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Beware! Presuppositionalists!

I see that Aron Ra is wrestling with a presuppositionalist. Presuppositionalists are incredibly obnoxious debaters, and right now, it’s the most common tactic creationists use to defend their nonsense, thanks to Answers in Genesis, which has been pushing it hard.

We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the ultimate biblical approach to apologetics. The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.

Presuppositionalism is basically a false equivalency. They argue that there is merely a difference in the foundation of the creationist and scientific views: the creationist builds on their presupposition that the Bible is true, while the scientist builds on the presupposition that the Bible is false and that atheism is true. It’s the first thing Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum” throws at attendees, with a display of a fossil with a paleontologist and a creationist each interpreting it in their own way. Here’s a set of bones, the paleontologist says; I think they were deposited 70 million years ago, and buried under river sediment. Here’s a set of bones, the creationist says; I think they were deposited in a great flood 4,000 years ago, and buried under the flood sediments. See? Same facts, just different interpretations.

That is, of course, nonsense. There are logical/philosophical arguments against presuppositionalism (there are good examples in the comments at Aron’s blog), but I guess I’m not a philosophical thinker in that same vein — they all seem to twisty and abstract for me, and I don’t really trust those kinds of rebuttals. Too often it feels like you can use philosophy to argue both sides of a position, and when you’re dealing with creationists, they’re mainly using philosophy badly with intent to obfuscate. I’d rather not use a tool I’m not strong in to battle with someone whose skill lies in abusing that same tool — it sounds like a formula for a very bad debate.

I have two arguments I use against them, arguments that are more comfortable for someone with an empirical sort of brain.

One is that they’re being dishonest. They have not presented the totality of the facts at hand, but are being extremely selective. Good science must encompass all that we know, not just the cherry-picked bits selected to avoid compromising your favorite hypothesis. That fossil is not just a set of bones; it’s part of an assemblage, which is part of a complex series of layers, which have compositions and arrangements with known mechanisms to produce them. We also have physical and chemical data about the composition of the mineralized bones, and about the ratios of isotopes in surrounding rocks. We know about the world-wide distribution of related fossils, we know the ecological context of that specimen, we understand the taphonomy of fossils. The presuppositionalist requirement demands that all data that contradicts the Biblical explanation be ignored, set aside with the excuse that legitimate data would not contradict the fable told in the book of Genesis.

The Biblical explanation is not an adequate alternative hypothesis. It fails any scientific test. If it were simply a completely parallel, independent explanation of the same set of observations, it would explain all of the shared observations, and would also open the door to predictions that would allow us to test differences.

My second argument is that their Biblical explanations are not actually foundational. Even the true believers do not operate as if the Bible were a truly sufficient source of answers for navigating the real world.

Foundational presuppositions ought to be much more fundamental than that the Bible is literally true. To me, the really basic assumptions are that I exist; that the world exists; that I can sense this world imperfectly; that there are other beings with whom I can communicate (imperfectly again) who are also trying to sense the nature of this world. From there we try to build a coherent model of that perceived world, using as much evidence as we can glean.

So the Bible and other ancient texts are part of that information, but only a very small part of the whole context, which includes trees and oceans and stars and mathematics and language and monkeys and physics and vacuums and biology. The presuppositionalist who says the total foundational premises of his view of the universe are determined entirely by one holy book is crippling their inputs — it’s like trying to read a book through a pinhole and refusing to ever turn a page. When you look at the totality of available information, you should quickly discover that the Bible is both insufficient and wrong…an observation that is most consistent with the authors of the book being limited and fallible human beings rather than an omniscient superman.

Now I suppose a confident presuppositionalist could assert that the whole of the great book of the universe is derivable from that one tiny pinpoint on one page that they claim is the entirety of their presuppositional foundation, and that they don’t need all that other stuff like science to establish their place on the universe. But they give the lie to that claim with everything they do. They could resolve every contradiction between the Bible and reality by simply saying that God made it so: he miraculously and intentionally created the world with an illusion of great age, conjured up the fossilized bones of creatures that never actually existed, and whisked away all the physical evidence of a global flood — he miraculously poofed everything into existence with attributes that are only ascribable to his ineffable will. It’s all just a big miracle!

But they don’t really believe that. If they did, they wouldn’t feel this pitiful need to reconcile the observations of science with their complete and perfect picture of how the universe came to be in 6 days 6000 years ago. They wouldn’t have to build museums with animatronic dinosaurs to twist about the words of paleontologists. They wouldn’t be making fancy videos with glitzy animations to convince people of their version of history. They wouldn’t be arguing about the evidence with scientists. The Creation “Museum” would just be a small chapel with a Bible on a stand, nothing more.

But it isn’t.

Because they know that their sacred text is not sufficient. They also know it is so thick with contradictions with the real world that they need to hire teams of desperate tap dancers and gimmicky prestidigitators to distract the rubes from noticing the failings, and they need to dissuade everyone from questioning their claims with threats of hell. I might be more sympathetic to their assertion of the sufficiency of their presuppositions if they didn’t have to swaddle them so thoroughly with all the trappings of charlatanry.

But Aron Ra’s wife was asking for a simple refutation of presuppositionalism. There isn’t one. I like to use the gritty complexity of everything, an everything that isn’t described anywhere in the Bible, to highlight the inadequacy of their premises, but it rarely has much effect, because every presuppositionalist I’ve ever meet refuses to look beyond the intentionally and entirely artificially limited boundaries of their predetermined worldview. I do think that ultimately it is only a confrontation with reality that can wake them up; otherwise, they’ll just sit there spinning in their snug little cocoon of circular logic.

Comments

  1. says

    I thought that the whole point of presuppositionalism is to undermine whatever you say because you cannot use logic to justify your logic.

    Interpretation of evidence is something completely different, as far as I’m aware.

    This is what makes presuppositionalism so infuriating and unreasonable. You’re not allowed to use logic to argue against it, because to do even that would be circular.

    As I said in the comments to Aron Ra’s post, I think you need to admit that you cannot justify your use of logic. Admit that you presuppose it. But then to say that unless your opponent claims that using logic is not valid, then we both agree that logic is valid so logical arguments should be admissable in refuting creationism.

    If your opponent claims that using logic is not valid, then your opponent has admitted that he or she is unreasonable and thus there’s no point in continuing the conversation. You’ve already won.

  2. says

    Yes, but like I said, I’m not keen on purely philosophical arguments — gimme data. Besides, they don’t even believe in the sufficiency of logic, or they wouldn’t be making all those pseudoscientific claims of having evidence for Noah’s Ark, polonium halos, flood-killed fossils, etc.

  3. madscientist says

    The short story is that “presuppositionalism” is nothing but a lie concocted in hopes that people would be fooled into believing that religious claptrap and science are somehow equivalent. Science considers all evidence and rejects faulty hypotheses while religion rejects all evidence which does not appear to support its faulty hypotheses – the two are naturally and inextricably opposed and only the delusional can claim that they are reconcilable. This is why rocket scientists working independently in different parts of the world can achieve the same results while absolutely no two religions or even 2 sects or 2 congregations for that matter agree on much at all.

  4. says

    We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the ultimate biblical approach to apologetics. The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.

    The bible if false. I see the bible has a contradiction and therefore I am correct. And everything in is a contradiction since it is false.

    How do they argue that while ceding presuppositionalism to everyone?

    Oh wait they don’t. by “used properly” they mean “I AM SPECIAL PLEADING”

  5. Atticus Dogsbody says

    But Aron Ra’s wife was asking for a simple refutation of presuppositionalism. There isn’t one.

    I dunno – “There’s flies all over that stinker, pal. Now, piss of and stop fugging up my space or the end of my arm will find the backside of your head.”

  6. says

    I’m Aron’s wife and what I mean by simple is that Rationalists can often get bogged down rationalizing their ability to reason to a Presuppositionalist. What they don’t notice is that their opponent has sidestepped the burden of proving their God, and left them with the burden of proof that reasoning is sufficient to interpret truth.

    You can end a debate quickly by saying I don’t accept your premise that God has divinely revealed to you the truth. Which puts the burden back on them.

    However, I would like to cut through this knotted reasoning in ways that expose to laypeople the dishonest tactics of people like Eric Hovind and Frank Turek that abuse this apologetic. For that you need a concise argument that a lot of people who have not been taught to think critically can understand.

  7. says

    I spent quite some time “debating” one of these people. I wrote a short blog-post about an exchange I had with him. I think I struck a chord with the argument because he never responded, and that was entirely unlike him. He always had a response for everything.

    Except this:

    “My Original Question:

    If two people can read your Bible and come out with different understandings, why did the supposed author of it fail to make it clear enough to avoid that from happening in the first place?

    Atom’s Response:

    This is just another example how you get out of it what you take to it. Your presuppositions effect everything you interact with. Just like how you think the bible is “bullshit” so all you see is bullshit… (sic)

    My Response:

    Actually, Atom, I never thought, like most atheists who were raised in religious households, that the Bible was bullshit until after I did my homework on it so it isn’t an arbitrary presupposition but a reasoned conclusion. Most never went into it the study of their preferred religion with the presupposition it wasn’t true. We went into it with the presupposition it was true and that we wanted to actually understand it. I wonder how, having the same presupposition that you did, the Bible is true, we could have come out of it with the conclusion that it wasn’t. Hmm?

    And, not only did you not answer my question, you’re actually begging it. Why would your God create us to have presuppositions to misunderstand the very book we’re supposed to?

    Ahem….checkmate.”

    http://whatthefaith.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/a-problem-with-presuppositional-apologetics/

  8. says

    Rationalists can often get bogged down rationalizing their ability to reason to a Presuppositionalist.

    I really do think that using reason is logically indefensible. By that, I mean it has no justification based on reason.

    Yet we all believe in it anyway and it seems to work so why not just take reason as an axiom and proceed from there? I really don’t think any effort should be wasted in trying to justify it.

  9. says

    @PZ

    Yes, but like I said, I’m not keen on purely philosophical arguments — gimme data.

    But then you’re not engaging with the presuppositionalist argument at all. You’ve changed the subject.

    Which is exactly the right attitude, by the way!

  10. says

    Oh, and, in case it wasn’t obvious, that method of approaching presuppositionalism (post 10) causes the apologetic to fail to the Problem of Evil.

  11. says

    I know. If they’re arguing against reason (or taking the ridiculous short cut that reason justifies Jesus), don’t let ‘em. Bail out.

  12. robro says

    “The creationist builds on their presupposition that the Bible is true…”

    Not only that, but they build on their presupposition that their particular interpretation of the Bible is true, is the one and only way to view the Bible. Their interpretations are usually founded on extreme ignorance of the writings in the various versions of Bible (there are many), their origins, and their histories.

