That Ol' Time Atheist Religion

Atheist fundamentalism is a sad phenomenon. Examples of it are provided below from comments made on this post.

Agreus

“Yes it’s a poor argument. The argument is deductively valid, as is the following:

If large green peas, then Jolly Green Giant. Large green peas. Jolly Green Giant.

Obviously, this isn’t a good argument for the existence of the Jolly Green Giant. Yet Chris, who supposedly is a huge proponent of TAG, seems to think these types of arguments are pretty convincing arguments for the existence of God.”

Agreus is referring to TAG here and is asserting that it is a “poor argument”. At this point in the discussion, he still has not told us exactly why it is a poor argument (and still has not). He admits that the argument is deductively valid and provides another example of a deductively valid argument. It is not very clear why he provides the other argument. Nevertheless, I have seen the same kind of action taken on atheist blogs and websites. Perhaps atheists think that writing out other arguments with apparently absurd premises and conclusions justifies their rejection of the argument which is actually the topic of discussion. In any event, the argument that Agreus offers pertaining to the Jolly Green Giant has nothing to do with the examples of TAG which were provided except that both arguments are deductively valid. Agreus asserts that it is obvious that the Jolly Green Giant argument is not a good argument for the existence of the Jolly Green Giant but does not tell us why. Likewise for TAG. Contrary to what Agreus writes about me, I do not think that his argument for the Jolly Green Giant nor allegedly analogous arguments constitute “pretty convincing” arguments for the existence of God. Most deductively valid arguments have nothing to do with the existence of God. Aside from this, an argument can in fact be sound yet not convincing. There is a difference between proof and persuasion.

Claudio Querido

“P1 – If knowledge, then God
How can there be knowledge if reality is only a product of God’s mind? If truth or falsehood in the Universe can be revised according to somebody’s whims, then it doesn’t make sense to call it reality anymore, no matter who is the revisor.

P2- Knowledge – In a subjective Universe? I don’ t think so.

P3 – Therefore, God exists…in your imagination.

Unless you can come up with a definition of God that is coherent, we can feel free to affirm with all letters that such a contradiction doesn’t exist. As a being that “creates” reality and give objects their identities, his inexistence is 100 % garanteed. Your definiton of God is all proof of his inexistence one can possibly need.”

Claudio has made up a position and started arguing against it, but the position he is arguing against is not that of the Christian. Since God is real, reality is not only a product of God’s mind. He argues against another straw man when he attributes a belief to Christians along the lines of God revising truth and falsehood according to His “whims”. Hey, it sounds nice, but it has nothing to do with the position Claudio is supposedly engaging. Claudio then implies that the universe on the Christian view is “subjective”. I am not sure what this even means as it is stated, but have my suspicions that Claudio is an “Objectivist”. As such, Claudio is objecting to nothing more than God’s sovereignty based upon his dislike of it. He then asserts that God exists “in your imagination”. Of course he does not offer anything by way of argument for this assertion, but fundy atheists rarely do so. He next assumes that there is no coherent definition of God, but does not provide anything by way of why it is that the definitions of God he has encountered are incoherent. Claudio apparently believes that since God creates, God cannot exist. I miss how this strange assertion accomplishes anything. Claudio refers to “your definition of God” and cites it as being proof that God does not exist. Again; no further explanation is provided. We have a decent sample of atheist preaching, but nothing more.

The Secular Walk

“@Mr. Bolt:

Many people often consider TAG to be both circular and unstated because when one views the argument one gets the feeling that there must be more to it, because the argument is just a bunch of bare assertions. So that moves some people to say the argument is unstated; And in it’s unstated format the argument is patently circular. However those people don’t realize that TAG basically has no more supporting premises. That it really is fully stated, and that it’s just a circular argument plain and simple. That’s how they are both “consistent” with each other.

C.L. Bolt

“Many people often consider TAG to be both circular and unstated”

Have you experienced many people doing this?

“…because when one views the argument”

How does one “view” an unstated argument?

“…one gets the feeling that there must be more to it,”

Well obviously if the argument has not even been stated, there must be more to “it”.

