This is what it’s like to Debate a Christian

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 3, 2011 in Video

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

David Rogers January 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm

You have just provided prime evidence of why so many atheists lose so many debates to Christian apologists like William Lane Craig. Equating belief in Santa Claus to belief in God certainly does not indicate that someone is actually practicing Common Sense.

  (Quote)

Chris Hallquist January 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

David, your dismissal of belief in Santa Claus does not indicate you are actually practicing Common Sense.

Any aclausist who watches that video and comes away thinking Ethan won one is deluded. It’s clear that he was totally unprepared for Anna’s points from the very beginning. For example, he never responded to Anna’s point that Santa might be able to make chimneys bigger so he can get through.

He’d probably never heard this argument before, not surprising, since he seems like exactly the sort of arrogant aclausist who doesn’t think he needs to study Santaology to dismiss it. No wonder Anna wins all her debates.

  (Quote)

ildi January 3, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Also, as Anna clearly understands, anyone who does any in-depth reading on robots is struck by the fine-tuned aspect of the Three Laws of Robotics, therefore Santa exists!

  (Quote)

Bill Maher January 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

David,

You, like all aclausists, are arrogant and stubborn in your denial of the evidence. For centuries aclausists have tried to disprove Santa, but no one has ever been successful. Simultaneously, santalogians have provided convincing arguments for the existence of Claus.

If you do not believe me, here is a piece on the simplicity of Santa:
http://ericsteinhart.com/santa.html

and here is a long list of arguments for him, including the fine-gifting argument.
http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2010/12/santa-lives.html

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Santalogians do not exist among sane adults. They are pathetic sarcastic attempts to equate belief in Santa Claus with belief in the Christian God. The attempt to make them equivalent is pathetic and unworthy of any time spent examining the analogy.

Name one serious conversion of a sane functioning adult who was a disbeliever in Santa Claus as an adult who then converted to fully living his or her life as a Clausist based upon the testimony of other Clausists who have fully dedicated their lives to Clausism.

  (Quote)

Bill Maher January 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm

David,

You committed the genetic fallacy by attacking the mental faculties of clausists. The sanity of a belief’s holder has nothing to do with its soundness or cogency.

You also committed an ad populum fallacy. The number of people who believe in something has nothing to do with if its true or not.

  (Quote)

Justgreatthanks January 3, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Santalogians do not exist among sane adults.

If you gave up your belief in Santa Claus as a child because you saw him as literally a fat man with flying raindeer, then you simply have not kept up with modern clausology. Yes, there are some extreme conservatives who hold a to a literal view of Santa Claus as a person who lives at the North Pole with elves. But sadly this is seen as the only acceptable view of Santa Claus when a much more robust and nuanced account of Santa Claus has been developed by intellectuals. Childish conundrums like “How can he possibly get to every house in one night?” or “Why is there no factory at the North Pole” don’t prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, they simply increase our understanding of Santa Claus’ true nature.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKM6VDqkZko

It’s so sad that people reject the very existence of Santa Claus without knowing really anything relevant. I mean, before you rejected the existence of Santa Claus, did you study the historical veracity of Saint Nicholas’ Miracle of Wheat Multiplication?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas#The_miracle_of_wheat_multiplication

Or have you even read so much as a single word of Michael the Archimandrite’s “Life of Saint Nicholas,” let alone commentaries on how this work relates to establishing the existence of Santa Claus?

It’s a great tragedy of our age really when people reject Santa Claus without really doing any serious intellectual work to study the manner.

  (Quote)

Rob January 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm

The myriad of evidence and arguments presented by Anna are more than enough to show that Santa exists. Only a person corrupted by being naughty would reject the obviousness of The Truth.

Regardless, all Clausists are not required to make as effective an argument as Anna has, or even be aware of the arguments or evidence. It is entirely right, rational, reasonable, and proper to believe in Santa without any evidence or argument whatsoever. This is because the inner witness of the Holy Kringle make belief in Santa incorrigible. For the dedicated Clausist, arguments do not matter. And that is as it should be.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Sarcasm is hardly a sound convincing argument.

I sincerely believe that none of you actually believe in Santa Claus.

I’ve called your bluff on your sarcasm.

Are you going to continue in this nonsense or come up with some actual serious argumentation?

Even if you don’t believe in God, you would improve your argumentation by abandoning this blatant dishonest argumentation and make a more serious philosophical formulation of your lack of belief.

I’ve said my piece. Go on and proceed with your sophomorisms.

  (Quote)

Garren January 4, 2011 at 1:25 am

The lack of adult belief in Santa vs. God is the point, not a problem with the analogy.

  (Quote)

Jake de Backer January 4, 2011 at 1:50 am

David

Nonsense? Couldn’t agree more.

What’s ironic about you labeling these remarks as nonsensical is that we all agree with you. We agree that offering these arguments in the defense of some supernatural explanation(s) is ludicrous in the extreme. However, you only find them dissatisfying when used to corroborate the existence of Santa Claus but in the context of God, you, presumably, find each of the arguments on offer in this thread completely acceptable. And beyond you decrying the “sarcasm” used in articulating them and mustering a plea to essentially “drop it”, I’ve yet to see you argue why these explanations are intellectually repugnant when offered to defend Claus but entirely meritorious of our attention and scholarly consideration in the framework of a (theistic understanding of a) God.

I’m sure everyone here would be happy to eliminate the “sophomorisms” from these posts if you would take a few seconds to explicate not just that they’re sarcastic and needless but WHY they’re sarcastic and needless.

And, of course, this goes without saying: Let’s be sure to do away with any special pleading in our explanations :)

Best
J.

  (Quote)

poban January 4, 2011 at 1:52 am

Surely everyone here is a layman when it comes to clausology, an expert on santa would just be apalled by above arguments given against Santa. By the way, to believe in santa you must have to convince yourself first that he exists and santa who spreads happiness will be a immediate reality.

  (Quote)

AndrewR January 4, 2011 at 2:33 am

As a devout Santa-ist I shall refuse to listen to your argument until you have bought and read the entirety of the Blackwell Companion to Natural Santaology ($242USD)

  (Quote)

ildi January 4, 2011 at 3:56 am

David; in times of despair and doubt I turn to the words of the great santalogian Francis Parcellus Church as preserved in the holy writ The Sun:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

  (Quote)

SayWhaaat January 4, 2011 at 5:20 am

I believe it is the consensus of North Pole historians that a man by the name of Santa Claus not only lived but also delivered presents to children across norther Europe. In addition, many facts about the historical Claus have been hardily defended including the donning of the first Red Suit and the names and positions of His reindeer. From this, many prominent Santalogians have devised a Baysian analysis which PROVES the existence of a supernatural present deliverer.

  (Quote)

Haecceitas January 4, 2011 at 6:49 am

David Rogers, just let them have their fun. Those among them who are capable of serious philosophical thought do probably understand that this type of a parody has no value as a serious argument from analogy (even though they won’t admit it here because that’s the nature of the game they are playing). If there are others who don’t fall within that category, then they probably are just not smart or honest enough to be convinced that there’s no real epistemic parallel between belief in God and belief in Santa.

