Texas Debate

Here is the rough video of the debate between Dillahunty/Eberhard vs. Ferrer/Sloan at this year’s North Texas Secular Student Conference.  Thanks to the organizers for getting it up!

Dillahunty killed it, but it was not my strongest performance.  My pace had to be fast due to our team’s strategy, but I could’ve slowed it down just a little bit.

I’ll have my analysis of the debate up hopefully on Monday.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.atheist-experience.com Matt Dillahunty

    I’d say the exact opposite is true, but I think we’re both our own worst critics.

    • http://haphazardhermit.blogspot.com/ michaeld

      Aww that’s not true there are some Christians out there who think you both did really awful jobs. :P

  • fastlane

    So I got about 25 mins in…. I’d like to see a transcript of this, but the second guy speaking makes no sense whatsoever. Yet, he asserts that ‘this logically follows from ‘ and claims up front that all arguments have been dealt with in advance.

    Wow, that’s a combination of hubris and flat out wrong that I haven’t seen in a long time.

  • http://atheistlogic.wordpress.com OmniZ

    Oh, awesome, I was just wondering about this yesterday! :D

    Something to look forward to when I get home from work…

    This gives me the same anticipatory glee as other awesome crossover/team-ups like when Xena and Hercules teamed up, or Buffy went over to Angel, or something else awesome that has two guys so I don’t feel like I’m implicitly misgendering one of you.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

    Holy crap. Their 10 minute intro is as close to fractally wrong as one can achieve.

  • Loqi

    Yikes. Made it to 11 minutes and had to stop the video before I give myself a concussion from the facepalms. Based on fastlane’s comment, I presume it only gets worse from there. I just can’t bring myself to watch the rest of the debate for fear of permanent damage to my IQ.

    • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

      I just don’t have the patience for Gish gallops.

      I’ve been known to drop everything and go write rebuttal blog posts at the first incorrect thing the theist says.

  • DocBioBrown

    Apparently both Ferrer and Sloan didn’t understand that your first statements were in fact your opening statements, not rebuttals to what they said.

  • freebird

    It seems to me that the pro-god side did a very awful job of distinguishing between a deist god and the Christian god. I think it’s useful to point out that you can’t have it both ways – that if someone uses the moral argument, ask them to name a specific example of a moral law and respond by pointing out that all moral laws predate Christianity and the moral laws introduced by Christianity are not moral. Ask a question like, “is it moral to force a woman to carry a stillborn fetus to term?”

    If they want to invoke supernatural creator, clarify their position on exactly how that creator manifests itself at the creation of the universe (is the creator made of matter, or is it immaterial?). How did the creator interact with the nothing to create matter.

    I’m certainly not a debater and I think you both did a wonderful job, but I think it’s worth it to ask lots of specific questions, and in light of the non-answers you will get, ask further how the supernatural can have better explanatory power when the only answers it provides raise far more questions.

  • daemonowner

    I think their strategy was to break Matt’s wrist. So much stupid shit to say, so little time to write it down.

  • daemonowner

    You know how people keep saying “Oh, you guys only take the dumbass callers on the show”, well these guys are every bit as bad as those noobs who call in.

  • daemonowner

    JT, did you refer to a hominid species that died because of large brain size? I haven’t heard anything like that, which species would that be?

    • John Horstman

      Neanderthals had a slightly larger endocranial capacity than H. sapiens sapiens, and ‘died out’ as a distinctly-identifiable species/subspecies (there is pretty good evidence that they interbred with contemporary humans in Europe, but the genetic evidence doesn’t suggest that they were absorbed into the Cro-Magnon population – the Wiki article has sourced, up-to-date info on the recent genetic studies). Larger cranial capacity could be a disadvantage as it makes birth more dangerous for both woman/mother and fetus/infant.

    • John Horstman

      By the way, I’m not far into the debate, so I’m not sure what the context of your question is – this may have had nothing to do with it.

  • daemonowner

    Hey! We can throw out so many stupid possibly designed things that you can’t disprove them all! And all it takes is just one of them to be true don’t ya know – 1 out of all those dumb little arguments.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole

    I watched it all last nite. I have to tell you the affirmative team lost me many many times due to their vocabulary. Native English speaker and 31 years old, but as an associates degree holder I just was lost. At times they just went into academia and my common-person mind went wandering. To me, it sends up sounding like they are mumbling some word salad babble and not coherent sentences.

    I think many atheists who speak publicly have an amazing way of explaining concepts that are otherwise difficult to understand to the common person. Never before did I have such an admiration for science as I have the past couple years being a more active atheist. It was because much science was “over my head.” But listening to you explain certain concepts like “if this room was the universe” BAM! I get it!

