Are sunglasses evidence of God?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Psalms 19:1-4 (ESV)

The other day I jumped into a conversation about the presuppositional approach to hermeneutics. One of the individuals involved in the conversation was talking a bit about the use of evidence and saying that evidences are not always bad.

Well, I must agree. Evidences are never “bad”! It is when someone fails to utilize evidences properly that they can become problematic. My contention in the discussion was that the presuppositionalist is more evidentialist than the evidentialist. The evidence of God is not hidden in syllogistic arguments. Everything is evidence of the existence of God. I cited the relevant portion of Psalm 19 above and received one nod. I could not tell whether the other gentleman was being sarcastic or not, but he grinned and exclaimed, “Your sunglasses are evidence!” and pointed to the other student before walking off.

Of course, I find nothing absurd about holding that sunglasses are evidence of the existence of God. Indeed, everything is created by Him and for Him and hence His glory is revealed in all. There is the intuitive need to locate the origin of the created matter itself which is used in making sunglasses. There is the human ingenuity which went into designing and forming a pair of sunglasses. There is the purpose for which sunglasses are made and their function which meshes with this purpose, in and of itself enough to boggle the mind in terms of the science involved. Surely these constitute evidential characteristics of a pair of sunglasses, howbeit only when viewed according to the proper presuppositions of the Christian worldview. We need cut a bit deeper to get at the root of the problem for those who still do not see the glasses as evidencing the God whom we serve.

There are the reliable senses by which our perceptions of sunglasses are formed, the universals by which we categorize our experience and the trustworthy memory with which we approach these and other cognitive processes. There are the extrapolations contingent upon the inductive processes that fill our every thought of sunglasses and there is the language we use to communicate to others regarding sunglasses, even if it is to scoff at the idea that they constitute evidence of the existence and nature of God.

Every fact of existence screams about God. Sunglasses are not excluded, and what we have reviewed barely scratches the surface. Sunglasses constitute massive problems for those who would rebel against God. The evidence does not get us to our conclusions. We all have our presuppositions by which we evaluate the evidence. We must thus argue transcendentally. We may start from any fact and ask, “What are the preconditions for intelligibility in this instance? How do we come to understand this fact at all?” This world is created, sustained, and controlled by God and hence we argue on His turf. There is none other to argue on.

Come now, sunglasses evidence our Creator? Yes, and such is an extremely malleable bullet to bite.

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” – Abraham Kuyper


The failure of unbelief with respect to induction illustrated by Mitch LeBlanc.

Mitch LeBlanc continues to espouse his inconsistencies regarding induction in his most recent post found here – http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/further-thoughts-and-clarifications-on-induction-and-the-christian-god/

Mitch Admits His Problem

He writes, “…I simply mean to suggest that one should be as skeptical about the problem of induction as the problem is skeptical of inductive reasoning itself.”
With this he begs the question. I pointed out that he did so in his previous post and he continues to do so now. The existence of debate regarding a given topic does not entail skepticism. If he is unsure of whether or not there is a Problem of Induction then we can go to the mat on the issue, but to mention that the topic is debated as though this puts some argument in his corner or makes the presentation of an alleged problem go away is simply a mistake. In his most recent post Mitch makes it clear that he does agree with me that there is a Problem of Induction anyway, so why is he wasting time throwing around the names of philosophers who think there may not be a problem and expressing a feigned skeptical attitude toward there being a problem?

If Mitch wants to entertain the idea that invalid reasoning is not unreasonable and hence is rational then he may go ahead and do so, but aside from a quick allusion to this one time in his original post he has not developed a defense of such an idea.
Mitch believes that there is a Problem of Induction and writes, “I think there is an inability to justify our extrapolations of past events into the future”. Now that he has finally admitted this, the readers will expect him to at least provide an answer to the problem after all of the trouble he has put us through in inconsistently presenting us with a multitude of positions he does not hold in the face of the presuppositionalist’s challenge to do so. What is his answer?

His Proposed Solution; Pragmatism

“Admittedly, I am still making my way through Reichenbach’s writings on probability theorem but I agree with him that if there are any true inductions our consistent use of induction will eventually discover them. This justification is pragmatic in nature but certainly a reason for it’s continued use.”

Mitch appears quite confident that finishing a book will provide him with his answer as to a sort of justification for induction. (So much for unbiased reading!) Just from the little bit he pulls from Reichenbach we find a number of problems. The method is itself based upon induction and hence falls prey to Hume’s original objection. We will come to the same conclusions, using Reichenbach’s method, that we will come to if we do not. Even this begs the question though, as it is likewise based on induction. We cannot state that the future will resemble the past in terms of the allegedly pragmatic nature of induction without using induction. We might cut out the heart of a virgin every year to keep the world from ending and proclaim that the practice obviously works, but few (I hope none reading this) will accept the claim.

Scientific Knowledge Impossible

We must be very clear about what Mitch is stating with regard to science. If he is consistent, we cannot know anything through science, not even with probability. Thankfully he seems to understand this as opposed to most people who tout the “falsifiability” line while overlooking its origins. Mitch writes that “Scientific theories cannot be supported, but they can be corroborated by virtue of their falsifiability.” Again, notice that we cannot have knowledge through science. He goes on to explain what he means by theories being corroborated. He writes, “That is to say, the better of two theories will be the one which has been subjected to more falsification attempts and has not yet been falsified”. I find the assertion that a theory somehow becomes more certain through more testing dubious and the assertion that a theory which has undergone more tests is the better theory dubious as well.

Square One

Interestingly, Mitch does not apply Popper’s method outside the realm of science. He is thus left clinging to a pragmatic attempt at justifying induction and Popper’s problem filled method in the realm of science. He is right that I do not find his proposed solutions very convincing. By his own admission, he cannot know anything through science and is unreasonable in his use of induction. After all the fuss that has been made it turns out that Mitch falls right back into the grip of the Problem of Induction. Why does Mitch expect his next glass of water to remain water anymore than he expects it to turn into merlot?

