"The Not So Great Debate"
Following is a copy of an informal debate that took place on Facebook. The debate is between myself and both an atheistic naturalist (a physicist), and a Christian-theistic evolutionist (molecular biologist) who consistently argues right alongside atheists against Christians such as myself. The discussion is over whether metaphysical naturalism is a conclusion that can be arrived at logically. I refer to this as "The Not So Great Debate" because it didn't seem to bode well at all for the atheist and his theistic sidekick. But of course, that's for you to decide...
Opening Note: At several points comments were crossed (as will happen, especially in a discussion with more than two people), so I adjusted the order to make the flow of the discussion more clear. I've changed the names of the participants apart from myself since it is not my intent to embarrass anybody...
Topic: Is (Belief In) Metaphysical
Naturalism A Logical Conclusion?
Fred (atheist): Why do these people go against everything they've been taught? I put it down to being more religious than scientific. It is a question that does puzzle me.
Note: There was some banter about a different topic before we got into the discussion about "whether naturalism is a logical conclusion." In the above comment, Fred is referring to theistic scientists, such as Dr. Jason Lisle and Dr. Russell Humphreys, and why they "deny" what they were taught in college. No doubt he is referring to naturalistic theories such as abiogenesis, Darwinian evolution, and the big bang (or some similar alternative theory on origin of the universe).
Me: I put it down to logic and reason.
Note: Fred threw out an arbitrary assertion (above) by suggesting that theistic scientists such as Lisle and Humphreys reject naturalistic theories on the basis of their Christianity. So I went ahead and threw down the gauntlet with an assertion of my own. (To make an unsupported assertion is tacit admission that assertions are valid in the debate, so in such cases I'll often simply throw one right back.)
Fred (atheist): Yep, if you follow logic and reason, you'll reject YEC.
Note: "YEC" refers to Young Earth Creationism.
Me: If you follow logic and reason you'll acknowledge God and reject naturalism.
Note: Another exchange of assertions (two can play at that game)! Here is where I lay down the premise that to conclude the "truth of naturalism" entails fallacious reasoning (just as to conclude that 2+2=5 would entail fallacious reasoning). From this point forward, Fred and his theistic evolutionist sidekick (who jumps into the discussion shortly here) attempt to justify that naturalism is a logical conclusion by employing a laundry list of fallacies, thus proving my premise true (in their case). Observe...
Fred (atheist): If that were true, why are the overwhelming majority of the national association of scientists are atheist?
Me: See? Already your thinking is illogical. Ad populum fallacy. Case in point.
Note: Obviously, 100% of people could believe that the moon is made of cheese, but this wouldn't make it true that the moon is made of cheese - as delicious as that would have been for Neil Armstrong. Likewise, it wouldn't matter whether 100% of scientists believe in naturalism - truth is not determined by a majority. Also, note that fallacious statements do not have to be explicit. They can be implied, as was clearly the case here.
Fred (atheist): The majority of people will say that if you jump out of a 10th floor window, you'll die, is that an ad populum fallacy as well?
Me: See? You don't even recognize why your reasoning is faulty. The fact that X number of people believe something is not what determines truth. You've just demonstrated my point. Twice. I see Joan supports the ad populum fallacy as well.
Note: To say "a majority believe that jumping out of a 10th floor window is deadly" is not by itself a fallacious statement. The ad populum fallacy employed here is once again implied, because it is a response to the "question of whether naturalism is true." In this case, Fred is drawing a parallel - equating the statement, "a majority of scientists believe in naturalism," to, "a majority believe that jumping out of 10th floor windows is deadly." Also, my reference to Joan was made because she gave a Facebook "Like" to Fred's post. I guess this was her queue to join the discussion, because she jumped in right after I made the remark. Usually, a debate with with multiple atheists (or quasi atheists) is difficult - not because the arguments are challenging but because keeping count of the fallacies employed can be challenging. Just teasing, but watch what happens as things progress...
Me: Furthermore, if popular belief determines truth, then on said basis, theism is true and (metaphysical) naturalism is false. So not only is your reasoning faulty, it's also self defeating.
Fred (atheist): Winters, you have to starting thinking.
