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. I sent a message to the UMBCOCF (or whatever the username is) of whoever posted the videos and then censored them, calling them on their censorship crap. The response was... about as weak and stupid as you might guess. I sent him a REALLY long message back.
    I assume I'll just get blocked.

  2. Guy, by all means call them on their censorship.

    That said, note to yourself that they are the ones that will cause themselves harm.

    As such, you need not do anything for them to hurt themselves by their own actions. The proper reaction is to pity them, or to simply wait while they figure out that they made a mistake. It is true that they may not figure that out, yet that should make you pity them more since they are unaware of what is to you and others painfully obvious.







  5. @Matt.....I think you did very well given that the format of this kind of debate seems to favour the religious preacher rather than the rationalist debater.
    When rebutting the usual nonsense about the atrocities of Stalin and Mao being a sign of atheistic morality, it needs pointing out that these aren't/weren't secular societies. They are/were pseudo religious societies that work in the same way as theocratic societies but simply have a 'demi god' type human figure at its head rather than a sky pixie.

  6. Sorry.....I forgot to add that the only other problem seemed to be a technical one re the microphones on Matts side which were set up differently from the xtians side which made the xtian come over as having a more imposing voice. Matt would have had to lean forward (almost in a subserviant way) to make his voice as noticeable as the xtians.
    Was this just an oversight by the organisers or an intentional set up of the microphones to make the atheist look subserviant?
    I'll let you decide.

  7. Faith is recognizing that life indeed has a spiritual dimension.

    As he provides not a shred of proof of this nebulous dimension, faith is wanting to have a spiritual dimension. Sorry Father, that's how REAL science works.
    Note also that he cleverly weaves the word "indeed" in there - as this alone makes it true.

    And that even if something is not quantifyable, it still can be true.

    Nobody argues that point, not even Matt. What yu have to do is provide some evidence, or this is just wanting to believe something.

    In other words faith - and I think in the modern definition is this: Things don't have to be solely material (knocks 3 times on wood) to be true. Truths exists (knocks 3 times again) not distinct from it, but it (knocks again) incorporates materiality but also exceeds beyond the categories of materiality.

    I think energy isn't material-- and gravity-- yet they exist, because we can analyse the effects. This is just another example of religious people and their "you can't see air" argument. That a priest is falling into the same old trap is lamentable.

    And it's just the recognition that life does indeed has a spiritual dimension. Now what that spiritual dimension is? We can debate! And many people do and they will until the end of time. But it recognizes - as I said - truth cannot be reduced to just what you see under a microscope.

    Now he goes on to say that even the discussion about his spiritual dimension is recognition itself. Are we all believers, we just don't know it yet?

    I was shouting at my computer while Mr. Jacobse was speaking. He droned on and on like a tibetan prayer wheel, without providing anything reasonable. He asserts and moves on from there. And his comment about atheists should be thankful for christianity because it prevents us from falling into "cosmic despair" is sickening.

    Please go away you evil spirit!

  8. @Hermes and guy

    The reason for deleting the comments stated on their channels was "Not making an effort to remove tasteless, disrespectful and/or vulgar comments reflects negatively on our group." , which is somewhat understandable. However It does more disservice to them to delete all comments than to leave them in there imo. As their actions only give those disrespectful comments more weight than before.

  9. My God the good father can talk. His long, rambling, pointless answer the "what is faith" winds up nowhere. Hans to far to accustomed to preaching rather than listening or thinking.

  10. Response to video 2: What is the significance of Moses handing down "Don't murder", if other cultures (and previous cultures) already established it as a moral necessity in their societies? It is a bit redundant, like trying to convince a person you invented the wheel in 2010. If atheists are piggybacking on Christian morality in the west, then wouldn't, by the same token, Christians be piggybacking on pre-judeochristian moral philosophies? Wouldn't this diminish the so-called moral revelations handed down by that religion?

  11. It's worth noting that because of the way YouTube works, disabling comments also has the effect of rendering previously submitted comments invisible. There is no way (that I know of) on YT to allow viewing of extant comments while also disabling new additions.

    I don't agree with them disabling them, but given the normal level of discourse on YT, it's at least somewhat understandable (if cowardly) for people who think that words are mantras, and have intrinsic moral value.

    It's really irrelevant as we have here and the new SSA channel to comment on. I'm rather impressed that they made it available in the first place, and didn't attempt to edit the video content, unlike the ID debate (read: bloodbath) last fall at a Texas church between Lawrence Krauss and David Berlinski that just miraculously "disappeared" into the æther, and the track record with several others that don't go the desired way and just gently float into the memory hole...

  12. Forgot to say thank you to Matt, Catherine, the SSA, and the OCF for having and hosting this debate, and especially the guys at the OCF for doing their best to get it edited, compressed and uploaded quickly.

    I hope this is the first in a long line for Matt on the lecture/debate circuit.

  13. I have to confess that at the start of any discussion about morality between a theist and an atheist, I really think the term 'morality' needs to get nailed down.

    It's just, as far as I can tell, most theists seem to use a definition of morality that goes something like this when they narrow it down:

    "The laws that (my particular) god wants us to follow."

    Now if that were the actual definition of morality, then of course atheists can't account for morality. And also, if you define it any other way (that I have come across), then you haven't got a leg to stand on when you claim atheism can't account for morality. But the thing is, if atheists use the word morality, then obviously they are not using that definition of morality, so no theist should assume they are.

    I mean, I've heard theists assert that morality is 'the right thing to do', or something similar - but if you then ask them to narrow it down, they'll say something along the lines of:

    "The right thing to do is what god wants us to do."

    (In which case, see above.)

    I really wish Matt had nailed down the actual meaning of the word 'morality' in his opening remarks - other than that, I found it hard to disagree with anything he said. As for Fr. Jacobse, I found it hard to work out if he was actually saying anything at times. (Which, given that one of the main ideas of a public debate is to communicate your thoughts clearly, is pretty much an automatic loss in my book. Maybe he truly is far more imposingly intellectually than I am, and my little head can't understand what he said, but in the circumstances, that's his fault, and not mine.)

    Also, I really wish theists would stop saying that the 'objective' morality they believe in is 'subject to' their god, and what that god wants. If there's an objective morality then it exists regardless of what their god wishes. That's kind of what the definition of objective means.

  14. Also for mp3s cehck out Easy Youtube Video Downloader add-on for Firefox. It allows you to download in many formats.

  15. I suppose they have the right to completely ignore what people think about the debate. It shouldn't be surprising. But I did read most of those comments before the blockade. Besides being decidedly anti-Jacobseian (The interwebs is one place where we don't feel like a big minority) I didn't see any especially egregious items. I thought they were somewhat tame and relevant. Maybe there were things I didn't see.

  16. The theist position on morality is shaky at best. Their position seems to be that God set down a bunch of rules and "wrote them into the universe" like some sort of cosmic background morality. This is why all people have a sense of right and wrong. Then they try to say that this built in morality equals the rules of Christianity. But this is a pretty weak stance.

    If morality was written into the universe it would apply to everyone. Everyone would be moral. How does this stance explain sociopaths? In what way are they exempt from this universal constant of morality? If some people are born disconnected from the universal constant of morality why not gravity? Why isn't the occasional baby flung away from the earth by centrifugal force? Universal constants apply to everything, not just some things. Just as every object falls in a gravity well in a predictable way, if morality were universal and objective every person would behave in a predictable moral way, and this simply does not happen.

  17. @ Hermes
    I did point out that they were limiting free speech. Their response was that there is not guarantee of free speech on the internet.
    I told them that while that is true, THAT IS UP TO THEM. The speech on their videos is as free as they allow.

    No, removing comments because of swearing is not understandable. They pointed out that calling JAcobse a jackass was one of the main problems they had. If Jacobse didn't earn teh title of jackass he wouldn't have gotten it. And it does NOT in any way reflect negatively on the group. No one with any experience with the internet can expect someone to keep everything swear free while allowing open discussion. That excuse is bullshit.
    I also pointed out that if they want to eliminate vulgarity they should abandon their religion that states that I'm going to Hell and deserve it since I find that rather vulgar.




  19. Guy, we're in close agreement.

    Tekhiun, I understand their explanation and I've heard it before by other Christian groups. Note that while there were a couple comments that could be considered vulgar, there were very few of them. From my experience as a moderator I doubt that they are being honest but are instead choosing something as an excuse for imposing censorship. I don't speak for them, and they don't speak for me. Nobody will confuse someone else for them.

    I would bet that they are offended at being questioned on the merits of Jacobse's responses. That's what the problem was, and it was embarrassing to them when other Christians went to their channel and noticed that Christianity was not being promoted by Jacobse's efforts. They are talking about appearances -- how they look to the world though mainly how they look to their fellow Christians.

    Related video:

    Main point comes up at 7:20, but 5:40 on is good as well.

  20. An Orthodox news posting about the debate can be found here:

    It includes responses from Orthodox who were offended by the youtube comments, as well as a comment from Fr. Hans himself:

    "I argue strongly and in several places that the 'Atheism Project' (as I call it) inevitably ends in the Gulags as the history of the twentieth century shows.

    The logical end of atheism in nihilism since the atheist, by historical necessity, must reject the One True God. Rejecting the God of Abraham requires a rejection of the victory over death accomplished by His Son. Hope dies, morality is subsumed by the state, and totalitarianism emerges as the expression of Nietzsche’s will to power."

    I can't even respond to that without throwing things, so . . . feel free to have a go.

  21. SSA, I'm starting to peel an onion over there. Lets see if there's any normal humans over there able to communicate or dogmatic us-vs-them tribalism.

  22. I guess I'm illogical, because for a staunch atheist, I'm full of hope, wonder, meaning and purpose.

    And I'm strictly opposed to totalitarianism.

    If he wants a good look at totalitarianism, he may want to look up the word "Catholic".


    I'm looking forward to this, as well. When's it coming?

  24. @Ross: Grabbing the video tomorrow from the OCF, then should have it edited and up tomorrow night or Tuesday. Stay tuned to the secularUMBC youtube channel to get it in your feed. -Catherine

  25. JT,
    Orthodox believers don't feel the weight of the catholic church, as they see them as a schismatic group that went astray 1000 years ago.

  26. It is odd to me that atheism leads to gulags since Stalin founded the Russian Orthodox Church (Orthodox eh?) and was the leader of it.

  27. Well done, Matt, the Father was incoherent, angry and bothered.

  28. I was just able to finish the last video (well about an hour ago, but then it took me that long to catch up on all the comments here) and can only conclude that Fr. Jacobse is delusional. Question after question not only unanswered, but not even on topic.

