Another Round With Paul Baird: Stating and Defending the Requested Rebuttal

Introduction

Recently on the Praxis Presup podcast I have been reviewing an exchange that took place between the three Pauls of the Skepticule podcast and Sye TenBruggencate with Eric Hovind.

Paul Jenkins mentioned the review on his blog, and I responded:

https://choosinghats.org/2011/09/fundamentalist-atheism-why-bother/

https://choosinghats.org/2011/09/paul-jenkins-and-damage-control/

By this point Paul Baird had already written on his blog that he was leaving until the New Year.

I’m also going back to doing what the vast majority of people do with regards to the Christian faith – get on with my life as though it isn’t there and doesn’t matter.

It reminds me of the quote from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

and I think I’ve reached that point with Christianity.

Apparently Paul Baird thought wrong (which is not overly surprising, especially given how many times he has made some claim about being “done” with something only to turn around and do it a few days later), because he broke his short-lived silence in order to jump in to try and help Paul Jenkins:

https://choosinghats.org/2011/09/paul-baird-breaks-his-silence/

https://choosinghats.org/2011/09/an-argument-for-paul-baird/

https://choosinghats.org/2011/09/helping-paul-baird-recognize-an-argument/

This post is the most recent in the aforementioned exchange.

Revisiting the Rhetoric

Another round with Paul Baird – here we go. Let’s get the fundy atheist rhetoric out of the way first. Paul begins by expressing his disappointment that I have posted again with an “Oh dear,” before linking to my post and claiming, “and it simply gets worse.” I’ve pointed out numerous times now that this sort of language is vacuous and can easily be turned around (“Oh dear, Paul has posted another response and it simply gets worse!” etc.). When the same assertions can be used by two opposing sides in a discussion you know that there is not any substance to them. Paul continues with the empty rhetoric by claiming that my post is “verbosity plus plus.” Yet once the massive print and Paul’s quotes are taken out of the post that he is referring to it is a whopping total of…two pages! I would suggest that if Paul has difficulty reading two pages then he should consider cancelling his Internet service. The most difficult word I can find in the post is “transcendental,” and that was originally (and perhaps incorrectly) used by Paul, not me. The reason I repeated the proof in the post should have been obvious. Paul denied that the proof existed. Unfortunately for Paul, the proof does exist, and ignoring it does not change that fact.

Paul claims that, “Restating a misunderstanding simply reflects an inability to comprehend the argument, it does not add anything to a rebuttal.” And restating that I have restated a misunderstanding is just restating the same unwarranted and false assertion. Any child can play this game of making pejorative assertions. I do wish Paul would step up to a different level of exchange, but as I have noted before, it is the nature of fundamentalist atheism to divert attention away from the substance of a discussion through the use of rhetoric. I have not misunderstood anything. Again, I quoted Paul’s suggestion as PR. He asked me to disprove it. I did. It’s a simple modus ponens argument and Paul should accept its premises. Paul may not like that I have provided him with an argument that refutes PR, but that does not mean I never offered one. His claim was that he had seen no such argument, and that is why I had to restate the argument again for him.

Paul continues his condescension by implying that I am a “slow learner” and after asserting that “this” (whatever “this” refers to, I do not know) has “nothing to do with atheism” asks, “Why is this so hard for you get [sic] your head around Chris?” That’s a fallacious question of course, since it assumes, without argument, that I am having some difficulty getting my head around something. Paul mockingly claims that my, “last three posts have been so laughable” before asking if I “Geddit?” So much for the rhetoric. Let’s get into what little substance Paul does offer.

Addressing the Argument

Defining PR

Paul claims, “I don’t have to actually hold that worldview in order to put it forward as a successful counter to the exclusively Christian PA.” By “that worldview” Paul is referring to PR.

PR states: “I have had a revelation from a non-Christian supernatural transcendental entity that I use to ground my worldview.”

Paul explains, “The rebuttal is a counter-assertion of a non-Christian revelation that provides the same grounding and certainty for a worldview that can then be used to critique the Christian worlview [sic] without falling into the trap of having to accept the Christian god [sic] in order to deny the Christian god [sic].”

Refutation of PR1

The “grounding and certainty” of the Christian worldview are found in the content of that worldview as described in Scripture, hence if PR provides the same grounding and certainty as the Christian revelation then PR is Christian revelation. Yet PR is defined as non-Christian revelation. Hence PR is Christian revelation and not-Christian revelation at the same time and in the same respect, and is self-refuting.

