Dissecting Frank Turek in October.

Now, I love all my speaking gigs.  But every now and again one will come in that really makes daddy smile.

Frank Turek is the author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.   IDHEFTBAA is one of the books religious people will most frequently try to get you to read after you’ve crushed their arguments.  Once upon a time I offered to read it if the believer would then read The End of Faith.

Did I ever get the short end of that stick on that deal.  The book was horrible!  There was so much wrong with the book that even the review I wrote on the intro is incredibly lengthy.  Literally almost every paragraph was full of inaccurate facts and poorly reasoned conclusions from those inaccurate facts.

Well, on October 2nd Frank Turek will be speaking at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.  I will attend that talk with the Secular Student Alliance of Missouri S&T and then the following night, Wednesday the 3rd, I will give a talk dismantling Turek’s.  I confess I’m practically salivating waiting for this one.  :)

Details to follow as I have them.  It’ll be free to get in and I assume there will be good atheist after-talk fun both nights.

For a preview on what to expect from Turek, here you go.  Hope you like arguments from ignorance.

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://helikonios.wordpress.com Heliconia

    Did the believer you were debating hold up their end of the bargain and read The End of Faith? I’d love to hear what their reaction was.

  • Baal

    oy vey
    I just listened to Frank’s opening. What a mess. I kept hearing groans in my head at his arguments – exactly the noise Kif makes in Futurama. You’re to take collectively 3 big arguments and 4 observations of the material world and then go *poof* therefor god. Not just any god (though his arguments are one sized fits all god) but the xtian bible god (presumably the new testament one).
    He starts by saying he must go fast since there is so much to say!!!(gallop, gallop faster faster) He does this while YELLING AT YOU. It was exhausting. Also, pro-tips for the christian apologists you don’t get to cite atheists or scientists who are atheist / agnostic for your side regardless of the words they used. The words invariably mean something other than what you’re using them for once you look at the context.
    I had a hard time understanding his arguments generally. He seemed to start with The Cosmological Argument, Fine Tuning and then he cut short a supposed “Morality Argument” (which is odd since he had 2 minutes (10%) of his time left. He then moved onto his observations; brain chemicals are untrustworthy (doubt yourself), abstractions aren’t material yet they exist contrary to materialism (reasoning and math are parts of a set that includes god), material determinism means you can’t have freedom of choice (really?) (god must exist to give you the ability to choose!), and lastly, material determinism would not allow for consciousness (again, really? also, this is point 3 restated) (you’re conscious therefor god). He also threw in a lot of jokes – the only actually funny one was the one he stole from Hitch (it’s in his intro so he knew to lead with his best (stolen) material). He then wrapped up this mess by demanding Hitch must disprove everything or he loses (frank’s been listening to too much de’souza).

    Were god to exist, I would expect his followers to do better than this. The core of most of his arugments were word games where the same word was used for different meanings but treated as the same meaning.

    ps – did you know that DNA was so complex that it couldn’t have come from biology (farce, the biology on this pretty good, cf “the RNA world”). Since it wasn’t from biology, it must be from god! (more than that, it’s gods words given to us! (thanks god it’s very readable…).

  • John Eberhard

    Turek presents horrible arguments and does use the same word to switch back and forth between meanings. I think what I found most disgusting—there were a lot of nominees for “most disgusting”—was his intentional pretense that when scientists or atheists used common metaphors that they were meant literally. Ugh.

    • Amyc

      “Equivocation” is one of the most often used weapons from the apologists’ arsenal–right up there with the “argument from ignorance.”

    • http://leftinlowell.com Mr. Lynne

      There needs to be some kind of Turek drinking game. I seems his favorite words are ‘materialistic worldview’ and he loves to draw many assumptions about what other people must think because of what his limited understanding of the subject lets him conclude.

  • Loqi

    The whole “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” line has always confused me. Aren’t believers always trying to convince us that faith is a good thing? Then isn’t it counter to their argument to decry us for having too much faith?

    • tubi

      Faith only a good thing if it’s faith in the thing they insist you have faith in.

