Want to win a book?

I’m once again on the road.  Today I’m flying into St. Louis from which I’ll be driven to Springfield, MO so I can debate Bill Victor tonight over whether or not god exists.  It’ll be fun to be back on the campus I attended for so many years.  The debate will be at 7pm at the Baptist Student Union on the MSU campus.

Victor apparently has a doctor of divinity degree, so I think he’ll at least use:

1.  First cause/Kalaam
2.  Moral argument
3.  Argument from complexity

So here’s the game: in the comments leave three arguments you think he’ll use and be willing to give me your email address.  The first commenter who gets it right will be contacted by me and I will send them a book of my choosing.  I’ll even doodle something inside the cover.

Bonus points if you also explain in your own words why one of those arguments sucks.

After that it’s back to Columbus briefly to speak to the Humanist Community of Central Ohio on Saturday.  Then I depart for two weeks to debate morality at Reasonfest (on the same team as Matt Dillahunty, so I plan to get a good nap in) and then again all by my lonesome in Santa Cruz on the UCSC campus.  More details to come, but right now my plane is boarding.  Delta.  My favorite.

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.

  • Jarrod Holiday

    first cause/teological
    -if god can can exist forever, why not the universe?

    -if you can’t win minds, go for hearts

    pascal’s wager
    -because fuck you

  • pjmaertz

    I don’t know much about this guy, but with a divinity doctorate I don’t believe he’ll use Pascal’s wager. I’m guessing he will answer the question of evil with “free will”, and that the Courier’s argument will come up in some form or another at least once. Kalam/first cause or the morality argument followed by a nice gish gallop are a sure thing. Hopefully it gets recorded so we can check it out!

  • http://skepticalimerick.blogspot.com/ Rich Stage

    He’ll use the first cause argument, completely without irony. Because everything that happens has to have a cause. Except, of course, God. Because God’s straight pimpin’.

    Then he’ll switch to the Argument from Design. Everything that we make has a designer, therefore everything in nature has a designer. Including cancer, which I think was kind of a dick move.

    Finally, he’ll go for the ol’ Argument from Anecdote. It’s real to them, therefore it’s scientific. And, as we all know, the plural of anecdote is data.

    Also, the talk in C’bus is on Saturday, the 13th. Let me know if you need a lift again.

    • Besomyka

      Oh, how I hope JT interjects by quoting your “Because God’s straight pimpin’”.

  • http://travbaker.wordpress.com Trav Baker

    1. Kalam/First cause argument – Even if you accept it’s conclusion, it still doesn’t demonstrate a god.
    2. Moral Argument – It’s just a bunch of philosophical babble.
    3. Resurrection of Jesus – Because magic.

    Btw, anyone there should take a shot every time Hitler or Stalin is mentioned. It really is quite fun.

  • Katet

    I tried to find the most compelling, rational arguments I could since he’s so educated. I couldn’t come up with… well, one. So I lose.

    By the way, I can’t find the event info on their website. Do you know if this debate is open to the public, or if there is a price for admission?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It is open to the public and it’s free. It’s also tonight, not tomorrow. Whoops!

      • Katet

        Sweet, I can actually make it to this one! See you there.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You’re going to debate this guy and you don’t know what arguments he will use?

    • Jasper

      Unlike the typical Christian, JT can’t read minds.

      There’s a difference between knowing the arguments, and knowing which ones the person may use on the spot.

      Arguably, it’s better that way anyway, so it’s not so formulaic. We should be good enough to address any arguments as they come in.

  • neatospiderplant

    First cause. (I feel bad explaining why this argument sucks yet again, since it’s been thoroughly chewed up on this blog in the last few days. It would just be redundant at this point.)

    Anecdote. (Depends on what the anecdote is, but if you think you saw/felt something, our perceptions are far from perfect. If you or someone you know recovered from some illness against the odds, could be misdiagnosis or spontaneous remission. If you had a prayer that was answered, confirmation bias)

    And how about…Argument from ignorance. (Just because you can’t think of an alternative explanation doesn’t mean there isn’t one.)

    • Adam

      I hate when theists talk about how God saved them from some disease/disability. Why does God prefer you and not the literally millions of others suffering from a similar problem?

      • neatospiderplant

        Theists making the claim they were cured might say that the millions of other sufferers don’t have enough faith, didn’t pray/worship correctly or that their being cured was part of a divine plan.

        Really, the possibilities are endless when you are making shit up.

