Another Round With Paul Baird: Stating and Defending the Requested Rebuttal (3)

You will need to review the posts below in order to follow this post:

Paul Baird writes, “I read Chris Bolt’s blog pieces again and I just want to address a few issues.”

Notice that Paul has changed his story from when he was claiming that “there’s nothing new to be said.” This comes as no surprise. Paul frequently makes statements that he goes back on only days later. For example, while he states that “there’s nothing new to be said” as quoted above he then goes on to write an entire new post in response to our recent exchange. Another example is his repeated claim that he would not be debating Sye TenBruggencate again only to go and do exactly that. Another example is his posting “hiatus” that was to last until January. He has written a number of posts and comments in response to me since announcing said hiatus. There is, again, the debate that Paul challenged me to and began to set up, only to back out later. And finally, although I am sure there are many other examples, Paul announced over one year ago in August of 2010 on his blog that he was done with addressing presuppositional apologetics. His blog currently has 81 posts marked as pertaining to that topic. One really cannot pay attention to much of what Paul says because of these inconsistencies. Unfortunately his argumentation, which is often difficult to find amongst all of the rhetoric and cut downs, is likewise inconsistent as demonstrated in the recent exchange linked to above.

“Now Chris goes through modus ponens based on a deliberately incorrect assumption (surely he can’t be that stupid), which is otherwise known as comitting the strawman fallacy, ie disproving something that I did not in fact assert.”

Paul claims that APR (see links at top of post) is “based on a deliberately incorrect assumption.” Now let me be very straightforward here and say that I have absolutely no idea what Paul Baird is talking about. So perhaps he can save me from my stupidity by clearly telling me what “incorrect assumption” in APR he is referring to. It will not do to just assert that there is one, leaving me, and our readers, in the dark as to what it is. Which of the following two premises does Paul Baird believe is “based on a deliberately incorrect assumption”?

  1. If atheism is true, then PR is false.
  2. Atheism is true.

Paul implies that I am too stupid to see which of these two premises he believes is false. Of course, it may help if Paul would actually tell us which of the two premises he believes is false, but he has never even mentioned this alleged problem with the proof before. Where am I “comitting [sic] the strawman fallacy”? Again, Paul does not tell us. He claims that I am “disproving something that [he] did not in fact assert,” but in fact the proposition which is disproven is PR, and PR is actually a quote from Paul, so it is impossible that I am disproving something he did not assert. So, Paul, which of the premises is false, and where am I misrepresenting the proposition to be disproven? I have been asking these types of questions from the beginning, but Paul spent his time telling his readers how awful my posts were instead of actually addressing the argument. This time around it is more of the same, only he is at least pretending like he is addressing the argument. Unfortunately he is neither clear nor specific about what his objection to the argument (APR) is.

Paul goes on to quote me from PR1, apparently not realizing that I dropped that interpretation of his claim in my previous post concerning this exchange and focused instead on PR2 and APR.

“What I have actually asserted is that the non-Christian revelation grounds the ability to reason based on that non-Christian worldview.”

Which is PR2. How does Paul deal with my answer to PR2?

“next Chris states

‘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.’

That is, however, the entire point of the exercise.”

Paul actually quotes PR2 as above, and then states, “That is, however, the entire point of the exercise.” What is the entire point of the exercise? Since Paul does not make the referent of “That” clear I can only guess as to what he is trying to say. In any event, if Paul’s “point” is merely to make the assertion that PR provides “grounding and certainty” then his “point” has already been addressed. As already mentioned, there is no reason to accept this mere claim as anything more than another one of Paul Baird’s many empty assertions. Paul seems to be confusing assertions for arguments.PR2 is not a rebuttal, it is just an assertion, and that’s the problem. Again, I am not going to make Paul’s argument for him.

“Consider this

Two people are discussing stuff in a pub one night

Person A: Hey, you know what ? I’ve had a revelation from a supernatural transcendent entity that ontologically grounds my ability to engage in rational discourse.

Person B: Wow, same here. I too have had a revelation from a supernatural transcendent entity that ontologically grounds my ability to engage in rational discourse.

Person A: Is your entity the same as my entity ?

Person B: No, which begs a question. I wonder how we will sort this out ?”