      Faith in anything else is misguided, arrogant, presumptuous, wayward, and wrong.

    • John Horstman

      That presumes an internally-consistent value system and epistemology. The religious are necessarily, though certainly not uniquely, adept at maintaining impressive levels of cognitive dissonance, and functioning while doing so.

  • PhysicsPhDstu

    Hi JT
    In your review you speak about Quran 5:71 but is not 72 or 73 more appropriate ? (attached 69-76)

    [5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in GOD and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

    [5:70] We have taken a covenant from the Children of Israel, and we sent to them messengers. Whenever a messenger went to them with anything they disliked, some of them they rejected, and some they killed.

    [5:71] They thought that they would not be tested, so they turned blind and deaf, then GOD redeemed them, but then many of them turned blind and deaf again. GOD is Seer of everything they do.

    [5:72] Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah himself said, “O Children of Israel, you shall worship GOD; my Lord* and your Lord.” Anyone who sets up any idol beside GOD, GOD has forbidden Paradise for him, and his destiny is Hell. The wicked have no helpers

    [5:73] Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is a third in a trinity. There is no god except the one god. Unless they refrain from saying this, those who disbelieve among them will incur a painful retribution.

    [5:74] Would they not repent to GOD, and ask His forgiveness? GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

    [5:75] The Messiah, son of Mary, is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate!

    [5:76] Say, “Would you worship beside GOD powerless idols who can neither harm you, nor benefit you? GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.”

  • ACN

    Heh heh heh.

    While it sounds like you got the short end of the reading stick, I suspect you’re getting the long end of the speaking stick.

    Any chance there will be audio/video of either talk?

  • John Horstman

    Well, apologetics is definitionally the practice of attempting to square preconceived notions with material realities that contradict (or at least appear to contradict) those preconceptions (literally “a defense”, which necessarily presupposes the conclusion one wishes to defend); by its very nature, apologetics does not allow for one to simply be mistaken about one’s premise, which creates a strong incentive to lie outright or be otherwise intellectually dishonest in the case one actually is wrong (e.g. the Yahweh hypothesis and its concomitant-in-the-Christian-worldview Jesus hypothesis). Why anyone would self-identify as an apologist is beyond me.

    It also highlights the difference between science and faith. Science freely admits the possibility of being wrong; in fact, the entire practice is predicated on the idea that we’re always at least a bit wrong and don’t know everything (if we did, there would be no reason to continue to refine existing theories or explain the unknown; Science Accomplished!). Faith necessarily refuses the possibility of being wrong, which is especially awkward when one realizes that, even if human’s WERE continuously in contact with a divine being (as we are with the material world in our everyday lives), there’s no reason we couldn’t simply be very, very wrong in our interpretation of such a being (as we have been and continue to be with respect to the material world; accuracy becomes even more suspect with the self-serving ideas advanced by many religious leaders: we KNOW already that people lie – or even unconsciously confabulate self-serving narratives, as is the case with not-cynical persons claiming that entitled, lazy people are a massive drain on public resources in contradiction of the evidence – to further their own self-interest, while we don’t know anyone is talking to any gods, making the former significantly more likely).

  • panamafloyd

    Absolutely astonishing. Turek’s closing comment (Starting at 2:04 or so?) seem to be a complete concession that the “existence question” is not even worthy of rational discussion.

    It also seems that Turek loves his strawmen so much that he’ll throw himself on a (virtual) grenade for them. How old is this video? I see that Hitchens still had hair when it was recorded. If Turek hasn’t changed his rhetoric (or at the least, learned not to yell), this will not go well for him.

    Also, if Turek *hasn’t* changed his rhetoric (go look at newer videos to check for it), brush up on neurobiology. Even what little bit this layman has read about it gave me pause to make a full-tilt r/atheism style Picard “WTF” meme moment at Turek’s inability to understand the difference between the existence of individual atoms & molecules, and their ability to function together in reality. Jeez, some of his crap was like saying you can’t put a glass on top of a table because the table’s not solid enough to keep the glass from passing through it.

