Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Debate on Abortion with an Atheist, with Use of Reductio ad Absurdum

 
From a discussion thread on Facebook, about President Obama's support of partial-birth infanticide. My dialogue opponent, Tim Allen, is an atheist , according to his Facebook "About" page, and by his own statement in the exchange. His words will be in blue

It is important to understand precisely what the reductio ad absurdum technique in logic and dialogue is, in order to not misunderstand its nature and intention (as Tim did). If you're not familiar with it, I urge you to follow the link to the words above and read a short description of it (here's also a longer, technical explanation). Then you'll know what I was trying to do in this dialogue. I am not actually in favor of killing atheists!!! 

I use this ancient form of argumentation quite often in my apologetics; especially in disputing positions that I consider self-evidently absurd and or evil (as this position is, to extraordinary degrees in both respects). Unfortunately, it's usually misunderstood (because logic and ability to constructively dialogue and debate are mostly lost arts today), but it is a perfectly legitimate, sensible, and highly effective way to argue against a position.

* * * * * 

Partial-birth abortion is performed on full-term babies. All that is necessary is for the baby to be delivered to the neck; then the scissors are used, and the child's brains sucked out. We call this "enlightened civilization" and "pro-choice." Lots of people think this is "okay." The bill passed the US Senate. Many Democrats (as usual) voted for it [and the usual liberal Republican RINOs, too], though some drew the line.

I'm not looking for a heated debate or anything, but for me personally, I think ending the life of a nearly-born baby is better than ruining the lives of an actually-born baby and his real life mother (and potentially harming the lives of many others). For me, abortion is a cost-benefit analysis about harming one versus harming many.

That's morally absurd. Murder can never be justified. Love demands that we strive for a better life for the born, and the right to life of the preborn. Only barbarian societies slaughter their own. Do we never learn? Was not the Holocaust sufficient to put an end to this mass slaughter and genocide? The fact that you are sitting here writing this is a self-evident argument against abortion. You were allowed to live. Life has a self-evident value and worth.

I disagree that it is morally absurd. Many, many lives have been ruined by unwanted pregnancies - including the lives of the children - and I think it is morally acceptable to sacrifice a non-person for the greater good of actual, living human beings.

Fair enough. I think atheism ruins the life of many. Therefore, I advocate killing all atheists, so these lives won't be ruined: for the greater good of actual, living human beings who aren't atheists. [reductio ad absurdum] <---- bracketed comment in original discussion.

Alright, my bad. I thought you wanted an actual conversation about this stuff. That's my fault for assuming. Have a good one.

You've never heard of reductio ad absurdum? Look it up. Part of logic and philosophy . . . This is indeed a very serious discussion: dead serious (or was, since you now depart it). So the dead serious discussion is now seriously dead . . .

I've heard of reductio ad absurdum. I've also heard of the straw man argument... 


Here is the reasoning (that you appear to have missed):

1. Many lives are ruined by unwanted pregnancies: of mothers and of the children born.

2. Therefore, in order to prevent these ruined lives, we ought to kill the children, in order to prevent what may, or likely (?) will occur.

By analogy:

1a. Many lives are ruined by atheism and its (from logical reduction) counsel of despair.

2a. (1+2) presupposes that events and persons who cause or have ruined lives should be eliminated for the good of all.

3a. Therefore, granting the truth of 1a, by analogy it is rational and for the good of society to kill atheists who promulgate the harmful philosophy / worldview.

I deny the truthfulness of proposition 1. People acting in an evil fashion cause misery (and have a free will choice to act otherwise): not the mere fact that a child is born.

You deny the truthfulness of proposition 1a. But the logic works the same in both instances. I am following your own logic and turning the tables on you. Your task is to show why 1a doesn't follow from your adopted premise 1.

But all of this went over your head and you responded with: "I thought you wanted an actual conversation about this stuff" and "I've also heard of the straw man argument."

Fine. You may not get it, but others will.

Just because a person doesn't agree with your argument doesn't mean they don't understand it or that they're too stupid to grasp your concepts. And, as an atheist myself, I can personally attest to the fact that I am not in "despair". Your level of condescension is ridiculous.
 
Why do you disagree? I didn't say you were personally in despair. I said that atheism was "(from logical reduction) [a] counsel of despair"). Just as atheists routinely claim that Christianity is by logical reduction, infantile, and blind, irrational faith . . .

