There are a bunch of live debates on TikTok and the dynamic is really interesting. These debates are generally unstructured in contrast to anything resembling a formal or academic debate. It’s important to appear interesting to the audience over and above actually being correct. Hosts are often unabashedly biased. These debates sometimes resemble a verbal imagining of the gladiator games. Hosts are often well-practiced, having been through similar arguments many times. As a guest, it’s important to be prepared, rehearsed, tight, and full of punchlines to survive in a place like this.
I haven’t yet gotten the punchlines down, but I have something of an opening move now. When the situation goes poorly it resembles a gladiator match, with one person sometimes combatting a multiple-person team. When things go well it seems in my mind similar to a competitive chess match. So here’s my current 6-part opener:
- Emphasize the importance of a cumulative argument. A single syllogism is fragile. A collection of arguments is more reliable, robust, and convincing from the perspective of bayesian logic.
- Building on the importance of cumulative argumentation, point out the resource Over 100 Arguments for the Existence of God from Cameron Bertuzzi (aka Capturing Christianity) and Dr. Chad McIntosh.
- Single out WLC’s Kalam Cosmological Argument as my single favorite
- Note the finding of redshift that backs a premise of the Kalam contributes to two more interesting arguments:
- A Bayesian approach to scripture. Start with Genesis 1 and obtain a positive prior for the rest of the scripture in the absence of a defeater.
- The discovery of redshift is one of many contributors to the argument for dynamic comparative improvement in the Christian Hypothesis (DCBIC).
- Another interesting contributor to both worth calling out is the reconciliation of a literal Adam and Eve with modern genetics. A key resource in this regard is The Genealogical Adam and Eve by Dr. Joshua Swamidass.
- Stephen Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis (fine-tuning, the origin of biological life, and the Cambrian Explosion)
- Mention an increase in archeological evidence on the Exodus (see, for example, the work of Titus Kennedy, Sean McDowell, and David A. Falk), various locations and secular facts of the Bible, the historicity of Jesus, the fitness of the Biblical story of Herod, and so on.
Later in the conversation, it may be worth bringing up a few additional points:
- The Bible is the most textually valid ancient religious document.
- See J Warner Wallace and me about the early dating of Mark.
- Argue the improved Pascal’s Wager and note that there aren’t that many other gods, with particular attention to singular gods that create all three of the universe, the earth, and man.
- Proving God or Christianity need not require certainty. Presentation of evidence amounts to making proof, and rational agents will increase credence when evidence is provided. Various approaches to making a claim acceptable:
- When the listener prefers to do so
- When it is in the best interest of the listener to do so
- When a claim is demonstrated with certainty
- When a claim is the best available explanation
Resources on an improved Pascal’s Wager:
- 6 Reasons to Prefer Christianity to Mormonism
- Futureproof Christianity
- The Many Gods Problem
- An Odd Argument for Belief in God – The Vandivierian Wager
- Point out that there haven’t been that many gods, as is done below.
There haven’t been that many gods. First, humans have only been around for a finite period. Suppose one novel god was created per year. There would still be a finite number of gods such that any argument for theism will allocate some non-infinitesimal benefit to Christianity over atheism.
Second, the largest number of gods have been proposed by varieties of historic paganism including Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, and Native American paganism. Hinduism more or less fits the pattern as well. On further examination, only a tiny fraction of the gods of these religions are creator-gods. In fact, there are typically fewer than three per group. Further, none of these religions have the distinct kind of multi-creative god that is the God of the Bible and of the Book of Genesis. A single God that created the universe, the earth, and humans. The creation of humans in particular importantly connects to our teleology and morality. Further, YWHW is unique in his coincidence as multi-creative and a first mover. Finally, these forms of paganism are not taken seriously from a human mindshare perspective, and they haven’t stood the test of time, both of which are signs of validity. I think we can deflate the pagan competition to zero, but let’s allow it to range in the area of twenty up to this point.
Now let’s consider Hinduism, which has a substantial mindshare and is also a bit different than other forms of paganism. It’s been said that there are 330 million Hindu gods, although this is now recognized as a translation error. There are 33 gods described in the Vedas, and many Hindus only worship a single God. The 33 Vedic gods are not co-equal. There is one creator of the earth, Brahma, but he is not the creator of all things, he was himself created, and he is not the most powerful God. The Puranas mention hundreds of other gods, but “The content is highly inconsistent across the Puranas…[and] The Puranas do not enjoy the authority of a scripture in Hinduism.”
When we consider other religions such as the offshoots of Christianity, it’s not clear that we should add any additional further count to our total because in theory, the object of reference between, say, Islam and Christianity is the same God, despite differing conceptions. Mormonism is an interesting case because it represents a case of many gods in theory, but again, only one creator of this world, who is to be our object of worship, and who is considered the be identical to the God of the Bible according to Mormons. In summary, given any argument for a so-called generic theism, insofar as it applies to a single first mover, moral source, creator God, or Genesis-compatible God, I think there are fewer than 50 comparable deities, being generous at that number, which could result in a deflation of the bayesian credit to the God of the Bible.
It seems to me that an approach that’s even better than this bayesian credit sharing approach is a two-stage approach where atheism is eliminated in comparison to the class of Genesis-compatible gods in the first stage, and then a single God is picked as the best fit among Genesis-compatible in the second stage. As a spoiler, I think the best fit for which God is described by Genesis is the one the book is about, not some other God that’s partially compatible with such a description.