Tabash-Friel Debate on God's Existence, 3-26-07

By Daniel Morgan

The debate bode very well for atheism, and very poorly for any future hope for Friel at a career in philosophy. I think Eddie won handily. Friel basically sermonized and waxed emotive all night. His only arguments were from incredulity and ignorance (something I expected, from personal experience with him and the general creationist style). He honestly sounded more like a guy trying to convert a bunch of teenagers than someone attempting to make a rational case for theism. But...make up your mind for yourself, and leave a comment.

I really won't go any further than that, because I swear I don't think Friel is worth the analysis. He had nothing new, and what older arguments he did have were mangled versions (e.g., the first cause argument), which Eddie was able to refute, as he was met only with more personal incredulity and appeals to ignorance.

I was unable to tape Eddie's opening because I was limited by lack of equipment, but his arguments for naturalism were almost identical to what he presented (see below) to AAFSA last Sunday, albeit abbreviated, since he had 15 mins instead of 45 -- Eddie opened with arguments against the supernatural along Humean lines: miracles, the argument from physical minds, arguments against an afterlife, the argument from divine hiddenness, and the problem of evil. It was typical Eddie -- cogent, precise and clear.

The Center for Inquiry - Daytona came off looking great, from their representation to the graphics and banners and the ACLU table. Props to them for their hard work -- they were all really nice and appeared to have taken this project quite seriously.

My seat for part 1 gave me a poor angle to begin with, and the issue of quality was compounded because I was only able to post this in low-res as the shitty Google Video Desktop Uploader for large files wasn't working earlier (no matter what I tried) with the hi-quality versions. I have DVDs (hi-res, 3.0Mbps) burned, and if you want a DVD, email me and we'll negotiate the $***. I also have Eddie's talk at UF encoded and burned to DVD, and am uploading it to GV right now.

Here is part 1 of 2, which I recommend watching below as GV stretches it out and makes it look even worse at their site:

Here is part 2 of 2 of the debate:

Here is part 1 of 2 of Eddie's talk at UF on 3-25-07:

And finally, here is part 2 of 2 of Eddie's talk at UF:

Please leave thoughts and comments below.
***To cover my time and media/shipping expenses -- I think $10, including S&H, is fair. You can pay me via mailed check, but I would prefer using the PayPal function on my own webpage, it will expedite the process and make record-keeping easier. Go down to the bottom of the left sidebar, where it says "Austausch", and use it there (I prefer it over Amazon). Again, email me and we'll negotiate.

PS: I'm always amazed by how differently two eyewitnesses can report the facts about an event -- see here for someone who thinks that atheists were "humiliated" by Eddie's performance...

You be the judge.
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Tim said...

HAHAHA OMG! In the first 60 seconds he admits that forming a word by chance can actually happen! Oh my! So, if his analogy happens with chemicals then a simple structure that forms at random could POSSIBLY connect to form a more complex structure. He also didn't allow for the scrabble piece to land on its side! Typical ignorant, blind Christian. I find that I cannot tolerate watching these people talk for more than about 60 seconds.


ChrisC said...

It astounds me that the apologetics can at least pay lip service to metaphysical arguments, but then base their entire reasoning that Jesus even existed on the claims of a handful of people. Y'know that just cos one guy claims that 500 odd saw jesus doesn't mean that 500 even did. Those 500 probably wouldn't be alive to dispute what the gospels when they approached anywhere near their current draft!

There's also the issue of what did the catholic church do when it found heretic documents. Criticism from Joe Blogs who actually saw Jesus would probably not make it to print. If it did then it would hardly go very far afterall there was no roman contemporary of the skeptic society ready to expose one new cult in the mess that was the ancient world.

On the subject of J Caesar there are coins for one thing. A rather expensive conspiracy for no clear goal. Also it's hardly as though most of us base our lives about whether Caesar existed. If it was important to me as Christ is to the Christians then I'd like to know alot more.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow. I've never seen a theist make a more pathetic showing at a debate. Friel's performance consisted of the following:

Content: "You're a sinner, you suck! You better be God's bitch or else you'll go to hell! And you'd deserve it. From God's point of view, he made you, so he can treat you like shit."

Form: 6th to 7th grade schoolboy level of maturity and appeal to emotion as opposed to intellectual arguments.

Anonymous said...

I am really appalled by Friel's sarcasm, constant use of ad hominem and ridicule, and outright immaturity. Where did this jerk come out of?

nsfl said...


I agree entirely that Friel not only represents the bottom of the barrel in intellectual rigor, but also in virtue and character. He used to be a stand-up comic, for years, in fact, and so I can't help but think that some of the cynicism and performance art he acquired from that is indelibly etched into his personality.

Anonymous said...

That Friel guy is the reason religion has no business in secular politics. He is what i consider a true christian. Justifying murder as gods mercy.
scary stuff.

Anonymous said...

"its fuzzy till the end."
kinda like that fuzzy math GW talks about... "you gotta fudge the numbers"

crack me up

Anonymous said...

That Friel guy almost talks like Dr.Dino. Talk fast so that no one understands you and try to sound like you have all the answers, but at the same time dodging all the questions.

