Episode 98: Presuppositional Apologetics (part 2) »« Episode 96: Better Late Than Never

Episode 97: Presuppositional Apologetics (part 1)

Most Christian apologists attempt to persuade the skeptic by offering rational arguments  for theism. Proof of theism may be possible, they argue, but even if it is not multiple lines of evidence support the reasonableness of the Christian worldview.  The presusppositional apologetic method abandons this approach. There is no neutral ground, they say, from which the theist and atheist can argue their claims. Gods existence  cannot be proven. We must believe in Him, however, if the world is to make sense at all. According to the Transcendental Argument For God (TAG), the principles of logic and science both depend on the existence the Christian God. Atheism is a self-refuting belief because one must  presuppose theism to even argue against it. For the first episode of this series the doubtcasters present an overview of presuppositional apologetics and discuss strategies that atheists should avoid when attempting to counter their claims. For part 2 of the series the doubtcasters will present several challenges to TAG and presuppositionalism more generally.  Also on this episode: creationism bill in Indiana, Amish renegade Johnny Mullet goes on a beard-shaving rampage, a new Pollyatheism and more.

Download RD97

Or subscribe and listen in iTunes or any podcast client:

Podcast

Apple computers: itunes 1click subscribe

Windows: iTunes 1-click subscribe

Comments

  1. says

    …one must presuppose theism to even argue against it.

    Yeah, just like one must presuppose fairies and unicorns to even argue against them.

  2. Sam C says

    … strategies that atheists should avoid when attempting to counter their claims

    I guess “don’t be so childishly stupid, you moron!” is not considered a strategy?

    Seriously, there isn’t a god of any sort, let alone a Christian one, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in arguing about the nature of the non-existence with those stupid enough not to realise this. Or am I missing something?

    Better to debate the inherent contradictions: why is anybody daft enough to believe in an allegedly omniscient and omnipotent god which both knows nothing and does nothing?

  3. says

    I’ve noticed readers at Freethoughtblogs for some reason love to argue with us (or what they think our position is) or call our efforts pointless, having only read a paragraph long episode description. Maybe if you listen to our show you’ll understand why we dont think “you are a stupid moron” counts as a valid counterargument.

  4. says

    I hate to admit that I liked this episode. I wish I would have known about some of this before I became embroiled in some of the arguments I have been in. I have a friend who hates Christianity, but he believes in Anastasia and the Ringing Cedars. Same type of logic, different kind of crazy. Using the label “presuppositionalist” with them isn’t helpful, but recognizing it and shifting your strategy is.

  5. Justin schieber says

    Oh yes karatemonkey, I am all too aware of Sye. Check out his media page for the unfortunate encounter I had with him last year. It was a learning experience to say the least – a humbling lesson in preparedness.

  6. says

    karatemonkey,

    (Jeremy here) That Stephen Law resource is great. Thanks for sharing. After seeing how drawn own these fights got on his blog and others, its got me worried about my own “commitment gap.” If we start getting flooded with presuppositionalists after our next episode Im going to have to make it clear from the start that Im only going a few rounds. I have a life.

  7. KarateMonkey says

    You might just try adopting the argument that Law eventually did: http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2008/08/sye-dim-presuppositinalism.html

    My claim: Sye’s mind is addled and his thinking unreliable because he was hit on the head by a rock.

    Prove this is false Sye.

    Try to, and I will say – “But your “proof” presupposes your mind is not addled and you can recognise a proof when you see it. So it fails.”

    Ask me to prove my claim and I will say: “But prove to me your mind is not addled, then, Sye”. Which you won’t be able to, for the above reason. I might then add, with a flourish – “So you see, it’s proved by the impossibility of the contrary”.

    And of course I have a good explanation for why your brain is addled – you were hit by a rock.

  8. 1000 Needles says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this episode!

    My first encounter with a presuppositionalist left me utterly stunned and shocked. Looking forward to part 2.

  9. BC says

    Hearing you talk about Presuppositionalists claim that everyone knows ‘deep down’ that God exists reminded me of a Scientology tactic. L. Ron Hubbard claimed that all the opponents of Scientology are merely resisting the truth because they’re guilty of horrible crimes. This is why you’ll sometimes find Scientologists saying, “What are your crimes?” to opponents of Scientology – as if the sole reason anyone would oppose the “religion” is because they have terrible crimes (like child sexual abuse) that they’re trying to protect from the light of Scientology.

    Examples:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocw90W44Boc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPol_m8wm8Y (skip to 2:50)

    It’s ultimately not an argument you can win because you can’t prove you aren’t guilty of some unspecified crime, and the Scientologist gets to ignore the criticisms of Scientology to focus on some imaginary crime that’s driving Scientology’s opponents. It’s maddening because it’s sort of a “Let’s stop talking about the facts, and let’s just talk about the imaginary immoral reasons you won’t acknowledge the truth”.

  10. BC says

    By the way, what’s stopping anyone from any other religion from using presuppositionalism? I see no reason why Jews, Muslims, or even Hindus or Buddhists from using presuppositionalist arguments to argue for their particular brand of religion.

  11. Joe says

    Awesome podcast guys. At the end of the counter apologetics segment I felt like I had just been through a defense against the dark arts class. I’m interested in hearing the next installment.

  12. johnkavanagh says

    Great podcast, just one thing grated on me. This was the pronunciations used in the “polyatheism” segment. Seeing as the story you used for Lugh was taken mostly from the Irish mythology, his name is generally pronounced “Loo” in Ireland (irish Lú — the u is long). Also its “Tuatha” sounds more like Tooa-ha (it means people, as in folk or race), not Tain (Táin is a completely different word, meaning something like raid).

  13. says

    If you do want to interact with a ‘sane’ Presuppositionalist then I’d recommend Chris Bolt of Choosinghats.com

    Sye is pretty near certifiable and while Chris may not be able to fully comprehend the weaknesses in the argument he is at least more amenable to coherent argument.

  14. says

    Great podcast, guys.

    One possible approach to presuppositionalism is to make your own, conflicting presupposition using your own invented God.