“…because the argument is just a bunch of bare assertions.”

Arguments are composed of assertions. I do not see any problem there except for you, because you would want to simultaneously hold that the argument is both stated and not stated.

If you’re saying instead that the argument is merely an assertion, then recall that I’ve already dealt with this. A mere assertion is not an argument and cannot be properly labeled “circular”.

“So that moves some people to say the argument is unstated;”

Well I just showed why what they are saying does not make any sense.

“And in it’s unstated format the argument is patently circular.”

What does “unstated format” mean? How can an unstated argument have “format”? How can it even properly be called an argument? All you’re doing here is asserting that TAG, as an argument in “unstated format”, whatever that means, is “patently circular”. But this cannot be, as the two charges are inconsistent with one another. Merely asserting the opposite is not much of an answer to the problem, I’m afraid.

“However those people don’t realize that TAG basically has no more supporting premises.”

They don’t? Who are these people again, and how do you know that they don’t know? Maybe it would help if you could state TAG as you conceive of it so we can see what you mean about there being “no more supporting premises”. Of course “no more supporting premises” implies that there are some premises…and if you stated the argument it would no longer be unstated…and even if we had some mixed up bundle of premises which did not constitute an argument they still could not be called circular… Perhaps you could help me understand what you mean by providing an example.

“That it really is fully stated,”

Then it’s not unstated, is it?

“…and that it’s just a circular argument plain and simple.”

Circular arguments are typically stated so far as I know. Can you provide me with an example of an unstated circular argument?

“That’s how they are both ‘consistent’ with each other.”

Your explanation does not actually cohere, so you have not yet come close to reconciling the two. I’m not even sure why you would think that you had done so when you explicitly state, “That it [TAG] is really fully stated.” How can TAG be stated and unstated?

You may want to give this some more thought.

The Secular Walk

@Mr Bolt

“Perhaps you could help me understand what you mean by providing an example.”

Here’s an example that shows how TAG is a fallacious circular argument:

Premise 1A: “If knowledge then God”
Premise 2A: “knowledge”
Conclusion A: “therefore God”

The argument above is fallacious because the second premise does nothing to substantiate the initial claim in {P1}

It’s that simple. TAG is an extremely bad argument.

C.L. Bolt

The Secular Walk,

I asked, “Can you provide me with an example of an unstated circular argument?”

In response you provided a stated argument. That’s not unstated. So you did not provide an example of what I asked for.

Not only is what you wrote not relevant to what you wrote before and ignores my counter to your original comment, but it makes very little sense.

The premises of any argument like the one you stated above (which is an instance of Modus Ponens) are to be “substantiated” by other arguments, evidences, etc. given in support of the premises.

Yeah, it’s “simple”, but you have not shown that TAG is “an extremely bad argument.” You’ve instead merely asserted it after I refuted your last comment and then showed that you likely do not really have what it takes to keep up on this one right now. :/

I’d encourage you to read through the discussion very carefully and give it some more thought. You might also want to purchase or check out an introduction to logic textbook. I recommend Copi.”

It looks as though The Secular Walk did not take my advice. Instead, he attempted to change the topic of the discussion and things got worse from there on out.

@Mr. Bolt

Ok, let me give you a fair opportunity to substantiate why if knowledge exists, then God exists. Why does knowledge necessitate God?

Notice that The Secular Walk has completely abandoned his previous line of reasoning. He did not explain how what he wrote before was not blatantly contradictory, and he did not answer my questions.

Exactly Agreus; I tried to point this out to Mr. Bolt but he decided to red herring to his unstated/circular distraction, instead of dealing with the real issue. Whether TAG is valid and sound, and proves God.