I don't know anything about you, except that you are an atheist, and that you haven't yet grasped my current logic. Whether that is a general occurrence or not, of course I don't know. But I know it is true in this instance. Your replies prove that.

So I am challenging you, logically. I'm playing Socrates, as I have done for 35 years, since my Intro. to Philosophy class in college [with the illustrious Dr. Lawrence Lombard].


It's also routine (seen all the time) that a person who doesn't grasp the logic of a reductio ad absurdum, will feel that it is mere ridicule and condescension and personal disdain. Well, in a way it is that towards bad logic and conclusions, but not necessarily towards persons at all.

Well, any atheist who claims that Christianity is infantile is just as wrong as a Christian who claims atheism is "(from logical reduction) counsel of despair".

I haven't grasped your logic? Or I haven't agreed with it? That's the distinction that I think you need to make.

Atheists are actual human beings. Aborted fetuses are not. That's why the analogy you made falls apart. And when you start equating abortion with the Holocaust, you are intentionally using hyperbole to ridicule the other person's point. You can use whatever Latin term you learned 35 years ago in Intro to Philosophy to justify it, but in reality, that's just weak sauce.

I think the location is the more important piece than the ontological change. I should clarify: I think the location [i.e., birth] is the more important piece when determining personhood. Until the actual birth, they are still dependent on the mother to receive their oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord. Once the birth happens, they are able to breath and receive nutrients independently. I think that is a critical factor. If a mother is eight months pregnant and she dies, the baby will almost certainly die with her. If a baby is one month old and the mother dies, the baby will still live. . . . Feeding tubes and ventilators are artificial means of sustaining life, not a direct mother-to-fetus connection. Babies can't feed themselves or protect themselves, that's true. But their dependency at that point is not based on a direct, physiological attachment to the mother. I think its that direct, physiological connection that is a defining characteristic between a fetus and a human baby.

No problem. I don't think atheists are human beings, then. If you can define away a preborn child based on nonexistent reasoning and no basis whatsoever other than that they are small and hidden (and sometimes "unwanted"), then I can apply the same "reasoning" to other categories of persons; in this case, atheists. The analogy still holds. I use your premises all down the line and refute them by reductio.

You don't think small people are "human beings"; I come back and [in a similar manner, by reductio] arbitrarily claim that atheists aren't, because they lack the religious sense that the vast majority of mankind has always possessed. The Nazis defined Jews as "vermin" and disposable because they didn't like them. America in the 19th century did the same with Native Americans, and virtually towards African-Americans. too.

Today, little people just starting out their lives are the target of murder and disdain. Logically, if you apply this "reasoning" to them, it can easily be spread to other categories of people. So I used your own group, to (try to) bring the point home to you.


The viability argument is so medically and philosophically ridiculous that I hesitate to even rebut it. I'll simply note that the criteria of the beginning and end of life are the same. We determine that a person dies by cessation of brain waves and heartbeat. Heartbeat is present in a preborn human being at about 18 days; brain waves by six weeks or so. This all usually occurs before a woman even is aware that she is pregnant. All the DNA that is ever present throughout a person's life is in place at conception. By the latter criteria, humanity is present from the very beginning. But if we wish to go by either heartbeat or brain waves, then this child is a human being by 18 days or six weeks at the latest: early enough to preclude almost all abortions that take place.

Dave, I never once mentioned brain waves or a heartbeat, so I don't know who you're arguing with there.

I know you didn't So what? That has nothing to do with my response. It's another analogy that you missed (end-of-life criteria compared to beginning of life).


And I stopped reading your earlier response after the first paragraph when you claimed I had "nonexistent reasoning" and "no basis whatsoever".

Great; stop reading then. This exchange is not primarily for your benefit, anyway. You are beyond this particular reasoning at this time. The sad thing is that your "reasoning" leads directly to the continuance of genocide against preborn human beings. Your philosophy (or anti-philosophy) has very dire consequences. Thus it must be opposed, and sometimes strong language [directed against bad arguments, not persons] is completely justified in doing so. This is a very serious business; not just throwing around concepts for fun. It's lousy thinking that leads to evil consequences and yet more needless, preventable suffering for human beings.


But see, needless and preventable suffering is what I want to stop, too. Single mothers who want to go to school and have a career, but can't because they have a child at 16. Babies who are born to drug addicts or to mothers with HIV who have a very little chance of living a normal and healthy life. Women who are impregnated after being raped and do not want a permanent reminder of that traumatic event. All of that is needless, preventable suffering and abortion is an effective means of prevention. And yes, there are things like adoption and foster families that can help in those situations. And some babies in bad situations grow to be great people. But those are the exceptions, not the norms.

