Paul Baird, Crackers in the Pantry, and Scientism
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.
– Paul Baird (http://patientandpersistent.blogspot.com/2011/10/once-more-unto-breach.html)
How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally resolved? What Dr. Stein has written indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote, “The question of the existence of God is a factual question, and should be answered in the same way as any other factual questions.”
The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the assumption that all of these are answered in the very same way is not only over simplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factuality or reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case. We might ask , “Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?” And we know how we would go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about answering questions determining the reality of say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, the university itself that you’re now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought, political obligations, individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love or beauty. In such cases, one does not do anything like walk to the pantry and look inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions, and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case.
Just think of the differences in argumentation and the types of evidences used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, magicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists. It should be obvious from this that the types of evidence one looks for in existence or factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.
Dr. Stein’s remark that the question of the existence of God is answered in the same way as any other factual question, mistakenly reduces the theistic question to the same level as the box of crackers in the pantry, which we will hereafter call the crackers in the pantry fallacy.
– Greg Bahnsen (http://www.bellevuechristian.org/faculty/dribera/htdocs/PDFs/Apol_Bahnsen_Stein_Debate_Transcript.pdf)
Paul Baird is guilty of the Crackers in the Pantry fallacy. Unfortunately his problems do not end there.
Paul apparently subscribes to the popular atheist religion of scientism. Roughly, Paul appears to believe that the only type of proof is scientific proof. But how would Paul go about proving the existence of such entities as, for example, propositional statements? Take proposition LNC: ~(A^~A) as a narrower example. Or, take some general principle like UN: nature exhibits regularities. We cannot even hope that these two examples can be proven scientifically. Yet both LNC and UN are necessary elements of any successful scientific endeavor.
Or take the foundational principle of scientism itself, SP: the only type of proof is scientific proof. Since SP cannot be proven scientifically, SP is self-referentially problematic.
But the worries do not end here. Paul mentions the “method of falsifiability.” Unfortunately, the hypothetico-deductive approach to science where “falsifiability” is most at home does not allow for rationally justified knowledge of scientific claims. Rather, one submits conjectures which are then rigorously tested and either falsified or rationally held in light of failed attempts to falsify the conjecture(s) in question. Paul thinks that falsifiability is compatible with his strange view that things can be proven through science, but it is not.
Many other arguments could be brought against Paul’s somewhat naïve view of how science and proof function, but those mentioned above suffice to show that Paul is well off the mark in asking for what he does in accord with his scientism.
Any god who is “proven” to exist in a lab cannot, by virtue of the very concepts in question, be the Christian God. This realization does not mean that we cannot prove that the Christian God exists; it simply means that Paul is fishing with too small of a net, and the net is in desperate need of repair.
has pb&j responded to this fallacy or the self-refuting scientism?
Is there anything to respond to ?
1) This Fallacy (the Crackers in the Pantry)
2) The Self-Refuting Scientism
Did you read the comment, Paul?
I read the comment, Joshua and I agree with Dr Stein. Maybe he’s an ill-educated internet hack too.
The question of falsifiability is not simply a question for the scientific method as practiced in a lab but in determining which proposition is true out of a selection. The principle being that in order to now what is right one must also know what is wrong.
The Christian PA argument seems to be simply saying that it is right because it is right and all others are wrong because they are not the Christian worldview, but that appears to be special pleading and arbitrary.
I did like
“Any god who is “proven” to exist in a lab cannot, by virtue of the very concepts in question, be the Christian God. This realization does not mean that we cannot prove that the Christian God exists; it simply means that Paul is fishing with too small of a net, and the net is in desperate need of repair.”
Gosh, all that wasted effort by Christians trying to ‘prove’ modern miracles. How self defeating. 🙂
Okay, Paul. You read the comment – first, you don’t know know *whether* there is anything to respond to – then later, when I let you know what that might be, you seem to be saying something else, instead. Is clarity an unreasonable expectation in your mind, perchance? If so, I would suggest that you will continue to find any exchange frustrating, as clarity is typically considered to be something desirable to attain.
First, whether or not you may consider yourself uneducated, I don’t recall saying anything so blatantly ad hominem. Education has nothing to do with ignorance, as far as I know. Why anyone would consider Dr. Stein to be uneducated, I have not the slightest – so I’ll leave it to the reader to ask you, as I’m not really interested in spending the time to find out, myself.
As to your statement concerning falsifiability, you do realize that you yourself stated that “falsifiability” was part of the “scientific standard”, correct? What are we supposed to consider that to be, considering that you expressly said “under lab conditions”? I remind you:
First, you say “falsifiability” is included “under lab conditions”, now you are saying the opposite. What one is supposed to believe concerning your position seems rather contradictory. What is “that” in “under lab conditions” meant to communicate, other than “prove… to a scientific standard, including the method of falsifiability”? Yet, just now, you say “The question of falsifiability is not simply a question for the scientific method as practiced in a lab.” Isn’t that precisely what you demanded?
Further, you are simply wrong in your definition of the presup method. As we have explained. Multiple times. Saying it one more time doesn’t mean you’re right this time, either. Once again, we are dealing with the contrary worldview internally – and showing that it is ultimately self-defeating; contrasting that with the Christian worldview, which is NOT ultimately self-defeating, and arguing from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary being the unbeliever’s position, of course. It never ceases to amaze me how many ways that unbelievers can misrepresent our position. We are NOT SAYING that CT is “right because it’s right”. I would love for you to quote us to that effect for our readers, if you would. You made the claim; please prove it. We’ll be waiting 🙂
Lastly, I will be most interested in what on earth you are talking about regarding “Christians trying to prove modern miracles.” We all would, actually, because it seems to be a monumental non sequitur.
falsifiability can be extended to extra-scientific pursuits but Paul Baird restricted it in his quote to science alone. there are true propositions that are not falsifiable, like ‘1+1=2’ and ‘the ball is red all over or not red all over.’ so what Paul Baird is saying makes no sense to me, and i take his comment to mean that he has not responded to the fallacy or problems with scientism.
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