Monday, October 15, 2012

Debating the Atheist -- My Closing Comments


Final Reflections
Pastor Stephen Feinstein

Below is Russell Glasser's final response in this debate:

Russell's Final Response
Given that Russell only had one last response in this debate, it is unfortunate for the atheist community that he gave one with little substance. I will admit, I did find his rhetoric quite entertaining. It does not surprise me that many atheists probably found it to be beautiful. Yet at the end of the day, the 1,143 words that Russell dedicated to the history of religious explanation did not advance his argument at all. Instead it was a red herring fallacy of the worst kind. Furthermore, it was one of the poorest examples of historiography I have ever read. I guess I can save that for another time. For now, I am going to get back to the red herring aspect of it. Imagine if I mentioned how atheistic communistic regimes killed 169 million people from 1917 until today, stifled free expression and thought, and as a result contributed to less scientific advancement than the free West, of which the majority of the population was Christian. I am sure Russell and his atheist friends would say, “That’s a red herring. Stick to the argument!”
In the “speech,” Russell also was guilty of the faulty dilemma fallacy. Although he did not say it, his words strongly implied that you have a choice. Go with science and we can discover endless things, or go with religion and stifle all scientific progress. I find that to be highly naïve and dishonest. Many Christians love science. We believe that God created a uniform universe and designed us to discover many wonderful things. Christian scientists have discovered great things throughout history. And just as so-called Christian governments arrested free thinkers, so too have atheistic governments. Russell's use of this type of emotional sensationalism is debased. It is ironic that he accused me of emotional appeals.
Also, Russell’s 1,143 words were a good example of the genetic fallacy. He pointed out that past religious explanations were erroneous, and therefore people should reject the Christian religious explanation too. This is entirely irrelevant to the arguments that I made. I could just as easily reverse it as follows: Many evolutionary atheists were eugenicists that influenced the Nazi party, therefore, everything Russell says must be false because he is an atheist. 
The greatest irony of this debate is that in Russell’s second response, he scoffed at the “elementary logic” I laid out for everyone, and yet throughout this entire debate he has put forth logical fallacy after logical fallacy, and has made absurd arguments that demonstrate his own deficiency in logic.
So what about Russell’s arguments? Well, the truth be told, he did not make any arguments in his final post. I am actually shocked that he would give up his final response and blow any chance he had to make atheism look rational. Instead, he committed many fallacies, diverted attention from the issue, resorted to insults, and lied about a half dozen times. Rather than simply call him a liar, I would rather show directly where he lied. I feel obligated to label them as lies at this point because I have clarified things a number of times, and Russell continually ignored these clarifications and misrepresented my position. Here are the examples.
You’ll recall that the way I started my end of this debate was with a suggestion that both sides acknowledge the success of the basic principles of science, and should accept them as a legitimate way of finding things out.  Stephen, repeatedly, said no.  He insisted that science cannot work unless we agree that science “presupposes” a God to work.
Really? I said no to this? I remember on more than one occasion saying I agree to your assumptions that world is real, that we learn through sense experience, and that logic is reliable. I remember in the 4th and 5th posts saying that a person could effectively discover things in science even with the wrong presuppositions. So in light of this, Russell clearly lied.
Here is his next lie.
Repeatedly I’ve rejected this premise as both unwarranted and muddled.  I challenged Stephen to explain how any being could manufacture logic.  He did not explain it.  I asked Stephen to justify his own assumption that the lack of God would invalidate logic.  He did not justify it.  I asked Stephen to “account for” his God in the same sense that he demanded the rest of us “account for” logic.  He did not account for it. What he did was repeat the same claim, over and over again, in an increasingly verbose fashion but never in a way that staked out any reason for his positions.
