Monday, February 12, 2007

Brian Insapient of the Irrational Response Squad Refuses to Put His Money Where His Mouth Is

The Rational Response Squad (RRS) is a group of amateur atheologians who, like thousands of other people, have a basement radio show.

They have recently risen in popularity due to the forming of "The Blasphemy Challenge."

The sophomoric attempts at ridicule, which is the substance of the RRS, have not been enough to cause me to worry that the intellectual credibility of Christianity is threatened.

Their modus operandi has been to bushwhack rather ignorant theists on their show, mock them, and fire off myriad questions their way without giving them an equal amount of time to respond.

As they've grown in popularity, I wondered where the cry from the intellectually respectable atheists were. A few, like atheist Jim Lazarus, have called them out on their ridiculous behavior and attitude. See here, here, here, and here.

Other than the above, I haven't really seen many atheists rightly taking this embarrassing wart off of the posterior of atheism.

Theists and atheists alike should clean up their own backyard. No one can doubt that T-blog has been just as hard on erroneous versions of theism, and over-reaching theists, as we have on atheists. We try to clean up our backyard as well. Since atheists have chosen to let the rust covered beaters sit in their lawn for this long, some in the Blogosphere feel the need to enact Eminent Domain, appropriating the atheist's land for the purposes of removing blight. After the blight is removed, we'll sell the land back to the highest atheist bidder. Of course if the atheists chose to clean up their own property, take out their own trash, then there might not be a need for the invoking of Eminent Domain.

And so I'll embark on a cleaning mission over the next few posts, taking out the atheist's trash for them. After all, I'm just trying to be a good neighbor.

The first thing I'd like to point out, before launching my first salvo, is that one of the co-founders of the RRS, Brian Insapeint, was recently interviewed on Nightline.

Insapient was overconfidently arrogant. He somewhat reminded me of a high school bully who causes fear in the weak due to running in bigger numbers and running a bigger mouth.

I had heard his show once before where he and his crew attacked a youth group leader, who obviously was not prepared for having the type of discussion the RRS had in mind. The tactics: mock, ridicule, bushwhack, pick on the weak. Just like a bully.

Well, in the RRS's interview on Nightline Brian Insapient issued a debate challenge to all theists. He said, "If they want to come to the table, we can present my evidence, and they can present theirs, and we'll see whose is based on faith and whose is based on fact." He said this about "the millions of people who have believed in God."

And so I emailed Insapient and challenged him to a public debate. A moderated one where his bully tactics and microphone would be taken away. His friends removed. His security blanket gone. Like all bullies, he declined. Apparently he will only debate theists on his show, under his rules. And so I rightly pointed out that what he meant on Nightline was not what he said above, but what he meant was: "If someone wants to come on the our show and have 4 or 5 individuals laugh at him, not let him speak, and not be allowed to thoroughly analyze a position, then we'll show him that our arguments are based on fact and his are based on faith."

I had also pointed out that one of his basic positions, i.e., that theism is irrational because there are no reasons for believing in God, suffered from some serious difficulties. I had asked him what he thought about this particular analysis of his position,

You had said on nightline that a person's belief in God was irrational because it wasn't based on evidence or reason. Is your position that a person's S's belief B is rational R iff S has propositional evidence E for B? Let's apply this to your belief. Call this belief (B is R for S iff S has E for B) B1. Now, does B1 have E for it? If so, then for your new belief (that B1 has E), call it B2, to be R you'd need E* for B2. Do you have that? If you believe that you do, then we have B3. For B3 to be R we'd need E**, do you have that, Brain "Sapient?" In case you haven't noticed, we can do this ad infinitum.

So, Brian, is your objection to rational belief in God itself irrational, according to your own standards? If so, Brian, is your atheology a mind virus? Do you teach irrational things to children, Brian? Should you be locked up, Brian? Do we need a Rational Response Squad for the Rational Response Squad? Call it, the Cerebral Answer-backer Battalion.


At this point he backed down from what he had said on the show and told me "You know they have an editing room, right?"

This seemed odd. Why would Insapient tell me that? Especially since he said here that, "Beliefs with insufficient evidence deserve to be treated as they are, no different than a man claiming that 2+2= twelveteen"

So why during our email exchange would he try to say that he didn't mean what he said, that they had edited it to make him look like he said something that he didn't say, but nevertheless we see him espousing the exact same evidentialism elsewhere?

Is it possibly because without his gang to back him up, without control of the microphone, and without an easy target, he's exposed like every other bully?

