Monday, October 15, 2012

Debating the Atheist -- My Closing Comments

Final Reflections
Pastor Stephen Feinstein

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

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

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

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