I specifically stated that God did not manufacture logic, but instead I explained how logic is a product of minds. Therefore, true logic is an expression of God’s mind. Did Russell manufacture his own mind? I accounted for God by discussing presuppositions. Apparently Russell does not believe presuppositions matter. Why? If he did, then he would realize his position is irrational, untenable, and impossible. Given that I did offer explanations, and yet Russell says that I did not, he lied.
Russell also labeled my arguments as incoherent. Well, I was very clear and I am confident in the articulation of my arguments. Russell simply ignored the arguments. Thus, I concluded one of two things: Either he knew he was sunk, or the arguments went over his head. Those are the two simplest conclusions to account for Russell’s flimsy responses. He then said:
Stephen asserts that “God cannot arbitrarily make a square circle.”  Why not?  If God had “created” the laws of logic, then there must have been a point where they did not apply.  Even in describing the creation of logic, Stephen is stuck with the assumption that God is bound by them.
I did not say God created the laws of logic. I said they are a product of His mind. Russell’s insistence on this again shows me that when he is backed against the wall, he resorts to lies about his opponent and hopes his followers would agree. Reading the user comments on his website, they apparently fell for it. This certainly betrays their claim to be free thinkers.
Now to Russell’s next moment of dishonesty:
Try as Stephen might, he can’t make it a universal law that all things need a cause, since that would contradict his conclusion about God.
After the last three responses, I would have thought Russell might finally understand this. ALL CONTINGENT things need a cause. That is a universal law. Is God contingent? No. Furthermore, I did account for the existence of a necessary being – contingent beings exist. What is so hard to grasp about that? It would be absurd for Russell to say he is self-existent. Why? Well, he is contingent. He was caused by many other factors outside of himself. The universe is contingent. Thus, it is not self-caused. After three responses, the atheist should finally get it. Apparently in this case he did not, unless he found it convenient just to lie. I am inclined to see this as a lie on Russell’s part because I specifically made this case in detail, and in my final response I even showed how the steps of his atheistic cosmology bear the attributes of contingency. After all of that, he still insisted that I said “all things have a cause,” when it was clear that I said causation is an attribute of contingent things, and since the universe has these attributes, it is not self-attesting and self-existing. Therefore, a necessary being must exist.
And now for Russell’s next lie:
Stephen tried to throw in some other metrics at various times; for instance, at one point he seems to believe that the debate should be judged based on whose posts were completed in the shortest amount of time
That’s interesting. According to Russell, I somehow used the length of time it took to complete responses as a metric to declare myself the winner. Unless my memory is foggy, I could have sworn that I made that point to undermine Russell’s bravado. When Yoda and the Emperor finally had the show down that all Star Wars fans had awaited, the little green warrior said, “If so powerful you are, why do you run?” That is the point I was making. If this is so easy, why take so long? I have three jobs and only get two days off per month. I do not know how busy Russell is, but I do know that I did not have to do any research to debunk a single thing he said. That is one reason I responded as a quickly as I did. His responses were shallow and predictable. If he would have given me something real, then perhaps I would have needed to consult with my academic resources and colleagues. In such a case, maybe a week would have gone by between my responses. The fact that Russell took five weeks here, four weeks there, etc., leads me to believe his back was against the wall, he did not know how to respond, and he consulted his colleagues in an attempt to manufacture his responses. I cannot prove this is what happened, and in the end only Russell knows. One thing is for sure. The fact that he did not answer even a small percentage of my arguments, but instead continually diverted attention away from the arguments, is a strong indicator that the presuppositional argument for the existence of God stumped him.