I don't think abortion is a "good thing". I would never encourage someone to use it as a toy or to use it as a form of birth control. But it is a "necessary evil", so to speak, because I would rather see a fetus aborted - a fetus who is still directly and physiologically connected to the mother, and cannot form complex thoughts about its own destruction - than to see actual human beings have their lives ruined, which in turn, will harm society at large. . . .
I believe that a person becomes a person upon birth, when he or she is no longer directly and physiologically dependent upon the birth mother for oxygen and nutrients.

Obama is certainly is in favor of partial-birth abortion, or has historically been. He also voted for a bill that would allow the killing of children born as a result of botched abortions, as I already noted. Here is the record. Here's another article (Washington Post). Obama gets 100% ratings from NARAL. It's well-known that Obama is the most pro-abort President in history. He has voted for partial-birth abortion more than once. And that's what the photo describes. It is 100% accurate. No distortion. 

By voting for a person who holds such evil positions, a person makes the acts that result possible, and helps promote them.  

My position is that a fetus becomes a person when he or she is no longer directly and physiologically dependent on his or her birth mother. Therefore, examples like feeding tubes, people after car accidents, and mothering after birth do not count, since those are all either artificial or indirect. I don't really care what "pro-choice ethicists" say. This is my own opinion.

I think it was an excellent discussion: not in and of itself, but for the purpose of demonstrating through logic and criticism that the atheist pro-abortion argument is entirely groundless and irrational, as well as immoral to its core. Tim is just as much a victim of such outrageous thinking as he is a promulgator of it.

The only difference is that he himself is not tortured and murdered. He can sit in his armchair and wax eloquent about such monstrosities, while the babies continue to be legally killed every day (3500+). It's not abstract for them . . . it has very real consequences.

The problem with people like Dave, and the reason that it is nearly impossible to have a civilized discussion on abortion (and other key issues), is that they think they have a monopoly on the truth and on morality. It is not enough for a person who disagrees with his opinion to merely be wrong in his eyes, but that person must be a fool who fails to grasp even the simplest concepts of the topic. Honest arguments that are given by the other side are dismissed as "illogical" and "entirely groundless", merely because they do not agree with his opinion.

Jon, Dan and others in this conversation disagree with my opinion on abortion. That's fine. I don't expect or need everybody to agree with my opinion on when life begins, when abortion is acceptable, etc. That's the beauty of this whole thing is that people can disagree on major topics and still be civil.

Unfortunately, Dave's not interested in having civil discussions. He's interested in trolling for hits from his friends (who already agree with him) and baiting those who oppose him into arguments, so he can demonstrate his academic superiority. To do this, he uses hyperbole and he uses pseudo-philosophical buzz words that sound impressive.

It's not a new strategy, but it is still sad all the same.
 


Note, folks, that it's all personal attack and smarmy psychoanalysis now. No effort to respond rationally at all . . . My criticisms, on the other hand, were directed solely towards bad arguments or unwillingness to interact with opposing arguments, not at persons. If they did spill over a little bit to persons, it was not my intention, and I apologize if so. My intention is always to attack bad reasoning and arguments. Unfortunately, people often take that personally. They can't separate their positions from themselves as persons: hold them abstractly during exchanges back and forth, if you will.

But name-calling is a fitting ending, proving my point in spades. Oftentimes when rational defense is not forthcoming, a person will stoop to mere personal attack. I am particularly despised by Jon mostly because I dared to use the reductio ad absurdum. It makes lots of folks very angry. Nothing new at all. Socrates was killed because of that sort of argument and his generally provocative nature. I'm sure he was called just as many names as we see here. :-)
 

And here's "victim mode". Textbook, I guess.



The problem with people like Dave, and the reason that it is nearly impossible to have a civilized discussion on abortion (and other key issues), is that they think they have a monopoly on the truth and on morality.

Is that so, Tim? Gee, I guess that is why I once did a well-received presentation + group discussion in person at a group with 16 atheists and agnostics and myself as the lone Christian. None of this sort of nonsense was said about me. I got along fine with everyone (and we discussed abortion as well as contraception and many other issues). In fact, one of their number is talking at my house one week from today, and he was well-received last time he came, and we are friends.

