Trent Horn vs. Raphael Lataster - Does God Exist? (2016)

My best debate thus far. Horn has been my most formidable opponent, and argues similarly to Craig, whose case I am obviously very familiar with.

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Trent Horn: Presented versions of four common arguments that Christian apologists utilise: contingency, Kalam, fine-tuning, moral. He also insisted that I must refute his arguments, and also demonstrate God’s non-existence. Unfortunately, Horn committed several fallacies, such as the fallacy of composition, appealing to the audience’s emotions (rape!), and referring to my ‘fringe’ work on the Historical Jesus.

Raphael Lataster: I started by clarifying that I represented ‘agnosticism’ or ‘non-theism’, not naturalism, so I rejected his demand - the burden of proof definitely remains with the theist. I very briefly mentioned some of the problems with the premises of his arguments, such as that the Big Bang Theory does not prove that all things came into being, from absolutely nothing. I then moved on to my main point. Even if the arguments were good, they lead not to classical theism - which we both agreed to debate - but some generic supernaturalism. I noted that he would need a probabilistic analysis, which would consider not only naturalism but the supernaturalistic alternatives to theism (I briefly described them), which he didn’t even bother to attempt (note also that this was in my debate requirements). This is a serious issue that cannot be brushed off. I have published quite a bit on this in top Philosophy of Religion journals, and am currently getting ready to present a paper on such challenges at Oxford University. Other philosophers have also noted this, such as Herman Philipse and Stephen Law. We are making sure that Philosophy of Religion is just that, and not Philosophy of theism/Christianity.

Rebuttals, etc.: One thing I noticed is that Horn generally avoided defining ‘theism’ and ‘atheism'. The cynic in me suspects some deceit; that clarity is intentionally avoided so as to maintain the illusion of the false dichotomy (which is typically accompanied by a shirking of responsibility, by shifting the burden of proof) that theistic apologists are so fond of. Horn continuously denied that he needed to address the alternatives and claimed that his arguments did lead to theism. This is obviously incorrect, since deism (as but one example) fits perfectly with his arguments. He also revealed his ignorance over what good deductive arguments are. If we (including the audience members) disagree over the premises, it’s simply not a good argument. [To hammer the point home, he objected to my appealing to possibilities when I rejected his ‘deductive’ arguments for God, but did the very same thing when rejecting ‘my’ *deductive* argument from evil. Making it worse, I didn’t invoke the latter, but the *evidential* argument from evil - Horn hasn’t got a clue. In sum, by using his own approach, all his arguments for God are eliminated, and my argument from evil still stands!] Hence, a proper probabilistic analysis is needed, as prominent Christian philosophers of religion like Swinburne and Craig (directly and indirectly) recognise. In the cross-examination, Horn was able to salvage some pride with some cheap laughs, but was subject to my logical objections. In fact, I had him admitting here that he did use premises he considered ‘more likely than not’ and ‘uncertain’ which reveals that I was right all along, that he needed a probabilistic analysis (I emailed him about this, and he has not yet responded). That he failed to provide one meant that he lost before I even uttered my first word. While he did a (relatively) good job, Horn was simply in over his head. He refused to argue probabilistically, effectively believing that his arguments *proved* God’s existence.

Other: Several believers really appreciated my logical approach and sincerity about my being a non-resistant non-believer, with one prominent Catholic apologist expressing that he was very impressed with what I offered. I also wish to thank the Sydney Uni Catholic Society and Parousia Media for putting together a very professional event, at a wonderful location. If the atheist groups continue to invite me to dingy pubs with karaoke blasting in the background, I think I’ll have to convert!

Raphael Lataster 2017