  • pjmaertz

    I miss Hitchens :’(.

    But seriously, Turek’s “but… but… morality, therefore not just God, but the very specific God who is into genocide and torturing his own children” is so stupid, it makes my brain hurt. I very much look forward to your demolition of this douche.

    • http://leftinlowell.com Mr. Lynne

      We’ve heard it from Matt that it surprises him how many times he shows up to a debate and the morality issue becomes the central point of contention – even in debates where the stated question of the debate had little to do with it. I figure they keep coming back to it because actual scientific inquire into our morality (and animals’) has been relatively recent. In this way Comfort is kind of a throw-back in that he doesn’t really confront the morality issue and brings up design and evolution a lot.

    • astro

      You know what would be great to intall at these ‘debates’? A fucking decibel meter. So much of the deliveries from Turek and D’Souza are based on sheer shreak-volume. I’maging how much crazier their arguments would sound delivered in a normal voice. The screaming is actually a better match for the c0ntent of their arguments.

  • JHendrix

    I just watched that debate, was the first time I’ve seen it.

    I really like Hitchens, but he was almost all rhetoric, and didn’t address the (shitty) arguments Turek threw out there. Each one of those deserves straight out answers to point out exactly where what’s wrong. If I was in the audience, I’d have to say that Hitchens really didn’t address the arguments, and I’m on his side!

    1.) Cosmological – Point out the equivocation on “nothing”, Turek doesn’t think “nothing” exists at the big bang, since he thinks God exists. Turek contradicts himself when he asserts “something can’t come from nothing, nothing ever could!” (or something to that effect), since he’s certainly not saying his god is “nothing”. Point out that scientists, including all the ones he cited, have defined “nothing” as the quantum vacuum, and all the evidence for the Big Bang points to is the beginning of our space-time universe.

    2.) Teleological: Physics – Point out that the supposed facts about not being able to adjust the constants the tiniest of a fraction either are assuming the other constants are all held static, or that they’re tuning that only our type of life forms could come about. When all the constants that we know of are in play, there are a wide variety of “settings” that allow for the universe to form, perhaps with different rules, and different life forms, but it’s not something tuned to the 10 to the 23489273409817234th degree as her says.

    3.) Teleological: Biology – Point out that the most basic forms of life don’t require the massive amount of information, just enough to self-replicate, and we don’t think DNA started, we think polypeptides and protein chains are what started things off, then to RNA, then to DNA. Abiogenesis is still being developed, but we can have these basic proteins of life arise from purely chemical reactions out of “non life” in lab conditions, and we’re still working to identify an explanation.

    Similarly point out that while deficiencies in our design don’t necessarily rule out a “designer”, but they do count against a “perfect designer”, and the evidence fits more clearly with the fact that we evolved from natural processes instead of being put here by a “perfect designer”.

    4.) Morality – Give a basic account of one of the many secular objective moral systems. We can start with the basic Descartes style “I exist, logic exists, I have experiences” absolute certainties, then move towards accepting basic premises like the existence of the external world & other minds, and then from those propositions, we can use logic to build up vast swathes of morality that is objective.

  • http://teethofthebuzzsaw.blogspot.com Buzz Saw

    Hey, JT. Have fun. I agree that book is terrible. It contains a number of contradictions as well…but some of the contradictions are spread out. In Chapter 2, they (there are two authors, Norman Geisler is a co-author) criticize Eastern logic for having special “both-and” logic. While I’m in agreement with them, they later, in Chapter 13, claim that the Trinity is “beyond reason.” And their “beyond reasoning” sounded a whole heck of a lot like that Eastern logic they criticized. (Their claim is that Jesus was both human and God.)
    Anyway, I’ve been slowly* going through chapter by chapter with my objections…since my wife bought the book because one of her Christian friends was concerned about her soul being corrupted by me…or something. If you’re interested at all, you can find all related posts here.

    * My wife does not seem to have a strong interest in actually reading it, so I have little motivating me to finish.


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