Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Source of Human Morality debate videos

Here are the first three (of nine) video installments of the debate between Matt and Fr. Hans Jacobse at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, yesterday. According to the writeup, Fr. Jacobse "views the current world as a battle between competing moral visions of the secular and the sacred, and hopes that Christianity can restore the moral tradition of the gospels." Whether this involves angrily killing fig trees is, I suppose, left to be clarified. (Zing!) Anyway, enjoy. (Note: I'll be embedding the rest of the vids as they are posted to YouTube, and will offer my assessments as I watch and absorb them.)

Final addendum, 9:30 PM 11/20: All 9 parts are now embedded, using the playlist embed code provided by the lovely and multitalented Catherine Blackwell. Thanks!


  1. An mp3 version of the debate would be most appreciated

  2. I am glad these video's are up and can't wait to watch the whole set!


  3. ralphmcw: We didn't produce and don't own the videos, so it's not up to us if they release the audio as mp3's.

  4. @ralphmcw: If you really want to you could strip the audio track from the youtube clips... if you don't care too much about the copyright. (I find it really strange that I could legally watch the debate but it is illegal to listen to it.)

  5. This guy just doesn't get it. This makes me sad that someone who is obviously a very well-read and learned man, can just plain not understand what Matt is saying. I just don't get it.

  6. I think Matt hit the nail on the head in his opening remarks when he said that theist morality has been forced to adopt much of secular morality and rebrand it as its own.

    The 'orthodox christian' did the usual thing of starting from a deistic view and then threw some TAG at it. This speaks to me of the weakness of his preferred position which he cannot support from the outset. Getting from the nebulus transcendent to specific denomination is never gonna fly.

    I have only watched the parts 1-3, so my view view will change when I see the rest, but I doubt it.

  7. Ok, I'm a little over 2 minutes into the christian's intro speech, and already every statement is false that leaves his mouth.

    This is going to go well, I see.

  8. I'm yelling at my screen a lot.

  9. Hi all, I've one of the event organizers for this debate (from the atheist side). @JT it was hard to yell at him while sitting in the front row, but just wait until later-- some guy in the audience screams YOU'RE A LIAR at the good father when he starts suffering from Nazi tourettes.

    Also, if you all think this is bad, just WAIT until you get to Jacobse's closing argument. It will make you scream in frustration. More about porn and nazis.

    @erauqssi I don't think at all it was an issue of not understanding what Matt was saying. He flat out wasn't *listening* because he's so arrogant he refuses to admit that he could be wrong, so for the course of this debate he just talks and talks and doesn't actually reply to anything Matt says.

    @ralphmcw An mp3 will be cut and downloadable at some point in the next few days.

  10. I had a feeling it'd go something like that when he stated, "Now, now ALL atheists are eugenicists." How about barely any? I literally know of no atheists eugenics supporters.

    Just more slander, as usual.

  11. Is it just me or do a large number of Father Hans' arguments sound like arguments against pre-supposing a moral arbiter?

    Nice suit Matt!

  12. Also, the less-advertised (but more fun, in my opinion) half of this evening was a panel discussion featuring Matt, John Shook, a UMBC psych professor, and Greg Paul (author of the studies on secular nations having better quality of life statistics). We've got 95% of that on video, and will be uploaded soon.

  13. Dammit ! Matt was in Maryland and I missed it... Was unaware that formal debates of this nature happened in this state, clearly i was wrong. Suggestions on how to be informed these events would be greatly appreciated.

    Jacobse concededs on numerous points that Matt makes on the ability of humans to decypher what is moral and immoral , but yet he hangs a Reserved for God sign on a miniscule corner of the morality equation. At that point why bother ? God has already missed a huge portion of the feature presentation...

  14. martin wagner does not exist...

    atheists, we’re gonna cut off your heads…


  15. @onefoulswoop45 You must not have been keeping up with the show! Matt plugged the debate several times, and said he was coming to Baltimore.

    Also, stay tuned to the B'moreCoR:
    That's got all the meetups, the SSA, BES, Baltimore Secular Humanists, etc. We're trying to spread the secular in MD.

  16. It kind of sucked that he's never been to MD before, and all he saw was the airport, hotel, and UMBC (in the rain). Just gives us an excuse to bring him back and give him a real tour.

  17. "Philosophical materialism is the philosophical ground of atheism, a point that anyone familiar with more than the surface character of the atheist claims will recognize as true."

    This is only 1:31 into the priest's opening arguments. So right here in the very beginning he is implying that if you contend his point, you must not be familiar enough with "atheist claims". This really rubbed me the wrong way.

  18. The OCF has for the past few weeks been doing a series here called "Why I Am Not an Atheist" in which talked at us for an hour and a half each session and explained what "atheist philosophy" and "atheist worldviews" are right to our faces. Fr. Hans follows this line of reasoning by coining the phrase in this debate "the Atheist Project of the 20th century". It's absolutely infuriating.

  19. @ Catherine. Thanks for the info !! I'd love to get more involved, now i have an avenue to do so. Whorah !

  20. I am going to have to go over what Fr. Hans Jacobse was saying with a fine tooth comb, but my initial impression is that he is just saying a lot of nothing. I also was amused at his opening in which he claims a deist position, I am waiting for that to magically turn into Christianity myself.

  21. All I kept hearing was strawman after strawman after strawman.

    Can't wait for the rest!

  22. Catherine, who has ownership over the video and/or audio for the event? Was there only one set of cameras?

    (It looks like the OCF has full control over the only copy, and that's a concern. I've seen theist groups offer to share audio and video before an event, and after the event is over they conveniently do not provide either.)

  23. [logging my thoughts as I watch...]
    Your opponent was named Hans. Was he... clever?
    Nope. Not clever at all. You warned the audience about how he'd be arguing from a presupposition that his beliefs are true, and he went right into that. Amazing. Clever Hans he is not.
    Also, he actually seems to be arguing that it's impossible to have any grounds by which we can discuss morality unless we allow for the existence of the supernatural (i.e., what he's calling "transcendent"). Whhhhaaaaa? Sure, if you define morality as the result of some sort of transcendent purposeful agent, pure materialism can't discuss it. But we don't have a reason to think that such a thing actually exists, apart from his presuppositions.
    Yeesh, Matt, you're so much better spoken than he is.
    His whole argument is "matter can't give meaning." Of course it can. If there is no God and no supernatural transcendent of the kind Hans proposes, then *only* matter can give meaning.
    Through part 2 now. Hans is very good at building straw men. He'll say "the atheist must argue X" or "the atheist would likely say X" and then shoot that down. I don't think he once bothered responding to anything Matt said. Now, back to Matt...

  24. ... and since I don't find myself disagreeing with Matt, back to Hans.

    Seriously. He played the Communism card. "I don't blame all atheists for that" but I'll bring it up to slyly tell the audience that I really do blame atheism for it. Sleazy move.

    Truth isn't seen - it's heard? Seriously? WTF? Is there a meaningful difference there?

  25. Fallacious arguments to appeal on Mr. Hans part? I hope OCF can manage to upload the video soon as I couldn't image it's anything too difficult.

  26. my g/f asked me to stop watching as i yell at the TV.. wish i could watch and feel less emotional about what FR hans was saying. love the comments above

    will watch in entirity TMO when i have time

  27. @Hermes: Unfortunately, since the only people who could get us equipment for free in time were in the OCF, they've got full ownership. However, the guy coordinating the AV is really cool, and is allowing me to download all of the raw video. They also generously filmed our follow-up panel, even though it wasn't in any way affiliated with OCF. I'm going to cut a 5 minute preview of the full debate for sharing purposes this weekend. I think in this case sharing is caring.

  28. Catherine, good. I've seen a few similar situations turn out badly before and it would be a shame to have a repeat.

  29. The change in tone of some (not all) of the OCF folks was staggering and, I think, telling.

    One individual was overly kind to me before the debate and visibly distraught and confrontational after the debate. Fortunately, there are other OCF folks who were kind before and after - and want to continue the conversation via e-mail.

    I'm under the impression that their speaker's tactics sort of backfired.

  30. I think "sort of" would be an understatement.

  31. Listening to this guy is so fucking irritating, it really is. Now, he's a nice guy, we could have a beer and conversation, but it pissed me off that in his opening remarks he's already shifting the burden of proof by trying to portray morality in a materialistic paradigm as incoherent somehow. As though Matt said anything of the kind, as though he didn't specifically say that if God showed up with a set of rules one would still have to judge whether those rules are right!

    As if that weren't enough, he shifts the goalposts right out of the gate, saying that he's not going to talk about God, he's going to talk about the *transcendant.* What follows is ten and five minutes of ill-defined fog-blathering that's barely a step up from asserting the existence and nature of the "spiritual." I really hope Matt doesn't let the slippery rhetoric go unanswered.

  32. Man I am really sorry this is taking so long, guys. But we're all college students, including the video editor, so keep being patient I guess.

  33. Matt, thanks. I'm glad to hear there are good people associated with OCF who don't become untrustworthy when things don't turn out as they might have predicted.

    Tactics are critical, but ignoring or not understanding what the other person actually thinks -- rightly or wrongly -- is not a good idea. At best, it's rude. At worst, it's the shovel used to dig your own hole as seems to be the case this time. Maybe OCF won't lead with telling atheists what they think next time? If that happens, the debate will be fruitful even if no minds are changed on the higher level issues.

    [ additional grumbling gratuitous rant deleted ]

  34. On a personal level, the people that we worked with to plan the debate at OCF have been great. They're all generally nice and friendly and conciliatory. Obviously, we had to work together to put this event on, and we all had to surrender some ground there.

    But like I posted somewhere above, their "Why I am not an atheist" weekly series was infuriating. When they put on their argumentative hats, they suddenly morph into anti-empiricism, unfalsifiable, intellectually dishonest, and generally ad hominem and confrontational debaters. They would open every discussion by stating what atheists are, what atheists believe, and how the atheist worldview leads to ultimate world destruction. Then at the end of each exhausting meeting where we were constantly on the defensive, we would all have to make nice again and work on the debate. It was an interested roller coaster ride. I went to three of these, including one small discussion with Fr. Hans on Monday, which was the worst of them all. I expected them to not fully agree with this man, but instead they seemed to absolutely support him as he made accusations at us, as if our apparently limited knowledge of history had kept us ignorant of the fact that, quote, "Atheists and atheism led to most of the blood that was spilled in the 20th century." One of our members came at him with an excellent counter to his loopy transcendental argument, to which the father responded, "Well, I'm considerably older than you. You don't know nearly as much about history as I do." The member shot back: "Oh, so since I'm younger, I can't be right?" Later, the same member asked, "Have you ever considered the possibility that you're wrong about all this? That's the difference between us. What do you think the likelihood is that God is in your imagination?" Fr. Jacobse responded: "The equal likelihood that I'm imagining you sitting here right now."

    I'm hoping that we can continue to work with the group, without either side getting into overly emotional lines of reasoning, but boy there have been times all of us seem equally provoked and on edge.

  35. Also, FINALLY a part 4:

  36. Oh yeah ^^ that part's pretty funny. Fr. Hans completely forgets to ask a question and we were just sitting there in the audience face-palming the entire time he was talking. "Wait, what? Was there a question ANYWHERE in there?"

  37. Personally I can't wait for the questions (not trying to rush you Catherine, I swear!) if only because maybe then we'll move away from Matt's opponent being a paternalistic truth-holder who ignores Matt's points and just preaches on.

  38. So far, I have only seen 15 minutes of Fr. Jacobse and lost count at about 7 "the atheist this" or "the atheist that" comments from him. Why is it so hard to understand that being an atheist just means you don't believe in a god? That's it, it doesn't lead to anything else, but it can be a product of rational and honest thought. Arrggh!

    Anyways, wish I could have been there, and just noticed part 4 is up on youtube. Thank you, and please keep them coming.