Failed Attack On Christianity

As for the remainder of Mitch’s response, it relies heavily upon continued misunderstandings or misrepresentations of presuppositionalism. The argument is presuppositional in nature and epistemology revelational. The God of the Bible has communicated to us. The Word of God is the final authority, it cannot be held up to a higher authority. The Word of God is the ultimate presupposition, as opposed to proximate. God does not change, does not lie, governs the world and hence justifies our use of induction through causing creation to exhibit non-absolute regularities and fashioning our minds in such a way that they function in accordance with the operations of nature with the result that we come to know His world though not necessarily with certainty. If Mitch wants to argue with someone who claims to have some different presupposition then he should go elsewhere. It is not only impossible for me to give up my presupposition as has been clearly shown in the confusion Mitch offers in response to an old problem of philosophy, it would also be sinful for me to do so.

Conclusion

Mitch is showing himself to be incapable of rejecting my worldview without losing his claims to knowledge and rationality. He is also exhibiting inconsistencies which are indicative of failed argument. Having made this clear I would call upon Mitch to turn from his would-be lordship over himself and submit instead to the Lordship of Christ Jesus of Scripture who upholds the universe by His power, was crucified for sins, buried, and raised again on the third day in accordance with Scripture. There is forgiveness for sins of foolishness in Christ the Lord.


With A Wave of His Wand: How Mitch LeBlanc Answers the Problem of Induction

Introduction

Mitch LeBlanc wrote an indirect response to me regarding the Problem of Induction wherein he relied heavily upon Michael Martin to deal with the presuppositionalist utilization of the famous problem. He apparently recognizes, to some extent, the alleged challenge set forth. My response to his post may be found here – http://choosinghats.blogspot.com/2009/09/mitch-leblancs-proposed-solution-to.html . He has now written another post here – http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/inductive-reasoning-and-the-christian-god/ wherein he states that I have missed the point of his previous article. He claims that his post is not intended to be a solution to the Problem of Induction and that it is debatable as to whether or not there is such a problem. In this post I will address one error on my part from my previous post before showing that Mitch’s most recent response consists of little more than hand waiving.

My Bad

In rereading Mitch’s post, it does appear that I misunderstood him concerning the quote regarding induction in science and the possibility of the sun not rising. The error is on my part and I am sorry for the confusion. It does not appear to have played a massive role in my post so I will move on.

Ignoring The Problem

Mitch writes, “Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem, but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

“Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem…”

There appears to be no pragmatic difference between arguments from philosophers who try to dismiss the Problem of Induction and those that are set forth in an attempt to resolve the problem in a stricter sense. One way to resolve a problem is to show that it is not a problem. Both groups of arguments are set forth to show that ultimately, there is no problem. The works of the philosophers mentioned by Mitch are grouped with literature addressing the Problem of Induction. If there were not an alleged problem there would not be a reason for these philosophers to address the topic at all. It may be that there is no problem, but Mitch has not shown this. Indeed, what Mitch actually does is asserts that there is debate about whether or not there is a Problem of Induction and then assumes without any argument at all that there is nota Problem of Induction.

“…but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

Also, “…the citing of various names is to show that the specific philosophical area we’re speaking of is still hotly debated!”

If Mitch wants to play the role of philosopher he will need to move quickly past this strange reasoning where mentioning that something is debated somehow makes it go away in favor of his own position. When Mitch writes, “As it stands then, presuppositionalists are simply bending the evidence when they present this idea that there certainly is a problem of induction and even moreso when they assert that they have the solution”, he blatantly begs the question. Mitch has not provided us with an argument that there is no problem. It must be pointed out that the presuppositionalist is not similarly begging the question or “bending the evidence”. Hume wrote on the problem, Russell wrote on the problem, Bahnsen wrote on the problem, I have written on the problem, and now Mitch himself has written on the problem. If it is not a problem at all, then please, show us why it is not. If it is a problem, provide us with a solution. Whether we leave this distinction or do away with it is rather unimportant for our purposes. Mitch has not provided a response to what has been raised regarding induction. Mitch misses my point. Naming philosophers is not argumentation. Stating that something is debatable is also not argumentation. I will leave it to the imaginations of the readers to spell out the results of an application of the slippery slope to this type of response used in the context of supposed philosophical discourse!

Inconsistency

We may have reason to disregard the entirety of the discussion thus far, for Mitch writes, “In fact, with regard to Science I agree with Popper’s falsifiability criterion and his conclusion that science relies primarily on deductive reasoning”. One of the biggest reasons Popper developed his philosophy was in response to the Problem of Induction. Mitch’s view of science may be incompatible with his argument that there is no such problem, as the view he holds is itself a result of taking the Problem of Induction seriously. Are we to agree with Popper that there are some real concerns about induction, or are we to agree with the other philosophers Mitch lists?
Where is the compatibility between the statement about induction that Mitch has written, “the uniformity of nature…is used in inductive reasoning” and the views of the pragmatists and Popper? Mitch must be rather confused. He appears to be simply throwing out names and views and hoping one of them sticks. He makes statements like that above concerning induction and how it works which aligns him with the answer to the problem Hume refuted then says that he is not trying to answer the problem because there is not one by appealing to pragmatists without actually presenting any of their arguments then jumps to accepting the view of Popper that was briefly touched on above. What exactly are we supposed to come to believe through all of these posts?

Wrong With Martin…Again

Mitch writes that, “…the relevance of quoting Martin on his analysis of Hume was specifically because Hume is the primary source of Bahnsen’s critique on induction. It stands to reason then that if Bahnsen is quoting Hume and misunderstanding what Hume meant, then either Bahnsen must abandon his advocacy of Hume’s ‘problem of induction’, appeal to another philosopher or reformulate the problem himself.”