    Imagine how taken aback a presuppositionalist would be in a debate if you said the following:

    “I have a confession to make: I am not an atheist. I believe in the god Drusba*. And he inspired me to write down his only gospel. This gospel says that everyone knows deep down inside who Drusba is, and that no understanding of the world is possible without him. Drusba is the giver of logic and knowledge. Drusba also says that no other gods are real, including the Christian God.”

    The only response available to the presuppositionalist would be to explain why his biblical gospels are more trustworthy than those of Drusba. But this would require him to abandon his presuppositionalist stance.


    * “Absurd” spelled backwards. Why the hell not?

  15. HappyHour says

    Hello Guys (from a Memphian in London)…. new to the comments but have heard all of your shows. Good job!
    A couple of thoughts…

    I thought this article was an interesting follow up to the ‘Muslims jailed for handing out anti-gay pamphlets’ on your podcast. The Christians are also in court for telling a gay couple they will burn in hell. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099194/Bible-clutching-street-preacher-court-telling-gay-couple-burn-hell-High-Street-rant.html

    Also, you’ve mentioned several times how ‘enlightened’ the Europeans are with regard to atheism. I find that usually they are just not bothered about god or they just simply don’t believe in god but for no particular reasons, they just haven’t thought about it. However, very often they don’t believe in god but they believe in an afterlife. Or they don’t believe in God but they believe in ghosts and the supernatural. Then there are plenty of new-agers out there that believe in healing, meditation, crystals etc. At least when you get an atheist in America, all that other supernatural silliness also goes when they rid themselves of god-belief.

    Just a thought. Keep up the good work!

  16. says

    If you want to see/hear how some of the above posters (Justin Schieber, Paul Baird) have fared when engaging the apologetic, please visit my “Multimedia” page: http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/multimedia.php

    As far as Justin’s suggestion that he was unprepared, our exchange was in response to a lecture he gave on presuppositionalism. Of all the people I have engaged, he should have been MOST prepared.

    As far as Paul’s claim that I am “near certifiable,” I trust that even Justin would disagree with that claim, and the contrary can be evidenced in my 4 encounters with him (Paul).

  17. Justin Schieber says

    Absolutely right Sye. Key words: ‘SHOULD HAVE’.

    I feel like I owe it to a helpful gent like you to never make that mistake again.

    Cheers

  18. BC says

    Wow. I visited Sye’s proofthatgodexists website. I really don’t believe the guy is worth arguing with. Are there any better presuppositionalists?

    Out of curiosity, I followed a link on his website titled “Only the Christian worldview can logically support rationality.” That looked interesting, so I followed the link. It lead to a page titled, “How do Christians account for universal, immaterial, unchanging laws?” Wha? That wasn’t the question. I was curious to see how he was going to make the claim that “Only the CHRISTIAN worldview can logically support rationality.” as opposed to the alternative claim “Only theistic worldviews [including Deist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Jainist, FSM, etc] can logically support rationality”. but he did a bait and switch to address a totally different question. As I mentioned above, what gives presuppositionalists the right to claim that Christianity (as opposed to any other theist belief) is the one and only conclusion of presuppositionalism?

  19. says

    “I really don’t believe the guy is worth arguing with. Are there any better presuppositionalists?”

    There are many, but why don’t you start with a pushover like me? Contact me through my website, and I’d be happy to set up a debate, over Skype perhaps?

  20. says

    “The Super Bowl clip is typical: “I’m not trying to prove that God exist to you, Sir” But see proofthatgodexists.org.”

    I am not at all surprised that you still don’t get it Fergus. (2 Timothy 2:25)

  21. BC says

    > There are many, but why don’t you start with a pushover like me?

    I’m not saying that you’re a pushover, I’m saying that you are not logical and unwilling to admit when you’re wrong. I’ve had enough arguments with people like that on the internet to last me a lifetime. No thanks.

  22. says

    “I’m saying that you are not logical and unwilling to admit when you’re wrong.”

    Perhaps you would like to include what I am wrong about here, and how you know for certain that I am wrong, since you apparently are not interested in debating live. Perhaps you could also include how you account for the laws of logic by which you deem that I am “illogical” and why those laws necessarily apply to me. Thanks.

  23. Justin Schieber says

    BC, It was a very short-lived podcast and I didn’t want to pay for the hosting. Only 7 episodes, didn’t miss much.

  24. BC says

    > “BC, It was a very short-lived podcast and I didn’t want to pay for the hosting. Only 7 episodes, didn’t miss much.”

    Alright, cool. I just thought they might be worth the download. Thanks.

  25. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Maybe if you listen to our show you’ll understand why we dont think “you are a stupid moron” counts as a valid counterargument.

    In isolation it sometimes seems like that is the theist strategy: go to spectacular lengths to convince others of their own intellectual incompetence, then declare victory when the only response remaining is that they’re deranged/dishonest, which is invalid (or the opponent bails just prior to spare their feelings).
     
    One time I had
    – a flurry of args from ignorance,
    – complexity indicates design, just not in biology,
    – a “similar particles in different places are both called electrons therefore [a-fairy-makes-it-so]“,
    – the fairy communicates with me and compels me to read bits of the bible for details it won’t send directly,
    – pascal’s wager as to whether communication really is from that fairy or self-deception (even after seeing the QualiaSoup+TheraminTrees video),
    – post-modernism to reduce everything to wishful thinking, culminating in “reason can’t justify why I should be rational [implying: so I can assume whatever I want about reality without consequence]“,
    – people who believe things, like faith healing, because they want them to be true are idiots,
    – then literally what can be summarized as “I’d lose my will to live without telling myself what I acknowledge as unfalsifiable blind speculation is true”.

    And once the subject changed, all was forgotten.
     
    Another time after seven hours of guided science/philosophy education, another person finished with
    – When you count bits of a picket fence, there are different results if you count the gaps or posts.
    – Eternity’s a long time…
    – Maybe all of physics arbitrarily changed recently to make what happened in bible stories no longer possible, now. And part of that rearrangement was to make everything look like it disconfirms the bible.
    – There’s a voice in my head that tells me to do things, like buy milk and leave it at a stranger’s house. I obey without question.
    – I’m not going to do anything with my life. “I’m just waiting to die and go to heaven.”