    The few times he does manage to mention morality, the source given has nothing to do with religion. I started to feel that he was making Matt's case for him.

    @Hermes,TP,MikeTheInfidel and others - I am with you when you call Fr. Jacobse out on his explanation of the self-correcting nature of morality. His response talks of people that question the morals of the church, and how they were then chastised for their views, but in later generations the church came around to their way of thinking. How can an honest, sane individual equate that as Christianity being self correcting?

    @sans_Dieu - thank you for transcribing some of Hans' greatest hits, listening to him talk in circles is painful, and being able to read some of what he said makes it tolerable, and your comments were proceless.

    @Matt - On The Non-Prophets and TAE you had talked about being prepared for some tough questions during the debate. From what I saw, you needn't have been worried. It appeared to me that Fr. Jacobse had his mind made up right out of the gate that an atheist has an agenda and he did not seem to provide any argument for the source of morality. It seemed to me that you toughest task was not being able to take apart every fallacy but just stick to the debate format. Well done Matt.

    There was a question to both Matt and Hans that basically asked if your mind was open to change. Fr. Jacobse's answer implied that he was. I found that somewhat absurd since he would not even listen when being corrected about his misconceptions. It would seem that he is dishonest too, but it could just be his delusion talking.

  29. @sans_Dieu - sorry, its very late and I can't type well when tired, but your comments were priceless, and not very proceless at all :)

  30. Well after messaging the person who runs the OCFumbc account at youtube and pointed out that he lied to me repeatedly and was censoring everyone and that vulgar language was a bullshit excuse for deleting and now allowing comments, he/she told me to take my contributions to the SSA account and called me arrogant and condescending. (And vulgar, but how could one NOT swear a lot when talking to someone who acted like swearing killed puppies or something?)

    To which I replied with an arrogant and condescending rant.

  31. MAtheist, good comments. I'll add my own take on it.

    MAtheist: How can an honest, sane individual equate that as Christianity being self correcting?

    They can't if they are informed, and Jacobse can't claim ignorance.

    Yet, in his realm of imagination, of myth, he is correct. Just as a tribal leader will condescend to a 'little brother' -- a cultural anthropologist or the rest of the world outside his tribe -- for being ignorant of the great spirits, he is attempting to assert quite literally a family role where he is the wise old source of knowledge and culture. He chose a profession where his title is "Father" after all. It's entirely power driven tribalism.

    Yet, he doesn't hide his agenda.

    Note how often he emphasizes emotions, repetition, and specifically imagination. He wants the world to change to fit his myth. By using emotive words and not engaging in the world that threatens his myth he intends to drag us along.

    His initial charge of 'atheist fundimentalism' is intentional and a distraction as he engages in the same type of group think that any cult member or isolated tribal leader.

    When faced with his foes, he has to lecture. At best, he can deflect or dodge. We are below him and require his imagination, his cultural biases, his myths, become manifest in our own sense of reality so he's going to tell us about it. What we point out is just arrogant insolence to him.

  32. Matt, you were stellar when you took him to task for Hitlerizing his closing remarks. That was a powerful moment.

  33. Guy, keep in mind that if you don't talk with someone you can't let them step in their own BS.

    That said, there are times to cut your losses. The indoctrinated absolutists -- the tribal, the cultish -- often are not much fun to talk with. They not only don't notice how they aren't making any sense, you can't even point it out to them using their own words and claims. The BS -- the evasions and distractions -- just gets deeper.

    The lurkers, though, may get it even when the person you are talking to does not. The indoctrinated, though, may take months to years to get through to.

  34. So without Christianity humanity would be stuck in 'COSMIC DISPAIR?' Hans portrays Christianity as a great devine light which has inspired the world to be a better place by giving it color. He credits Christianity with all the great accomplishments like science and discredits anything bad about Christianity.

    Who is to say Jesus and or his follower's weren't schizophrenic by thinking they talked with thee 'God?' What kind of devine light, hope and faith is delusion?

  35. It seemed as though, at least to me, that Mr. Jacobse was either drunk, high, or sleep deprived. In any case, I think the clear victor here in this debate is none other than Matt Dillahunty. I couldn't help but clap when Matt made his points that were so clear that it was astonishing that Mr. Jacobse continued with his baseless assertions. I also couldn't help but laugh at the absurdities that Mr. Jacobse spewed and continued to perpetuate.

  36. Maybe father Hans is stoned into a drunken stupor on his own beliefs? He sure does have some 'non sequitur' like tactics which don't seem to help out his creditability much.

  37. @MAtheist:
    Glad to be of service. :) If I had the time, I would transcribe the whole thing. Its easier to rip it apart.

  38. Isn't it just absolutely amazing how this Jacobse guy could answer questions at great length, using sophisticated rhetoric (in his opinion, at least) and modulating his voice as if preaching from the pulpit, while actually not saying almost anything useful or to the point AND making a lot of bold and totally ungrounded assertions about things he, visibly, knows nothing about? Also, why, on Earth, was the moderator sitting silent there for the whole Q&A session and not nudging the father to actually talk about what he was being asked about? An example: someone asked a simple question inquiring about how father Jacobse tells non-material things from the imaginary/non-existent ones (or something to that effect). What we got as a reply was a tiresome speech about something completely else, although given in a manner suggesting that the father may have been thinking that he was revealing the most arcane secrets of the universe to some village simpletons.