  (Quote)

Haecceitas January 4, 2011 at 6:58 am

However, Santa really does exist and I need to correct a common misconception. He doesn’t live in the north pole. This myth probably arose because some people confused the arctic circle with the north pole. Actually Santa lives in Lapland, Finland (he has an office in Rovaniemi but he really likes to spend his spare time in his house somewhere around the mount Korvatunturi). Even some of my fellow Finns don’t like to admit the facts about Santa Claus but they are mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses who haven’t gotten over the fact that according to some sources, the bishop Saint Nicholas punched Arius during the council of Nicaea.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 4, 2011 at 7:32 am

anyone who does any in-depth reading on robots is struck by the fine-tuned aspect of the Three Laws of Robotics

This is going off on a tangent, but I have always thought the three laws of robotics, which were supposedly an inherent property of the robots’ positronic brains, were unlikely, arbitrary, and plot-driven. The Three Laws were also adhered to about as often as ‘The Prime Directive.’ Asimov, as a practicing scientist, ought to have known better.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 4, 2011 at 7:58 am

Jake de Backer,

Thank you for articulating what the topic is in this post. This is not about the existence of God or Santa Claus but how this video is used as an alleged analogy of debating with Christians as the title claimed.

Haeccitas clearly noted “there’s no real epistemic parallel between belief in God and belief in Santa”. No intellectually serious atheist or Christian interested in the discussion of the existence of God would use the Santa analogy. The only ones who engage in that would be those who actually believe in Santa and I’m pretty confident that none of those posting here are committed “Santalogians” in the general way Santa Claus is portrayed in popular culture. (Haeccitas’ historical notations are definitely true but that is not the way that the other commenters here are portraying it.)

My point is that those who do believe in Santa Claus (the elven version) are qualitatively different from the vast majority of God believers in both their chronological maturity and in the actual epistemic understanding of what the belief entails. I am unaware of serious adult conversions to elven Santa Claus belief whereas there are numerous examples of even atheist adult conversions to God belief. The conversion is qualitatively different in its impact on thought, behavior, and ethics. Suggesting that a Santa Claus existence debate is equivalent to a Yahweh God existence debate has no philosophical parallel.

This is NOT what it’s like to Debate a Christian.

I concede that there may be some Christians who may use the similar argumentations as the little girl, but if an atheist thinks that the Santa Claus parallel will win in an intellectual philosophical debate they are setting themselves up for real embarassment which is what I communicated in my first comment.

Indeed Best to You,

David

  (Quote)

Bill Maher January 4, 2011 at 8:32 am

David,

you should listen to Haecceitas. The reason why everyone is busting your balls is because you were acting so offended.

  (Quote)

Rob January 4, 2011 at 8:35 am

David Rogers,

The analogy is spot on. In my experience, Christians use special pleading as the foundation for almost all of their arguments, be it for the existence of God, the resurrection, whatever.

This video is a great example of exactly what my experience has been like when debating Christians. Cheers.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 4, 2011 at 8:53 am

Let’s play name the fallacies!

Haeccitas clearly noted “there’s no real epistemic parallel between belief in God and belief in Santa”.

Special Pleading

No intellectually serious atheist or Christian interested in the discussion of the existence of God would use the Santa analogy. The only ones who engage in that would be those who actually believe in Santa and I’m pretty confident that none of those posting here are committed “Santalogians” in the general way Santa Claus is portrayed in popular culture.

Genetic fallacy

I’ve called your bluff on your sarcasm.
Are you going to continue in this nonsense or come up with some actual serious argumentation?

I’m going to take my ball and go home!

Please do, Mr. Rogers. Your refusal to take Clausology seriously and your many insults directed at Clausists have made your presence unwelcome.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 4, 2011 at 8:57 am

My intention in posting was to highlight that discussions and debates should proceed on serious grounds. It does nothing to advance legitimate examination of one’s position to make a demeaning claim that the other side argues like an eight year old girl and that is “what it’s like to debate” such persons. I thought Luke was intending to take the high ground in explicating what common sense atheists claim. He has done so in the past. This video was a massive retreat into juvenile playground tactics.

Of course, there are Christians who use special pleading. But seriously, all of them? All Christians argue like sweet innocent and naïve little 8 year old girls? If atheists have such a condescending attitude toward the intelligence and breadth of awareness of all Christians, why spend so much intellectual energy toward demeaning such pathetic adults exercising 8 year old reasoning.

I would prefer for atheists to take the intellectual philosophical high ground rather than using such ridiculous demeaning tactics. Such derisive attempts do not inspire me to think that atheists are even worthy of spending time with their argumentation. Why read or listen to someone’s thoughts if all they’re going to do is equate you with a little girl’s debate statements?

I happen to know that not all atheists argue in this way, and I will intellectually challenge myself by continuing to read them. If Luke continues with this sort of tactic, I suppose I will go elsewhere to find more serious engagement.

With hope toward less derision and more toward seriousness,

David

  (Quote)

Justgreatthanks January 4, 2011 at 9:09 am

David:

If Luke continues with this sort of tactic, I suppose I will go elsewhere to find more serious engagement.

You know, the ratio of “Serious posts” to “Joke posts” on this site has to easily exceed 20 to 1, yet every single time there is satire, there is invariably one or more butthurt theists who decry the lack of intellectual rigor.

If you scroll down just a single post, you will see Luke offering a thoughtful reply to WL Craig’s argument regarding the absurdity of life on atheism, part of an ongoing series on the same topic. If you are only interested in serious discussion, why don’t (and didn’t) you comment on that instead? If I were to speculate, it would be because you get off on being sanctimonious in this way much more than you do ACTUALLY engaging in intellectual discussion, but I’m certainly open to alternative theories.

  (Quote)

ildi January 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

My point is that those who do believe in Santa Claus (the elven version) are qualitatively different from the vast majority of God believers in both their chronological maturity and in the actual epistemic understanding of what the belief entails.

Really? Based on the results of a survey conducted by Ipsos in 2004:

A new Ipsos-Reid survey reveals four-in-ten (40%) adult British Columbians believe in the man in the big red suit. Some British Columbians are more likely than others to believe in Santa Claus. Nearly half of women (46%) believe in Santa Claus, compared to only one-third of men (34%). Vancouver/Burnaby/New Westminster residents (31% believe) are much more skeptical than residents in the rest of the Lower Mainland (43%) or the rest of BC (43%). Belief in Santa Claus is higher among residents with household incomes over $100,000 (49% vs. 38% <$30K, 38% $30-$60K, 36% $60-$100K) and residents without a high school education or less (45% vs. 39% some post-secondary, 36% university degree).

