Sunday, November 30, 2014
This site will stay up for archive purposes, at least for now, in the meantime update your links to my new page. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I had a disappointing experience this last week when a fellow skeptic (and person I had previously thought of as a friend) viciously attacked me, and ended that friendship over what I thought was a fairly minor disagreement. It’s experiences like this that make me want to give up on even involving myself with the skeptical movement, not because I don’t believe in the basic principles espoused in the movement, but because it seems like so few people in the movement actually embody these principles.
I’ve written before on my blog that I fear that some skeptics/atheists are little more than people who like to sit around and pat each other on the back for being smarter than everyone else. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this kind of behavior. When I was a fundamentalist I knew many fellow Christians who did the same thing, only rather than for being smarter it was because they were saved and everyone else was destined for hell. Even though I’m an atheist, I still have a good deal more respect for a Christian who tries to convert me than one who treats their “correct beliefs” as something to smugly hold over others.
More than a wiliness to educate others, though, is the need for self criticism. If our attempts to educate people on science, reason and other subjects are to be taken seriously then we MUST be our own worse critics. If we aren’t, then we are inconsistent at best and hypocrites at worst. When fellow skeptics tell me I must not disagree with them or their friends, this sends off warning bells in my head that this person isn’t really interested in skepticism; they are just interested in being right, or more accurately, in being told they are right, and they use the skeptical movement as nothing more than a group of “yes men” to make them feel good about themselves.
I tend to notice three separate arguments come up in the conversations with these sorts of “skeptics”:
1. Isn’t it better to have friends than be right?
This question is a bit loaded, but the short answer is that if your answer to this question is an unequivocal yes, then you have no business calling yourself a skeptic. The much longer answer is that it really varies depending on the friend. For starters, I have lots of friends who aren’t involved in skepticism, or who do not engage me in my debate spaces, for whom I tend to be much less picky. For one because these people aren’t representing organizations that promote critical thought, and for two because those people have not invited such conversations. I love talking moral philosophy but I’m not going to force a conversation about that with every person I meet.
On the other hand if another persons position is that I can be their friend only if I never openly disagree with them, then honestly, no, I don’t want to be that persons friend, regardless of whether they call themselves a skeptic or not, because that person sounds controlling and manipulative.
2. You are being divisive to the movement, and you need to stop that.
I hear this one constantly, not always directed at me, mind you, but just as often directed at other bloggers I’m fans of who occasionally criticize some of the skeptical movement’s shortcomings. Of course, it is not entirely inaccurate to claim that disagreements can be divisive, but only if the people involved let it. For instance, I missed the last American Atheist conference, but I happen to know that they invited the Reverend Barry Lynn to speak there because of his defense of the separation of church and state. Every atheist at that conference openly disagrees with Lynn on the question of god’s existence but it doesn’t stop both us and Lynn from being partners on the things we do agree on, nor does it mean that we pretend those disagreements don’t exist.
The point is that disagreement is only divisive if you are so personally invested in your beliefs that you view any questioning of them as an assault on you personally. This is a natural tendency, but it’s not one conducive to being rational and as skeptics something we must all work to avoid. The way I see it, I think people who launch personal attacks and end friendships over disagreements are doing much more to divide the movement than those who try to offer a polite critique of someone else's arguments. Also, as I pointed out earlier, refusing to engage with others’ critiques of your position without some reasonable cause (such as a critic being abusive) is simply a refusal to be a skeptic in any meaningful sense. Which brings me to the last argument I hear.
3. You pretend civility is important, but you really just use it to avoid listening to those who disagree with you/you are just as much of an asshole as me, you just use requests for civility to hide it.
Now, let me be fair here. I’m human and therefore quite imperfect, so it is entirely possible, even likely, that I don’t always enforce civility rules equitably within the online spaces I control. I may let my friends off the hook for something I would call someone else on, I may be more likely to notice the incivility of those I’m disagreeing with than those I agree with. I can do the best I can, but I’ll never be perfect.
