I watched the debate between Sye Tenbruggencate and Matt Dillahunty. The debate left me scratching my head, after all, Dillahunty advocates reason and rationality, yet he used irrationalism to escape the problem of skepticism. Before I get into the issue, I would like to address some things about the debate.
The debate was hosted by an organization that is known as Recovering from Religion. From what I understand, the crowd was predominately atheists. The crowd was not polite and was disruptive. The moderator did not try to stop the crowd from taking up Sye’s time by “hooting and hollering.” They laughed at Sye, and clearly showed that they favored Dillahunty. Every time Matt let out a snarky one liner, the crowd would erupt into applause. They did so even if what Dillahunty said that was fallacious or didn’t comport to his earlier statements. They became noticeably more disruptive during the Q and A session. I think that all should be cautious with debates that are organized by atheist organizations, because it has been shown repeatedly that many “hardened” atheists are incapable of appropriate behavior. Matt eventually says that the crowd needs to calm down, but only because he wants to talk as well. It seems that the mission of Dillahunty, Recovering from Religion, and the crowd was to try to discredit Presuppositional Apologetics through ridicule. I suppose it’s because they can’t answer the one simple question that Sye asked.
What is truth?
Sye asked Dillahunty a simple question, and that one question was how Dillahunty could know even one thing to be true. That is, given Dillahunty’s statement that truth is that which corresponds to reality. Dillahunty also made a further distinction concerning “objective” reality. When Sye pressed Dillahunty for an answer on how “objective” reality is determined, Dillahunty appealed to his senses. Sye rightfully pointed out that people have different perceptions of reality. However, some further criticism can be pointed out.
Dillahunty appealed to his senses to justify how he can know objective reality. However, you cannot get concepts from senses. For instance, sense perception cannot give you the concept of objective reality, nor can it give a concept of reality at all. The senses cannot tell you what reality is, because senses only provide raw data. The senses give your brain raw data that the brain must organize. This takes place before the person is even conscious of it. The senses have also been known to produce illusions. Some may say that they have ways of telling what illusions are and what reality is, but that would require more than just the senses to decipher. The senses knows no difference between illusion and reality. Other faculties are needed in order for us to be able to filter out any erroneous data that the senses gives us. However, you can’t get reasoning from the senses. How much does reason weigh? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? The same can be asked about reality. What does reality look like? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? What texture is reality?
Matt Dillahunty Embraces Irrationalism?
When Dillahunty appealed to his senses, Sye asked him how he knows that his senses are valid. Dillahunty gave a pragmatist response. He said that his senses work and that he is justified in using them because they have worked in the past. This is an irrationalist philosophy known as pragmatism. Strangely, he also identified himself as a foundherentist, but if that were the case, he would not have appealed to pragmatism in order to justify using his senses. At another point in the debate, he says that he has a strong disposition towards reason and evidence, but pragmatism rejects reason and reality and instead embraces the pragmatic value of a proposition. So, it seems that according to the epistemology he laid out during his debate, he has contradicted himself at least three times. At another point, Dillahunty says that we may not have a good definition of knowledge, yet he makes multiple claims of knowledge throughout his debate. So what does Dillahunty believe? Well, considering that he appeals to pragmatism to defend his senses and his reasoning, he is, at his core, a pragmatist. Dillahunty also claims that logical absolutes are foundational, but given how many times he has contradicted himself on his epistemology, he has no regard for the law of contradiction.
Dillahunty has said in the past that he knows of no solution for hard solipsism. He reaffirmed this in his debate with Sye, but Dillahunty says that he is not a hard solipsist. One must wonder, if there is no solution for hard solipsism according to Dillahunty, then why is it that he is not a hard solipsist? Despite Dillahunty’s irrationalist tendencies, he did say that he has a strong disposition towards evidence. That being the case, shouldn’t Dillahunty provide a better justification for believing that there is an external world outside of himself other than saying that the assumption is pragmatic? It appears that Dillahunty is arbitrarily requiring evidences of some claims, but not others. If justification is required for all positive claims, then why is it that Dillahunty is not able to provide justification for the tools that he uses to try to acquire knowledge in his worldview?
The Q and A Session Highlights
There were two atheists in the Q and A that caught my attention.(due to blatant ignorance) The first was an atheist neuro-scientist that proclaimed that philosophy is useless, nevermind the fact that he took a philosophical position. The next one was a young lady that asked Sye if The Bible says to be kind to others. Sye asked for a Bible verse and she replied, “I don’t do Bible verses, bro.” Sye then explained Elijah’s treatment of the worship of Baal.
What is the next step for this group of atheists?
From what both David Silverman and Matt Dillahunty has said on Twitter, it seems that they wish to take over the narrative of what occurred at the debate by declaring victory. All of the online-atheist zealots are rushing to the video to give disparaging comments about Sye. Silverman and Dillahunty will now do their best to avoid confrontations with presuppositionalists and say that they have already won as their excuse for not wishing to converse with them. Nevermind the fact that both of these men have conversed with presuppositionalists before. If they did so well against presuppositionalists before, then why is it that they should stop conversing with presuppositionalists now? It seems like the next step in their strategy is to ignore presuppositionalists, and to those that do end up approaching the atheist will be ridiculed. I would say that Silverman and Dillahunty chose to end it this way because they wanted to have control of the narrative of what they were wanting to be the “final” debate between Sye and Dillahunty.
No doubt that I am a biased and opinionated individual, but when we consider the fact that Dillahunty was still unable to answer how he can know truth according to his worldview(after an almost two-hour debate), I can easily say that Sye won. Dillahunty and other atheists tried to pin Sye for not giving a “positive case” for God, but as Sye pointed out, why should he? After all, if someone can’t justify how their worldview allows them to know one thing, then it is senseless to indulge them by proving God to them.
James White also gave a review concerning this debate as well. The review starts at about the 20 minute mark: