Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kagin vs. Slick in Pensacola, FL

This debate (while downright abysmal in terms of substance) was a relief from the usual cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments.  Rev. Slick leads with a parable about a locked  room, and then goes into the details of his unusual argument that logical absolutes must exist in the absolute and transcendent mind of God.  This argument presumes that such statements as “a statement may not be both true and false at the same time in the same sense” do not follow from the meanings conventionally given by English-speaker to words like “true” and “false” but rather from some sort of ethereal other world in which truths exist apart from human minds.

Consider the statement “The Earth is a sphere.”  Is this true?  Well, it is true enough for pedagogical purposes, at least until around eighth grade or so.  The statement is not a perfect model of the actual planet, but it provides a useful approximation which works for most purposes.  What if all statements about the actual world are only true in the sense that they provide useful but approximate models of reality?  What then becomes of Slick’s absolutist model of truth and falsity?  I’d suppose it vanishes in a puff of logic, if logic might possibly puff.  In any event, it would seem that we are quite obviously dealing with linguistic conventions, which may be altered as occasion warrants.  Indeed, this has already been done by the practitioners of fuzzy logic, wherein a statement may be equally true and false. 

Edwin Kagin has a bit of a go at our own peculiar myths, but mostly he falls flat.  He does, however, manage to point out that logic (like any other linguistic / semantic construct) has been made up by human beings.  He goes on a bit about the yawning chasm gap between deism and theism, and point out that Slick has most of his work in front of him.

Slick pulls a bit of a dick move in his rebuttal, repeatedly faulting Kagin for his failure to rebut the transcendental argument during his own opening statement.  This is just plain weird, and reminds me of how Craig usually closes his opening statements by inviting his opponent to abandon the structure of debate in favor of giving an immediate rebuttal.  It would seem that the laws of logic are absolute, by the rules of structured debate are craggy and slick.

Overall rating: 2.0



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