I guess I can't engage in civil debate, as indicated by my posted 625+ dialogues on my blog, with every sort of belief-system imaginable (atheists, vegetarians, feminists, pro-abortionists, homosexual advocates, Marxists, pacifists; all kinds of different religious groups). For the most part, it was perfectly civil, though there are folks (particularly anti-Catholic Protestants) with whom it was nearly impossible to have a rational discussion. Apart from that, I have discussions with all sorts of people.

With a few, and especially in cases of use of the reductio ad absurdum, acrimony and name-calling came from my opponents, and rational discussion ceased (as presently). But as to the proposition of whether I can engage in civil, constructive discussion or not [with those who differ from me], that is manifest in the record of multiple hundreds of posted dialogues: the most objective evidence I can think of for disproving such a charge.

You make the charge; I respond with quite relevant countering information: reason; not empty and flatulent rhetoric seeking to put a person down and judge his character and supposed inner dispositions. People can see in this very exchange that I haven't responded in kind with silly personal insults.


That's great to hear about your past successes. If that's true, then maybe I misjudged you overall.

But in this particular conversation, every response to me told me how I didn't understand and failed to grasp your philosophical arguments. That's not evidence and that's not relevant countering information. That's absolutely "empty and flatulent rhetoric seeking to put a person down and judge his character."

Except, I understood your arguments quite well. I disagreed and provided my own counterarguments. You disagreed and called implied that I was a fool (and a victim of outrageous thinking). So much with not responding in kind with silly personal insults.


Quite a jaded view of what has gone down here. I'm not gonna restate the facts of the exchange as I see them. Readers can read it and judge for themselves what happened. I think you have reasoned badly, misunderstood many things I wrote and argued, and have chosen to not respond to several important aspects of my argument.

Granted, you may understand some of it, but simply chose to not respond (suggested by your saying you ignored certain parts of my comments because something offended you). But in instances where you did, you clearly did not understand my line of reasoning, as I showed. I'm sorry if it is hurtful to you to point this out, but we all have to improve in certain areas. This is an opportunity for you to learn from the experience so as not to repeat it in argument next time (at least not when someone springs a reductio on you).

In any event, I'm the world's greatest expert on what the intention and nature of my own argument is, along with my interior dispositions: a thing that you have so articulately (but absurdly and wrongly) speculated upon.


Man, you're condescending. Holy cow.

You said on your blog that I called you names. What names did I call you exactly?

Let's see:

The problem with people like Dave, and the reason that it is nearly impossible to have a civilized discussion on abortion (and other key issues), is that they think they have a monopoly on the truth and on morality.


Unfortunately, Dave's not interested in having civil discussions. He's interested in trolling for hits from his friends (who already agree with him) and baiting those who oppose him into arguments, so he can demonstrate his academic superiority. To do this, he uses hyperbole and he uses pseudo-philosophical buzz words that sound impressive.


"And here's "victim mode". Textbook, I guess.

Or do you consider that civil discussion and not name-calling (and judging of interior dispositions) at all?



I was pointing out your argument tactics, which is perfectly valid.

This is clearly untrue. Claiming that I think I "have a monopoly on the truth and on morality" is no comment on my argument because I never claimed such a thing. It is a projection onto me of some mythical attitude that is not there. Classic ad hominem . . . . Some people on my Facebook page said far worse about you than I ever did.


Self-awareness is a tricky thing, Dave. How you can time and again claim that someone doesn't understand you, simply because they disagree with you, and then tell me I can learn something from you? That's arrogance. Sorry, but there's simply no other rational way to look at that. 

Unfortunately, Dave's not interested in having civil discussions.
Again, this is no reflection of any argument I made, but a sweeping judgment of my imaginary motivation. I refuted it by giving the story of my in-person talk to 16 atheists and my 625 dialogues posted online. Even you softened a bit after reading that. But now you claim that this statement is merely in response to my arguments, which is sheer nonsense. 

You clearly had no desire for a civil discussion today. Clearly. You didn't even try. Your very first response was filled with the same types of insults that you are up in arms about on your blog and in your last comment. 


The rest of the paragraph cited above is just as bad, but readers surely see my point by now.

And here's "victim mode".
LOL Nice try. I was simply recounting how you were incapable of sustained on-topic rational discussion with me, and descended into mere insult. That's perfectly permissible in serious discussion because it is essentially pointing out a fallacy in the opponent's reasoning, which is absolutely relevant to how well he did in presenting his case. 

Again, you get to decide what is permissible or not in a serious discussion. Not to mention the fact that you're allowed to be insulting towards people you disagree with, but when someone comes back on you, you're suddenly persecuted and called names.