Comments like these make me wonder whether or not people like The Secular Walk are just trolls. The Secular Walk has accused me of a red herring. This is rather amusing for a number of reasons. First, note what The Secular Walk was trying to establish when he initially commented. Second, note that when I responded to The Secular Walk with what was wrong with his comments, he changed the subject. Third, note that there was a reason for The Secular Walk initially responding the way that he did…it was the topic of the post. Unfortunately for The Secular Walk, the “unstated/circular” issue is not a “distraction” at all, it’s the entire point of the post that he tried and failed to satisfactorily respond to. A distinguishing feature of fundamentalist atheists is their apparent inability to be able to stay on topic when they are pressed for answers concerning their initial assertions. We have a good example here in the case of The Secular Walk, who wishes to discuss whether “TAG is valid and sound, and proves God”. (Of course, part of the discussion The Secular Walk supposedly wants to have is the discussion he wants to avoid – namely – how TAG can be both unstated and yet circular.)  

“I’m still waiting on a substantiation from you Mr. Bolt, on why Knowledge/logic necessitates God.”

One must wonder why The Secular Walk was waiting on a response to something that was not relevant to the refutation he received nor the topic that was being discussed. Perhaps it is the case that The Secular Walk is guilty of the very red herring he incorrectly attempted to ascribe to me.

“Too long of a lag time in response means I can conclude your position is false”

Of course “too long” is subjective and even if I were to have taken “too long” the conclusion that my position is false does not at all follow. The truth of a position does not depend upon the length of time an adherent to that position takes to respond to a fundy atheist on a blog. Surely The Secular Walk knows this? If I were an atheist I would be pretty thoroughly embarrassed right about now. Is the desperation on the part of fundy atheists so great that they must use such absurd reasoning in an effort to declare victory?

“…because you either can’t answer, won’t, or did not respond in a timely manner, such that I can move on, assured my position has not been impugned.”

Unfortunately for The Secular Walk his position has “been impugned”. Recall that I refuted the claims he was making in his comments. He wanted to move on after that.

@Nick F, Chis Bolt, etc

(irritated sigh)

(He should put himself in my shoes!)

“Can any of the opposition here/theists, stop with these silly little distractions”

Not when The Secular Walk kept bringing up such silly little distractions.

 “…and red herrings like unstated this,”

Again, that was the topic of the post, not a red herring, and The Secular Walk knows this because it is what he initially commented about.

“…or harping about timely manner,”

If I said that it was not amusing to see a complaint concerning the very thing that he brought up then I would be lying.

“…and get to the important issue here. Can you prove God with TAG”

Probably not, if TAG is both unstated and circular, but no one has shown how both of these objections can be the case.

“…or am I correct in my Strong Atheism?”

Even if TAG could not be used to prove the existence of God it would not follow that Strong Atheism is correct.

“So again I ask, can Mr. Bolt, or Nick, give logical, empirical, observational, or scientific substantiation for why logic/knowledge necessitates the existence of God?”

Actually he did not ask this once, so he cannot ask it “again”. Regardless, it was irrelevant to the discussion.

“Stop messing around with nonsense and get to the important question here.”

That would require that I not respond to The Secular Walk’s wishful thinking.

“And I didn’t set an arbitrary timeline for truth. I said I CAN CONCLUDE…(I) can conclude.”

No, you cannot.

“This is reasonable.”

No, it is not.

“If you ask a female for a date, and she takes minutes to answer, YOU can conclude, that she either doesn’t want to go, or at the very least, can’t answer right now because she’s not sure.”

There are countless other explanations as to why a “female” might take minutes to answer concerning a date. For example, perhaps she is waiting for The Secular Walk to refer to her as something other than “female” before answering. One can no more draw the conclusion that The Secular Walk wants to here than one can in the case of how long it takes me to respond to The Secular Walk. The analogy The Secular Walk attempted to make is not even valid.

“There’s a reasonable time for any response. This is like a debate but in written format. If you asked someone in a face to face debate to give a logical account of something, and they are silent for 10 minutes, one can conclude the question has revealed that their position is false or illogical.”

One can conclude this, but is the conclusion correct? So long as some other reason might be produced for the silence the conclusion is dubitable. Even in this narrow hypothetical other reasons for the silence would need to be rule out. One obvious alternative conclusion is that the person debating just does not have an answer. Another is that he or she is not very skilled at debate. It does not follow that the position held is false or illogical. Again, this is not even analogous to the situation that The Secular Walk was trying to draw conclusions about anyway. I was not in a face to face debate with The Secular Walk during a cross examination period anymore than I am a “female” he has asked on a date.