  39. Haha it's cool, I'm not uploading-- the OCF people are. And what you really want to see is the closing statements, trust me. Things get . . . pretty crazy.

  40. Catherine, as an old fart I appreciate your efforts. With a few important exceptions, atheists and more generally skeptics have not been attentive for decades prior to 9/11, and I include myself in that list. Bertrand Russell said all that was necessary to kick things off and much more, but what was missing were people to continue on and push the points he and others have raised for centuries.

    The OCF representatives should feel like they missed something. That they have misspoken and need to look at the issues more closely. Hopefully a few will. I doubt that they all will, though they should if they were paying attention.

    As a spectator of the Atheist Experience crew, I have to say that Jeff Dee's attitude at times is spot on. When a caller starts to throw out ideas -- often character attacks -- to see what ones have traction, Jeff hunkers down on each point one at a time and demands that the caller retract or at a minimum acknowledge that they were mistaken or have not justified their attack. Being unyielding about addressing these bigoted character assassination attempts may be required at times.

    On the and sites, I've asked people -- usually Christian theists -- to justify their claims about what atheists think. The latest one occurred on CSA when a theist came in and started to say that atheists claim the universe came from nothing. Days go by, and after a few snippets of information, it is clear that the theist can't name a single atheist who thinks such a thing but that they are adept at misquoting or misunderstanding what specific atheists actually said.

    I even granted that there probably are some atheists who might think and make such comments and that they might know of such a person. I also mention that I personally have not encountered a single one myself, so the assertion doesn't seem to be very relevant.

    Still, I get plenty of Christians who say that this or that is what atheists think even as they can't name a single atheist that agrees with them.

    Meanwhile, without irony, they want to claim the moral high ground. Deny them till they stop acting immorally.

  41. Video #1 is #25 - Top Favorited (Today)) - Education
    #62 - Top Rated (Today)) - Education. Keep it up people!

  42. Damn. Cliffhanger on part 4. What Will Hans Do?

  43. 1. Philosophical materialism is not required for atheism, but methodological materialism sure helps. If there are other substances and realms beyond the physical, then the only way they could matter (excuse the pun) is if they interact with the physical. If this so, we should be able to detect it.

    2. Words exist in the physical realm, typically as ink on paper, vibrations in mediums, or the glow of phosphor screens. I see no reason to expect "revelation" to be derived from the transcendent.

    3. If not all atheists support eugenics, then how could it be said atheism leads to eugenics? Of course, I expect Matt responded by pointing out the lack of one particular belief does not lead anywhere - you must add something else to progress. -10 points for Godwin.

    I look forward to the remainder.

  44. [part 4]
    Nice jab at Fr. Hans' subtle relativism, Matt. Don't think he thought that through too well...
    Booo. Right off the bat, Fr. Hans blames slavery on *paganism's* influence on Judaism. Did he just miss the bit in the Bible where it's *God* telling them to take people as slaves? How do you blame the pagans for that? Then he talks about the 4th century church fathers who said slavery was an abomination; they were moral relativists!
    Fr. Hans: "A lot of morality is discerned in confronting the difficulties of human life." (So it's emergent.) "A lot of times, people have to wake up to the ultimate moral principle before the immorality of slavery is really written on the fabric of the heart." (So why did it take 300 years after God himself CAME TO EARTH? Why didn't he deal with it then?)
    Blaming slavery on paganism and then thanking Christianity for eliminating it? Saying that Christians who believed it was God's will were wrong? ... They certainly wouldn't have thought so.
    "Christianity has, I argue - and atheism doesn't have this - Christianity has within it a self-correcting mechanism in that it can judge its own sins." DID SOMEONE SAY *MORAL RELATIVISM*?
    Love Hans' equation of post-Christian and postmodernist. Clever false equivalency.
    Lost of babble about Christianity defining the 'narrative' along the lines of Genesis rather than along the lines of paganism. Preaching about existentialists and World War I. Not even trying to pose a question to Matt. Really just meaningless filler. "I really got into the story and I forgot my point. Because I love that period. Where was I going with this?" Continues to preach and not ask questions as instructed. "I forgot my point, I'm sorry, but I get real excited about World War I. I get excited about the French exceptionalists."
    Fr. Hans: "How do you deal with the fact that atheism as a philosophy [IT'S NOT A PHILOSOPHY] doesn't possess that self-corrective mechanism?"
    Matt: "[handing Hans' ass to him about the straw man and the lie]"
    Matt: "Is there a discernible path to truth that is open to everybody within your paradigm, or does it require faith and individual direct revelation, that type of thing? Because I don't understand how somebody can assert any kind of truth without a demonstration of that truth. And that demonstration has to be open to anybody - that's kind of how we define reality; reality is the stuff that doesn't go away when one of us closes our eyes or one of us stops believing. So what discernible path to truth is there in, for example, the Christian worldview?"
    (Let me guess - quibble quibble dissemble distract straw man TAG Hitler?)
    [part 5 SOON PLEASE!]

  45. "(Let me guess - quibble quibble dissemble distract straw man TAG Hitler?)"

    Actually, yeah, that's about right on. Oh, and PORN. And a beef about Madonna.

  46. Materialism;

    1. It's hard to assert that matter does not exist.

    Actually, it's impossible. If someone says matter does not exist, then they can offer proof of that by signing over everything that they own to me, including clothes and bank accounts. Anyone who does hand over everything deserves pity and a good psychologist (psychiatrist?) -- well, the one that can proscribe drugs if they consider them to be appropriate.

    2. It's not necessary to limit yourself to only mater.

    3. As matter is a given (1), if some non-mater explanation is raised mater is not removed as an option; it's still there. Additionally, the person proposing the non-mater explanation has to show why it is (like mater) a given. If they can not or will not do that, then materialism is the preferred option and the non-mater explanation should not be considered.

    The problem is that the people who snipe at materialism seem to think that mere criticism of materialism will eliminate the need to support some non-material explanation while -- strangely -- materialism isn't actually denied as an actual part of reality. (Disagree? Show me you are earnest. Hand over your materials; wallet, bank account, property (land, home, ... jewelry, clothes, and food.)

    The non-material claims are harder to make, but they may have merit. Those who propose them have to prove that case to a reasonable degree.

  47. After watching the first 5 parts I enjoyed the debate and I thought Matt did a really good job but this format of discussion can be very frustrating especially since Matt couldn't call out some of the BS Hans was sprouting as responses to his arguments.

    Specifically to the slavery question by arguing that Christianity is self correcting, while secular morals aren't.... ignoring the very verses Matt was quoting in his own bible, and affirming Matt's point that the conclusion slavery was a bad thing was reached without it.

    And then the rambling incoherent response to the question on what the discernable path to truth is in the Christian worldview by asserting that there were things trancending reason such as music and justice...

    Times like this I miss the TV show.

  48. Well, the debate format can be problematic, especially if the other side knows how to play their cards. Like Hans led off with some weak claims like all morality is derived from Christian morality which is obvious bunk and Matt points out that this is wrong because a number of cultures that pre-date Christianity or had no contact with it had moral standards as well. Then Hans simply says, well what I really meant was that god created an inate moral sense inside of us. The problem is, now Matt has had to waste one of his rounds addressing something that should have been painfully and obviously false.

    But that is what you see in these debates, they will deliberately start with weaker points and make you waste a lot of time debunking garbage that they probably don't even believe themselves protecting their real beliefs until later when you have less chances to counter them. Looking forward to the rest, even if it is difficult to stomach Han's obvious dishonesty. (Nazis and eugenics? Really?)

  49. Hans' closing statement is absolutely abominable. Truly amazing, really. I just have to wonder whether or not he has the self-awareness necessary to realize why.

    I mean, in a relatively civil debate, is it at all justifiable to just start shouting fear-mongering messages about how your opponents will destroy civilization? Is it not clear that that's more than a bit over the top?

  50. And I have to say, I don't throw the word "shouting" around lightly. He's raising his voice exactly as if he was having to talk over someone, which (besides the random guy yelling near the end) is not the case at all. More than that, he is intentionally demonizing a position he acknowledges that Matt doesn't hold. How is that not polemic hysteria (from this "post-polemic" man)?

  51. I'm still waiting for videos to load, but as a former communist and current atheist, I'd like to bitch. Granted, I'm working from hearsay here, as MikeTheInfidel said, quoting and extrapolating from the words of Fr. Jacobse, "'I don't blame all atheists for that' but I'll bring it up to slyly tell the audience that I really do blame atheism for it."

    Speaking as someone who has embraced the marxist ideal in the past, I know at least one path to communism that does not follow from atheism (as my atheism came along, at least conscious atheism, several years later.) My own path was not from the rejection of god, it was from the rejection of the immorality (that's right, it's a moral rather than philosophical path) of the capitalist system where those who work hardest have the least and those who have the most have the nerve to suggest that those without simply aren't trying hard enough. *foaming rant goes here*
    Of course, the reality of communism is... well, check your history books. It's a beautiful ideal with a fucking stupid, brutal reality. But it flows out of a moral sense, a sense of fairness and a longing for equality. It has sweet fuck all to do with religion. The only reason religion comes into it is the historical use of religion by the monarchies of this world to keep the trampled masses passified... *beret*

    I'm sorry... but I really hate being told that communism leads from atheism and that it is an immoral ideology. Anyway, the video's loaded now :D

  52. Part 5 is up -

  53. I appreciate Fr. Jacobse's statement at around 2:13 of part 2 that atheism is an "outgrowth" of christianity, even though I feel it is sometimes a little childish to simply say "Yes, we have grown out of this, just like we grew out of picking our noses and eating the goo inside." (I really hope we've all grown out of that...)
    I have to contradict his statement that atheism cannot exist without christianity though. It is true that for the term 'atheist' to be meaningful as a label, there must be such a thing as a theist to contrast with, but it's possible to be a Hindu, Muslim, pagan, Sikh theist, so even if Christianity were to die out tomorrow, atheism would still be meaningful. Atheism cannot exist meaningfully without religion, but without religion, we wouldn't care.

    What does the transcendent have to do with the bruise on Tim's arm when I punch him? I fail to see the necessity for atheism to recognise the transcendent to determine the existence or reason behind injustice.
    I have to agree with his assertion that my morals are derived from Christian morals. Even this very week I stoned my brother to death for suggesting I investigate Buddhism. True story.

    Man is indeed more than the molecules that make up his body, likewise a car is more than the chassis, engine and wheels. The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts, what does this have to do with morality?

    My mind is going... my mind is going... I'm afraid... I'm afraid... Dave... my mind is going...


    Give... me... your.... answer..... do.........-

  54. Really... the second video at ~6:30. My brain just exploded when the idiot stated that when atheists say that killing is wrong it's because "Moses stated it first"... Yeeaaah, christians *cough* jews *cough* are the first group of people ever to decide that killing other people is wrong (as lax as their actual feelings about the matter are).

  55. It started off like any other debate, if a little one sided, but then when Clever Hans began waving his arms around, and shouting and shooting lasers from his eyes and then when his head exploded...

    Well, I wasn't expecting that.

    It's much less frustrating than the regular format of: atheist makes point; theist doesn't get it; insert Godwin; round of applause.

    Matt, if I had to offer one piece of constructive criticism it would be this: You talk too fast. Everything you said, however, was pretty awesome.

    I look forward to listening to the complete debate once someone uploads the audio.

  56. Oh good, we've gotten to the crazy preacher part. I think I did actually whisper to the person next to me that that guy's head had just exploded. He went from non-sensical and rather silly to maniacal.

  57. I had mixed feelings about Dr. Shook's moderation at first, but when I talked to him afterwards he explained that his strategy was, seriously, just letting the guy talk because he was fully making a fool out of himself. I think John Shook had enough respect for the audience to bank on the fact that they realized just how ridiculous and insane Fr. Jacobse's behavior was, and he was right-- you can hear the load groan.

