Matt Dillahunty vs David Robertson: “unbelievable” doesn’t even begin to describe it!

Summer of 2012 and my family and I are doing Route 66 from East to West. Austen Texas is not part of that route but I persuade my family to make a (huge) detour so that we can be in Austen on Sunday evening and meet the guys from the Atheist Experience.
So that’s what we do and while I’m there I ask Matt if he might be interested in appearing on a show we have in the UK called “Unbelievable”. Yeah he says, maybe.

So now almost two years later it’s finally happened and Matt appeared to debate with David Roberston. It was described by Justin Brierley, the show’s host as a “clash of the Titans”. This was over-selling DR a bit, as Matt Dillahunty is a very famous atheist debater and DR is virtually unknown. Still, it doesn’t follow from that that DR can’t be good, just undiscovered….

But the show revealed that DR deserves his anonymity. He was an embarrassment to listen to.

First, he could not understand Matt’s objection to his argument from design (briefly that we can only recognise design if we have something undesigned to compare it to.) Straw-manning like crazy he burbled on about God being incomparable and that’s another argument for why he must exist.

Next he argued from ignorance. There are only three ways (according to DR) in which the universe could have come about. One of those options was God and that was clearly the right option because it was unacceptable to say “I don’t know”. Seriously, that is what he argued.

Then there came a bit about the Holocaust. This is (apparently) DR’s specialist area and he used it to support the argument from morality (pretty much as WLC does – see my last post).

The discussion about whether or not Hitler was a Christian was something of a distraction, IMO, from the real debate. But why did DR claim that having read all Hitler’s diaries “including” the ones that were faked, he could authoritatively say that Hitler was not a Christian? There are no diaries other than faked diaries! How does reading forged diaries give DR any insight into Hitler’s beliefs?

DR claimed he “didn’t have enough faith” to be an atheist. He was the rational one, relying on evidence, logic, reason, unlike that faith-head Matt! So DR thinks faith is irrational – or at least less rational than a worldview based on evidence, right? But when Matt said that faith was what people used when they had no evidence, DR got very cross. He accused Matt of mangling the English language (and even descended to a racist dig, referencing Matt’s American nationality). Faith, he now claimed was based on reason and evidence. So, DR must have meant that Matt was an atheist because he had more reason and evidence than for his beliefs that DR had?

As usually happens in these debates, each side declares a resounding win for “their” side and one theist in particular was very clear who had won. Matt’s performance was described as “a total wipeout…cringeworthy…embarrassing…”

And who was it who was so sure that Matt had been soundly beaten? Why it was none other that DR himself, posting on his own blog “the wee flea”.

I posted to challenge him on (just one of) his failures – his misrepresentation of Matt’s rebuttal of DR’s argument from design.

Here is a link to the blog

it’s not complete because DR hasn’t posted my last reply. For those who are interested, this is what I said:


Thank you for finally giving a response to the actual question.

The quote you give is not meaningless. If the universe shows evidence of design, where do we find lack of design so that we know what that looks like and know that the universe is different? Paley, you will recall, used the example of a stone compared to a watch. The stone (he claimed) was obviously not designed whereas the watch unmistakeably was. It was the contrast between the two which enabled him to draw the inference. But in Paley’s worldview, the stone must also have been designed. So he was walking through a field of watches, on a world of watches inside a universe of watches.

You used the same notion yourself when you talked about “I love you” being spelt out in sea shells. We all know that that is evidence of design BECAUSE WE ARE ABLE TO COMPARE IT WITH WHAT WE SEE NORMALLY IN NATURE WHICH DOESN’T SHOW THAT EVIDENCE OF DESIGN. If the sea shore you are walking along is in fact designed by God, why would “I love you” spelt out in sea shells look any different to anything else you find in nature, which is all (in your view) intelligently designed?

“The Bible itself points out….” This is question-begging and an argument from authority.
“I find it somewhat amusing….” Argument from incredulity.
“You have a presupposition….” Ad Hominem.
Are we playing “fallacy bingo”?

Matt did not talk about comparing the start of the universe to anything else. He did say that we should be prepared to accept that the honest answer to some questions (including the Origin of the universe) is “I don’t know”.

I didn’t answer you earlier 2 options argument because it was another straw man. It was not actually canvassed during the debate although there was some discussion about the question of how many options there could be about the beginning of the universe. I have already dealt with how you misrepresented Matt’s arguments on that subject.

But as you now wish to have an answer to that point, let me deal with it. Option 1 and option 2 are mutually exclusive. There is no third option. But if you ask: Which is true? Option 1 or Option 2 there is a third *answer* which is to say “I don’t know”. Let me give you an analogy:
Option 1- I am writing this while sitting out in my garden
Option 2 – I am not writing this while sitting out in my garden

Only one of those can be true and there is no third option. So which is it? What’s your answer David? You must have one.

Addendum:  Since posting the above, I should say that DR has published this post and a brief further exchange.