  26. TaiChi says

    The Doubtcasters:

    Thanks for doing this series. It’s a stance I’m not familiar with, so I’m interested in learning and developing an opinion on it. BTW, could you put some links up to your research material?

    Sye:

    I’ve taken a look at your website, and your proof. The biggest problem I think is this..

    “The God of Christianity is the necessary starting point to make sense of universal, abstract, invariant laws by the impossibility of the contrary.”

    .. is mere assertion. To someone who has doubts about whether Platonism is coherent like myself, I hope and expect you to say how the god of Christianity makes sense of such laws, and not leave the rest of us in the dark. Without an explanation, and even granting the other steps in your proof, you’ve failed to say anything positive in theism’s favour.

    “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. “

    I just wanted to comment on this too: it’s clearly an endorsement of the inference from design to God. So, if you take this passage seriously, then the reason one should believe in God is to be laid out in an argument from design, and not the transcendental arguments you offer. But the argument from design has been since the time of Darwin amongst the weakest of arguments for God, which discredits the passage, and with it the view it is supposed to support, that there are no true atheists.

  27. Alex says

    We’ve dealt with this particular brand of lunacy several times at Fundamentally Flawed (just go to the archive at fundamentally-flawed.com/pods and look for episodes featuring Circular Sye, Eric Hovind, and Dustin Segers).

    Paul is right, Sye Ten Bruggencate is practically certifiable, a hair’s breadth from full blown psychosis IMO, he’s best ignored.

    I’d recommend Dawson Bethrick’s http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/ as the go-to place for debunking presup idiocy. Over and over he’s shown that, far from ‘atheists borrowing from the theistic worldview’, the presuppers have ransacked the cupboard of objectivism for foundations before they every start to build their ridiculous religious edifice!

    The Primacy of Existence trumps pretty much everything else, and gives a firm base for us to build working knowledge of our universe on. If you want a laugh you should try and find the article where Dustin Segers tried to argue against the Primacy of Existence, ended up describing something completely different, deleted the article out of shame, and THEN tried to claim (on my podcast) that he’d successfully debunked it!!

    Luckily this presup nonsense seems to be limited to a very small number of fringe believers, so you’ll not have to be bogged down in it for too long.

  28. says

    ”.. is mere assertion.

    I don’t imagine that you are familiar with “transcendental” or “necessary preconditional” claims. Indeed, if something is the necessary precondition for intelligibility, then it must stand on its own, as if there could be something intelligible to prove that claim it would cease to be the necessary precondition for intelligibility. God is the necessary precondition for intelligibility on His own authority. The only way to disprove a transcendental claim would be to provide a contrary necessary precondition.

    To someone who has doubts about whether Platonism is coherent like myself, I hope and expect you to say how the god of Christianity makes sense of such laws, and not leave the rest of us in the dark.

    Well, on a very basic level, God has told us that “From Him, through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Absolute laws are necessarily included in “all things.” The constituent elements of these laws (universality, immateriality, and invariance) are also entirely consistent with Scripture.

    Without an explanation, and even granting the other steps in your proof, you’ve failed to say anything positive in theism’s favour.

    Naturally I disagree, but absent your own justification for intelligibility, how do you know this?

    I just wanted to comment on this too: it’s clearly an endorsement of the inference from design to God.

    Actually it’s not. Romans 1 is talking of “immediate” rather than “mediate” knowledge of God in the created order. You see, if this was an argument from design, we, as fallen creatures could make a mistake in our reasoning to God, and would, theoretically anyways, be “with excuse” rather than “without excuse” as the passage indicates. Also if this was a design argument to God, it would follow that God is not the necessary precondition for the very argumentation employed, and what one would end up with would not be God at all, but an idol of one’s own making.

  29. kantalope says

    You will probably cover this in the next podcast – but the things that occurred to me while listening:

    I am no Bible scholar but I don’t recall any big discussion of logic principles in the sermon on the mount or anywhere for that matter. So how come the big logic scholars were Greek and worshipped a whole nother set of gods? Seems like the supposition we should arrive at is that things are comprehensible because of Zeus and the titans and not the Hebrew god.

    And the point of the bible and the god there-in is the non-logical miracley parts, no? I am excited to hear how that all works in a presuppositional world. All your logics are belong to us – and the nonlogics and the revelations too.

    And I love the polyatheism part…but I would have gone with the much funnier pronunciation of Lou – who ends up being Lou Grant in my mind’s eye.

  30. clamboy says

    Thanks for the podcast! This is my first encounter with presuppositionalism, but right away it seems to be question begging of a heretofore unrealized magnitude. If this is so, its adherents are to be congratulated for their cheek, if nothing else.

  31. Rob says

    Way too much time and effort has been spent countering these Presuppositionalist clowns.

    The first thing to realize is they are trolls. They have no interest in actually having a conversation or a fair debate. Their goal is to confuse and thereby embarrass their opponent.

    That said, presuppositionalism need not be all that confusing. They pick out some abstract concept (usually ‘the laws of logic’, ‘absolute morality’, ‘the uniformity of nature’, or induction) and then demand that the atheist ‘give an account’ of that abstract concept.

    Giving an account of those concepts is difficult.

    Then the presupper gives his account, which is “God did it”.

    IMO opinion, trying to ‘give an account’ is the wrong strategy. Rather, it is enough to show that “God did it” is no explanation at all.

    If you want to do more than that, watch TheoreticalBullshit’s youtube series on TAG.

  32. says

    I had hoped that Chris Bolt would have looked in and presented is lines of argument.

    Sye is pretty near certifiable in my opinion.

    The line of argument that I used and which has stood up pretty well, even to Sye, is that the asserted requirement that the supernatural transcendent entity must be the Christian God is special pleading.

    Even the Christian philosopher Dr Glenn Peoples acknowledges that and Sye has even whined a complaint to him. :-)

    Aside from Justin, Alex and myself Ben Wallis has also debated him.

    As someone has already observed, and it was something I noted nearly two years ago. Sye’s advocacy of Christian Presuppositional Apologetics is very similar to that used by Scientology.