Refutation of PR2

But I am not sure if that is what Paul Baird means. I think what Paul means is simply that PR provides “grounding and certainty.” PR is similar to Christian revelation in that it provides “grounding and certainty,” not in that it has the same revelational content. That is, Paul is merely claiming that PR provides “grounding and certainty.” But how does it do that? Why should anyone accept this mere claim as anything more than another one of Paul Baird’s many empty assertions? He does not tell us, and so PR, as presented, fails to constitute any sort of “rebuttal” when taken this second way as well. It is a mere assertion.

Refutations of PR Summarized

Paul writes, “Ok, so now hopefully you understand the argument – have another go at disproving that non-Christan revelational epistemology.”

Readers will note that neither PR1 nor PR2 carry any argumentative force as stated. PR1 is self-refuting and PR2 is merely an unsupported assertion. Readers will also recall the previous argument I made which I will call APR:

If atheism is true, then PR is false.

Atheism is true.

Therefore, PR is false.

APR is an instance of modus ponens and atheists must by virtue of their position take each of its premises to be true. Thus atheists, if they are to be rational, are forced to accept the conclusion of the argument that PR is false. Paul has provided what look like two objections to this argument.

Objection 1

Paul claims, “I don’t have to actually hold [PR] in order to put it forward as a successful counter to the exclusively Christian PA.”

Reply 1

The refutation of PR1 above does not necessarily assume that Paul has to actually hold PR in order to put it forward as a successful counter. So Paul’s first objection fails with respect to the refutation of PR1.

Reply 2

The refutation of PR2 above does not necessarily assume that Paul has to actually hold PR in order to put it forward as a successful counter. So Paul’s first objection fails with respect to the refutation of PR2.

Reply 3

APR above does not necessarily assume that Paul has to actually hold PR in order to put it forward as a successful counter. So Paul’s first objection fails with respect to APR.

Objection 2

Paul objects that PR, “is not an argument based on anything to do with atheism.”

Reply 1

The refutation of PR1 above does not necessarily assume that PR is based upon anything related to atheism. So Paul’s second objection fails with respect to the refutation of PR1.

Reply 2

The refutation of PR2 above does not necessarily assume that PR is based upon anything related to atheism. So Paul’s second objection fails with respect to the refutation of PR2.

Reply 3

APR above does not necessarily assume that PR is based upon anything related to atheism. Instead, APR assumes that the following relationship between PR and atheism obtains:

If atheism is true, then PR is false.

This assumption is justified by appeal to conceptual analysis of the term “atheism.” So Paul’s second objection fails with respect to APR.

Reply 4

While the refutations of PR1 and PR2 do not necessarily assume that PR is based upon anything related to atheism (as explained in the above replies), and while APR does not necessarily assume that PR is based upon anything related to atheism (as explained above), each of the aforementioned refutations is consistent with the assumption that PR is based upon atheism. But might PR be based upon atheism? Of course! For example, if the argument is based upon logic, then it is eventually based upon a particular view of logic, which is eventually based upon a particular worldview (this is just one example of how the argument might go). In this instance that worldview is atheism, and hence PR, insofar as it is introduced to us by Paul Baird, is “based” upon atheism, since Paul Baird subscribes to atheism (he takes atheism to be the correct view of the world). However, this observation is not necessary to any of the three refutations above. So Paul’s second objection fails with respect to his false assertion that PR is not based upon atheism.

Conclusion

Paul requested that I “have another go at disproving that non-Christan revelational epistemology” which is PR. While I have already offered Paul an argument that demonstrates to him that PR is false and hence satisfied his initial request, I have now offered refutations of PR1 and PR2 in addition to APR and defended them at length against two objections. I have done my part in responding to Paul with actual argumentation as opposed to empty assertions and complaints about “verbosity” and other such nonsense intended to distract readers from the actual substance of my posts (and formerly, in the case of Paul Jenkins, the substance of my podcasts). Paul has no room to complain.

Some people have asked me whether I am upset as I write these responses. Not at all! While I have been aggressive, I want it to be made plain to the readers that unbelief is foolish. Recall Paul Baird’s claim that my, “last three posts have been so laughable.” I have come to expect this type of mocking in lieu of thinking in the case of fundamentalist atheists like Paul Baird. I like Paul Baird, I pray for Paul Baird, and I hope that he repents, but the blindness is at times overwhelming. Thank God for Jesus Christ in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses and sins! I was once a child of wrath even as Paul Baird is now. It is by grace that I am saved through faith and it is not of myself; it is the gift of God. It is not of works, lest I should boast. The only thing that separates me from a flaming fundamentalist atheism is the grace of God. I have no room to boast save in the cross of Jesus Christ. Remember what you were saved from, and pray for Paul Baird.


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