Recently the “Bahnsen Burner” Dawson Bethrick took a swing at Choosing Hats founder and administrator Brian Knapp’s contribution to The Portable Presuppositionalist as a part of his ongoing attempt to provide an answer to the Problem of Induction from within the confines of the Objectivist worldview. Mr. Bethrick quotes from page 124 of Knapp’s “Induction and the Unbeliever” in The Portable Presuppostionalist where Knapp asks, “Why do you believe nature is uniform, and how is that belief rationally justified?” Bethrick begins to provide an answer early in his post as follows:
[N]ature is uniform on its own, independent of anyone’s conscious activity. A person can deny the uniformity of nature, but nature remains uniform all the same, in spite of such denials. This means that if no consciousness exists, the entities which do exist still act according to their natures.
Why is nature uniform? It just is. (Stating that the contingent entities in question act according to their natures is another way of stating that nature is uniform but not an explanation for why it is uniform.)
More importantly how do we know that nature is uniform?
This is the view consistent with the axioms “existence exists,” ”to exist is to be something” (i.e., to have identity), and “entities act according to their natures” independent of consciousness.
Conveniently Mr. Bethrick merely asserts what he has already written (“entities act according to their natures” = nature is uniform) and labels it axiomatic or at least derivative of a tautological axiom. Unfortunately this appeal to alleged axioms is irrelevant to the problem. The claim that “entities act according to their natures” does not follow from the claim that “to exist is to be something” or “to exist is to have identity”. There is still no answer as to how one knows that entities act according to their natures. How do we know that nature is uniform?
Apparently thinking that he has solved the Problem of Induction per Objectivist axioms Bethrick moves on to present Knapp’s view that the Christian worldview “affirms the existence of a supernatural conscious being who has created the universe in which we live (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:16), and who sovereignly maintains it as we find it to be (Heb. 1:3)…”
This God has a plan for his creation (Eph. 1:11), not the least part of which is revealing himself to it (Rom. 1:19-20). Part of this revelation involves creating and sustaining the universe in such a way that his creatures are able to learn about it and function within it (Gen. 8:22). (Brian Knapp, “Induction and the Unbeliever,” The Portable Presuppositionalist, p. 132)
Mr. Bethrick is not satisfied with the answer provided by Christians for why nature is uniform. He attempts to restrict the actions of God to being essentially natural causes. By “natural law” Bethrick means “the law of identity applies”. The Christian is not committed to this Objectivist idea that natural law is essentially identity applied to action. Such an idea is inconsistent with the Christian worldview since there are actions God has taken which may be identified but have nothing to do with anything natural (e.g. the exchange of love between the Persons of the Trinity). Bethrick follows up by asking, “[W]hat exactly is ‘supernatural causality,’ and how is it different from natural causality?” If Bethrick does not know what “supernatural” means as opposed to “natural” then I am at a loss as to why he constantly uses the words in his own writings. Reality involves much more than matter in motion. I am sure that it offends Mr. Bethrick’s egoist sensibilities but God is transcendent and real. Nature is uniform because God created and controls it as mentioned in Knapp’s article as presented above. Labeling this explanation “supernatural causation” does not change the fact that it is an answer with no apparent problems. Compare the state of things here to the quotation above of Mr. Bethrick failing to answer the question of why nature is uniform. Why is nature uniform on Mr. Bethrick’s view?
Unfortunately when Mr. Bethrick shifts his focus onto questions concerning ‘inside of the natural order’ versus ‘outside of the natural order’ he misses the rather significant point that Knapp is actually making in the portion of the article that Bethrick is working from! Mr. Bethrick has failed to answer why nature is uniform but Knapp is not after this answer at this point. The question that Bethrick still faces in the section of Knapp’s article in question is how he knows that nature is uniform. Recall that Bethrick failed to answer this question in the quotations above as well. How is one to know that nature is uniform on Mr. Bethrick’s view?
Mr. Bethrick recognizes that “a denial of the uniformity of nature would have to assume that nature is uniform in order for that denial to make sense”. Presumably he takes the uniformity of nature to be a rather important feature of human intelligibility. One would think that he would want to answer questions concerning why nature is uniform on his view and how one can know that nature is uniform on his view. His answers at the beginning of this piece are insufficient and his argument about a denial of the uniformity of nature has two problems worth pointing out. First, neither Brian Knapp nor Dawson Bethrick nor I have denied the uniformity of nature. Rather a question has been posed which asks “why is nature uniform?” and “how do we know that nature is uniform?” Mr. Knapp is a Christian and has shown that he is able to provide consistent answers to these questions. Mr. Bethrick has not. Second, it is of no consequence to the skeptic to state that denying the uniformity of nature entails that statements about the uniformity of nature are nonsensical as this is the point of the skeptic’s argument.
At one point Mr. Bethrick mentions that presuppositionalists do not recognize that the justification of induction is an epistemological issue. This alleged lack of recognition is false and Mr. Bethrick knows that it is false as does anyone else who has spent any time examining presuppositionalism. If Bethrick is implying in this same section that there is some other solution to the Problem of Induction which does not involve the uniformity of nature he is welcome to produce it.
Questions remain for Dawson Bethrick. What are natural laws? Why are they that way? How do we know? I am aware that Mr. Bethrick especially hates that final question, “How do we know?” Wonder why?
Without having provided any valid answers to the challenges posed to his worldview Bethrick continues his attempt to try and find something wrong with what Knapp wrote. Bethrick then asks, “But how would anyone be able to acquire knowledge of ‘the way in which God providentially orders his creation,’ if said ‘God’ is a mind distinct from the believer’s own mind?” Given that Dawson Bethrick is also known as the “Bahnsen Burner” and given that he has interacted with Greg L. Bahnsen’s material one would think that Bethrick would not have to ask this question. Nevertheless I will quote Bahnsen from his debate with Gordon Stein who answered, “[W]e have Bible studies from time to time where we delve into it.”
How do we learn about those things? He revealed Himself to us. Again, these are simple answers, the sorts of things Sunday School children learn, but, you know, I’ve yet to find any reason not to believe them. (http://www.bellevuechristian.org/faculty/dribera/htdocs/PDFs/Apol_Bahnsen_Stein_Debate_Transcript.pdf)
Unfortunately Bethrick seems to be more concerned here with his subsequent rant about God being imaginary (something he constantly asserts but does not prove; he admits that he does not even think that it needs to be proven) then he is with actual answers to the questions he supposedly has (after having interacted with presuppositionalists for many years including Paul Manata, James Anderson, and others). Since Bethrick is a good Objectivist he writes a whole lot of rhetoric to ensure that people have difficulty seeing how hollow his worldview ultimately is. Bethrick’s post on this topic alone was roughly 20 pages long. As full of insufficient answers as the small portion of his post that I address here has proven to be one can see why most of his posts go without responses.
Beneath all of the writing is a worldview that provides tautological statements such as “existence exists” for its adherents to repeat ad nauseum as though constituting some answer to problems of philosophy that have been around for as long as written history. I met someone this past weekend who had been an Objectivist for many years before deciding that he needed to examine Christianity before rejecting it in order to be able to say that he was intellectually honest. God had other plans and the man was converted. One can only hope that Dawson Bethrick’s eyes will be opened to the absolute foolishness of putting forth so much effort in an attempt to refute a worldview that he constantly claims is so silly. If you want evidence that Christianity is true you need not look any further than Dawson Bethrick.