Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sye Ten Bruggencate

This is The Refining Reason Debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate, a Christian apologist, and Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience TV show, held May 31st in Memphis. (Note that I'm going to use first names here, in the interest of readability.)

Don't worry, I don't expect you to watch the whole thing. Heck, it's almost two hours long (including the question-and-answer period). But I did watch it - twice - and I'm still flabbergasted that anyone takes Sye Ten Bruggencate seriously.

Sye is a presuppositional apologist. He just assumes that the Christian God exists and that the Bible is true, and then claims that logic and reason can't even exist under any other worldview. But he never demonstrates any of that. It's really bizarre.

Is it reasonable to believe that God exists? That's the topic of the debate, and in his opening statement, Sye answers, "Yes, because it's true."

That's it. He never bothers to back that up. That's the last he even mentions it, because he claims that everyone in the world already knows that God - the Christian God, specifically - exists.

Yes, everyone. Even newborn infants know that the Christian God exists,... according to Sye Ten Bruggencate. Atheists don't disbelieve in God. We just love our sin. 70% of the world population is non-Christian, but according to Sye, they all know that the Christian God exists, too.

So why do most people worship different gods? Apparently, they really want to be tortured forever in Hell.

Make no mistake, Sye has nothing but contempt for most Christians, too, since most Christians disagree with his interpretation of the Bible. You see, he knows that he's right, and everyone else knows that he's right, too. We just don't want to admit it. (It's amazing that he can know exactly what's in your mind, isn't it?)

That was pretty much the end of the debate, though it went on for almost two more hours. Sye spent the rest of his opening statement showing brief excerpts - very brief, not even full sentences - of Matt Dillahunty on the Atheist Experience TV show, and then arguing against the straw man Sye had created, rather than the man sitting on the other side of the stage from him. At best, it was strange; at worst, dishonest.

Sye 'knows' that the Bible is true, but he wouldn't answer any questions about it. (His excuse? He doesn't do 'Bible study' with nonbelievers.) It wasn't just the Bible, though. He avoided questions and simply made nothing but unsupported claims.

"You can't know that anything is true unless you start with God. Everyone here knows that God exists."

"Evidence presupposes truth. Truth presupposes God."

"It requires God to doubt the existence of God. ... Doubt presupposes the existence of God."

Yeah, OK, that's what he claims, but where's the logic behind it? Where's his evidence? Well, he can't do that, because presenting evidence would make the audience the judge of God. (Um, no, they'd be judging you, Sye. You're the one making those claims, after all.)

At the very end, replying to a question, he claims that he can't be wrong about what he knows by definition: "Knowledge is defined as true. ... By definition, knowledge is true."

Can he be serious? OK, knowledge might have to be true in order to be actual "knowledge," but Sye hasn't demonstrated that he 'knows' anything at all. He's just claiming knowledge. It's the exact same thing as just claiming that he's right.

In a debate, that's what you have to demonstrate. But Sye never does. Towards the end, he just starts preaching at everyone. After all, why debate? According to him, everyone already knows that he's right. So he's just there to remind everyone that Hell is bad (as if, somehow, everyone else had overlooked that little detail).

It's just completely batshit crazy. There wasn't even one tiny bit that made any sense. I mean, I've heard a lot of arguments from Christian apologists, but this was the craziest thing I've ever heard.

But it wasn't all that entertaining to watch, because it was all about philosophy. Matt Dillahunty was well prepared - and he enjoys philosophical arguments - but he really couldn't get Sye to say anything much at all, so he was mostly arguing against the rhetorical tricks of presuppositional apologetics in general.

It was frustrating to watch. Sye said he accepted Matt's definition of truth - "Truth is that which corresponds to reality" - but then he'd start talking about different perceptions of reality - "my reality," "your reality," etc.

Obviously, those are different concepts. As Matt noted, Sye was confusing the map for the place. We might all perceive reality differently, but it's the underlying objective reality which matters when it comes to truth claims, not our subjective perceptions of it.

Sye tried to argue that Matt couldn't 'know' anything, which Matt readily admitted,... if you're talking about 'absolute' knowledge (i.e. with no possible chance that you could be wrong). But just because Sye claims absolute knowledge, that's no reason to take such a claim seriously, especially absent evidence or logic.

These might be useful - or, at least, fun - debates among philosophers, but in the real world, I've got to think they're pretty useless. But these days, Christian apologetics increasingly comes down to this kind of thing, probably because it sounds impressive to believers who don't have a clue what any of it means (and because it can trip up skeptics who aren't prepared for such tricks, too).

The one thing you can't get from a presuppositional apologist is an answer to a question. IMHO, that makes debates with these people absolutely worthless. Matt was prepared for that, but it was still frustrating.

PS. If two hours of this isn't enough for you, there was a Dogma Debate livecast immediately afterward (another hour and a half). First, host David Smalley talks to David Silverman of American Atheists and Sarah Morehead of Recovering from Religion. (Those two groups hosted the debate.)

Then he interviews Sye Ten Bruggencate and Eric Hovind, another presuppositional apologist who was in the audience for the debate. (Yes, Eric Hovind, which is your clue about just how crazy and how dishonest presuppositional apologetics really is.)

The really funny thing comes at the end of the livecast, when Smalley gets the two of them to admit that they disagree in at least one fundamental way about their God that they absolutely know all about.

Yes, like religious fanatics everywhere, they all know they're right. They just can't agree on what that is.

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