    They not only put on the blinkers about nature, but about the very foundations of their belief system. They usually know very little about the cultural history and other writings of the region, which the oldest parts of the Bible clearly derive from. They quite often know little or nothing about the cultural milieu in which Christianity (and subsequently Islam) were born.

  13. says

    I think they were deposited 70 million years ago, and buried under river sediment. Here’s a set of bones, the creationist says; I think they were deposited in a great flood 4,000 years ago, and buried under the flood sediments. See? Same facts, just different interpretations.

    The real point is that none of the facts presented by science would have been dreamed of except by simply relying upon the data (I don’t want some stupid pedant coming along and blathering about logic–especially since nearly all agree to it in “normal circumstances”).

    And none of the specific YEC “facts” presented by AiG could ever be derived from the data at all.

    Regarding empiricism, science is theoretically wholly open, and practically it is quite open, at least in the long run.

    Glen Davidson

  14. Azuma Hazuki says

    Before reading on, bear in mind I am not a philosopher: I am a woman with a geology degree who fixes and sells computers for a living. That said, I have spent a solid three years studying presuppositionalism rather intensely, and with much help from friends and the writings of others, have found several flaws.

    First off, the presup can easily be defeated with one of your own: simply presuppose that $THING the Christard says only his (it’s ALWAYS a man for some reason…) worldview can account for is a “brute fact of existence.” Remember, “presupposition” is a fancy word for “axiom,” and once you understand this the entire edifice falls apart.

    Second: realize that presups are naive philosophically. They are actually very simple Platonists, and if pressed to examine things thus far will eventually admit to it; their God is basically the Platonic “ground of all being.” This is in common with evidentialist apologetics (Thomism etc) but their route of getting there is different. The key point for both camps is that they insist their God is the epistemological grounding for everything from morality to the “laws” (more on why the scare quotes later) of nature. One often hears them cite “uniformity of nature.”

    Third: they don’t get emergence. At all. Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, while not presuppositional, is an example of the kind of logic they use. They think in very black-and-white, absolutist terms, and there is no room for uncertainty or a Bayesian approach to reality.

    Fourth: like monkeys playing with a gun, they don’t understand most of what they spout off, and that goes double for the ramifications of what they say. Most will not realize, for example, that they have a fallacious understanding of what “laws of nature” actually means; in keeping with their essential Platonism, they think of said laws as immutable objects in the “mind of God.” This, of course, undermines their much-touted “uniformity of nature” as their God can alter said laws at any time in any way for any reason and we may not notice it.

    Lastly: it’s essentially a sophisticated version of the Gish Gallop. In particular, look for these fallacies: composition, reification, question-begging, special pleading, stolen concept (you can have a LOT of fun with this one…), and plain old wrong premises.

    It’s all show business. A calm, clear, sharp mind can slice through presuppositionalism like a hot knife through butter. They want you to be afraid, awed, intimidated. Don’t be. Call them on their bullshit and publicly humiliate them.

    In particular, I’d like to see someone take the same sneering, dismissive attitude toward them that they take toward their opponents; presup rhetoric often includes implications, or more, that the opponent is completely lost and incoherent before the battle even begins, or that they are deliberately being dishonest or are afraid of reality. This is projection. Give as good as you get.

  15. raven says

    Creationists sometimes claim they use the same facts as normal people but just interpret them differently.

    This is a lie.

    They ignore the vast majority of facts and distort a few.

    If their religion was true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

  16. Randomfactor says

    Isn’t it fair to say that the source of logic is not their god, but the abstract concept which is the SOURCE of their god?

  17. says

    Someone pointed out a strong empirical argument against presuppositionalism.

    Science isn’t in exercise in attempting to reconcile whether an independent reality exists or not. Science is limited to observation and predictions related to observation.

    Presupposing God did everything isn’t a useful way to study our environment or make predictions about it. Say for example, a person lived their entire life in a well. Would positing that god created the well help them understand their environment. All that could be known is what can be observed in the well with what tools that could be developed. Perhaps, the person could infer and make a prediction that some of the elements for example present in the well exist outside the well too. Scientists term this uniformitarianism. But again you are limited to what can be observed in the well.

    So positing a revelation wouldn’t be helpful at all in gaining knowledge about the well.

  18. Utakata says

    Presuppositionalism sounds like a word for what jamesmacdonald was argueing yesterday.

  19. says

    Out of curiosity how do these idiots propose convincing anyone if they allow presupposition. If it’s based on that you can’t convince anyone of it, because as a shock you have to already ACCEPT IT to be convinced of it.

    This is why they push it in schools.

  20. rayndeonx says

    Long post ahead

    TL;DR

    Presuppositionalism is made up of 3 arguments: the conceptualist argument, the moral argument, and the argument from reason/design.

    To rebut the CA: The law of non-contradiction is ultimately about definitions and definitions don’t require “grounding.” Also, abstract objects do not depend on God because if (a) God creates abstract objects then God must create the very properties of himself (goodness, power, etc), hence he must create himself which is absurd (b) abstract objects are necessarily existent exemplifiables that require no explanation and (c) if abstract objects are identical to God’s concepts, then God’s concepts are now bereft of semantic concent.

    To rebut the moral argument: Offer a Euthyphro-style dilemma. Presuppositionalists invoke divine nature theory. Then re-use the same style of rebuttal as used in the CA i.e. is God’s nature grounded by goodness or is goodness grounded by God’s nature? The former defeats the moral argument, the latter is incoherent for the same reasons as in the CA.

    To rebut the argument from reason/design: There are mathematical attempts to justify induction. Uniformity of nature is taken as a brute fact and positing God only pushes it back a step. Also, induction is taken as a basic precept of rationality, not theism. Moreover, theism fails to solve the problem of induction at all, since a superintellect’s existence doesn’t guarantee uniformity of nature. Parity reasoning by both the naturalist and theist.

    The reason philosophical arguments are needed to rebut presuppositionalism is that presuppositionalism is a series of philosophical, not empirical arguments. Unless one does not plan to address presuppositonalism, there is no recourse but to offer philosophical argumentation against presuppostionalism.

    Presuppostionalism is not actually a different apologetic beyond the classic evidentiary ones. It purports to be so, but it is composed of a typically confused amalgam of three evidentiary arguments: the conceptualist argument from abstract objects, the moral argument, and a version of the argument from reason and design. The only thing new about presuppostionalism is that there is more impressive sounding rhetoric.

    I’m going to sketch out each of the three arguments and give a brief explanation for why each one is misguided, in my opinion anyway.

    (1) the conceptualist argument

    First, a note on the “presuppositional” take on this argument. Presuppositionalists usually point to the laws in Aristotelian logic, namely, the law of non-contradiction, law of identity, law of excluded middle, etc. These laws somehow imply a transcendent logician somehow. In one sense, responding to these arguments is trivial. First, there are many different “logics” and the choice of which to use and which one “obtains” is solely a matter of the task at hand. Does free logic “obtain?” What about S4 modal logic? Or fuzzy logic? Or quantum logic? Moreover, the final law (law of excluded middle) is not actually universal. It is denied in a number of useful logics, like fuzzy or ternary logics, and it is actually not valid to use in intuitionstic logic. The latter is more surprising since just about everything that is provable in intuitionstic logic is provable in classical logics, so the LEM is not nearly the cornerstone presuppositionalists would have you suppose. Moreover, the LNC is denied in paraconsistent logics, but arguably “negation” in paraconsistent logics doesn’t have the same semantic meaning as in classical logics. Sure, the same operator is used, but it doesn’t mean the same thing, as in intuitionstic and classical logics. LNC and identity are really just a consequence of definitions. To say that there could be a married bachelor is to assert that you failed to understand the meaning of “married” and “bachelor.” In general, asserting is to fail to understand the meaning of “not.” In what sense do “definitions” require a transcendent logician?

    However, there is a more substantive version of the presuppositionalist argument – hence, why I think it is only a more rhetorically impressive chain of evidentiary arguments. I speak of the conceptualist argument.

    The conceptualist argument (CA) co-opts certain intuitions about universals and abstract objects to make a theistic argument. The way the version is actually formulated in the literature is something like this:

    (1) Abstract objects (i.e. numbers, propositions, etc) exist
    (2) Abstract objects are best understood of as a conception, a mental thing
    (3) There are too many abstract objects for a finite mind to contain
    (4) Hence, there must be a divine mind that entertains all such abstract objects

    (1) is typically supported by a Fregean singular-term argument or perhaps an indispensability argument a la Quine. This can be disputed since nominalism is by no means by indefensible position. However, there are stronger objections to this argument beyond rejecting (1).

    The stronger objections primarily come form rejecting (2) and (3) for multiple reasons. The first is that mathematical objects and propositions are abstract objects – they are necessary entities. These are things that literally could not fail to exist, so in what sense is explanation required for them? Perhaps the proponent of the conceptualist argument appeals to the “conceptual” nature of abstract objects.

    But it is not at all clear that such objects really are required to be conceptual. Perhaps the proponent of the CA will appeal to Paul Benacerraf’s epistemological argument (really, this argument actually goes back to Plato). Abstract objects are nonspatiotemporal and causally inert. Our knowledge is, plausibly, based on causal contact. But, we cannot causally contact such abstract objects per reductio. One way to reply to this is to point out really full-blooded platonism as shown by Mark Balaguer. Any conceivable exemplifiable whatsoever corresponds to an abstract object, completely bypassing the epistemological argument. Hence support for (2) is dramatically undercut.

    But, more importantly, consider the absurd consequences if abstract objects are really just divine ideas. As pointed out by Jeffrey Brower and Michael Bergmann in “A Theistic Argument Against Platonism“, Matthew Davidson in “A Demonstration Against Theistic Activism” and Stephen Puryear in “Could Abstract Objects be the Thoughts of God?“, this view has serious problems since it entails that God must create the very properties that constitute Him: power, goodness, etc. (Note: It is interesting that all of the above authors are Christians who also wholly disagree with theistic activism/conceptualism. Also, even W.L. Craig no longer believes abstract objects exist, even in the mind of God. He has become a full-blown nominalist)

    But as I’ve stated elsewhere:

    “There are also seems to be the problem that God must create Himself. If God creates abstracta, then the properties good, omnipotent and so on do not exist at some time t according to the above analysis and moreover, that they are not in any relations at all since no relations can be made with the nonexistent. But, the problem with this is that God is good or omnipotent or so on. So, to say that God creates the abstracta consisting of good (or any example you please) is to say that

    (5) The state of affairs consisting of God willing the existence of the property good existed at time t and the state of affairs consisting of the property good existed at time t’ such that t > t’ and the property good did not exist at t.