As an example about a week ago I had a person on my Facebook page insult another poster, I asked him to knock it off if he wanted to continue to have the right to post on my page and he responded by personally attacking me with a misogynistic insult. I said “fuck you” and I blocked him. The blocking was justified, I’d already warned him this would be the result and he doubled down. However, saying “fuck you” before I did it wasn’t my most shining moment. Not because of any rule against swearing, or because I’m worried about hurting this guy’s feelings, but because for just a moment he dragged me down to his level. Still, that we sometimes fail is no reason to not try.
What I find ironic about this argument is that, by and large, those that use it are usually the quickest to anger and the most consistently antagonistic towards those they disagree with. I may not be perfect, but I know that there is a world off difference between saying, “that argument is faulty” and saying, “you are a shitty person.” Though I’m beginning to think that people who make this argument legitimately can’t see the difference between the two since they always seem confused when I try to explain it. I’ve been told my various “failures” stemmed from everything from not having been socialized properly as a child to not getting “laid” often enough, by people who seemed bewildered when I suggested that their behavior is uncalled for and obviously worse than anything they have received from me.
Of course, to be clear, I’m not saying “that argument is faulty” is always acceptable and “you are a shitty human being” is always wrong. In fact, I can think of exceptions in each case, which I won’t get into here, however, I don’t think it’s bad as a general principle to say the first is usually ok, and the second is usually wrong, and we should have a good reason for deviation from that.
I also don’t much accept the argument that I use requests for civility to avoid arguments I don’t like. Remember that discussion I mentioned earlier where I blocked someone? In that same discussion I disagreed with another person just as strongly who did not get blocked because, while I still disagree with him, he didn’t start hurling insults at people because of this disagreement.
So what should we take from all of this? All I can really say is don’t be that person. Don’t be the skeptic who refuses to take your own medicine. Your ideas need to be critiqued as much as the next guy and you are at risk for every single one of those logic problems that skeptics groups point out. You know the ones, like confirmation bias and bandwagon effect? You aren’t harder to fool than anyone else, and the moment you think you are is the moment you are most vulnerable to being fooled. Remember, skepticism is a means of improving your own thinking, not a social club that gives you leave to think everyone else is an idiot and that no one has the right to criticize you. If you treat it as such, then you are not a good skeptic, and you aren’t even a very nice person.
Monday, June 30, 2014
I’ve just been reading over the Hobby Lobby ruling by the supreme court today and the majority ruling is just baffling to me. Let’s look at two parts of the ruling.
Nothing in RFRA suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of “person,” which “include[s] corporations, . . . as well as individuals.” 1 U. S. C. §1. The Court has entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations.
Basically the are saying that for the purpose of legal ruling corporations are treated as persons. Now, the notion that corporations are to be treated as persons is certain respects goes back to the 19th century, this initially only extended to rights regarding contract enforcement and obligation. However throughout the years various rulings by the supreme court have extended this concept of personhood being vested in a corporation to granting more rights normally reserved for persons in normal sense. The most recent and well known example of this trend was the Citizens United ruling published back in 2010.
One of the features of this ruling is essentially to continue this trend, by now arguing that corporations have the right of free exercise of religion. With this there are almost no rights given to persons which are not also given to corporations. This is a mistake, corporations are for profit enterprises, there is no reason to grant them any rights beyond those needed to engage in free market trade, I.E. laws relating to contract enforcement. The free exercise clause is there to guarantee individuals the right to practice their religious beliefs, but a corporation cannot HAVE religious beliefs and to make the religious beliefs of the corporations owners or managers coequal with the “beliefs” of the corporation seems at odds with the very purpose of corporations, I.E. limited liability. That is to say I find it odd that people who would fight to defend the notion that they are not individually responsible in an economic sense for the corporations choices, now want to claim they feel a personal moral responsibility for the corporation's choices. This is particularly galling since there is evidence that Hobby Lobby, in particular, has investments in companies that make some of the contraceptives they claim to oppose.
There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts “out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,” Lee, 455 U. S., at 263, n. 2 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment), or the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held. Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be “perceived as favoring one religion over another,” the very “risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”
Notice that they don’t that Hobby Lobby’s claim merits protection under the RFRA because the claim is sincere, they claim that the court cannot even be asked to determine if religious claims are sincere. This is simply wrong in my opinion, and disastrously wrong at that. Ginsburg’s dissent to the majorities ruling puts it best.