  58. I think the only real point of disagreement so far is that Fr. Jacobse seems to believe that the transcendent is the guy writing the rulebook (suddenly I am imagining god as a DM... we can't detect him because he's hiding behind his cardboard screen!) while we, if we accept that anything is transcendent, simply see the rulebook... which is full of annotations and post-it notes. The rules themselves may be transcendent - is it wrong to kill? Yes. But they have so many qualifiers - someone has broken into your house, they may be armed, your family is asleep upstairs, you have no chance of managing a peaceful, or at least non-lethal, resolution - is it wrong to kill? I cannot say that it isn't wrong, but neither can I say that it is.

    Here we are! Communism & Eugenics; the atheist experiment! I call bullshit.

    Communism is a political movement which, by merit of throwing religion (being a "tool of bourgeois oppression") out, invites atheism to the party. Since it is not an atheist movement, why would the correction come from within atheism? We do not expect correction to monarchy to come from christianity, do we? Correction to political movements come from politics. Correction to philosophical movements come from philosophy. What is hard to grasp here?

    Eugenics is... sick. Interestingly enough, eugenic practices existed long before Fr. Jacobse claims atheism came into existence.
    It was suggested by Plato as a valid practice. He apparently advocated government control over human reproduction by means of a fixed lottery where couples would be chosen by a "marriage number," although it appears that he later accepted it as flawed when it became clear that "gold soul" parents still produced "bronze soul" children.
    The Twelve Tables, essentially the foundation of the Roman constiturion stated, in its fourth table, "Cito necatus insignis ad deformitatem puer esto." - "If a child is born with a deformity he shall be killed." This is not a recent idea born of atheism.

  59. Of course, I suspect Fr. Jacobse is referring specifically to Galtonian Eugenics, the reasoning the human society thwarts natural selection, thereby weakening the species through a "reversion toward mediocrity."
    I freely admit that I do not have a complete understanding of Galtonian Eugenics, to be honest, reading about it tends to turn my stomach, making an in depth study difficult. However, based on what I do know of the idea, it seems to be based on a simplistic idea of evolution, that we are climbing an evolutionary ladder toward a better humanity and that, by thwarting natural selection and allowing the weak and underprivileged to survive, we are holding ourselves back in this climb. It also appears to have a very narrow view of superiority which, seemingly, boils down to class with the assumption that great scientists or artisans could never come from the lower classes.
    Galton's Eugenicism was based on Darwin's theories, which are also often equated with atheism, but is essentially a social policy based on a misapplication of science and social prejudices with little or no relation to religious questions. Whatever the religious affiliations of those who supported or still support Eugenics, it is not born of any religious position.

    Just to hammer the point home a little excessively, atheism, however it may be arrived at by individuals, is a rational position based on the idea that we should not assume any claim for the existence of god is true unless it is shown to have evidential backing.
    We know from experience with dog breeding that breeding for specific attributes can result in a dramatic narrowing of the gene pool which leads to an increased risk of the emergence of genetic defects with a breed. To expect to be able to breed for specific attributes in humans, the underlying aim of Eugenics, without narrowing the gene pool is not a rational expectation. To maintain a large gene pool reduces the chance of preferred traits being present in offspring so it is not possible to run successful Eugenic programmes without also increasing the risk of genetic defects. Therefore to expect Eugenic programmes to produce superior humans is irrational. Irrational ideas do not emerge from rational ideas without an abandonment of rationality. Therefore Eugenics is not born of atheism is any rational sense.
    ...I might be making some huge fallacy in there though, please let me know if I am.

  60. I really thought this guy was somewhat reasonable, and you could have a reasonable discussion with him. But in his closing statement, saying that materialism leads to concentration camps, he blew it. He's an idiot.

  61. Matt,

    I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts/discussion on this in the upcoming Nonprophets.

    Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge.

  62. @Spoondoggle
    I have 2 problems with the things you say:
    1) Nothing is born from atheism. Atheism doesn't lead to anything. Not believing in something does not suggest anything. Eugenetics and atheism are not related in any way.
    2) It is irrational to narrow the genetic pool too much. However, in order to push the species in a certain direction, some elimination of genes is required. This is not a problem; natural selection does exactly the same thing. Instead of natural selection, it becomes human selection. Eugenetics is therefore not always irrational.
    It is however incompatible with the view that every human has the right to live his or her life according to his or her own view, only limited in the way that it does not interfer with that right for others. That's why most people (everyone?) rejects eugenetics.

  63. Why did the room change in videos 6 & 7?

    Also, were Matt's jokes that were edited out in a previous video (5? 4?) understandable edits or censorship?

  64. 6 & 7 aren't from the debate. We're still missing 6-9 of the debate. I don't know why they posted them first, but those two are from their debate follow-up with Fr. Hans. By tomorrow night, I should have a video posted of Matt's and John Shook's panel discussion on secular morality, which was really interesting.

  65. The jokes that were deleted (I heard from the editor) were 12 seconds of commentary about how they needed portable mics for "next time" so they could wander around the audience. They had to cut it to make this video section fit in one YouTube clip. You really didn't miss anything.

  66. Ignore what I said about the different rooms. I'm a moron. At this moment, there are no videos from the debate past #5. What I took for #6 & #7 were from a different talk.

  67. Argghhg! I can't be left hanging like this!

    This is worse than prime time science fiction drama.

    I'm hoping #6 is the one where Matt draws his flaming sword of atheist truth and smites the errant knave, and looking into his dying eyes speaks through gritted teeth: "Hitler... was... a Catholic."

  68. On video #5, Jacobse has a point that is correct yet misattributed. In the last minute of the video, and earlier at ~8:30 where he talks about art and literature he is right to say that those things have value and point towards some deeper understandings. He is fractally wrong to criticize secular points of view or reason as being incompatible or destructive of art, literature, ... or of being incapable of being used as tools to enhance those pursuits.

    Just as we should not take the bait of his nonsense about Christianity being the source of secular morals, or that there is a stark divide between transcendent experiences and materialism, we should reject these types of power grabs as well.

    Christian texts, like the religious texts before it, is tribal and uninformed.

    Matter exists, and our personal experiences that inform us about ourselves and the world exist.

    The expression and sharing of our personal thoughts well up from our nature not from a mystical fountain. A book by a cat, if there could be such a thing, would be quite a different thing from a book by a human even though there would likely be some points of similarity driven by biology and some shared references in the real world.

    Dwell only on what seems to be an internal mystical sense and refrain from understanding the world as it is outside of you and you damage expression not enhance it.

  69. Oh dear... truth is beauty. No.
    There is symmetry, and that symmetry is a beautiful thing, in the rings, in that strong column and that expanding cap, of a mushroom cloud. When I see images of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, my immediate feeling is of the beauty of that cloud. The sickening feeling of the evil of what it signifies comes later... very quickly afterward, but still later. Beauty is not an acceptable source for truth or morality.
    And yes, the history of atheism is bloody. Of course it is; the history of humanity is bloody. It is not atheism that leads to concentration camps, nor is it christianity, it is human ignorance, human fears and human prejudices. Christianity recognises this and gives us forgiveness through Jesus for it. In a christian society, god will forgive you so long as you accept Jesus. Through this acceptance you will find harmony in the next life in heaven. In an atheistic society, there is no forgiveness from above for our evil actions, any forgiveness we receive comes from those we have wronged and our only route to harmony is through growing out of barbarism and embracing the civilised ideas we have pretended to for so long.

  70. @MJ
    I agree that nothing is born from atheism and that Eugenics & Atheism are entirely unrelated, but Fr. Jacobse's claim that Eugenics was a part of the "Atheist experiment" implied that it was born of atheism, this was the point of that rant... I accept that it might not have been all that clear though. Rantiness and clarity don't work well together.

    The thing with eliminating some genes, I'm not sure how to respond to this without being totally wrong... surely genes are not simply wiped out by natural selection, except in cases of mass extinction of course. More successful gene combinations will see greater reproduction and less successful combinations will see less, but except in cases where the presence of one gene causes a significant disadvantage in relation to those entities where that gene is absent, the direct elimination of genes from the gene pool is unlikely to happen. I could be wrong - I am only a layman in the field of biology, but in order to eliminate genes, it is surely necessary to eliminate every individual with those genes from the breeding pool, otherwise they will continue to exist?
    When it is humans eliminating genes from the gene pool, if we simply sterilise anyone with an IQ below 90, that will not stop people being born with a low IQ. If we sterilise the slowest 20%, people will still be born without the ability to run fast enough. It may not be so irrational to simply "push the species in a certain direction" but it would be ineffective. I might be misunderstanding your point though... I'm not sure. I can't really think of a way to directly eliminate certain genes, at least not currently, without sterilising or exterminating an unpleasantly large percentage of the human population, which would risk ending up back at the massively narrowed gene pool problem... and the having every freedom-lovin' person in the world out for blood problem...
    So I really think the only change I have to make there is to state that effective Eugenics is irrational.

  71. @myself
    Not that the existence of beauty in horrific things means that there is no truth in beauty, only that the fact that a thing is beautiful does not automatically mark it out as something from which we may discern truth or morality.

  72. Wow, did Frans basically ignore all of Matt's question and just jump to the people that fought against slavery and say that makes everything better, when Matt was trying to point out that slavery is condoned and set up by God in the Bible?

    Then that closing statement is just straw man after straw man, right after Matt pointed out that atheism is not a belief system but only a stance on the existence of deities. Frans goes into preacher yelling mode I noticed too.

  73. I notice the "father" waited until the closing speech, with no chance of retort to make fallacious claims...

  74. Two quick notes:

    @BeamStalk - he's not a Biblical literalist. From his point of view, the Bible is just wrong about slavery...that's why the question didn't really get answered.

    Yes, if video 6 gets posted, that should be the one where I respond to his remark about Hitler. There were some (OCF) people who felt I overreacted and that it wasn't fair of me to steal the last word - or that I'd missed his point. I've watched this segment again - and I was not wrong.

    The subject of the debate was the source of morality. His point was about the consequences of an atheistic/secular/materialistic morality and his claim was that this necessarily leads to eugenics and genocide. He's wrong. Factually wrong and utter dishonest in presentation.

    My response (which should be coming soon) was polite and honest and scathing. Which is precisely what his tactic deserved.

  75. Fr. Hans Jacobse uses a tactic I find to be disgusting. Throughout this debate he keeps referring to "truth" without explaining in any way how "truth" is relevant to morality. But the part i cannot abide is that it is obvious that he has a secret definition of "truth" that he is not sharing with anyone else. I know what the word truth means, but if I apply that definition to the "truth" Fr. Hans Jacobse keeps talking about none of his statements make any sense. By harboring this secret meaning for "truth" it allows him to rail on and on about it, with no possibility that anyone can counter his argument.

    Also, he hides behind his orthodoxy, or, rather, Matt's lack of knowledge about it, by claiming a position on morality that does not align with any other christian position I have ever heard. Matt can't really call him on this because of his lack of knowledge. This is a typical tactic from what I have seen. The religious know they can't really defend religion so they only defend some imaginary position and then try to shift that position around to where it seems to be the same as theirs.

    Also, I am amused that apparently even God is still trying to figure out moral truths. At least he still didn't have it right when he authored The Bible. I guess God figured out slavery was wrong about the same time man did.

  76. Fr. Jacobse's initial argument boils down to a simple syllogism:

    I: Atheism denies the existence of non-material things;
    II: Morality is a non-material thing; therefore
    CONCLUSION: Atheism denies the existence of morality and, accordingly, cannot be the source of it.

    Accordingly, I think Matt could have been a little clearer in his response, which would go something like this:

    1. Strangely enough, Fr. Jacobse doesn't argue for the major premise of his argument; he just asserts it. He says "atheism means you must be a materialist." But asserting something doesn't make it so; and this is nothing more than a straw-man.
    I can disbelieve in all gods and still believe in leprechauns, for example. More importantly, atheists believe in transcendant mathematics -- that is, that in an uninhabited universe, two meteors plus two meteors are four meteors regardless of whether someone is there to count the meteors or not.