“If their position was correct, they would not be silent for no 10 MINUTES. That’s common sense.”

No, that’s an incorrect assertion and wishful thinking without any argument to back it up.

“What are you supposed to do? Sit there and left them think about it for 2 hours? No; There’s a reasonable timeline.”

One wonders why this worries The Secular Walk so much when he is not in this position at all.

“In this format, a few days is the most”

The Secular Walk’s reasoning here is that if he posts a comment on a website that does not even relate to the topic being discussed and then the person he directed it toward does not answer within two days then that person’s position is false. Oh if only it were that easy! 🙂

“…because you have to know people have social lives /obligations, and are not on the computer all day.”

Perhaps that is the reason the person did not view the comment worth responding to immediately?

“What are you supposed to do, check in regularly for 2 weeks until they MAY respond. That dog don’t hunt.”

🙂

Hopefully The Secular Walk will check back in. If anyone knows how to get in touch with him then please let him know that I would like to invite him to debate me on the topic of the existence of God one evening the week after next (the week of June 13th) on Skype. I hope that in that context he may have some of his questions answered directly and without any more than a minute of “lag”.


9 Comments

Midas Vuik

I think you are missing the real problem here, Chris. The issue I (and many atheists and skeptics as well) have with the TAG is not that it is circular (clearly, it isn’t given the way you’ve formulated it) but rather that it begs the question. You cast it as:

1. If knowledge, then God.
2. Knowledge.
3. Therefore, God.

I would like to see some sort of justification for the first premise. When atheists accuse you of engaging in circular reasoning, I think they really are referring to question-begging, for what reason do we have to accept the first premise? It appears that only someone who has already accepted the conclusion would accept premise one. So, I think you need to first get this out of the way if you want the TAG to get off the ground.

C.L. Bolt

“I think you are missing the real problem here, Chris.”

I hear this a lot, but usually the “real problem” is something completely different from what was just stated as the “real problem” only a moment before.

“The issue I (and many atheists and skeptics as well) have with the TAG is not that it is circular”

Unfortunately none of the atheists who have been posting here recently are in agreement with you. See here – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1207 for example. So, I think you are missing the real problem, which is that many atheists and skeptics who comment here on Choosing Hats mistakenly think and/or assert ad nauseum that TAG is circular.

“clearly, it isn’t given the way you’ve formulated it”

Well I tried and tried to tell this to the others but they would not have it!

“but rather that it begs the question.”

I understand that there is a distinction which can be made between begging the question and circularity even though the two are closely related, but I might need you to draw this out for me so that I know what you are saying.

“You cast it as:
1. If knowledge, then God.
2. Knowledge.
3. Therefore, God.
I would like to see some sort of justification for the first premise.”

Thankfully, Agreus has started to explain for us how the first premise is supported. See here – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1272&cpage=1#comment-1962

“When atheists accuse you of engaging in circular reasoning, I think they really are referring to question-begging,”

Perhaps, but that is hardly my fault.

“…for what reason do we have to accept the first premise?”

See the comment from Agreus.

“It appears that only someone who has already accepted the conclusion would accept premise one.”

It does not appear that way to me.

“So, I think you need to first get this out of the way if you want the TAG to get off the ground.”

Of course, this is not really relevant to the initial post that started all of the fuss, but I understand that the conversation will progress and change especially given that you are commenting on a separate post.

Thanks for your comment.

Ryft Braeloch

Midas Vuik,

If that given argument is the TAG (and it is not), then it is not question-begging. In fact, the argument you cited is a completely valid modus ponens rule of inference:

(1) If P, then Q.
(2) P.
(3) Therefore, Q.

Whether or not an atheist can accept the first premise is irrelevant biographical information, because an atheist’s disinclination to accept the first premise is not what makes an argument question-begging. An argument begs the question when a proposition to be proved is assumed without proof. This argument does not do this. It is (1) a conditional that P implies Q, and (2) an assertion that P. In other words, the thing to be proved is not assumed without proof. Modus ponens is not fallacious.