Brian Insapient likes to pretend that theists are irrational idiots, that "theism is a mind virus," and that he could mop the floor with any theist walking. He even said he would put his own Christian mother in a mental institution! If you had a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being the most benighted theistic apologist, and 10 being the cream of the crop, I'm at about a 3 or 4. Yet Insapient would be shown to be an amateur, back-woods hay seed atheologian against myself. What would happen with him in the ring with a Plantinga? A Frame? A Helm? A Swinburne? A Byl? A Wise? A Moreland? A Sudduth? An Anderson? Et al?

Insapient dropped out of the above dialog, citing that his "lawyer" told him not to have any further communication.

Look, Insapient can continue to put forth this facade, but I think we should call a spade a spade. Are atheists really willing to go down with this ship?

17 comments:

  1. The Now Respectable Paul Manata said:

    "I had heard his show once before where he and his crew attacked a youth group leader, who obviously was not prepared for having the type of discussion the RRS had in mind."

    sounds awfully familiar to me for some reason....almost like the time Paul Manata did much the same thing to some young atheist girls and recorded the exchange.

    hhhhmmmm.....

    Remove the plank from your one eye bigshot.

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  2. Actually, I did not contact her, she asked me the questions. I did not "attack" her, but she actually wanted to go over to the side of the booth with me, and have me explain some things to her. I was fine talking to the representatives from the Freethought organization. She was intrigued with how easily they were handled. Furthermore, there is *nothing* similar (except for an ignorance of the issues and facts)between the two instances. I never said that we *could not* talk to people like this. I spoke to that young girl calmly and gently. To draw a connection between the two is sheer ignorance.

    Get your facts straight, bigshot.

    ~PM

    P.S. I take it that since you (wrongly) thought that what I did was low-brow and bully-like, I thank you for implicitly indicting the RRS in your answer.

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  3. Paul,

    you and RRS are two sides of the same dumb ass coin.

    You bragged high and low about taking on some poor girl with your mighty TAG, which you now have abandoned, due to its weakness.

    You and Sapient are the same person, just different sides of the same stupid issue.

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  4. Anonymous,

    Quote me where I ever said anything about that girl. Provide quotes which back up your distortion of the facts.

    I have not dropped "TAG," rather, I don't cast it in terms of the strong modal version. Had you paid attention to my post on that, you'd not have blundered here.

    Sapient refuses to debate people, Sapient runs from challenges, where have I done so?

    Sapient needs to attack with a group, I've went into hostile territory all by myself.

    I play up to the level of my competition. I talked calmly and gently to that girl. I talk rough to the Loftuses and Sapients. I talk cordially with atheists like Laz. I've talked cordially with, say, Jeff Lowder. Sapient treats *all* theists the same. He shows respect to none.

    I respect those above mentioned atheists. They don't brag about bird man arguments, argumentum ad poochie, and claim that theism is a mind virus.

    Your charges are vacuous and without merit.

    Notice that in this combox I have behaved appropriately. It is you who have lied, distorted facts, and name called. Perhaps this attack on my personality is the only thing you have? Afterall, if you always tried to save the drama for your mama, you'd be dealing with substance, correct?

    ~PM

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  5. Hi Paul,

    Long time no talk. How are you?

    I have a question: Assuming for the sake of argument that everything you say in this post is true, then why do you think that atheism is recently gaining in popularity in the western world, notable (and very loudly) in America?

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  6. Well, I guess I'm adding another link to the list you've already got there.

    See here:

    http://consolatione.blogspot.com/2007/02/recently-christopher-hallquist-wrote-up.html

    - Jim

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  7. Aaron,

    I don't see how if what I said was true, what you say can't also be true. And so I really don't get your question.

    ~PM

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  8. Hey Paul,

    You said:

    "I have not dropped "TAG," rather, I don't cast it in terms of the strong modal version. Had you paid attention to my post on that, you'd not have blundered here."

    Could you provide me a link to the post you mention here? I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    gh

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  9. For crying out loud Paul,

    I said it for clarity's sake in that I wanted to set aside your charges and focus on the part where you mentioned atheism's popularity.

    You said:

    "I don't see how if what I said was true, what you say can't also be true. And so I really don't get your question."

    Yes. Fine. Correct. Totally true. Whatever. I typed out my question to you in a spur of the moment style, and I didnt proofread it or check it for logical clarity since it was a casual, informal question typed up late at night. And I don't think you are so stupid as to not actually understand what I meant to ask you.