But you don't get that, and so go right to personal psychoanalysis and personal attack. I've seen this tactic many times in my 30 years of arguing theology and philosophy with countless folks. I can spot it a mile away.


Let's see. Personal attack from you. Victim mode. Argument from authority. Arrogance. You captured them all so succinctly in three sentences. Well done.



I agree that I was too forceful at first, in retrospect. It was bad tactically, and in terms of charity. Nevertheless, the logic I used remains perfectly valid and sound. The analogy I used (killing of atheists), though it is logically analogous to your treatment of the preborn, was too extreme of an example for me to expect it to work in dialogue. Pamela did much better in that respect, with her excellent reductio analogy of slavery.

That said, your further speculations that all this proves I am an arrogant ass who had no interest in discussion, doesn't follow at all. This is what you feel, in your disgust, but it's untrue. I always have interest in debate and dialogue. That's why I have done so much of it, as an apologist.

I have less than no interest, though, in name-calling and ad hominem diversionary tactics. They give good dialogue and intellectual inquiry a bad name.

I'm sure you're going to come back with some witty response, but frankly, I have no more patience for you and your willfully dishonest debate tactics. #blocked

Right. A most fitting ending to your psychoanalysis of me. Thanks! We could have actually come to some common ground in rational discussion: if not of the issue itself, then this meta-analysis of the discussion of it. But you chose to give up and add further insults, while claiming that it is all I did or want to do.

As always in my posted dialogues, I'm happy for folks to read both sides and make up their own minds on it; to be influenced or persuaded as they will.


I can't see Tim's comments now on this thread (any of 'em) since he has now blocked me. I don't know if they are still here or not, or if he will make more comments and insults that I now cannot respond to. I can always use one of my three sons' computers to find out, though, if I really care to see what transpires now. :-)

But I got them all up to this point before he blocked me, and they will be duly recorded on my blog as classic instances of ad hominem evasion. Tim forgot that they also come into my in-box. But I didn't even have to do that. I just hit the back-button [after he blocked me]. :-)

Gotta love these "hit-and-run" tactics. Don't reply to arguments; misunderstand and then refuse to accept that you did so, when the opponent says so, start insulting, deny that you ever did insult, project your shortcomings onto the other guy, take a final potshot, and then block the other person, so that they can't record [or reply to] the last potshot . . . LOL

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21 comments:

Philip said...

astonishingly sad that he can't see what his arguments logically imply. You know I just thought of something... "viability" is super subjective and before modern medicine newborns would still rely upon their mothers for nutrition. Not the umbilical cord of course but nonetheless.

The Ubiquitous said...

Mr. Armstrong: Do you believe this helps? Really? Who would be convinced?

... and if you suspect someone doesn't know a particular technique of argumentation, don't you think it is somewhat appropriate to explain how it works so that the respondent doesn't immediately react with disdain and disgust?

-----

On a happier note, I finished a more whimsical format of abortion debate, in the form of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure dialogue. If you have a spare moment, I would be interested in your take on it. My e-mail is in my comment.

Dave Armstrong said...

More material added at 3 AM ET early Saturday. Tim decided to try to justify his personal insults and claim they were not so, with ill results. Then he blocked me, so that I can't see his comments on the other thread anymore, if he makes additional ones.

Who cares at this point, anyway? I want rational discussion, not mud-throwing foolishness.

The Ubiquitous said...

I would argue that rational discussion necessitates informing the uninformed in the rules of rational discussion. Without this, we would knock a man to the ground before he knows he has the right to select a weapon.

Not just unsporting and scandalous, I'd say, but also impeding your stated goal of rational discussion.

I write this as a fan.

Dave Armstrong said...

Mr. Armstrong: Do you believe this helps? Really? Who would be convinced?

Yes. It doesn't convince most pro-aborts, though you never know. It's one of the most difficult viewpoints to sway to a differing position.

What it does, I think, is illustrate the logical and moral bankruptcy of this particular extreme version of the pro-abortion mentality, and one way of arguing against it. So it's both illustrative and pedagogical.

Secondly, it also shows how a classic tactic in philosophical discussion (the reductio) is so vastly misunderstood.

... and if you suspect someone doesn't know a particular technique of argumentation, don't you think it is somewhat appropriate to explain how it works so that the respondent doesn't immediately react with disdain and disgust?