It’s not just those wacky Canucks, either: 88 Percent of Adults Believe in Santa Claus

St. Nicholas was a real individual whose exploits for good are known all over the world and celebrated in many cultures. It is the media, big business, the entertainment industry and the godless who have crafted a demeaning image of Santa. Parents aren’t buying it and will never buy it because belief in Santa is a teaching tool of not only morals but significance for holiday observance.

Santa is about giving, not receiving. He is about happiness, not the sarcasm of biting satire nor the cynicism of those who use his image to support a political agenda. He’s pure. They can’t take that away from parents and children.

Yes, yes, I know; they most likely aren’t the True Believers&copy by your definition because they probably don’t believe in the literal jolly elf hiding out in a physical location at the North Pole. What percent of Christians believe in the baby Jesus the same way they believe in Santa; i.e., as a symbol of how we should be?

  (Quote)

ildi January 4, 2011 at 9:22 am

Dammit, my copyright symbol showed up in the preview section…

Once Anna gets more practice, she will be a better debater than WLC (she needs to work on looking more sincere) because her sensus clausitatis tells her that Santa exists independent of any actual evidence to the contrary.

Also, she is cute as a button!

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

David Clueless Rogers: Of course, there are Christians who use special pleading. But seriously, all of them?

Who accused all Christians of special pleading? It was you who made use of special pleading.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser January 4, 2011 at 10:15 am

Justgreatthanks,

Well said.

  (Quote)

Landon Hedrick January 4, 2011 at 10:42 am

Maybe the title of this post should be “This Is What It’s Like to Debate Some Christians.” And that might be true. But clearly (and Luke knows this as well as anyone), this isn’t what it’s like to debate all Christians.

  (Quote)

David Roger January 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

One last post and then I’ve got laundry to fold.

I’ve been reading Luke’s site for over a year now. I’ve come here daily. I have appreciated his many serious posts and I have found that they indeed cause me to think. I am not yet convinced of the argumentation but I have appreciated that he has tried to raise the level of the discussion.

I was disappointed that he chose this as a tactic. I see it as a retreat and contrary to his desire to make strong intellectual arguments. I am glad that he sees William Lane Craig as an opponent whose ideas must be challenged with the same rigor that Craig seems to use. Luke’s numerous kalam argument rebuttal attempts show that he thinks that this is a significant area that atheists must become informed of.

If he had titled the post “This is what it’s like to debate some Christians” then I would admit that indeed some Christians do indeed use these sort of tactics.

Would the title “This is what it’s like to debate William Lane Craig” be accurate? If it is, then why would Luke make the point that atheists need to be much more prepared to debate him. Why are they “losing” so many debates with him? Luke has made that claim and seems to think it important for atheists to be better prepared. Why should they be if this represents how Christians debate?

Luke in his own lectures seems to support that the best way to convince someone is through praising good behavior and logical reasoning. Is posting this video with that title praising good behavior and using logical reasoning? It looks more like ridicule and condescension to me.

I may still lurk around here on occasion, but this video and some, not all, of my fellow commenters are building a list of reasons of me spending internet time elsewhere.

I do appreciate a few things. It is interesting to see how far some are willing to argue for something (Clausism) that they do not actually believe but still think is a powerful debate tactic.

Well, elves are not going to fold my laundry and God isn’t either, so I will depart. Proceed as you deem fit.

David

  (Quote)

Jon H January 4, 2011 at 11:36 am

When I was a Christian I probably would have posted something like this on my facebook under the title: “What it’s like to argue with Mormons.” It always bothered me how they could believe something so obviously false and silly, but when ever I argued with them they always had a way to slip out. As long as I couldn’t prove them false completely they felt justified.

Now I’m just just equal opportunity with my criticisms.

  (Quote)

ildi January 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Why are they “losing” so many debates with him? Luke has made that claim and seems to think it important for atheists to be better prepared. Why should they be if this represents how Christians debate?

Because Anna slam-dunked this one with the robots and widening chimney arguments.

Admit it, David, you’re really just angry with Santa because you didn’t get everything on your Christmas wish list… you’re denying Santa because you want to have the freedom to be naughty rather than nice.

  (Quote)

Rob January 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

How is Anna’s appeal to the logical possibility of robots helping Santa get the job done any different from Alvin Plantinga’s appeal to the logical possibility of demons as an explanation for natural evils?

  (Quote)

Ralph January 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm

David Roger,

The proper response here is to show how the parody does not work and this you haven’t done. Decrying that somebody is chiding Christians or Christianity in general with the parody is just stupid – that’s how parody works! Now, you seem to have suggested ONE reason why you think the parody doesn’t work, i.e. not all Christians use special pleading. Please back this up with supporting arguments/ facts/ In the interest of being serious, please show how Christians do not use special pleading in choosing Christianity over the other religions, particularly Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism given that these religions offer similar levels of evidence (i.e. minimal to non-existent) in showing that theirs is the right path.

Ralph

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser January 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Landon,

Sure.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Ah now, Ralph is getting near it. It is not about analogizing a belief in Creator God with a child’s belief in a mythic figure like Santa Claus or some made up rhetorical strategy belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It is about the testimonies and claims made by sane adults for one religion that has actual adherents vs. another one or vs. a claim that there is no supernatural reality. That is where the discussion should start.

Would any of you spend serious time debating with someone claiming the moon is made of green cheese?

I tell you what. My time is limited for the next few weeks. But maybe after that I’ll come up with something and send a little something to Luke via his contact method that would pass as a rather brief prolegomena to what Ralph is asking. This isn’t really conducive to comment boxes.

So, take care. Maybe you’ll hear from me. Maybe not. I don’t really expect that any of you will really care and I’m not saying you should. It only works if I put up or shut up, so we’ll see.

Toodles.

P.S.

Even with all the back and forth and commenting, it has been kinda fun. I do intend to do some thinking on my own to see if I can formulate an answer for myself. Maybe you’ll get to see it.

  (Quote)

Santa Claus January 5, 2011 at 4:28 am

I’m astonished by your lack of belief.

*Scribbles some names on the naughty list.*

  (Quote)

Polymeron January 5, 2011 at 5:00 am

There are plenty of bizzare, obviously false claims that have a wide range of sane people attesting to them despite a complete lack of verifiable evidence. Alien abduction comes to mind.

I think the point here is that a strange, unsupported belief can have sane supporters, even many of those, regardless of its plausibility; and that the existence of such believers does not make the claim less ridiculous.
Mind you, in order for an analogy to be an analogy, it cannot be wholly identical to what it mimics. There must be one axis along which they are different; in this case, the axis is “perceived public plausibility”, which of course influences the number of adherents. The axis along which the analogy does not differ is that of argument form and quality.

This renders the point that Christianity has adult adherents moot. The analogy stands.