    I am very thankful that folks like you and Matt are out there debating, so folks like me who are not articulate have a voice.

  • Ray

    Is there or will there be an audio only version of the debate? I prefer to have these on my mp3 player when possible.

    • Mutsumi

      You could use one of the youtube downloader thingys, and just take the audio.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

    The last “self evident truth” the affirmative gave during the QA was: “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” (If I remember right).

    That’s not a self evident truth – that’s a declaration.

    He may as well have said that all swans are white is a self evident truth. But that’s only for those swans we’ve seen so far. It’s the same problem of proving a negative – that there no non-white swans, or in this case, that there aren’t thinks without causes.

  • MichaelD

    “the following 10 lines of evidence….” ffs gish gallop 10 minutes in.

  • Metaphysical Ham Sandwich

    JT, you calling them out on whining about not being addressed in your opening statement was priceless. I would not have been able to refrain from cheering either.

    • Metaphysical Ham Sandwich

      Also, some people might call your style frantic, but you’re the first person I’ve ever seen in any debate to actually address what the opponents say, line by line. Kudos.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

        It’s frantic for strategy. We anticipated the William Lane Craig approach of throwing out a gajillion arguments and then pointing out that we didn’t get to ALL of them.

        We wanted Matt to be able to take his time and take a scalpel to them, which means I needed to get through as many of their arguments as possible to give Matt, the anchor of our team (even I know where most of the talent on our team was sitting), time to do his thing.

        I think it worked.

        • MichaelD

          I think it worked well too at least as well as anything can work against a slew of points like that in a spoken debate. Also at the end there you weren’t the only one that didn’t understand everything they were saying.

  • NotAProphet

    I have to admit to not having finished watching it, as I’ve had to watch it in chunks around my life, but I sure hope one of you brings him up on the “bouncing basketball” thing.

    This is a perfect example of the problem of using our human experience as the basis for understanding concepts so large we have never, and could never, experience(d) them.

    The basketball analogy is fallacious as it is not a closed system; the energy of the bouncing basketball does not diminish per se, it merely goes to something other than powering the rebound of the ball. Some goes to moving the air out of the way, creating pressure waves which we perceive as sound, but much goes to heat, heating the ball, the air inside and around the ball, and the ground on which is bounces, finally some of it goes to moving the earth in the conservation of momentum (albeit the resultant movement is imperceivable, due to the huge disparity in mass, and the elasticity of the earth, so the energy again ends up as heat). All of existence cannot be like this bouncing ball, as there is no open system surrounding “everything” for the energy to go off into. Pressure waves and heat are not conducted without a medium, momentum cannot be conserved by something without mass; if absolutely everything collides and rebounds then there will be no diminishment in the total energy of the system, ergo no “bouncing down”.

    All this is not to mention the fact that the energy lifting the basketball in the first place also came from within the total closed system of “everything”.

    Thus this argument seems very persuasive on the face of it, for those trying to apply human intuition to situations far outside it’s purview, but is ultimately wrong.

    • NotAProphet

      I was glad to see that someone in the Q&A did indeed pick the affirmative side up on the basketball analogy. The affirmative side’s response was to suggest that claiming the universe was a closed system was begging the question, whereas claiming the universe is not a closed system, given the assumption of the existence of god as something outside of the ‘everything’, is clearly not, in any way, begging the question.

      Look gents, we can demonstrate the basketball bouncing is not a closed system. The universe ‘bouncing’ may or may not be. You comparing it to a basketball bouncing (which we know is not a closed system) is pretty much the very definition of begging the question.

      You accusing the gentleman who picked you up on this of begging the question is hypocrisy.


  • MichaelD

    Dragons are the greatest mythical animal….. thus dragaons exist!

    addendum …. My dragon possibly exists thus… My dragon exists!

    cough there large chunk of my afternoon gone but its all done.

  • John Horstman

    Oh good, nothing makes me think a debate is going to be undertaken in good faith quite so much as deploying the silencing tactic of tone trolling right off the bat… *eyeroll*

    Unfortunately (fortunately!) this looks to be a long one, so I’ll have to pick it up later.

  • NotAProphet

    I think I may be in love with the lady who implied with her question that not holding lions to our same moral standard, were it given by god, would be moral relitivism, not across culture but across species.

    Kudos to you ma’am, you cut to the core, and the affirmative side’s hesitant word-salad only affirms just how right you were!

  • brianpansky

    did the affirmative say that he was ok with morality being relative to god (measured with god as the starting point of reference)? But then, earlier he said that it could not be sound if it was measured relative to humans?

    So is god his “ought” that exists in nature, but the human condition isn’t?

    Still sounds like god could change his mind tomorrow and say that suffering is good, so that would be our new objective morality…