Sunday, November 05, 2006

What We've got here...

is a failure to communicate.” - Tagline from Cool Hand Luke.

It is also, unfortunately, what happens most of the time when any Realist/Pragmatist/Atheist/Naturalist gets into a discussion with a Theist. There have been several theories put forth to explain this phenomenon, and maybe they all have some bearing. The most frustrated explanation I ever heard goes, “It’s like arguing with a juke box. They are loaded up with their talking points, and if you try to pin them down, they just put on a different record.”

I have had similar experiences. What we’ve had going here with Concernedengineer is a little like that at times, but to his credit, he has tried to engage on philosophical grounds. Therein lies a problem: we don’t seem to have quite the same definitions for our terms.

In his earliest comments on this blog, CE wanted to make the point that Atheist/Realists have presuppositions too. There is a kernel of truth in that, but there is also a big “however”. CE’s objective in making this claim is to prove that atheism is a religious belief, and falls under the umbrella of presuppositional apologetics, a.k.a. Presuppositionalism. I find this logic to be twisted, circular, self-serving, paranoid, and delusional. To the best of my understanding, the core belief of this argumentum ad nauseum is that without Triple-strength Jehovamagod ®, nothing else, including your and my conscious thought, is possible. From this position, a statement like, “I believe there is no god” becomes a presupposition based on the knowledge of god, and the rejection of that knowledge.

The classic lawyer trick, “Do you still beat your wife?” is an example of a presuppositional statement. Whether answered in the affirmative or negative, it presupposes that you were a wife beater at one time. The confusion inherent in the presuppositional theistic argument, as I see it, is confusion between the knowledge of an alleged thing, and knowledge of the existence of the thing itself. The followers of Van Til, Clark, and the other verbose crazies get around this problem by asserting that we all know god, we just delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t. At this point in the lecture, I hear a little voice in the back of my mind that sounds like Peewee Herman going, “I know you are but what am I?” This attitude seems to be one of the pillars of the Presuppositional argument: turning arguments back against those who posit them in a sort of one-way fashion, denying that they apply at least equally in the manner originally stated. They excuse their dogma from like scrutiny by maintaining a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, using that as an argument from authority, and remaining in deep denial over the inherent flaws, contradictions, and historical inaccuracies of that disgusting document.

Allow me to juxtapose a few of CE’s statements as an example of this form of denial.

“Aren't all arguments from authority ultimately circular?”

“… how do we know that the doctor is a legitimate authority on medicine. Well, he went to Med school, and probably spent the majority of his 20's studying all the books. Plus, he probably interned under other MD's, where he learned and acquired valuable experience. But how do we know the books are legitimate and that the other doctors were legitimate authorities themselves?Well, the authors of the books were M.D.'s and/or Ph.D.'s, etc. And the other doctors read the same or similar books and interned under qualified doctors?You can see that this goes on and on and on. The doctor is a professional because he read all the rights books. We know that the books are "right" because they were written by doctors. We know that those doctors are authorities because they read all the right books. We know that those authors are legitimate because they were doctors themselves. Circular arguments. No fallacies.”

This is a deliberate double obfuscation. First, it confuses regression with circularity. Perhaps CE is relying on the Presuppositionalist circular premise-and-conclusion that all arguments are ultimately circular. Second, it ignores salient facts. This is a card-trick argument, and I recognize it from many Sunday School teachers that used its like, either through innocent repetition or deliberate molestation of uninformed minds. You have only been shown what the trickster wants you to see. What he has left out, is the training, certification, peer review, internship, etc. that goes into making a medical doctor. In short, he has left out the actual practice of medicine. I can memorize a book on brain surgery, but that does not make me a brain surgeon. The ultimate measure of a doctor’s abilities is the results of his career. This is the documentation that makes him an expert. The peer process prevents quackery and murder and malpractice and fraud. This is not infinite regression because medical science, like any other body of knowledge, is growing through experiment and development. One cannot use this as a parallel for religion because religion is not knowledge; it is programmatic dogma.

“By the way, there is evidence to back up Christianity. I presented the titles to several books a while back. There is historical and archaeological evidence of the existence, the teachings, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

In a courtroom, it is not necessary to present evidence to remove all doubt, but only enough evidence to remove reasonable doubt.”

Much of this “evidence” was “discovered” centuries after the alleged incidents by Constantine and his whacky wife. They were looking for a religion that they could turn into an Official State Religion, with themselves in charge, of course. What possible motive would they have had for checking the facts instead of making them up to suit their purpose? Most of these holy places came complete with a hermit-monk that would panhandle the pilgrims. What possible motive would they have for passing off some hole in the ground as the Holy Sepulcher? Then there’s this, and this, and this, and this. Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page on that last one. I think that more than qualifies as “reasonable doubt”.

“Circular logic is not necessarily invalid. Furthermore, if the premises are true, and the form is valid, then it is sound.”

Circular logic might indeed be valid, but it does not prove anything.


At 11:37 AM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

It is impossible to wrestle a memoid from their convictions unless they want to escape. The whole idea of having an unprovable benchmark offers an escape clause into makebelieve neverland whenever necessary.

btw:I cannot believe how much work went into that Skeptic'sAnnotated Bible..(in my best Keanu impersonation) WHOA!

While it is rewarding to be able to defend your belief with logic, reason, science, history..basically everything that our species has ever learned, you can lead a horse to water but...

You and I must concede that most people crave for some kind of escape clause, beam me up Scotty, because the grim reality of life on this planet is so happenstance and that sucks and people are scared of dying and they need to believe that there is more to this world than what we can empirically experience!