  (Quote)

ildi January 5, 2011 at 7:48 am

It is not about analogizing a belief in Creator God with a child’s belief in a mythic figure like Santa Claus or some made up rhetorical strategy belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Ralph’s point was that pissing and moaning about the analogy isn’t a demonstration that the analogy fails. I notice you’re using the WLC tactic of using a supposedly neutral term (Creator God) while relying on the heavy connotations of the term in western culture (my BFF Jesus). People who say they believe in Santa are usually referring to the origins of the tradition, namely St. Nicholas and his works of charity. Similar to your supposedly dogma-neutral Creator God, no?

It is about the testimonies and claims made by sane adults for one religion that has actual adherents vs. another one or vs. a claim that there is no supernatural reality..

It’s about claims made by sane adults for any superstitious or conspiracy-theory belief system. I don’t bother arguing with people who believe in astrology or alien abductions because they aren’t trying to enforce laws and policies based on it. Fake moon landing conspiracy theorists get my goat because my daddy was a rocket scientist at NASA, and anti-vaxxers and AGW denialists implicitly or explicitly support policies that are dangerous to others. I often have people recommend ‘alternative’ remedies such as reiki, acupuncture and reflexology for my chronic ailment. I know they mean well, and I handle it the same way as someone offering to pray for me (thank them with a social smile and move the conversation along). However, there are consequences to turning to non-evidence-based medicine, the most innocuous of which is wasting some serious jack.

Otherwise, whatever gets you through the day…

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

Polymeron,

Thanks for the comment about analogies. I was thinking that, but did not know how to articulate it. The relevant part of this analogy is the types of arguments Anna makes are similar to the types of arguments some Christians make. The analogy has nothing to do with the (alleged) plausibility of the beliefs.

Do you know if this confusion has a label? It is so common in arguments. I had to break off a fun argument recently because the other guy kept focusing on the irrelevant parts of my analogies. Also, Peter Singer recently did this on stage with Sam Harris and Harris smacked him down, so even good philosophers fall into this trap. I also have a vague recollection of Steve Novella talking about this on the SGU podcast, and I think he had a label for it. It would be nice to have a name for this confusion so you could just link to an explanation rather than having to detail it yourself every time it comes up, which is every other day.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 5, 2011 at 8:53 am

ildi,

“Ralph’s point was that pissing and moaning about the analogy isn’t a demonstration that the analogy fails. I notice you’re using the WLC tactic of using a supposedly neutral term (Creator God) while relying on the heavy connotations of the term in western culture (my BFF Jesus). ”

My use of “Creator God” at that point is only at the beginning of the argument used for specific reasons that would follow and not the final conclusive articulation. It is part of a much longer argument that can hardly be reduced to a comment box on a blog. It is used to differentiate the Jewish/Christian/Islamic view of God from the Grecian/Roman/Hindu/Canaanite kind of claims regarding gods (an accurate historical, philosophical, and literary knowledge of their kinds of claims regarding deity would note there is a distinction between the two classes of claims).

Anyway, I’m gone for the next few weeks. And as I said above I have no expectation that anyone of you would care. And I’m not saying you should.

Toodles again.

David

  (Quote)

Polymeron January 5, 2011 at 9:00 am

Rob,

Polymeron,Thanks for the comment about analogies.I was thinking that, but did not know how to articulate it.The relevant part of this analogy is the types of arguments Anna makes are similar to the types of arguments some Christians make.The analogy has nothing to do with the (alleged) plausibility of the beliefs.Do you know if this confusion has a label?

Well, you might say there’s SOME confusion there, but I think you’re overstating it. The analogy *uses* the similarity of the arguments to *claim* there is a similarity in plausibility. Specifically, via the implication that the same arguments can be constructed for both, which should make the arguments equally convincing. This makes both axes relevant.

The point of an analogy is to show two things are similar; and this highlights that any related dissimilarity needs to be explained. In our case, it needs to be explained why arguments for theism are to be considered more convincing than arguments for Santa’s existence.
If such an explanation is not forthcoming, that could have implications toward the plausibility of god’s existence. I think it’s clear why; am I wrong?

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 9:15 am

Polymeron,

I don’t think we disagree here. I don’t understand your last question.

  (Quote)

Polymeron January 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

What I am asking is, what is the fundamental difference that makes arguments admissible for proving God but not Santa? Or if there isn’t such a fundamental difference, why is the existence of God more plausible than Santa?

The one difference proposed so far was that more people believe in God than in Santa. But this has no bearing on the strength of the arguments being put forth. Indeed, it’s putting the cart before the horse: Knowing whether or not arguments are stronger for one over the other, we can draw conclusions over whether the difference in belief is justified.

  (Quote)

ildi January 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

My use of “Creator God” at that point is only at the beginning of the argument used for specific reasons that would follow and not the final conclusive articulation. It is part of a much longer argument that can hardly be reduced to a comment box on a blog.

Sure it can!

Kalam cosmological argument + fine-tuned universe + secular [sic] historical evidence for resurrection = God/Jesus/Holy Spirit exists and created the universe and us and cares deeply about our welfare.

(hat tip to ayer)

  (Quote)

Ebonmuse January 5, 2011 at 10:33 am

I am unaware of serious adult conversions to elven Santa Claus belief whereas there are numerous examples of even atheist adult conversions to God belief.

I’m astonished, David. Is your whole argument that God is more plausible than Santa because only children believe in Santa? Doesn’t the Bible say clearly (Mt. 18:3) that you should become as a small child to get into the Kingdom of Heaven? It seems to me that the mass belief of children in Santa should be a point in favor of his existence as far as Christians are concerned.

  (Quote)

cl January 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Interesting. While I sure did get a hearty laugh from this post, it wasn’t for the same reasons as most everyone else. I’m actually laughing at you, and not with you! Some of you whine about special pleading, yet, like many atheists, Ethan opens with an argument from incredulity. Like many atheists, Ethan expresses doubt about the time frame of gift delivery. Like many atheists, Ethan expresses disbelief in the robot theory, simply because he’s “never seen a movie or anything” about them. IOW, fallacious arguments from personal incredulity [with the exception that the reindeer would tire].

And of course, only Anna gets mocked. Indeed, this is exactly what it’s like to debate many atheists! Hardly any logic, and lots of mocking!

Luke,

Way to promote scope insensitivity! That aside, this post could have easily been named What It’s Like to Debate Luke and Alonzo on Desirism. The constant excuses, the equivocations… what’s the difference? Also, note the proper scope: instead of taking a sophomoric jab at Christians in general, I identified two specific individuals. Broad generalization kills many an argument. As Landon implies, you ought to know better. Change the post name of the post like you did with that one on “Why Atheists Some Atheists Suck At Debates.”

David Rogers,

Equating belief in Santa Claus to belief in God certainly does not indicate that someone is actually practicing Common Sense.

You are absolutely correct sir. Although, I hate to see you let mockers spin your wheels. Bill Maher, Reginald Selkirk, ildi… they rarely have anything salient to offer. Let the jokesters continue in their “sophomorisms,” after all they’re just having fun. Just brush them aside and move along. Haecceittas’ advice was spot-on.