I am not sure whether to accuse Russell of dishonesty in his comment over our “mutual friend,” who set up this debate. Russell said this young man was “singularly irritated” with my responses. Well, our mutual friend told me that I did a good job and that his respect for me has grown. He also wrote me after the first, third, and fifth responses and complimented me on those responses. So I am not sure what was said to Russell.

I am inclined to think that either Russell blatantly lied, or that our mutual friend said two different things to the two of us. Given the responses I received from our friend, he does not sound like a man “singularly irritated” with my responses. The reality of the situation is as follows: Russell could not account for a single one of his assumptions, he did not refute a single one of my arguments, and he ignored the dilemma that my arguments pointed out concerning atheism. I believe that our mutual friend noticed this.
With regard to the Nazi example, I am surprised that Russell missed the point again. The point was not to compare him to a Nazi. My point was to show that a majority vote is irrelevant as to who won a debate. I am pretty sure Joe Biden’s followers liked what he said and Paul Ryan’s followers similarly liked his answers.
Another thing that I found comical were the comments on Russell’s thread once he enabled comments. Some of his followers wrote that I was the less civil of the two of us, and I was condescending. I truly wonder what debate they actually read. My tone was harshest in my third response. The other responses were entirely civil. In a number of Russell’s responses, he did not come off so cool. He resorted to a few insults, and at a number of points showed emotion.
Moving on to Russell’s interpretation of the gospel presentation, he called it an, “appeal to fear and emotion.” Perhaps he failed to realize that I only ended my response with the gospel because I care. My primary goal was not to win a debate, but it was tear down the false walls of opposition in the minds of his readers. Afterward, the goal was to show them that they have a massive problem (they all sin against God’s law and their conscience) and there is a consequence. That is no more of an appeal to emotion than a doctor telling a patient he has a disease and needs a cure. Yet if Russell will insist this is an appeal to “fear and emotion,” then what about his atheist friends who make similar appeals to protect the world from people like me? The atheist camp is so incredibly hypocritical that I am sometimes speechless. 
Finally, Russell’s statement that presuppositionalists do not present evidence simply demonstrates more ignorance. We love evidence. The difference is we are not so naïve that we think people interpret evidence in a non-biased fashion. Instead we all have a network of presupposed beliefs by which we determine what is possible and impossible, and the evidence will be interpreted in a way that confirms those presuppositions. The field of epistemology can prove this so easily. As a result, we presuppositionalists like to prove first that our opponent’s presuppositions are impossible, and then we move on to evidence. For example, immaterial logic exists and yet Russell identified himself as a materialist; therefore his position is indefensible. I am not sure why he and his followers do not understand how simple this is. His presuppositions are impossible, and therefore his interpretations of evidence cannot be trusted.
Furthermore, Russell proved that he was not qualified to enter into a debate of evidences since he failed to admit and realize the role that presuppositions have on the interpretation of evidence. I addressed this point a few times in the debate (e.g. when I brought up uniformitarianism vs. catastrophism) in the hopes that we would actually get into some evidential reasoning. Yet, Russell would not allow for this. If this were a longer debate I would have presented much evidence. When I debated our mutual friend, I presented a great deal of evidence. So before claiming that presuppositionalists don’t use evidence, Russell should try picking up a book about it and see what we really think.
This was supposed to be a debate with a somewhat high profile atheist. I had to work much harder when debating our mutual friend over a year ago. It is somewhat sad that he appealed to someone higher up in the atheist world, and yet that court of appeal put up less of a challenge than he did. I hope he realizes this and it leads him to question atheism even more so.
In summary, Russell, failed to respond to my arguments. He did not even address the argument that logic is immaterial, and yet he as a materialist inconsistently believes in logic. If atheism depends on materialism, and yet immaterial logic exists, then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible. If nature is uniform, and yet atheistic materialism claims that the universe is a random accident, then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible. Russell attempted to divert attention away from this by appealing to different definitions of “chance,” and yet he never responded to what definition syntax required. In addition to proving that atheism is irrational, untenable, and impossible, I also defined Christian presuppositions, and explained why only the Christian God is the necessary precondition of all intelligibility.
Truly, this debate has accomplished much for me. It has shed much light on the “New Atheism” and just how groundless it is. I would hope that Russell would better prepare himself for future debates, and that he would actually take the time to respond to specific arguments. Perhaps the untrained were satisfied by his responses, but those who truly are free thinkers were left with more questions than answers about atheism’s inability to stand.
Romans 1:18-32 explains why many will scoff at the truth. In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul laid out the most brilliant defense of the truth in the ancient world. And yet, even after he completely schooled these philosophers, only a handful of people received the truth. For the Christians out there, I recommend my following sermons linked below. 
What Paul faced 2,000 years ago is not much different than what we experience today in terms of intellectual opposition. There is nothing new under the sun. The way in which he defended the faith is a good model of how we should. My goal with this debate against Russell Glasser of the Atheist Experience was to give a God-honoring and Biblical defense of the truth. May God produce much fruit from this effort. 