I encourage the reader to check my original response to Martin’s quote. The quote is full of problems that Mitch just overlooks, the most significant being that, “…this observation Martin makes is not available for taking by Mitch, as he has already stated that we ‘owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning’”. My original treatment of the quote shows several problems with what Martin would have us believe regarding Hume. We can go through the exegesis if it is necessary. Martin is wrong. I would presume that Bahnsen understood the relationship of Hume to the Problem of Induction in much the same way that I do. That is, Hume presented the problem better and popularized it. As for the latter part of Mitch’s assertion, if Bahnsen is misunderstanding yet quoting Hume and still presenting a problem then he has reformulated the problem. Mitch has no need to run through such hypotheticals as he has not shown that Bahnsen is misunderstanding Hume. Most importantly, Mitch is not responding to Bahnsen, he is responding to me.

More Unfamiliarity

Mitch writes that he is “disappointed” with my response to his objections to the Christian response to induction, finds it “largely superficial” and calls it “patent silliness”. Frankly, I find his “approach” to the Problem of Induction rather silly, but this does not constitute argumentation anymore than writing lists of the names of philosophers does. Mitch, like many others I speak to regarding this topic, is confused because he likely does not have a good understanding of the problem. The principle of uniformity cannot be disproven through an appeal to experience. Just because our expectations may turn out to be wrong in some given case or cases doe

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not mean that our expectations will not obtain in others. The problem for Mitch is that he has not justified his use of the principle of uniformity which he states is necessary to inductive reasoning with the result that he has no reason at all to give us for having the expectations he does. This line of thought is explicitly stated by Russell. To put it in very simple terms, Mitch has not shown us how we can know that nature will continue to exhibit any regularities at all. I can. Miracles are by definition rare occurrences.

Still Waiting On A Response To The Problem Of Induction

“As for my ‘grasping for problems that are not there’, I’d simply contend that presuppositionalism has a monopoly on this point and I dare not attempt to take share away from the stockholders.”

Mitch has taken the time to write two blog posts “in response” to me about a supposedly non-existent problem but cannot seem to give a very straight answer on where he stands regarding the alleged problem or how it is not actually a problem for him, though he has alluded to several attempts at resolutions which differ significantly from the response of a man whose rhetorical style he here mimics.
The remainder of Mitch’s response stems from his misunderstanding regarding the basics of presuppositional apologetics. I offer this now only as an assertion and hope to come back to it in future posts. The short version is that Mitch does not seem to get that presuppositionalists believe the Bible.


Mitch LeBlanc’s Proposed Solution to the Problem of Induction

Introduction

Mitch LeBlanc has written a post concerning induction ( found here – http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/inductive-reasoning-and-the-christian-god/ ) in which he writes that “the uniformity of nature (or rather the principle of the uniformity of nature) states that ‘the future will resemble the past’ and is used in inductive reasoning”. He then attempts to describe the difference between deduction and induction and writes, “…in a deductive argument it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false (provided the argument is valid/sound)”. All Mitch need write in his parenthesis is “provided the argument is valid”. If an argument is sound then the argument is valid and the premises true. Whether or not the conclusion must necessarily be true given a valid deductive argument with true premises has been debated, but I do not wish to enter into that here. I will pass over his example of an inductive argument. Pointing out that the first premise (“All men are mortal.”) of his example of a deductive argument is itself a conclusion drawn from induction will do. This post will show that while Mitch apparently thinks that he has a solution to the Problem of Induction, he does not, and furthermore he is unable to find a fatal problem with the Christian worldview as it pertains to this well known philosophical problem.

Mitch On Induction

Mitch apparently grants that scientific reasoning is “largely inductive in nature” and even grants the possibility that the sun might not rise tomorrow. He writes, “Science would invoke the principle of the uniformity of nature, presuming that in certain circumstances the future will resemble the past. For example, because the sun has risen everyday in the past, it is probable that it will rise tomorrow. Though [sic] it is, of course, possible that the sun may not.” He further writes, “Bolt, and all presuppositionalists seems [sic] to be very skeptical of inductive reasoning (or at least, Godless inductive reasoning) and they owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning.” I do not know that this is the case with all presuppositionalists or that said skepticism is owing to Hume or Russell, but what he writes next is much more important. With “they” apparently referring to Hume and Russell, Mitch writes, “But since they have raised such issues, there has been ample response to the so called ‘problems [sic] of induction’ from the philosophical community”. Now I am aware that there is a great deal of literature written concerning the topic at hand, but this does not in and of itself mean that the problem has been resolved. Indeed, it is most often those problems which do not appear to have any resolution which elicit the grandest response from the pens of philosophers. I believe this to be the case with respect to the Problem of Induction.

Martin On Induction

Unfortunately Mitch turns at this point to mostly parroting Michael Martin, quoting him to the effect that Hume may not have actually held the view that most modern philosophers attribute to him concerning induction. Martin writes, “A detailed analysis of Hume’s works has shown that by ‘probabilistic argument’ Hume meant a certain type of deductive argument. Hume believed that all such arguments presuppose the uniformity of nature, but he did not attempt to show that probabilistic arguments in the modern sense are unjustified. Thus, appeals to Hume prove very little about whether inductive, that is, probabilistic arguments, are justified.” In my study of Hume I have found Martin to be quite incorrect in his evaluation of what Hume presents, but exegesis may be set aside for now. The reason the issue need not be pressed with respect to our purposes here is because whether or not someone interprets Hume correctly or not has little to do with the argument that has been raised regarding induction. Whether what someone labels the “Problem of Induction” actually comes from Hume or from Homer is unimportant with respect to providing a response to the problem (and in fact, the Problem of Induction was discussed long before Hume came on the scene, he merely presented it better and popularized it). In any event, this observation Martin makes is not available for taking by Mitch, as he has already stated that we “owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning”. There are further problems with the quote from Martin. For example, Hume did not believe “that all such arguments presuppose the uniformity of nature”, but rather offered this as one possible solution to the problem he raised and then set out to refute it. Further, there is not, so far as I can tell, a “modern sense” to “probabilistic arguments”. Such a phrase is almost humorous given the amount of disagreement that exists about the subject of probability. So much for the quote from Martin.