    Now, Fr. Jacobse is free to *dispute* this, to argue -- as some Christians have done -- that without God, 2+2 might equal 17 or a billion or something. But so far, he hasn't even tried to argue this; he's just asserted that atheists believe a thing that most atheists don't really believe.

    Accordingly: atheism does not entail hard materialism, and
    Premise I is a straw-man. At this point, we're done, because Fr. Jacobse's conclusion depends upon the major premise of his argument being true, and it's false. Atheists can believe in non-material things.

    2. But it gets worse, because his minor premise is -- as far as we know -- false as well. Now, "morality" may not be a material thing, but morality operates because of material things; namely, because of our meat brains. We know that this is so because I can alter the physiology of your brain and alter your moral preferences as a result -- whether with magnets, or with chemicals, or with surgery. At the extreme, if I smash your brain to bits, your ability to make moral choices similarly ceases.

    How do we know that bees or ants don't make moral choices? Because they don't have brains. No matter what their activities might look like -- and it can appear that an individual bee is engaged in noble self-sacrifice -- we know that this is an ingrained behavior and not a moral decision because bees don't have brains. On the other hand, in animals that have brains that are awfully similar to ours -- chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and so forth -- we see the same kinds of behaviors and the same kind of decision-making that we call morality in humans. We see altruism, sacrifice, cooperation, punishing free-riders, and so forth. So again, this is good evidence that morality requires a material brain.

    Now, again, Father Jacobse is free to argue that there's some sort of non-material mind that can make moral choices. I know he believes in one, because he believes in God. But he's got to actually *argue* for it; he can't just assert it, and so far he hasn't done that, either.

    So we see that his argument fails at every level. Morality doesn't come from an imaginary god; it comes from reason, and atheists can and do account for rationality.

  77. @Matt - I caught that he didn't believe in a literal reading of the Bible. So he gets to use it as a the Big Book of Multiple Choice and decide what is and is not really from God?

    The other tactic that I thought was underhanded was his very subtle shifting of the burden of proof. By him stating that all morals come from God so no matter where you think you derive morals from it is ultimately from God.

  78. That sneaky so and so waited until he thought there would be no time for response to bring up the gulags and concentration camps. I cannot help but think he planned this, since he also more or less got into preaching and yelling mode. I sincerely hope Matt got a chance to respond later. Bring on 6-9 ASAP!

    I really do not think there can be any truly objective truths, they are all dependent on perception. A rock certainly still exists if there is no one to see it, but the human experience of a rock can only exist if there is a human. And in fact, if there were no humans to experience the phenomenon of a rock it does not make much sense to use the word rock.

    I always think of truth as the ability of a mental model to predict what your experience of things will be. Gravity would for example be pretty high in truth "value" in that it can predict how we will experience things on our planet, but it does not do so well in cosmological explanations on a large scale, so it is not a truly objective or complete truth.

    In this sense I agree with Matt in that objective evidence is the only actual path to truth. I was really disappointed with the way Fr. Hans Jacobse dodged Matt's question on what his other path to truth might be.

    That got long and philosophical, my apologies. I like to throw things out to a critically thinking crowd to get criticism though. Have at me.

  79. @John K

    I'd differ from you in that I don't think truth has anything to do with perception at all, but that may depend on the definition.

    There's one true value for how many planets this solar system has in stable orbit right now. This is independent from perception.

    If you want to talk of more philosophic things, I still think it's grounded in what's real. For instance, you may see Truth in the philosophy of working hard, but it's actually true because it produces real non-perception results that can be evaluated with statistics and event analysis. For instance, your salary rises over those who don't work hard.

    If there's another "kind" of truth outside of that, I'm not sure it'd be terribly relevant (and my position on this may or may not be true).

  80. ..and I'd add that due to my understanding of truth, it's probably why Jacobse's discussions about truth with morality made no sense to me.

  81. It seems that a central premise of Jacobse's argument is that atheism (or, for him, philosophical materialism which MUST BE THE SAME THING as atheism...) denies the magical element that gives human life meaning. He makes this clear when he tries to make the link between 'materialism' and humans being 'nothing more' than the molecules that make them up, hence, completely without value (obviously).

    I think this is a good question for Jacobse:

    If you discovered, tomorrow, that you are incorrect and that there is/are no god/s, afterlife or soul, would YOU suddenly stop valuing human life?

  82. @John K

    I was there and he got to respond to it (a questioner brought it up). Matt was adamant in his response and their was a huge applause.

  83. I saw the 5 (currently posted) videos, and I found sad (or maybe infuriating) that Fr. Hans Jacobse in all his interventions said almost nothing, really, nothing to really grasp on. He even evaded to respond direct questions with non-sensical answers, and actually said practically nothing... EXCEPT at his closing statements when he started shouting...

    My opinion: he did that at the end because he knows Matt can no longer shot down his arguments one by one because the debate is already ended; his ugly closing statements and assertions cannot be discused or questioned any longer. Is that a way to make an honest debate?

    IMHO that is intellectually dishonest and pretty coward.

    It was like acting non confrontational all time you are near your opponent, until you reach the front door and get ready to escape: then you start insulting and yelling, knowing your opponent can no longer answer or catch you.

    Simply COWARD!

  84. Towards the end of part five it sounds to me like Fr Hans is saying atheism is the dark cloud that is going to kill all the beauty in the world. People will no longer be able to think of themselves as a beautiful and devinely inspired, custom designed snow flake by god if all they are is the sum of their biology parts.

    Also, I say anything is possible when your high..even if that is on god but does it change the nature of objective reality? Should we all be drugged up on god just to see the world as devinely inspired and more beautiful as a result?

    I see beautiful in nature and the universe without the need for a god to make it so.

  85. Abolitionists was purely a Christian movement? Seriously? Fuck you good sir. He didn't even answer the biblical slavery element.

  86. This comment has been removed by the author.

  87. No surprises in Part 5, apart from Hans dodging Matt's question completely and then losing his fucking mind. Bravo to the guy in the audience who shouted "YOU'RE LYING." You could hear the audience murmuring and getting uncomfortable.

  88. In more colloquial terms I think Fr Hans seems to appeal that a higher truth in our world is distiguishable by the beauty in it. I think he seems to be saying that beauty can only have meaning or have been derived through/from god.

    I argue that beauty is not proof of a god nor depended on to see as such.

  89. Any news of Videos 6-9 of this? Hans needs to be called out on his canards. Most notably:

    1. How is secularism 'the denial of the divine' when there are plenty of religious secularists.

    2. How he can tell us that Mao, Hitler and Stalin did the things they did because of atheism with a straight face.

    3. How he can completely misinterpret what atheism is in the first place.

    4. How if slavery is mistakenly condoned by Christ, how he came to this conclusion and why the other much less believable things aren't mistaken as well.

    5. Who are the 'New atheists' and what makes them new. And what the fundamentalist atheists are (in his closing statement).

    Among many, many others

    Bring on 6-9


  90. Part 6 -

  91. Gang, you needn't worry about linking to each new vid as it's posted. I'm monitoring the YouTube channel and I'll embed every new installment as soon as it's up.

  92. "You and I probably aren't going to have a beer together..."

    Priceless Matt

  93. I have very little to say about part 6.
    The only issue I would raise comes near the end when Fr. Jacobse states, "I have encountered the risen Christ." Granted, he may simply be using poetic language and in reality he had a realisation that Christianity made sense to him, but if he's serious, if he truly did encounter the risen Christ, if it wasn't just a hallucination, why do none of us encounter Christ?
    Are our hearts simply hardened against Christ? What does that mean? My heart doesn't feel hardened... I certainly don't mean for it to be hardened. How does one unharden a heart which they did not consciously harden?
    Are we simply not among the chosen few who get to have the truth revealed to them? Why? How can a just god create us with a desire to know that our beliefs are the truth and refuse to give us any sign that Christianity is the truth? Especially considering the possible cost of getting that question wrong.
    Maybe we just have to believe, like really believe before he'll show the evidence... but how can we believe when we haven't seen the evidence?

  94. Just saw Part 6. The only thing I can say is: what a lying scumbag this "Father" is.

  95. Father Jacobse is a liar. Pure and simple. I wanted to scream at the screen as he pontificated about absolutely nothing. His tactic seems to be this; Ramble on about philosophical nothing for so long that by the time he stops people are just glad he is done and won't point out that he didn't address the point for fear that he might open his mouth again. If I had been there I would have thrown a shoe at him.

  96. "Music is not reason."

    No shit. Neither is food, drinks, cars, people, buildings etc. Reason is a thought process. This is painful to watch.

  97. "If I had been there I would have thrown a shoe at him."

    I'm not one to resort to throwing things at people, but his closing statements would have provoked me to throw both my shoes at him.

  98. How did the words "Gott Mitt Uns" on the belt buckles of the SS constitute an atheist slogan? To ignore the long history of institutionalized antisemitism by the Catholic church and later by the likes of Martin Luther as factor in the holocaust is intellectually dishonest. Just how far does Fr. Hans think a good Catholic boy like Adolf would have gotten without this wonderful Christian tradition.

    As for "Uncle Joe", collaboration with the Catholic church (Orthodox mind you) did his career no harm. Just look at the history. The trouble with history is that it is like the bible. One can cherry pick anything you want from it.

    One thing that is really infuriating about these educated holy men is their arrogant dismissal of the inherent greatness of human beings. All things good need god - the crap is all ours. Sorry Fr. Hans we get to take credit for all of it.

    Fr. Hans states that there has to be more than just atoms and molecules. Sorry but there is even less then that. All we have is the up quark, the down quark and the electron. From these we get the universe and all the wonders therein. Anyone who cannot feel a sense of awe over that simple fact has no soul. Oops I forgot - I don't have one. However will I find my way to Hell without one?

    I could not help but notice Fr. Hans' god is a lot more abstract than the misanthropic sociopath of the old testament or the Mr. Bo Jangles Jebus of the new. Not much more than the cosmic background radiation. That's the trouble with god these days. The closer you look the less there is to find

  99. DavidCT said...

    I could not help but notice Fr. Hans' god is a lot more abstract than the misanthropic sociopath of the old testament or the Mr. Bo Jangles Jebus of the new. Not much more than the cosmic background radiation. That's the trouble with god these days. The closer you look the less there is to find

    Exactly, when you try to pin him down on what he believes, God starts to become more abstract and unfalsifiable but I guarantee that if you asked him if he believed in the God of the Bible he would answer yes. It is an amazing double think that let's people like Fr Hans (whoops misspelled his name earlier, I think I was thinking of Hans and Franz) claim Christianity and hold onto it when challenged.

  100. Just watched it.

    This Hans guy was waaaaay out of his league. Matt was stellar.

  101. I'm glad that Matt showed some backbone. I have been finding this guy increasingly insulting and condescending ie calling it "The Atheist Experiment" and then to blame Stalin, Hitler and the Eugenics on Atheism or as a direct result of it ? Clearly Hans Jacobse is beyond comprehension and through his delusional attachment to his invisible friend and an unquenchable thirst for the sense of self importance, is also completely incapable of being truthful with himself and others around him.

  102. The Jesus narrative gave birth to science? I have not heard a more wild assertion in a long, long time. I guess to debate for Jesus you just take as much credit for as many good things as you can and blame atheism for everything unpopular.

    I can only hope the "applause" after that statement was a rapid series of facepalms. Who would buy that?

    Do I even want to hear the last 3 clips from this guy?

  103. Total intellectual dishonesty from the Father... it sickens me.

  104. I think the most frustrating part about the interview isn't the Godwin issue. It's that Fr Hans immediately left the agreed upon topic and never came back. Something along the lines of "I don't like the way you asked the question, so I'm going to answer the formulation that I like" If the moderator could have done one thing, he should have paused there and said "No, if you aren't going to argue to the debate topic, you have lost the debate by default. I wish that theists would stay on topic, instead of launching off on to their own little pet tangents.