    But, the problem with this is that it means that it was not that God was good at t, since good did not even exist in the first place and hence could not be in a property relation with God. But, God is essentially good; He is good in all possible worlds in which He exists and at all times. Therefore, if God creates good then He creates Himself since He would have to exist before He exists, since He would have to exist at t in that He causes good; but, at t, God does not exist for no good exists at t and hence no particular can exemplify it since there is nothing to exemplify. So, in order to create good God must exist before He exists, which means that He exists at t (since He is the cause of good at t) but does not exist at t’ (since God can’t be good at t, which is to say that He can’t exist at t); therefore, accepting that God causes moral universals entail the following absurdity. Moreover, God exists at t’, so God’s will at t creates good at t’, in which God exists, for at t God exists (for He is the cause of good at t) and corresponds to a set of properties excluding good, but at t’ good exists and God is good, so, God causes that He is good. But, for God to cause that He is good entails the above contradiction since He would have to exist before He exists: there is incoherent notion of self-causation. So, it is simply not possible for God to create abstract relating to Himself. The problem is that all abstracta relate to Himself, since God has knowledge of all abstracta.

    In any case, let us consider the second line of attack: necessary conditions. But, it is difficult to see any sort of real necessary conditions that can apply. Basically, the notion is that if God did not exist, then abstracta would not exist. But, it is difficult to construe this precisely. First of all, why is it that abstracta cannot exist unless God exists? It cannot be that God is the cause of abstracta due to the above. Indeed, the claim is quite puzzling, for abstracta are necessary. But, the problem is that any state of affairs implies the existence of a necessary state of affairs, and this simply follows from a standard understanding of propositional logic, as I discussed above.

    (6) A proposition p implies q if and only if that if either p is false or q is true. [i.e. (p → q) ↔ (¬p ∨ q)]

    Given necessary propositions are true, it follows that any proposition whatsoever implies a necessary proposition. (As I discussed earlier, any proposition also entails a necessary proposition) So, if we take the proposition

    (7) If God exists, then abstracta exist. [i.e. G → A]

    (7) holds true if

    (8) Abstracta are necessary. [i.e. □A]

    God’s existence certainly entails the existence of abstracta, but the problem is that this gets the dependency relation backwards. If God does not exist, then abstracta would not fail to exist since their existence is compatible with or without God’s existence; abstracta are necessary and so are compatible with any contingent states of affairs whatsoever. Moreover, if abstracta failed to obtain, then God fail to exist. This follows as a matter of simple logic. Let us consider the following

    (9) Abstracta do not exist. [i.e. ¬A]

    However, given (6), (7), and (8), by modus tollens

    (10) God does not exist. [i.e. ¬G]

    So then, God’s existence would actually “depend” upon abstracta. But, this is absurd. That is not what is meant by dependency (which will become clear if we take the example of a necessary antecedent: see below), as this sort of dependency is trivial logical dependency, it is a dependency that is logical, since it can’t be that necessary states of affairs fail to be actual.

    Perhaps the theist will appeal here to God’s necessity. Ignoring for the moment that we have no reason to accept God’s necessity [2], then there still is no meaningful dependency relation. We then have the following proposition

    (11) It is necessary that God exists if and only if abstract exist. [i.e. □(G ↔ A)]

    This holds if (8) holds as well as

    (12) It is necessary that God exists. [i.e. □G]

    Since a necessary fact is entailed by any fact whatsoever, (12) is entailed by (8) and (8) is entailed by (12). Moreover, if a necessary fact entails another fact, then that fact is necessary. That is to say

    (13) If a proposition p entails q and p is necessary, then q is necessary. [i.e. (□(p → q) ∧ □p) → □q]

    However, the problem here is that the exact same analysis holds; both depend upon each other, for if abstracta did not exist, then God would not exist, and if God did not exist, then abstracta would not exist. Indeed, it is also true that if God did not exist, then abstracta would exist, and if abstracta did not exist, then God would exist.

    This holds since the falsity of a necessary proposition entails any proposition whatsoever. It comes from that necessary propositions are such that their falsity entails a contradiction, and under propositional logic, the principle of explosion holds; a contradiction trivially entails any proposition whatsoever. This is easily proven. Consider the following

    (14) A proposition q is necessarily true. [i.e. □q]

    As I explained earlier, any proposition whatsoever implies and entails a necessary proposition. Therefore, given (14), we have the following propositions

    (15) If a proposition p is true, then q is true. [i.e. p → q]

    (16) If a propositions p is false, then q is true. [i.e. ¬p → q]

    Now, add the following

    (17) A proposition q is false. [i.e. ¬q]

    Given (14), (15), (16), and (17) by modus tollens,

    (18) A proposition p is true. [i.e. p]

    (19) A proposition p is false. [i.e. ¬p]

    Given (18) and (19)

    (20) A proposition p is true and false. [i.e. p ∧ ¬p]

    So, the falsity of a necessary proposition entails an impossibility. In other words, there is simply a trivial symmetric dependency relation, and not the nontrivial asymmetric relation needed by the theist. If God fails to exist, abstracta exist and they do not exist. If abstracta fail to exist, then God exists and God does not exist. The only type of nontrivial dependency relation possible is a causal one; but that has been dealt with. Needless to say, it’s improper to say that necessary states of affairs depend upon each other, since necessary states of affairs simply can’t fail to be false. So, neither sufficient conditions nor necessary conditions glean out logically possible dependency conditions for theistic activism.

    The only real route left is the appeal to theistic conceptual realism: that abstracta are identical to God’s concepts. First of all, recall that abstracta are not causally efficacious. But, such abstracta are by definition non-concrete; so, how could a concrete entity such as God have some aspect of Him identical to God? Such is simply not possible, by definition. In any case, let us proceed to the heart of the matter: that God’s concepts are identical to abstracta. This position lends itself to a number of fatal problems. The main problem is that it empties God’s concepts of content; see, the theistic conceptual realist cannot claim that God has a concept of something, as if the object of conception were distinct from the conception itself, but that the object of conception is identical to conception. For instance, God has the concept of 2 + 2 = 4. But, it is not as if 2 + 2 = 4 is distinct from God’s concept thereof, but identical to the conception. But, then 2 + 2 = 4 does not refer to anything; any sentence in the form

    (21) P: φP

    simply empties P of propositional content. God does not have a concept of anything; but, if He does not have a concept of anything, it simply follows that God does not have a concept of anything, and therefore, the supposed “object of conception” does not exist and does not express a proposition. The problem is that one is trying to claim an identity between a set of relations {φ, P} and a proper subset thereof {P}. Therefore, theistic conceptual realism does not fare any better than theistic activism at all.”

    For the final argument, see Patrick Grim’s excellent book The Incomplete Universe: Totality, Knowledge, and Truth. Essentially, if we take goodness to be identical with God’s thought “goodness”, then predications like “God is good” are semantically meaningless. They literally have no content, per Liar-type and diagonal arguments like Grim uses. What theistic activism or theistic conceptualism does is reverse the explanatory order. Instead of saying that “God is F” is explained by F, instead, F is explained by “God is F,” which is dubious to say the least.

    So, as far as the conceptualist argument goes, it is a complete failure.

    (2) The moral argument

    Now, what about the moral argument? The moral argument typically proceeds as something like this:

    (1) Moral facts exist i.e. moral realism is true
    (2) Moral facts are best explained by appeal to some transcendent moral lawgiver
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    First, (1) is seriously doubted in meta-ethics. There are a number of problems for moral realism, but I will not repeat them here. However, the main problem for the moral argument primarily comes from (2), which can be easily challenged. Typically, presuppositionalists will appeal to divine commands and what not. A Euthyphro style dilemma will tackle these sorts of arguments.

    At this point, the retreat is made to divine nature to escape the dilemma. God’s goodness grounds good. But what, doesn’t that sound like the conceptualist argument? And didn’t we already deal with that? So, the moral argument fails here also. In a sense, refuting the conceptualist argument will also refute the moral argument via a similar dilemma-style argument: is God’s nature grounded by goodness or is goodness grounded by God’s nature? If the former, then we’ve already escaped the moral argument. IF the latter, we get into the incoherences and arbitrariness I’ve illustrated above.

    For more resources on this, see Wes Morriston’s excellent articles at “Must There Be a Standard of Moral Goodness Apart from God?“, “The Moral Obligations of Reasonable Non-Believers: A special problem for divine command metaethics“, “What if God commanded something terrible? A worry for divine-command meta-ethics“, and “God and the ontological foundation of morality“. See also Erik Wielenberg’s “In Defense of Non-natural, Non-theistic Moral Realism“. Also, Steven Maitzen’s “A Semantic Attack on Divine Command Metaethics” as well as “Ordinary Morality Implies Atheism

    (3) The argument from reason and design

    The way it tends to go is that

    (1) Induction is reliable because nature is uniform
    (2) The uniformity of nature is best explained by a divine mind
    (3) Therefore, God exists

    The reason I say that it is both an argument from reason and an argument from design is for two things. First, the argument is typically posed by appealing to the problem of induction. What really underlies the problem of induction? Why are we justified in using induction? Well, it is the problem that we have no reason to suppose that the uniformity of nature is just that. There is no reason to suppose that yesterday will be like tomorrow. This style of argument is invoked as a more general teleological argument by Swinburne and has received its own set of replies. Hence, it is both a teleological argument and an argument from reason.

    There are a few ways to characterize the problem. The first is that the problem of induction is not as intractable as some would argue. There is quite a bit of work in probability theory at laying out a mathematical justification for induction. For two nice attempts at drawing out the problem of induction see Timothy McGrew’s “Direct Inference and the Problem of Induction“, Paul Vitanyi and Ming Li’s “Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism, and Kolmogorov Complexity

    The second is to examine (2). The first thing to ask is does the uniformity of nature “cry out” for explanation in a sense? Induction seems to be a precept of rationality and sanity; you literally cannot function as a sane person without a belief in induction or other minds or the like. Even Hume and al-Ghazali believed in induction, even if they entertained philosophical ideas that the ideas may not be wholly justified. But, as usually, presuppositionalism inverts the explanatory priority. There is no reason to suppose that God explains induction since induction is a more basic belief than God. Induction in this sense does not “cry out” for explanation.