    IF you would use caution when debating a Scientologist then do the same if you debate a Presuppositionalist.

    Sye’s behaviour is also worth noting – he is not dishonest, he just thinks differently to everyone else.

  33. Greg Esres says

    Sye wrote:

    “Indeed, if something is the necessary precondition for intelligibility, then it must stand on its own, as if there could be something intelligible to prove that claim it would cease to be the necessary precondition for intelligibility.”

    So you admit it’s mere assertion. Ok, thanks, debate over. ;-)

    I assert that nothing is intelligible without the existence of fairies.

  34. Sharkey says

    I remember a member of Loftus’ blog tried to have a debate with Sye: http://skepticalstudies.blogspot.com/2009/02/tag-refutation-and-account-for-laws-of.html

    Darrin laid out a pretty robust argument, which went completely over Sye’s head.

    I quote from Sye’s last response:
    “You claim that you have provided an ‘absoute and irrefutable’ proof that an outside world exists, yet you just arbitrarily posit a stop in an infinite regress with an arbitrary, and unjustified knowledge claim.”

    I found my comment in the peanut gallery, which is still appropriate:
    “When I read [Sye's statement above], my irony meter exploded.”

  35. TaiChi says

    Sye:
    “I don’t imagine that you are familiar with “transcendental” or “necessary preconditional” claims.”

    Well, if that’s what you think, I’m happy to go along with it: the onus is on you, then, to be especially clear in explaining how your argument is supposed to work.

    “Indeed, if something is the necessary precondition for intelligibility, then it must stand on its own, as if there could be something intelligible to prove that claim it would cease to be the necessary precondition for intelligibility.”

    Alas, I don’t find you clear. ‘Intelligibility’ is a word, not a claim, since claims come in sentences. Supposedly, you expect me to know just what claim you intend by using the word, but I find there are multiple candidates.

    No matter: let’s suppose you mean by ‘intelligibility’ the claim that “Intelligible objects exist”. Then it is true that if intelligible objects exist and have some necessary precondition, then the necessary precondition must not depend upon an intelligible object for it’s existence. Now let’s suppose not only that intelligible objects do have such a precondition, but also that the precondition is God. It follows that God is unintelligible. But if God is unintelligible, then one cannot believe that God exists, for belief requires intelligiblity. Contrary to what you believe then, everyone, deep down in their heart of hearts, is an atheist.

    “The only way to disprove a transcendental claim would be to provide a contrary necessary precondition.”

    Well, that’s not true. One could disprove a transcendental claim for A by showing that A is self-contradictory, or incoherent. But I don’t imagine anyone needs to disprove your claims, Sye, since nobody is obliged to believe what they can’t disprove.

    “Well, on a very basic level, God has told us that “From Him, through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Absolute laws are necessarily included in “all things.” The constituent elements of these laws (universality, immateriality, and invariance) are also entirely consistent with Scripture.”

    I think you’ve misunderstood me: my problem is not that I don’t understand how God could produce such laws, but that I don’t understand what such laws are supposed to be, and I don’t see how God’s existing and producing such laws sheds any light on that. That your argument leads to a position I find incoherent seems to me a good enough reason to reject it.

    “Naturally I disagree, but absent your own justification for intelligibility, how do you know this?”

    Again, claims are justified, and they come in sentences, not in singular words. It’d be nice to know exactly what claim you are alluding to, but I guess you mean to ask: How can I know that you have failed to to say anything positive in theism’s favor, without having some justification for the world’s being intelligible?

    Well, there are a great many things one can know without having any sort of justification for them. On one popular account of knowledge called Relibilism, it requires (i) that the knower have a belief, (ii) that the belief is true, and (iii), that the belief is produced by means that are reliable in the circumstances. These conditions may be satisfied in the absence of justification, most notably, in cases of child and animal knowledge. Recognizing the intelligibility of an object seems to be another nice example in favor of such an account: we do this naturally, without progressing through a prior chain of reasoning to arrive at the belief.

    “Actually it’s not. Romans 1 is talking of “immediate” rather than “mediate” knowledge of God in the created order. You see, if this was an argument from design..”

    I said it was an endorsement of the inference from design to God. I never said it was an argument. Obviously, one doesn’t find arguments in the bible.

    “Also if this was a design argument to God, it would follow that God is not the necessary precondition for the very argumentation employed, and what one would end up with would not be God at all, but an idol of one’s own making.”

    You’ll have to explain this to me, since it doesn’t appear to make sense. I know of no premise in a design argument which would conflict with the premises in your own argument, so I can’t see why the success of the former should demonstrate the failure of the latter.

  36. says

    Xian presuppers can’t use the “unvarying laws of the universe” or the “absolute morality” to make any case for their god simply because:

    1) a god who performs “miracles” shoots down the idea of the “invariant laws of nature”

    2) a god who orders things like the killing of pregnant women and kids shoots down the idea of “absolute morality”. If killing babies and pregnant women is wrong when people do it, it would always be wrong if “absolute morality” actually existed.

    As for the laws of logic, there is nothing in the bible that details them. One can find verses where perhaps some laws of logic are used, but there is no hint that the bible writers knew of the laws in general.

    Unlike the greeks who actually took the time to spell them out.

  37. Michael says

    The podcast brought back a flood of memories of the TULIP teachings of my youth. You can’t even think, argue or question without the sovereignty of God pressing down irresistibly on every thought or breath. The doctrine of the utter unworthiness of any human enterprise was used to good and suffocating effect by the elders. God loves you so much he will shame and humiliate until you agree. I’d forgotten the technique until the podcast and realized what a luxury we’ve enjoyed in dealing with lightweight American style fundamentalism.

    A few thoughts on the presuppers. In a lot of ways their arguments are not different from the fundamentalist ones.

    The demand to justify our theories of knowledge, morality and logic is a variant on the god-of-the-gaps. The assertion that “what your theory can’t explain” [the gap] is proof that our god is the answer — is not better in the presupps hands than it is in the creationist’s. Just more sophisticated in its appeal to western philosophy. I think the presuppers get their traction from that fact that more people today know their biology than know their ‘history of western thought.” Would that as many know Hume as Darwin.