    And I understand Matt why he often didn't call his opponent on all the BS he was spewing. As he himself said, usually the father was saying some many wrong things in a short period of time that it would take long minutes to point out the mistakes he was making.

    Anyway, congrats on the showing Matt. Too bad the format of the debate didn't allow you to fully show the ignorance and absurdity of father Jacobse's claims. I hope that at least after the debate, in less formal conditions, you had a chance to more efficiently get through with your message to the crowd.

    A fan from Poland

  39. Good to know I'm not the only one who had zero idea what that guy was talking about. I heard a lot of words, which individually I knew full well what they meant, but didn't really go together in anything resembling meaning.

    I literally just sat there, my ear tilted towards the speaker as if that'd help, trying to understand, yet couldn't. (its less coherent then if you asked a stoned guy what truth means.)

    Part of the problem may have been that I was trying to put what he was "saying" into context of either the topic of the debate or what Matt had said, which he was allegedly responding to.

    And then he went nearly balls to the walls two steps from "how do we shower without electrocuting ourselves" crazy. And holy mother of fuck is he a condescending dick when answering questions.

  40. Matt final statement: REASON is the only criteria and FAITH is not. I find that Matt is limiting himself (a linear thinker) with that criteria for philosophy of life. Example: Christopher Columbus in 1492 was almost 95% sure the world was round, but he still had to take that trip of FAITH to prove it. Neil Armstrong was almost 95% sure that the moon's environment (x-rays, temp., gravity) was safe but he had to take that step of FAITH to prove it. I do feel Fr. Jacobse missed it on the closing statement (meaning the debate format); he was in sermon mode, but that shows passion.

  41. The good father Jacobse was an elitist and a prude. He kept talking about the "vulgarization" of society because our music and our arts are devoid of the "sacred" element.

    That's an entirely subjective element. And who should be in charge of policing society to make sure that our music, our art and our literature are not vulgar?

    I'll bet the black-robed father would love to step in and be the Czar of the Sacred and make sure nothing vulgar slips into our society to lead us into the blood bath of a Gulag society.

    The faith he describes is entirely subjective. How can anyone know that the other person has access to the Truth? Jacobse refused to answer that question. His only response seems that it will be obvious to those who read literature, know the traditions and don't spend their free time watching porn on the internet.

    The man has a bizarre and completely self-absorbed faith. he leaves us , in his system, with no way to make sure we have accessed the truth. Truth is attainable only through some sort of connection to the Transcendant. What he doesn't say is that only a priestly class of Ecclesiastical Authorities is the only provision for insuring that the right "Truth" has been attained and can therefore be expressed and disseminated in a society that leaves room or the "sacred."

    His model, as he expressed in the debates, can only lead to the horrible oppression and suppression of creativity, inquiry and discovery of mutually attainable and externally verifiable truths as seen in the Dark Ages ruled by a hierarchy of ecclesiastical authorities.

    To me, that sounds more horrendous than the scenario he imagines would be created by secularism.

    One thing he does not realize is that most secularists propose a secular government and not necessarily a secular society. In a society with a secular govt, the citizens are free to express themselves according to their faith. The government just cannot fund, promote or establish religious faiths. And the "sacred" rights of one person cannot infringe on the rights of another.

    He wants us to think that secularism wants to purge religion from society through the force of government. As such, he constructed a momentous straw man. I'm saddened that distinction was not drawn out by Matt. However, there was such a spray of B.S. coming from the father. I don't blame him for missing that.

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. @david

    Matt final statement: REASON is the only criteria and FAITH is not. I find that Matt is limiting himself (a linear thinker) with that criteria for philosophy of life. Example: Christopher Columbus in 1492 was almost 95% sure the world was round, but he still had to take that trip of FAITH to prove it. Neil Armstrong was almost 95% sure that the moon's environment (x-rays, temp., gravity) was safe but he had to take that step of FAITH to prove it. I do feel Fr. Jacobse missed it on the closing statement (meaning the debate format); he was in sermon mode, but that shows passion.

    I don't think you know what faith is, or, at least the definition of faith that we object to.

    - Accepting a claim as true without evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence.

    We had evidence of what the conditions of the moon were, as well as our technology's capacity to handle it - therefore, not faith.

    I'm not fully aware of Columbus's knowledge about the evidence suggesting the world was round, but, if he had it, it wasn't faith.

    Faith has little to do with certainty. It's about whether a belief is justified by sufficient evidence, or not.

  44. @DAVID - "Matt final statement: REASON is the only criteria and FAITH is not. I find that Matt is limiting himself (a linear thinker) with that criteria for philosophy of life. Example: Christopher Columbus in 1492 was almost 95% sure the world was round, but he still had to take that trip of FAITH to prove it. Neil Armstrong was almost 95% sure that the moon's environment (x-rays, temp., gravity) was safe but he had to take that step of FAITH to prove it. I do feel Fr. Jacobse missed it on the closing statement (meaning the debate format); he was in sermon mode, but that shows passion. "

    Hi, David.

    I don't think what you are describing is faith of a religious or Ultimate nature.

    By your apparent definition every scientific endeavor is an act of faith since the scientific method includes testing , confirming and re-testing hypotheses so that a theory can be established.