    The second major issue to note is that the supposition of God actually explains nothing. Most naturalists take the uniformity of nature to be a brute fact. It may be ultimately reducible to various properties of a field, but that the field with such and such properties exists is itself a brute fact. In general, to try to explain things in the world, we appeal to various regularities and past experience. But, to try to explain the the regularities themselves is fundamentally misguided. Indeed, what the theist simply does is push the regularity back a step, to an even more extravagant brute fact that we have no reason to suppose actually exists. What’s even worse, this hypothesis makes the problem of induction even more difficult on a theistic view. What reason could you possibly have to suppose a superintellect would keep such laws uniform on a consistent basis? Presuppostionalists might refer to “divine revelation” that God doesn’t lie, but how do they even know that? At this point, presuppositionalists might say that this is itself a presupposition that they take for granted, but the naturalist does the precise same when it comes to induction simpliciter. If the very fundamental basis of reasoning, induction, is somehow to require a rational explanation, then in what sense are to exempt theism from it? The goal of presuppositionalism is to supposedly escape global skepticism, but it fails at doing that; in fact, it ends up compounding it.

    So, I think presuppositionalism is ultimately a non-starter of a theistic apologetic.

  21. says

    A creationist posted this answer defending Presuppositionalism at Christian Forums where I sometimes post…

    Yup.

    “Do not be wise in your own eyes…He who trusts in himself is a fool…Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Prov 3:7, 28:26, 3:5-6).
    A world view shaped by divine revelation is the only world view that can make sense of the world:

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20).
    Of course.

    Divine revelation always trumps human reason and myopic science.

    Human reason comes with flaws. Myopic science focuses only on the natural world and not on the supernatural. God is omniscient:

    “I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” (Isa 46:9-10).
    What you fail to understand is that we don’t prove God. God proves Himself to us in a personal way. Our world view is then shaped by that undeniable proof. Those to whom God did not reveal Himself will think we are being irrational.
    There you go.
    Of course humans are capable of reasoning without divine revelation. But their reasoning is restricted to myopic science and the natural world. Divine revelation delivers us from such a prison, revealing things the natural mind cannot comprehend:

    “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14).
    And for good reason; evolution theory contradicts what God has revealed in His inspired word:

    “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground…[Not from apes]” (Gen 2:7).
    As an educator, you teach your students what to think about and what not to think about in order for them to make sense of your subject.

    In order to make sense of all aspects of reality (not just the natural world) evolution theory is one of those subjects we avoid thinking about.

    “Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called…” (1 Tim 6:20).
    You are obviously being irrational since you cannot even comprehend all the facts involved with the young man.
    Maybe the Louisiana government also consider your denial of the Bible as institutionalized ignorance, and a completely reprehensible neglect of the responsibility that comes with authority.

    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom…” (Prov 1:7).

  22. says

    FFS, even the defense of presuposition relies on accepting the Bible. so now not only do you have to believe to believe…you have to believe to accept the terms for believing to believe.

    This isn’t circular logic this is circle jerkular logic

  23. consciousness razor says

    Yes, but like I said, I’m not keen on purely philosophical arguments — gimme data.

    Sure, but you seem to be misrepresenting what presuppositionalists are saying (not that it makes any fucking sense anyway). If their god hadn’t written or inspired the Bible, they could argue the exact same thing. The Bible’s pretty much irrelevant to it, except that they believe it’s one particular instance of knowledge, which they presuppose their god makes possible. They’re not treating it like it’s a kind of “evidence.” The same goes for “creation science” and related IDiocy. Talking about them ignoring scientific evidence is only going to expose the IDiots as dishonest hacks, not expose why presuppositionalists are wrong, because that sort of thing is irrelevant to the latter’s metaphysical claims about knowledge itself. Some of them may make both kinds of claims, but they’re separate issues. You have to turn their logic inside out or they won’t even think you’re even addressing them. (Or you could ignore them as useless bullshitters, though you could just as well do that for “creation science” IDiocy, but have good reasons not to.)

    That said, I think you started out well by calling it a false equivalence. It’s just that “we need to assume some axioms” doesn’t mean “anything goes, therefore Jesus.” It’s not such a sophistimicated theology once you break down, and it doesn’t go anywhere to start talking about fossils or whatever.

  24. saguhh00 says

    Circular logic works because circular logic works!

    Just seen a new Christians vs Atheists article on Cracked.com that I thing deserves to be exposed to Pharyngula.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_15663_10-things-christians-atheists-can-and-must-agree-on_p3.html?wa_user1=5&wa_user2=Weird+World&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended

    Also, they still don’t seem to get that atheism is to not believe in gods, it’s a non-belief like non-hinduism is to not be a hindu.
    And they use the “atheistic fallacy”, the one that says “OMG Stalin Hitler Mao Zedong Osama bin Laden were all atheists and all evil therefore all atheists are evil!”

    Seriously, saying that religion is no worse than fascism or communist tyranies is not a defense.

  25. jeromehaltom says

    To be fair, there is a serious philosophical discussion to be had here. And they are actually important conversations to have. Or, at the least, interesting.

    We all like to have reasons for believing what we do. And we want those reasons to have reasons. And those reasons to have other reasons. Eventually we all do hit a point where we can no longer do this: and have to pick a position to begin at, a position that cannot actually be justified properly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchhausen_Trilemma

    Most of us scientists pick the axiomatic option of the Münchhausen Trilemma. We choose to simply accept that our reasoning is valid, and our senses aren’t completely fictional. We can’t provide reasons for this, because any reasons we provide are based on the assumption that our reasoning is valid. We’re stuck. So we simply declare by fiat that our reasoning is valid.

    Or we can use circular reasoning, where we justify our reasoning on something else. And then that justifies itself on the first. And that goes on forever. Yeah, we have a reason for everything! But it’s circular. And that feels wrong.

    If we could provide fully rational reasons for everything, we could actually possess full certainty. If we could prove our reasoning was valid, we could thus prove whether things are true or not.

    So, I choose to discard certainty. I do so by assuming that my reasoning is valid. I’m assuming it. I can’t prove it. And from that position my skepticism derives itself.

    Presupposationalists are just picking another way to escape from this argument. Some, instead of simply declaring by fiat that reasoning is valid, declare by fiat than God exists. Ultimately we’re both declaring something by fiat.

    Or maybe it’s not that important. But I still find it interesting.

  26. raven says

    The Presuppositionalists are all hypocrites and liars.

    Their magic book also says the earth is flat and is orbited by the sun.

    There are still a few Flat Earthers around and a lot of Geocentrists, 26% of the fundies. But a lot of creationists reject the Flat Earth and Geocentrism including Ken Ham.

    All xians are cafeteria xians. Some just eat more junk food than others.

    PS It also says not to lie. Creationism is a lie and all creationists are liars.!!!

  27. Randomfactor says

    I choose to base my worldview on the existence of Oreo cookies. They contain both black and white, illustrating the concept of opposites. And in case of paradox you can eat them, which you can’t with gods.*

    *(Roman Catholics excepted, of course.)

  28. raven says

    @28 lilandra

    What you fail to understand is that we don’t prove God. God proves Himself to us in a personal way. Our world view is then shaped by that undeniable proof. Those to whom God did not reveal Himself will think we are being irrational.

    That is quite a lot of gibberish you cut and pasted.

    It’s routine. The xian troll is claiming he knows science because the voices in his head told him so.

    All faith claims reduce down to voices in someone’s head.

    The problem with this is obvious. Tens of millions at least people hear the voices of the gods in their heads. The voices in their heads all say different things.

    Xians who make that claim are in the same category as any Moslem suicide bomber killing a few dozen strangers for Allah, because that is what the Moslem god wants.

  29. dukeofomnium says

    Debating presuppositionalists is like playing basketball with a chihuahua. Not only do they have no skills, they don’t even know enough about the game to know they’re losing. They think that pissing on the ball and shitting on the court are valid ways to play defense.

  30. cyberCMDR says

    Perhaps their reasoning would be helped with a porcupine pre-suppository…;-)

    The way I tend to argue with people who use similar reasoning is to provide a different model and show that you can justify any worldview by taking this tack.

    For example, the reason the world looks older than 6000 years old is because Harry Potter and a group of other powerful wizards have placed powerful spells on us Muggles, so we don’t see the true reality.

    Or, we only see those things that the machine intelligences controlling the Matrix allow us to see. While what we perceive as reality appears one way, it is actually quite different.

    Any self consistent world view can be taken as a starting point, and you can reason just as well from it as these creationists arguing for god. Therefore, their argument is worthless.

  31. Azuma Hazuki says

    Rayndeonx, if that doesn’t get you a Molly, i don’t know what will. That was amazing, even though some of it was a little beyond me ^^;

  32. says

    @Disagreeable me:
    The use of [Aristotelian] logic can certainly be justified by reason. It gets results and allows accurate predictions in many circumstances, and I can’t think of anything more reason based than using what gets results. Granted, there are also situations where Aristotelian logic doesn’t apply, but other logics have been/are being developed to model those.

    @Atticus Dogsbody
    That’s pretty much the simple response I’ve arrived at. That, and/or “Evidence or STFU.”

    @Azuma Hazuki
    Points two and three are actually something my roommate and I have been discussing recently, after a particularly persistent presuppositionalist was haunting his blog.
    @rayndeonx

    The reason philosophical arguments are needed to rebut presuppositionalism is that presuppositionalism is a series of philosophical, not empirical arguments.

    That is a rebuttal of presuppostitionalism. They have no empirical evidence to support their position. This makes their argument intrinsically invalid and no further rebuttal is needed.

    @jeromehaltom

    To be fair, there is a serious philosophical discussion to be had here.

    There really isn’t. Evidence trumps word games every time.

    Most of us scientists pick the axiomatic option of the Münchhausen Trilemma. We choose to simply accept that our reasoning is valid, and our senses aren’t completely fictional. We can’t provide reasons for this, because any reasons we provide are based on the assumption that our reasoning is valid.

    Your reasoning allows you to predict real world phenomena and to create new technologies by exploiting same. That proves that the reasoning in question is at least mostly valid. Any reasoning that can’t produce real world results is meaningless.

  33. heliobates says

    I can’t claim to have countered the presupper’s arguments, but I have chased Sye TenB out of a couple of threads by doing to him what he tries to do to the non-believer’s position.

    He claims to have access to Universal, Unchanging Laws of Logic and Reason, which are intrinsic to the universe and the the only ways to attain certainty. Remember, too, that Sye’s schtick involves attacking the reliability of sensory data.

    So I’ve tried since a 2007 Daylight Atheism dust, to get the ‘Tenacious B’ to present the full, formal explication of the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic and Reason.

    So far, bupkis.

    That may be the way to shut up the presuppers: ask then to support every statement they make. See how they like radical skepticism for a change.