    In fact our worldview begins with existence and perception. We don’t worry that much over where the “absolutes” like the speed of light, inverse square law of gravity, behavior of particles, come from — they simply are and we deal with them. Ditto the laws of logic. At the heart of presupp demand for your rationale is the hoary old ‘prime mover’ argument with a whiff of the ontological argument thrown in for flavoring. The same counter apologetics should apply.

    The other observation from my unmisspent calvinist youth is that the scholastic god demonstrated by their ‘proof’ is such a far cry from the biblical revelation they claim to cherish. The god there is neither logical nor moral. The presupp god might be transcendentally ‘necessary’ but it sure isn’t worthy of any decent person’s worship or thinking persons assent.

  38. says

    “If you do want to interact with a ‘sane’ Presuppositionalist then I’d recommend Chris Bolt of Choosinghats.com”

    They can start with this 6 part series critiquing Justin Scheiber who is one of the hosts on the program above.

    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-6/
    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-7/
    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-8/
    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-9/
    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-10/
    http://www.choosinghats.com/2011/07/praxis-presup-episode-11/

    Justin told me that he was not pleased with his performance during this exchange. His arguments were essentially the same as those he used in his lecture to an atheist meet-up on the topic of presuppositionalism and likewise similar to those he used on Gene Cook’s Unchained Radio.

    I appreciate that the hosts of this program are attempting to provide a reasonable critique of the presuppositional method of apologetics, however I am only five minutes in and am already disappointed by some of the mistakes that are being made. So, for example, even the post above claims, “Gods existence cannot be proven,” but this is not the claim generally made by traditional presuppositionalists. In fact, they generally make the opposite claim that God’s existence *can* be proven. (Interestingly, Justin S. should be familiar with Sye T. since he has interacted with him at length. Sye’s URL is “www.proofthatgodexists.org”!) Or, another example, self-deception is automatically conflated with outright lying, when it is not necessarily the case that they are the same thing. Self-deception is nothing new in philosophical thought. Neither are presuppositions or transcendental arguments for that matter.

    In any event, I look forward to finishing this episode, and hearing the critique in the next one. But I do hope Justin has improved upon said critique, as at least one host at the beginning of the program admits that he is ignorant of presuppositionalism, and Justin appears to be doing most of the talking!

  39. says

    French vocabulary:

    The French word for “cult” is “une secte”. “La Scientologie est une secte.”

    The word “un culte” exists, too, but does not mean “cult”. It means “religion” in the sense of a particular religious practice. France has a “Ministre des cultes” (one of the functions of the Minister of the Interior, i.e. of police and internal security… see link for the website). This might appear odd in an ostensibly secular state, but France is not really secular, and there is much less separation of Church and State than in the US.

  40. Fergus Gallagher says

    That wouldn’t happen to be the same Darrin Rasberry who is now a proffesing Christian would it? :-)

    Persuaded by, unbiblically, argument and evidence. And clearly NotATrueChristan™ since he’s not certain it’s true.

  41. says

    “And clearly NotATrueChristan”

    That would be the same Darrin Rasberry that is now a professing Christian right? Must really irk you that you need to trot in the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. :-)

  42. says

    BC, It was a very short-lived podcast and I didn’t want to pay for the hosting. Only 7 episodes, didn’t miss much.

    Just noticed I’ve still got these in my iTunes, so I’ve burnt them to a CD for safekeeping ;-)

  43. Andrew R says

    How did God create logic, given that creation is itself a logical act.

    If God is required to explain logic, it implies that the laws of logic are not simply self-explanatory and inherent. This further implies the possibility of a hypothetical reality without the laws of logic. Given that such a notion is self-refuting, I’d say that in turn refutes the idea that logic requires a God.

  44. Andrew R says

    If God is responsible for logic, can he therefore break the laws of logic? Are these laws therefore arbitrary?

  45. Sharkey says

    Sye: it doesn’t really matter what Darrin decided after your debate. He laid out a logical argument, and you couldn’t even follow the basics of it, even after repeated explanations.

    If you want to appeal to logic as a fundamental premise, you need to understand it.

  46. Necator says

    On a lighter note..

    Anyone know what the musical piece is at the start of the “Counter Apologetics” segment? Sounds bombastic and rather Wagnerian.

    Cheers.

  47. Andrew Ryan says

    At least that’s what someone else told me here once. I’ve just listened to it on Youtube, and can’t find that piece of music – so perhaps I was misinformed, or am just mis-remembering.

  48. says

    Well, it seems to me that the presuppositionalist position pretty much amounts to “I’m right because I say so.”

    It is amazing the lengths to which people will go to defend their credulity in 2000+ year old myths.

  49. Michael says

    I came out of a hard line Reformed (Calvinist) Church. These places are the ground zero of presuppositionalists. It’s no use trying to play in their world. They make the rules on their playground. If you are adamant to try, go to a Ligonier Ministries Conference in Orlando if you want a little practice. Then, at least, you can go to Disney World afterwards.

    My former Pastor would start each service with the benediction “If we were all born in hell, God would be fully justified.” ergo.. No use arguing with Calvinists.

  50. says

    My problem with apologetics is that they all recycle the same old worn out arguments while continuing to ignore new scientific evidence as to why they are wrong. By design, they refuse to actually learn anything new. I have found them to be a waste of my time. The few I know, while common christians, not professional apologists by any stretch, just keep on rolling out the same questions as last time. They did not spend 5 seconds thinking on anything I objected to. It really is no way to have a conversation.

  51. Minus says

    On a totally different point: re the baptism of the dead father-in-law of Mitt Romney. This has occurred to me before but I never checked it out. Turns out the man’s name was Edward Davies. Do theses folks have any idea how many people are named Edward Davies? How can they be sure they baptised the right one? How can Bill Maher be sure he unbaptized the right one? Do they use social security numbers in heaven to identify people? Or have they baptised (and subsequently unbaptised)every one who has ever been named Edward Davies?