    The great explorers had courage (or fool-hardiness) to travel the oceans. So did the astronauts. And Columbus might have been inspired by his faith in some way. But it was still documented by the greeks that the earth must be round. For generations it was commonly felt the earth was round. Columbus did not necessarily rely solely upon "Gawd" for his certainty and courage.

    And, despite the uncertainty that infused the space program at the time of the first moon landing, there was much scientific and evidential support going in to the effort.

    They did have to match their scientific knowledge with the courage to confirm their theories.

    But to claim that what the astronauts had and what Columbus had was some sort of faith despite the evidence that equates with faith as result of contact with a Divine or Transcendent Being is quite a stretch.

    You may be in danger of collapsing the religious and sacred elements of faith into a trivial and temporal quality. At best the "faith" you describe is an analog of an imagined faith in a greater ideal. But to borrow from Fr. Jacobse, you are in danger of vulgarizing the very concept of faith so valued in many Christian traditions.


    Sorry to raise my voice. I keep looking on youtube for the video of that panel discussion. It sounds fascinating.

    Does anybody know the status of the plan to post it?

  46. dc1983: Does anybody know the status of the plan to post it?

    No idea, but I've been moderating the SSA UMBC YouTube page in the hope that it will show up in a few hours or days;

  47. Oops;

    moderating ==> monitoring

  48. Here is the YOUTUBE link to the Hitchens-Dembski Debate Nov 2010

    In the Hitchens-Dembski Debate, Dembski's argument for religion seems to play on the card that science is 'tentative' at best being inherent with mistakes and revisions and as such god still has a rightful place in our world.

  49. I was going to reply to David, but I see that JT and dc1983 beat me to it. I will just mention a recent episode where I think Tracie said that is like having faith that your brakes will work. That is not the same as having a belief without reason.

    When dc1983 notes that Fr. Jacobse's notions would actually lead "to the horrible oppression and suppression of creativity, inquiry and discovery of mutually attainable and externally verifiable truths", it makes me aware of something I have been noticing more and more. What religious people say is a polar opposite of what is true. I don't see it as an intentional dishonesty, but it exists.
    For example when Fr. Jacobse speaks about what secularism will destroy, it is in fact what it creates, or when you hear people claim their rights are being taken away, they are in fact being protected. I see this pattern again and again, and like I said, I don't think it is intentional. I don't even think it is a play on a subconscious fear, but somehow religion perpetuates the lie. It is as if the thought process has evolved to protect the religious belief, and provides insulation against the truth so it can continue.

    Here is an afterthought, it seems to me that Fr. Jacobse can not see the truth which in a way is sad, since he does go on and on about it.

  50. @Hermes and dc1983: The video is rendering now, sorry for the delay. I just got the raw video from the OCF camera guy on Monday, and had a lab report due today. He's an animation major, and I'm biology/psychology so he wins in the fast-uploading department. I should have it edited and posted hopefully by tomorrow, depending on how fast YouTube uploads it. It's about an hour and a half (we're unfortunately missing the concluding remarks, because the video guy had to leave early). But it'll be plenty to watch when we get it up.

    You'll see when it goes up, but next time when I have further notice, I'll make sure to be in charge of filming. We just didn't have access to a camera in time. I would have gotten the camera on a tripod and improved sound quality, but it was a late night for everyone and we'll do the best with what we have. One of those things where you had to be there to get the full experience :)

    Anyway, the panel was really interesting, so stay tuned to the secularUMBC channel on YouTube to see it soon! -Catherine

  51. Thanks Catherine for your hard work in supplying the video. I don't want to rush you at all.

    You are doing a great service by providing the videos when you can fit it into your schedule.

  52. The good Father kept harping at the fact that he can not believe that we are just the sum of our molecules, that we are more than that. Well, of course we are! That's what emergent properties are! And not only has neuroscience not found evidence for anything cognitive or creative which is outside the brain (i.e., a "soul"), it has provided a large body of evidence against such a thing existing. There is no evidence whatsoever that the mind is anything other than what the brain does, Fr. Jacobse's baseless objections notwithstanding.

    His whole position was based on Arguments from Personal Incredulity (as above), Arguments from Ignorance, History Revision, and bald assertion. If he wants to know exactly why the Nazis scapegoated Jews, he need go no farther than asking Mel Gibson. Indeed, I find it difficult to believe that the Holocaust could have happened in the absence of something akin to Christian anti-Semitism.

    At no point does he actually give us any reason to accept a single thing he said.

  53. @Shamelessly Atheist - "At no point does he actually give us any reason to accept a single thing he said. "

    For instance, Fr. Jacobse kept asserting "Truth is a property of the universe. . ."

    This is the basis of his theory of morality. YET, he does not do anything to demostrate that this position is true. It is a mere assertion.

    That's a pretty important foundation to leave to mere assertion. If he thought his position was correct, then the Father could have done more to support his contention about Truth.

  54. Yeah, dc. It's so because he says so. That pretty much sums up his egocentric world view. Pity the universe need not and does not give a damn.

    There was also this idea that music can't be measured. Sure it can. Or rather, it's effects on various regions of the brain of the listener can be observed using e.g. fMRI. (I'm writing MRI pulse sequences as I write this, so I do know from whence I speak...) This idea that science can't measure everything that we experience is arbitrarily limiting what science can do - either now or in future. We can measure quite a few things more than we could 20 years ago and the good Father is behind the times.

