On Twitter, Blake Seidler is attempting to defend one of Peter Boghossian’s many errors. It’s highly amusing and it demonstrates how most atheists simply are not prepared for rhetorical battle. Seeing them dip their toes into rhetoric and trying to figure it out in their quasi-aspie way is like watching monkeys try to figure out how to drive a car.
BS: Your accusation of science denial is false.
VD: He is indisputably denying science. He is appealing to the long-discredited idea of a Steady State universe.
BS: No he’s not, and that’s precisely the straw-man I’m referring to. He absolutely accepts the Big Bang model of the universe.
BS: You invoked the Steady State model, not Boghossian.
VD: He’s the one who denies the scientific consensus for the age of the universe, Blake.
VD: “The possibility that the universe always existed cannot be ruled out.” – Peter Boghossian. There’s your science denial.
VD: “The possibility that the Earth is only six thousand years old cannot be ruled out.” – Peter Boghossian (paraphrased)
VD: “The possibility that God created the Heavens and the Earth cannot be ruled out.” – Peter Boghossian (paraphrased).
There is more of the same sort of thing, but the fact is that we all know Boghossian actually believes in the Big Bang and the scientific consensus concerning the age of the universe. He simply pretended that he didn’t in order to attack the possibility that God might have created the universe. But notice how the simple fact of answering rhetoric with rhetoric has immediately forced Blake, the Street Epistemologist, to beat a hasty retreat to scientific dialectic. Oh, of course Peter Boghossian isn’t a SCIENCE DENIER. Of course he ABSOLUTELY accepts the Big Bang model.
Forcing this retreat was, of course, precisely my intention, since now we can cheerfully cram the very words he was attempting to use to cast doubt on our faith right down his throat. Now Boghossian can’t even argue with someone claiming that there was nothing but Skittles and bubblegum before the Big Bang, or with someone who argues that Bishop Ussher’s 6,000 year old Earth can’t be ruled out without facing his own words. He is forced to choose between being hung by our rhetoric or accept that his arguments have been neutralized.
Hit them with rhetoric when they use rhetoric. Then, when they retreat and try to switch back to dialectic, recall their rhetoric and turn it against them. As I’ve noted, they are NEVER prepared to defend their beliefs or stand by the statements they make in attacking Christian beliefs. Ironically, the less intellectually honest they are, the easier it is to take them apart because they will always say something that contradicts an earlier statement. The more you do this, the easier it gets to spot the statement that will eventually be contradicted.
UPDATE: Boghossian’s tactics may be more self-destructive than I’d imagined.
VD: You say we can’t believe there was nothing before the Big Bang, but we can believe there were never any gods. You have faith!
BS: no, I withhold belief in God the same way I withhold belief in everything else that I don’t have evidence for.
VD: You appear to be pretending to know something you don’t. Do you admit there may be a Creator God?
BS: yes. I think a deistic god is impossible to disprove, and a truly omnipotent being could obviously conceal his existence.
VD: Good. You claim there may be something pre-Big Bang and there may be a Creator God. Do you also claim that Jesus Christ may be Lord?
BS: sure. I think the evidence is strongly against it, but if I am open to being shown that I am wrong about that.
And now we’re onto the Christian’s favored ground. Blake is presently trying to cite various forms of evidence against the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which should be an interesting enterprise. Notice that although he’s still repeating Boggie’s talking points, we’re no longer questioning the essential legitimacy of faith, but are instead discussing the evidence for and against Jesus Christ. I’ve asked him to focus, in particular, in the historical and textual evidence against Jesus Christ he cited.
So, you see, an unprovoked attack by a Street Epistemologist can be transformed into an opportunity to not only defend one’s faith, but share it. The anti-apologetic should be viewed as a potential opportunity for Christian evangelism. Just keep in mind that these are seldom individuals who are wired normally, so avoid any and all emotion-based appeals or personal testimonials and stick firmly to nothing but facts, reason, and logic.
UPDATE 2: A new tactical line occurs to me. When asked about the evidence AGAINST Jesus Christ, Blake surprised me by answering: “Historical, archeological, textual, philosophical, psychological, anthropological, cosmological, and experiential.”
Given that most atheists actively attempt to limit evidence to “scientific evidence”, it may be useful to encourage them to expand the limits of what they consider acceptable evidence by first asking them for their evidence against Jesus Christ. For example, most atheists would run screaming away from the idea that experiential evidence is legitimate in any circumstances. And archeological evidence has played into Christian hands since Nineveh was discovered. But Blake has manfully agreed that all these evidential grounds are fair game, “given sound logic and consistent definitions”, restrictions to which I can’t possibly object.
In any event, we’ve agreed that Twitter is too limited a medium for a detailed discussion, so he is going to write up his case for the evidence against the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which I will post here on the blog, unedited, in its entirety.