    So how about I reformulate my question in the hopes of satisfying your letter-of-the-law obsessive compulsive disorder and get you to somehow, by the grace of Jesus Christ Himself, ANSWER IT???

    Ok here we go:

    Hello Mr. Paul Manata. I noticed that in your post, you mentioned that RRS is popular. I imagine that a man with your caliber of perception has noticed that atheism, in general, has recently been growing in popularity, most notably in the United States of America. How do you account for this trend, and what, if any, steps do you think the Christian community can take to stop the growth of atheism?

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  10. Hi Garrett,

    You can find that post here: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/10/coming-out-of-closet.html

    Hi Aaron,

    You seem a bit touchy.

    I account for trends in non-Christian religions, movements, philosophical positions, etc., by acknowledging than man is complex, creative, and sinful. So I should expect to see all sorts of positions, and some to win the day at times, and others to fade away at times. This happens for various reasons. Emotional, psychological, etc. All God has promised is that a faithful remnant will always remain.

    As far as stopping the trend, well (1) I'm not worried that God's elect will fail to be called. God will always bring his sheep in, and his sheep will hear his voice. So, I'm not worried that people will lose out on entering God's rest. (2) The "atheism" that is gaining in popularity is the backwoods, hayseed, pseudointellectual atheism that we see today. I think that this will be stopped by both Christian and intellectually honest and respectable atheists alike.

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  11. Paul,

    I actually have some respect for your temerity and desire to thoroughly analyze arguments. That said, I am rather confused by your recent penchant for asking atheists to take responsibility for what other atheists say. Another (perfect and particular) example of this was in your responses over the "false prophets of atheism" issue.

    Here, you say:
    "Other than the above, I haven't really seen many atheists rightly taking this embarrassing wart off of the posterior of atheism."

    First, let me say that I am glad that the RRS has gotten some media exposure, just as I'm glad Dawkins did last night, although I may not consider the former a particularly good representation of godlessness. The reason is simple: I am glad for the recent consciousness-raising in the American public to our causes and side, and I want more and more attention brought to bear on the nontheistic/nonreligious segment of our populace. My own two biggest motivations are political in nature -- the "intelligent design 'debate'" and the general encroachments of religion upon government. I am not motivated, as it seems the RRS and some others are, to deconvert the masses. I have been pretty consistent on this: (saying there in the comments section that) "I wish that even those who have a religion would have a secular, church-state wall separated, philosophical and political outlook. I wouldn't go so far as to say I want everyone to become an atheist. "

    Do you step up to the plate and refute all theists whom you hold to be in err? Is that your responsibility? Why is it mine to do the same with atheists?

    One general consideration to bear in mind is that whereas theists want to promote their views to others in an attempt to proselytize, and so may have some motivation to correct faulty (in their minds) teachings of others, why should atheists try to keep the arse of atheism wartless?

    It is an obvious fallacy for me to assert that people who have a heterodox opinion on some theistic issue place a blemish on the butt of orthodox theism. Why is the same not true for people whose views may constitute "fringe" aspects of *any* philsophical system? [not that I'm saying that I think Sapient is "fringe"]

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  12. And speaking of irrationality...

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/02/and_they_call_us_atheists_amor.php

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  13. Daniel,

    I just find it odd that atheisst pretend to care about reason first and foremost, but then they frequently let bad reasoning on the side of atheists slide. It makes it look, to me, that they're concerned with protecting the group first, good argumentation, second. It's like, all that matters is getting people to reject God, no matter the means.

    I wouldn't really say it's a "recent penchant" of mine, it's more of a rhetorical ploy, which has some value. Honestly, I don't care. The more bad reasoners against my side, the better.

    I do attempt to refute heretical theistic positions. I also try to refute popular errors (e.g., Arminianism, etc) I also hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith (generally, not to the letter, though). Thus we have these refutations already in place many of times.

    In regards to your last paragraph, atheists constantly use the bad choices, arguments, etc., of theists to heap scorn and ridicule on them. Indeed, look at the link directly above this post by anonymous. It's an ad hominem argument. So, I'm just playing the game you guys taught me. Care to help it stop on your end?

    ~PM

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  14. Paul,

    I just find it odd that atheisst pretend to care about reason first and foremost, but then they frequently let bad reasoning on the side of atheists slide.

    Do I have a choice as to "let" people be irrational, at times? This applies to *all* people, atheist or not: I have no responsibility for them, I can't prevent it, and I can't go around correcting it all the time.