But neither is this argument the TAG. Rather, the TAG establishes the first premise; i.e., it’s a different and separate argument.

C.L. Bolt

He’s using what I provided as an example of how I have seen TAG stated. My original comment was, “I’ve seen a significant number of people state TAG…It is also clear that many of the examples that can be provided are not circular. For example, “If knowledge then God, knowledge, therefore God” does not appear to be circular. Likewise, “Logic, If not-Christianity then not-Logic, therefore Christianity” is not circular that I can see. ”

So, I am to blame if that part is wrong. I am more interested in the discussion that you are getting at in your comment. I have no idea what people are finding objectionably “circular” about the examples I provided and when they try to point it out the explanations contradict each other and come up short.

Midas Vuik

I think its first critical to distinguish between circular reasoning and begging the question in order to see what I was saying. Circular reasoning is when one justifies proposition A by proposition B, B by C, C by D,…,Y by Z, and Z by A. This does not appear to be the case with the syllogism Chris used, otherwise it would be evident from the structure. Question-begging is a bit different. Here would be an example of such:

1. If God does not exist, then the universe does not exist.
2. The universe exists.
3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a valid deductive argument. Moreover, as a Christian, I believe that argument is sound because I believe that the universe is contingent on God’s existence and His will. Yet, this argument, at least by itself, would not be used in a debate because no one would accept (1), which states that the universe is contingent on God, without first believing the conclusion. Of course, it’s not impossible for someone to inexplicably come to believe (1) and (2) and then conclude (3), although such would usually not be the norm.

Now, Ryft, I don’t deny that the syllogism I gave was deductively-valid. Unlike circular reasoning, which relates to the argument’s structure, question-begging relates to one’s beliefs about the premises. An argument can beg the question and still be valid (or even sound). Rather, the concern is justifying the first premise for the atheist. Fortunately, Chris cites Agreus who basically admits that one can show the truth of the conditional “If knowledge, then God” by showing that its negation “It is not the case that if knowledge, then God” to be false. How one might go about in doing this would certainly be interesting to see.

Ryft Braeloch

Midas Vuik,

As I said, question-begging is when a proposition to be proved is assumed without proof. (I can cite sources if this is in doubt.) But the modus ponens you cited does not beg the question. If it did, it would not be recognized as a valid rule of inference, would it? You said that “an argument can beg the question and still be valid,” but that’s false. Begging the question is a fallacy, which is an invalid inference (an error in reasoning). So the truth of the matter is actually opposite of what you said: an argument cannot beg the question and still be valid.

Whether or not someone can accept the first premise is biographical detail and completely irrelevant. Let me explain why that is so. As a modus ponens the argument is self-evidently valid, so we are left with whether or not it is sound. This is established by its premises being true. With regard to the first premise (“If knowledge, then God”), its truth value is not determined by one’s ability or willingness to accept it. If Smith cannot accept the first premise, does that mean it is false? No, for that is an argument from personal incredulity—a fallacy. Is it valid for Smith to reason, “It is false unless and until it is proven true”? No, for that is an argument from ignorance—another fallacy. His ability or willingness to accept it is irrelevant biographical detail.

But can we say that it is true unless and until it is proven false? No, for that’s the same fallacy. However, even though we assume its truth for the sake of argument—this particular modus ponens argument—we don’t base its truth on that assumption. Its truth is not contrived, but rather derived. When it comes to “justifying the first premise for the atheist,” that is where the TAG enters the picture.

Midas Vuik

Ryft,

Thank you for clarifying your position and what you meant. Yes, the real issue here, as you’ve correctly stated, is justifying the first premise (If knowledge, then God) for the atheist. What I’m trying to ask is how might one go about in doing this? I personally believe it is true, but only by virtue of the fact that I am a Christian. The real question is: how do I convince the atheist that it is true? I’ve tried looking around at here, and I haven’t been able to find any rigorous philosophical argument which shows the truth of the first premise. If you would perhaps refer me to some sources, I would greatly appreciate it.

