This fucking moron is allowed to speak on behalf of others, and they’re okay with it? I think we atheists are far too polite and far too accomodating.

  • Todd Roberts

    Another thing:

    Despite popular opinions, ad hominems do NOT necessarily take away from the validity of a statement. Consider the two alternatives:

    1. Dinosaurs existed, sir.
    2. Dinosaurs existed, you ignorant shitbag.

    Which statement is correct? They both are, and you deserve to be called an ignorant shitbag if you disagree.

  • runty_cactus

    Is there a transcript available?

  • Romanspwnedjesus

    “Since you can’t add to infinity, our existence is NO ADDITION to god’s existence” If you can’t add to God’s existence, God is the only thing that can exist.

    “Our existence is a share in the being of God” People cannot share the existence of God unless we are part of God, hence it being the existence OF God.

    John-Mark has resorted to nonsense Panentheism to argue against an ex-nihilo beginning. It’s crazy that nobody picked that up. Also, if things can’t exist as an addition to God, the source of evil must be part of God. Therefore, Miravalle’s God must be evil, something John-Mark rejects.

    PATHETIC ARGUMENT. John-Mark is an even bigger clown than Dan’s previous opponent Kyle BUTT.