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September 18, 2012


If the critic's objection does prove something, then do your best to answer it.

Anybody want to defend this message?


Nicely done Ron.

It would depend on what the critic's objection proves, RonH. I could be that her proof doesn't do much else, and so we should do our best to explain that. That's my take on this statement.

That's easy. The something that is proved is never the something which the critic claims it is.

"Anybody want to defend this message?"

...says the critic whose objection (question) does not prove anything.

Nicely done Ron.

I would need to hear Shermer's comment in context to know what exactly Koukl is responding to. Koukl's analogy of a snow storm does not hold up. We have an experiences of bad snowstorms. But one cannot argue from the account of a snow storm in one place or even over multiple places and then conclude that they go back to a worldwide snow storm.

It could be that these flood stories go back to a single source, but it could also be that they just represent a common experience (flooding) that imprints itself on the cultural psyche. 9/11 would be one of those events for our culture. These flood stories only occur in cultures where flooding it a common occurrence. This combined with the isolation of some of these cultures for tens of thousands of years, argues that these flood stories reflect various local experiences, rather than one common source. This argument would be more convincing if one could point to cultural stories of floods in cultures that historically have not experienced floods. I know of no such cases.

The Biblical account of the flood does seem to share a genealogical history with the flood stories in Sumeria (Eridu Genesis), Babylon (Atra-Hasis), and neo-Babylon (Epic of Gilgamesh) because of strong textual parallels. The Sumerian flood story (c.2150 BCE) was written down well over 1000 years before the Genesis account. The Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian cultures were the dominant cultures in turn in the Levant. Together these facts provide strong evidence that the Hebrew culture borrowed this flood story either directly or indirectly from their own cultural milieu. It could be that the Biblical, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian go back to an actual flood event. But this would be a local flood, not a worldwide flood.

Based on these and other facts, I would say that Koukl has not rebutted Shermer's argument as Koukl presents it. Again I would have to hear Shermer in the original context to know if this is what Shermer actually argues. If Shermer actually argues that these stories cannot be traced back to any flood event, then I agree that his argument is flawed. But if his argument is that Genesis borrows these stories, then I am in qualified agreement. However, Shermer cannot argue directly from the assertion of borrowing, to a conclusion that the biblical account is false. This does not follow.

I made a narrow point: If the critic's objection does, in fact, prove something then you need to concede that not answer it. You need to do this regardless of the consequences to your overall position.

SteveK, there's something to what you say. But why speak only of the case where 'her proof doesn't do much else'? Maybe it changes everything!


Why speak of that case, RonH? Because that is the only case I can think of where a "do your best to answer it" response fits.


In the name of clarity:

An objection is a kind of argument. (OP seems to think an objection is a claim.)

Proof is for math. (OP speaks of 'poor proof'.)

If an Objection O to an Argument A goes through, then A becomes less likely.

(If O can go through without harming A, then O is not an objection (to A).)

If O is successfully countered or 'answered', then A retains whatever probability it has without O.

Refuting O means showing O is false.

Rebutting O means 1) O has not been refuted and 2) cancels the effect of O on A with other argument or evidence. (OP is wrong here.)

Do you disagree with any of this?


Maybe that last bit will be clearer like this.

Rebutting O implies O has not been refuted.

Rebutting O means cancelling the effect of O on A with other argument or evidence. This implies that O has not been rebutted. (OP is wrong here.)


"Proof is for math. (OP speaks of 'poor proof'.)"



1.evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.

2.anything serving as such evidence: What proof do you have?

3.the act of testing or making trial of anything; test; trial: to put a thing to the proof.

4.the establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration.

5.Law . (in judicial proceedings) evidence having probative weight"

Looks as though the OP is within normal use of the words so far. If this were some sort of math site, proof could apply in its definition, but it'd be just at inappropriate to chastise ones use as though proof had only one meaning.

Dictionary.com again


1.a reason or argument offered in disagreement, opposition, refusal, or disapproval.


verb (used with object)
1.to demand by or as by virtue of a right; demand as a right or as due: to claim an estate by inheritance.

2.to assert and demand the recognition of (a right, title, possession, etc.); assert one's right to: to claim payment for services.

3.to assert or maintain as a fact"

Why the nitpicking with word uses? Objection/claim/assertion/argument, are all normally associated with debate and debating. The distinction you want to make is meaningless in this forum.

Brad B,

It was not me but the OP who set out to state a distinction between refuting and rebutting in the context of debate.

I laid out the standard distinction between these words in this context.

You, the OP, and SteveK are all free to use these words differently in this context.



If a critic's argument reliably demonstrates some condition as fact, or they state a claim that can be agreed upon as an intuitive, empirical, or otherwise warranted assertion, this ought to be conceded. As in, I concede your distinction between a mathematical proof and an argumentative claim.

In conceding a legitimate point raised as an objection to an argument, we can then ANSWER this point by arguing limits on the implications of this objection for our overall argument. This is what I take Melinda to have meant.

Are you parsing her choice of words, or do you disagree with the tactic she advises?

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