"Reading the Act expansively, as the court does, raises a host of "Me, too" questions. Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer's sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices.
The point is that the courts MUST, as best they can, attempt to determine which claims are sincere and which are not, at the very least. To assume that all religious claims are sincere, and therefore must be respected under the law, would lead to the court being required to allow anyone to do virtually anything by simply claiming a religious exemption. Don’t want to pay taxes? My religion says I’m not allowed to pay taxes. What you don’t think my beliefs are sincere? You think I’m more interested in a way of getting out of my moral obligations to government and society? How dare you question the sincerity of my beliefs! Now, do I think Scalia and the other conservatives on the court would actually rule this way? Absolutely not, which is why this ruling is a complete joke. Even they don’t accept the logic they used to justify this ruling.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
So, for those who don’t know Ubisoft demoed it’s new Assassin’s Creed game at E3 recently and it was reveled that, like previous Assassin's Creed games, the main playable character was male. This sparked some criticism, which in turn sparked defenses of this criticism from both Ubisoft and from other gamers. As a feminist, and one of the rare male gamers who usually plays a female character if there is an option to do so I thought I speak about the issue a bit.
I’ve played a fair share of Ubisoft games over the years and have mostly enjoyed them, though I have several critiques of Ubisoft’s game design beyond possible gender issues, but before any of that let’s take a look at some of the defenses offered for this choice.
Ubisoft points out that they actually wanted to include an option for a female lead but it would have doubled their work load. Now, I’m not sure that It would have doubled their work load but it would have increased it significantly, not just in terms of animations, but in scripting and voice acting. Hiring a voice actor for the female lines, and recording any lines of dialogs that name the character or refer to them in gender specific pronouns, plus the time needed by the writers to hunt down those instances if done after the fact. I don’t doubt that this would have added at least a few weeks to the total time for game design, and increased their budget requirements.
On the other hand, plenty of other game companies have done this quite well in games that were often larger in scope than any Ubisoft game has been till now. The new dragon age game seems to have drastically increased the size of the explorable game world, and added the ability to ride horses while continuing their tradition of letting people play as either gender and then set about seducing your fellow party members. I realize that the two games are different and don’t expect all games to be the same, but if they could do all that in their development time it seems Ubisoft could have spared the time for a female lead option if it had been a priority.
So it wasn’t a priority, big deal right? Many of Ubisoft’s defenders point out that they have the right to make any game they want, which is true enough, but I think irrelevant. The point that people are making is not that Ubisoft must add female characters, but that it represents a larger failure on their part to make women and equal part the worlds they create, and people would like them to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.
Another defense gamers put forward is to ask if feminists expect every game to offer a female lead option. The sort answer to this is generally no. I’m a fan of the Witcher games and don’t expect they will add a female lead any time soon, but this game is built of off existing lore and the characters that already exist in that lore. It also manages to present a host of strong female characters in the story despite being set in a culture that is generally fairly sexist. So I don’t think anyone is expecting ALL games to have female leads in them, simply that there be a bit more balance, and thoughtfulness when writing female characters.
So what do I think about all this? Well first I point out a general critique of Unbisoft’s games, despite enjoying them, every time I play one I get the distinct feeling that I’ve done it all before. Far cry, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, virtually ever Ubisoft game ever made uses the same basic game mechanics. For instance, unlocking sections of the map and/or side quests by climbing to some high place and unlocking a tower or view point of some kind. This is in EVERY game I play by them, and nearly no one else uses it at all. It’s not a bad game mechanic, I just think it is being over used. They changed it up a bit with Assassins Creed 4 by adding a new type of combat with ships, but the basic mechanic was unchanged. How does this relate? I think Ubisoft’s games have become a bit “paint by the numbers,” I hope they grow beyond it, but there it is.
All this being the case, it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t add a female character. I’ll go one step further, this “paint by numbers” tendency is precisely why Ubisoft has found itself increasingly criticized. It’s not that they left women out this one time, or they failed to address certain problems in their characterizations of minorities in one game. They do this over and over again. Watch Dogs was rightly criticized for the way it “fridged” every female character in the game. Far Cry 3 was criticized for it’s “white person saves the natives” plot, as also seen in Dances with Wolves and Avatar (why did people like this movie?) The point is that these plots are examples of lazy writing and are far too common in all kinds of media, and Ubisoft games in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a boycott or something. I’ll probably play Unity and enjoy it, though I suspect I will enjoy The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age 3 more. I just also think that we should, at the same time, encourage Ubisoft to do a better job.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
This video left me astounded at how much awful can be vested into a single human being.