I did eventually explain it with links on this blog version. Early on, he claims to have understood how the argument works, so I took him at his word, as he seemed fairly sharp to me in general (just not about the reductio; we now know).

A little later in he dialogue I did meticulously explain line-by-line exactly what i was trying to accomplish with the reductio (the part with 1, 2 and 1a, 2a, etc.). How could you miss that? That was roundly ignored by Tim, except for a blanket denial which again showed that he didn't understand how analogical argument / reductio works in the first place.

But I did exactly what you suggest. Nothing worked with this guy. I admitted at the end that I was too forceful at first and that it was bad tactics; but the logic itself holds and is not affected by being overly forceful and provocative.

Dave Armstrong said...

I would argue that rational discussion necessitates informing the uninformed in the rules of rational discussion.

But this is not nearly so simple. If you go into a discussion assuming that your opponent is woefully underinformed as to how to engage in rational discussion, it won't work if you then try to instruct him about "the rules of rational discussion." C'mon!!! I go into it assuming my opponent knows that already. If he shows otherwise, then I start instructing about those basics. I did that in this instance.

Tim showed again and again that he would accept none of that from me; nor do most opponents in a dialogue. As I said, I did very carefully explain exactly what my line of reasoning was in the reductio: to no avail.

Right at the end, I thought there was a remote chance of showing how his insults were unworthy in a serious discussion. I showed precisely how his words were against me, and not my argument.

That just made him more mad, and he blocked me.

With some people, it is impossible to dialogue.

What you need to understand is that the apologist cannot succeed with everyone, anymore than Jesus and Paul were always successful. On several occasions, the crowds tried to stone them to death. We KNOW Jesus had perfect love. Yet he was treated with contempt, and eventually killed. Paul was martyred as well. No one said it would be an easy path, or that it would be all peaches and cream. We ARE told that we would be hated, as Jesus was.

With some atheists, I've had some of the most challenging and enjoyable dialogues I've ever had (one of them is my very favorite dialogue out of 750 or so that I have engaged in). But with others it is a total fiasco, like this one.

I admit that I made my mistakes (I should have been much more gentle and charitable at the beginning), but that doesn't get Tim off the hook for all of his folly and insults.

We must always keep in mind that there are folks who will vehemently oppose things that disagree with and criticize their view.

The apologist is to speak truth and defend it. The outcome is never guaranteed. But we can be assured that it is good to speak the truth: especially in public venues.

The Ubiquitous said...

Please understand I agree entirely with your points and do not mean to ignore them. I do not mean to say truth is unimportant or anything else.

There is more to the trivium than grammar and logic. It matters as much, especially online, how a thing is written.

(My model is Mike Flynn and Chesterton because I write more like Mike O'Brien and Belloc.)

Dave Armstrong said...

There is more to the trivium than grammar and logic. It matters as much, especially online, how a thing is written.

Yes! I agree completely, which is why I said that I screwed-up in some respects. The apologist knows as much as anyone that he is a flawed human being and far from perfect (see, e.g., C. S. Lewis' "Apologist's Evening Prayer").

So I admitted that, but I don't agree that the flaws I exhibited prove I am all these terrible things that three persons in the thread claimed I was. Those are lies.

Criticizing specific shortcomings is one thing; to go on to sweeping character judgments and judging of heart and motivation quite another.

I don't claim to be perfect! What I do is put up these dialogues with the complete transcript of both parties, warts and all.

People can see my heart, if they look close enough; what motivates me. I have always maintained that a person who has a besetting sin of arrogance would never be a full-time apologist, because we are routinely lambasted and personally insulted (in public), and the truly arrogant person would never put up with all that: not for the pay I get!! :-)

He might do it for riches or fame, but I have neither of those. I have to live like a pauper; I have to endure insults on a weekly basis; sometimes daily. Many many people would not do that, whether they are prone to arrogance or not (I know, because I've had people say many times, "how do you put up with all that? I could never do it!").

We put up with it because we know it is part of the package, and God gives us the grace to do so as part of our vocational ability that He has given us. We must do what we're called to do, including the bad stuff.

It doesn't really bother me that much. It certainly doesn't, personally. What disgusts me is how such attacks ruin dialogue: a thing I care very deeply and passionately about.

I detest THAT (sabotaging of good discussion). I don't detest at all the people who do it.

A person prone to resentment would not last a month as a full-time apologist. I don't struggle with that; never have. And it's good to not have that problem, in a profession that inevitably involves plenty of personal attacks.