  34. Sastra says

    I used to play TAG with the Calvinists on IRC. There are so many problems with presuppositionalism it’s hard to pick just one line of attack. I used to call it the “Neener Neener School of Debate.” All the philosophical fuss and fury can be pealed back — and you are left with a little kid insisting that you’re just too little to understand what HE understands ha ha ha. The “debate” therefore is not an honest attempt to persuade through reason. It’s an extended taunt.

    I sometimes liked to tell the presupper that presuppositionalism was self-contradictory. As Azuma Hazuki mentioned, they commit something very like the ‘fallacy of the stolen concept’ — assuming something is true in order to argue that it’s not. Basically, they demand that you justify justification. That is not a legitimate demand. The problem isn’t that the answer is circular: the problem is that the question slyly contradicts itself. They’re already assuming the process they “question.”

    They hate it if you accuse them of contradicting themselves. That was supposed to be the big stick they were eventually going to whack YOU with. Hit them first.

    Of course, they try to get out of it by saying that THEY aren’t really questioning justification: YOU are. Or, rather, they are playing you as you ought to be. THEY get to borrow infallibility and perfection from God, so they don’t need to justify the axioms and process of justification.

    Some of the arguments seem to be based on the idea that if you don’t know where a thing “comes from,” then you have no right to use it and are actually denying that it’s there. It’s as if a statement like “this dish was not imported from China, it was made in Sheboygan” is translated by a presupper as “This dish which was made in China is not a dish made in China so there is no such dish but I’m going to eat off it anyway.” You argue against the correct origins of a thing (logic, reason, the universe), you automatically lose it and are contradicting yourself when you pretend you still have it.

    Like I said, silly on multiple levels. And it actually gets a lot of power from simplistic postmodernism extremes. They just pull out of the pomo nonsense at the last minute by claiming divine immunity from what is going to cover you.

  35. pollywog says

    How convenient that Christians don’t have to defend the existence of their god and the validity of their stone-age creation myths while scientists must go beyond merely providing heaps of rock hard evidence for evolution. This seems to have the trappings of a special pleading fallacy in that Christians seem to think they should be exempt from having to actually provide any kind of evidence in support of their beliefs. I’d like to see Muslim and Christian presuppositionalists arguing about who has the true holy book.

  36. says

    @lilandra 28: The problem with that line of thought is you can’t rely on God’s reasoning. You can only rely own what your own human reasoning tells you about God’s reasoning. Even if their premises were true and God’s reasoning defined reality, it wouldn’t help them.

  37. Owlmirror says

    lilandra @ #28:

    Around here, your creationist’s behavior would be called “godbotting”; repeatedly posting triumphalist boasting of how awesome God is, mixed with bible verses of how awesome God is.

    I think this might a way to attack that nonsense:

    Human reason comes with flaws.

    The problem is, the bible was written by humans with flawed reason, copied by humans with flawed reason, and interpreted by humans with flawed reason. Your interlocutor is presumably human, and therefore has flawed reason as well.

    Sastra has, elsewhere, noted something along the lines that presuppositionalists try to steal omniscience from God. But the flaws in human reason mean that we cannot believe them just on their say-so — and they shouldn’t believe it either. Creationists, too, are humans, and therefore, their reason is flawed.

    Or in other words: No, God cannot tell you that he exists so that you can be certain, with nothing else to back it up, because human reason is flawed. We need sound reasoning from first principles, and empirical evidence, to justify claims of fact, like a God existing and telling people things.

  38. says

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here because I think this is the best argument Christians can put forward (not because it is true, but because it is the most convincing).
    They say: “everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard” They claim that our circular reasoning is reason itself. Douglas Wilson put that out there in Collision and Hitch didn’t address it and I thought he should have. Basically the claim is that we use reason to prove reason. How would you address that?

  39. ajorarubedo says

    I’ve always been more than a little confused when a philosophical argument is used in order to either prove or justify the existence of god, because the whole thing seems like mere mental masturbation than anything else.

    Case in point, I recently engaged some random youtuber who was touting the ontological, kalam, and, as he put it, “there’s something instead of nothing” arguments to prove god’s existence. When confronted with their flaws, he just kept repeating them, providing no evidence or further defense for them whatsoever, his justification for this being along the lines that they showed the possible existence of a supreme being, and thus if this being can possibly exists, then therefore he must, being necessary and so on and so forth (the usual ontological claptrap).

    Being one of those evidence-minded people, even if I hear a well constructed syllogism, unless I know it’s premises are well substantiated by facts, it’s not going to convince me of anything. Whenever I’m confronted with a purely logic-based proof of god, I always resort to the “Aristotle was a cat” syllogism to show that logic alone can be used to soundly prove utter nonsense, but it’s with evidence that we can confirm the veracity of said claim.

  40. Owlmirror says

    They claim that our circular reasoning is reason itself.

    Why is that a bad thing? If you reject reason, you can’t reason about anything. So at a minimum, reason must be accepted.

    Basically the claim is that we use reason to prove reason. How would you address that?

    We don’t use reason to prove reason, because we can’t (Gödel). But if we posit a minimal system of axioms as being valid, reason can prove that that minimal system works (Gödel, again).

    The reason that circular reasoning is logically invalid when creationists do it, is because they aren’t reasoning about reasoning, but about fact claims about empirical reality, above and beyond reasoning: The existence of God; the “literal” truth of the bible.

    It’s logically impossible to reason without reasoning. But it isn’t logically impossible for some (or all) of fact claims about the real world made in the bible to not be true. So simply assuming them is not sound reason.

  41. upagainsttheropes says

    Reasonable Doubts did a two part podcast on this very topic a little while back with preface that sums up along the line that this conversation is only for hardcore counter apologetic masochists.

  42. rickschauer says

    Wow, some heavy-duty thinking happening here and after careful evaluation I say, rayndeonx @27 FTW! Man, I was in my Carveth Read logic books looking shit up. Yikes, haven’t looked at some of those in years.

    I also quote, ‘That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.’ (Hitch) Also, god arguments and universals, ’nuff said.

    (and my tattered little brain thanks you all for the exercise it just received, whewey!)

  43. says

    Phyrronian skepticism with a bit of god in the gaps. Aside from the “god in the gaps” it’s been winning arguments since whenever, BC.

  44. raven says

    Sastra has, elsewhere, noted something along the lines that presuppositionalists try to steal omniscience from God. But the flaws in human reason mean that we cannot believe them just on their say-so — and they shouldn’t believe it either. Creationists, too, are humans, and therefore, their reason is flawed.

    This reduces down to voices in someone’s head.

    1. Millions of people claim to hear the god’s voices in their heads.

    We can reject that very simply.

    2. The voices all say different things. They come from thousands of different gods, Zeus, Brahma, Odin, Thor, Yahweh, etc..

    It’s simply a faith assertion or claim.

    3. They can’t all be right. But they can all be wrong. The vast majority have to be wrong at the least.

    4. This isn’t totally necessary, but there is no tangible proof that they are really hearing the god’s voices anyway. Much of the time, those voices are telling them that we need to send them money and our cutest teenage girls and boys.

    Thise voices are clearly sockpuppet gods that people make up themselves. It’s likely they all are.

  45. raven says

    Human reason comes with flaws.

    Oh really?

    This is an assertion without proof.

    It’s just wrong.

    Human reason can be flawed but not all human reasoning is flawed all the time. In fact, it’s the most powerful tool we have; it defines us as the only technological and the dominant species on the planet, and is why we can create a modern Hi Tech civilization.

    Plantinga uses this argument. Plantinga is an idiot.

  46. Owlmirror says

    [“Human reason comes with flaws.”]

    It’s just wrong.

    No, it isn’t.

    It’s not particularly specific, but it isn’t false.

    Human reason can be flawed but not all human reasoning is flawed all the time.

    How is this different from the original? The clause “comes with flaws” (in and of itself) certainly does not mean “flawed all the time”.

    Plantinga uses this argument.

    It certainly is not his entire argument. But his reasoning about flawed human reason is itself an example of badly flawed human reason.

    Plantinga is an idiot.

    With this, I agree.

  47. raven says

    [“Human reason comes with flaws.”]

    It’s just wrong.

    No, it isn’t.

    It’s not particularly specific, but it isn’t false.

    It’s irrelevant and trivial.

    The claim that human reasoning is flawed and we can’t rely on it is false. It is flawed sometimes. But not always and that is what matters.

    Human reasoning is actually very powerful. It’s not wrong all the time and eventually asymptopically approaches the truth.

    And there is proof for this. Look around you. Everything that defines us as a species and that we have accomplished as advanced technological tool users is the product of human reasoning, our whole modern civilization. Science works and is the most successful human endeavour, ever.

    All religion does is get in the way and get dragged along for the ride.

  48. Owlmirror says

    It’s irrelevant and trivial.

    It isn’t irrelevant, because the point that human reasoning is flawed undercuts the creationist argument that they magically have access to magical flawless reasoning.

    It isn’t trivial, because getting creationists — and other people — to understand that they’ve made a mistake can be very hard, and may perhaps be impossible.

    The claim that human reasoning is flawed and we can’t rely on it is false.

    Well, you already acknowledged that human reasoning is flawed, so I’m not sure what you mean by that clause. And reason has to be relied on with caution — certainly not rejected flat out, but not taken for granted as being always 100% correct either.

  49. says

    My simple refutation involves refusing to speak to a presuppositionalist on the grounds that presuppositionalism is nothing more than a preemptive refusal to acknowledge anything I say.

  50. raven says

    Well, you already acknowledged that human reasoning is flawed, so I’m not sure what you mean by that clause. And reason has to be relied on with caution — certainly not rejected flat out, but not taken for granted as being always 100% correct either.

    Well you didn’t quite get it. But that is OK, it is early Friday here and even the cats are asleep and I’m about the join them.

    Don’t let the creationists get away with false premises.

    No, I didn’t acknowledge that human reasoning is flawed. It can be but it doesn’t have to be.

    At the end of the day it isn’t. It’s a false premise.

    Human reasoning is incredibly powerful and the basis of our modern civilization. Most of us would literally be dead without it.

    And don’t bother quoting Godel. He just says that some things are true that can’t be proven to be true in mathematical systems. So what!!! We still use mathematics a whole lot.

  51. says

    My answer is as follows:

    I Skyped my mother last week, then yesterday I visited her and discussed the conversation we had. Now this means that either the technology that created Skype (and my car) works or I hallucinated both experiences.

    Thus the presupper must allow that either the scientific method has been shown to work, or he must deny that any of us can make any claims about reality at all – reducing us to complete solipsism.