    It makes it look, to me, that they're concerned with protecting the group first, good argumentation, second. It's like, all that matters is getting people to reject God, no matter the means.

    "Protecting the group"? Sapient does nothing to "protect" me. As I said, I am just glad for more media attention to the cause, politically-speaking. I'll remain silent on any other ramifications of him and his work.

    I wouldn't really say it's a "recent penchant" of mine, it's more of a rhetorical ploy, which has some value. Honestly, I don't care. The more bad reasoners against my side, the better.

    You obviously seem to care, given the above effort to answer their questions. And I hate to think of us playing on the schoolyard, taking "sides" in a fight.

    I do attempt to refute heretical theistic positions. I also try to refute popular errors (e.g., Arminianism, etc) I also hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith (generally, not to the letter, though). Thus we have these refutations already in place many of times.

    And, I could argue, basic philosophical arguments exist to address nearly everything, and those who are concerned about the validity of any Joe Schmoe's reasoning ought to check those out. They ought not call me up to see if I have issued Daniel Morgan's Reply(R) to the latest irrational person, or false prophet, of atheism.

    We don't have "ambassadors" and "representatives", aside from the media/popularity aspect of things.

    In regards to your last paragraph, atheists constantly use the bad choices, arguments, etc., of theists to heap scorn and ridicule on them.

    I'm guilty of doing that in the past. But, I've grown up a little, at least. I no longer see it as a useful "rhetorical ploy" to throw these sorts of things into a serious dialogue.

    Indeed, look at the link directly above this post by anonymous. It's an ad hominem argument. So, I'm just playing the game you guys taught me. Care to help it stop on your end?

    Unfortunately, I can't "make it stop". And, I'm afraid it's just not my burden to bear -- I'm not my godless brother's keeper.

    I see that you've responded to their questions above, and obviously put a lot of time and effort into it.

    To me, this evidences that you think that they are *worth* your time. I don't understand why you think that, if your assessment above is accurate.

    With regards to what you wrote to me -- I simply feel no responsibility for correcting everyone who have odd or (from my perspective) incorrect positions that I disagree with. Logically, no one can "misrepresent atheism", per se no more than people can misrepresent lack of belief in any entity. There is too much flexibility, too many valid philosophical positions. Just because you're an atheist, what *must* logically follow? Not too many things. You can still be a dualist, or a physicalist, or a communist, or a capitalist...ad nauseum.

    And so, I have a hard time feeling responsible for maintaining some sort of "orthodox atheism".

    As I said, you have an impetus to "protect" your version of Xianity. I have no similar motive in circling the wagons around my own metaphysics. But...feel free to continue doing minor surgery on the gluteus max of atheism for us -- keep it nice and clean. ;-)

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  15. Well, Daniel, apparently atheists like Lazarus, Lippard, Lowder, Edis, et al disagree with you. They have all recently taken to critiquing the "New Atheists." They focus mainly on Harris and Dawkins, though. So, I'll side with those guys over you.

    I explained why I addressed the RRS. You've shown no inconsistency here.

    Frankly, I'd like to debate real issues. You seem to like to have debates about petty, subjective things. If you don't want to clean up your atheist backyard, don't. I'm telling you that they are hurting your cause. Embarrassing atheists. If you don't mind, the better for me.

    And so if you don't have any substantive issues to debate, let's just agree to disagree. You don't think you should clean up the blight in your atheist neighbor hood. I think you should. I do it in my neighborhood. I think it's a sign of intellectual respectability. Christians care mnore about truth and the reputation of Jesus and the truth of His word. So we confound the naysayers, the heretics, and the like.

    If you're not that interested in critiquing bad arguments, defending truth, etc., then I guess that's just your way. I won't knock it.

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  16. This reminds me of how plagiarist Rook Hawkins chumped out on JP Holding when challenged to debate.

    I think what Brian Sapient is saying is "I'll debate anybody in the world... *ahem* unless they follow my cowardly rules." Even with their discourse with Ergun Caner (yes, that Caner) they still won't do a formal debate. At least, Caner has the guts to abide by their rules. But Sapient in turn won't abide by his rules. Figures.

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  17. Presup(TribulationSaint)2/23/2007 11:43 AM

    Paul I know you did not want to toot your own horn but a 3 or a 4? On that rating scale I would at lowest give you an 8. I see you as one of the best at the craft of apologetics and we need more work like yours in the field.

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