Monday, October 19, 2009

Vox Day vs Luke:
My Comments on the Exchange

I am not going to continue blogging on the exchange as it continues. I will continue to post the links to the new letters on the original post as I see them. I was fascinated by the discussion, which is why I condensed the first 6 letters into one post. I had originally peppered that post with my own editorial comments, but then deleted them all. There are some things I want to say about the discussion and the topics raised:


First, they are beginning to devolve dramatically. In Luke's letter #4 he accuses Day, in his letter #3, of insulting him much:

Holy crap that’s a lot of insults. I tried to count them but couldn’t. I can see that your readership is impressed and excited by your continuous stream of insults, but I come from a different tradition (analytic philosophy) that values clarity, argument, and evidence – not insults. I agree we should leave the topic of evolution behind. But I’m sure our readers will remember that one of us gave argument and evidence for his views on evolution, and the other did not.
Maybe - Vox can be harsh. Frankly though, Luke may have earned harshness (although Day is welcome to be merciful and not give Luke what he has earned - and, IMO, should be merciful):
  • he continued to attempt to steer the discussion into evolution vs creationism (and keeps trying to bait him here even while saying the topic should be left behind). Day is correct - this is the most common, and lamest, tactic on the atheist side in these kinds of discussions. I learned something from the way Day handled it.


  • he claims knowledge of Christian theologies - but really knows little that is obvious in the letters. He has even attempted the theological version of the multiverse theory to explain why he couldn't keep track of Day's views, or be expected to know them. Day rightly pointed out that Luke should have done his homework after initiating this exchange, and that the points Luke doesn't understand are the core of orthodox Christianity and not, as Luke has attempted to imply, some odd "Vox Day Christianity". Early on, if Luke didn't understand the references made, he should have asked questions to clarify the point - rather than skating by and then accusing Day of obscurantism later. 


  • he brought up the criticisms of Day's obscurantism and other argument flaws first - he drug the argument into personalities. Day said nothing about the obnoxious baby examples that Luke - IMO - tried to bait him with from the first along with evolution.  


  • He refuses to read (or acknowledge) what Day wrote. In Luke's 4th letter he wrote:
    Vox, do you agree with me that even if the traditional theistic arguments establish theism, and even if Jesus rose from the dead, this still would not establish the truth of Christian theism?
    Vox answered that question yes two letters ago.
    Your next step was to say, roughly, that Christian belief is justified because the existence of evil provides better evidence for Vox Day Christianity than for any other worldview – that is, that Vox Day Christianity provides the best explanation for the evil we observe in the world.
    I love the "Vox Day Christianity" bit - that is not an insult huh? Is that a way to insulate this Christian "multiverse" from the others in case the discussion goes badly? Anyway, Luke is ignoring Vox's real answer to this question. Vox said he was a Christian because it explained evil better. His answer to Christian belief being justified:
    The reason Christianity is rationally justified even though the ontological argument, cosmological argument, teleological argument, the magical resurrection of Jesus, and the existence of evil do not entail the complete truth of Christianity – which, according to 1 Corinthians 13:11, every Christian knows we cannot know – but they still suffice to establish the Bible as the most credible authority regarding that which is unknown.
    Exactly. If you give me the Resurrection, then you give me the Bible. Jesus being raised from the dead was the sign God gave the world to prove Jesus' bona fides; and, through Christ's testimony, the bona fides of scripture.
Perhaps that is all that Luke has - arguments over neo-Darwinist evolutionary mechanisms and discussions of God as psychotic mass murderer. Maybe. Hopefully not or this series of letters is going to end quickly or get even uglier. If the latter happens, I am curious who will walk away from the bloodbath first.

It is obvious to me that Luke walked away from Christianity without any real deep study of it before he went, and hasn't really studied it since. As he said in letter #4:
While I am interested in discouraging your highly numerous insults, I’m not interested in defending my knowledge of theology. I’m sure you know theology much better than I do, for as an atheist I consider it akin to the systematic study of imaginary fabrics.
Which comes back to - first - do not claim knowledge you do not have. While it is very possible Day baited Luke with those obscure references (they were obscure to me) in order to trap him, he may also have assumed that an evangelical who claimed to have studied deeply and then became an atheist would not find them obscure at all. However, the second point solves the problem either way: ask questions. Do not proceed if you do not understand what was just said. If you do the first, and fail at the second, do not criticize your opponent for obscurantism -- take responsibility for your own actions.

Further, in letter #4 Luke is trying to squeeze out of explaining his own moral/ethical system. I think he believes it will be far more productive from his viewpoint to make Day explain the existence of evil. I am interested in Vox's next reply both to Luke attempting to shift discussion away from his ethical system, desirism, and how Day explains evil. For me, it is the lack of good and not a thing-in-itself. That, of course, kills all the explanations that require dualism - an evil power equal to God. Evil is the corruption of what God created and not something created by God. You can argue that God should have created robots incapable of corruption - but that is a completely different issue.

Whatever that case, Luke should not be able to dodge explaining the ethical system that he thinks is better than the one "Vox Day Christianity" embraces. After all, he has already said he didn't expect Day to study his stuff deeply, and that they would figure out what they both believe as they go.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly

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