    Now, if the presup is saying that there are only two possibilities, that either God exists or we’re reduced to a solipsistic state where we cannot interpret any evidence at all, then the presupper is the situation where he has to argue that we’re in the first situation and not the second. Unfortunately for him, he can present any evidence he wants that we’re in the first reality, it’s still consistent with the possibility that we’re actually in the second, making that evidence worthless.

    See also the claim that God has given him the knowledge that he is correct, which is indistinguishable from some simply falsely believing the same.

  52. says

    The idea that human reasoning is flawed is an important. Yes, it can be valid, but you can’t just hand-wave a problem like that away. Keep in mind that apologists who aren’t pre-suppositionalists say that they can use reason to prove that God exists. For that matter, that’s what a lot of pre-suppositional arguments amount to, even if they claim otherwise. They say that you’re the one whose reasoning is flawed.

    For that matter, our senses gather imperfect data about the world. Leave the pretending away problems with their arguments to the Christians. The key here is to acknowledge the problems with reasoning and perception, then go onto to say how we can overcome these problems. This work has already been done. That’s pretty much what the philosophy of science field is.

    The problem with the argument that human reasoning is unreliable, therefore we should rely on something else isn’t that human reasoning is reliable. If it were, we’d all come to the same conclusions which would match the material world and we wouldn’t have to argue about philosophy. The problem is that despite their claims, we don’t actually have any other tools for understanding the world. The question isn’t whether to use human reason or something more reliable. It’s how to deal with the flaws and make the most reliable system of human reasoning possible. That’s essentially what science is.

  53. consciousness razor says

    At the end of the day it isn’t. It’s a false premise.

    Would you call that reasoning?

    And did you know that at the beginning of the day, it is? And every third Tuesday at lunchtime, it checks its horoscope then flips a coin to decide whether to be flawed or not?

    ———

    I don’t know how people got the idea that presuppers (at least in general) make the claim that “reason is flawed.” Take a look at a simple version of the transcendental argument for god (TAG):

    1. If there’s no god, knowledge is impossible.
    2. Knowledge is possible.
    3. Therefore, there’s a god.

    As I understand it, the intuition behind the first premise tends to be that knowledge (the laws of logic, and the like) is necessarily true, and so depends on the existence of a necessary being, which obviously they think is their favorite flavor of god.

    They may even invoke divine simplicity and say those are identical to one another, yet still insist that they’re worshiping an actual deity rather than what we’d say is “merely” impersonal logic. So at least if one makes that kind of presupper argument, it’s definitely not the case that one considers reasoning itself “flawed,” because to them it’s supposed to be a perfect being, which necessarily exists, etc. Even if they don’t consider them identical, I think there’s usually a pretty strong inclination to think it’s so magical and wonderful that it’s only rivaled by this magical and wonderful god, which is the only thing that could make it possible.

    The only “flawed” reasoning would be anything that isn’t consistent with their brand of Christianity (usually, or whatever their religion happens to be), because they think anything like that must be inconsistent with the nature and existence of reasoning itself. Of course, the irony is that what they’re doing isn’t reasoning at all or based on any knowledge. I’d consider being inconsistent with this kind of bullshit a point in its favor.

    Anyway, at least in this sort of argument, they make the opposite case and (like all True Apologetics™) take it to fucking perverse extremes.

  54. says

    “But they don’t really believe that. If they did, they wouldn’t feel this pitiful need to reconcile the observations of science with their complete and perfect picture of how the universe came to be in 6 days 6000 years ago.”

    Or maybe they really do believe that, and the whole attempt to reconcile evidence with the Bible is just another recruitment tactic. They do it more because they respect the persuasive power of science to the masses more than because they are trying to convince themselves. It takes quite a lot of arguing to actually back a creationist into a corner where he feels the need to summon evidence to defend his views. If he never has to defend himself, he probably won’t even bother. At least, that’s the impression I got from the few creationists I met.

  55. mnb0 says

    There is a simple answer on @9 Lilandra’s question. PZM already gave it and it’s a philosophical one. Keyword: data. This leads us to Popper and his falsifiability. A simple and explicit example is provided by 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2. The OT says that the ratio circumference versus diameter of a circle is exactly 3. Science says it is 3,1415 and a litlle bit. Let’s measure who is right. This is the end of presuppositionalism.

  56. igortrip says

    Presuppositioalism fails because it’s based on presuppositions.
    Presuppositions are guesses so there’s no way they can be a basis for knowledge.
    So when the likes of Eric Ham states there can’t be morality without God we only need to reply “You can’t know that!”.

  57. says

    I remember that, when watching the “Collision” documentary (about the debate tour of Chris Hitchens vs Douglas Wilson), I got very surprised with Wilson saying that, if rationalist postulate that the veracity of the Bible cannot be justified by that same book claiming it’s own veracity, then a rational view of the world also cannot be justified by giving reasons. After several palmfaces I started thinking about what was it exactly that was SO wrong about that idea.

    For me it has to do with the fact that PZ and @mnbo were pointing out: when we say we use reason to look at the world, what we are actually saying is that we use REASON AND EVIDENCE. There is a real world out there, and you compare your observations (or “reasons”) with it to see if they match. And if they don’t, you don’t just sweep them under the rug: you correct them, you make new, better observations. You LEARN! “Reason” is not an abstract phylosophycal construct, detached from objective reality. Is an approach to navigating the world in an informed, effective manner. A method that has proven countless times to be a very solid, trustable one!

    (now go tell this to a presuppositionalist, and despair)

  58. says

    Presuppositioalism fails because it’s based on presuppositions.

    That’s not actually a problem for it. The usual line is that you can presuppose that there is a god or presuppose that there isn’t and you can’t show that one’s more valid that the other, therefore their beliefs are as valid as yours. (with variants about presupposing the Bible or human reason and what not) They fully admit that it’s based on presuppositions. That’s where it gets its name. The claim is that your beliefs are also based on pre-suppositions which aren’t any more supportable. The problem with this is that we don’t need to pre-suppose any of those things. Even human reason can be demonstrated to give us real info about the world.

    I don’t know how people got the idea that presuppers (at least in general) make the claim that “reason is flawed.” Take a look at a simple version of the transcendental argument for god (TAG):

    I’ve never heard a pre-suppositionialist use TAG. Trying to make logical arguments for the existence of God kind of goes against the whole concept. People got the idea that presuppositionalists think there’s something wrong with human reason because that’s what most of them say. Check out the second paragraph in this Wikipedia article. Or, listen to this episode of The Thinking Atheist where they have a presuppositionalist as a guest.

    http://youtu.be/x4xmw1sVhN8

    But they don’t really believe that. If they did, they wouldn’t feel this pitiful need to reconcile the observations of science with their complete and perfect picture of how the universe came to be in 6 days 6000 years ago.

    The people doing those things are not pre-suppositionalists. If I may be a bit uncharitable, the whole reason presuppositional apologetics exist is the approach of trying to reconcile literalist Christianity with the observed world wasn’t working, so they invented a system where evidence didn’t matter.

  59. gussnarp says

    Your last view paragraphs pretty well sum up what infuriates me about creationists (and a lot of other religious apologists). At least in this case they were up front about it. If they’re up front about it I can say, fine, if human reason, logic, and careful analysis of evidence don’t mean anything to you, then go on and believe your appeal to authority. We have nothing to discuss. I’ll go on living in the real world and taking advantage of all the marvelous things and the increased lifespan and quality of life that my method has given us. I trust you’ll go back to living in the bronze age and die at 34.

    But of course they won’t, and worse, most aren’t so up front about it. They’ll spend endless amounts of time and or money concocting evidence, pretending that science matters and that reason and logic are important, and only when totally defeated will they admit (if ever), that they just don’t care about any of those things. Like Ray Comfort did when Matt Dillahunty shredded him. What I want more than anything is for them to just say that what they believe is at odds with science and reason and that they just don’t care because they think the Bible is more important. But they just can’t be that honest, because they know that the vast majority of people would realize that their position was ludicrous and they’d never stand a chance of getting it in a science classrooms.

  60. says

    I see presuppositionalism as a fancy way of saying “your logic/reason/science can’t even prove you’re not brains in a vat, whereas belief in God rules that out, therefore we win.” The quick response is that not only are they in the same boat (their belief in God, or God himself, could be an illusion generated by The Matrix too), it’s even worse for them, because for all they know, either Satan or the God they believe in may have been fooling them all along.

  61. says

    Also, it might be worth while to point out that presuppositionalism is an entirely defensive argument. Once you accept it as a valid philosophy, you can never argue against any other position anymore, because you think they are all valid given their presuppositions.

    In particular, you can no longer argue that other religions are false, because according to presuppositionalism, they are just as valid as yours. You can also no longer evangelize, because in presuppositionalism, there is no reason why anyone would value your religion over the beliefs they already have. So evangelists can’t actually believe in presuppositionalism and evangelize at the same time.

    Unless the presuppositions themselves are open for discussion, of course, but that kind of defeats the purpose of presuppositionalism, which is that the theist doesn’t have to defend their presuppositions.

  62. raven says

    At the end of the day it isn’t. It’s a false premise.

    Would you call that reasoning?

    I would call making an assertion disguised as a question, nonreasoning.

    I pointed out a few sentences later that we have 500 years worth of data that supports that claim. It’s what we base science and our civilization on. It works. This is empircally reasonable.

    Which you ignored. That isn’t reasonable at all, it is just careless and lazy.

    Do you think, human reasoning is flawed and can’t be relied on is reasonable? Prove it and then go join the Moonies or something. It’s as assertion without proof or data.

  63. sapphire says

    Not quite, mnbo, the YECs have an answer to this one like they have to the other biblical inaccuracies.
    If you factor in an imagined thickness for the bronze walls of the vessel you can fudge a value for pi that is closer to the real one. They can add to the text whenever they want to and whenever it suits their purpose.
    It boils down to to the fact that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into, but the sad fact is that so many innocent bystanders get taken in by their mental gymnastics and start believing them.
    We seemed to be developing an immunity to it in the UK but that immunity appears to weakening of late. It might have something to do with all the missionaries FROM Africa.

  64. raven says

    Tierra at #68:

    when we say we use reason to look at the world, what we are actually saying is that we use REASON AND EVIDENCE.

    There is a real world out there, and you compare your observations (or “reasons”) with it to see if they match. And if they don’t, you don’t just sweep them under the rug: you correct them, you make new, better observations. You LEARN!

    “Reason” is not an abstract phylosophycal construct, detached from objective reality. Is an approach to navigating the world in an informed, effective manner.

    A method that has proven countless times to be a very solid, trustable one!