Midas Vuik

I guess Ryft has been busy lately… Chris, can you help me in answering the last aforementioned question I directed to Ryft?

Ryft Braeloch

Midas Vuik,

My apologies. I had been busy lately, yes, tied up with stuff at my own web site, and ended up forgetting this discussion here. You have my sincerest apologies.

How do you convince the atheist that the first premise is true? You can’t, because the atheist is working from a set of criteria that is diametrically opposed to the first premise being true (often an ambiguous scientism grounded in metaphysical naturalism). To convince him you would have to prove its truth using his criteria—but since his criteria precludes its being true, you’re at an impasse.

But it is not your task to convince him at any rate. Your task is to prove the truth of the first premise, and his being convinced has no relevance to that (i.e., it’s not as though the premise is false unless and until he’s convinced otherwise, the ad ignorantiam fallacy again). And you prove the truth of the first premise through careful exegesis of the relevant texts of Scripture. [1] Now, the atheist will immediately denounce the Scripture as any kind of valid criteria, so how do you respond to that? By pointing out that that only holds if given his world view; but since in this argument his world view is NOT given, he must do better than to simply beg the question against your argument.

I can never stress the importance of the following fact strongly enough: YOUR world view, including its criteria for truth, does not play by the rules of HIS world view, nor does it need to. The Christian world view has its own set of rules and criteria, antithetically different from those of the atheist’s world view. For the atheist to suppose that only his criteria alone renders true propositions carries the implication that his criteria are universal, that no competing criteria render true propositions. That shoulders an enormous burden of proof, which he cannot validly discharge (i.e., his every effort will prove invalid). The atheist will instead prefer the safety of merely refusing to accept it as true—which, again, is irrelevant biographical detail.

The Christian, on the other hand, CAN validly discharge the burden of proving that no competing criteria render true propositions—via the “impossibility of the contrary” featured in the TAG (which is not so much an argument as a strategy), whereby it is shown that the atheist’s world view, through a careful step-by-step analysis using its own terms, defies the very intelligibility of truth and reason at best; i.e., that his means actually fail his desired end. In this way you have proved both (a) the truth of the first premise using biblical criteria and (b) that meeting his criteria would be an exercise in futility because they are broken and unreliable.

Would this convince him? Probably not, because his most basic philosophical commitment is not to logic and reason at any rate; he is prepared to live with a broken and unreliable world view in order to avoid compromising his true basic philosophical commitment: belief in the lie of Satan. (I recently had an experience like this, where the atheist’s world view was so reduced to absurdity that he was willing to consider abandoning it, but refused to accept Christianity as a live option.) Writes pastor Grover Gunn, “Satan challenged man to put ‘God in the dock’, elevating himself over the word of God as its judge; i.e., if the word of God is true, it is only because man has judged it to be true. […] Man can successfully have ultimate authority and live. Man can successfully be as God. Man can be the measure of all things and the master of his own destiny and his world won’t fall apart. That is Satan’s big lie. And that is fallen man’s most basic philosophical commitment.” [2]

As Horatius Bonar noted, “What arguments can you expect to prevail with a man who refuses the Gospel? Admit that there are other [theistic] arguments, yet the man is set against them all. There is not one argument that can be used which he does not hate. His will resists and rejects every persuasion and motive. How, then, is this resistance to be overcome, this opposition made to give way? How is the bent of the will to be so altered as to receive that which it rejected? Plainly by his will coming in contact with a Superior one, a will that can remove the resistance […] The will itself must undergo a change before it can choose that which it rejected. And what can change it but the finger of God?” [3]

But like I said, your task isn’t to convince him at any rate. Your task is to prove the truth of the first premise, which his being convinced has no relevance to.

[1] For a robust presentation of that argument, i.e., establishing the first premise, I would personally recommend The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God: A Theology of Lordship by John M. Frame. He presents a solid biblical case for knowledge.

[2] Grover E. Gunn, A Short Explanation and Defense of Presuppositional Apologetics.

[3] Horatius Bonar, God’s Will and Man’s Will.


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