Sye Ten Bruggencate
Sye is internet famous for having one idea, which isn’t as interesting as it first appears. He is also a regular contributor to Eric Hovind’s ‘Creation Today’ web series of videos on anti-science, and biblical literalism, which preaches wilfully incorrect information on certain scientific facts, so as to indoctrinate children and vulnerable adults.* (N.B., please see clarification below).
Ten Bruggencate is extremely sincere in his religious beliefs and enthusiastic about sharing them with others. The achilles heel of his argument, is a coupling of his refusal to accept the syllogism at the heart of his own proposal, with his eagerness to reassign this characteristic towards anyone who happens to point it out.
TAG apologetics rises and falls on a reworking of a very old problem in the philosophy of mind; how do we know what we know is true, if we judge the reliability of our understanding in a given area, according to attributes which are inherent to the very knowledge we wish to measure.
Taking morality, as an example of that which we wish to measure, Sye’s position is that we can only know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, if we have an absolute standard of morality by which to judge our actions against. As a Christian, Sye’s absolute standard of morality is the God of the bible, Yahweh.
Presented with the fact that, in the Yahweh myth, His adherents are repeatedly commanded to carry out acts of genocide, rape, enslavement, torture and the genital mutilation of infants, Sye’s position is that those who point out this obvious challenge to Yahweh’s moral authority, are in no position to judge God’s actions, since the atheistic worldview cannot account for an absolute standard of morality.
He repeats this over and over on the assumption it will eventually either make sense, or distract attention away from the fact that the non-theistic position on morality doesn’t depend on the kind of absolutism he nevertheless insists it does.
Ten Bruggencate has said he does not believe there is any such thing as an atheist — that those who describe themselves as such, are merely in wilful denial of what they know to be true. In that belief, his most notorious 15 megabytes of fame came when he issued a challenge to debate atheism versus Christianity to the world famous illusionist, public speaker, outspoken atheist, executive producer of the TV series ‘Bullshit’ and one half of the magic due Penn & Teller, Penn Jillette.
There is no evidence Mr. Jillette ever received an official invitation to this debate, and the only mention of it ever having been issued is contained on pro-creationist websites, to which Mr. Ten Bruggencate is either directly or loosely affiliated.
Sye’s one idea, comes in the form of a challenge which he himself refuses to accept. On his website, he presents a page of buttons which appear to beg a series of multiple choice questions on logic and rational thinking. No matter which button is clicked, each link either leads back to the previous page, or a multi-self-refuting article on truth-claims, based upon the book of Romans 1:18-21. The coup de gras being a click-through to the final page, which simply reads, “The Proof that God exists is that without Him you couldn’t prove anything.”
In 1920, the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists declared metaphysical truth-claims of this nature as essentially meaningless, so as to clarify the definition of concepts in empirical science as an exploration of their immediately observable content. This strict definition was later relaxed by Karl Popper, who favoured the falsifiability of a theory over the verifiability of a hypothesis. The logic circuits in the machine you are using to read this document function according to this kind of deductive process.
Sye’s entire argument is predicated upon a semantic confusion between strict definitions and informal meaning; a blurring of the line between a description of X and an analysis of the description itself. The mental acrobatics he has to perform, when presented with this fact, very often result in a dark satire of religious group-think and other forms of confirmation bias. That he is completely oblivious to the fact he demonstrates this every time he opens his mouth, has made him the unwilling poster child of circular reasoning in atheist debating circles, albeit to an extremely limited clique.
Because of this, it has been argued that to merely engage him on the intellectual level he incorrectly assumes he is capable of operating, is to give the fish all the oxygen he needs to outgrow his small pond. Others have argued that it is better to examine his ideas and reveal their weaknesses, than allow him to continue operating under the delusion that they are not without merit.
Ten Bruggencate therefore has a number of outstanding challenges open to him on the many websites which he floods with received opinions on a range of topics — very often straying into subjects irrelevant to the topic of the original discussion. He rarely responds to any of these questions directly, choosing instead to preach misinformation about the people who issue these challenges, to the limited audience of fundamentalist evangelicals oblivious to his bait and switch techniques, exemplified in the Dr. Dino franchise.
His repeated refusals to engage with his many critics, on any topic outside of the TAG — married to his all broadcast and no receive, aggressive attitude; including but not limited to threats of eternal damnation in the fires of hell, has seen him banned from a number of blogs and comment forums. Unfortunately for the moderators of these sites, this merely plays into his underlying persecution complex, leading him to play the hurt feelings card with anyone exclusively willing to listen to his side of the story.
Since the internet is resplendent with an all-too-ready audience, waiting to accept any bad news they can get about “pesky atheists”, the majority of Ten Bruggencate’s supporters are almost completely unaware of the actual reasons behind the decision to ban or moderate his comments — choosing instead to assume it is his ideas which atheists find challenging, when in reality it is the arduous task of dealing with someone only interested in listening to themselves.
Edit: 2011-12-04T17:29:20+00:00. In the original version of this document, in paragraph two, it was asserted that ‘Creation Today’ employ methods of “passive aggressive child abuse” to further their cause. Sye Ten Bruggencate asked for this phrase to be removed. In a previous edit, a clarification of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse” was amended to this article, and Mr. Ten Bruggencate again asked for it to be removed.
It is the long-held, publicly stated opinion of secular humanists, that to wilfully present information known to be false, in order to indoctrinate children towards a particular religious belief, is a form of child abuse.
The use of mythological imagery, such as the eternal fires of hell, for example, are often used as a threat of punishment for “the sin” of accepting certain scientific facts. This is a concept used repeatedly by Mr. Ten Bruggencate.
Hell is also used to persuade children of certain religious dogmas, as if the concept of hell is a true description of an actual physical place, as opposed to being a part of allegorical folklore.
Despite this, Mr. Ten Bruggencate has suggested that the use of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse”, in reference to his role in the ‘Creation Today’ video series, is litigious.
In a previous edit to this article, Mr. Ten Bruggencate was invited to, therefore, present evidence of the following claims, central to the ‘Creation Today’ series, that a) the earth is not 4.54 billion years old and b) Darwinian evolution by natural selection is false. He was also invited to produce c) empirical evidence that hell is an actual place which non-Christian people go to when they die.
Mr. Ten Bruggencate has yet to present any such evidence of these claims. Should he do so at a later date, the producers of this website are happy to issue an apology to ‘Creation Today’ and Mr. Ten Bruggencate personally, for any confusion which the use of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse” may have caused. Nevertheless, in the interest of clarity, it has now been replaced with a less ambiguous description of the ‘Creation Today’ modus operandi.