    But like truth being a property of the universe (and I disagree with him - there's no reason to suspect that "truth" is anything other than a product of the human mind as all abstract concepts seem to be. For him, truth is somehow found in fiction and music. What rot. His criteria for determining truth is a joke. Pick the most compelling narrative? What was that all about? Why does any narrative have to be true?), he posed assertion after assertion without substantiation. Anyone who cares at all about how they arrive at belief would - and should! - recoil in horror.

    His position was sophistry at its worst.

  55. So as to not upset any sensibilities of the easily offended and tender eared OCF censors, the following was posted on the debate thread OCF visits in response to a news report about a RCC Cardinal saying atheism is irrational;



    Patrick, on the prelate;

    Are puns and punctual precise pronouncements punished, or preferred by the people present?

    Proceed if preferred.

    Proceed *not* if prudish.

    Paragraphs and phrases put forth for pleasure not paroxysms of pain…

    Proceed? Precisely. Presently? Promptly.

    * * *

    Pontifications promoted in the press or in private by persons of a profession — practiced packaged parsons — popularly picked out for their private predatory pederasty, promotes possibilities for producing potential poppycock, but piddling else. Practical promoting of prosecution and prison of predatory pederests in public would be pleasing and productive. Popularly so. All else is the politics of pity, properly and popularly pshawed.

    Pugilistic pronouncements of philosophers are peccadillos to protecting or not prosecuting practiced pederests. Prisons preferred for particular persons; proscribed predatory pederests and pederests protectors.

  56. There's apparently some post videos up now from the OCF, featuring a small room with apparently one atheist in the audience. Not really clear on when this was in the proceedings. (and for the photo nerds, the cameraman appears to be using some sort of Lensbaby defocuser. They're definitely well equipped these folks. The debate was one of the best photographed things of its kind I've seen. Multi-cam, graphics, all the biz)

  57. There would have been more atheists in the audience, but many of us had gone to a similar session on Monday night, and with that load of bullshit piled on top of the bullshit from the OCF side of the debate, we were all bullshit-ted out. Only one or two brave souls went to their debate follow-up the next day.

    The video quality for the debate was really excellent, I was impressed. For both post-events, it could have been way better. Since we didn't have access to any equipment, the OCF guy had to film for us. I would have done a better job, but we all had way too much to do on our end to track down a camera. Future talks and events will likely go up on our channel as well [We're accepting donations of used small HD cameras! :)

    The SSA follow-up was immediately after the debate, and is rendering overnight and should be up sometime tomorrow, depending on YouTube uploading speed. It was actually more interesting than the debate, in my opinion, because it was more informal. Subscribe to the secularUMBC youtube channel to see it. -Catherine

  58. Odd, I posted a comment yesterday and it hasn't appeared.

    In it I suggested that Matt (and all atheist debaters) have a standard response to that oft brought up "if you use reason/logic you can't account for beauty and music and creativity so therefore you have to connect with God/the Transcendant/the divine/aliens/David Bowie to explain the universe" argument.

    Matt didn't really address that outlandish claim. The claim itself clearly uses "Spock Logic", where emotions are considered illogical and unreasonable. The confusion here is often that they think because we accept logic and reason as the best way of devising truth, we reject the value of anything emotional or creative. Clearly, this is a Spock based misapprehension.

    Indeed, I personally love emotional and creative things, and they CAN be an avenue to truth and to superior morals. They are clearly things that exist, and perhaps only nihilists might deny they do and I doubt most of them would. The important thing is that emotional and creative ideas be filtered through the logical and reasoning filter using the best just assumptions to guide that filter we can.

    Anyway. I'm not eloquent.

    But I think when this sort of strawman is presented by the likes of Hans it's important that the likes of Matt address this immediately and not let him repeat it unchallenged.

  59. "Odd, I posted a comment yesterday and it hasn't appeared."

    It looks like some comments were reset late last night. For example, Mr. Conspiracy Theory at the tail end of the first page of comments had been removed but was restored for a little bit. The moderators seem to have noticed that, and have re-removed him.

    One of my comments were lost entirely in the shuffle, though.

  60. Actually guys, I haven't touched the comments and moderation has been disabled, allowing freer access. What probably has been going on is the usual Blogger glitchiness. Sorry for that, but unless you're a useless spamtroll like Markuze, your comments won't get plonked.

  61. Well, it got me. I posted something last night, checked on it, and then left. It's not there anymore. Not even a 'post removed' message.

  62. Part 1 of the panel is now up!

    Part 2 is uploading to YouTube right now.

  63. Is it just me or did anyone else notice when the Christian would talk about Atheists he would always make a point to say "Now I don't think this about Matt, he's not like the others" in some way or another?

    Let's try another statement:

    I like Bob, he's not like all the other black people.

    Notice both statements are dripping with prejudice.

    I'm curious as to how much hate that guy is repressing toward Atheists and how much of his reason is being clouded by it.

    Another problem was when he began talking about the creation story as a narrative. The Christian stated that he looks at all the other creation stories as narratives and basically decided what jives with him the best. I took this to mean he feels Big Bang Cosmology and Evolution to also be narratives.

    The problem with this is Big Bang Cosmology and The Theory of Evolution provide empirical evidence to support the so-called "narrative". These other creation stories do not.