Note: No, that'd be Fred that has to start thinking. He is trying to "reach" the claimed truth of naturalism by employing fallacies - just as I implied he'd have to do.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Bryan Winters, you've confused the ad populum fallacy - it must be true cos loads of folks believe it - with the blindingly obvious - most folks believe it BECAUSE they have seen it's true.
Me: Joan, nothing was confused. Fred cited the popular majority as the basis of truth for naturalism. Textbook ad populum.
Note: Very important point here - notice how Joan subtly changed what Fred actually stated, and totally ignores context. Nothing was mentioned about a majority of people believing something "because it's true" (and even if Fred had done so, it would have been a moot point). Rather, Fred's comments were both appeals to a majority to demonstrate the claimed truth of naturalism. I.e., his appeal was to truth "via" a majority.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): So you think that most people believing you'll die if you jump off a 10 storey building is an ad populum fallacy? Oh dear...
Note: This is a strawman fallacy - a deliberate twisting of my point, with a snide remark ("Oh dear...") thrown in to give an air of intellectual superiority. However, I remained focused on the "stronger" of the fallacies (ad populum) and didn't even mention this, though I certainly could have.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Tell you what, you go check it out, I'll hold your coat.
Note: Another snide remark, as Joan continues to ignore the context of Fred's statements. Yawn.
Me: Joan, see above. The point is beyond you, I guess.
Note: This is my attempt to get Joan to acknowledge the point in respect to the fact that the fallacy committed was Fred's appeal to a majority as the basis for truth.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Nope, the comment I liked was
//The majority of people will say that if you jump out of a 10th floor window, you'll die, is that an ad populum fallacy as well?//
Specifically to do with jumping off a 10 storey building. You need to check out exactly what I'm Liking before having a go at me.
Note: She is taking offense at the fact that I mentioned she "Liked" the comment in which Fred was reinforcing his ad populum fallacy.
Me: And I addressed that comment. See above.
Note: Once again, I direct Joan back to the point she has failed to address. Patience is a virtue!
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Nope, what you said was
//I see Joan supports the ad populum fallacy as well.//
and I'm pointing out that what I clicked like on was a comment that was most definitely NOT an ad populum fallacy.
Me: Yes. Fred was reinforcing his appeal to the majority as the basis for truth there. Ad pop fallacy.
Fred (atheist): The blatant idea that Winters doesn't understand is that if something is true for example falling 10 stories will kill you, then everyone will believe it BECAUSE it is true. Rather than lots of people believe it, so it must be true. The crutial difference is evidence.
Note: Remember, what's being argued is whether naturalism is a true conclusion. Also, remember that Fred is drawing a parallel (false analogy) between the claimed truth of naturalism and the truth about jumping out of 10th story windows. So what he's now doing, in addition to desperately trying to reconcile his ad populum fallacy by masking his earlier appeal to majority, is begging the question. His statement implies that naturalism is true "because it's true." Also, it seems to be a favorite pastime of atheists to say that Christians (and creationists) "don't understand" things. Ho-hum. I missed that Fred mentioned "evidence" in this particular comment, but it's covered later - so no matter.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Read very carefully the comment I liked. I mean really carefully. It demonstrated why you have to be sure that you're claiming it's true because most people believe it or most people believe it because it's true. The first is an ad populum, the second isn't. It's called having experience of flat, thin and very dead people.
Me: The point, once again, is that appealing to the majority as the basis for truth is fallacious reasoning. This is what Fred did - period. And to say that the majority believe naturalism "because it's true" is begging the question, which is another fallacy. So either way your reasoning is fallacious.
Note: Jone continues to ignore the context of Fred's earlier statements. She is dead set on trying to escape the fact that she "Liked" a fallacious argument, as I'd pointed out. Not to be distracted, I simply brought things back to the simple fact that Fred did indeed commit a textbook ad populum fallacy right from the outset. And at this point she too has unwittingly added question begging to the argument for the truth of naturalism.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Not with his comment about the 10 storey building he didn't. Therefore your accusation that I "liked" an ad populum fallacy is utterly false.
Me: See above.