        • Rain

          What I love about religion is that any time you think you have a good point, like for example why doesn’t god grow limbs on people, someone will blissfully declare that god does indeed do that! And resurrects people all the time too! They can just blissfully say any old crap they feel like. It’s a great racket.

  • Jasper

    I bet 100 faith dollars (doesn’t really exist) that he’ll go with morality first.

  • Adam

    First cause argument
    -only establishes a cause of the universe to exist. It doesn’t imply a conscious one(God)
    Moral argument
    -Why is what God says inherently good?
    Argument from design/complexity
    -God’s a shitty designer, and there are plenty of examples of complexity coming form something simple(stars and snowflakes for example.)

    • RowanVT

      This is what I love to bring up whenever someone mentions complexity/intelligent design-

      The urogenital system of the male sheep.

      They have an extra bit on the end of their penis, an extension of the urethra, quite literally the size of a cocktail straw. A 200lb animal has to pee through a cocktail straw for no apparent reason. AND if they eat plants high in calcium, like alfalfa, they frequently make bladder stones…. which frequently get stuck in that tiny extension. This causes a blockage they cannot pee around and leads eventually to the rupturing of the bladder and death if not caught quickly. The usual treatment is to cut that dangly bit off and hope the stone was there and the only one.

      Our school sheep had another one higher up and his bladder ruptured while we were desperately trying to save him. Had to euthanise our sweetest sheep. Because of a damn stupid ‘design’.

  • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Careful, he’s got a doctor of divinity degree. He could beat you… about the head with a framed copy of his degree.

  • muadib

    - Kalam

    -Fine Tuning

    -Objective morality

    Im going to guess he goes with the William Lane Craig trifecta. I will bet he argues that we cannot use science to test the divine.

  • Kevin Schelley

    I think it’s just going to be Morality all the way down.

  • Rikitiki

    He’ll use:

    Argumentum popularum (hope I’ve got that right): if this many people believe it, then it must be right.
    He’ll cite Josephus & Tacitus – bad argument since Josephus is bogus, having been likely altered to highlight Jesus’s divinity by later scribes; Tacitus talks about the early Christian sect; and neither was contemporary with the time Jesus lived anyway.
    And he’ll cite the gospel “authors” as eyewitnesses even though the gospels were not written by Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John – good reference book: “Who Wrote the Gospels”

    • Katet

      Holy crap, are you a time traveler? The debate wasn’t even over the topic JT thought it was (It was actually over whether or not the story of Jesus’ resurrection is believable, not whether god exists), but you still nailed basically every one of his arguments.

      Enjoy that book.

  • Loqi

    Argument from ignorance x3. Does that count? No? Damn.

    Teleological – argument sucks for many reasons, but the quickest rebuttal is that uncaused things happen all the time. If the good doctor isn’t aware of this, perhaps he should have gone into a respectable field like physics. I’d honestly respect a bachelor’s in cupcakeology more than a doctorate in divinity. A fake field that studies something that does exist always trumps a real field that studies something that doesn’t.
    Ontological – I hesitate to predict this one because it’s so frail that one would have to be an idiot to use it (which explains its popularity). The devil corollary and the no-devil corollary both work, and the existance of the two highlights another issue with it – the definition of “greatness” is so murky as to be useless. For example, one who overcomes a great handicap to perform an amazing feat would be greater than someone who did not have to overcome such a handicap. Yet if god has to overcome a handicap, how can he be perfect? There’s also the internal incoherence of qualities that might make up a perfect and omnipotent being. Hell, omnipotence on its own is incoherent.
    Moral – Easy. Nobody can prove that objective morals exist. If objective morals exist and Christianity has them, why have they changed so much? Yet another argument that failed when the church stopped burning heretics.

    • Loqi

      Wish I would have phrased some of that better. “Fake field that studies something real trumps a real field that studies something fake” might have been a little better. Unfortunately I’m on a phone, and I haven’t found a browser that handles text areas well, so I try to make as few edits as possible (also why my comments are typically shorter during the daytime).

    • Robert B.

      I’ve tried explaining to people that “causality” is a local approximation that you can’t trust even a little talking about something like the Big Bang. Even atheists with science backgrounds tend to stare at me blankly and come back with “I don’t believe you.”

  • Glodson

    Argumentum ex culo.

  • Otrame

    Kalam, moral, complexity.

    Or, as I like to call them, silly, sillier, and silliest.