Very well. I have considered Paul’s fictional story, but I do not know what it has to do with the alleged problems he cites with either APR or my dismissal of PR2. I suspect that it has nothing to do with either of them. Neither Person A nor Person B is analogous to Paul Baird, since Paul Baird is an atheist who, by virtue of the very definition of atheism, excludes the possibility of any such revelation as is mentioned in the story. Regardless, I would suggest to Paul that the disagreement between Person A and Person B above would need to be resolved transcendentally. The process might begin through Person A and Person B discussing such matters as how their respective revelations ground their abilities to engage in rational discourse. The process might also include a discussion of how the respective revelations differ from one another. There is no difficulty here, if that is what Paul imagines, but rather a need for further discussion to resolve the disagreement between allegedly competing transcendentals. In this sense, the fictional story is no different from the disagreement between Paul and I, since we both claim to have worldviews which ground our abilities to engage in rational discourse. The matter must be resolved transcendentally. Unfortunately, as Sye has repeatedly demonstrated, and as I have commented upon in the Praxis Presup podcast reviewing one of Paul’s podcasts, Paul’s worldview fails to ground rational discourse, while the Christian worldview successfully grounds it. So much for Paul’s worldview, and so much for his unhelpful story.

“If you think the question is ‘Which one of us is the Christian ?’ then you’re thinking like Chris Bolt, and Sye Tenbruggencate and engaging in special pleading.”

Apparently Paul can read my mind. Unfortunately I cannot read his, and hence I am at a loss as to what he is claiming here as well. The disagreement in his story would need to be resolved transcendentally. If Paul does not know what that means then he can ask, though he boasts that he is a sort of expert on this subject and should not have to. I never said anything like, “Which one of us is the Christian?” and I am not engaging in any special pleading, though I can see why Paul would want to make such charges in an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that he consistently dodges engaging APR and my response to PR2. See above.

“If you’re not thinking of that question then you’re thinking like me.”

Well, I am not thinking that question, and I hope that Paul’s conclusion from that fact is incorrect.

“The problem is not that one person MUST be wrong, but the assumption that one person MUST be right.”

One or both persons must be wrong. Where did I make the assumption that one person must be right? Paul is carrying on an imaginary conversation that we have not had. He needs to reread what has actually been written in this exchange and get back to addressing APR and my response to PR2.

“A revelation by it’s very nature is an internal mental experience.”

This is not the Christian position. Perhaps Paul does not mean to represent the Christian revelation here. I do not know. He is, again, exceedingly unclear.

“A person experiencing a revelation makes a decision that what they are witnessing is a revelation from their god and not any other experience.”

Okay, but what is Paul’s point?

“Hume and others make some comments about that sort of thing”

Who are the others and where do Hume and the others make these comments? Perhaps this would help me to understand what Paul is talking about, but as of now I do not know, and I have read Hume (and perhaps “the others”).

“…and anyone reading about the neuro-sciences will be aware of studies around hypoxia, and that’s leaving aside consciousness altering drugs and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.”

And again, what is Paul’s point? Is he comparing me now to a schizophrenic? I certainly hope not, given his track record of constant flip-flops mentioned above and a seeming incapability of following a simple modus ponens argument (APR)! I think Paul is a little too old to be using the “you’re stupid and retarded” reply and would love to see him address APR and my concern with PR2 instead.

“How does Person A convince Person B that their experience was a revelation that Person B should accept, and accept as being superior to his/her experience ?”

Transcendentally, as mentioned above. Again, if Paul does not know what this means, then he can ask, but he is apparently an expert on these sort of things.

“If you’re thinking about tests that both parties can agree to then welcome to my world.”

This is precisely how transcendental critiques operate.

“Chris does not appear to deal with this”

With what? The naked “this” is nearly impossible to follow. I am assuming that Paul is referring to the story of A and B, and I have just dealt with it. If he has an objection to what I have said concerning “this” or does not understand my response to “this” then he should make these clear in a future post.

“…in the posts he has addressed to me.”

Right, and Paul did not deal with the topic of larvae either for the same reason that I did not deal with Paul’s story: It has not come up until now, and it was not the topic. The topic, as readers will recall, is how one refutes PR, and I accomplished this refutation by way of APR which Paul has claimed above is “based on a deliberately incorrect assumption.” Which premise is based on this assumption? Paul does not tell us. What is this incorrect assumption? Paul does not tell us. So much for Paul’s objection.

“In my example I am the one claiming to have had the experience,”

In Paul’s example both Person A and Person B make this claim, so unless Paul is Person A and Person B, he has forgotten his own illustration!

“…and Chris is the one claiming it has no validity.”

In Paul’s example neither Person A nor Person B makes this claim, so unless Paul is saying that I have nothing to do with the story, he has forgotten his own illustration!

