AS213: Thoughts on the Dillahunty-Giunta Exchange

As promised, I’ve got a breakdown of the Matt Dillahunty Blake Giunta debate over Divine Hiddenness. I opted not to do any sort of detailed breakdown of the exchanges because that could devolve into a tedious infinity, rather I have some interesting themes picked out to discuss. I also go into some comments from listeners, as well as how I would go about having the discussion with Blake had it been me instead of Matt.

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16 thoughts on “AS213: Thoughts on the Dillahunty-Giunta Exchange”

  1. You know, the very existence of the orphans pretty much proves the existence of their parents. Granted, it says nothing about their parent’s location, attitudes, abilities, status or anything else. If you were to put your faith in that metaphor, then our existence proves the existence of whatever caused or allows all of the stuff that led up to us, while again, saying nothing about that “cause.” I’ve heard it said that God is subject to the uncertainty principle: The less you say about God, the more likely that god is to exist; the more you say about God the less likely that god is to exist. Some folks with very, very involved theologies pretty much define their god out of existence. I think it makes a lot of sense to define the god we are proving or disproving the existence of in these debates.

    I would listen to Further Discussions With Blake, just cuz. It’s always entertaining.

  2. There were a number of instances where Blake used the word coerced that I thought the word convinced would have been more appropriate and would therefore have made some of the examples of inappropriate relationships with God appropriate.

  3. Please debate literally any topic you choose with blake.

    Just go first, so that he doesnt get the chance to set up a house of cards argument predicated on the existence of the being whose existence you are debating. The apologists seem to set the tone in a lot of these debates, and often (sam harris vs wlc comes to mind) set up a really brittle argument… towards the end of this tommentary you did unload a bit on how weak blakes argument was which was nice to hear.

  4. Thomas, just did the survey.

    Did you find it annoying that when asked if the slaughter of children would be good given it was ordered by god, Blake acted confused?

    1. Thank you kindly! Yes that might be an interesting debate in itself. How does he deal with Old Testament garbage? Unfortunately the answers are never that satisfying.. But maybe worth a shot anyway.

      1. I had a couple discussions with Blake a few years ago. When I brought up the ‘garbage’ in the OT, his response was twofold. First, he argued that belief in god was not predicated on accepting everything in the OT as accurate. Second, he argued that I should first resolve the question of whether or not god in fact existed before approaching the problem of how to understand the OT.

        I found both responses disingenuous. The first because he does, so far as I know, believe the OT to be an inspired and accurate portrayal of god. Hearing him suggest that I didn’t have to accept it as true felt fake, and a little desperate on his part, given his own convictions.

        To the second point, it amounts to first accept what I’m saying, that god is all loving, and then we can explain away all of the instances where he appears not to be, since you’re already convinced that he’s all loving. His arguments in this podcast seemed to follow this same pattern. That so much needs to be explained away, either about the OT or the problem of hiddenness seems to me to be the most damning statement against his positions.

  5. Hi Thomas, I think what happened in this debate is that Blake put forward an argument from hiddeness that was just not very strong for non-believers, and I think Matt even said right at the beginning ‘I reject that argument’. Of course they then went on to debate this in detail but it was mostly circular because clearly Blake thought it was a good argument and Matt didn’t. As an analogy, imagine someone writes a thoughtful essay on why Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ is the greatest song ever written. Anyone with any taste in music could summarily refute that, but it wouldn’t be a very intellectually satisfying debate because the premise is stupid, and you would be distracted by trying to understand how the writer is not aware of their obvious confirmation bias, and why they would bother putting so much work into defending a weak position. Plus as you mentioned with the cosmological argument, these kind of arguments where theists think they’ve finally ‘got’ atheists on some technicality of logic goes back hundreds if not thousands of years; Pascal, Descartes, Aquinas etc., so it’s just more tiresome than interesting at this point.

    I find it especially baffling with regard to people like Blake or Tyler Vela who seem quite smart and educated; both have read some philosophy and theology, and seem to have some skills in critical thinking. I don’t get how that broadening of understanding doesn’t lead to a rejection of religion. And of course they’re in the company of people like George Orwell. So maybe that’s a larger point you could bring up if you have Blake on again – how he holds onto his belief in the face of something like Dawkins’ The God Delusion for example.
    Overall I enjoy the show, keep up the good work!

  6. I think the issue for me is the idea/define of the proper relationship. This was an ill defined idea to me, and a bit of cop out that did seem circular in itself. In reality, if you look back at other religious scholars over time, this was once told as “give your self to god” or “bear your soul to god without question’ which was in other debates has been crushed as simply as being credulous and lacking proof….so it just feel like a rebranding trick to me. I also think there was a misunderstanding between what each debater thought was proof in a scientific vs. philosophy mindset. Its something in post secondary I hated and never got my brain around.