Archbishop Robert Carlson, former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, testified last month that he was unaware in the 1980s that it was illegal to have sex with a child. At the time, it was Carlson’s responsibility to investigate allegations of sex abuse in the church.
So to sum up, an Archbishop of an organization which clearly argues that ANY premarital sex is immoral is clamming he wasn’t quite sure on the legality or ethics of having sex with children. (A group of people who are not legally allowed to marry) I’m willing to say, without any equivocation, that this man is clearly and obviously lying. Unless this man is mentally deficient in some way it is simply not possible that he didn’t know this was both illegal and immoral, nor is it possible that he just forgot everything of importance about the events in question.
He didn’t do his job back in the 1980’s, probably because he was more concerned about the churches reputation than harm being done right under his nose. Now that the truth is out he can’t think of anything way out but to pretend that he isn’t sure if he knew basic facts about the law and even his own religious beliefs back then because it was such a long time ago. It isn’t even a good lie. I don’t swear on this blog very often anymore but I think this occasion call for it. Fuck this guy.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
This is one of the stranger articles I’ve ran across lately.
It starts by accurately quoting some statistics from a Gallup poll.
At the top of Gallup’s list of 19 issues was contraception, of which 90 percent of Americans approve, followed by divorce at 69 percent and premarital sex at 66 percent. Others making the top ten were embryonic stem cell research (65%), childbirth outside of marriage (58%), same-sex unions (58%), euthanasia (52%) and abortion (42%).
No disagreement here except that I don’t feel these statistics are an example of how far American society has fallen the way the author clearly does. One caveat, he points to these statistics as evidence that people are moving away from his positions, but the numbers on abortion have stated fairly static in America since Roe v. Wade.
Of course he brings up all the buzz words and ideas, blames “relativism” and the “sexual revolution” then goes on to say this has been a developing trend for hundreds of years.
Of course, it goes back more than a few decades. As is often the case, what seems like a sudden explosion was really the logical outcome of hundreds of years of growing confusion about who we are as persons.
No surprise here, what does surprise me is where he places this, more distant, historical blame, and why.
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French scientist and philosopher who many credit with helping to launch what later became known, somewhat ironically, as “the Enlightenment”. Among his contributions to the way people thought was to place body and soul in opposition to each other, later leading to the idea that the human body could simply be seen as an object one could manipulate according to one’s desires. Simply put, you are your mind, and you have a body; as opposed to the traditional Christian view that you are both body and soul. In this, Descartes followed Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who believed that the goal of human knowledge should be to successfully achieve not stewardship of, but domination over, nature.”
I’ve certainly seen my fair share of derision launched at the enlightenment by conservative religious apologists, but his attack on Descartes seems particularly odd since he was both a Christian and a Catholic. He is at least as well known for an ontological argument for God’s existence as he is for his work in dualism. He also ties Descartes’ philosophy to Bacon’s even though the history of philosophy tends to place each of them in the opposing camps of rationalism and empiricism respectively.
However, what strikes me as most odd is blaming of Cartesian dualism on the sexual revolution. For one thing, people who reject theism generally also reject Cartesian dualism, in fact it would seem that materialists are required to reject Cartesian dualism. Furthermore, most Christians are dualists of some kind though they may not know or agree with Descartes particular formulation. It is technically possible to reject mind/body dualism and be a Christian but most, including Catholics, do believe that the soul or mind can and does separate from the body upon death, only to reunited with it in the second coming. This is why I find statements in this article like this so odd.
Books are still being written about what became known in philosophy as mind/body dualism, a view that is rejected by the Church. This dualistic view is assumed by most today, even though most don’t realize it or see how it informs even their most basic assumptions about reality, and other people.
It should also be noted that Descartes formulated his version of dualism to deal with what he saw as a fundamental epistemic problem so trying to connect this in some way to modern sexual mores in American is tenuous at best.