20 comments:

  1. After a long-winded post about the supposed lies of Glasser, you nearly conclude with this:

    “If atheism depends on materialism, and yet immaterial logic exists, then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible. If nature is uniform, and yet atheistic materialism claims that the universe is a random accident, then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible.”

    How ironic and hypocritical. Atheism does not depend on materialism. Full stop. Your argument falls apart because the atheistic rejection to this dishonest claim was explained to you at least twice. Your misuse (in spite of your denial as such) of the term random chance (now you’re calling it an accident) is obfuscation at its worst. You completely and totally shifted the burden of proof onto Russell as the while not once defending your own position. You wrote a lot, but said very little. Despite your frequent back patting and self-congratulatory tone, my vote is for Russell. The merits of faith and in particular the Christian faith should stand on its own without have to demonstrate why atheism is irrational, etc. Until someone can offer a good reason to believe in your version of God (or any other version for that matter) I will remain an atheist. And given that many folk have no problem describing themselves as atheists, it hardly qualifies as an irrational or impossible position to hold.

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    1. I simply do not have the time to reply to most of these. However, I will note that most forms of atheism in the West are materialistic. Russell admitted to being a materialist. My syntactical usage of "random" and "chance" was correct. On the contrary, Russell said very little, committed many fallacies and demonstrated to the world just how groundless atheism truly is. Your claim that many people classify themselves as atheists, and this somehow makes it rational is absolutely absurd. Thank you for reading the debate. I do hope that you see through Russell's flimsy arguments and appreciate the philosophical problems that atheism has. Good day.

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  2. instinct in animals is immaterial too, and yet a materialist consistently believes in instinct. If atheism depends on materialism, and yet immaterial instinct exists, then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible <=How in the world do you make this leap? If nature is uniform (...is natural selection uniform?), and yet atheistic materialism claims that the universe is a random accident (what does imaterialism have to do with the universe being an accident?), then atheistic materialism is irrational, untenable, and impossible. <==How do you ever get here from starting with the process of mental abilities (this is NOT logical)?

    "materialism" does NOT mean you are forbidden to understand how most brains work.

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    1. First, you might want to do a little research into the mind/brain relationship. Do you really think that mind and brain are the same? Your lack of precision on this explains your comment. Instinct is a matter of brain chemistry. Reasoning is not. Read some books on information theory and then perhaps you will rethink this statement. Concerning the materialism and uniformity point, I shifted away from immaterial logic back to nature's uniformity. Hence it was a summary of the two arguments that I made in the debate. I apologize for any confusion.

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    2. I understand clearly the mind is the product of the brain much like the software/hardware analogy. Is the software/hardware the same? No but that doesn't mean the mind is supernatural anymore than fire being supernatural to it's source. So instinct is not related to brain chemistry? Are you saying if electrodes were hooked up to the brain during an instinctive reaction we wouldn't get a reading (from brain chemistry) similar to when a logical decision is made? But we're getting away from the point....the point is that instinct is *immaterial* but what does that have to do with proving an atheist's point as being incorrect?

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  3. Pastor Feinstein, I'm sure it's been pointed out several times to you, but you are simply abusing the terms here.

    When materialists talk about "randomness" or "chance" in the universe, they mean undirectedness, not that a water molecule will spontaneously change into an airplane. There is nothing directing a water molecule to go this way or that way, but it will always remain true to its "nature" as a water molecule. This is what uniformity means; in this sense, it is not the opposite of "random."