Scattershot

Mitch goes on to give us more Martin by following his method of throwing out names of philosophers who have written on the subject of induction apparently hoping that one of the more well known responses sticks. Mitch cites Martin concerning Strawson, Edwards, and Gemes. Throwing out names of philosophers is not the same thing as doing philosophy. If it were I might as well write “Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig” thus finishing the discussion and freeing me to go watch Lost with my wife. Mitch has much bigger worries when it comes to using this piece from Martin though. The philosophers mentioned do not solve the problem, the answers provided by these philosophers and others like them in relevant literature are often incompatible with each other so that Mitch cannot appeal to all of them, and most importantly Mitch has excluded this line of defense from his position anyway as he writes, “the uniformity of nature…is used in inductive reasoning”. Mitch is hence refuted directly by Hume as it was shown in his work long ago that the principle of the uniformity of nature appealed to in Mitch’s use of induction already assumes induction. Since this attempted solution to the Problem of Induction is mostly incompatible with Reichenbach’s and Madden’s pragmatic “solutions” as it is with the solutions of the philosophers already mentioned, I will only briefly point out that neither of these men has provided a solution to the problem raised in terms of any sort of justification and further their pragmatic use of induction also assumes induction. There are only so many approaches to solving the Problem of Induction, but judging by what Mitch offers as his solution he is probably unaware of this.

Christianity

Mitch, apparently thinking that he has offered a cogent response to the problem before us, moves on to try and attack the Christian worldview on the same point. Mitch confusedly writes, “Christianity claims to have a guarantee to the uniformity of nature. But [sic] how can this be when Christian apologists themselves says [sic] that it is possible that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world. [sic]” Now, I do not just believe it possible that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world, but rather believe that God actually does have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world. This is hardly relevant to the justification of induction, however. God can and does allow for such things as say, hurricanes. Mitch writes, “Insofar as God could have morally sufficient reasons for a natural disaster, he could have sufficient reasons for causing…a departure from the normal. Just as we can account for all the evil in the world by appealing to God’s sufficient reasons

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so too could the same apply for any departure from a preconceived uniformity of nature!” Finally we see how Mitch tries to tie the Problem of Evil to the Problem of Induction. The argument is creative, but extremely easy to answer. Indeed, one wonders if there is a real argument here at all. Could God have a sufficient reason for causing a departure from the normal? Depending on what we mean by “normal”, the answer is, “Yes, and in fact He has caused departures from the normal”. It does not follow from this that we cannot know the normal, if that is what Mitch (really Martin) implies. Could we appeal to God’s sufficient reasons for any departure from the uniformity of nature? Of course; in fact, I do. It does not follow that we cannot expect uniformity in nature. Mitch is grasping for problems that are not there.

Martin Embarrassed

Scripture as a whole presents a world which exhibits regularity under the control of God, thus the argument from the verse cited by Martin and repeated by Mitch need not be refuted here, although it is not beyond refutation. For example it is asked why we should suppose that passages of the Bible are true, as though this is not one of the questions before us in the discussion. Martin explicitly denies that the changing of seasons on Earth involve other factors in the Universe outside of Earth. Martin suggests that God might change and break one of His promises, something which is impossible for the God of the Bible to do. I have pointed out many times now that attempts to ascribe a nature and actions to God that are different from those described in Scripture are nothing more than strawman arguments. Such attempts show how desperate those opposed to Christ are to get rid of an argument that they are unable to answer. Mitch writes, (although if I remember correctly this is a quote from Martin, it is not in quotation marks on Mitch’s post), “Perhaps Satan decided to work his evil by bringing inductive chaos into the world, and God does not interfere because he does not want to deprive Satan of his free will”. I am not sure how this is a problem for me since I do not believe that Satan has a free will. Finally Mitch writes (again copied from Martin), “…even if the Christian worldview must be assumed to make sense of X it does not follow that it is true”. The trouble here is that one cannot “assume the Christian worldview” without accepting that it is true, as the claim to truth is itself a necessary constituent of the Christian worldview. I find it really unfortunate that Mitch copies such embarrassing statements from Martin apparently without giving them much thought, but he does so throughout his post.

Conclusion

It has been shown that Mitch offers no solution to the Problem of Induction that has not already been refuted, as he offers one of the responses offered and refuted by Hume himself. Further, Mitch has shown no problems with the solution available to the Christian on this matter. Finally, Mitch’s work shows unfamiliarity with the subject it addresses and is dependent almost exclusively on the work of Michael Martin even to the point of repeating many of his embarrassing statements.


Logical Fallacies In Presuppositionalism

“I’ll be honest Chris…it amazes me that just like Greg Bahnsen you’ve done a degree in Philosophy yet can’t see through the multitude of logical fallacies present in presuppositionalism. Like all other presuppositionalists you also appear completely unable to demonstrate to any degree of satisfaction how Christ presents you with wisdom, knowledge or certainty despite these bold claims.”

Notice the assertion that there are a “multitude of logical fallacies present in presuppositionalism” as well as the claim to have come into contact with “all other presuppositionalists”. The author goes on to provide alleged examples of these fallacies, however it is hardly a multitude, and we might question how many of them are logical fallacies even given the assumption that they apply.

“The fact that the entire premise is based on argument from ignorance and could as easily be used to ‘prove’ that aliens cause crop circles via ‘the impossibility of the contrary’”

Notice that this is asserted as “fact”. It is unclear as to what “premise” refers to or what “argument” it is based on. If I had to guess I would think that “premise” refers to presuppositionalism and “argument” refers to TAG, but presuppositionalism is not “based on” TAG. An argument which points out inherent difficulties in a worldview does not fall prey to the fallacy of argument from ignorance. Knowing that a worldview is incoherent, contradictory, arbitrary, etc. has nothing to do with ignorance. There is no application of the fallacy given toward the argument in question, nor is there support given to the claim that the argument may be used to prove that aliens cause crop circles. It is possible to create a crop circle by attaching a rope to both ends of a board and then pushing cornstalks down with the tool at night without being seen. I am at a loss as to how this is applicable to TAG.