    Tierra makes the point here well, so I just highlighted some points.

    Human reasoning isn’t flawed. It has limits according to Godel who discovered this…using reason.

    If creationists or others are going to make the claim that human reasoning is flawed and can’t be relied upon, it is up to them to prove that claim.

    Otherwise it is an assertion without proof and can be dismissed without proof, Hitchens rule. They can’t do it.

  65. raven says

    Not quite, mnbo, the YECs have an answer to this one like they have to the other biblical inaccuracies.

    Don’t worry about pi. Among the many contradictions and mistakes in the bible are the Flat Earth and Geocentrism.

    The apologists have their “mental gymnastics” but they aren’t very convincing. Most of the time, like Strobel and WL Craig, they just end up lying a lot and hope no one calls them on it.

  66. Sastra says

    consciousness razor #63 wrote:

    I don’t know how people got the idea that presuppers (at least in general) make the claim that “reason is flawed.” Take a look at a simple version of the transcendental argument for god (TAG):
    1. If there’s no god, knowledge is impossible.
    2. Knowledge is possible.
    3. Therefore, there’s a god.

    TAG is considered a presuppositional argument because the first premise will eventually rest on the idea that there are no such thing as atheists — meaning, the necessity of God’s existence is so obvious, so fundamental to all rational thought that people who deny that God exists are not just wrong, but perverse. If your “argument” is set up in such a way that your opponent is, by definition, not worth arguing with, then the logical, rational set-up is a smoke screen.

    “Reason” is not flawed: human reason without God is flawed. From our perspective, they are arguing against the validity of reason. From their perspective, they are defending the validity of reason — but doing so by showing how inadequate it is without Perfect and Absolute Certainty to rest on. The atheist is defective to not recognize this.

    It occurred to me the other day that part of the reason presuppers think they can borrow infallibility from God is because they’re apparently using the concept of “justification” as a deepity. A ‘deepity’ is a term, phrase, or statement which sounds profound because it can be interpreted in different ways: one way true but trivial, the other way false but extraordinary. Deepities then trade in on the superficial resemblance.

    One way of viewing “justification” is through the lens of philosophy and epistemology. You ‘justify’ a conclusion through a chain of reasoning/logic/math. But there’s also the social sense of “justification” based on authority, permission, and rights handed down from a person in absolute charge of such things. Using this interpretation, you ‘justify’ a conclusion by claiming you’re allowed to believe the conclusion. The Conclusion-Boss said so. That settles it. They’re the only one with the proper authority to “justify” what we do, what we think, what we say.

    Confuse these two interpretations of “justification” and the resulting deepity makes it look like you just discovered how they’re the same thing. Thus, denying one means denying the other. Only the world view which recognizes the Authority of Reason is justified in using reason as an authority. Maybe the Genetic Fallacy and Appeal to Authority, applied to epistemology.

  67. Sastra says

    raven #76 wrote:

    If creationists or others are going to make the claim that human reasoning is flawed and can’t be relied upon, it is up to them to prove that claim.

    From what I can tell, when they talk about problems with “human reasoning” they usually aren’t attacking reason itself, but conclusions. Human conclusions are often flawed — because people make mistakes. So they’ll translate your demand as a need to prove that “people make mistakes” and chalk that up as another example of how arrogant atheists are.

    You’re right, but learning from errors and slowly correcting yourself by checking against critics and reality isn’t as good as “being absolutely SURE you’re right because you ARE right” with no process involved. When the standard is Perfection, then “good enough” is never good enough.

    Naked Bunny With a Whip wrote:

    If presuppositionalists really believed their own position, then the AIG site would just be a single page saying, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

    That’s the t-shirt version.

    You know, if you were to pose as a Christian and go over to AIG and suggest that, I suspect you’d get a lot of support from readers lamenting the fact that nonbelievers make it so hard to spell this out when really, it IS this easy.

    In their world. “this looks like it could have come out of the simple mind of a three-year-old” is often taken as a compliment.

  68. abb3w says

    @0, PZ Myers:

    To me, the really basic assumptions are that I exist; that the world exists; that I can sense this world imperfectly; that there are other beings with whom I can communicate (imperfectly again) who are also trying to sense the nature of this world. From there we try to build a coherent model of that perceived world, using as much evidence as we can glean.

    You also need a few philosophical abstractions — mathematically phrased, the validity of propositional (boolean or equivalent; I prefer a modified Robbins basis) logic, such that premises can connect to a conclusion; the validity of abstract formal languages, such as is presumed for ZF-dervived mathematics; and that the sense of the world you receive is related to the world with a complexity class recognizable by some ordinal degree of hypercomputation.

    Or in more colloquial English: enough logic to allow that premises can ever yield conclusions, enough arithmetic so your language exists, and the world having some pattern. Science follows as corollary pseudo-algorithm.

    For a scientist, none of these additional assumptions is of practical concern.

    @27, rayndeonx:

    Presuppositionalists usually point to the laws in Aristotelian logic, namely, the law of non-contradiction, law of identity, law of excluded middle, etc. These laws somehow imply a transcendent logician somehow.

    Except, these laws are taken only abstractly; and the basic Axioms underpinning them may validly be taken in Refutation rather than Affirmation.

    Furthermore, these laws are being taken as the starting basis for all inference. The phrasing that “These laws somehow imply a transcendent logician somehow” quite literally emphasizes the undeclared “SOMEHOW”, leaving open the question “by what prior basis”?

    @27, rayndeonx:

    The first is that the problem of induction is not as intractable as some would argue. There is quite a bit of work in probability theory at laying out a mathematical justification for induction. For two nice attempts at drawing out the problem of induction see Timothy McGrew’s “Direct Inference and the Problem of Induction“, Paul Vitanyi and Ming Li’s “Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism, and Kolmogorov Complexity”

    I’ll also note, the Vitanyi/Li approach essentially formalizes the idea of “nature is uniform”, and renders it mathematical. (Their approach posits a pattern of RE-complexity. I’ll note, this is recognizable a degree-zero Turing hypercomputer; and it appears their MDLI theorem can be extended to arbitrary ordinal degree.) However… this effectively takes this assumption as axiom. Once can also consider taking it in Refutation. Under such Refutation, Ramsey’s theorem becomes relevant; the appearance of uniformity is a local effect, of size inevitably emergent from a sufficiently large sea of chaos (because chaos runs out of ways to not have pattern).

    But mostly, I’d say we’re in very similar camps.

    @27, rayndeonx:

    First, (1) is seriously doubted in meta-ethics.

    I’ll suggest for your amusement the notion of morality as poset: an ordering relationship over a set of choices, from “better” to “worse”. Given a set of choices, the existence of a set of such posets can be shown constructively from standard ZF (or ZFC if you insist on having infinite choices). The question is, which poset in the set of posets you’re referring to; specifying which is the “morality” referred to requires an axiom.

    This links to Hume’s is-ought problem; an axiomatic bridge is required to define which ought-ordering morality is being referred to for the set of is-choices.

    Thus, moral “facts” are moral theorems, dependent on which is-ought bridge is taken as the semantic foundation.

    @33, jeromehaltom:

    Most of us scientists pick the axiomatic option of the Münchhausen Trilemma.

    Mathematicians equivocate in some ways between all three. They mostly start with ZF or equivalently consistent axioms. However, they also are willing to talk about the model of axiom system #1 under axiom system #2, and vice versa… which is somewhat circular. Or you can build up “model of the model of the model of the….” to a full-blown infinite regression.

    In so far as science implicitly takes the language of mathematics for granted, science can also be cast similarly under any of the three horns of the Münchhausen Trilemma. However, it similarly seems of no practical import which.

    @33, jeromehaltom:

    Presupposationalists are just picking another way to escape from this argument.

    Or rather, to try escaping. The Münchhausen Trilemma still applies; they’re just tucking different loose ends away.

    @46, dangeroustalk:

    Basically the claim is that we use reason to prove reason. How would you address that?

    By asking if they accept or deny that premises can ever have implications; then dragging them through the Robbins derivation of Boolean algebra (to allow for some particular implications), the ZF-construction of mathematics, and the Vitanyi-Li paper. At least, in theory; in practice they’ve all wandered off before “1+1=2″.

  69. says

    This (meaning the OP); same thing struck me in that introductory section of Ham’s Fun House. A priori, the Bible is just one book (actually, an anthology) of ancient literature among many (Quran, Iliad, Norse Eddas….), and old literature is but one category of data about the past (and even where it’s not literally true, it’s still all data about what those cultures were thinking at those times). Elevating one particular source to the status of TRVTH and insisting that all else must be interpreted to conform to it is a massive case of special pleading (in AIG’s case, mixed with false dichotomy and probably a few other fallacies as well).

    I blogged it here: http://humanistottawaweb.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/theyre-so-cute-when-they-play-science-museum-part-1/

    My conclusion:

    In the first 60 or so feet of the Walk Through History, the Creation Museum has actually made two devastating concessions:

    1) That “mainstream” science essentially has it right, as far as the evidence and human reason goes.

    2)That their conclusion is driven overwhelmingly by religious dogma; that you would never arrive at the young-earth creationist account of natural history from the evidence of the world itself. You only get there if you begin by assuming that Genesis is true, and then proceed to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate the evidence to fit.

  70. raven says

    Human conclusions are often flawed — because people make mistakes. So they’ll translate your demand as a need to prove that “people make mistakes” and chalk that up as another example of how arrogant atheists are.

    I think I see what you are saying and what they mean.

    The creos’ “reason” is slightly different from the way we use the word.

    Human reason is a continuous process that self corrects and asymptopically approaches the truth. People make mistakes, discover those mistakes by reasoning, and correct them by reasoning. It relies on data and crosschecking.

    Empirically, by direct observation, it works. It’s why we live in the Space Age instead of the Dark Age or Stone age.

  71. unclefrogy says

    when I have succumbed to the temptation to argue with some believer in religion if I can keep myself form being swept away by all of the make believe idiocy and just so bullshit and not get down in the same mud pit with them I try to get back to my fundamental position.

    OK you say all of this stuff is true but it is just because you say it or this book says it. So what, there are other books and writings in the world they do not all say the same thing. There have been many spiritual teachers, there are many different religions all contradict each other in many ways. How am I to know that one is more write than another? There are even those who say that none of them are correct so outside of a belief that YOU have the “true faith” how am to tell.
    Why should I take your word for any of it?

    when you remove all of the rhetoric, all the pseudo reasoning, lies presuppositions, authority, traditions, there is only faith there is no other thing or idea they can hold to. They believe it. I do not. Why should I take their word for any of it? There is nothing else.

    uncle frogy

  72. SomeoneElse says

    Presupperism is but an epistemological denial of service attack.
    It barrages its victim relentlessly with demands of justification, each time moving its goalposts towards the infinity so that the victim can actually never succeed. each time threating to declare itself as the victor if the victim fails to play by the presupper imposed impossible rules. So, that the victim is too busy to either notice, or object against, that the presupper is never ever applying this ridiculous standard to his own philosophy( or “philosophy” ), or, that the real philosophy of the victim does not demand infinite level of justification and so it in fact can not by self-refuted by failing to provide it.