    The laws of logic are not "things" that exist external to the human mind - they are processes by which the mind describes reality.

    You make a false distinction between "God creating logic" and "Logic being produced by God's mind." This is the same thing; how does God's mind produce logic?

    God is not necessary merely because you've defined him to be so. You must first demonstrate God's existence, then demonstrate his necessity.

    BTW, there is nothing preventing the universe from being necessary, because science has shown that it is possible that the universe could have been self-caused (read some Stephen Hawking). Your assertion that the universe can't be necessary because it isn't self-caused is incorrect and scientifically unfounded.

    Finally, I've heard that you are not allowing comments from disagreeing atheists in order to prevent your blog from looking bad. I hope you will prove my fellow atheists wrong by posting this comment. I'd appreciate your reply.

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    1. Richard, I appreciate your comments, but you fail to account for a number of things. Stephen Hawkings in no way proved that the universe can account for itself. In fact, his "space-time theorem of general relativity" simply provided a greater need for a necessary being. Second, I did not abuse the terms. I did not accuse atheists of believing water molecules will act randomly. My point was that many of the well-known atheists claim that the universe is one giant accident that came into its current form through random processes. So somehow 14 billion years of random (rather than uniform) processes created all that we see, and somehow it produced a uniform nature. Well, if you want to back track this and deny it, and like Russell claim that you don't believe this, then fine. However, you have a bigger problem. If the universe is uniform, then randomness does not truly exist. If the universe is directed, what is it directed by? How did it get directed? How do you know this? There are so many questions that show your position to be folly. Furthermore, I do believe that the points made about contingency vs. necessity proved my point that God does in fact exist.

      Concerning the nature of me approving certain comments, I will not approve obnoxious ones. If someone tries to make a point, I have no problem with it. However, I am also limited that I cannot reply to all comments. If 1,000 atheists flood this with comments, I am not sure what I will do about that. You got to me early, so I was able to reply. You have a good day.

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  4. There are a number of issues with your arguments, but I would like to second the criticism associated with your distinction between God "creating" logic versus "Logic being produced by God's mind." You are just playing word games here, which seems to be the case with many of your arguments. Attributing your own favorite definitions to different words does not change their actual meaning, and it is a disingenuous way to engage in debate. I see you have done this with a number of words, some of which Richard Zili has pointed out.

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    1. I did not attribute my own definitions to change meanings. You and the other atheists are the ones who are ignoring proper syntax in this case. Also it is absurd to accuse me of playing word games. There is a huge difference between saying "God created logic," and "Logic is a product of God's mind as the original person and thinker." Please, become more philosophically precise. I was not disingenuous at all. Furthermore, how can an atheist ever say anything (such as being disingenuous) is wrong? If there is no God, then there are no standards. God does exist, and thus standards exist. I have kept to those standards. Russell's many logical fallacies and direct misquotes of me (on multiple occasions) demonstrates to me that it is your camp that is disingenuous.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. I need to let all of the atheist's know that I will not be able to respond to each comment. As a result, I will not publish each one. The nonsensical insulting ones will be disregarded.

    There are few points that I would like to make. First, some atheist said I violated the rules by posting final comments. Really? Russell and I never agreed to that. We agreed to how many of each other's posts we would link on our blog. My closing remark was one way that I honored my end by letting my readers see Russell's final response. For my readers, I posted my final comments. Russell is not going to link it. So people need to get their facts straight.

    An agnostic friend of mine stated these types of things well. He said the great thing about the internet is it gives everyone a voice. Yet, the bad thing about the internet is it gives everyone a voice. Most of the comments that have been sent fall under the second line. It reflects people who are unwilling to form rational arguments. The comments that are posted are the ones that reflect the first line. However, I must remind everyone that I debated Russell, not each of you. Keep that in mind. If I do not respond it is not because you stumped me.

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  7. "I did not say God created the laws of logic. I said they are a product of His mind."