Note: You'll notice Jone is one to stubbornly keep repeating her failed assertions (which I cover later), so at this point I simply refer her back to what's already been addressed to keep the discussion moving.
Fred (atheist): Actually I didn't Winters. I said that a large proportion of people in the National academy of science (the elite science institution in the US) are atheist (I think it's around 90%). These people have a deep understanding of how the universe works, leaders in their field. They are very logical and very rational about understanding the world around us and they reject the supernatural. So you comment of "If you follow logic and reason you'll acknowledge God and reject naturalism." is a blatant falsehood if we examine the people in the NAS. That is not an ad populum fallacy.
Me: And there again you are appealing to the majority as the basis for the truth of naturalism. To add that they are logical thinkers begs the question. Ad populum fallacy and now question begging on top of it.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Actually, Fred is not doing that. He is pointing out that there are many people who think logically and don't come to the same conclusion you do, therefore your claim is false. It is up to you to show that those who don't come to the same conclusion as you are thinking illogically.
Fred (atheist): Your teachers must have hated you Winters, as you have been dogmatically stubborn on all remedial logic which people have been trying to teach you.
Note: Ok, time to shut this little atheist party down (smiles)...
Me: He first appealed to the majority as the basis for truth. Ad populum fallacy. And now he's added that they are logical thinkers, which is the very point in question. Thus, begging the question. And now you are simply repeating the same faulty point, which is proof by assertion - another fallacy. You're now up to three fallacies to support the supposed truth of atheistic naturalism. Any more?
//He first appealed to the majority as the basis for truth. Ad populum fallacy.//
With utter misrepresentations like this is it ANY wonder why you receive SUCH a hard time when you make comments?
//And now he's added that they are logical thinkers, which is the very point in question.//
By definition, if you're a leader in your field of investigation of the universe then you're a logical thinker.
So I think that what you're problem is Winters, is that you have little to no understanding of science and how it carries out its business. You are so indoctrinated with your religion that you can't think outside of this infinitely flawed framework. By necessity, you must make up your own rules of reasoning and they aren't the ones that the rest of us use.
Note: I have experience with Fred. He absolutely loves claiming that he's been "misrepresented" after he's "cornered." Many atheists simply change their story after their fallacious reasoning is pointed out to them. Honesty does not seem to be high on the list of priorities for militant atheists (just my observation). Fred's remark that those who are leaders in their field are logical thinkers misses the mark. The argument here is whether they're logical in respect to concluding naturalism (as a worldview). I come back to this a bit later, but here simply point out yet another fallacy on Fred's part...
Me: And now a personal attack on my ability to comprehend science as the basis for objecting to my points. Ad hominem. Your fourth fallacy used to support the claimed truth of naturalism. So we have: Ad populum, question begging, proof by assertion, and ad hominem. Any more?
Joan (theistic evolutionist): You just don't get it, do you? The claim is yours, that if people think logically they will come to the same conclusion as you and that those who don't must be thinking illogically. Yet here's this body of logical thinkers who HAVEN'T come to the same conclusion as you. How do you explain that? It's not an ad populum logical fallacy.
Now on to the 10 storey building. With that example most people believe it to be true because of experience. Would you claim that most people believing that consuming 5 grams of arsenic is fatal is an ad populum logical fallacy or would you acept that it's true BECAUSE of experience. This is what I'm trying to explain, the difference between believing something BECAUSE most people do,or most people believing it because of experienc e.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): So you don't accept that jumping from the 10th floor of a building will result in death. How about instead of calling it proof by assertion you call it what it is, learning from experience?
Note: Remember what I said about Joan not dropping failed points? She's still stuck on her strawman (out of context) version of Fred's fallacious apeals to majority, and is also reaffirming her circular argument. To imply that naturalism is true because naturalistic scientists are logical thinkers doesn't make naturalism a logical conclusion!
Me: Joan, now you've brought experience into the equation. You're getting warmer! But of course, theistic scientists share in the experience. Hence you are still begging the question.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Bryan Winters, you have completely missed the point!!! I see absolutely no point in continuing a discussion with one so blinded to his own faulty logic...smh
Me: And another ad hom to wrap things up. Noted.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): No, that is NOT an ad hominem remark. I think you should brush up on logical fallacies.