I'll go to bed tonight not giving one thought to all I've been accused of in this discussion. It's all part of the game of apologetics. You just can't let it bother you, as an apologist. And it doesn't.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've said about all I can say on this, at great length. We won't fully agree. In the end it is my burden. If people think ill of me, they will.

I have determined that it is worthwhile to post the exchange as it is. I have no problem if some people think I did badly, because I partly agree with them.

The foolish thing would be to have an illusion that we are somehow perfect in a discussion and could never do any better in any respect. There is always room for improvement. That's what it means to be a human being.

But we don't cease doing an important thing because we aren't able to do it perfectly.

I post it warts and all, and let the pieces fall where they may.

The truly arrogant person would never do what I've done here, either: post a piece with tremendous insults lobbed at him by three people, then engage in this lengthy self-analysis with a guy on "my side" where I transparently interact (in public) with about a dozen more criticisms. Arrogant people don't do that! I majored in sociology and psychology. I know a little bit about human behavior.

I have said I screwed-up in some ways. But I leave it for all to see anyway. No profoundly arrogant person would act in such a manner. He would be too proud to let that be public at all, and would take it down (or at least the parts where he feels he didn't do well).

But I leave it up, because I never have the illusion that I am flawless and perfect in my apologetics in the first place.

It is what it is. I post all of it without editing our portions, for people to make up their own minds.

The Ubiquitous said...

I would be haunted by my folly in defending the faith, my intransigence, my critical mistakes. If I cause any of these to sin, it would be better that a millstone ...

As Augustine wrote, if regarding the interpretation of Genesis:

... we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

The Ubiquitous said...

Augustine is not a near match but a mere parallel. You are not ignorant.

But replace "ignorant" with "the appearance of arrogance" and it has roughly the same meaning as what I say.

The Ubiquitous said...

(Nor are you arrogant. I wonder, even so, at how casually you can throw off the insults and tenor of these hatreds! Perhaps it is a question of acclimation and my naif tenderness, but I would worry for my sake and all those who saw me that I did not give glory to truth.)

The Ubiquitous said...

I do not mean to belabor this, good sir, so forgive me my incessant nagging.

Oh, and incidentally --- if someone were to commission from you a tract, what would you charge? As in, what is your time worth to put together, say, a summary of early Church history that would fit in a three-fold flyer?

Dave Armstrong said...

It takes a certain temperament. All is by God's grace. What He calls us to do, He enables us to do:

Philippians 2:13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Taking insults is part of the life of any evangelist and apologist. If someone has a particularly hard time with that, then I'd say he is likely (almost certainly) not called to be a full-time apologist (or even a part-time one). He or she wouldn't last a week. He'd be miserable.

But we can defend ourselves, too. Cardinal Newman did (Charles Kingsley: Apologia). St. Paul did (his trial). John Wesley did, against numerous falsehoods spread around about him (I just did a book of his quotes). Turning the other cheek is not an absolute requirement in all situations (if so, Paul didn't know it).

Like I said, my big faults that I struggle with lie in very different areas: fortunately not directly connected to apologetics at all.

Dave Armstrong said...

No problem!

I'd have to see more of what would be required, and it would probably be a flat rate: something like $100 or $50 if it isn't too difficult. 4:38 AM here! Nite!

Dave Armstrong said...

I am divorced from the situation, so I don't really know. However, from principle, it is sometimes the right thing to humble ourselves and apologize, even if we were 100 percent in the right.

I did virtually apologize (or at least state faults) twice:

"My criticisms, on the other hand, were directed solely towards bad arguments or unwillingness to interact with opposing arguments, not at persons (as my opponents are now doing). If they did spill over a little bit to persons, it was not my intention, and I apologize if so. My intention is always to attack bad reasoning and arguments."

"I agree that I was too forceful at first, in retrospect. It was bad tactically, and in terms of charity. . . . The analogy I used (killing of atheists), though it is logically analogous to your treatment of the preborn, was too extreme of an example for me to expect it to work in dialogue. Pamela did much better in that respect, with her excellent reductio analogy of slavery."

If Tim had started to soften a little at the end when I wrote that, we could have actually broken through the impasse. But instead he decided to say I was deliberately dishonest, and blocked me.

So I think the contrast in attitudes is clear. I acknowledged the mistakes I had made, but denied that this proved I was an arrogant ass by nature, because that is simply not the case. My biggest faults that I struggle with lie in quite different areas. :-)

Forget winning the argument, as important as it is. How does this not undermine our ultimate cause?