Keep up the good fight but remember that people are either charming or tedious and there are great people who are theists who will take a bullet for you and there are complete assholes who are theists that will take your Grandma's last penny so that they can have an airconditioned Dog House.
The same thing applies to our side of the coin.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...


At 6:32 PM, Blogger kalanchoe542 said...

In my lexicon, circular logic is the pleading rationalization that issues forth from the wide open mouth of the incurable asshole as he realizes that he is circling the bowl, about to be flushed......

It's good to feel human again. How's the knee, BL? Enjoying that PT (pain and torture)?

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

I just had a go around with a fundie on a new atheist forum I just found at This one wanted to discuss Atheism on pholosophical grounds, but it was so frustrating reading all the twisted crap they wrote that I just about put my head through the wall. I just want then to stop proseltysing and asking pointless questions. They are all caught up on the atheist denial falicy. Ughh! Ultimately, I just told them that because they believe they are unable to understand atheism. Whatever. I am just going to be altercative from now on. What a waste of time to try to reason with these morons. I have been reminded. I invite you to check it out and spray some insecticide- forum, religion and spirituality, atheism.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger The Editor said...

Prof. Dawkins argument is that irrational belief is a by product of other more useful functions of the brain. e.g. A childs willingness to accept as gospel anything its parents or elders say 'don't go near the river or the crocodiles will eat you'. This is adaptive in a Darwinian sense, as the non believers would tend to be eaten. So natural selection has favoured unquestioning belief in the young hence the tooth fairy and everything else that makes no sense, so I blame the parents...

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous ConcernedEngineer said...

Cool Hand Luke was a great movie. Loved it. Especially that line. Good times.

" I find this logic to be twisted, circular, self-serving, paranoid, and delusional."

It is not twisted logic. It is careful observation. The logic is valid.

On circular logic, we have agreed that circular arguments can be sound - even if they do not prove anything. However, I am merely pointing out that atheists have their set of presuppositions just like everyone else - a little fact that many people do not seem to get. I am trying to increase peoples' knowledge.

Self-serving - I am serving myself in the sense that if you convert to Christianity, then you get salvation and all kinds of other great benefits. This leads to me having increased joy. It also means that we would have a more just and humane society (which would be a benefit for me). It also would mean that we would be spiritual brothers and friends(another increased benefit for me). Of course, we can be friends before you convert.

So yeah... I suppose in a sense, I am being "self-serving." I am a "Christian Hedonist." I am trying to live a pleasurable life. I am seeking to find my ultimate pleasure in living completely for God. When tempted to do wrong, I fight perverted pleasure with godly pleasure. Does this make me self-serving? Well, it does mean that I look out for my own welfare - as well as the welfare of others.

Paranoid... Hmmm. Being paranoid means that you are afraid of something that is not a threat. But secularism is a very real threat to everything that I hold dear. Secular psychology is often delusional (your next word) and has often served as a replacement for faith in God. With God out of the public school system, teachers are not allowed to call sin, sin. But children still sin. So, now, it is not sin. It is not bad. It is not even immoral. It is a psychological problem. It is a disability. Just give kids more Ritalin. Never mind the fact that they really need attention, love, and discipline. Never mind that they need to be rebuked for their sin, and they need to be comforted with the knowledge that a wonderful Savior died on the cross to take that sin away.

I'm not the one delusional here. You are.

Don't get me wrong. Not all psychology and psychiatry is bad or inappropriate.

"From this position, a statement like, “I believe there is no god” becomes a presupposition based on the knowledge of god, and the rejection of that knowledge."

Not quite. Your presupposition that there is no god is not based on the knowledge of God at all. You are, I believe, sincerely deceived. However, I do believe that at some point in your life, that deception was invited and welcomed. The thing about deception though is that it is very deceptive. How would a deceived person know he is deceived?

God has made His truth plain to those who desire to know His truth. But since people have rejected God, they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They have suppressed the truth of God. Such a person is then given over by God to a depraved mind. (Romans 1) This does not mean that people with depraved thinking are not intelligent. You can be very intelligent - yet still depraved. But intelligence does not equal wisdom. You can not be wise if you have a depraved mind. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom."

I have not asked, "Do you still beat your wife?".

"The followers of Van Til, Clark, and the other verbose crazies get around this problem by asserting that we all know god, we just delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t."

I am certainly not making this assertion. In my limited reading of Van Til, I have not seen him make this assertion either. On the contrary, it is clear that you do not know God. Knowledge that you could have of God has been suppressed. Perhaps knowledge that you did have of God has been lost. Since you have not retained the knowledge that you could have and that you might have once had, you have been given over to depraved thinking. (Romans 1)

"First, it confuses regression with circularity. Perhaps CE is relying on the Presuppositionalist circular premise-and-conclusion that all arguments are ultimately circular."

This is a good point. There is a difference between circular reasoning and regression. But I am saying that regression has a start somewhere. When you talk about the starting point, it is kind of like asking which came first - the chicken or the egg?

But let me illustrate my poing with an example. Do me the favor of explaining to me why our government should be secular? Or, if you would rather, explain to me why murder is "wrong"? And here is a rule: You can not use any circular arguments. I'm all ears.

The medical doctor analogy does somewhat break down. For through the scientific method, inductive reasoning, and statistics (of course, first presupposing that what we observe empirically is real and that we are not the figment of some alien's imagination), we can know things about medicine.

But my argument works when we discuss morality and ethics - subjects that science can not touch, but must be dealth with by philosophy and/or theology. Here, the scientific method, inductive reasoning, and statistics does not help us at all.

I will discuss the evidences of Christianity at a later time.

God bless you.


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