Me: Yes, it is. You are attacking my reasoning ability in general instead of my points.
Note: Joan is simply wrong here again. An "ad hominem" is a fallacious argument where the opponent (me, in this case) is attacked in an attempt to discredit the points being made.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): No, an ad hominem would be "Person X was put in jail for tax fraud. Don't believe anything he says about car engines".
Note: Remember what I said about Joan not dropping failed points?
Me: Yes. Likewise to attack my reasoning in general as the basis for rejecting my points is fallacious. Your fourth fallacy here.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): Bryan Winters, you have demonstrated your faulty logic in reaching your faulty conclusion. That is not an ad hom.
Note: Remember what I said about Joan not dropping failed points?
Me: You've not demonstrated faulty reasoning on my part, but I've clearly shown yours.
Joan (theistic evolutionist): I didn't say I had demonstrated your faulty reasoning, I said you had done that yourself. Read for comprehension.
Note: It's been interesting to see the fallacies employed in arguing that naturalism is a logical conclusion, but - time to drop the bomb and wrap this up...
Excellent, so you have not demonstrated faulty reasoning on my part whereby you can object to my reasoning. As I said.
In regard to whether naturalists are able to think logically, it is clearly you missing the point. The overarching question is whether naturalism itself is a logical conclusion. I repeat, the overarching question is whether naturalism itself is a logical conclusion. And to suggest that it's logical on the basis that naturalists are logical thinkers begs the question. You are arguing that naturalism is logical by assuming that naturalists think logically in respect to concluding that naturalism is logical! Circular. Theists think logically as well. Does that mean that *all* of our conclusions are logical? Of course not, Joan. Thus your argument is also a non sequitur. Your conclusion does not follow from the premise. Your fifth fallacy if I'm not mistaken - I'm beginning to lose count.
Same with experience. Theists have experience as well. So question begging once more. Thus, what I've shown is that both you and Fred have appealed to a list of fallacies in order to conclude the supposed truth of atheistic naturalism.
(It's interesting to once again see you arguing for the truth of atheistic naturalism, btw. You'll claim you aren't doing so, of course, but I sure don't see it that way. I just look back on threads like this one - and your *consistent* support of every atheistic argument presented here and elsewhere. I've seen no exceptions. Btw, this is called "inductive reasoning," which you might recall my explaining to you during our discussion on radiometric dating. It necessarily entails a degree of assumption, just like radiometric dating.)
Me: Take care, Joan.
//And now a personal attack on my ability to comprehend science as the basis for objecting to my points.//
Not a personal attack, but an observation of ANY science you've actually discussed with me. I wish I were just being mean to you but it does seem that you have a real problem with scientific concepts.
//Not a personal attack, but an observation of ANY science you've actually discussed with me.//
This is both a red herring (as it ultimately has nothing to do with the argument in question), and an unsubstantiated claim.
So the total fallacy list to support the supposed truth of naturalism is now as follows:
1. Ad populum fallacy
2. Begging the question
3. Proof by assertion
4. Ad hominem
5. Non sequitur
6. Red herring
7. And general unsubstantiated claims.
...And multiple cases of several of these.
"Fred and Joan" continued to post after this point, but it was simply a case of the typical argument ad nauseum - nothing of substance worthy of mentioning except that Joan committed two more fallacies, while Fred was reduced to trolling and insults.
My objective was to point out that atheists employ logical fallacies / fallacious lines of reasoning to conclude (or argue for) the supposed truth of naturalism. In Fred and Joan's case, I am satisfied that I did this. Or should I say they did it for me? It was quite revealing that they didn't once argue for logical inference from any claimed evidence for naturalism. That would have at least been a step in the right direction. Rather than do so, they argued for the truth of naturalism "because scientists believe it" (ad populum), "because it's true" (begging the question / circular reasoning), and "because I don't know what I'm talking about" (ad hominem). ...So very typical of the militant atheist's argument, from my experience.
The Biblical worldview is the only worldview that can account for the preconditions of intelligibility via sound logic and reasoning. I pray that Fred and Joan will come to know the truth...
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." - John 14:6
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