    It's pretty obvious why they don't though - every time they stick to topic they get massacred. See, for example, the Hitchens, Fry, et al debate on "Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world". When theists must actually defend their positions instead of simply throwing out "what atheists believe" and their mushy "god is love and beauty" stories, they fail miserably.

    On another note, the argument that has become my pet peeve as of late is the idiotic postulation that methodological naturalism reduces humans, art, etc to "Mere molecules". The hell it does. The world is SO much more amazing when you realize that there's not infinite being tweaking things and making it all work. That we are here on this tiny, tiny planet in an incomprehensibly vast universe but for the sake of innumerable fortuitous random occurrences. Knowing that every molecule of my body, everything that I am was once something else, and will be something entirely different after I a dead is amazing. And the idea that not believing in an afterlife makes life more depressing - fuck that! This is the only life we've got, we have to make the most out of it. How much more valuable is human life when you realize that it is so fragile and temporary?

    I know this was pretty rambley, but I really wanted to get it out there. The world is fucking amazing - there's so much more for us to find out. But he wants to stop and say "God did it, that's all i need to see that it is beautiful". He's missing out.

  105. Did he just explain that he can tell what parts of the bible are metaphorical and what parts are literal because "he knows a little hebrew" and thus it's obvious when they are speaking metaphorically? I wish he'd go through it and point out which parts are which, because I bet everyone disagrees. Even the ones who know hebrew.

    This guy is bad news. It hurts me to think how many people think these are the thoughts of a "good man".

    Is there even more heckling and bickering later on? Both sides were a bit squirrelly. First the "You're lying!" and then the missed-the-whole-point "What about communist Russia?". If you want to be part of the debate, then do it properly. Otherwise leave the pitchfork and torches at home with the mob mentality. Grrr.

  106. Oh yeah- Where are we on the "Don't be a Dick" scorecard? I'm showing the theists are being dickier with a 5-2 lead after part 6. I wonder how Dr Shook is scoring it?

  107. WTB Part 7, cause I'm getting tired of these videos form the get together with Jacobse where he basically talks down to everyone and asserts a bunch of nonsense.

    In "On the intrinsic value of a human being" he re-asserts the nonsense that science is the result of christianity's philosophy. And oh boy, I'm watching "On Old Testament Violence and Orthodox Interpretation of Scripture" he's saying that atheists "war" against the one god, not against all gods. This despite the fact that Matt brought up the "you are an atheist about all gods except one" argument in the debate.

    I know very little (well, nothing I guess) about Orthodox Christianity but this guy is convincing me that it has not dealt with reality and updated its understanding of the world in ages (I mean not even in the way the Roma Catholic Church has). His insistence on talking about the Pagan world and making the contrast between Pagan and Christian is hilarious.

    He seems completely incapable of dealing with words other people use and instead just preaches pre-packaged stuff.

    @Joe K: The problem people have with "reductionism" really gets to me too. I can say "why" music appeals to me and I'm sure at some point as I go further and further back I'd end up with I don't know. Then of course someone would seize on that and say "see, that's God" or some other nonsense and completely ignore that science has given me the opportunity to not only enjoy music but also speculate as to why and understand what is going on in my brain when I do enjoy it.

    How can you call explanations that expand on things and make them cooler and cooler "reductionist"? I know what reductionism means, but it's a terribly misleading label.

  108. For those wanting this on mp3, just paste the youtube link into

  109. Father Hans is a moron, a liar, and he's boring. Matt rocked it... Go Matt!!

  110. Matt was great in this debate! I can't wait to see the last few parts.

    One thing I noticed is how clear Matt was able to make his points and how sloppy Father Hans was. It became really annoying that all Hans would do is explain himself with nebulous metaphors. I think its a symptom of sloppy thinking on his part. He really seemed to have no structure.

  111. I find Father Hans difficult to listen to. His language is so woolly that I'm not really sure if he's said anything after five minutes of him speaking.

  112. I hope people don't mind, but I could not limit my musings on the debate to the comments section and posted a rather lengthy blog entry. I excuse the obvious pimping, but I was wondering if I was on the right track.

  113. Good job on the Debate!!!

    Realy frastrating that not all the parts are up yet...From where are they uploading anyway?

  114. Hey everyone! I can't believe how popular this debate has been. I had a feeling it would take off with mobs of TAE fans on it, but it's been really entertaining to see the comments on the videos and the channel be almost 100% atheist.

    Anyway, I'm not sure why these last parts are taking so long. I know the person who is uploading (from the OCF), and I will say he is working his ass off on top of schoolwork and classes to get these things up. I'm sure he originally thought he could just throw the up at a leisurely speed over a week with no problem, but he did NOT anticipate his brand-new channel would get 13,000 views in 24 hours. He's got two computers working on compressing, editing, and getting up to YouTube asap. Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seat!

  115. @Chris

    It's not just sloppy thinking - it's the kind of sloppy thinking that is cultivated in the religious world. That's the problem when speaking about God or a god or whoever, eventually the discussion has to be steered towards non-literal things. Thus the result is all this meandering mushy semi-philosophical stuff, which when you try to pinpoint what it is he (or other preachers and pastors) is talking about, you realize it's nothing at all. Lots of "deepities" as Daniel Dennett has said.

    This is the same crap I've heard from the pulpit on Sundays: it's either disgusting bigotry or complete nonsense. Or both.

  116. I just viewed the 6/9 episode where Matt was very clear about the intellectual dishonesty of claiming the atheist position on the existence of god leads to immoral acts. Great response Matt!!!

    Fr Hans made the claim that the term "atheist" came from christianity. In a way he may be right. While there have been non-believers since there have been claims of the supernatural, the latin derived term came into use with the beginnings of christianity. It was initially used by the romans to describe a religious sect (christians) that did not worship the roman gods. Like so many other ideas this one was glommed onto by christians, and morphed into the term now used to demonize people who do not accept their worldview.

    Fr. Hans goes totally wacko at the end of 6/9 with his claim that science has its origins in the church. For someone who repeatedly advises others to look at history he seems to have missed the part about the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Babylonians and their contributions to the systematic gathering of knowledge of the world. I suppose if your view of history is from the bottom of a WWI trench it is not very wide.

    Since Fr. Hans is so fond of the postwar French thinkers he should read some Albert Camus. I am thinking particularly the character of the priest in the novel "The Plague".

    I am looking forward to further posts of the debate. I complement Matt on his ability to keep up with an endless onslaught of logical fallacies. I have compliment Fr. Hans for his clear demonstration that moral relativism is at the heart of christian morality. The bible must constantly be reinterpreted to stay aligned with the values of society at any given time.

  117. Finally finished part 6 and I agree with others that Matt's response to the Nazi claim was the best part. That was absolutely the right time to be forceful. Only thing I would add is that since it was a debate on morality that could have been the perfect time to point out the flaws in religion based moral systems.

    What I mean is this. There is nothing at all the links Hitler to atheism. At all. On top of that there is quite a bit that indicates, if anything, he was a Catholic theist. The point is, a person that has studied history like Hans could not possibly be ignorant of all that. I don't believe for a second he doesn't know this stuff which means he is being intentionally dishonest trying to tar atheism with Hitler and the holocaust. Right there is the perfect example of why religious moral systems fail. Hans is making his decisions based on what serves his religion first, and what serves principles like honesty or humankind in general 2nd and 3rd.

    Having your priorities as such is exactly why we get religiously motivated violence and things like the crusades and the Phelps gang. How can you claim moral superiority when your morals are first subject to the service of your religion? It is the same danger that permeates nationalism, when people place morality 2nd, you get moral failures. This is the potential strength of secular morality in that it (ideally) places morality first and other allegiances second.

  118. Well there are some more parts up with the good father sharing some more of his brilliant insights. Apparently this Q&A lecture was after the formal debate. It's hard to tell the context. I thougt it was an unrelated recording except he mentions Matt at one point.

    He also claims christianity is helping many hindu converts by raising them out of mythology. Yep, their religion is myth based while his is, apparently, not. I have yet to see him defend this position in any real way. for all his talk, I am somewhat clueless about his own religion and how he justifies it? He talked and emoted and prattled and it seemed entirely muddled and the only specifics were insults or strawmen about the other position.

  119. Part 7 is up now, if you want to add it Martin.

    "The only stand against the Atheist Program . . . the grand ideologies of the last century have always been atheist and therefore eutopic in scope . . . the only thing that stands against them is transcendent morality . . . now I'm not saying all atheists are totalitarian . . . Naziism and Marxism deny the transcendent character of the individual person . . ."


  120. Part 7:

  121. Anybody tell this guy that America is secular? Is that another failed atheist experiment?

  122. This guy is a joke. He's appealing to the "atheism leads to nazism" canard again. Someone should ask him if he's only religious because he believes atheism leads to genocide.

  123. LMAO I love how he fumbles with the next question of "how do you tell the difference between something that's immaterial and something that's imaginary?"

  124. @rrpostal He said he could not prove God to anyone. So essentially he's holding an unprovable position and treating it as a fact of the Universe. Go figure.

  125. I can accept that the Bible is true in the same way as a Dostoevsky novel is true. That is, not at all.

    When there's a scenario which is interesting or informative or didactic but not true, that's called a counterfactual. As in, against the facts. There's simply no use in redefining the word "truth" to include counterfactuals.

    And Hans sticks the "utopian" label on atheists rather than Christians? It's true that utopian thinking is vaguely linked to progressivism, which is mildly correlated with atheism. (Do no believers realize that there are many political flavors of atheists and that they differ?) But what we're talking about with genocidal dictators and eugenicists is generally top-down authoritarian utopian thinking. You know, the idea that society can be purified and subsequently perfected by a central authority that takes interest in all aspects of people's public and personal lives.

    Hmm, I wonder which religious perspective explicitly incorporates this idea, which has explicitly been used to justify mass murder? Christianity or atheism?

  126. @Sean

    Yeah, I really wanted to point out that he was conflating different meanings of "true"...there was just so much wrong and so much to address that I had to pick and choose things that didn't require a long philosophical answer.

  127. Father Jacobse says in part 7 that "totalitarianism is, by necessity, atheistic" This is not so. Totalitarianism is by necessity areligious. This is because a religion is competition for power, not because of some need for people to not believe in God.

    Also I loved how he didn't answer the question about how to tell the difference between imagination and the immaterial. He just used it as an excuse to pontificate about his ideas on "truth" again. At one point you can see that he doesn't even remember the original question when he says, "I can't answer your question with a yes or a no" Of course he can't! Its not a yes or no question! What a fucking ass.

  128. @Matt, did you change your mind about Hans the moment he started linking atheism with totalitarianism?

  129. In part 7 Fr. Jacobse says

    "Nothing in life comes without suffering."

    Amen to that.

    We are having endure the inane witterings of Fr. Jacobse who likes the sound of his own voice too much.
    There are words coming from his mouth when he opens it but it is such bullshitty pseudo-wisdom that it doesn't mean dick.

  130. "Nothing in life comes without suffering."

    I actually hate these sorts of all encompassing statements. Usually, when you try to describe "everything" you are wrong. I am sure that there are things in life that come without suffering.

  131. JAFisher44 said

    "I am sure that there are things in life that come without suffering."

    Although I would agree with you, I am sure that Fr Jacobse would use some of his interpretive skills that he uses on the bible to justify his statement about everything requiring suffering. He is so dishonest in his use of language that I am sure that he would find it a breeze.

  132. Not even five minutes in to video 7: "Hitler Hitler Stalin Stalin Mao Mao"

    This guy isn't worth having a discussion with. He's just a rambling twat who is unconcerned with the truth. He just wants to advance his position.