  52. Andrew R says

    Reasonbeing: “My problem with apologetics is that they all recycle the same old worn out arguments while continuing to ignore new scientific evidence”

    Did you listen to the podcast? Using scientific evidence doesn’t help when arguing against presuppositionists. The point the RD hosts were making is that very few of the standard counter apologetics arguments work against them, so you can’t say it’s ‘just the same old stuff we’ve heard before’.

  53. Andrew EC says

    It seems to me that the fundamental weaknesses of the presuppositionalist position are as follows:

    1. There’s no analysis as to what it means to give “an account” of something. Philosophically, something only counts as an explanation if it is what Kant would call an analytic statement; that is, a proposition whose conclusion is not contained within its predicate.

    So if I say: “this grass is green because it has a green-producing nature,” that’s not an explanation, because the conclusion (“a green-producing nature”) is contained entirely within the predicate of the statement (“this grass is green”). On the other hand, saying “this grass is green because it contains chlorophyll” IS an explanation — even if it’s an incomplete one — because it tells us something about green grass we didn’t know at the start of the sentence.

    Saying “the laws of logic exist because they reflect the mind of God” or “because they’re ordained and sustained by God” or “because God wills them” isn’t an explanation any more than the green-producing nature of grass. It doesn’t tell us how God ordains or reflects or wills the laws of logic; it’s not an analytic proposition.

    2. The Christian worldview most certainly can not account for things like the solution to the problem of induction; after all, Christianity explicitly describes a God who contravenes the laws of nature by working miracles — creating ex nihilo, holding the sun in sky, generating fish out of nothing at all, turning water in to wine, and so forth. In the Christian worldview, then, there is no regularity that one can expect and hence therefrom draw inductive inferences, because God could intervene and work a miracle at any time and simply be done with it.

    There are other problems — for example, Sye’s hyper-belligerent approach proves only that humans agree on the concept of logic as a prerequisite to rational debate, not that it exists transcendently; the Christian worldview contains a fundamentally incoherent and illogical proposition in the form of the Trinity; and others. But ultimately the entire exercise is just a cute debating trick. It can catch atheists unprepared — heck, Dan Barker got pretty much destroyed by Paul Manata in their debate when Manata took the presupper tactic — but at its core, it’s not really an argument.

  54. Rob says

    Andrew EC,

    Excellent comment.

    The idea that God somehow ‘solves’ the problem of induction is the most bone-headed aspect of presuppositionalism. In addition to the the miracle problem you point out, there is a bigger problem. The presupper argues that he can rely on the uniformity of nature because he can rely on God to make it so. God will ensure that the future will be like the past.

    But haw does the presupper know that God will behave in the future like he has in the past? The presupper is using induction with God to allegedly account for induction. It’s viciously circular.

    The problem of induction remains. Even if there is a God.

  55. Justin Schieber says

    Regarding using induction to account for how god will actown the future, I would think the presupper would reply that God, by definition, has an unchanging nature which dictates his actions. God’s maintenance of the UON is something his nature will necessarily do.

    I think this brings to the surface a new set of problems. Chris Bolt of Choosinghats.com has been responding to many of these comments on the blog there.

    I think the miracle objection is pretty good. I’m not sure how they would respond. Perhaps Chris will write something up.

  56. Rob says

    Justin,

    “the presupper would reply that God, by definition, has an unchanging nature which dictates his actions”

    To which I would reply that the laws of physics by definition have an unchanging nature. Or the constants of nature are by definition constant.

    All such claims are bullshit, and are transparently lame attempts to make an end run around the problem.

    Usually the presupper will point to some promise or other that God has made, but that is of no help. They are still begging the question.

  57. Michael says

    @C.L. Bolt You probably have a better take on Ligonier’s stances than I do and I would be quick to defer to you. With that said, I would direct you to http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-reconstructionism-what-theonomy/. Their style of apologetics is one thing but I would be wary not to consider them presuppositionalists. I would also refer you to
    “Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God” by RC Jr. It seems to me to contain quite a bit of presuppositionalist thinking. I could be wrong and failing to have all the information which sadly would not be the first time. I gladly accept any help you can give me.

  58. says

    That wouldn’t happen to be the same Darrin Rasberry who is now a proffesing Christian would it?

    What does that matter? Just because he was persuaded by argument X, doesn’t make argument Y any more valid, even if they argue for the same conclusion. Sounds like a red herring to me.

    There’s no analysis as to what it means to give “an account” of something

    I got hung up on the same thing, while listening to the podcast. If the theist can ask us to account for everything, then surely we should be able to ask for the same from them. And “God did it” is not an account of anything. It’s a blank assertion, utterly devoid of explanatory power.

    I’d simply account for everything by saying that everything is the way it is. If their explanation is valid, then so is mine.

  59. Dan says

    What are these “laws of logic” that everyone talks about? I think it’s pretty common for atheists to dismiss the Platonic morality stuff, but a lot have no problem with universal laws of logic. But there are really dozens of logics with various uses. Classical, intuitionistic, modal, linear, etc. Which of these are the divinely blessed set of rules, and which are the ones that humans have invented for other purposes? How can you tell? Really, the “laws of logic” argument betrays a lack of understanding of logic.

    Also, the, “impossibility of the contrary,” angle is really revealed as a debating tactic when you see it used. Presuppositionalists _never_ establish the, “impossibility of the contrary,” probably because no one can. What they do is give some (usually unconvincing) “accounts” for various things, and then challenge their opponent to give an account. If their opponent doesn’t know how to “account” for something, they claim victory, and cite their slogan. But they haven’t established that it’s impossible for their opponent’s position to account for whatever, let alone that no position other than Christianity can.

    This, of course, sounds good in a debate, or when you’re reading apologetic literature (where they can just assert “impossibility of the contrary” without challenging anyone to refute it). But the tactic doesn’t stand up to much thought.

  60. Andrew Ryan says

    I had a discussion recently online with a Christian who told me that atheists frequently claim the laws of logic don’t exist, to which he would reply something like “So you see no difference between being beaten about the head and NOT being beaten about the head?”.

    I challenged him to cite me an atheist denying the laws of logic existed. He then quoted me someone saying that the laws of logic are just human conventions. I called him out that that was not the same thing at all as saying, say, “The law of non-contradiction can be broken”, but he kept on insisting there was no difference between the two claims.