The contraceptive mentality, so identified by the Church, is a perfect example of what happens when we embrace dualism. Notice how the promoters of contraception promise a consequence-free control over our lives if we could just control our fertility with their drugs and devices. All the pleasure, none of that inconvenient fertility. My body is not me, exactly, it is an object for me to control for whatever reason I want; so sex is just about my pleasure, maybe someone else’s too. It is not necessarily about giving myself to the one I love with the possibility of creating new life as a result of that gift.
And later in the article
To go against our true nature is to fracture our natural sense of responsibility towards another. Does anyone not see this happening today?
While he has been critical of our use of Cartesian dualism to justify contraception, he is quick to make use of an even older argument to justify why we shouldn’t do this. For those who don’t recognize it, this is an example of a teleological argument, which can be found in both Plato and Aristotle. The argument can also be found being made in a famous example by the great philosopher “Winnie-the-Pooh.”
“Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.
“First of all, he said to himself: ‘That buzzing-noise means something. You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is that you’re a bee.’
“Then he thought another long time and said: ‘And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.’
“And then he got up and said: ‘And the only reason I know of for making honey is so I can eat it.’ So he began to climb the tree.”
Teleological arguments are usually a poor justification and represent lazy thinking. One of the reasons for this is demonstrated in the previous quote, people assume, not only that a final purpose exists, but that it matches whatever they personally happen value most, in the authors case this is clearly reproduction. I should also point out that we don’t need mind/body dualism to justify premarital or non-reproductive sex.
He closes with this.
Obviously, seriously bad ideas have seriously bad consequences. Father Paul Marx, the founder or Human Life International, affirmed the Church’s point in his autobiography based on his broad experience in traveling the world:
Having traveled and worked in 91 countries, I find no country where contraception has not led to abortion, to increasing fornication among the young, to divorce, and to all those other evils we see today that make up the international sex mess.
And it is quite a mess, isn’t it? The Gallup poll should serve as a wake up call. If we are serious about strengthening the family, promoting the well-being of children, reversing the growing number of broken marriages in our nation, ending abortion, upholding the dignity of the aged and ill, and promoting purity and chastity, then let’s be honest about where the moral breakdown begins.
I can’t speak for every country Marx has visited, but abortion rates have been falling in the U.S. steadily since the 1980’s. Promoting the well being and dignity of all people means that you have to actually listen to them, and consider the facts. Deciding for them, irrespective of their wishes, is not respect. Forcing an elderly person to suffer for months from a illness they cannot recover from, after they have requested they they be allowed to die, is not respecting them or their dignity. This article is clearly filled more with pejorative language and emotional manipulation than with factual information. With questions like this, like always, I highly recommend the use of well documented research like this paper, (conclusion quoted below)
Empirical study of the aggregate relationships between contraceptive use and induced abortion has to be limited to the few countries where reasonably reliable information exists on both. Despite this severe limitation, our review of the evidence provides ample illustration of the interaction between these factors. When fertility levels in a population are changing, the relationship between contraceptive use and abortion may take a variety of forms, frequently involving a simultaneous increase in both. When other factors—such as fertility—are held constant, however, a rise in contraceptive use or effectiveness invariably leads to a decline in induced abortion—and vice versa.
Monday, June 9, 2014
I just got through watching the debate that Matt Dillahunty did with Sye Ten Bruggencate. During the debate I noticed engaging in a tactic that I’ve dealt with many times in the various conversations and debates I’ve had over they years with fundamentalists, particularly those with a presuppositional bent to their apologetics. The tactic is to respond to any criticism of, or request for an explanation of some apparent problem in, Christianity by asserting that their opponent cannot account for some facet of of reality, usually logic or objective ethical propositions, and since they cannot account for those things then the Christian simply refuses to address the point.
The adage I’ve sometimes heard Christians use to explain this is “sitting in God’s lap to slap his face.” That is, they assert that the only way to account for the very system you are using to criticize a principal in Christianity is Christianity itself. I’ve seen these approach a number of times, including a Calvinist preacher who used to post here regularly a couple of years ago.