“The best you could hope to prove is that someone you are debating directly or people in general are ignorant of some particular fact(s). This doesn’t constitute a validation of some idea you may hold, the onus is on you to support your claims regardless of what anyone else might know or not”

The author apparently holds that a worldview can never be shown to be false. According to him, all that may be shown is that an adherent of a worldview is ignorant of a fact. This is said to be the best we could hope to prove. Yet the author holds that my worldview is false. If it is always the case that the position of an individual can never be shown to be false because there is actually some fact which resolves some alleged problem then it follows that no worldview is false. What I think the author is missing here is that showing that a worldview is false is not accomplished through showing that someone is ignorant of some fact but rather through showing that the worldview in question is itself flawed.

“The fact that assertion is considered to be as good as a well supported argument eg that the believer has some means of direct communication with God allowing him/her to know certain things about the world, which is just blatant nonsense since they can’t actually demonstrate this fact. If you do genuinely believe that you have this ability, I know that I (and I’m fairly sure anyone else reading this) would like to see you demonstrate it.”

The author would need to show me through argument that his assertion here is true, since as far as I know I do not consider assertion to be as good as a well supported argument. It appears that he is confusing assertions with argument. Assertions are not the same thing as arguments. Depending upon how one defines “assertion” they are necessary for argument. For example, I assert that God has directly communicated to me and that God allows me to know certain things about the world and even that He gives me certain knowledge about the world through His communicating to me but this is not argument. However, assertions may be used in an argument or arguments. Now the author asserts that, for example, my assertion that I have a means of direct communication with God allowing me to know certain things about the world is “blatant nonsense”. He goes on to argue for this assertion. He states that the reason he considers this “blatant nonsense” is because I “can’t actually demonstrate this fact”. Of course, according to him, the best he “could hope to prove is that…[I am]…ignorant of some particular fact” which would show that my assertion is not “blatant nonsense”. It does not follow that something is blatant nonsense if someone is unable to demonstrate that the something is itself the case.

“As regards the biblical authors’ claims to this ability, you’re no doubt aware…folk like John Frame concede that they don’t have a clue how to validate the claim that God communicated with the biblical writers beyond simply claiming ‘we know that we know without knowing how we know’”

I do not believe that God communicated with the vast majority of the writers of the Bible if we are speaking of dictation as a means of inspiration. If it is asked how I know that God communicated to people or that the Bible is God-breathed the answer will be that the Bible tells me so.

“The fact that loads of their arguments contradict each other, often within a few sentences of each other eg the idea that God provides the conditions for knowledge or uniformity of nature yet as van Til says can set one set of facts into new relation to ‘created law’ any time he so wishes – how could anyone claim to know anything, or claim that the world is likely to remain uniform on that view?”

The author asserts that there are loads of contradictory arguments and presents a supposed example of two “arguments” which supposedly contradict each other but do not. Again, “loads” of arguments “contradict” each other, but only one alleged example is provided. If God exists then He regulates nature though He can do otherwise. It does not follow that He actually does or ever will do otherwise and the testimony of Scripture shows the opposite to be the case.

“The fact that they openly admit to affirming contradictory ideas that they have no good explanation for eg the Trinity, the 100% man/100% God doctrine, the ones in point 3 above etc etc, yet at the same time claim that internal contradictions are what invalidate other worldviews!”

If I affirm contradictory ideas it is an error. I do not know what is meant by an “explanation” for a “contradiction”. The author offers the Trinity as an example of a contradiction but does not explain how it is such. I do not know that I affirm the “100% man 100% God doctrine”, though I do believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. There are no contradictions given “in point 3 above” and I do not know what “etc etc” refers to. It may be important to note, if the author is trying to get at what I think he is; lack of comprehensive explanation is not the same thing as contradiction. The author here also acknowledges the use of internal contradictions to point out the falsehood of a worldview but appeared to be ignorant of that fact during his discussion of adherents to worldviews being ignorant of some facts.

“Certain claims are so vague or meaningless as to not be worth bothering with eg Bahnsen’s claim that while God accounts for logic, God’s logic may not be the same as ours – who does he think he’s fooling with this sort of vacuous rubbish?”

There is only one supposed example given of a claim that is “vague or meaningless”. If the claim that God accounts for logic but the logic of God may not be the same as ours is vague or meaningless then we are in no place to call it “vacuous rubbish”, though I can see the rhetorical value in doing so. When I come across something I find to be vague or meaningless I am encouraged to investigate the claim to understand what is meant. It may

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e that the claim turns out to be true or false or actually meaningless, but I cannot know this if I do not investigate the claim. When someone sees a vague or meaningless claim as being not “worth bothering with” then he or she has no place to call that same claim “vacuous rubbish”.

“Regarding the latter part of your response, first of all simply because you believe in such a being, it does not follow that such a being does actually exist.”

I do not make this argument.

“Even if we were to concede such a being did exist for argument’s sake this is still no better than me saying something like ‘Robert Oppenheimer had an immense knowledge of nuclear physics therefore this means I also have an immense knowledge of nuclear physics’ – just because someone or something has a certain level knowledge on a given matter, it doesn’t follow that everyone else also acquires this knowledge by proxy.”

I do not make this argument.

“Presumably you consider at least some of this knowledge to have been imparted by divine revelation, but then this just open a hold new world of problems most of which have already been pointed out to you: eg how would you distinguish revelation from delusion or revelation from evil spirits or a lying God (remember, simply assuming God doesn’t lie doesn’t answer the question – any liar can insist that they only tell the truth (verses like 2 Thessalonians 2:11 don’t exactly favour your point in this regard either))?”