    To me it is pretty desperate to cite as proof of God that, for example, a rock cannot both be itself and not itself at the same time. What would that even look like? To claim otherwise would simply be an incoherent statement.

    On a different point, I don’t follow the argument that consistent rules of nature are evidence of God. I’d say that continually CHANGING rules of nature would be a better evidence of God. What would you say would be better evidence of an external force: a ball rolling down a level hill in a straight line, or a ball that continually changes trajectory and speed?

  61. elderkorihor says

    I noted in your last podcast that you expect to be looking more at mormonism and Mitt Romney in the near future. I am an ex-mormon who grew up in the ward that Romney attended in the 1970s – specifically the Cambridge Ward (a 10 minute walk from Harvard Square. Now however there is a ward building (I expect you guys know all about mormon “wards”) in Belmont (the town I lived in from 1965-77) which is now Romney’s home ward (or congregation). I was a good mormon for many years but officially resigned from the church about 10 years ago (thus liberating my Sundays).

    From a mormon point of view – the doctrine of “baptizing for the dead” (see 1 Corinthians 15:29) does not technically force a person into mormonism in a supposed afterlife, but as mormons believe that everyone wanting to be “saved” (meaning go to heaven) must be baptized, somehow provision needed to be made for those who had never been baptized and had died – and the verse in Corinthians gave Smith an idea on how to square the circle, and allow vicarious baptisms of living people in the name of someone who had died.

    I have done baptisms for the dead on a few occasions (but it was long ago, in the 1970s). Usually one person (often a teenager as this is about the only thing mormons below age 18 can do in a temple) is literally immersed in water 20 times in rapid sequence, each dunking following a very rapid recitation of the mormon baptismal prayer. I guess they figure 20 times per person is doable by most people. At least the font water is always pretty warm. Also, these are only done in temples, specifically temple basements as the water level must be at or below ground level for the ordinance to count (Gos is a real stickler for some of these details I guess). Additionally, temple baptismal fonts are supported by statues of twelve oxen – don’t know if this symbolism is for apostles or tribes of Israel or what.

    Interestingly, the mormon church long ago ran out of names of dead people for whom to do ordinances for the dead for (almost all temple rituals are done for dead people, though the first time everyone does go through for themselves) so they are recycling names of people who have had baptisms, temple endowments, washings and anointings, etc. multiple times to keep mormons busy going to all these stupid temples they built. It’s funny to think that as much as mormonism hated communism (and probably still does for all I know) they are as much into make work for work’s sake than the communists they criticized were.

    As for Romney, when I knew him, he was my seminary teacher my sophomore year of high school – 1973-74. He had a sharp sense of humor, smart, obviously ambitious, and struck me as far more pragmatic than doctrinaire (so I have a hard time believing all this conservative nonsense he continually puts out to try to get the Republican nomination), but he sounds like he turned into a real asshole when he was a bishop and stake president (after I left Boston in 77). He says a lot of things which are hard for me (and a lot of other people too apparently) to believe he really thinks. A friend of mine and I painted his first house in Belmont in the summer of 1977 and I still have a bit of a grudge against him for how little he paid me (I have no doubt he’s a good capitalist).

    PS – I have been listening since about 2006 when I got my 1st ipod – keep up the good work.

  62. says

    From a mormon point of view – the doctrine of “baptizing for the dead” (see 1 Corinthians 15:29) does not technically force a person into mormonism in a supposed afterlife, but as mormons believe that everyone wanting to be “saved” (meaning go to heaven) must be baptized, somehow provision needed to be made for those who had never been baptized and had died

    Quite. As I understand it, the post-death baptism only offers the dead person the opportunity of getting the benefits, it doesn’t force them. So don’t worry, if somebody baptizes you after you’re dead, you can still refuse it.

    The real point of the baptism of the dead is to squeeze money out of the living. See, you can only go to the highest level of heaven, the celestial kingdom, if you’ve been baptized and only in the celestial kingdom are you allowed to be with your earthly family. No baptism and you never get to see grandma again.

    Of course, you can only perform the baptism in the temple and you can only go to the temple if you pay your tithing. So it’s really just emotional blackmail to get the members to keep handing over that cash.

  63. says

    I hate to say it justin, but you probably need to sit down with Sye again to clarify your points for the record in this whole conversation. Otherwise it just leaves that podcast out there for the world to listen to which makes you look like you really weren’t familiar with his point of view. Maybe a loosely moderated informal debate/conversation?

  64. Justin Schieber says

    Jeff, if a conversation/debate with Sye is to happen again, (I doubt that it would.) it would not be a live debate. A scripted debate perhaps. I would prefer a debate where the better arguments win rather than ones ability to debate or overwhelm a conversation.. People listening to our prior conversation is not something I’m terribly concerned about.

    J

  65. says

    i agree, informal debates can be frustrating and easily get off on tangents. I thought the Craig/Kagan debate on morality was a great example of mixing formal and informal debate formats.

    http://static.veritas.org/media/files/v09cbia01.mov

    A mix of formal pre-written statements with very informal conversation with a moderator to make sure that questions were properly answered.

    As a former presuppositionalist, I think you guys did a pretty good job in this episode and look forward to the next one.

  66. elderkorihor says

    Responding to Lyke X’s post
    Yes, you are right on. I don’t think the concept of the temple was self-consciously contrived to squeeze money out of mormons, but it has turned out that such IS the main effect that temples have had. Any schmo can walk into a mormon service, but to be seen at the temple one must either pay a full-tithe (10% on gross income) OR lie and convince the bishop that one is a full-tithe payer. Essentially, the temple serves as a kind of VIP lounge for mormons to see who is a full-tithe payer and who is not – and that peer pressure is the greatest motivation for getting money out of people than any exhortation the church leaders, including threats of hellfire, can make from the pulpits.
    My wife told me that Romney’s tax returns show he pays on net (post tax) income, not his gross. I speculated to her before he released his recent tax return that he was probably more afraid that his bishop would know his gross income than what voters would think of his tax rate if he released his returns, but so far I have not heard (nor have I looked) that there has been any reaction by mormons to Romney’s dodging the full tithing rate.