    Also, this guy's positions don't really jibe with what little I know about Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

  133. Ugh, and then the jabbering on about the "self correcting nature of xtianity". How does he propose we tell the difference between christians "self correcting" themselves, and christians finally getting dragged into progress by the shifting moral zeitgeist?

  134. JAFisher44: Totalitarianism is by necessity areligious. This is because a religion is competition for power, not because of some need for people to not believe in God.

    I was going to write something similar, but you beat me to it.

  135. There's a saying that I picked up from a scientist dealing with the psychology of language;

    We are the story that we tell ourselves.

    Jacobse has created a story, a dramatic one, that has him as a character in it. His own ideals, sayings, and actions are locked into that character type. That's why he keeps insisting on such nonsense.

    On the whole transcendent mode of fuzzy thinking, if you map what Jacobse said to someone who is an avid and unrestrained fan of fiction you can see some correlations. As a writer of fiction, I do my best at imagining and making real what I know to be a construct of my own mind. There's a reason why writers and other artists fight with insanity at times and why some of them who go on medication for their psychoses feel as if they have lost something.

    more ...

  136. ... continued

    Both religious mystical people and artists have to give in to the other, the muse and source of their inspiration. The question is how much and how are those sources, the muses, treated.

    Most artists realize that they themselves are their own muse, where that same attempt at objective distance is not encouraged in religious people.

    So, when a character speaks to me, I don't think that it's really an ephemeral phone call from a mystical entity. It's part of me or something that I've absorbed and can express through the character's perspective. I can learn and understand through that process of interaction, but I don't feel out of control of that character.

    When Jacobse talks to Jesus or listens to Jesus, he's completely given in to a psychosis. The character Jesus is like a personality that is is superior to his own sense of self -- yet it is him. This is probably why some priests are so capable of justifying or shamelessly acknowledging their immoral actions. They had a revelation of God and thus can't be mistaken. If they do have guilt, they can always fall back on a different set of characters such as demons or devils.

    If I talk to a demon character, it's still a character not an entity. Religious people may call an exorcist or give in to their darker characters be manipulated or influenced by them.

    I would not be surprised if Jacobse sees Matt as an atheist character that his Orthodox scholar character must confront. That's why the priest is such a shallow bastard.

  137. I can't believe the good Father actually claimed secularism isn't self-correcting, when it's secularism that brings religious idealogies kicking and screaming into modernity. Tell me, Father, how goes the 'self-correcting' Catholic church with regard to, I don't know, diddling kids? Not so well, I see.

    Jacobse also makes ridiculous associations with atheism and Nazism or Marxism, but not believing in some sky spook has nothing to do with those kinds of ideologies, anymore than not believing in Santa Claus makes one a racist or murderer.

    Matt's indignant response was perfectly wonder he got a hearty cheer (from me too, at home watching).

    Jacobse seemed wordy, dishonest, confused and self-contradictory at every turn. He claims 'narrative has power' so why the hell doesn't he believe in Grimm's Fairy Tales as a guide for good living? Please.

  138. Btw Matt you did great!! Sound quality was good too. I think you should have clarified what 'Gott Mit Uns' meant but I think most people would have figured it out.

  139. @Hermes:

    Actually, as soon as I posted that I regretted it. Many totalitarian states have eliminated religion as a competitor for authority, but this is not necessary. Totalitarianism is a form of government that theoretically permits no individual freedom and that seeks to subordinate all aspects of the individual’s life to the authority of the government (Encyclopedia Brittanica). This does not preclude religion in any way. All this means is that the government must also control religion. The church itself could be that totalitarian government. I am sure that there are in fact probably totalitarian theocracies to be found in our history.

  140. great debate. little comment though to the makers: try to get direct access to the mixing desk next time. the best visuals can be thrown deep into amateur league of all you have is a lousy room microphone.

  141. ...IF all you have...whoops :-)

  142. I cannot help but think Julia Sweeney in her "Letting go of God" monologue when she states that the Invisible and the Non-existant tend to look a lot alike.

    I like the way Fr. Jacobse brings in that wonderful christian concept of a need for suffering in this life to achieve anything worthwhile. I agree that any real knowledge requires an investment of time and effort. Is this equivalent to "suffering"? The problem I have with this holy man's arguments is the continual use of undefined terms. This is mixed liberally with unsupported assertions. I am certain that courses with this man would involve considerable "suffering". A couple semesters of Fr. Jocobse would provide enough suffering to get anyone into heaven.

    I get the distinct impression that Fr. Jacobse spends most of his time in an environment where his arguments are rarely challenged. He is used to getting away with not having to back up his assertions. He can make up fairy stories about atheists because he does not knowingly interact with them. He can define truth any way he wants and even be inconsistent in this isolated world.

    I cannot get my mind around the concept of truth the holy man uses in this debate. As I understand him morality must be ultimately based on an underlying transcendental "truth" which requires a perfect god. Yet in spite of there being this absolute and unchanging underlying moral standard, humans are not able to perceive this standard directly an must move toward the "truth" by a process that requires constant error correction. In the end christians have a functionally useless constant on which to base their behavior since nobody can access this standard directly.

    Atheists must work out what is moral by what works and what does not based on trial and error. Behaviors that benefit the group tend to be encouraged and those that do not are discouraged. Over time the needs of the group may change and thus the standards for moral behavior will change. This evolution of behavior is considered moral relativism but a system based on constantly changing revelations about a supposed transcendental "truth" is not. Why do I sense the smell of a steaming pile?

  143. That was possibly the worst answer to a question I've ever heard. I think he said that he may well believe in imaginary things but if the reflect some deeper meaning than it's OK and not necessarily a bad thing? I really wish Matt could have gotten a word in on this one. Father is starting to dominate the floor and his pap is threatening to overwhelm all.

    His whole "deeper area of existence" is imaginary, that's my take. Is it fair to label him a pseudo-intellectual? I hate that label, but he seems to say so many words and have so little value.

  144. @Matt. Functional MRI scans done on inmates at the Mind Research Center operated by the University of New Mexico(UNM) have revealed parts of the brain responsible for things like morality are missing or atypical in structure in sociopaths. Science now suggests the source of human morality may be found in the human brain structure. I don't know if this would have helped with the debate or not.

    Here is a link to what I'm talking about.

  145. JAFisher44, I agree with your re-assessment. V. good points, and they reflect many older and some current dictatorial and religious governments.

  146. Part 8:

  147. Warning: More preaching and anti-porn sentiment from the Father.

  148. This shows more than anything else that in order to become a successful preacher you need to become a successful bullshit artist, really the amount of useless (at best) trash leaving the mans lips is staggering.

  149. "Functional MRI scans done on inmates at the Mind Research Center operated by the University of New Mexico(UNM) have revealed parts of the brain responsible for things like morality are missing or atypical in structure in sociopaths."

    I've actually used something like that to argue against the "If people don't believe in God they tend to rape, murder, etc." argument. The only major group of people who really seem to lack empathy (and thus are even capable of being 100% selfish) are psychopaths, who aren't restrained by religion either (psychopaths tend to lack guilt and shame and are not strongly deterred by long-term negative consequences). So a complete absence of moral/social behavior seems to be largely a mental disorder, not an effect of any particular philosophy. (In fact I'm good friends with a nihilist who still consistently acts morally and judges others morally, despite believing that this "morality" thing is a fiction! Nonetheless, he has a strong innate aversion to hurting others and strong feelings of empathy.)

    To people who claim that they were immoral terrible people before they became Christians, I can only say that correlation does not prove causation (and even a handful of suggestive anecdotes does not prove a general trend).

  150. Thanks Martin. I find myself in agreement with those who view the preacher as a bullshit artist. I noted that he had a mannerism in speaking which was to punctuate all of his assertions with "okay" and this served to act as a way to turn off any questionning. I would guess there were lots of people in the audience who wanted to shout "no, it's not okay". He was self-declaring all his statements as true and immune to question. Of course it was such a jumble of grandiose crap that it would take hours to deconstruct it into anything clear and understandable. Then you could discover the bullshit nature of his arguments. I loved it when Matt nailed him on his atheism = nazism crap. What a blow-hard.

  151. I apologize about babbling academic nonsense. Please bear with me as I think I've diagnosed the ailment that Jacobse specifically suffers from. It's an impressive defensive mechanism for what is just mysticism.

    At 6:00 (video 7), the questioner nails it brilliantly when he asks Jacobse;

    "Since you don't presuppose materialism, how do you tell the difference between something that is immaterial and something that is imaginary?"

    Pay close attention to the specific answer Jacobse attempts to stammer out. It takes him about 30 seconds to even compose himself while his eyes flicker like a liar attempting to compose a story for a dupe that asks him something that is dangerous to the whole scam he's running. He has a gap in his defense mechanism that even he realizes is there.

    At one point, he mentions anthropology, and from other things he mentions I now bet that he's referring to mythic studies. Anthropologists treat myth as (roughly) "a cultural truth that is not necessarily literal or historic".

    This fits nicely with what Jacobse says himself, yet unlike an anthropologist with a professional distance, he's either gone native or (more likely) decided to use the academic meanings in a literal sense that is truly twisted.

    Where a professional studying myth will acknowledge a cultural truth, he's now asserting that there is one cultural truth of myth and it's the one he has. That's how he can slide from denying literalism and historicity and at the same time make the claim that it's still true. [gibberish alert] Well, within a cultural meta-framework for a limited number of people it is a carrier of a truth but it's not like physics or biology where it's true for everyone and demonstratively so. That's why he does not demonstrate his cultural ideas but asserts them. He steps into mysticism when he claims that imagination is 'truer than life'. If you buy that as a replacement for material reality, who needs drugs? I'd like to get him under an fMRI and compare the results to other groups of mystics.


    One commenter on the YT thread says of his performance;

    "blackwolf1200: In trying to answer the question around 6:40, Hans reveals that he refuses to admit to himself that he simply has no reason to assume transcendence for any reason apart from wanting so. He does not want to realize that materialism can be a supposition, but that it is also a consequence of unpresuppositional observation of reality. So, he needs to waffle a lot and hang himself on his own string of words. He argues by composing foamy poetry, not by stating facts."

  152. @Sean. I'm unsure if I understood what you were saying or not but I wasn't trying to claim any particular philosophy influences morality or doesn't. I was just trying to point out that answers for the source of morality might be found in studying the mentally ill segment of society due to their abnormal brain structure/function. If any concrete exception can be found for the cause or lack of morality other than god then I'd say god isn't the full answer and probably not the answer at all.

    Of course using fmri scans at this level in the human brain in cutting edge research at UNM and relatively new but it looks promising for the atheist side of the no god argument for the cause of morality.

    Also, the 'handful' of subjects who were tested was over 1,000 with something like a 33% hit rate at that point in time. I would think more testing will lead to more accurate results. Results for identifying schizophrenia are at 80% using fMRI. I think we can safely assume humans function as a result of brain structure and chemcials mixed with their environment.

  153. I have watched part 8. Here are my thoughts.

    The first thing that really stuck out to me was Fr. Jacobse's statement about reading literature vs. watching porn. He asserts that you will be a "different person" at the end of the proscribed period depending on which you choose. I am gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't mean that if I read literature I'm gonna be Jim Smith and if I watch porn I'm gonna be John Baker. So aside from that what can he mean? That afterward I will be either who i am plus the experience of reading 10 hours of literature or who I am plus the experience of watching 10 hours of porn? This seems to be obvious. I am going to guess that he wants us to assume that after reading 10 hours of literature I will have grown better in some way and presumably that if I watch 10 hours of porn I will have in some way become slightly less than I was before, but this is an assertion, nothing more. He seems to want us to think that literature will contribute to us in some meaningful way, which it may or may not. All of which is irrelevant since it does not answer the question he was asked.

    Next was this gem, "The fact that I believe it does not make it true. Ok? Its true. That's why I believe it." Does he think that this statement in some way proves anything? Can fancy double talk remove the burden of proof? NO!!! All of that could have been condenced to "I believe this is true."