Supposedly a “hold [sic] new world of problems” has been pointed out to me regarding knowledge imparted by divine revelation. Notice the constant use of words referring to supposed large numbers of problems without any substance to back up such uses. Revelation is in this context that which comes from God and delusion is the state of an individual so I am not sure what the question means. Revelation and evil spirits likewise belong to wholly different categories. Liars may insist that they are telling the truth, but God is not a liar. To attempt to force me to defend a view that I do not hold is rather pointless. It is one of the most fundamental claims of presuppositionalism that it operates with respect to the Christian God. This must be understood if one is to understand anything else regarding presuppositionalism or TAG.

“How would you validate the revelation claims of the biblical writers beyond simpy taking it on their say-so? (especially when you consider that a. substantial amounts of discoveries in the physical and life sciences, history, archaeology, medical research etc would indicate that the biblical authors were either wrong or ignorant on a number of matters) and that b. Christianity endorses a number of contradictions (see earlier examples))? none of this is what we’d expect from people who had access to an infallible source of knowledge.”

There is no higher authority by which to “validate” the Word of God than God. The Word of God is self-authenticating. This is again basic presuppositionalism. Notice again in this paragraph the use of words referring to supposed large numbers; “substantial amounts”, “number of matters”, and “number of contradictions”. Notice also that these supposed problems are all merely asserted without anything provided to back them up, and that the alleged contradictions mentioned from before have already been dealt with.

“As before, if you have some infallible means of acquiring knowledge that isn’t open to non-believers, we’d expect you are able to tell us things you couldn’t possibly otherwise know about us – anyone who makes such a claim should surely realise that they are going to get called on it sooner rather than later.”

I do not deny that non-believers have knowledge.


Helping Dawson Recognize a TA

This lengthy (well, at least by my standard) reply is in response to comments Dawson Bethrick and I have traded in response to my post “Dawson’s (Mis)Understanding of TAs” found here

Dawson wrote: I’m not sure why this is so important to you. As I indicated in my original comment, not only does RK not provide an argument for his god’s existence, he does not – from what I can see – provide any argument for the position he’s defending. That was what I was trying to say in response to your claim that his argument is “presuppositional.” If there’s no argument, then there’s no argument to call “presuppositional.” If the way I responded implied that I think presuppositionalism is used exclusively for proving the existence of a god, you have my apologies – I did not mean to imply this. 


Truth is important to me, and I didn’t think you were being completely truthful with me in the reason you gave for responding as you did. I’m still not sure at this point. You did, after all, state explicitly that you didn’t believe RK presented any argument. You did this *after* making the comment I am taking you to task over, so I fail to see how the comment in question was merely a failed attempt to state something you stated explicitly in the very next paragraph.

Regardless, I’m ready to move on.

Dawson wrote: Now I will note that your blog post implies (at least on my reading) that presuppositionalism and transcendental arguments are one and the same. That is not my understanding.

You need to be more specific than that. Granted, the method of Presupp and the use of TAs typically go hand-in-hand (for obvious reasons), but they aren’t the same at all. If you think I am conflating the two, then please give specifics as to why.

Dawson wrote: Presuppositionalism is typically described as an approach to apologetics which includes the use of a transcendental argument, without equating its transcendental argument as such with presuppositionalism proper.

Agreed. Although one need not use a TA while arguing presuppositionally, it is a common thing to do as the only way to argue for one’s ultimate presuppositions is via a TA.

Dawson wrote: I know that on at least one occasion, a presuppositionalist has scolded me for implying that presuppositionalism and TAG are the same (when in fact I did not).

Was it me? If so, please point it out. If not, this is irrelevant.

BK wrote: You know, I guess it doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t recognize RK’s use of a TA anymore than you recognized it when Bahnsen explicitly used it against Stein (as you so clearly demonstrate in your post titled ‘Bahsen’s Proof’.)



Dawson wrote: First of all, it’s Bahnsen’s Poof, not Bahnsen’s “Proof.” Since I didn’t find any argument in Bahnsen’s opening statement, it would be a misnomer to call what he presents a “proof.” I see it more as a “poof” – as in, “Poof! God exists!” 


Ah, I see I misread your post title – my apologies.

Dawson stated: Also, you say that I have failed to recognize an argument that, according to what you seem to be saying, is plainly there, both in the case of RK’s debate with Mitch LeBlanc, as well as in the case of Bahnsen’s debate with Dr. Stein. As I explained to Chris Bolt in my two-part comment on 2 Sept., TAs are considered to be a type of deductive argument. I cited presuppositional theorist David Byron who states this and goes on to say that a transcendental argument is “distinguished from other deductive arguments by its modality and its particular subject matter.” He also states that “a transcendental argument may be expressed in the form of Modus Ponens.” (Both quotations come from Byron’s 28 Aug. 1998 post to The Van Til list, msg. #00374.)

In my own reading of Byron’s answer to the question “what does a formally expressed transcendental argument look like?” in the aforementioned post (thank you very much for the cite, btw), I don’t see such a cut and dry answer as you seem to present in quoting a very small portion of everything he had to say. Rather, Byron claims a formalized representation of TAs is controversial, and the aspect of that representation he points to is the very aspect you fail to include in your attempt to formalize Butler’s expression of a TA – the “formalization of the transcendental premise itself.”

It is, after all, the transcendental premise that is so easily attacked (whether successfully or not), and which makes any particular formalized representation so contentious. Byron says the same thing in the same post referenced above:

“The ease with which this objection arises suggests that a TA must be a multiform affair, involving not only the presentation of the phenomenological description of an intentional operation and the claim regarding the preconditions of that operation, but also a second argument in defense of the transcendental premise itself.”

But more importantly, Byron then states that the way in which this premise is argued for is by retorsion – that is, from the impossibility of the contrary. Hmm .. I wonder where I’ve heard that phrase before? Oh yes, in the last paragraph of Bahnsen’s opening statement in his debate with Stein.