  67. says

    I would prefer a debate where the better arguments win rather than ones ability to debate or overwhelm a conversation.

    The better arguments did win. Looking forward to your refutations in this next podcast though.

  68. Daniel Aldridge says

    Sye, on February 12, Taichi basically tore you to pieces. You ignored that and went on making smug remarks about some past debate.

    And for the Doubtcasters or the rest of you, sorry if this question isn’t awfully dumb, but isn’t this whole thing Pre-Sup thing really just an argument from ignorance?

    Take this argument:

    “I propose that logical absolutes are conceptual realities that do not depend on human minds or the physical universe for their existence, being that they are conceptual absolutes and transcend space and time there must be an absolute and transcendent mind from which these logical absolutes are derived. I conclude that the absolute and transcendent mind here, is God.” (Matt Slick)

    I mean, basically he’s saying, ‘No one can completely account for logic, therefore God must’ve done it.’ Which already seems to me a contradiction, as you are arguing that something cannot be accounted for, therefore it ~can~ be accounted for. To paraphrase Qualiasoup, “Unexplained” just means “unexplained”.

    Am I wrong here?

  69. says

    Sye, on February 12, Taichi basically tore you to pieces.

    Really? Perhaps he’d like to debate then.

    You ignored that and went on making smug remarks about some past debate.

    Perhaps I should have made smug remarks about a past comment?

  70. says

    [Perhaps I should have made smug remarks about a past comment?]

    Well, you could just go up and look at what he wrote, and maybe respond to it. It’s post #42. (PS – after a certain point I began scanning quickly, so if you already have responded and I missed it, I apologize.)

    But to the general viewers, am I wrong? Isn’t this Pre-sup shtick basically an argument from ignorance?

  71. Sudburyatheist says

    Hi guys

    Long time listener, first time commentator here

    Loved the new episode. The pieve about the muslim guy convicted for spreading anti-gay hate and how it would play out in the USA reminded me of a hate conviction in Sudbury Ontario, Canada of a local fringe politician and extreme christian

    I haven’t been able to locate the court’s decision but here at least is the Wikipedia link

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Popescu_(politician)

    Obviously the legal systems in our two countries differ, Canada believing that the rights guaranteed in our Constitution are limited by what can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society and the US being more absolutist in terms of individual rights.

    I really enjoy the show! Keep up the good work!

  72. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Isn’t this Pre-sup shtick basically an argument from ignorance?

    It asserts a gap, asserts a space pixie to fill it, and the twist is that every counter argument is framed to be another instance of that gap.

    “You can’t tell me I’m wrong until you explain why the vowels you’re using are called vowels (with a why? marathon) to show the alphabet is a valid means of communication. And your explanation won’t count until you explain the vowels in it. And you can’t explain why it’s idiotic to assume whatever I want until disproven either.”

    As mentioned in the podcast, it’s a distraction so they won’t have to try and justify the monstrous idiocies in their holy book. Iron age genocide fantasies are true and examples of a loving space pixie if you are unable to provide an infinitely accurate and precice description of the universe based on an epistemology justified down to first principles, and beyond.

  73. elderkorihor says

    I have to agree with the gist of the comments. The pre-suppositional argument strikes me as mere sophistry pretending to be an ironclad apologetic “slam-dunk.” To assert basically what must be the question being argued in a debate as an ingoing assumption should be called out and strongly questioned by such a debater’s opponent. I guess this approach may have worked for awhile when atheist debaters hadn’t encountered it before and got flummoxed trying to use their normal approach of using philosophical principles, religious texts, historical actions of religions, behaviors of believers, and common sense.

  74. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    What on earth would it mean for an alphabet to be valid?

    I was goin’ for: ground every nuance of your syntax without resorting to subjective human convention, or it won’t be accepted as a valid means of communication.

    Randomly googling this morning, I saw a forum presupper declare his proposed Jesus-backed logic superior because atheists, crippled by a materialistic worldview, have to build on their own imperfect subjective observations. All statements about epistemology as the basis to explain “how can one know anything with confidence?” became a contest between human brains and infallable-by-fiat Jesus.

  75. Justin Schieber says

    Compulsory, gotcha. I thought that was a quote from a presuppositionalist.

    I see little issue with resorting to human convention to provide a framework really. Words mean what they mean because of human convention. Presuppers, of course, want to make this look as if it should be seen as a last resort. However, that is not at all clear.

  76. says

    We offer the actual #1 iPhone Unlock Solution. With this Gevey ULTRA Utes SIM card you are able to fully unlock the latest iPhone 4S with the newest software version ( 5.0 and 5.0.1 with newest 1.Zero.14 baseband) and below.This solution is simple to use and does not need any difficult software. This is a plug & Play hardware unlock that will fully unlock your iPhone! iphone 3gs unlock

  77. says

    I can’t believe I wasted one second of my life going to that Sye Ten Bruggencate website, only to learn that he is utterly ignorant of the reality that mathematics is built on axioms, not laws. Pass the brain bleach! When you start from a fractally wrong premise you can prove anything and nothing.

  78. says

    I thought this and the follow-up podcast were very informative and helpful. I’ve encountered this presuppositionalism within my own family, recently.

    I’ve added your site to my blogroll.

  79. Vlad bbb says

    Please smack me upside down if I’m wrong on this but what is the point of arguing with someone who’s coming from a presupposition point of view??? Why stoop to their low intellectual level?

    For example, if one presupposes unicorns exist I fail to see what’s left to argue about in that case. The best next thing for that person to do is to check him/her self into an institution where they treat delusional cases.

    If Sye reads this.. my question out to you sir, are you seriously out of your mind or intentionally trolling through life? You do realize that without any credible proof in this REAL world, only an absolute lunatic would ever be swayed by your arguments? You have absolutely ZERO basis for believing in your Christian god. I have personally spent well over 25+ years praying to the same god you are trying to shove down peoples’ throats. I’m relieved and delighted I’m no longer mired in the religious bullshit. It’s a disgrace people like you are still out there promoting nonsense and intellectual slavery.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>