Jake de Backer,

We agree that offering these arguments in the defense of some supernatural explanation(s) is ludicrous in the extreme. However, you only find them dissatisfying when used to corroborate the existence of Santa Claus but in the context of God, you, presumably, find each of the arguments on offer in this thread completely acceptable. [to David Rogers]

Would you care to identify the arguments you claim David presumably uses to defend theism but not Clausism, as opposed to simply alluding to them and hoping he can read your mind?

Justgreatthanks,

You know, the ratio of “Serious posts” to “Joke posts” on this site has to easily exceed 20 to 1,

Do you have any evidence for that claim? Or, are you simply pulling things out of your arse like Anna and Ethan? If the latter, will you be so humble as to admit it?

Rob,

How is Anna’s appeal to the logical possibility of robots helping Santa get the job done any different from Alvin Plantinga’s appeal to the logical possibility of demons as an explanation for natural evils?

To your knowledge, has any sane, serious person ever once testified to seeing a robot come down a chimney to deliver gifts? A simple “yes” or “no” would greatly assist clarity here.

Ralph,

Please back this up with supporting arguments/ facts/ In the interest of being serious, please show how Christians do not use special pleading in choosing Christianity over the other religions, particularly Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism given that these religions offer similar levels of evidence (i.e. minimal to non-existent) in showing that theirs is the right path. [to David Rogers]

Did you forget who retains the burden of proof so quickly? You are the one making the positive claim that “Christians” use special pleading, yet — even amidst all this talk about “supporting arguments” and “facts” — you completely fail to cite either in support of your claim. Folks like David Rogers and myself are under no compulsion to accept your barenaked claims. Get it straight!

Rob,

The relevant part of this analogy is the types of arguments Anna makes are similar to the types of arguments some Christians make.

Well, on the one hand, you’re better off than Luke in that you seem to respect scope. On the other hand, I can’t help but notice that you’re cherrypicking who to pick on. The types of arguments Ethan makes are also identical to the types of arguments many atheists and skeptics make. Alas, I understand the temptation to pick on the little girl. The whole “easy target” thing.

Haecceitas,

Those among them who are capable of serious philosophical thought do probably understand that this type of a parody has no value as a serious argument from analogy (even though they won’t admit it here because that’s the nature of the game they are playing). If there are others who don’t fall within that category, then they probably are just not smart or honest enough to be convinced that there’s no real epistemic parallel between belief in God and belief in Santa.

So true. Bravo to you.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Bill Maher, Reginald Selkirk, ildi… they rarely have anything salient to offer.

I have my areas of strength; notably science, specifically biology.

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Ethan’s arguments are solid. Going down a chimney is an implausible means of gift delivery, and Santa does not have time to deliver gifts to all the children in the world in one night.

Anna responds with blatant (and adorable) special pleading.

I find it adorable that cl thinks Ethan’s and Anna’s arguments are equally meritorious. Unlike Santa, cl never fails to deliver.

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

No, I have no evidence of robots delivering gifts. Do you have evidence that demons cause earthquakes?

  (Quote)

Justgreatthanks January 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

cl:

Do you have any evidence for that claim?

I never meant to imply that it was anything more than a rough estimate, but good on you to request evidence for the claim. Taking a survey of the last one hundred twenty posts (which takes us to the middle of October) we see six “joke” posts (and feel free to check my work):

This is what it’s like to debate a Christian
Religion Explained
Reality
Common Sense Atheism explained in one cartoon
Resurrection arguments refuted
Philosoraptor on death.

Which shows at best that I was incorrect in saying that the ratio “easily exceeds” 1 in 20. The modifier I should have used is “approximately.” But that is still enough to make anyone who complains about Luke not engaging in actual intellectual debate look like pompous, ignorant blowhards.

Now that I have satisfied your request for evidence, would you be so humble enough to admit it?

  (Quote)

cl January 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Reginald,

I have my areas of strength; notably science, specifically biology.

You forgot flippant, childish mockery of those who don’t share your beliefs.

Rob,

Going down a chimney is an implausible means of gift delivery,

Congratulations. You’ve just affirmed my claim that like Ethan, many atheists have nothing but arguments from personal incredulity to make their points ["Santa" descends down a chimney]. Not so implausible after all, eh smarty pants?

…I have no evidence of robots delivering gifts.

While I appreciate the straightforward “no” in your response, that’s not what I asked. Can you provide an answer without rephrasing the question? Again, a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.

I find it adorable that cl thinks Ethan’s and Anna’s arguments are equally meritorious.

Cute. I find it deplorable that you put words in my mouth. That I believe Ethan’s arguments parallel those made by many atheists does not entail that I believe Ethan’s and Anna’s arguments are equally meritorious.

How did you manage to present three fails in such a short comment?

Justgreatthanks,

Now that I have satisfied your request for evidence, would you be so humble enough to admit it?

Admit what? Did I deny your proffered ratio? No. I was simply basking in the irony of you — the ostensibly “more rational” atheist — tossing around claims without evidence while simultaneously poking fun at a little girl. Besides, if you really want to get down to it, your analysis is incomplete and disrespects Bayes.

…that is still enough to make anyone who complains about Luke not engaging in actual intellectual debate look like pompous, ignorant blowhards.

Presumably, you refer to David Rogers here, yet, David Rogers did not claim or even imply that Luke doesn’t engage in “actual, intellectual debate.” In fact, David Rogers fully conceded that Luke does engage in “actual, intellectual debate,” right here:

I’ve been reading Luke’s site for over a year now. I’ve come here daily. I have appreciated his many serious posts and I have found that they indeed cause me to think. [David Rogers, bold mine]

Given that fact, did you simply err? Or, are you just seeing what you want to see? If you’re going to imply that another human being looks like a “pompous, ignorant blowhard,” can you at least address what they actually said instead of showing a near complete lack of respect for the facts? That you misrepresent what David Rogers said to support your insults fails to persuade me.

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

“To your knowledge, has any sane, serious person ever once testified to seeing a robot come down a chimney to deliver gifts?”

No.

Sorry, I did not intend to put words in your mouth. Clarify for me. How did I misinterpret you?

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

cl,

Also, no one is making fun of or mocking Anna. At least I am not. Rather, she is just a great example of what happens when children are lied to and told wild implausible stories. They tenaciously hold onto the belief using spurious arguments.

It’s perfectly analogous to what I see with apologetics every day. Some Christian holds some wildly implausible belief (dead folks rising, heaven, whatever idiotic thing), and then uses creatively contrived argument to bolster their insane belief.

I am not mocking Anna. She is a child, and has an excuse.

  (Quote)

Justgreatthanks January 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm

cl:

Admit what?

Well, like I said in the post, that I have satisfied your request for evidence. I can’t quite tell if the answer is “no” or “Yes, but in the most passive aggressive way possible.”

Given that fact, did you simply err?