    Thanks for coming to MD. Sucks I couldn't make it down there to watch this live.

  64. Anyone feel like having a go at a properly worded response for the "reason/logic doesn't allow for beauty/creativity/wonderment" argument?

    I know what my response means, but I also know it's flat and unclear for those who don't already agree with me.

    So wordy folks, get wordy!

  65. Optifaster, just ask an artist that produces art that requires technical abilities. A novelist, for example. The problem is that the priest takes logic and reason for granted or as a gift from his idea of a deity, and not that none is required or used.

    I could expand on that to make a full argument, but the burden of proof is on his side not ours.

  66. Part 2 @ 2:45 Hans says "Does atheism even acknowledge the independent existence of the transcendent? Or any being or even principle apart of matter?"

    Yes, as a concept. A concept/idea/thought may come from the brain which is matter, but the concept/idea/thought itself is non-matter. Thus, if the concept/idea/thought we're talking about is god, or some independent existence, than I would accept that, but only as a concept/idea/thought.

  67. Great debate! Just wanted to give a big "Thank you" to the entire TAE team, y'all have not only presented a heap of helpful information over the years, but have also provided more than a few laughs along the way.

    Also, i'd like to personally congratulate Matt on and a strong performance, you rock dude. Your direct and "plain English" responses are hallmarks i've come to expected (and admire) from many episodes of TAE. You and AronRa are at the top of my "favorite Atheist activists" list. ;-)

    ps. i'd bitch about how pathetic Father Jacobse's arguments where, but i believe that avenue of discussion has been throughly exhausted. the debate started good, but got pretty sad towards the end.

  68. @Hermes: Invariably the burden of proof is on the accuser, but it would be a hard stretch to assume that the majority of audiences realise this fact.

    It's the reason a few scientific, naturalist and athiest organisations advise against debating - the opposition brings nothing but strawn men so why bother debating? It just gives them a platform.

    So if you're going to engage in a debate it's important to be able to counter the wishy washy emotional appeals to said strawmen. If you don't, you give the supporters of the likes of Hans no pause for thought - their misapprehensions are confirmed by the lack of response.

  69. Optifaster, I have a stub of what you're asking for in some comments I've posted here and elsewhere, and I'm not loathe to refine it for popular use.

    Unfortunately, these people have an infinitely deep list of make believe accusations. It's time to stop defending what defends itself and to point that out. The priest has a social agenda pushed like a politician. Have a response to the nonsense? Yes, of course, yet demonstrate it is nonsense and then step over the flotsam that the unethical theists keep throwing to slow us down and keep us away from the point.

    That's why I don't defend naturalism, science, logic, nor do I feel the need to prove atheism. I'm entirely willing to agree with people I currently disagree with if they have the goods. In public, the emphasis should be that they do not have the goods.

    So, I agree with you in principle. Where I disagree is on the emphasis. Do we spend all of our time on their agenda and not hold them accountable for their nonsense?

  70. @optifaster "Anyone feel like having a go at a properly worded response for the "reason/logic doesn't allow for beauty/creativity/wonderment" argument?

    I know what my response means, but I also know it's flat and unclear for those who don't already agree with me."

    I think the position is based on personal bias. It is yet another straw man.

    I see two possible meanings in Fr. What's-his-name's critique.
    I. Possible meaning: "Emphasis on logic and reason makes one incapable of appreciating beauty, being creative and experiencing wonder."

    Reason and logic are pathways to discovery. For those able to comprehend the beauty of discovered truth, creativity and wonderment follow.

    I think whenever somebody follows an author like Stephen Hawking in his popular work "The Grand Design," and begins to comprehend what it is saying, it blows the mind (potentially, anyway).

    When I read the work and struggled in the concepts I was amazed once I caught a glimmer of what the various scientific endeavors had uncovered about the universe.

    Ultimately, Hawking may turn out to be incorrect at many points. His whole picture of the universe may fall apart like a jigsaw puzzle tossed to the ground.

    If I were a more creative person, I might have written a poem or painted a picture. Unfortunately, the images and expressions of wonderment are locked inside me like speech as a mode of expression may be locked up inside a stroke victim. But for others, I know the "path of reason and logic" can lead to great works of creative expression.

    II. Possible meaning: "The father may be trying to say that appreciation of beauty , engaging in creativity and standing in wonderment may themselves be pathway to truth."

    The priest not yet shown that Truth is a property of the universe.

    This leaves me with the impression that he considers the subjective sensations about a moment of comprehending a perceived truth, the private thoughts and unconnected eruptions of internal dialog that may transpire when caught up in an "aha" moment of meditation and study to be just as valid discoveries as the discovery of DNA, black holes or anaerobic organisms living in the hot water vents at the bottom of the sea.

    The question that Matt posed to him and that he refused to answer was, "Is this truth accessible to everyone?" Do you use reason and logic to come to this universally available truth? Or do you use reason plus something else? What is the something else?

    Since he could not support his assertions about the nature of Truth, the point of view as expressed in my interpretation in pt. II is rather useless.

    I think this is what the priest meant by "reason/logic doesn't allow for beauty/creativity/wonderment," but if true, so what? It just doesn't follow that reason and logic NEED to allow for these concepts as pathways to truth.