  73. gluon says

    This is a bit like trying to argue someone out of solipsism. I think if they truly believed it it would be a total waste of time to argue with them. The practical task is not really so much to show that the philosophical position is wrong, which makes even intelligent heads swim, but to show that they are liars when they claim to believe it.

  74. Owlmirror says

    No, I didn’t acknowledge that human reasoning is flawed. It can be but it doesn’t have to be.

    Hm.

    I wonder if we’re disagreeing over semantics?

    I would agree that reason, in and of itself, is a methodology that isn’t flawed. But reason can be applied incorrectly; by starting with false premises or making false inferences.

    Adding “human” in front is meant to emphasize that reasoning, when done by humans — who obviously make mistakes, and are sometimes blind to the fact that they’ve made mistakes — isn’t necessarily flawless.

    Why wouldn’t you describe something that isn’t necessarily flawless as being flawed?

  75. consciousness razor says

    Do you think, human reasoning is flawed and can’t be relied on is reasonable?

    No, not really. Some of it is of course flawed, and it can’t be relied on for some things, but just as a universal statement about reasoning itself, no.

    Prove it and then go join the Moonies or something.

    That’s funny coming from a self-described “pagan.” Or am I confusing you with someone else?

  76. mudpuddles says

    But Aron Ra’s wife was asking for a simple refutation of presuppositionalism. There isn’t one.

    Why not? “Its true because it says so” is not an argument from a higher authority, as they claim… its an argument from fuckin’ toddlers.

  77. says

    But Aron Ra’s wife was asking for a simple refutation of presuppositionalism. There isn’t one.

    The simple refutation is pointing out their knowledge about God, or the Bible or whatever they are using as the basis for their pre-suppositions, comes for other people, so ultimately they are pre-supposing human reliability, which goes against their own premises. If they try to argue direct inspiration, that’s not pre-suppositional.

  78. says

    Ace of Sevens-Yes, that is one of the suggestions that shifts the burden of proof back to the apologist. They have to then justify that their reasoning isn’t flawed about what or if their God revealed anything to them.

    Someone else pointed out they can’t borrow omniscience from their deity;they are still as human as the rest of us.

  79. realitycheck says

    “I have two arguments I use against them, arguments that are more comfortable for someone with an empirical sort of brain.”

    First, I look at all the things that I just think are facts, (my presuppositions), and fault them for not being as gullible as I am by just accepting them all like I have, and at the same time, I completely ignore that these things that I take for granted, are indeed “my presuppositions”. (But shhh… don’t tell anybody)

    Second, I assume that their beliefs, which I totally mis-represent (or am just too lazy to even try to understand) are not foundational because AIG built a museum to make their point. Obviously, no would who really believed in the things they were saying would build a museum to show what they believed if they really believed what they were saying. I mean could you imagine going into a museum where somebody arranged a bunch of fossils, that were discovered in many different places and at different times and displayed them in a certain arrangement (or order) with a bunch of signs next to them claiming that such an arrangement represented the “true” order of how those fossils “evolved” over millions of years, as if they were found over those millions of years and in that order. How silly. Obviously, anybody that would do such a thing must not “really” believe what they were saying!

    Wow! You sure convinced me! lol

  80. Owlmirror says

    First, I look at all the things that I just think are facts, (my presuppositions), and fault them for not being as gullible as I am by just accepting them all like I have, and at the same time, I completely ignore that these things that I take for granted, are indeed “my presuppositions”. (But shhh… don’t tell anybody)

    You have to be “gullible” to accept that it is a fact that reality is consistent enough that we can infer additional facts about reality by studying it?

    Second, I assume that their beliefs, which I totally mis-represent (or am just too lazy to even try to understand) are not foundational because AIG built a museum to make their point.

    The beliefs — which are not misrepresented, although they may not be fully understood, inasmuch as the tribal psychology of science denialism is not fully understood — cannot be “foundational”, for the reasons PZ noted, which it would appear you are too lazy to understand, and so therefore misrepresent.

    “AIG building a museum” is not the reason for inferring that the beliefs are not foundational; it is a further entailment of the beliefs not being foundational.

  81. John Phillips, FCD says

    It’s presuppositionalist turtles all the way down, or if you don’t like turtles, (poor turtles, what have they ever done to you), it’s presuppositionalist last thursdayism all the way down. In other words, the fact that anyone can presuppose anything they like and defend them with the exact same half-arsed arguments that the religiobots do to defend their god’s existence, shows exactly how totally worthless they are. Well except for giving some religiobots a semblance of sophistimacated apologetics to enable them to try and defend their whacky beliefs.


    BTW, rayndneox @ #27, your god/good t/t’ paragraph is a thing of beauty and for it you deserve an Internet of your very own. I was chuckling before I got half way through and was guffawing by the end. As was a friend after I showed her it in response to her question of why I was ROTFLMAO. Well done sir, well done indeed.

  82. John Phillips, FCD says

    Naked Bunny with a Whip
    29 June 2012 at 10:45 am

    If presuppositionalists really believed their own position, then the AIG site would just be a single page saying, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

    I would argue, that in the converse of the reason that we often debate with obvious trolls and maroons, i.e. for the benefit of the uncommitted, lurkers and the less knowledgeable, presuppositionalists do it for the benefit of fellow believers so they can feel a bit better in that it sounds, on the surface at least, as if logic is also on their side. Though I agree with Sastra in her reply to you, that I also think, actually I know as I had have that said to me more than once, that many believers do take that very stance. Presuppositionalists give both those who take that stance and those who need more, the appearance they are getting more. Though I imagine I am not telling you anything you don’t already understand :)

  83. says

    I had hoped to glean some mature intellectual reasoning from these posts but they seem to have more of a tone of a hyenas’ feeding frenzy where everyone has gathered to bash creationists and presuppositionalists because within this forum it is easy and safe to do so cos everyone else here is doing so. I am not saying I am a creationist or a presuppostionalist (and I am not saying that I am not those things either). But I do recall at school the rampant dishonesty of evolutionist teachers in biology and chemistry who simply didn’t present all the raw data for honest appraisal. I remember viewing documentaries in later years where natural biologists churned out theories that they KNEW had long been debunked because it was more convenient to do so rather than cede any ground to creationists. Large sectors of the scientific community are riddled with duplicity because expediency trumps transparency. Evolutionists have their mantras just as much as creationists. And evolutionists most certainly have their agendas too which are not always scientific!!

    Freethought means both sides honestly embracing and honestly representing the opposing sides views and opinions. Creationists have failed to do this often and many of the views on this particular forum (like many other evolutionists) seem to fail to do so either. This is is what puts me off both sides of the debate. Less juvenile mudslinging and more scientific integrity would be most welcome!

  84. Ichthyic says

    But I do recall at school the rampant dishonesty of evolutionist teachers in biology and chemistry who simply didn’t present all the raw data for honest appraisal.

    oh… this should be fun.

    examples please?

    do be specific, it was your education, after all, and we have to make sure to be able to recognize what these bad teachers are doing!

    Large sectors of the scientific community are riddled with duplicity because expediency trumps transparency.

    and peer reviewed journals are….?

    Creationists have failed

    they failed because they actually don’t have any testable arguments remaining.

    anything they suggested that was remotely testable has been, and they were wrong.

    go figure.

  85. Ichthyic says

    I’m guessing it’s actually your own ignorance that “puts you off to both sides of the debate”.

    in fact, I know it, since there aren’t actually even two sides to this debate.

    there is science… and there are liars who claim to do science.

    that’s all.

  86. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I am not saying I am a creationist or a presuppostionalist (and I am not saying that I am not those things either). – stevegay

    I’m guessing that you’re both. I’m not guessing that you’re an ignorant idiot, because, as Ichthyic says, there are not “two sides to this debate” (so you’re ignorant), and at best you haven’t bothered to inform yourself before mouthing off (so you’re an idiot).

  87. says

    no surprises here then – both immature name calling replies! but admittedly my expectations weren’t high so I am neither disappointed or offended. Already I am “ignorant” an “idiot” and, by incorrectly presumed association a “liar”. So already you have written me off before I have responded. What a celebration of open minded debate you both are!

  88. consciousness razor says

    What a celebration of open minded debate you both are!

    What is there to debate?

    Have you read the entire thread and noticed many commenters disagreed with PZ’s article? They did it by making substantive, reasonable comments, based on their best understanding of the subject under discussion. Notice they didn’t get insulted or dismissed for it either, because that is a kind of open-minded debate worth celebrating, not coddling the kind of vacuous bullshit you’ve given so far.

  89. says

    yes I did read all of the posts and the overall tone of this blog is ridicule and marginalisation. posters purport to set up the creationist position and presuppositionalist positions (both of which I do not necessarily hold to!) and yet routinely misrepresent it and shoot down its proponents as if they are intellectual morons. then claim intellectual integrity and the higher ground. things haven’t really moved on since those embarrassingly duplicitous biology lessons at school. ho hum.

    “bullshit” – at the raging profanity phase already? gosh – that took quicker than I expected…..!

    I’ll leave you to tantrum over my post as you will. I’m leaving this playground and going to discuss further with the grown ups.

    Bye!

  90. consciousness razor says

    yes I did read all of the posts and the overall tone of this blog is ridicule and marginalisation. posters purport to set up the creationist position and presuppositionalist positions (both of which I do not necessarily hold to!) and yet routinely misrepresent it and shoot down its proponents as if they are intellectual morons. then claim intellectual integrity and the higher ground. things haven’t really moved on since those embarrassingly duplicitous biology lessons at school. ho hum.

    “bullshit” – at the raging profanity phase already? gosh – that took quicker than I expected…..!

    I’ll leave you to tantrum over my post as you will. I’m leaving this playground and going to discuss further with the grown ups.

    It’s all about tone, not substance.

    Bye!

    Thanks for stopping by, asshole.

  91. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    stevegay,

    posters purport to set up the creationist position and presuppositionalist positions (both of which I do not necessarily hold to!) and yet routinely misrepresent it

    I note that you don’t actually produce any examples. Because, of course, you can’t.