Disqualified from Debate

A brief exchange between an atheist and Christian regarding the Sye TenBruggencate and Matt Dillahunty debate. 

“A: I am a theist and a follower of Jesus but I do have to say that after watching the debate (I was impressed with your opening statement) it was completely apparent to me that Matt was the winner. I applaud your efforts and have great respect for your participation in the event. No disrespect but debates regarding this topic should really be left to the scholars on the subject (I do not consider Matt a scholar) for anyone to really gain anything from them. Although Matt was triumphant during this debate, I am confident he would not be victorious debating such apologists as WLC or Frank Turek. I would love to see such a debate. Best regards to both Matt and Sye.

B: A, one of the primary objectives was to demonstrate that without God, one cannot know anything. The atheist’s worldview cannot account for truth, logic, knowledge, and morality. This was CLEARLY demonstrated during the debate, as Dillahunty *denied* absolute certainty, could NOT account for absolute laws of logic, and consistently appealed to *belief* rather than knowledge. Sye was the clear winner, as he accomplished his objective… Jesus … or absurdity. Dillahunty chooses absurdity. Think about it. Are you NOT absolutely certain that you’re not a dead hamster in a cage? Of *course* you’re absolutely certain that this is the case! And to DENY certainty of this is utter absurdity… Matt’s position is *clearly* one of absurdity. (I would encourage you to watch the “free exchange” / “free discussion” portions of the debate again, where Matt was reduced to utter nonsense.)

C: B, “Certainty” is irrelevant. “absolute certainty” is a red herring. “certainty” describes the attitude of the agent, it says nothing about whether or not a given statement is true. Sye can claim certainty all he wants. As long as he cannot demonstrate any of his claims to be true, this doesn’t make the least bit of difference. (BTW: “Certainty” isn’t even an element of the original presup argument as proposed by van Til, and for good reason. )

Ultimately, the claim that you need to “account for” knowledge and logic before you can use them is demonstrably false (just as I don’t need to understand how an engine works in order to drive a car).

The assumption that your reasoning abilities and your cognition are at least provisionally valid is part of the properly basic beliefs, without whom you cannot go anyhwere. Whether or not you are a theist, you have to grant certain basal assumptions before you ever get to your belief. You have to grant that a mind-independent reality exists. If you rely on scripture, you have to assume that your mind works properly, that the paper is real, that you properly comprehend what is written etc.

There is no way of getting around these basal assumptions for anyone. It does not help at all to invoke a god as an external arbiter for these basal assumptions, because, before you even get to your god, you already have to use your reasoning abilities and all those things that this god is supposed to “account for”. Logically, there is no escape from this epistemic dilemma, and invoking god here is simply special pleading and sloppy reasoning. And that’s all that Sye-style presup boils down to.

B: You state that your logic and reasoning are merely *assumptions* instead of knowledge. Is that really the position you want to take – that you ultimately don’t KNOW whether your logic is viable and trustworthy? If so, you’ve disqualified yourself from all debate (just as Dillahunty did) and the discussion is over. Secondly, what logical (non circular) reason do you have to believe that your “assumed reasoning” is indeed valid? You may claim that you have no reason NOT to think that it’s valid (though the obvious would be vicious circularity), but conversely what reason do you have TO think that it’s valid? At BEST, you might as well flip a coin (arbitrary). Thirdly, are you absolutely certain of *anything* that you’ve stated, and on what basis? If not, you’re again disqualified from discussion – just as Dillahunty disqualified himself from rational discourse.”


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