The False Burden

Occasionally I visit a site called It’s exactly what it says it is – a site where people can start and take part in debates. These have a set structure and can take place in written or video form. The site could be better, and a lot of people treat it as a vehicle to start debates in order to boost their stats (they stack the deck in their favour with the question they ask and the rules of the debate), but there is room to grow.

I am in fact engaged in a debate as I type. I’m posting it here, for posterity. My posts are in blue, ViceRegent’s are in purple. The debate header is ‘how do atheists know fact from fiction?’


Atheists love to live under the delusion that they are the guardians of rationality. But how can they hold this title when they cannot even articulate a rational way to know truth from fiction. If they cannot do this, they are literally ignorant and the ignorant cannot guard anything. SO, BY WHAT METHOD DOES ANY ATHEIST CLAIM TO RATIONALLY KNOW TRUTH FROM FICTION?

Answering this question is the sole purpose for this debate. I have even put it in capital letters for those to dense to get it. If you are unable or unwilling to answer this question, do not respond to this debate. Likewise, if you do not believe in reality, believe you make it up or deny it is objective or knowable, or if you do not know how to rationally know truth from fiction, do not respond to this debate. If you are terrified of cross-examination or madly in love with red herrings, do not respond to this debate. If you have responded before, do not respond to this debate. After all, if you had nothing rational to say then, you will having nothing rational to say now.

If all you have is “science”, do not respond to this debate, for science relies on the your senses and reason, which begs the question of how you know your senses and reason are valid. Perhaps you can tell me, which is fine, but if the way you validate you senses and reason is with your senses and reason, you lose the debate because that is circular reasoning and circular reasoning is not rational.

if you respond in violation of these rules, you automatically lose the debate.

This is what I mean by stacking the deck. ViceRegent doesn’t want the scientific explanation – he wants to turn to metaphysics, and is therefore trying to squeeze the debate down a specific direction.

I’ve also highlighted what I consider to be a verrrry interesting sentence. As the discussion wears on, we shall see why I noted it.

I’ll bite on this one. Your question is how atheists know truth from fiction – firstly, I would seek clarification here – when you refer to ‘truth’, in what context do you apply the term? Is it in the sense of ‘fact from fiction’, in respect of our existence and the world around us? And what is the counter-point to this? Are you addressing your side of this debate from a religious perspective?

Your opening argument tells people to not use science, as science is based on senses. What would you use to judge the world around us, other than our senses? Observation of the world we live in has been central to our progress throughout human history. If not for applying principles of observation and deduction, how would we have ever developed the wheel, much less anything else?

How do I know my senses are valid? I know my sense of touch is valid by the simple observation that if I touch a flame, it burns and hurts. I know my sense of hearing is valid because I can hear my daughter singing, even though she’s supposed to be asleep.

The manner in which you have set up your question is deliberately designed to remove the most straight-forward and best means of addressing it. I would have to ask why? What would you replace observation and study with, when determining what is fact and what is fiction about our universe?

This dude is confused. He pretends he does not understand my question, but answers it anyway, proving anything are delusional.

He then says he knows his senses are valid because they provide him valid sensory input. Really? Man, I love the smell of cognitive dissonance and question begging in the morning. Dude, how do you know that what you perceive as a candle that burns is not really your daughter singing? And try not to argue irrationally this time.

I’m not really sure how questioning his false dilemma is being irrational, but sadly this appears to be the route ViceRegent wishes to take. His use of ad hominems isn’t exactly adding to his argument either.

With all due respect, from the increase in the rhetoric (which was also present in your first post), I have to draw into question why you posed this question, in the manner you did. You failed to address my point about what you would replace study and observation with, and failed to explain why you need to remove this principle from the equation.

It seems to me you need to remove science from the equation because you are arguing (however subtly) that the key reason we perceive anything is because God or a deity of some description is the driving force behind how we separate fact from fiction. This is why you are keen to remove anything that can threaten this notion – and why you are attempting to reject argument framed from a scientific perspective. You cannot argue against principles such as nerve impulses firing signals to our brains that tell us we have heard a sound or experienced a physical sensation, so you seek to remove them from the discussion entirely.

That is intellectually dishonest. You are trying to stack the deck so you can get only one possible answer.

How do I separate the fact that 1+1 = 2 from the fiction that 1+1 = 3? Because we have built complex machines from such facts, and if they were in fact, not true and not demonstrable, these machines should cease to function. They are built upon our observed understanding of the universe, and this is not fiction, otherwise we not be able to use this understanding to help us create things like microwave ovens and computers.

I wonder if you will now attempt to address my rebuttal, or will you ramp up your rhetoric again?

This fool continues to beg the question. He continues to say his senses are valid because of what his senses perceive. I will ask him one more time: how does he know that the candle that he perceives to burn his fingers is not really his daughter singing? I will put this more simply with the hope he will get it this time: the world is full of delusional people. How does he know he is not one of them.

Nothing here but more insults and a further attempt to justify why he needs to remove science in order to make his point. He cannot form this question without taking science out of the equation, because he knows it invalidates his (poorly defined) position.

From your increasing hostility I have to call into question whether you want a rational discussion, or merely a platform from which to spout anti-scientific propaganda. I will ask YOU once again – why do you feel the need to remove science from the equation? Why are you afraid of rational explanations for why we experience the world in the fashion that we do?

How do I know when I have burned myself? Because the nerve endings in my finger process the sensation and send it to my brain. What alternative suggestion do you have for how I know I’ve burned myself? What is YOUR answer to the question? Or will you continue to fail to address the arguments presented, in favour of your bizarre insistence that we cannot use logic and observation to reach conclusions?

Now he has run from the Q I actually asked substituting it for one I did not. Amazingly, what this fool does not get is that I am denying he has any way of knowing he has burned himself given his worldview. He proves this by not even understanding what I am asking him let alone having an answer. He loses the debate.

Your declaration of victory is premature. 

Your question is dishonest. Since you cannot argue against scientific means of measurement you seek to remove them entirely. You have asked this question multiple times within the past few days or so, and I suspect you will get similar answers. They won’t be the answers you’re looking for, but that’s because won’t play your game.

Let me ask you – how YOU know you have burned yourself? Because God told you? Are you capable of answering your own question in a logical fashion, or would you shirk from this, using insults to cover the weakness in your position? 

This debate, and some additional thoughts, can be viewed here, if anyone wants to take a look. 

So there you have the complete article, as it were. I invite readers to make up their own minds.