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.