“When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.” (source)

In this statement Bahnsen not only calls out the specific “form” of argument he plans on using, he also explains how he intends on defending the transcendental premise, by appealing to the “impossibility of the contrary”. And then, in Bahnsen’s second opening statement, he lays out his justification for claiming that the non-existence of God is (logically) impossible

“Dr. Stein proposes an atheist world view. I propose a Christian theistic world view. There are other proposals out there that may want their evening to debate as well. I’m maintaining that the proof of the Christian world view is that the denial of it leads to irrationality. That is, without the Christian God, you cannot prove anything.” (source – emphasis mine)

Bahnsen then proceeds through the remainder of the debate to give examples of how a denial of Christianity leads to absurdity, specifically in the areas of logic, morality and induction. You may not agree that the examples he gave were compelling, but to say he never presented an argument is a clear demonstration of a failure to understand just what a TA is and how it operates.

RK used exactly the same method of argumentation, even though he was not arguing for God per se. His transcendental premise was actually the thesis he was defending in the debate, namely that “The Triune God of Scripture is the proper ground for all knowledge.”. Notice that RK chose a very specific thesis to argue, and that part of that thesis was the Triune God ”of scriptu

re

. In other words, the Triune God as presented in scripture is the proper ground for all knowledge. Consider the implications of this as it pertains to questions in this debate as to whether God may have lied in his revelation.

Moving on, in section 1.5, RK gives us the first clear indication he will be employing a TA – the type of argument – by stating that any person attempting to argue from other than the Christian position has to “borrow” from the Christian position to do so (the Christian position obviously being what is found in the Bible). This is the hallmark of a TA – claiming that even a denial of the claim in question requires one to accept/employ it. The “transcendental” (i.e. the precondition) in this case is the Christian worldview as found in the Bible. Accordingly, anyone arguing against Christianity must borrow from it (and by extension the Biblical revelation) to do so.

RK then explains (for the uninitiated) the method he intends on using (presuppositionalism), by quoting part of Bahnsen’s own opening statement in section 2.2 of his opening, which I will not bother to quote here.

RK then dedicates the entirety of section 4 of his opening to the topic of “the impossibility of the contrary” (sound familiar?). Here he spends a great deal of time explicating his “transcendental premise”, as it is always the most contentious in a TA (as we have already seen). He clearly presents his reasons as to why he believes a denial of the Triune God of the Bible is a deathblow to one’s ability to know anything at all.

At this point, RK has made it abundantly clear that his “program” is to show that any denial of the God of the Bible requires one to borrow from the Biblical Christian worldview, meaning that any failure to do so will result in irrationality. This “program”, if he is successful, will be proof-positive of the truth of his thesis.

At this point (as in the Bahnsen/Stein debate), RK proceeded to outline point after point where the Christian worldview provides a foundation for knowledge, whereas a denial of it (Mitch’s denial, in this case) leads to irrationality. Again, you may or may not agree that RK was successful at this stage, but to state that RK presented no argument is to (once again) show a complete lack of understanding of a TA.

Dawson said: Of course, even in the case of Butler’s formulation, if the goal of the argument is to establish the existence of “God,” and yet its existence is assumed in one of its premises, then the argument is fallaciously circular, flat and simple.

Well, I don’t care much for your reformulation of Butler’s formulation. However, I will present for you Bahsen’s formulation, and one that I am more than comfortable with:

“The proof of God’s existence is that without him you cannot prove anything.”

There …that is an “informal” representation of TAG that begs no questions. How do I know God exists? Well, because I cannot reason about anything at all … even his existence … without first presupposing he exists. Now, if you see this as a simple case of petitio principii, then there really is nothing further to say about this subject until you do some homework and get up to speed on what is involved in arguing for/from your ultimate commitments.

Dawson wrote: In the case of Bahnsen’s debate with Stein, my understanding is that Bahnsen’s side of the resolution was that the Christian god exists. I found nowhere in his opening statement where Bahnsen put forward an argument which takes the above form and leads to the conclusion “therefore God exists.” Certainly not in any non-question-begging manner anyway.


“Certainly not in any non-question-begging manner anyway”?

Well, which is it? Did you not see any argument which takes the above form, or did you not see one which take the above form in a non-question-begging manner?

Dawson wrote: Similarly, in RK’s debate with LeBlanc, RK’s task was, presumably, to present an argument which concludes something along the lines of “therefore, the Triune God of the Scriptures is the basis of knowledge.” I found no such argument in RK’s opening statement, or elsewhere in his statements for that matter.

Well, I have now presented for you in painful detail exactly where RK presented what his argument was, how he planned on arguing for it, and how he actually did argue for it.

Dawson said: If I have missed something in either Bahnsen’s or RK’s statements, perhaps you could restate the argument, in the format given above, using only quotations from either arguer to assemble the argument he allegedly made.

I have done better. I have explained why the format above is insufficient/inappropriate, and have laid out both Bahnsen’s and RK’s argument for you informally.

I will take up Part III of your response and the question of axioms in a separate post.

BK


Dawson’s (Mis)Understanding of TAs

This post is in response to a series of back and forth comments between Dawson Bethrick and myself in the post Missing the Basics below:

BK wrote: “If you are truly uninitiated enough about Presuppositionalism as a method to think it is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God, then I suggest you go back and do some more reading on the subject.”



Dawson wrote: I never stated that presuppositionalism “is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God.” I am quite aware of presuppositionalism’s intended aims, its devices, its gimmicks.

The fact that you referenced RK’s comment that his argument was not for the existence of God made it clear enough what you were implying; thus my response. If you are going to be disingenuous about something as trivial as this, what else are you willing to be dishonest about? Perhaps the fact that a TA uses no gimmicks to achieve its aims?