Perhaps I was simply imprecise. I was referring specifically to when when Rogers said things like “I see it as a retreat and contrary to his desire to make strong intellectual arguments,” or “If Luke continues with this sort of tactic, I suppose I will go elsewhere to find more serious engagement.” Anyone who follows this blog regularly knows that it is first and foremost dedicated to engaging with arguments of the highest caliber, with occasional detours into satire for fun. To think that one instance of these detours represents a descent in overall seriousness is a massive miscalculation. I mean imagine if someone called David Chalmers’ philosophical “seriousness” into question just because he has compiled a page of philosophical humor? Anyone who chided Chalmers’ page because it is “contrary to his desire to make strong intellectual arguments” could only be described as an ignorant, pompous blowhard.

So in modification of my previous statement, may I offer something more precisely worded.

“Anyone who thinks an occasional dip into levity represents a lack of respect for serious intellectual engagement, or that making and posting jokes is a betrayal of noble philosophical principles such as the search for truth and striving for argumentative rigor reveals him or herself to be a pompous, ignorant blowhard. And that includes David Rogers and anyone who agrees that this specific post is contrary to the desire for ‘strong intellectual arguments.’”

Satisfied?

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

cl: I have my areas of strength; notably science, specifically biology.
You forgot flippant, childish mockery of those who don’t share your beliefs.

Yes, my two weapons are science and flippant childish mockery of those who don’t share my beliefs.
… and ruthless efficiency. My three weapons are science, flippant childish mockery, and ruthless efficiency.
… and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. No! My four…

  (Quote)

Ralph January 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

cl:

“Did you forget who retains the burden of proof so quickly? You are the one making the positive claim that “Christians” use special pleading, yet — even amidst all this talk about “supporting arguments” and “facts” — you completely fail to cite either in support of your claim. Folks like David Rogers and myself are under no compulsion to accept your barenaked claims. Get it straight!”

I haven’t forgotten whose burden of proof it is. But we’re posting on Common Sense Atheism, right? David Rogers did say that he’s been reading through this blog a lot. I imagine that he has come across numerous arguments here showing how Christians use special pleading when they choose it over other religions. The most basic of them is the fact that Christianity has the same level of plausibility and evidential support as other religions (NONE). Given this, how then can one choose Christianity over other religions without special pleading?

  (Quote)

ildi January 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Reginald Selkirk:

…and nice red uniforms? Could it be ….

SANTA???!!???!!

  (Quote)

cl January 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Rob,

No.

Thank you.

Next question: has any sane, serious person ever once testified to seeing an illness mysteriously disappear after a prayer was offered in Santa’s name? Again, a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.

Justgreatthanks,

Well, like I said in the post, that I have satisfied your request for evidence.

I wasn’t requesting evidence. My question was rhetorical. I was chiding you for hypocritically embracing the “claim first, research later” strategy, and that under the pretense of rationalism.

So in modification of my previous statement, may I offer something more precisely worded.

“Anyone who thinks an occasional dip into levity represents a lack of respect for serious intellectual engagement, or that making and posting jokes is a betrayal of noble philosophical principles such as the search for truth and striving for argumentative rigor reveals him or herself to be a pompous, ignorant blowhard. And that includes David Rogers and anyone who agrees that this specific post is contrary to the desire for ‘strong intellectual arguments.’”

Satisfied?

No. All you’ve done is repeat the “claim first, research later” error by offering another claim with no evidence to support it. It’s as if you didn’t even learn from the previous mistake.

Reginald,

Ha! That was actually funny. I’ll relent — for now.

Ralph,

…we’re posting on Common Sense Atheism, right?

It’s a bit of a misnomer in my honest opinion, but yeah, this is correct: we are posting on Common Sense Atheism.

David Rogers did say that he’s been reading through this blog a lot.

Correct.

I imagine that he has come across numerous arguments here showing how Christians use special pleading when they choose it over other religions.

Are you even paying attention? From David Rogers:

Of course, there are Christians who use special pleading.

Now, tell me: since David Rogers unequivocally conceded that there are Christians who use special pleading, why on FSM’s green Earth are you asking him to “please show how Christians do not use special pleading in choosing Christianity over the other religions?” Is it a problem with comprehension? Effort? Earnestness? Something else? It’s as if you speak without even reading to check what you speak on.

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm

“has any sane, serious person ever once testified to seeing an illness mysteriously disappear after a prayer was offered in Santa’s name?”

Probably not. But my neighbor swears her cancer was cured when she prayed to Vishnu, and I know a guy who claims he saved his sick daughter’s life by using a voodoo spell. Where are you going with this?

  (Quote)

Rob January 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

cl,

I see you are digging yourself into an even deeper hole by bringing this goofiness up on another thread. Ethan is NOT making an argument from incredulity. He is making an argument based on simple physics and observation: big fat guys cannot fit down a narrow chimney. Ethan probably peered up the chimney and saw how small the passage was, or maybe he scrambled onto the roof and saw that the chimney was capped, as most are to keep out birds.

So Ethan is thinking critically and evaluating the claim and comparing it to how the world actually is. I realize Ethan’s methods are very frightening to you.

  (Quote)

Ralph January 6, 2011 at 9:48 am

It’s a bit of a misnomer in my honest opinion, but yeah, this is correct: we are posting on Common Sense Atheism.

David Rogers did say that he’s been reading through this blog a lot.

Correct.

Are you even paying attention? From David Rogers:
Of course, there are Christians who use special pleading.

Now, tell me: since David Rogers unequivocally conceded that there are Christians who use special pleading, why on FSM’s green Earth are you asking him to “please show how Christians do not use special pleading in choosing Christianity over the other religions?” Is it a problem with comprehension? Effort? Earnestness? Something else? It’s as if you speak without even reading to check what you speak on.

cl,

How explicit do I really have to be so that you can understand? Do you even bother to understand or in your haste to respond to everyone are you missing out on crucial elements?

Here’s how it went:

David Rogers complained (whined) about the parody. In a nutshell, he was complaining that it wasn’t in keeping with the serious tenor of this blog. I needled him for complaining that a parody is chiding Christians when that’s how a parody works. I suggested to him that if he wants he could show how the parody doesn’t work.

Further, I asked him to show how choosing Christianity over other religions would not involve special pleading. I did this for the following reasons:

1) He claimed that he has read through this blog for a long time and that the parody is not in keeping with the thrust of this blog.
2) This is surprising considering the fact that the name of this blog should have made it clear that for CSA, without special pleading, one cannot become a theist.
3) A number of articles on the blog have tackled this exact same issue with a lot more evidential support and argument and nowhere have I seen David Roger commenting in opposition to any of them. (I’m open to correction on this.)

Is it really that hard to understand, or do you really just want to hurl insults to give the impression that you’re making any valid points?

  (Quote)

cl January 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Rob,

Where are you going with this?

I’m demonstrating the lack of categorical equivalence between claims about Santa and God, and so far, you’re following along quite nicely.

I see you are digging yourself into an even deeper hole by bringing this goofiness up on another thread.