I Like Tabash, I just wish he was a better speaker. He sometimes talks in mono-tone voice.

Anonymous said...

i think he speaks in a monotone because he's trying not to lose his cool. Seriously-that todd guy pissed me off so much i could not finish watching the video! He's so condescending.

Jim Arvo said...

Here are a few comments about the debate (although I admit that I too had difficulty watching the whole thing, as Friel was so utterly annoying and, frankly, Tabash was a bit hard to listen to).

First, Friel continually invoked that old straw man about the "improbability" of molecules like DNA just popping into existence. I was disappointed that Tabash did not jump on this ridiculous line of reasoning by pointing out, for example, that his Scrabble example completely missed the point. Nobody claims that long DNA molecules popped into existence fully formed. Even if they did, there would be no organism to decode them. The whole argument is a straw man. What Friel and practically every other creationist on the face of the Earth ignores is feedback,as I've said a million times. When molecules self assemble and replicate (and there are many that do), and the environment conspires to promote the formation of some molecules at the expense of others, interesting things can happen. One need not posit anything approaching the complexity of current organisms to see how evolution can gain a foothold, and thereby bootstrap to immense complexity. While the actual mechanism by which this may have happened is still unknown, it's not a total mystery. One thing is absolutely clear: feedback (e.g. via natural selection) must have played a crucial role, even at the level of proto-cells.

I had a good laugh over Friel's justification for using the Bible to support his theology. He said something like "if you want to see if George Bush is the president, you can look in the window of the Oval Office and see for yourself." The implication being that looking in the Bible was much the same thing. Wow.

If someone says the word "unicorn" is in the Bible then, yes, it makes perfect sense to go look. To confirm or disprove such a statement, the Bible itself is sufficient. But that's not the type of statement made by theists. They claim that what is found in the Bible is an accurate description of reality. Looking at what the Bible says is totally insufficient to prove that its words are in fact true. Similarly, if one claims that what George Bush says is true, it does not suffice to peer in the window of the Oval Office. Does Friel actually think that his analogy is apt? Makes me wonder.

Friel also deploys the old canard of "progressive revelation", claiming again and again that the OT contains "shadowy descriptions" that become more vivid in the NT. This, supposedly, makes it more likely that what the NT says is actually true.

I say, yes, of course the Bible is "progressive" in a sense, as its later stories were written by those who knew and believed the earlier stories. So I agree that the Bible is "progressive" by design. I agree that the "shadowy" descriptions are there by design. The question is when it was designed, and by what/whom. Friel claims it was designed in advance, presumably by god, while I claim that it was almost certainly designed after the fact by humans who drew heavily from the OT and incorporated large chunks of it into the NT. Both "explain" the foreshadowing, however one requires an infinitely fantastic assumption, and the other requires nothing but commonplace occurrences, of which we have innumerable examples.

Friel says "Atheists have no teleology...".

That's another line that made me laugh. He says that like it's a bad thing! Who says we need a teleology? By insisting that this is somehow necessary, he is again begging the question, for the assertion that only a teleological explanation will suffice is equivalent to the assertion that only the god explanation is acceptable, which is nothing but a bald assertion. Nice try, Friel, but circularity proves nothing.

Friel also injects some knee-slappingly ridiculous "mathematics", stating that the odds of one man fulfilling just eight of the so-called prophecies is "one in 10 to the 17'th"; that is, one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. I practically fell off my chair. This is beyond ridiculous. He did not even bother mentioning which "eight prophecies" he had in mind, so I assume he meant that any eight would do! He gave absolutely no indication how such a number would be arrived at--i.e. how one would gauge the likelihood of such occurrences (whatever they were). But above all, he clearly had no inkling that there might be other explanations for the so-called "prophecies", such as mythological embellishment, midrashic interpolation, mistranslation, etc. I'd say the "odds" of the latter approach certainty given the propensity of believers to embellish stories to further "glorify" their respective gods.

I could go on and on and on... But, I've got better things to do.

Bill B said...

I've only seen the first video so far, but the one fact that stands out is the way the Christian will say we are atheists because we don't want to answer to God. Yea right, never mind the fucking facts.

It is something once you are wearing atheist glasses and you listen to someone like Friel go at it, no matter how brilliant he may seem to some, all I see is just the spinning of total utter nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I wish Robert Price would debate Friel. He would crush him so badly. Then again, it would be an insult to Price to pit him against such an unworthy opponent.

eel_shepherd said...

Tim wrote:
"...In the first 60 seconds he admits that forming a word by chance can actually happen!..."

I totally missed that. The guy argued half of the evolution argument. Now, if only he'd observed that if the word thus formed gained some sort of advantage, and would therefore persist, he'd have made the case for evolution through natural selection! All he needed was a little more rope and he'd have hanged himself.

Telmi said...


Is it possible to obtain a reading copy [preferably a soft copy] of the words spoken by the two debaters and, if so, how and the cost in dollar terms?

Telmi said...


I wish to have a transcript [preferably a soft copy] of the speech made by each debater. Is this possible and, if so, how and the cost in dollar terms?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this debate. I am a Christan and I had been looking for it for quite some time.

God Bless.

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