This tactic contains two separate claims. The first claim is that Christianity, or in the softer version of the argument a belief in a particular kind of god, provides a reasonable framework to justify belief in things like logic and objective morality. It should be noted that even when the softer version is offered by theists they will then usually follow with an assertion that only in their religion (typically Christianity or Islam) will you find a version of god which meets the definitional requirements needed to justify this God’s ability to be the source of these things.
The second claim is that no other systems besides their religion, or again in a softer version, any system that lacks a belief in god cannot ever account for these things in a logically consistent manner. Though again, most will assert that only a very specific type of god meets this requirement. W.L. Craig likes to assert his 7 attributes here.
The biggest problem with both claims is that they are bare assertions. It is taken as obvious by presuppositionalists that god is both necessary and sufficient to explain the existence of things like objective values and logical absolutes. On the first point specifically I think it fails quite simply because of the euthyphro dilemma. If logic was sourced in god then it would not be objective, rather it would be inherently relative. That is, what makes logical absolutes like the law of identity meaningful is that they are axiomatic, they are necessarily true, not only in this universe, but in any possible universe irrespective of any mind that might observe things.
If god willed into existence logical absolutes then it would be possible that he could have willed into existence a universe where the law of identity was not true, if he could not do so then then god is not the origin of the concept. He is, at most, a messenger for a concept that exists irrespective of his existence, and thus the concept of god is no longer needed to account for those things. This is why I’ve often argued that those who argued that god is the source of both morality and reason are the ultimate relativists despite their public eschewing of that term. On top of that problem there is an inherent epistemic problem with theistic morality. How do I determine what god, a supernatural being which I have no direct access to, has happened to declare as truth. I am convinced that, if it is at all possible to determine objective values, both theists and atheists, must do so without appealing to God. It is simply impossible, by definition, to speak of objective meaning coming from a god.
As for the second claim it would be make this post unreasonably long for me to go into a full justification for objective ethics and moral obligations from a secular perspective. I recommend is that you read my blog regularly as I talk about this subject quite often. I also recommend keeping up with Dan Fincke’s series on Empowerment Ethics. I won’t ever claim to address the subject as exhaustively as he has. As far as logic being objective, I personally think logic is axiomatic in nature and requires no external justification. Sye might find this justification unsatisfactory, but I can’t possibly see how one could find “God said so” to be more satisfactory.
Now, people like Sye might say that this isn’t sufficient justification for belief in logic, but understand he is arguing that from his world view, and under his presuppositions God is the ONLY reasonable justification for these things. What they often fail to realize or address is that I am not only under no obligation to accept his presuppositions (he acknowledges they are presuppositions) but actually think those presuppositions are wrong. The interesting thing was that in the debate Sye pretty much acknowledged that he actively refuses to consider the issue from any other perspective because he thinks to even entertain other perspectives as a thought experiment to be sinful.
However, besides the rational problems, I have a secondary problem with this argument when used as a tactic to avoid responding to a question, as Sye used it in the debate. In my opinion It is fundamentally disingenuous. Even if I were to assume that they are correct in their assertions that their system is objective and mine is not, their refusal to respond to a critique makes no sense. This is because when the question is posed I’m asking them to account for the problem from THEIR world view, not mine. It doesn’t actually matter if I can account for morality or logic in my world view, even though I believe I can do those things, because I’m asking them to present a consistent account of things from their system. The obvious reason for this transparent avoidance tactic is that rarely have a logically or ethically consistent response to the critique.
As I pointed out earlier using god as a justification ethics or logic necessarily makes you a relativist. This becomes obvious when we step away from absolute presuppositionalists like Sye and look at apologists like W.L. Craig who actually DO attempt to answer criticism. In these cases we often end up with things like his blatant attempt to justify genocides in the old testament. Of course when he is called out on that, just like Sye, he falls back on presuppositional arguments by claiming no atheists can criticize because only theists have an objective source for ethics. This behavior is not only circular it is designed to prevent the person from ever actually considering the possibility they could be wrong. The only people whose criticisms they will actually consider or respond too are those who already agree with them on the very thing being questioned. We shouldn’t let people off the hook for this sort of behavior. If a person can’t be bothered to actually attempt to answer critiques of their views why should we engage them? One could ask in what sense are they even really engaging in an actual debate?