    Now Fr. Jacobse instructs us in another tactic. Vehemence! No, really. If rejecting doesn't work, just step it up. Repudiate it! No one would ever repudiate something that wasn't false. And what is with all the "whether you believe it or not" Basically he is saying this is true, im not gonna prove it and you don't get to question it. Well guess what Fr. I question it. Prove it. Show me this "breath of God"

  154. I have watched part 8. Here are my thoughts.

    The first thing that really stuck out to me was Fr. Jacobse's statement about reading literature vs. watching porn. He asserts that you will be a "different person" at the end of the proscribed period depending on which you choose. I am gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't mean that if I read literature I'm gonna be Jim Smith and if I watch porn I'm gonna be John Baker. So aside from that what can he mean? That afterward I will be either who i am plus the experience of reading 10 hours of literature or who I am plus the experience of watching 10 hours of porn? This seems to be obvious. I am going to guess that he wants us to assume that after reading 10 hours of literature I will have grown better in some way and presumably that if I watch 10 hours of porn I will have in some way become slightly less than I was before, but this is an assertion, nothing more. He seems to want us to think that literature will contribute to us in some meaningful way, which it may or may not. All of which is irrelevant since it does not answer the question he was asked.

    Next was this gem, "The fact that I believe it does not make it true. Ok? Its true. That's why I believe it." Does he think that this statement in some way proves anything? Can fancy double talk remove the burden of proof? NO!!! All of that could have been condensed to "I believe this is true."

    Now Fr. Jacobse instructs us in another tactic. Vehemence! No, really. If rejecting doesn't work, just step it up. Repudiate it! No one would ever repudiate something that wasn't false. And what is with all the "whether you believe it or not" Basically he is saying this is true, I'm not gonna prove it and you don't get to question it. Well guess what Fr. I question it. Prove it. Show me this "breath of God"

  155. I have watched part 8. Here are my thoughts.

    The first thing that really stuck out to me was Fr. Jacobse's statement about reading literature vs. watching porn. He asserts that you will be a "different person" at the end of the proscribed period depending on which you choose. I am gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't mean that if I read literature I'm gonna be Jim Smith and if I watch porn I'm gonna be John Baker. So aside from that what can he mean? That afterward I will be either who i am plus the experience of reading 10 hours of literature or who I am plus the experience of watching 10 hours of porn? This seems to be obvious. I am going to guess that he wants us to assume that after reading 10 hours of literature I will have grown better in some way and presumably that if I watch 10 hours of porn I will have in some way become slightly less than I was before, but this is an assertion, nothing more. He seems to want us to think that literature will contribute to us in some meaningful way, which it may or may not. All of which is irrelevant since it does not answer the question he was asked.

    Next was this gem, "The fact that I believe it does not make it true. Ok? Its true. That's why I believe it." Does he think that this statement in some way proves anything? Can fancy double talk remove the burden of proof? NO!!! All of that could have been condensed to "I believe this is true."

    Now Fr. Jacobse instructs us in another tactic. Vehemence! No, really. If rejecting doesn't work, just step it up. Repudiate it! No one would ever repudiate something that wasn't false. And what is with all the "whether you believe it or not" Basically he is saying this is true, I'm not gonna prove it and you don't get to question it. Well guess what Fr. I question it. Prove it. Show me this "breath of God"

  156. Whenever Fr Jacobse speaks, he's playing a rhetorical game, filling his speeches with "I'm not saying x" and constantly casting atheism as a worldview. It's utterly maddening.

    Matt, you spoke with clarity and conviction. You were simply fantastic.

  157. Fr. Jacobse's answers in part 8 are amazingly vague, preachy and just willful. He declares whatever comes to his mind in long, drawn out words, big gestures, but he just skips actually defining, or deducing his claims from anything else. It's just one faith-based assertion after the other.
    I might as well say "warmth is meaning as it pulls the clouds over the sky, which is akin to our state of mind, and to enter that warmth and remove ourselves from that clouded viewpoint is what makes us human". See, I can simply pull out a string of metaphors and emotionally laden language out of my ass, and sound just as profound.
    It's just exhausting to listen to, let alone debate, people who simply do not care what language is for, who simply want you to agree with them if their words sound nice.
    It's ironic that this same person then advises people to seek out good literature to form their minds. I'm not sure he would understand what's good about good literature himself. He likes words, but actual meaning and content, not so much.

  158. "I'm unsure if I understood what you were saying or not but I wasn't trying to claim any particular philosophy influences morality or doesn't."

    I was discussing a theist claim that I'm often presented with, and I only quoted you because you reminded me of my counterargument, not because I think you hold the same view as those theists.

    I think I agree with you generally.

  159. As someone who has been involved in the writing/editing/publication of romance novels and fetishy erotica and outright porn, I found the pornography vs. Dostoevsky thing rather amusing. I don't know that I've ever been personally involved with Dostoevsky-quality story, but I know that stories which teach about human nature or the world, or have morally/aesthetically/emotionally uplifting qualities, can certainly incorporate explicit, arousing sex scenes.

    Which is not to say that your generic "Big Boob Bimbos 3" DVD (or a titillating but hackneyed romance novel) is high art, but I think this assumption being played on is rather funny, that thick old tomes are inherently morally uplifting while anything that contains an explicit portrayal of sex is at best a guilty pleasure.

    Not Hans was really trying to make a point about pornography, but he was leveraging a common taboo in our culture that has a Christian basis, but which I really think should be thrown out.

    (In other words, I felt like going on a tangent because I'm having an insomniac night.)

  160. The "creativity is only explained by god" argument is the old God of the Gaps.

    Google "area of brain responsible for creativity" the first item I got was musicians creating music while having their brain scanned. The areas for music creativity.

    The God of the Gaps recedes with the conclusion:
    "Rather, when you move from either of the control tasks to improvisation, you see a strong and consistent pattern of activity throughout the brain that enables creativity."

  161. There's so much wrong with the assertions of Mr. Jacobse. I took the liberty to transcribe some of them.

    The question was:
    Since you don't presuppose materialism, how do you tell the difference between something that is immaterial and something that's imaginary?

    His answer:

    That's a good question. Sometimes with.. erm.. with.. you know.. well I'm thinking, see.. imaginary! There's a pejorative.. idea what you're saying. There's a pejorative attached to it. But I think that human imagination is one of the tremendous gifts. I think that one of the things that.. erm.. and this needs to be developed in our theology.. in our anthropology. But one of that things that really shows that we were created in the image and likeness of god - I hold Genesis to be true, not literal, not historical, but true - is our natural aptitude for creativity. Of taking the stuff of creation and words, clay, whatever and refashioning it in something that is larger than we are. And that speaks to a truth greater than the arts possesses, right? So I see human imagination as critical to human self identity and also the awareness of mans own transcendence. Okay? But that has to occur - and will only occur - if the notion that a transcendent truth exists. Because it calls to reach outside of himself and to reach higher. Okay? So something can be imaginary - okay - but still very true. The novel of Dostoevsky's. All the characters are imaginary they never lived. But they are truer than life. Okay? So the answer to the question then really - I can't answer it with a yes or no - the answer to your question is really tied into your deeper notions of were truth lies and how to discover it. Part of the reason that our culture is so vulgarised these days is because the notion that transcendent truth is dimming. Okay? And so what we have is, we have pop culture that doesn't reach very deep but it's very pervasive - everywhere! But it's simply not very good! Because it's not very deep, it's entertaining, But it's simply not very good! It doesn't tell us anything. Okay? If it's deeper.. and if it's.. these things are always learned in struggle, okay, nothing in life - I'm old enough to know this now - nothing in life comes without some kind of suffering or some kind of conflict. It just doesn't. Okay? But to say something is imaginary is not necessarily to degrade it. Again it needs a judgement: is that product of the imagination pointing to something that's deeper, that's truer, that's elevating us? Or is it not? You make the judgement based on that criteria and no other in my view. Okay?

    No! Not okay. How does he know that the transcendent truths of Gangsta Rap are less true than Dostoevsky's? He has a poor methodology to determine truth. If he thinks, something elevates us (whatever that does), it's true.

  162. Can someone please explain "man's own transcendence" to me?

    Another quote from him:
    I think it's historically demonstrable that the values of atheism draw from the christian moral tradition.
    Yet he doesn't say anything that would hint some iota of proof.
    Basically, he is saying "I believe it because I believe it's true."
    He said also that he believing it doesn't make it true, but rather it's true, therefore he believes it. Yet he has no methodology for finding truth. He just says that pop songs suck because they don't elevate us.

    Every human alive has some spark of divinity in him. That spark is defined in my narrative text that shapes how I view things as the very breath of god.
    Is he talking about the Bible that he doesn't take literally?

    So by watching porn I become more of an animal and less of an angel. Wow! And why? Because I'm denying something fundamentally true about myself. What? What truth? That I want to watch porn because dating sucks?

    Also he said that we don't know anything about god's nature! Great! Then what is he talking about? He goes then on and declares that we only know of god's person. And he knows it because of scripture (which he doesn't take literally).
    Boy. Does he know anything?

    Some things are beyond the scope of logical demonstrability." And "You can't stick creativity under a microscope.
    Duh. But you can hook the brain up to a computer and show what happens when we are creative. We know where it happens and there is no antenna buried in there that contacts the deity of choice to receive creative thoughts.

    I only wish that Father Jacobse would have called the tv programme. Then Matt could've dissected every single point. It's the same old argument like "you can't prove love exist."

  163. Just watched part 8 and Father Jacobse makes a great barnum statement and acts as if he has imparted a great piece of wisdom.

    "If you spend 10 hours reading a good book instead of 10 hours watching porn, you will be a very different person."

    Yeh, If a spent 10 hours hopping on 1 leg instead of reading a good book, I would also be a very different person.

    This falls in to the Noshitsherlock category.

  164. Shook did a terrible job of moderating this.

    By the Q&A session, it was clear that Fr. Jacobse's strategy was to filibuster every question with vague wordy nonsense. I don't care whether that makes him more, less, or equally respectable to the audience; the moderator's *JOB* is to interrupt and say, "No, Father, you need to answer the question."

    Sans Dieu's transcription is illustrative of the problem, but really, this begins with Fr. Jacobse's non-answer to Matt during the cross-examination period. The ridiculous "oh, well, I just get so carried away when we're discussing philosophy, how joyous is that, what was my answer again?" crap shouldn't be allowed to fly in a formal debate.

  165. Matt, will you be discussing the details of the debate in this weeks AE show?

  166. Matt's discussing the debate on the non-prophets today, as far as I know.

    As far as Dr. Shook, I had some issues with the moderation as well. Matt said in the panel that he was actually fine with it, and when I asked John later, he said that it was actually a strategy. He had enough respect for the audience and viewers that he knew letting the father talk and say a bunch of nonsense, they would realize how unreasonable and idiotic he was being. But there were still obvious times, I thought, that he should have absolutely cut him off or made him get to a point. What was coming out of his mouth wasn't just ludicrous and insulting, it was largely boring and incredibly wordy.

    @Hermes, from a comment a while back: I went to the event Fr. Hans did on Monday, and your comment that he has no reason to assert the transcendent other than *he wants to* is absolutely correct. He said a lot of things like "I simply cannot live in a moral vacuum, so I turned to God" or "I must live in a transcendent world, because without it I would be lost." It has nothing to do with *actual evidence* and everything to do with believing because he wants to. It may make for a good personal belief system, but as everyone can plainly see, it falls apart when he attempts to argue along that line of reason. All of his equivocations, his erms and ums and okays, his references to "truth" and "transcendence" and "love" and "beauty", all come down to his main reason for belief being PERSONAL INCREDULITY. Because he was too cowardly to admit this, he ended up talking circles around himself. Callers on the show are more likely to freely admit they come from personal incredulity than he was. It was really a very pathetic attempt at finding rationalizations.