  71. dc1983, on point II;

    The priest is implicitly claiming the presupposational position of some protestants even though he is not a protestant. It's a subjective solipsistic power grab and should be smacked down whenever it shows up. So, he has the truth (small and large t) and he knows by necessity that those who do not are wrong since he's right. That's why he was so strident and had no qualms about atheist bogyman scare tactics that don't address what Matt actually said or what most of the atheists listing to him think.

    That's why I frequently attempt to get theist to acknowledge the basics and to go from there. Many rank and file theists just don't know or even think about what the issues are, and get dragged off on issues that are irrelevant.

    Once I get them to acknowledge what is the case as opposed to what they thought before, and that I'm not a stiff puppet taking an inflexible position, I get them to acknowledge those basics;

    * I'm not unreasonably stubborn. Please, if I'm wrong, convince me what is right and I'll accept it. Really.

    * Nobody gets special privileges.

    * Nobody gets to put words in another person's mouth.

    * Material reality exists. It's up to them to show the extra non-material aspects.

    * You can't toss out logic and reason using logic and reason.

    * An argument made in one place can be re-used by your opponent.

    * Don't argue what is already supported by the specialists in another field. You're wasting your time educating someone in a short conversation, and most people don't have the stamina or honesty for longer conversations where those fields can actually be explored. So, don't do it.

    The basics. Most bad arguments fall apart if these are addressed firmly but in a relaxed manner.

  72. 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.

    What esoteric meaning does this guy give to the word “truth” and what has it to do with the word “moral”?

    What is an imaginary truth? And why is it really “true”?

    What is “true” about life? How, exactly, is it “true”? How can fictitious characters be more “true” than real ones?

    Further, what is “transcendental truth”? How does it differ from non-transcendent truth?

    Jacobse’s woolly reasoning about the “transcendent truth” of “good” literature and music could lead to something like this.

    “Your Honor, I would like to point out that my client is a writer and composer of fine music and so he is therefore telling a transcendent truth that is more valuable than materialistic truth. He is thus, transcendentally innocent of all materialistic charges.“

    If you were his/her Honor, would you buy this?

  73. The first paragraph should be in quotes. I hope I wouldn't be silly enough to say that. :-)

  74. Rosemary, fiction is true in the sense that it communicates a general truth to many people.

    I -- like you -- don't think it is more true than real life.

    It is through living that those writers are able to distill what they find true while they make fictional characters and situations. That the writers he promotes still make it up does not seem to matter to this priest. Yes, by all means discuss the issues the writers raise but don't mistake a portrait for a real person.

    Yet, this is exactly his mistake. He let his prejudice -- his shallow fictional understanding of people -- define his reality.

    If you notice how he approaches atheists and atheism, though, he treats us as if we are some character in a novel. He's not interested in reality, but in the abstractions he can distill from his limited view of his own presuppositions. In the process, he makes a character of himself, and not an endearing one.

  75. Rosemary, to continue...

    When Christopher Hitchens talks about the numinous and when Daniel Dennett talks about his love of music including specifically religious music, both are touching on what the priest is strangely claiming for himself and his group only. Then, he hijacks it as a bludgeon to slam his philosophical enemies with. It is a clown's toy hammer.

    At best, his actions stems from his lack of curiosity with the world. At worst, he's intentionally manipulating his flock while being keenly disinterested in honesty.

  76. Orthodox chatter about the debate:

    Almost every single theist (the Orthodox ones anyway) seemed wholly impressed by Fr. Hans performance. Some of them even felt the need to point out that because they'd heard everything that atheists have to say before, they skipped watching all of Matt's parts to focus on Hans. How unsurprising. -Catherine

  77. Catherine, thanks. Not surprising. It's not much different from who I'm talking with at the other blog. It looks like the conversation there is dead there (the last post was on the 20th). If it wasn't dead, I'd drop a few padded comments there to see who is honest or has the potential of getting a clue.

  78. Wow. Get this:

    I’ve been arguing with Jacobse in the debate discussion at the AOI blog, correcting Jacobse again and again about what atheism is, so he comes back with “you clearly don’t understand atheism in any comprehensive way”!

    So there you have it. If you don’t believe all the things Jacobse, authority on atheists, says atheists believe, that means you don’t understand atheism.

  79. My goodness. I have never seen someone beat around the proverbial burning bush as much as the "father."

    Thank you, Matt, for the short and efficient answers.

  80. Is it me are most of F. Hans' evidence for God's hand in the morality of humans actually just human art, human literature, human music (and not the purported word of god, ie. the bible)? So his proof that god gives us morality is that humans have morality (as seen in the so-called 'higher' artistic endeavors of humanity). Further, the fact that such art makes him feel good, or might make him a 'better' person is proof that it is at the least inspired by and at the most purposefully put into us by God. That art is relative too, just like human morality and any other human endeavor doesn't matter to him. Russian literature is for him essentially more moral than Madonna. The former is proof of God and the latter is the ruin brought about by secularism. He ignores the fact that he is necessarily making a moral judgement of the two art forms when he argues that the one form is evidence of God's moral truth. Is it me or is there something wrong with this - it's like he's saying 'this is moral because it's moral' or something. I can't quite put my finger on it but something seems wrong here. If anyone smarter than me can expand on this, I would appreciate it.

  81. Jacobse employs an escalating amount of verbose and irrelevant blather in his dialog. He failed to directly address most of Matt's and the audience's questions.


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