    • Otrame

      By complexity I meant design, in case I wasn’t being clear. Definitely silliest.

  • Drew

    I’m going to go out a limb here. I think my picks are low odds, well 2 of 3, but I’m the only one who’ll guess them so if they’re right I win!

    1 First Cause/Kalam
    2 TAG
    3 Argument from Near Death Experiences

    I don’t need the bonus points so I won’t bother typing in the rebuttals (I’m lazy and at work).

  • invivoMark

    Isn’t it just depressing that holding a doctorate in theology makes you more likely to use the really really bad First Cause argument, not less?

    Anyway, I’m gonna go with:
    1) First Cause
    2) Presuppositionalism
    3) Sensus divinitatus (the argumet that we all “feel” a god; it’s true because “I just know it’s true”)
    Oh, and why is the First Cause argument bad? Because Glodson. :-)

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Argumentum ad Glodson :)

      • Loqi

        I wanted to just put a link to Glodson’s takedown, but I felt that would be lazy. Probably overkill as well. Since the first premise is wrong, you can’t build an argument on it. No sense going further.

        • Glodson

          The thing is that I asked for evidence originally, an argument was tossed out for me.

          And I’m still arguing over it.

  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/christianmythicists/ phil

    I’ll be there hoping to shake the first Springfield Freethinkers hand I shook yet again. I’m launching an atheist/ Christian debate group here in Springfield. Your friends have adequately covered my anticipated arguments for the Christian side. Good Luck! I hope to buy YOUR first book when I can.

  • Dustin

    First Cause
    Pascal’s Wager – In place of providing proof of the postulation, the person who proposes Pascal’s Wager provides a promise of peril. Not only that, but Pascal’s Wager applies equally to other [absurd] claims that threaten a negative consequence for a lack of belief. For example, if I tell you I’m a witch, you might say you don’t believe me. I might then inform you that anyone who does not believe that I’m a witch will be turned into a newt, and what have you got to lose by believing me?

  • sisu

    Let’s see… I’ll go with First Cause, Ignorance (science doesn’t know everything!!), and morality.

  • Rain

    I predict he will twist it into evidence for Christianity, and that “fulfilled prophesies” will be in there. As well as other amazing Bible evidences.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

    Hmm. I think:
    1) First Cause, but dressed up fancily.
    2) Without God there is no morality.
    3) You can’t disprove the notion of a God.

    My reasons why these are bad arguments:
    1) First Cause has been taken down so many times. If everything has a cause, God must have a cause as well. Why does everything even have to have a cause, as we know not everything actually does. You cannot make the logical leap from “first cause” to any specific deity or even generic notion of a deity.
    2) We know you can have morality without God. First, empirically, people who are non-religious are no worse than people who are religious. Second, which religion’s morality triumphs? Why is it immoral to sacrifice your child to win a war (saving hundreds, thousands, or millions of other children), if you truly believe it’s effective? Why is it immoral to pray over a dying child, if you think God wants you to eschew modern medicine? If we can know, intuitively, that these things are horrible, then we don’t need God or religion to tell us so. Third, religion actually can impede morality, because people will do all sorts of really horrible things because “God wants them to”. Religion isn’t required to make people do horrible things, but it sure helps sometimes. It is illogical to conclude that the God who causes morality also causes and condones immorality.
    3) That is technically correct. The notion of some sort of untestable, incorporeal, outside of space and time being exists is not disprovable. However, if someone makes a claim (God exists and has certain characteristics), ze must be prepared to offer evidence to support that claim. This evidence may not be self-referential (the Bible is right out, in other words). Personal feelings are also out, as human brains are notoriously unreliable when it comes to making patterns out of randomness. They are also untestable. Ze must, of course, provide some sort of testable conditions for one’s God and Its characteristics. In other words, this argument (can’t disprove God) is true but irrelevant. The burden of proof lies with the deist.

  • Glodson

    So which terrible and stupid argument did the guy pull from deep within his culo?

  • Katet

    Basically his argument was that there have been other messianic movements, but after their prophet died, they all ended except Christianity, so it must be different somehow. After JT reminded him that just because something is different it is not necessarily true, he fell back on ad populum and arguing from faith. There was a brief foray into the “god is immune from scientific inquiry” argument, but JT put that down pretty quick. But be sure to watch about an hour or so in. There was a particular moment regarding the danger of blind faith that JT set up like a pro, and Dr. Victor stepped in it HARD. Never has a communal wince been so tangible.