    What's your distinction? Is it the difference between "create" and "produce" or is it that God didn't produce logic, His mind did it?

    This sounds a bit like saying "I did not say the carpenter created the chair. I said it was a product of his hands."

    Can you clarify?

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    1. Matt, I did not create my mind. It is an attribute of personhood that is intrinsic to my being. A carpenter producing a a chair is entirely different. Because I am a person, I have a mind. Likewise, because God is the necessary, self-existing person, He has a mind. Logic is simply the laws of thought. Since God's thoughts are original, logic is original to His mind. In us, logic is derivative because we are derivative. I am not sure if there is any easier way to explain this.

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  8. Quote
    "There is a huge difference between saying "God created logic," and "Logic is a product of God's mind as the original person and thinker."
    Unquote
    Should you have the time and the inclination, I would be grateful if you could clarify the 'huge difference' you mention, since the two statements sound equivalent to me.

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    1. well "God created logic" seems to implied that that God is over logic and logic is not a part of that God but separate; "Logic is...person and thinker" seems to implied that Logic is how God thinks, so inside him.

      Anyway, that is how I understand the nuance.

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    2. Nyssa,

      I tried to explain it to the comment ahead of yours. Maybe my use of the word "product" is the problem. Logic is a natural function of minds. The mind does not create the logic, but instead logic simply describes the way the mind reasons. Since original logic (not our derivative version) are simply the laws of God's mind and His reasoning, it would be incorrect to say that God fashioned logic like He fashioned the world. Since God is the original person with the original mind, logic is a function of His infinite mind. Hopefully that helps to clarify.

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  9. Stephen, in this debate and any other pre-suppositionalist debate or argument I have yet to see someone demonstrate that any being is necessary.

    All you did was insist that this being is necessary. There is just such a wide divide here between you and othe pre-sups and any number of other groups (including atheists). How do you come up with what is necessary? Why do you get to classify things as contingent and necessary and how do you determine what goes into the latter category?

    None of this is explained in your posts, although I suspect you think it is. It's all hand-waving to me.

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    1. Contingent. Look it up. I said many times that contingent is caused, sustained, and determined by factors outside of itself. I am contingent. I am caused by my parents and trillion other factors outside of me that I have no control over. I am sustained (food, gravity, oxygen, etc.) by a trillion factors outside of me. I am determined (by God, genetics, etc.) by many factors outside of me. As a result, I bear all of the traits of contingency. Our solar system, galaxy, and the universe itself all have the same problem. You cannot have an uncaused contingency. Necessary is something that is uncaused, unsustained, and undetermined by anything outside of itself. Everything we experience in this world is by definition contingent. Yet, there had to be the first of each kind of contingency, and that first was caused (by definition). When we work our way back to the beginning of the universe itself, a necessary being is necessary since we cannot have an uncaused contingent universe. There is no hand-waving here my friend.

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  10. I have two simple questions.

    1: Do you think that "God" is a distinct identity from "God's mind?" If so, what are the other parts of God that are distinct from his mind?

    2: What is the qualitative difference between "X created Y" and "Y is the product of X?" It seems like you are saying, "This machine does not create widgets! Rather, widgets are a product of this machine." I don't see a difference between those two statements.

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  11. I must apologize to my atheist friends. Given the amount of comments that are coming in, I as a lone man cannot answer each one. Although I would love a free discussion, it is not truly a discussion when hundreds attempt to debate one man. I walked into this trap myself, being new to blogs. For all of the atheists that put thought provoking and genuine questions, I am grateful. However, I cannot debate all of you. I have too many other responsibilities. I can assure you that answers do exist for your questions/objections. Some of them I did answer in my responses to Russell, and others I did not.

    Given that this is becoming too time consuming for me, I am going to suspend the comments for the time being. Maybe when Christians start posting as well, it will generate discussions between the two groups. However, as a single man I cannot sustain this. Once again, thank you for your interest.

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