    I think when Blake said he was proving his hypothesis was completely out of step what my brain and perhaps Matt thinks what is required to disprove a hypothesis…if that makes sense. It honestly really sounded like he was just proving a conclusion he was already sure of… which is why there might have been such a crossing of wires.

    Shouldn’t proving god actually require you to look for evidence that there isn’t one, and the lack of that evidence would prove it? GRR Derp, I’m completely out of depth here. Which I why we love you Thomas. So yes, either Blake, or someone who might be able to look at how “science” looks for evidence vs how “philosophy” looks for it.

    1. Yes, yes, yes. How could I have forgotten all that stuff about “proper relationship?” Weren’t there a couple of times where it came down, on Blake’s side, to “Yeah, but to be in proper relationship to God . . .” How can “proper” or “improper” have anything to do with a god that might not be there? There was an awful lot of presupposition going on.

  7. I was a little bored by the actual “debate”, but I found your commentary more interesting. Go figure! I think it’s because you pointed out that Matt and Blake were arguing two different things, so then some of the remarks made a little more sense. I appreciated that you clarified that making sure debaters have common understanding is an area to improve on. No one is perfect, and I appreciate your efforts in scheduling and connecting with interviewees. Thanks.

  8. Loved this episode more than the debate that preceded it 😀

    It would be interesting to hear what Blake thinks about the differing (conflicting) values that his god holds. What priority does his god place on how proper a given relationship is? Does it differ based on how a given individual comes to know or not know god? If so, why? How about god’s desire to not torture people weighed against god’s need for a relationship to be proper? How do all these different values work out when compared?

    As to the post hoc rationalizations, I think they make sense given the likely origin of religious beliefs. They’re an attempt to say something about who a given people are and what they are going through.

    I’ve noticed that trying to stick a believer’s nose in the stinky stuff of this world rarely gets them to see things differently as its the very experience of such things that gives birth to belief as a cultural event in the first place. To them it’s proof of sin, the fall, dukkha, adharma, or whatever narrative they have as part of their group identity.

    I like the idea of hearing more from Blake. Or from Matt. Though not at the same time.

  9. My opinion of the debate. It’s the first episode of the show I didn’t bother listening to since I started listening over a year ago. I would have been interested in hearing from Matt on a number of issues, but I’m really tired on the Christian atheist debate thing. They are all soooo one sided.

    1. It’s the back and forth of it all. Like Olympic fencing: no one’s going to really win and no one’s going to really lose. Their wins and loses are all in their heads and perhaps the in the heads of the spectators. One may go home with his tail between his legs, but he still has a tail and two legs to put it twixt. Most of what we find entertaining in the Western world is completely meaningless and Theist/Atheist debates are a great example. Meaninglessness, it turns out, is the good news. I’m all for it, myself.

      1. “It’s the back and forth of it all. Like Olympic fencing: no one’s going to really win and no one’s going to really lose.”

        The way I see it, and perhaps it’s because I’ve been an atheist for 40+ years, and I know all the arguments, is more like a one sided war, where the theist side has a cap gun, and a relatively well versed opponent is armed with anything from an ak47 to a nuclear missile. Most theists arguments as Thomas alluded to, could only appeal to people who are already indoctrinated, and are desperate to find some value in them.

        That being said what I’d like to see, if it were possible to find a willing person. Is to get an ordinary run of the mill average Christian on,(rather than an apologist) and see how he, or she reacts to, or defends Christianity against atheist arguments.It’s those Christians, not the relatively few “sophisticated theists” aka apologists, who are far more likely to change their minds, or at least begin that process.

        1. For once we agree! lol. I would also love to just have normal Christians on. I have no idea how to do that though. Every one I talk to can’t fathom trying to defend their beliefs or gets really sensitive.
          I would say though, about debates generally, if you look at it not exactly as “knowing the arguments” and more like “being able to convince people” it’s a more interesting challenge. How can you conduct yourself in a debate in order to have the greatest possibility of convincing the other person or the audience? I find that part of it fascinating.

  10. I think the reason people get really sensitive is that to the average religious person their faith isn’t a separate thing from their identity. What they really hear when people go after their god concept is that they are the ones being gone after. James Lindsay wrote a good book about this called Everybody is Wrong about God which approaches the question not from a philosophical debate perspective, but from a psychology of religion perspective. A review:

    From the review:

    “Having just returned from the American Academy of Religion where I listened to scholars of history and theology discuss “God after the death of God,” I have a clearer sense than ever before that theism is on life support. Theology has reached the point of being a circular, nonsensical exercise in missing the point. What we need is a conversation about “God” (the psychosocial needs that are real and important and that get lost in conversations about God) and how we can move on with our lives.”

    The book is about that “God” in quotes “(the psychosocial needs that are real and important.” That’s why people get sensitive. They see their psychosocial needs as being under attack.

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