AS30: Debate with Elijiah T, Supreme Court Fail

We begin with part 2 of my debate with Elijiah T! You can find his blog here:

And on Twitter @elijiaht

After that I give an analysis of the debate and what I was trying to accomplish.  If anyone knows of other believers who are willing to have a discussion with an atheist, point them to me!

Then I give some bonus Tommentary on the Supreme Court decision Monday. Here are a few links regarding that:

Click to access 12-696_4f57.pdf

Also here are links to the Crohn’s charity I mentioned:

7 thoughts on “AS30: Debate with Elijiah T, Supreme Court Fail”

  1. The interview was tedious. Not as bad as it could have been, just tedious. If you were to do another, I would say just grant a deistic premise, and then try to establish specific claims by specific traditions.
    But even that is probably not going to go anywhere because the theist will likely say, “That’s proof of my god,” and then you’ll say, “That just looks like deterministic forces at work in a convenient time and place.”

    I might be interested in discussions of social issues with theists, discuss what is and is not worth compromising on. I’d also be interested in theists who really understand the literary and archaeological critiques of the bible.

  2. Good debate Thomas! I found Elijiah affable but a little infuriating. You did pretty well I think, and I was much less frustrated than by David Smalley’s recent effort against an apologist on Dogma Debate, in which I am not alone in thinking David used the wrong tactics.

    It might be worth trying to avoid metaphysics in future for the sake of all our sanity! The problem is that metaphysics is one of the few areas of philosophy where theism still has a grip. It is also seemingly beyond the scope of scientific illumination. I’d be interested to know Elijiah’s opinion on why, if philosophy so obviously proves God, that 70% of philosophers are atheists but 70% of philosophers of religion are theists. Those statistics are pretty telling of how parochial religion is if you ask me.

    If you wanted to get into more intricate detail about the Kalam cosmological argument, it may be worth noting that it relies on the “privileged reference frame”. This is from the “A theory of time”, or tensed theory, whereas the consensus of modern science and Special Relativity suggests that the Universe operates on the “B-theory of time”, the tenseless theory (look it up on Wikipedia). This is a real killer for the Kalam. If Elijiah wants to argue with Einstein and many others, good luck to him. He’ll be relying on a pseudoscientific idea called “the ether” to do so.

    See Counter Apologist’s excellent You Tube videos:

    Premise 1 of Kalam is problematic. The fact is that science provides both an “efficient” cause and a “material” cause for the origins of the known universe, whereas Kalam only provides an efficient cause: as God creates everything out of nothing. We know of effects having a material cause but no efficient cause (like you said, photons and electron energy states), but there seem to be no examples of the opposite, an efficient cause but no material cause. This is why you’re right to say that we can’t know that the universe hasn’t always existed in some form.

    I’d have pressed Elijiah more on his claim that the Universe came from his definition of nothing and how he could demonstrate that (hint: he can’t).

    Elijiah suggested at the end that you debate the teleological argument with him. I wouldn’t advise it. He will try and bog you down with weighty sounding philosophical arguments which have little or no supporting evidence, but from the sound of the first debate it will be difficult to get anywhere with him on this.

    The teleological argument is another very subjective attempt to infer God’s existence without any direct evidence. Our senses are incredibly bad at telling design from non-design without clear examples of each.

  3. Just some thoughts;

    Appealing to “common sense” should be the point where the argument is over. Rarely does the universe conform to our common sense.

    Consider the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment, it’s used to visualize certain properties of quantum mechanics. It’s important to realize however that QM isn’t merely a thought experiment, rather, it’s a rigorous mathematical construct supported by physical evidence. These “arguments” like the kalam, are at best thought experiments, without anything of substance to support them.

    It’s for this reason that it seems obvious to an atheist that the properties being associated with a “first cause” are created for the sole purpose of connecting the dots between “cause” and Jesus.

    I also noticed that he was appealing to certain laws of physics to justify rejecting alternative possibilities. But the being he is positing violates the laws of physics! (unless we completely redefine what a miracle is) If we’re turning a blind eye to physics, then we can come up with anything to explain the origin of the universe.

  4. The premise of nothing:

    The main assumption that is overlooked is that there ever was “nothing” in an absolute sense. We have no evidence that there ever was “not anything”. There’s a good video on “minute physics” (minute physics: science,religion, and the big bang)that explains a common misconception about the big bang.

    The idea that the big bang is an explosion from out of nothing is a misconception of our current knowledge. The big bang is a reverse engineering of our visible expanding universe. The single point (or singularity) that we get from this calculation could have had an infinite number of similar points adjacent to it. In other words, those points represent areas which are outside the visible universe.

    The “out of absolutely nothing” idea is simply unfounded. We have no examples of this. Even subatomic particles that seem to pop in and out of existence actually exist within fields of stuff. I highly recommend “A universe from nothing by Krauss” which explains this stuff in depth. If thats not enough take a trip to CERN in Switzerland or Fermilab in Illinois. Theoretical physicists have a better grasp of these particle ideas than anyone else I’m aware of.

    I realize you may have granted these points in order to move the conversation along, but consider that you actually may have actually skipped a whole lot of important conversation that leads up to what you covered.

    1. I completely agree with all this, but to my knowledge we never discussed something coming out of nothing. All we talked about was a cause outside of our conception of space and time. Which, incidentally, would be something. It was just a question of whether the something is god or some physical thing (which I think it is).

      Also I’ve read A Universe from Nothing and I agree that in all likelihood there just simply isn’t “nothing.”
      Thanks for the comment.

  5. This debate was mildly interesting but I felt the philosophical discussion was digressive. The Kalām cosmological argument has multiple options for refutation see The E4F debate with irreligiosophy is a fun debate smackdown example of christian apologetics and creation theory. What I would have found more interesting debate wise would have been a clearer definition of christian fundamentalism which Elijah self-identified. He seemed to make an argument for God or gods but I would have been more interested in the discussion/deconstruction of why his God and faith are the right answer in his mind especially given the moral and philosophical inconsistencies that litter the bible. If you do have another debate with Elijah or another christian perhaps you can also discuss other topics including cultural indoctrination and normalization of religion.

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