I have already explained all that. Your demands are excessive and you are missing many important factors here, as I think I have shown.

You say I should apologize. I did, twice. You say I should explain the reductio. I did, twice. You got the person wrong who wanted comments removed, but then miss important aspects of the ethics of such things, that are already public.

You don't seem to realize that I am very often writing in terms of pedagogy and educational purposes: to show how to interact with various outlooks hostile to Christianity. This has value in itself. It's a great benefit of the Internet, that stuff like this can be read by many hundreds.

I wouldn't even waste time with this farce of a discussion if it was just me and him. The moment the insults began it would have been over. But because it is public it can be a teaching moment and an illustration of how not to argue; of what positions not to take . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

The Ubiquitous wrote:

... and how not to say them?

It is true I did but skim what you wrote, and that it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I imagine more casual, less favorable readers would have had a even worse reaction. This is, perhaps, my point.

Suppose, then, it is not a matter of content but of form: What is a better way to use the format to your favor? Long, long comments do not suit a Facebook thread. Short and pithy is better, and makes it easier to stay on topic. This much is essential, especially given the Facebook character limit and lack of even rudimentary formatting.

Dave Armstrong said...

The Ubiquitous wrote:

Judging by his reaction throughout and especially at the end, it doesn't seem like he got that at all.

Perhaps it is partially a question of format. Facebook does not do well with these tributaries of argument. We really have to force folks to stay on topic.

I am divorced from the situation, so I don't really know. However, from principle, it is sometimes the right thing to humble ourselves and apologize, even if we were 100 percent in the right. To use an analogy: It did us no good to insist Galileo suffered house arrest when the thrust of the argument was not one punishment or another but any punishment at all, and something similar with the Inquisition. If memory serves, the Pope apologized for both anyway.

Maroun said...

Typical blind person.
Amazing how these murderers try to convince themselves that they are not killing a humanbeing , because he is still dependent on the mother...So????????? even after they are born , infants still depend on their parents or on other people to survive . Does this mean that just because they depend on someone to survive and live , then they are not humanbeings? What kind of a nonsence is this ?
Hey mr atheist , what about a retarded person ? probably according to you they are not humanbeings also because they depend on other people ?
The end does not justify the mean mr Tim . You said that people can chose to have an abortion for the well being and for the benefit of the mother and father and also the baby himself . So , the end is wellbeing and your mean is killing and because killing is wrong then your argument falls apart and is refuted .
That`s the problem nowadays with utilitarianism and edonism , the pursuit of happyness at any cost, and what kind of happyness,at what price?
So Tim , according to you , the Nazis were correct when they decided to kill those whom they did not consider humanbeings?They also thought and taught that they were doing what they were doing for the common good and for the wellbeing of the Nazis .
By the way Tim , abortion causes daily more than 130000 killings .And why do you support an idea or ideology and when someone wants to use the same argument or ideology against you , then all hell breaks loose? For example , Dave was telling you , for the common good of all , we can and should kill atheists , and you were so upset , why may i ask?it is only a taste of your own medicine .Even if you try to invent 100000000000000 reasons why it`s not the same , we can still invent 30000000000000000 why it is . And even though the reasons are different , we can still do with you whatever we see fit and good for the common good .
Do you realise how stupid your argument is?
I doubt that you will understand what Dave was trying to tell you, still , we are responsible for what we tell you and not for what you understand .
Please stop being pro death .I know that you said this : I don't think abortion is a "good thing". I would never encourage someone to use it as a toy or to use it as a form of birth control . The same pro choice nonsence which in the end is nothing else but pro death .This is what you are saying , i would never kill my own baby , but if someone wants to do it then i respect their choice . The choice to kill sir ? If you are not pro life , then you are pro death .Whether you like it , accept it or not , but you are an infanticide and proud of it .The victim sir are the infants , you should protect their rights to live and not the right to kill them . Please , even though you are an atheist , please repent .

Roberto Jung said...

قلت الحق منيح, يا مرون. ريتني آلتاقك في يوم بي لبنان. / 'Ilit il-Ha'' mniiH, ya Maroun. Reitenii ilté'ak fi yawm bi Libnén. :P (You spoke the truth well, Maroun. I'd like to meet you one day in Lebanon. :P)

PS: Please correct the Arabic of this Canadian student.

Maroun said...

Hi Roberto .
Everything you wrote was correct except my name , it`s مارون