  167. Someone in my group made the following two (brilliant) images, inspired by the debate:

  168. I don’t think the good Father watches enough Porn. When you claim to have a moral system that is supposed to be based on some transcendental truth backed up by something supernatural, why does it so quickly become clear that individual behavior is based on personal bias? I personally don’t think of sex as immoral, but I can see how someone who has turned his back on one of the greatest joys of human existence would.

    Back when I was a budding intellectual snob, I remember reading some Dostoevsky. I remember particularly “Crime and punishment”. While it’s been a while I remember that is was about a pathetic loser. This fine character decided that he was justified in improving his miserable life by brutally murdering an elderly woman for a small amount of money. His pangs of guilt became more acute once he was caught. While I may have been too young to appreciate the philosophical ideas presented, I did not care for the book. I think the moral message was that if you have a miserable life and you do something despicable, your life can get even worse. Sometimes great literature can be very uplifting.

    My father thought that I was wasting my time with reading fiction and that reading history and the biographies of great men would make me a better person. Different people do not agree on the cultural pursuits that lead to living a good life. That does not stop them from being judgmental. If there is some transcendental truth about the way to live a good life, why is it that no two people can read it the same way?


    I noted from some of comments and the question from the young muslim that the holy man still wants to claim that humans are somehow special creations that are not part of the animal kingdom. It would follow that only humans can be moral. The more we study other species that live together the more we find behaviors that are consistent with moral behavior. Even the lowly red squirrel will adopt the orphaned young of another squirrel. The only use these critters would have for the bible would be to shred it up and use it for bedding. If lower animals have evolved “moral” behavior, is it that much of a leap to understand that the same forces act on the development of our behavior.

  169. I do not have a sound background in philosophy. I have a problem with understanding the need for establishing an underlying constant for secular morality. It seems that when Matt argues that secular morality is not relative that his arguments seem a bit weaker. I do not understand that if moral standards can change with time, that one has to concede all there is is moral relativity and that the slippery slope fallacy of theists becomes valid. Must moral standards always fixed or do they sometimes have to adapt to circumstances.

    I am reminded of a Jack London story about the death of an old Indian. This man was part of a small nomadic group and the time came when age made him unable to move with the group. He was made as comfortable as possible and left on the ice with a small fire to wait for the wolves. Was this act of leaving the old chief to die immoral. In our society where we have abundant resources some hold that allowing someone to die is immoral. When the choice is the survival of one person at the end of his life for a short time longer puts the survival of the group at risk, is letting him die still immoral? Circumstances must play a role and not all choices are written in an inconsistent fictional text.

    When looking at morality I start the the presupposition that god does not exist. Without god there can only be secular morality. This is something that evolved and is self correcting without external forces. Behaviors that are too far removed from respected societal norms are not sustainable.

    The excesses of the Nazis, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot can be blamed unjustly on atheism but with what do we credit their end. Certainly not the moral leadership of the christian church. The christian church has been around for some time no but the basic flaws in human behavior have not changed much. At the same time those societies that treat their populations the best and are happiest are those that have largely freed themselves of religion.

  170. I just realized where I'd seen Jacobse's "okay" trick before: Cold reading. People like John Edward try to turn a miss into an apparent hit by spouting a bunch of bullshit and following it up with "okay?". If the subject nods or says anything affirmative, the audience or even the subject can remember it as a hit instead of the fact that they were just responding to the "okay."

    It's a way to distract people from responding to the patent bullshit that was just said... and I'm pretty sure Jacobse is well aware of this.

  171. There's also the false equivalence of "true" and "inspiring." That drove me insane. When you say that fiction can be more true than truth, you KNOW you're bullshitting.

  172. You'll notice that the hundreds of comments on the videos have been deleted and commenting has been set to "approval required." Why do so many Christians on YouTube do this?

  173. Hah, the inevitable happened. Time to move on to mirrors.

  174. Well, to be fair they said they were getting too many comments full of profanities and personal attacks, which I can understand. YouTube is not exactly set up for in-depth discussion in comments. You're basically allowed not much more than a tweet-length reply, which is why YouTube comment threads very quickly descend into "Oh yeah, well suk my balls faggit!1!!" So yeah, I guess folks can come here if they want to swear at each other in style.

  175. Not surprisingly, umbcOCF are looking a wee bit dishonest. I made a comment on their channel page thanking them for their posting efforts and inviting anyone from either side who wanted to discuss the videos in-depth over here. It was deleted within seconds.

    I also suggested the some of the F-bombs they were seeing were probably a reaction by insulted atheists to being compared to Nazis. Maybe they didn't like hearing that. You think?

    Hopefully they won't decide to disable embedding. Maybe people better start mirroring just in case.

  176. Something I noticed... is it just me, or does Hans' entire argument have nothing to do with whether or not his beliefs are empirically true? He seems to be arguing for the *usefulness* of his beliefs, not their validity.

  177. Mike, I agree, his arguments at no point (that I recall right now) dealt with the subject of the debate. He certainly asserted the proposition that the source of morality is god, but that's an a priori assumption he never bothers defending. His defense is simply to attack atheism (false dichotomy) and make special pleadings.

  178. This is from their channel:

    It's too much to pick through and remove, so we're going to have to disable comments on our videos. Remember, we're a Christian organization--we can't have this kind of disrespect in our channel.

    ... then why aren't they removing the videos?

  179. Mike, I think that's the "appeal to consequences" fallacy.

    "If you're right, everything would be terrible!"

    Doesn't matter, either he's right or he isn't.

  180. In the next three days, I'll mirror all of the videos and upload the panel discussion on a umbcSSA channel, which will be fully uncensored. The OCF censorship is disappointing. I've heard about it on the other videos as well (from the Fr. Hans discussion). Someone in my group contacted me to tell me that much of her commentary back at Fr. Hans at those meetings was quite obviously deleted. I really enjoyed reading a lot of the YouTube comments, and don't think deleting them was a wise decision.

  181. Only one part left and I'm still hoping that someone asks for more detail about the Father's "encounter with the risen Christ".

    Like where did this happen? On the road to Damascus? the road to Detroit? the pattern of burned butter on a grilled cheese sandwich?

    And when did this happen? I thought Christ rose from the dead close to two thousand years ago - if the Father is that old, he's really aging remarkably well. If it's more recently, the second coming seems to be somewhat less than advertised.

  182. Here's the first SSA mirror:

    Feel free to comment on these as you wish. I'm still miffed about the OCF's censorship, but as we are *not* a Christian organization, I assure you we do not mind swearing or blasphemy. I'll get the rest up now, and I'll have access to the panel video on Monday. -Catherine

  183. Thanks Catherine! I subscribed to the channel.

  184. Part 9:

    The journey is complete.

  185. The Father has a very narrow definition of science. He's under the false assumption that science is merely work with the microscope. Is he aware that there are such things like a telescope and particle colliders?

  186. Thanks Catherine for all of this.
    Is there an email where we can contact Jacobse and/or the group who sponsored his stupidity so we can express our distaste?
    It's all good that we can refute his claims here, but it makes more of an impact if the case can be made directly to him and whatever the other group is called.

  187. I'm not sure about contacting the other group. I'll see if I can track down a group email that you could forward comments to, or alternatively just message their YouTube account, I know they're checking it. I just don't know how much they're into negative criticism (seems like not much).

    Also, if anyone needs our group email, it's

  188. I've run commercial comment boards before, and we allowed and responded to criticisms of our products that were entirely misguided or unfair. Why? Because if we could give a realistic response, the misguided and unfair comments would be seen for what they are.

    Now , if we did make a mistake -- the product failed to work as it should -- the proper response is to acknowledge the mistake and address the mistake in the product for the customer. It is not proper to hide the truth that we made a mistake, nor would it have been effective. If you push the customer away by silencing them, they will just go somewhere else and show that your company is dishonest or hiding something.

    The OCF is making problems for themselves and Jacobse by not trusting the viewers enough to judge for themselves.

    Editing or deleting comments should be an open process and done as rarely as possible. If they do not have the time to check posts, they should note that in the descriptions and request that readers flag or vote on the posts when the readers encounter a post that they do not like. This is not ideal, but it is representative of the judgment of the public as a whole and is likely to be more fair in the long run even if not for individual instances.

  189. About faith having different meanings, I think the only unique meaning , which cannot be replaced with , trust,hope, passion and loyalty , is belief with no good reason. Which actually can be read between the lines on Father's Jacobsen definition. This actually inspired me to create this image:

  190. @Hermes I wasn't going to mirror the videos, because I didn't see a point, but looks like the decision was made for me. So for the sake of free speech, feel free to add commentary on the SSA posted videos.

  191. The OCF has now removed all comments from the channel as well. *sigh*

  192. Done watching. Matt did really well in the debate. He was mostly to the point and clear. However I am quite disappointed with Father Jacobsen performance which was actually the polar opposite of Matts. He shifted the debate from the source of morality to a debate about the imaginary "atheistic" morality and philosophy and when Matt corrected him that there was no such thing he still insisted on using the same terms. Not to mention his condescending assertions that atheism borrowed concepts from christianity, implying that it is more superior than secularism. Frankly I was hoping for a more honest and rational debate, which unfortunately only Matt's side could deliver.

  193. At the beginning of part 9, does Father Jacobse say "faith came into existance 2000 years ago"? Someone should tell him about pre-christian religions...

    And... "faith and cosmic despair are the only two options you have under pagan culture"?
    Yeah... right.

    "If you're a deeper thinker, all you have is cosmic despair."
    Oops, better not think too deep then.

    "Discernable order to the universe only came into existance as great thought was synthesized with Judaic thought through the gospel in Christians, in Christian thought."
    He nearly lost me there... my head spins now.

    "...we no longer face cosmic despair, even the atheists don't, that is a debt that they owe to christianity."
    Atheist are happier now because of a certain story they don't believe in as they were 2000 years ago when they didn't have the possibility not to believe in this particular story because they didn't know about it. Makes perfect sense...

    I'm not even going to start on what he says about "truth". My brain is mushy enough already from listening to the father.

    Matt, you were really good. Was that your first public debate in this form?

    It's a bit scary, but after watching all Atheist Experience videos I could find and listening to nearly all Nonprophets episodes (I have too much free time, yes) and watching this debate, you still have to say a single thing I really disagree on with you. Well, maybe the question how subjective secular morality is. Gotta watch the video again where you state your opinion on that.

    Nice picture (though a bit disturbing). :)

    PS: yay, I managed to upload a picture. :)

  194. @ Secukar Human Alliance:

    I bet you 5 bucks that they demand you remove the videos, if you do indeed mirror them.

  195. They're mirrored now, I don't think it will be a problem. Hopefully I can encourage them to post a link to the SSA mirrors in the original videos so people can comment there. Some helpfully suggested a new title for the first one: "Source of Human Morality Debate: FREE SPEECH VERSION, pt 1"

  196. Matt, I do not think you over-reacted at all to Jacobse's continuing to call Naziism and Communism "atheist experiments". You did not actually say anything negative about HIM, just about what he was saying. It WAS dishonest and absurd for him to keep asserting those things and it needed to be pointed out firmly.

    All in all I think you held your own much better than him. He was off-topic pretty much every question he got and about 2/3 of the way through he seemed to think he was giving a sermon to his flock instead of participating in a formal debate. He resorted to typical apologist tactics:

    (1) Shifting the burden of proof
    (2) Making straw-man assertions about "atheism"
    (3) God of the gaps

    There are many many more, but I think others have said enough...just adding my two cents.

  197. Make a playlist of the videos, please.

  198. Playlist!

    [Martin, this list is embeddable if you'd like to replace the vids on this page with it, to take up less room. This is the version with comments.]

  199. Done and done, Cath. Thanks! Much better having only one window. Frankly having all those up was giving me hell with load times, and I can imagine others were having similar problems.

  200. Np, thanks to @Hermes for the idea. Makes it much easier to play, too. -Catherine


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