“Chris needs to present the argument that my experience has no merit,”

Please see APR and my response to PR2 for this argument.

“…without also engaging in special pleading”

Where, specifically, have I engaged in special pleading? Paul does not tell us.

“(and arrogance) that says only Christian revelations are true because they are Christian.”

Where, specifically, did I make this claim in my responses to Paul? Paul does not tell us, and he will not be able to, since I did not make such a claim in my responses to Paul. Again, Paul is apparently carrying on a conversation on his own that I am not a part of and then attributing things to me that I have not actually said. He should be more careful and address APR and my response to PR2 instead.

“What Chris then does is state and restate his strawman argument,”

Which, as I have noted above, is either not a strawman argument at all since PR consists of a quote from Paul, or else Paul has something else in mind that he is not telling us about.

“…with verbose flourish,”

I am not being verbose. Paul is not accustomed to critical thinking. He has to try to lead his readers to believe that I am stupid and wordy and not worth anyone’s time because if they do read my posts they may see that I am actually addressing his arguments and assertions line by line, not dismissing him with rhetoric like he tries to do with me.

“…and reinforce the point that I’m making about the mere assertion of the authority of revelational epistemology.”

Paul is really terribly confused here. Not only does he forget things like his own illustrations, but he forgets what the purpose of this conversation is. I have not been making any “mere assertion”(s) about “the authority of revelational epistemology.” If I have made any assertions of that nature, they have not been mere assertions, but were coupled with arguments. Further, such assertions, if they even exist in our exchange, do not constitute the bulk of its substance. This dialogue, readers will recall, is about disproving PR as Paul requested, and I have done so. However, Paul does not like that I have done so, and has attempted to dismiss and dodge the difficulties this raises with respect to his supposed refutation of presuppositionalism.

“Now, what I would like to read from Chris is a line of argument where he can PROVE (and by prove I mean to a scientific standard, including the method of falsifiability) that a person has had revelation that could only have originated from the Christian god. If he can do that under lab conditions, then I’ll become a Christian.”

While Paul apparently does not realize that his scientism implicitly affirmed above is self-refuting and otherwise problematic, I am very willing to address Paul’s request for a proof. However, this is not what Paul was asking for in our recent exchange, and so this request above is off topic. Again, Paul is dodging the argument I offered in APR. Why would I further confuse him by offering another proof for something completely different, and especially in this format?

“I think that I’m on safe ground, in which case, to paraphrase Hitchens, ‘A revelation that is asserted without evidence is equal to any other revelation that is asserted without evidence.’ Which is my whole point, and one which I’m surprised that someone, with Chris Bolt’s academic experience, has trouble comprehending. Nonetheless, I suspect I’m going to receive a response that is an exercise in special pleading.”

If I have “trouble comprehending” Paul’s “whole point” it is not owing to my “academic experience,” but to Paul’s extreme lack of clarity. In any event, his assumption here is that PR is of the same evidentiary status as Christian revelation, but it is not, and this is my objection to PR2. The Christian can explain how Christian revelation provides the preconditions of intelligibility. I would be glad to do so for Paul, but again, this is not what we are talking about here because it is not what Paul was asking for. Paul was asking for a refutation of PR, which I provided in APR. Note that PR2 is rejected upon the grounds that Paul has not even begun to show how it is analogous to or of the same evidentiary status as Christian theism. As soon as he responds to this problem perhaps we can begin the transcendental critique, but otherwise he is just making a naked assertion.

“It’s why using revelatory epistemology to underpin a Presuppositional Apologetic Christian worldview is it’s most fatal weakness.”

If it is, then Paul has not shown that it is. See above.

“Chris – you’re a pompous arse, mate. You should get out more.”

Ask yourself – If Paul’s arguments are as good as what he thinks that they are, would he really need to resort to calling me names and insulting me?

Here is the deal Paul Baird…Let’s move this to a medium where you can more directly call me a “pompous arse” and spew your other childish insults and unthinking rhetoric without having to hide behind your keyboard to do so. I will offer you the proof you requested above and we can do away with the need to make your writing clearer.

Skype Debate

“Is the Bible the Word of God?”

Affirmative – Chris Bolt

Negative – Paul Baird

15 minute opening statements, 15 minute cross-ex, 12 minute rebuttals, 10 minute closings

Drop your excuses this time. You have forfeited them by engaging with me on this topic through this medium. Equal time, equal verbosity, and equal opportunity to get clear answers to questions.

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