BK wrote: “I was present for the debate between RK and ML, and know exactly what RK successfully argued for… He… argued for the resolution at hand – that the Triune God of the Scriptures is the basis for knowledge.”

Dawson wrote: I have examined the transcript of the debate quite closely. I could not find an actual argument for the claim that the Christian god is the basis of knowledge. I saw this position asserted quite frequently, and RK apparently felt the need to build it into his view through what he called “axioms.” But I did not see an argument. If you did, could you reproduce it? What are the premises? I’d love to examine it.

You know, I guess it doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t recognize RK’s use of a TA anymore than you recognized it when Bahnsen explicitly used it against Stein (as you so clearly demonstrate in your post titled “Bahsen’s Proof”.)

Are you familiar with the form of a Transcendental Argument, regardless of what a person is attempting to prove by using it? You certainly pay lip service to the fact that it is indirect rather than direct, but apparently don’t account for that fact while evaluating either RK’s or Bahnsen’s TA.

I have read part I of your critique of RK, and have oh so much to say about it, but plan on dedicating a separate post (or series of posts) when I get the time to do so.

BK wrote: “RK’s appeal to scripture is expected (necessary, even) as a Christian Presuppositionalist, and you should know this”



Dawson wrote: Of course I know this. This is why I pointed out that presuppositionalists have no alternative to arguing in a circle when their theistic premises are questioned.

And yet you miss the oh-so-obvious reason why. Nobody is denying Christians reason in a circle (just as anyone who is arguing for their ultimates must do) when they appeal to scripture. [At least Christian Presuppositianlists are honest enough to admit what they are doing]. What is the alternative? I agree with Van Til who would prefer reasoning in a circle to not reasoning at all.

Those who are familiar with TAs understand that the question of reasoning about one’s ultimate commitments is essentially no different in form than reasoning about one’s own existence. The reason TAG is stated indirectly is to avoid the fallacy of simply appealing to God in order to prove the existence of God. Rather, TAs about the existence of God use the phrase “the impossibility of the contrary” to elucidate the fact that that since a denial of the existence of God leads to logical absurdities, an affirmation of his existence is therefore logically necessary.

Some (like yourself) may prefer to label that as fallacious in nature, but doing so demonstrates a lack of understanding of the only way to argue for one’s ultimate commitments.

Perhaps I will put together something that addresses this problem in more detail.

BK


Response To Mitch LeBlanc’s Odd Ontological Argument

Mitch LeBlanc has written an alleged defense of his attempt to redefine God and hence defeat the presuppositionalist program. You may find his article here:
http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/a-response-to-chris-bolt-on-presuppositionalism-and-gods-honesty/

Mitch writes, “I would first like to explain that while the idea of a lying God is logically absurd on a Thomist conception of God, it is not logically absurd on a Presuppositionalist conception.” What follows this claim is rather odd. Mitch thinks that a Thomist appealing to Anselm’s “definition” of God can show that the idea of a lying God is logically absurd. The Thomist may do so as follows:

“1. God is the being that which none greater can be conceived
2. It is greater to be honest than to be a liar
3. Therefore, God is honest.”

However if Mitch grants this, then he should have no trouble granting this:

“1. God is the being described in Christian Scripture
2. The description excludes the possibility of lying
3. Therefore, God is honest.”

There is also no problem if Mitch thinks that the definition provided via Anselm is compatible with the God of Christian Scripture.

All of this is in accordance with what Mitch has himself presented. One may expect that I should present something a bit different.

As many different concepts of gods as there are why should Anselm’s be accepted? Rejecting the concept appears to entail no contradiction. It looks arbitrary unless we take into account where it is being used at which point it looks contrived. Even accepting the intentionality proposed in the first premise, there is no reason given to accept the second premise. Why should we accept that it is greater to be honest than to be a liar? Perhaps it is greater to be a liar than to be honest. Mitch will need to argue for this premise if it is to stick, but, and this is the most significant part of the response to what Mitch offers regarding Thomism; all of this is quite irrelevant to the subject before us.

The alleged Thomist definition of God as synonymous with Anselm’s definition is false, as Thomists are in the Christian tradition and hence ultimately define God in terms of Scripture. This is one of the biggest problems with Thomism, the god it proves is not the God of Christian Scripture though the Thomist will try his or her hardest to have a person believe that it is. Merely labeling the supposed result of a syllogism “God” does not close the gap between what has actually been proven, if anything, and what the God of Scripture is described to be. God is already assumed in the premises of traditional arguments for the existence of God, and in actuality the whole enterprise presupposes the existence of God anyway.


A Brief Introductory Response To Mitch LeBlanc Concerning His Question

Mitch LeBlanc has written an alleged defense of his attempt to redefine God and hence defeat the presuppositionalist program. You may find his article here:
http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/a-response-to-chris-bolt-on-presuppositionalism-and-gods-honesty/

During a debate, Mitch asked of Razorskiss, “What if God is deceiving you?”
Several times now I have stated that this question is subject to Fallacy of Complex Question. Mitch disagrees, writing, “I did not present a false dichotomy of a yes or no, in which case I would agree that a labelling [sic] of my question as fallacy would be warranted” and “my question (2) does not force an answer in a similar manner [to illustrative question ‘1’ (“Do you know that God is deceiving you?”)]” in an attempt to justify this disagreement. My response to this is that Mitch just needs to review the fallacy in question. For the Fallacy of Complex Question to apply to a question the question does not need to require a “Yes or No” answer, therefore Mitch’s attempted justification for disagreement on whether or not the fallacy applies fails.

This aside, I have claimed that the question “What if God is deceiving you?” requires that some consequence or consequences be named if it is the case that God is deceiving the recipient of the question. I cannot think of how any such answer, if one were able to supply it (it is inconceivable to me that God should lie), would serve to further understanding for either the Objectivist or the presuppositionalist. The point of the question appears to me to be to suggest that God can lie, and nothing more. We will examine this suggestion soon, if the Lord wills.