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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mailvox: an erroneous answer

In which the ex-judge responds to Spacebunny's question and attempts to claim he did not involve himself in the debate:
I kept myself out of the debate. Writing justifications for one's decisions isn't "putting themselves in the debate." Roasting the contestants isn't putting oneself into the debate. What's your evidence that I "put myself in the debate?"
There is considerable evidence in both of the very posts he presented as a judge. CL clearly did not limit himself to writing justifications for his decisions. He also offered advice, engaged in coaching, anticipated unmade claims, attempted to start his own side-debate with a contestant, prejudged arguments that were still in the process of being made, and presented his own rebuttal in lieu of one presented by a contestant.

Nor, quite clearly, does he understand that a debate judge is not supposed to "roast the contestants". A debate judge is supposed to judge the merits and defects of the arguments presented by the contestants.

Here are the direct quotes from his two judgments:

This debate concerns the evidence [E] and logic [L] for the existence or nonexistence of “gods,” which are unfortunately defined loosely as, “superhuman beings worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes.” I’m disappointed that these guys didn’t nail down a specific God concept. By the current definition, ET’s, the traditional monotheist God and superintelligent AI are all fair game for “gods.” I consider it a waste of time to be discussing the mathematical probabilities for ET’s and other such distractions. Hell, why not Criss Angel? This debate should be about God, not some loosely-defined concept of “gods” that may or may not include Terminators and other carbon-based oddities produced by the very theory Vox dedicates so much energy to denigrating elsewhere.

As should eventually become clear in the course of the debate, and as at least one of the other judges has already shown some signs of understanding, the broader definition of gods is not only integral to the question of atheist disbelief in all gods, it is hugely relevant to the primary basis of the atheist disbelief in the existence of the Christian God. But CL's failure to understand the significance of an argument that I am still in the process of elucidating is less important than his expressed desire to adjudicate a different debate than the one that he actually volunteered to judge. And his erroneous declaration about what arguments would be a waste of time before the arguments were even complete tends to indicate that his mindset was inappropriate for a judge from the start. What sort of judge presents his judgment prior to the conclusion of the event being judged?

"Since an eternally existent Prime Mover undeniably solves the problem of infinite regress, I was expecting something spectacular in support of this assertion."

Who cares what he was expecting? It's not about him. He was supposed to be a judge, not a participant.

"What about all the simple explanations that turned out to be quite right, for example the vast majority of murder convictions sustained by forensic evidence? Dominic gives no reliable criteria by which one might differentiate a true simple claim from a false simple claim. That Dominic finds gods “too convenient” is an indication only of Dominic’s subjective preference and has no bearing on the veracity of God or gods. Dominic’s approach also seems to disregard the general principle that one should not multiply entities beyond necessity. IOW, Ockham’s Razor actually favors the “simplest” explanation, provided that explanation can account for the pertinent evidence."

Had he simply said that Dominic gives no reliable criteria, that would have been fine. Instead, he brought in examples from outside the debate and attempted to substitute his rebuttal for my own. This is obviously not appropriate for a judge.

"As I said in my opening paragraph, I’m not interested in debating the existence ET’s and Terminators."

That's fine, but he wasn't supposed to be debating at all. Nobody asked what interested him. CL was supposed to judge, not inform us about his favorite flavor of ice cream, who he likes in Week Three of the NFL season, or his own opinion concerning the potential existence of gods, ETs, Terminators, or God.

"Burn the dross and resubmit."

This is coaching, not judging.

"He needs to flesh this out quite a bit if he’s trying to make the WLC-esque claim that objective good exists, ergo one or more Creator Gods."

Since he admitted he didn't even know what claim the contestant was making, it was not for him, as a judge, to say what needed to be done to prove the claim he imagined the contestant might be making.

"He writes, “I believe we can all be in agreement that objective evil, as defined as a self-aware, purposeful, and malicious force which intends material harm and suffering to others and is capable of inflicting it, is quite real.” Really? On what grounds? I believe these forces exist, but that’s because I accept the existence of the traditional malevolent deities, i.e., Satan, demons and their offspring. What sort of “self-aware evil force” can an atheist possibly assent to?"

It doesn't matter. As a judge, all CL was required to do was note that Dominic conceded the point. When he brought up new questions about a point that was already settled, he directly involved himself in the debate as a participant. If he was wondering if the two contestants were using the term "objective" differently, the appropriate thing to do would have been to raise that question, not attempt to initiate his own separate debate with one of them about what atheists can or cannot believe about evil.

"As this debate proceeds, I’d like to see a narrower focus on the traditional God concept. The definition of “gods” as any “superhuman being worshipped as able to control nature” is simply too wide a goalpost, one that diminishes this debate’s relevance to traditional (a)theist dialog."

Again, what CL wanted to see was totally irrelevant. The dictionary definition is entirely apt and this was a blatant appeal to modify the terms of a debate that had been established more than three years prior. The line judge might like to see Tom Brady throw the ball more or have touchdowns count for ten points, but his desires are irrelevant because such things are beyond his area of responsibility.

"Dominic should have done the research."

It's not for him to say. Being a judge required CL to comment upon what someone had or had not done, not what they should or should not have done.

"The first time around, he said he finds “simple claims too convenient,” and although Vox’s rebuttal missed the mark, mine did not [murder convictions sustained by straightforward forensic evidence; Ockham's razor].

And here CL openly admits that he involved himself in the debate, to the extent of directly referring to his own previous rebuttal and claiming its superiority to the one provided by the contestant.

In light of this conclusive body of evidence, I await with interest CL's admission that he did not, in fact, keep himself out of the debate he was supposed to be judging prior to his resignation. And fortunately, with Markku replacing CL as the Christian judge, we can reasonably expect the judges to concentrate on adjudicating the debate rather than attempting to participate in it over the course of the final three rounds.

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