In that thread, Patrick used an argument from incredulity ["it just doesn't make sense"]. So, I’m not the one with the shovel here.

Ethan is NOT making an argument from incredulity.

You write as if Ethan made only one argument when Ethan actually made several arguments, more than one of which are from personal incredulity. From the SkepticWiki:

Argument from Incredulity is an informal logical fallacy where a participant draws a positive conclusion from an inability to imagine or believe the converse. The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following:

1. I can’t imagine how P could possibly be false

2. Therefore, P.

A simple variation on this is

1. I cannot imagine how P could possibly be true

2. Therefore, not-P.

This is a fallacy because someone else with more imagination may find a way. This fallacy is therefore a simple variation of argument from ignorance. In areas such as science and technology, where new discoveries and inventions are always being made, new findings may arise at any time.

From Ethan’s mouth:

1) It’s not like there’s gonna be a person who jumps through a chimney and give you free presents.

2) I’ve never seen a movie or anything like that that ever said about robots.

3) If he comes into your house, he can steal stuff.

1 and 2 are tantamount to arguments from incredulity, and 3 is a non-sequitur.

He is making an argument based on simple physics and observation: big fat guys cannot fit down a narrow chimney.

Your apparent disrespect for accuracy concerns me. You fail to define terms even rudimentarily. Worse, Ethan did not make the argument you attribute to him.

Ethan probably peered up the chimney and saw how small the passage was…

Do you have evidence for this claim? Or, are you just expecting us to take your word for it? Are all chimneys the same size? How big does someone have to be to qualify as “fat?” You’re arguing with a 2×4 where a sharpened pencil would be more appropriate. It seems to me that much like Anna, you’re just making stuff up, yet, unlike Anna, you’re reluctant to admit it when called.

I realize Ethan’s methods are very frightening to you.

That’s just you attempting to be a smart-ass. It has nothing to do with actual argumentation or logic, and only serves to undermine your stated pretense towards critical thought.

  (Quote)

cl January 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Ralph,

Here’s how it went: David Rogers complained (whined) about the parody. In a nutshell, he was complaining that it wasn’t in keeping with the serious tenor of this blog. I needled him for complaining that a parody is chiding Christians when that’s how a parody works. I suggested to him that if he wants he could show how the parody doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, Ralph, I’m well aware of “how it went.”

Further, I asked him to show how choosing Christianity over other religions would not involve special pleading.

Correct. This is precisely why I reminded you that the positive claimant bears the burden of proof. The one who claims that special pleading is required when accepting Christianity over other religions bears the burden of proof. That would be *you* — not David Rogers. You say you understand the burden of proof, yet, here you are disrespecting it again.

Is it really that hard to understand, or do you really just want to hurl insults to give the impression that you’re making any valid points?

I’ve not insulted you. I’ve reminded you who bears the burden of proof, and rightfully so. Is it really that hard to understand? Neither David Rogers nor myself are under any obligation to prove our denial of *your* claim. It is up to you – or Luke or whoever wants to make the claim – to show that special pleading is necessary in selecting Christianity over other religions.

Can you make your claim? If not, I’m sure we’ve both got better things to do.

  (Quote)

Rob January 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

We really don’t have enough from Ethan to know his line of reasoning precisely. I think it’s reasonable that he has come to his conclusion based on empiricism. Arguing this further is idiotic.

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Okay, one more one more last comment for awhile. You can shudder because I’m going on a missions evangelism trip to Guatemala on Saturday to “corrupt” the reason of those poor Guatemalans for the cause of Christ.

As I said above in one of my previous attempts at last comments, I will attempt to make somewhat of a case for myself (that maybe you’ll get to see, or not) that justifies a person choosing Christianity over other religions or atheism as a better choice for living. Whether you or anyone else thinks I make the case (if you see it) is frankly up to you. All I can do is present it, and let others use it as a chew toy or as a meal.

Since I know the incompetency of my own quirks of verbosity, and my tendency to write English sentences like they’re German sentences, I find it difficult to make my particular case on this particular matter in a comment box on a blog. If I write it, I’ll ask Luke if he wants to read it, and he can decide to do whatever with it.

As said before, maybe you’ll see it, maybe you won’t, and most of you probably wish I’d just stop my “whining.” But then you wouldn’t have a chew toy.

Toodles again (hopefully I’ll stop now)

David

  (Quote)

David Rogers January 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Okay, one more.

I yield the remainder of my time to cl as he (or she, I don’t know which gender) sees fit.

David

  (Quote)

cl January 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I openly challenge those who claim special pleading is necessary to choose Christianity over other religions to make their case. You guys are the atheists; you’re the ones that are supposed to be “oh-so-rational” here, so step your game up. Vague allusions to the title of Luke’s blog won’t cut the mustard for me. You need to give evidence and/or sound argumentation — you know, those things most atheists pay such lipservice to — in making your case.

Rob,

We really don’t have enough from Ethan to know his line of reasoning precisely.

Ah, I see… who does the “we” in your claim allude to? Perhaps you actually mean that you don’t have enough from Ethan to know his line of reasoning entirely. If that’s the case, why were you defending the arguments of a person you now admit you “don’t have enough from?” Is that why you were making stuff up?

Arguing this further is idiotic.

I agree, but that’s only because I believe you’re all out of wriggle room.

David Rogers,

If I write it, I’ll ask Luke if he wants to read it, and he can decide to do whatever with it.

Keep us posted, although, I still believe you’re under no obligation to address atheist inability to make the case. It’s funny, because we’ve got all these atheists accusing us of special pleading – and that without asking a single question – yet, Luke gets a free pass from all but the most astute when it comes to morality. I – and others – have openly challenged Luke to utilize the same common sense strategy in the evaluation of moral theories, to no avail thus far.

Anyways, Godspeed on your mission.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

All I can do is present it, and let others use it as a chew toy or as a meal.

Is that really all you can do? Couldn’t you read it back to yourself afterwards, and try to imagine how it would sound to a Hindu? In other words, is your mind closed or what?

  (Quote)

Larkus January 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

“Rob,

Going down a chimney is an implausible means of gift delivery,

Congratulations. You’ve just affirmed my claim that like Ethan, many atheists have nothing but arguments from personal incredulity to make their points ["Santa" descends down a chimney]. Not so implausible after all, eh smarty pants?”

Unfortunately the video doesn’t show Santa entering the chimney from the outside, just leaving the fireplace to the inside. And most importantly, it doesn’t show him bringing any presents with him. The presents are already under the Christmas tree.

  (Quote)

Derrida January 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Wow, this jokey post sure stoked some controversy. I have yet to hear an argument for God’s existence that’s better than the best arguments given for Father Christmas in terms of plausibility of premises and inferential strength; but don’t take my word for it, look at the arguments for yourself.

Also, the title of this post says “What it’s like to debate A Christian”, not “What it’s like to debate ALL Christians”. Luke doesn’t explicitly say which Christian he’s alluding to, but I can think of a few candidates…

To inject some much needed levity into this post, I’m willing to do what no “serious adult” should do and take the arguments in the video seriously; (And shouldn’t we take arguments seriously before prematurely judging them as infantile? They might just be sound…) Oppy style, I will catalogue the various arguments about Father Christmas (From now on just FC) and evaluate them.

Arguments Against the existence of FC:

The Economic Argument Against FC (EAAFC)

P1) If FC exists, He would jump through a chimney and give you free presents.
P2) No-one would jump through a chimney and give you free presents.
C) FC does not exist.

This argument is valid, but are the premises true? (1) follows by definition, if you define FC as a giver of gifts; but some Santy-realists might believe in FC as the spirit of giving, rather than an existent entity. However, (2) seems dubious: Surely the point of presents is that they are free. That someone would go through minor exertion (Like jumping down a chimney) to give someone a present is quite plausible. Anna made the point that FC can make the chimney bend to his will, which doesn’t seem to address Ethan’s main point that economic pressures preclude charity. Whatsmore, the existence of presents isn’t in dispute: someone has to have put them under the tree, and so the mere fact that someone has given free gifts is clearly the case.

The Delivery Argument Against FC (DAAFC)

P1) If FC exists, it is possible to deliver presents all over the world in a single night.
P2) It is not possible to deliver presents all over the world in a single night.
C) FC does not exist.

Again, this argument is valid, as it is of the form modus tollens. (2) is plausible if you assume that the deliverer is constrained by the laws of physics, however, many Clausists would deny this about FC. (1) would be accepted by the most liberal Clausist, as a loving gifter like FC would not deprive those with open hearts of his gifts. Anna boldly asserts that robots deliver the presents, which Ethan and the moderator criticize as ungrounded.

The Theft Argument Against FC (TAAFC):

P1) A robber might be mistaken for FC.
C) FC does not exist.

This argument seems confused, at best. I don’t see how the conclusion follows. As the old trope goes, the existence of counterfeit money doesn’t disprove the existence of real money; if anything, it establishes it. Invalid.

The Reindeer Argument Against FC (RAAFC):

P1) If FC exists, the reindeer would be able to pull his slay around the world.
P2) The reindeer would not be able to pull his slay around.
C) FC does not exist.

Modus Tollens. (1) is orthodox clausist doctrine. (2) would be believed by aclausists, but would be denied by clausists, fitting in neatly to my theory that most if not all arguments about FC do not persuade because they beg the doxastic question. Anna shows how one can dodge (2) by appealing to robots.

The Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer Argument Against FC (RRRAAFC):

P1) If FC exists, Rudolf’s red nose lights up.
P2) Reindeer don’t have red noses that light up.
C) FC does not exist.

Modus Tollens. (1) Would be accepted by conservative Clausists, but denied by liberal Clausists as ancient dogma which meant something different then about loving each other. (2) Would be accepted by liberal Clausists, but denied by conservative Clausists loudly and obnoxiously.

Arguments For the Existence of FC:

As far as I can tell, there were none. Anna responded to Ethan’s arguments, making salient to fatuous points, but presented no arguments for the claim she was out to defend, that FC exists. As such, Ethan wins by default.

  (Quote)

ildi January 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Ah, but you’re assuming Santa is all good…

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser January 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Derrida,

Good stuff.

  (Quote)

Kevin January 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

“3) If he comes into your house, he can steal stuff.

…and 3 is a non-sequitur.”

I think you missed the point of this argument. Due to the brevity of the debate, he was unable to expand his argument. Let me flesh out the details here. He is saying that putting someone in a position where they can be stolen from may make them feel vulnerable. Who wants to wake up with the feeling that their chimney is not secure? This would mean that FC’s supposed tactics cannot be so because risking the emotional well-being of people is contrary to FC’s ethos. This can be represented in the following argument.

1. If Santa were delivering presents, he would first ask permission before entering each house.
2. The person delivering presents does not ask permission before entering each house.
3. Therefore, the person delivering the presents is not Santa.
4. Santa does deliver the presents.
5. Therefore, Santa does not exist.

This would point to a contradiction in the Santa literature. However, this will probably have little influence among believers in Santa other than moving to a more allegorical model of gift giving. However, this would be simply redefining Santa as someone other than a jolly fellow who delivers presents,or what it means to be jolly in order to prevent refutation. Will this lead to a movement to redefine jolly as that which is consistent with Santa’s nature?

  (Quote)

Ralph January 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

cl: shifting the burden of proof since 1989.

  (Quote)

Rob January 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Funny stuff.

cl,

It seems we have such distinct conceptions of what reasonableness is all about, productive conversation is impossible.

For any Herzog fans:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BtYI_OndA0

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser January 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Ralph,

Lol.

  (Quote)

Charles January 7, 2011 at 2:02 am

Interesting comparison of Santa vs God at Daniel Florien’s blog.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk January 7, 2011 at 11:50 am

Kevin: This would point to a contradiction in the Santa literature.

Even if true, that would only be a problem for the literalists who insist that the Santa literature is inerrant.

  (Quote)

Kevin January 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

“Even if true, that would only be a problem for the literalists who insist that the Santa literature is inerrant.”

Read the next line: “However, this will probably have little influence among believers in Santa other than moving to a more allegorical model of gift giving. ” I.e., the literal interpretation isn’t right, therefore it must be allegorical. Since Anna defended Santa’s ability to enter chimneys instead of responding that it wasn’t representative of her views, I think it is safe to assume that for the purposes of the debate that she was, at least on this point, defending the literal interpretation of the literature.

  (Quote)

Ryan M January 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I’ve always found the ‘But aren’t atheists supposed to be the rational ones???’ remark really annoying. I wonder how many times CL has used that type of comment on this blog. I believe Ayer does this too every once in awhile, but I might be very wrong.

  (Quote)

puntnf January 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

^
Don’t take it too seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if being annoying was Cl’s end goal entirely. He’s been pretty fair these past couple of weeks, but I suppose he too much missed the thrill of dick-waving contests. A list of Cl-isms generated by vanilacrmcake (still holds to this day):

I’ve found a few patterns that I’d term Cl-isms. Just for fun!, not personal by any means. Cl is, after all, my favorite poster on this forum.1. “Why don’t you quit worrying about superficial things and dig into the actual arguments for once? ”2. “Your logic is invalid. Now, if you want to actually have a discussion as opposed to making baseless accusations…”3. “Does anyone else find it odd that “rational atheists” would be…”4. “when it comes to interacting with me, you make nothing but unsubstantiated, personally-motivated attacks”5. “Unfortunately, I spent my time allotment on the mockers. I’ll respond to your comment later, and I apologize for not taking it first.”6. “lest yours be another empty claim”7. “where I asked Luke and Fyfe one question each, and… crickets. Point out contradictions and inconsistencies, and… crickets.”8. “You are the positive claimant. Substantiate your claim. I’m not interested in arguing against your opinions and you ought to respect the burden of proof.”  

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }